Let’s get one thing clear from the start. I am not anti list building.
I think if people are not building up a group of followers or subscribers then they are missing a very important trick.
But I think the concept of going all-out to build up a big list of subscribers from wherever you can and however you can is becoming less and less relevant for many internet marketers today.
I think there was a ‘golden age’ of email-based internet marketing when people actually enjoyed being on an email list and looked forward to getting offers and opening links in emails which would take them to exciting-looking website sales pages.
But today we are a long way removed from that stage.
Nowadays we get so many emails and are bombarded with so many random offers from random marketers that checking our in boxes is something of a chore.
Here is how it used to work
The old theory goes something like this:
If you get enough people on your list and send them enough stuff then eventually someone will see something they like and buy from you.
But as people get bombarded with more and more emails each month it means that open rates continue to fall so the marketer has to grow an even bigger list and send them more offers in the hope of making a sale.
Surely it makes more sense to abandon this scatter-gun approach and try to appeal to a more targeted market instead?
But what is list building anyway?
I also think the whole concept of “list building” is confusing to many new marketers who think that they need to get huge numbers of people from anywhere they can and then they worry about what to do with their list once they have one.
Some questions I have heard recently are:
Do I wait until I have a list of 50 or 100 or 500 before I communicate with it?
What do I say to my list?
How many offers should I make? What do I offer and where do I find the offers?
How many emails should I send each week or should I email every day?
What do I say in my emails?
And surely relationships are better than mere lists?
So instead of list-building I say that we should be trying to build up relationships with people.
When you get a subscriber then think of it as inviting someone into your front room.
The polite thing to do here is to talk to them. Tell them a little about yourself and ask them about themselves.
Then after a while you can introduce them to offers for goods or services you think they may be interested in.
And because you are building a community of people who have a relationship with you they are more likely to open your emails in the first place and respond to your offers when you send them out.
This is what I have done…
With this in mind I decided to have a look at my own marketing campaigns this week and I noticed that I had a list where I had gathered people from a lot of different sources – some targeted but some not targeted at all.
So I did something the traditional listbuilders would find crazy.
I wrote to this list and told them I would not be sending them any more email offers and then gave them a link to check out if they wanted to hear from me again.
Effectively this is asking people to complete (a rather belated) triple opt in system.
They first joined my list (opted in) and then confirmed their email addresses (double opt in) and ow I have asked them to take one more action if they want to continue to hear from me (triple opt in.)
I expect very few, if any, of them to follow me over to the new list.
But then again what have I really lost?
You can’t have a conversation with someone if the other person is not listening.
And if people on that list don’t really want to be there in the first place what is the point in me talking to them at all?
From now on I want to concentrate on the people who want to hear from me and who want to be part of a two-way dialogue with me.
It is time to stop shouting at the people who don’t want to listen and start talking to the people who do.
It is time to stop focusing on adding numbers to a list and start focusing on those people who want to become part of your community.
That is why I am saying no to random list building from any source and yes to building relationships with people who want to speak to me.
Build your brand. Find your voice. Gain a following.
And now over to you…
What is your approach to this whole question?
Should we differentiate between list building and relationship building?
Do you agree with me or do you think I am crazy?
Feel free to leave your comments below.