The recent Facebook outage showed that email remains a valuable channel for reaching out to our target audience and potential clients. When our favorite social networks are down, our email account is like the “Old Faithful” of communication channels. Can’t reach someone on Facebook? Send an email. They’ll be sure to find it in their inbox.
When you’re building your own email list, it’s a good idea to think of your target audience as people you’re building a relationship with. The goal is to share the same authenticity and generosity as you would on social media or in person.
Imagine your email list is an invitation to a social gathering. What would make people want to come to your party and stay in touch afterwards?
Here are five questions (five W’s) to ask yourself when you’re building an email list from scratch:
1. Who is your target audience?
The first thing to remember is to focus on quality, not quantity. If you’re just starting out, feel free to invite friends, family, colleagues, or former clients to opt in to your list. Your local network may help you spread the word and generate interest in your business.
And when you’re brainstorming potential subscribers, think about why someone might want to receive your emails. What are their common interests? Are there ways you can use your content to fulfill a need or solve a problem for them? Imagine yourself sitting down and logging into your email account. What would make you want to open a message?
Think about these questions:
– Who would be interested in your niche?
– Who could hire you for your products or services?
– Who might benefit from a long-term connection to your business?
2. What kind of content is important to your audience?
In email marketing, we often talk about the practice of providing a “lead magnet” as a free offer people receive when they submit their email address. The kind of content you give will be governed by your target audience. What would make it worthwhile for them to opt in to your emails? What fits your services and brand? What do you feel comfortable creating?
Spend some time brainstorming and consider these possibilities:
Monthly, biweekly, or weekly newsletters
Checklists, infographics, or templates
Written or video tutorials
Free webinars or online classes
3. Where do people opt in to your list?
There’s a fine balance to inviting people to opt in to an email list. You don’t want to overwhelm them with pop-ups. And at the same time, you want to be sure they have ample opportunity to join if they want to. Here are some options you can consider:
Lead capture boxes on your freelance business website
Sign-up button in your email
Sign-up forms on your Facebook Page
A form that’s displayed when people return to your site, scroll down a page, or exit your site
Email submission included as part of signing up for your online event
Tools like OptinMonster can help you create customizable forms. Just be sure not to require too much information from subscribers, or it’ll deter them from signing up.
4. When will your list be complete?
This is a trick question. The answer is “never.” Even if you reach capacity for clients, you want to continue building your email list. Not only will it connect you with potential clients for the future, it will gather a community of like-minded individuals around you and your business.
If you’re building your list from scratch, you may also find you need to experiment with different ways of promoting your list. What worked in theory might not work in practice. Or you might change your niche or services or products along the way and need to target a new audience.
Take your time and build your list gradually. Email has been around long enough that you have time to refine your approach. Continue to focus on the quality of your subscribers, not the quantity.
5. Why should your audience listen to you?
Have you ever joined an email list for the free offer and then immediately unsubscribed? There was something valuable about the content, but no desire to stay connected to the brand or business? This phenomenon sends chills down the spines of even the most seasoned email marketers.
In addition to encouraging opt-ins, it’s important to establish credibility and expertise in your industry so subscribers will stay on your list to hear what else you have to say. You can do this by letting your personality and expertise shine through an active presence in other online channels.
Share valuable social media posts where your target audience hangs out
Publish content consistently in your favorite online network (e.g. blog posts, YouTube videos, podcasts)
Be a guest blogger on someone else’s siteHost or participate in online events.