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4 Steps to Leveraging Your Network to Build Your Business

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Jonathan Greechan– Enjoy!

Networking doesn’t have to be about luck, but most people I work with treat it that way. Like any marketing endeavor, some simple planning can greatly increase your chances of success. As Sun Tzu famously said, “Most battles are won before they are fought.”

Unlock the potential of your network to grow your business by following the simple, step-by-step plan below;

1. Define your Goals

Networking takes time, so any business goal that needs to be met within 3 months through networking is usually unrealistic. Therefore, list out two primary goals for the next 3 – 6 months, and then two secondary goals that you foresee being a priority in the 6 – 12 month range.

2. Identify your Targets

photo credit: Bogdan Suditu via photopin cc

photo credit: Bogdan Suditu via photopin cc

You don’t target a company – you target a person. Go narrow and deep (versus wide and broad), and find out who makes the purchasing or partnership decisions at the companies you are targeting. You can usually find this information by checking the speaker roster (and topics) from industry events, corporate press releases, and LinkedIn.

3. Identify Your “Strategic Contacts”

With the prevalence of social media, there is almost no excuse for a cold-call or cold-email anymore. As Mark Suster, a prominent venture capitalist, put it very aptly at my Founder Showcase event, “in the era of social networks, if you can’t figure out how to get access to a venture capitalist, hang up your cleats now. You don’t pass the IQ test.”

“Strategic Contacts” are contacts who can provide introductions to your targets, and creating a list of them is easy with LinkedIn’s “Advanced Search Tools”. Here are some things to keep in mind;

  • Scroll through the contacts of the people who come up in your searches – you’ll often discover positions and companies you didn’t know existed.
  • Once you’ve found a search that works best, be sure to “Save This Search” so you can use it in the future.
  • Use LinkedIn for research, but not for contacting. “InMail” and LinkedIn referral requests have become so bogged down by recruiters that most well connected people I know find them un-usable.

4. Email your Strategic Contacts

Now that you have your list of strategic contacts, it’s time to start your outreach via email, which should come in two parts.

Email 1: Create Value

One of my favorite rules of marketing is to always provide value before asking for it in return. This is doubly true for networking, and it does not even have to require a lot of effort – just a small “out of the blue” gesture to a strategic contact can pay large dividends.

For example:

  • Provide an unsolicited intro to somebody in the same industry (“… you two seem like you would have a lot to talk about.”)
  • Send a link to an interesting article about their industry (“… thought this article was interesting. You’ve been in the industry for a while – do you agree with the author?”)
  • A simple check-in (“… Yesterday I randomly thought about that event we both attended in ‘09, and how funny that emcee was. How are things going with you?  Everything well?”)

Whatever you do, just provide value, respond quickly, and keep the conversation going.

Email 2: The Ask

After you have provided value and some time has passed, it is time to ask your contact for an introduction to your target.

Keep the communication within the previous email stream, and send a simple two-sentence email;

  1. One sentence on your company, and what you are looking for.
  2. One sentence on the intro, which includes a mechanism to make the intro feel natural.

For example:

“[MY COMPANY NAME] is an app that connects parents and family-friendly events, and we’re looking for angel investors interested in mobile B2C apps to close out our seed round. I was hoping you could provide a quick intro to [YOUR TARGET] – she has invested in both parent-focused and event-focused apps, so I think we may fit nicely into her strategy.”

Closing Note

Networking is not a “one-off activity”, but if you follow the steps above, you can start leveraging your contacts to help build your business NOW.

Jonathan_Greechan_headshotJonathan Greechan is a Partner and the Head of Marketing at the Founder Institute – an entrepreneur training and startup launch program that has helped launch over 1250 tech companies across 6 continents. In addition, he is a Partner at TheFunded.com, and the Executive Producer of the Founder Showcase, a leading startup event in Silicon Valley. Jonathan has been heavily involved in startups and online marketing since 2004, and has advised hundreds of technology companies. Follow him on Twitter at @jonnystartup.

 

Bridging the Small Business Marketing Gap

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Dan Faggella – Enjoy! 

customer-relationship-management

photo credit: abdevlabs.com

Email marketing and marketing automation software often fails to achieve business goals of enhancing revenue and profitability, creating a “marketing gap” for businesses.

This is a particular challenge for startups and small businesses that have fewer internal resources and more immediate business demands.

The problem can be traced to concerns over lack of time, limited internal marketing resources, the complexity of managing the ongoing program, the absence of training and guidance from vendors, and frustration with disappointing results, but these organizations can bridge this gap by understanding some of the basic steps that will help them achieve more effective use of marketing automation and email marketing investments, and a better focus on the areas of focus for these technologies.

There are four distinct areas of focus for email marketing and marketing automation: Collecting, Connecting, Converting and Circulating

Collecting

Here businesses need to look at the ways they are presently acquiring leads, contacts and, in some cases, front-end sales. Some collecting strategies include landing page optimization/split-testing, opt-in form variations and drop-down segmentation, outbound lead generation campaign design.

Best Practice: Maintain a vigilant split-testing regimen on all major landing pages that involve email capture functionality. Any web page responsible for substantial lead-flow should be split-tested.

Connecting

Here organizations need to build the best possible initial relationship with their prospects through automated follow-up sequences and communication calibrated by prospect type and behavior. Some connecting strategies include customer avatars and customer profiles (purchase motives, etc.), analytics for email open and click-through rates, split-testing of email sequences and subject lines.

Best Practice: Segment email subscribers and leads (from white papers, etc…) early, not late. If you can segment prospects effectively, you can communicate to them in a more relevant way (by business size, by goals, by industry, etc…), your emails can drive much better results in terms of engagement, appointments / sales.

Converting

Business should be working to leverage email and automation strategies to assist customers in making their first significant step forward with the organization’s business. Some converting strategies include appointment form split-testing, landing or sales page split-testing, offer and campaign construction.

Best Practices: It’s important to be able to quantify what a “conversion” is in your business. If you sell online, you may want email marketing to directly drive sales (very measurable). If you sell in person, email should usually be responsible for settling up appointments (also quite measurable).

Circulating

Organizations should be looking to continue relationship-building with customers and/or prospects. Some circulating strategies include determination of broadcast regiments, long-term customer lifetime value mapping and optimization (“deep” campaigns as an alternative to neglecting past prospects and customers), “newsletter” segmentation, and testing methods engineered to refine communication for long-term engagement.

Best Practices: The “vanilla” newsletter is the same, bland message that goes out monthly to all your contacts. It is a thing of the best. If you do keep a newsletter, segment it into categories of relevance, such as “customer,” “past customer,” and “prospect,” and speak to those groups individually.

While these strategies may seem foreign to some, there are real-world many examples of smaller organizations that mastered marketing automation and email marketing and as a result, uncovered areas of improvement that deliver significant yields by more efficiently and productively managing projects of high priority to their business.

It all begins with understanding the steps necessary to bridge the “marketing gap” and if help is needed to navigate this journey, there are those who could guide – all businesses need to do is stop and ask for directions.

Dan Headshot100x100Dan Faggella is the founder and CEO of CLVboost, a marketing consultancy based in Cambridge, MA, that works with businesses to help them realize their growth potential by maximizing new and existing marketing technologies. Dan is a sought-after speaker on this topic at Internet marketing events, startup conferences and business workshops across the US, and he has been featured on media channels like MIXERGY and GrowthHacker.TV.  Dan is also founder of TechEmergence, an online community and strategic resource supporting the work of startups, researchers, investors and others focused on technology that has the potential to alter human potential.

 

10 Ways to Build Your Email List – the Right Way

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Krista Bunskoek – Enjoy! 

DTM 10 email bunskoek header

photo credit: Flickr

Think email marketing is dead? Think again. Last year alone, 44% of email recipients actually admitted to making a purchase based on promotional email they received.

Email is one of the most personal, customizable forms of online marketing. And it works.

As smart marketers and small business owners, we’re always looking for better ways to build our email lists with qualified leads.

10 ways to generate leads from your website

1. Coupons

Retail consumers love to get a great deal. Set-up email-gated coupons through your website to generate qualified leads (and get immediate sales too.) By giving away coupons related directly to your products, you’ll only attract prospects who are interested in your particular wares.

2. Contests and Sweepstakes

DTM 10 email bunskoek vote contest

Example of a Vote Contest to increase engagement and get email leads

I like to win, you like to win – your customers like to win too. Host an email-gated contest directly on your website. Use sweepstakes to both promote your business (by giving away a business related prize) and generate leads.

Use contests like photo contests, photo caption contests and vote contests to make your website more engaging. You win by getting user-generated content, consumer input – and emails.

3. Free Product Catalogues

Do you have a PDF catalogue of your products? Upload it to your website. Set up a simple lead generation landing page to enable interested buyers to download it for free (in exchange for an email and name) whenever they want.

4. Free eBook

DTM 10 email bunskoek ebook

John Jantsch offers his knowledgeable marketing advice in his must-read free ebooks

These days you’re likely blogging. If you’re blogging the right way, you’ve got a series of informative or interesting articles related to your business.

Take 5-10 well written articles and turn them into a valuable resource for your market. Give the ebook away for free through an email-gated landing page.

5. Free Trial

Let your prospective customer test out your goods. Give away a free trial for a limited time period – all for the mere cost of an email. A free trial attracts warm leads who are just ripe to nurture into new buyers. Use the emails to send out timely, personal messages to reel them in.

6. Free Quote or Appraisal

If you offer customized pricing, get email leads by setting up a distinct “free quote” landing page. Make it easy for your website visitors to take their interest in you to the next level. Set up an email-gated form on your site to catch those leads, warm them with your charm (and price) and get the sale.

7. Personalized Consultation

DTM 10 email Bunskoek demo

Businesses like Wishpond offer free personalized demos

If you’ve got a slick sales team (even if that’s just you), a live one-on-one consultation can close the deal. It can also give you very warm emails to keep the relationship going. A lead gen consultation page is a must for your business.

8. Live Webinar

Live, free webinars give you the chance to connect and engage with genuinely interested customers. Webinars show your customers that you’re willing to share your expertise for free – and that you know what you’re talking about.

They take a bit of prep time and you have to make a new webinar for each lead gen opportunity. Maximize your lead generation by recording a series of email-gated webinars.

9. How-to Guides

Want to educate your market and be seen as the helpful knowledgeable business leader? Write a number of free how-to guides related to your product or service.  Give them away for free on your website through an email-gated landing page.

10. Pre-launch Engagement

If you’re starting a new business or product offering, a key tactic I’ve successfully used is the “launching soon” landing page. Generate emails by marketing your products and giving pre-signups sneak peeks, special deals and engagement opportunities (such as product name contests, logo vote contests or ebook cover contests). Send out emails to keep the relationship – and excitement – building.

Building your email list is the foundation to business success. Try out one or ten of these tactics for your website. Let me know how you do.

Got more email lead generation tips?

 

Krista Bunskoek headshotKrista Bunskoek is a Content Marketer at Wishpond. Wishpond makes simple tools for epic online marketing campaigns. She’s written a number of online marketing ebooks like Google AdWords for Small Business and Website Contests and Promotions. You can reach Krista through her twitter handle @kbunskoek or her Google+ page.

Marketing Automation: What is it and Why Should I Care?

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Scott Thomas– Enjoy! 

 

Marketing AutomationMarketers, meet your secret weapon: marketing automation. Only recently, has this underutilized method of demand generation been brought to the forefront of public attention. Marketing automation has slowly become a go-to buzzword in the marketing world but what does it really mean and more importantly, how can it help your business?

For starters, marketing automation refers to technology that allows marketing departments and organizations to more effectively market on multiple online channels (such as email, social media, websites, etc.) and automate repetitive tasks. In its most ideal state, marketing automation provides you with a platform to efficiently deliver engaging content that turns prospects into customers and then follow up with personalized messaging that keeps those customers coming back.

What Marketing Automation Means to Marketers

Marketing automation means two huge things for marketers: conversion and attribution. First we’ll look at its success converting leads. According to a study by The Aberdeen Group, companies that use marketing automation see 53% higher conversion rates than non-users, and an annualized revenue growth rate 3.1% higher than non-users of marketing automation platforms.

Marketing AutomationSounds good, right? It gets better. Marketing automation solves the marketers age-old problem of attributing marketing spend to earned revenue. Because these platforms typically feature CRM integration, lead activity within marketing efforts can be directly tracked from campaign inception to lead conversion. In fact, companies that use marketing automation are 3 times more likely than companies without automation to track and attribute their content-marketing efforts to multiple touchpoints.*

The ‘Automation’ in Marketing Automation

Despite marketing automation’s capacity to generate increased revenue and attribute that revenue to your marketing team’s efforts, many people seem to overlook one key fact: in order for marketing automation to be successful, you have to have something to automate. Think of marketing automation as the hyper-efficient delivery vehicle between the programs you already have in place and your audience. It won’t create the content for you but with it, you can build the most effective route by which to push your content. The following are examples of programs that can be integrated into your marketing automation strategy:

  • Content Marketing: Today’s consumers don’t respond to conventional “Mad Men” style marketing and advertising tactics; instead, they respond to engaging, informative content that speaks to them and not at them. By distributing content that engages your audience, you’re not only satiating their appetite for information, but you’re also working towards the end result of creating a connection with these potential buyers and ideally, driving them closer to a sale.
  • Email Marketing: Does your organization already employ use of email marketing? Although it might not seem like much, even something as simple as a monthly newsletter can be engineered to drive optimal engagement. With marketing automation you can create any number of follow up actions based on how a lead interacts with an original email. This brings us to…
  • Lead Nurturing: This process of educating and staying fresh on the minds of prospects who aren’t yet ready to buy allows you to turn otherwise cold leads into added revenue. Lead nurturing can take many forms, from personalized, Happy Birthday emails to reengagement campaigns.

The possibilities for customizing your marketing automation pipeline are limited only by your organization’s capacity to do so and while it may take some heavy legwork to initially set up, don’t be intimidated. Marketing automation can save you time and money while converting more leads by simply utilizing the programs you already have in place.

*(The Lenskold and Pedowitz Groups, 2013 Lead Generation Marketing Effectiveness Study, Nov 2013)

Scott ThomasScott Thomas is the founder and president of the Intelechy Group, an Austin-based revenue growth agency. Scott has spent more than two decades driving highly profitable revenue for industry leaders such as AT&T, Dell, AMD and SAP. Intelechy Group specializes in Go-to-Market (GTM) Strategy & Development, Brand & Market Positioning, Demand Generation and an array of marketing services that propel organizations to become revenue and profit leaders in their marketplaces.

 

 

The 7 Best Ways To Utilize Outbound Marketing

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Jon Rognerud.  - Enjoy!

Outbound marketing is essentially any marketing that involves a business or person reaching out to customers directly. A traditional method of outbound marketing that was used for years (and still is) with great success was direct mail.

You can use outbound marketing in a variety of ways to create future success for your business. Outbound marketing is a newer type of marketing where you spend your time creatively reaching out to new and existing customers in an attempt to draw in additional business.

#1: Blog Outreach

ducttape-1The idea of reaching out to blogs is a seemingly simple one, but in reality there are plenty of nuances that you need to get in right in order to really be effective with this type of outbound marketing.

After you’ve found your partner blogs, you will need to actually cultivate that relationship, understanding who runs the blog, making sure to contact them on a regular basis, and most importantly you need to personalize the content and track how your engagement is actually paying off. Think of how you can best provide value to THEIR audience via your content.

Fortunately there are a few tools to help you out with this task: GroupHigh and BuzzStream.

#2: Sending out emails for limitless results

ducttape-2Sending out emails is a far less time consuming method of outbound marketing than trying to cold call hundreds or even thousands of people. While you should invest in a quality email list (including always building your own house-list), in the end this investment will be well worth it if the list is marketed to correctly. The key to getting results when using email for outbound marketing is by utilizing a targeted list.

Two of the most popular email services are Aweber and Mailchimp.

WARNING: Make sure that you are allowed to import outside data, and that it has been fully vetted. Read and understand their guidelines and don’t spam.

Another good tool to use is Streak’s CRM.  It will help you manage all of your prospects and give you the ability to mass merge personalized emails.

#3: Building a Brand on Social Media

ducttape-3If you are just getting started with social media, a Facebook page is a must for your business. From there, you can move on to Twitter if you are looking to interact with your customers more regularly, and Pinterest if you have more of a visual brand and would like to interact with a female-biased audience. Google+ and LinkedIn will serve you as you continue building out your social platforms.

Managing multiple profiles can be a pain, therefore a tool like Buffer will save you a significant amount of time.  One of the most powerful features is custom scheduling so that you can post high quality content on sites like Facebook & Twitter during peak use hours.

SproutSocial is slightly more advanced and powerful, offering advanced features such as customer relationship management through social media, team collaboration, and much more.

#4: Utilizing Pay-Per-Click Advertising

ducttape-4Paid search engine traffic is a great way to market your business, especially when you work with someone who knows what they are doing.

Companies wouldn’t utilize this great resource if it didn’t work, and the best part is that you can get started for as little as a few dollars a day. There is plenty of information online to help you learn the ropes.

Wordstream helps with managing paid search campaigns via easy to use software tools and great support.

#5: PPV Advertising

ducttape-5This type of advertising is often considered derivative of paid search, but in reality it is anything but that.

Have you ever seen commercials on online television, or on websites that you navigate to? This is PPV, and it is growing faster than most other kinds of outbound marketing today.

Companies like DirectCPV let you customize your PPV campaigns to target a specific type of customers, and you can reach a large audience.

#6: EBook Giveaways

ducttape-6You know what just about any customer loves? That’s right, free stuff.

Since you can give away copies of an eBook for effectively nothing, these books can also be used as effective outbound marketing tools. You simply have to write an eBook, or even just pay to have on written.

Once the book is written, all you have to do is add a few links to your company and give it away to anyone that you want.

When it comes time to actually put the book together, you will want to get help from a graphic designer like the ones that you find at 99Designs to really set your eBook apart with a beautiful cover and even a theme for the individual pages.

#7: Multiple Competitions with a ‘Priceless’ Reward

ducttape-7One way that is less well-known is using competition to market your company.

Shopify did something like this when they first got started, offering prize money and a priceless meeting with a major entrepreneur to the company that could achieve the highest revenue in a Shopify store during the competition’s timeframe.

While this might not seem like a form of outbound marketing, Shopify was able to get their name out there in an extremely competitive space by offering something that was more valuable than money to their customers.

Outbound marketing has been around for awhile, but because of the Internet it is now available to businesses of all shapes and sizes.

jonrognerud-headshot-ducttapeEntrepreneur Magazine says Jon Rognerud is one of the most sought-after SEO and Digital Marketing Experts for Small Business. He is famous for his high-returns and passionate approach to optimizing websites and integrated marketing solutions that brings process, profits and brand loyalty…without wasting time. His brand NEW website optimization book, “The Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Website” from Entrepreneur Press/McGraw-Hill is in bookstores now. Act today, and get a FREE website coaching session here.

 

The Importance of Transactional Emails for Small Business

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Willie Pena – Enjoy!

transactional emailsThe open rate for transactional emails far exceeds that of any other type of email, whether it is newsletters or bulk marketing mail. Once just a sparse, utilitarian messaging that conveyed the bare bones details of a business transaction, transactional emails are now multi-purpose missiles that impact a company’s reputation, revenue, research and audience retention. They do this without being intrusive or unwanted.

The most effective and profitable transactional emails include shipping confirmations, order confirmations and approvals for return of merchandise (or exchange). Mastering the art of the transactional email is possible, if small business professionals follow the tips below from Easy SMTP.

Best Practices When Sending Transactional Emails

While the aim is to use the transactional email to gain customer trust and additional patronage, that mission cannot be too overt or aggressive.

  • Cite the transaction in the subject line of the email. Provide the necessary facts about the transaction in the body of the email in the most prominent and thorough way possible, using text, images and links.
  • Create a professional look by using the company name in the sender field and including a header with the official company logo and colors.
  • Use HTML instead of plain text to create a more exciting and engaging email.
  • Include colorful promotional content beneath the pertinent transactional data or in a sidebar. This can include purchase suggestions, a list of products related to what has been purchased already, coupons, a widget of popular products or sales ads.
  • Provide links to company services, especially support and account services, in additional to product links.
  • Limit marketing to 25 percent of the email.
  • Express appreciation or gratitude for the customer.
  • Customize the email and the promotions, showing awareness of the customer’s buying and browsing patterns.
  • Use software to track the effectiveness of transactional emails and experiment with design and content if emails are not inciting clicks or additional customer action.

What to Avoid When Preparing Transactional Emails

Transactional emails can easily become spam if any of the following are included.

  • Exaggerations about products, services or price cuts in order to gain a sale or prospect.
  • Having generic promotional content that offers one customer the same sales and product recommendation as every other customer.
  • Insufficient transactional data, such as missing prices, lack of product description, no shipping estimate or a missing toll-free number so that customers can ask questions about their transaction.
  • A convoluted layout that is confusing, overwhelming and aesthetically repulsive.
  • Using half the email for marketing.
  • Putting a sales reference like “30 percent off” in the subject line of the email.

Benefits of Using Transactional Emails

  • Builds Customer Trust – Customers feel safe with a company that provides useful information at every step of a business transaction. Transactional emails empower the customer and alleviate questions and concerns. This, in turns, fosters respect, confidence and trust for a company.
  • Increases Customer Engagement – The customized one-on-one approach of transactional emails makes a customer feel special and invites interaction. This interaction might lead to higher survey participation or social media engagement.
  • Additional Sales – When customers see photos and descriptions of their recent purchase alongside ads for similar products or related products that can incite a desire to purchase more goods or remind them of something they meant to buy but didn’t. Customers might also elect to browse the company website again, creating mental wish lists for future purchases.
  • Brand Recognition – For new customers, seeing brand elements when they complete one transaction may not cause them to remember the company in the future. However, when an order confirmation arrives with a signature brand logo, and then a shipping notice arrives later with the same logo, and a warranty message arrives, presenting the logo an additional time, suddenly the customer is very conscious of the brand and likely to think of the company when shopping later or when talking to a friend about the purchase.

Willie PenaWillie Pena enjoys writing about email marketing, transitional emails and marketing advice for small business owners for Easy SMTP. Connect with him on Google+ andLinkedIn.

Getting Better at Getting Email

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is MaryAnn Bekkedahl. – Enjoy!

Do yohome-pageu ever wonder how we functioned before email? At work, at home, or on the go, a vast majority of us can’t go 30 minutes without sending, receiving or reviewing our emails (I’m guilty of checking through the night, too). For many highly connected people, the allure of opening up an inbox isn’t just a necessity, it’s becoming an addiction.

That’s why I can’t stress enough the importance of “getting better at email.” It’s in everyone’s best interest – senders and recipients; brands and consumers – to deliver an email that the intended person wants to read. Otherwise, you’re just wasting time and ticking people off (which, for brands, means potentially losing customers).

Getting better means getting to the point of the message you’re sending, and only reading and reacting to those emails that you really care about. The rest is just digital noise.

To give you an example of that noise, brands, social networks and other organizations sent a record number of marketing messages in 2012, up 19% on 2011. You’re now probably thinking about all of those solicited emails you deleted without even reading, or as a marketer, all the email blasts you sent to hundreds or even thousands of subscribers. Whichever side you look from, it’s interesting to note that 77% of consumers said they prefer to interact with brands via email compared to any other channel, such as social networks, text messages, post and phone.

Email is getting pretty good as a marketing channel.

These days, many of the subscription emails in your inbox are real-time customized based on past purchases, recently viewed items, geography, and the device you open the message with.

Are you getting good at email?

With the trend of email overload more than likely to continue in 2013, the time has come to clean up, prioritize and organize your inbox so that the emails you do receive are the ones you want to keep. Marketers should see this as great news, because if someone chooses to continue subscribing to your alerts, you’re doing something right and the chance of making sales increases exponentially.

Fortunately, there are innovations taking place in email management to help consumers get better at email. One new and free solution is theSwizzle, which was designed for the mutual benefit of consumers and marketers alike. theSwizzle leads consumers through a quick process to easily unsubscribe from the commercial mail they no longer wish to receive, helping to reduce clutter and the overall volume of messages they receive each day (you’ll be surprised just how many subscriptions you’ve collected over the years).

Then, once the clutter is gone, consumers can roll up all the subscriptions they want to keep into one daily or weekly digest, grouping their favorite brands and alerts together in a neat and easy-to-consume package.

theSwizzle puts the consumer in control and, ultimately, makes them more marketable because they aren’t dividing their attention between hundreds of other brands every day.

Headshot_3MaryAnn Bekkedahl is Co-Founder & President of theSwizzle and an expert in email organization. She was named Adweek Media’s “Publishing Executive of the Year” in 2009. She has earned spots for her brands on the prestigious and highly coveted trade lists including AdWeek’s Hot List, and Advertising Age’s A-List. min magazine named her one of the “Most Intriguing People” of 2004, Gotham magazine named her one of its “40 under 40” in 2003, and Advertising Age named her a “Woman to Watch” in 2003. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan.

3 Creative Ways to Grow Your Email List

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from DJ Waldow  – Enjoy!

You can have the best offer, the most compelling copy, sent from a trusted source, using a subject line that has been optimized for your audience … and yet, if you don’t have a list of email addresses to send to, none of it matters.

Without a list of email addresses in your database, email marketing can be quite challenging. That is why email list growth is the single most important aspect of any sustainable email marketing program.

And it’s not enough to just focus on growing your email list as a one-time task. It’s imperative that list growth be ongoing. Why? Simple. Your email list shrinks by an average of 30% every year. This churn rate, as it’s called, is comprised of subscribers who unsubscribe, mark your email as spam, change employers (and therefore email addresses), and so on.

On top of the 30% churn rate, there is a portion of your list – in many cases a significant portion – who are unemotionally subscribed. This is the group of subscribers who simply ignore your emails. They don’t mark them as spam. They don’t opt-out. They want to receive your content, but just don’t want it (or have the time to read it) right now.

So with your email list constantly shrinking, you can see why it’s critical to focus on ways to constantly grow your list.

Most of us are familiar with the “traditional” list growth tactics – adding an opt-in to your homepage, asking for an email address on checkout or before someone can download a whitepaper or register for a webinar, and so on. Below are 3 creative tactics to grow your email list.

1. SmartPhone App: Smartphone usage across the globe has now topped one billion. Based on that number, one that continues to rise, it seems quite logical to leverage mobile devices – and specifically apps – to grow your email list. I’ve seen this done a few ways recently.

BabyCenter, an online resource for new and expectant parents, provides personalized, expert advice based on the age of your child. In addition to the content published on its site, BabyCenter also sends out weekly email newsletters to all subscribers. As you can imagine, they take email marketing pretty seriously.

When my wife was pregnant with our second child, I downloaded BabyCenter’s free “My Pregnancy Today” app. After entering in my wife’s due date, I was presented with the opportunity to opt-in to for weekly email newsletters about my (well, my wife’s) pregnancy. What I really love about this approach is that BabyCenter makes it very easy to opt-in (“only email address is required”) and they share what I’ll receive in return (“weekly newsletters about your pregnancy”).

Our son, Cal, was born on June 1st of this year. My wife and I are still subscribed to BabyCenter’s weekly email newsletter – and we read every single one!

Another company who is using smartphone apps to grow its list is Living Social. This example below shows what appeared on my iPhone while waiting for one of my Pandora stations to load. The messaging from Living Social says to opt-in to its daily email so as not to miss out on “tomorrow’s deals.” Similar to BabyCenter, the opt-in was clear, obvious, and quite simple – only email address was required!

2. QR Code: While adoption rates for QR codes are relatively slow – 9% of US adults have used a QR code in the past year according to a June 2012 eMarketer report – I still believe it is a list growth tactic worth testing.

However, if you are planning on using a QR code to drive folks to an email opt-in page, I suggest getting a bit creative. That’s exactly what Blowfish Sushi in San Francisco did when it put this poster (below) on the door of the Men’s bathroom!

Yes. Your read that correctly – a QR code on a bathroom door! I snapped this picture on my way into the Men’s room one evening.

What I love about this poster is that Blowfish Sushi nails the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me). If you scan the QR code and opt-in to its email list, they’ll give you a free sake or dessert in return. Additionally, if you are one of the 91% of US adults who have not yet scanned a QR code – either because you are not sure how or your smartphone doesn’t have the ability to do so – Blowfish Sushi provides an alternate way to opt-in to its email list. Well done! (Read more about bathrooms & QR codes here)

3. SMS: If you are someone who does a lot of presentations – both online (webinars) and in person – using an SMS short code can be an effective way to grow your email list. In November, I contacted my friend Justin Mastrengelo who owns JA.TXT – an SMS marketing software application. He set me up with a SMS short code that I started using to opt folks into my email list.

It’s quite simple. The first step is to text a keyword to a 5-digit number. For my email opt-in, that means texting “WALDOW” (no quotes) to 67463.

Then, as can be seen above, I automatically send a text back asking to reply with an email address. I also mention the “Bonus.” Once the person replies with a valid email address, I send one final SMS – a thank you.

The next step is the key – and one that I see missed too often. I integrated this process with my email service provider (Infusionsoft – the same provider used by Duct Tape Marketing) – such that an automatic thank you / welcome email is sent as soon as someone opts in.

Does it work? It has been very effective so far – for me. In the month of November, 30% of my total list growth came from this SMS option. To be clear, I also presented at two live events and gave one webinar in November. So it’s important that you have opportunities – and a captive audience – in order to use the SMS tactic.

However, just because a certain list growth tactic works for one marketer does not mean it will work for you. As I advise all clients, it’s critical that you test what works best for your audience.

Have you tried one of the three creative list growth tactics above? If so, how effective were they? What other methods are you using to grow your email list? Please share in the comments below!

DJ Waldow is an email marketing consultant, writer, blogger, speaker, and co-author of The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing. He is the founder and CEO of Waldow Social, a company that helps clients take their email marketing programs to the next level. DJ has spent nearly 8 years in the email, social, and community-building world, advising clients on how to optimize their email marketing campaigns. DJ can be found on most social networks under the handle “djwaldow” or by searching “DJ Waldow.”DJ is an alumnus of the University of Michigan and a lover of beer, coffee & people.