Monday, March 28, 2005

Opt-In is NOT an Option

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by Rosalind Gardner
March 24, 2005

In the course of my Internet business consulting work, I am asked to review web sites and figure out why the sites aren't achieving sales. The webmasters of these sites have usually worked long and hard to make them attractive to the search engines and appealing to visitors. Some of these webmasters also invest in pay-per-click advertising to bring even more traffic to their sites, but still there are no sales to speak of.

In almost all of these cases, the first problem that I spot is the absence of an ezine or e-newsletter signup form. That's a problem of such significance that I rarely need to look any farther.

When I ask why they haven't set up a autoresponder to collect the names and email addresses of their visitors, some tell me that they didn't know they needed one.

Others express concern about paying a monthly fee for an autoresponder service when their site isn't making any money, and still others balk at the thought of how much work goes into producing a regular newsletter.

Fair enough. Maybe you are having a similar problem with your site, or the same objections to setting up a mailing list.

Let's look at each concern and objection, and I'll show you why email marketing is one of the most effective and lucrative activities you can engage in during the course of your business day.

First of all, an opt-in mailing list is the cornerstone to success online. Without one, all that time spent tweaking a site for search engine friendliness, is pretty much for naught. You may be an expert at getting traffic to your site. But unless you have a way to bring those visitors back to your site repeatedly, the prospect is lost the first time they leave.

Imagine for a moment that you are single and looking for a life partner. For the last half hour you've been speaking with the most attractive, witty and intelligent person you have ever met. Your heart is thumping loudly and that person is likewise indicating their interest in you.

Unfortunately, it's time for them to be on their way. What do you do? Do you simply say "I enjoyed talking to you" and watch them walk away? Or do you say that you'd like to stay in touch and ask for their telephone number?

Only the second scenario allows the opportunity to build that relationship. As these things sometimes go, you may call a few times, and it turns out not to be such a perfect match. With someone else, you could be on your way to the happiest relationship you'll ever enjoy. However, you'll never know unless you ask for that number.

Email marketing works on much the same principle. If you don't collect email addresses, a visitor comes to your site, takes a look around and in most cases leaves and never comes back. You have no way of bringing them back, because without a list, you have no way to tell them about new products on your site. A trusting, friendly relationship will never develop and they'll never be 'the one' who buys what you're selling.

Because it usually takes seven exposures before most people trust a product enough to buy it, you might as well flush your hard-earned money straight down the drain if you don't follow-up with your visitors at least six times after their first visit to your site.

For less than twenty bucks a month, you can automate this follow-up process so that each new subscriber starts receiving a series of six or more marketing messages as soon as they opt-in to your list. It's an investment that pays for itself over and over again, and the payoff gets bigger and better as your list grows in size.

In addition to the follow-up campaign, you can notify your subscribers of new products that you think they'll interested in. Just type a quick note, press 'send' and voila! your message is on its way.

And email marketing isn't just for merchants. It works extremely well for affiliates too. On just one of my affiliate sites, I've built a mailing list of more than 70,000 subscribers. Each time I pop a quick note or newsletter out to that list, my sales take a huge leap for up to a week after I send the message.

Although I personally use a couple of different autoresponder services, I particularly like ProAutoresponder because they offer an unlimited number of campaigns. That means that unlike some other services that provide only one autoresponder per account, you can set up as many autoresponders as you like with only one ProAutoresponder or Aweber account.

You can set up an autoresponder campaign for visitors who stop by your site without buying, another for those who accept your offer of a free product download, and still others for buyers of your products. You can even set one up for each individual product that you sell.

As to the amount of work that it take to produce a newsletter - consider the alternatives. You could spend lots of time honing your meta tags, or beautifying your site instead, but unless you can get in touch with your visitors, you won't have any customers. And turning visitors into customers should be your top priority.

When you write a product endorsement for the site, just write a shorter version to send as an invitation to visit your site and learn more about the product.

Maximize your marketing efforts and save your advertising dollars.. send your subscribers a note. It's that simple.

So, if you've been reluctant until now to start building your contact list, I hope I've alleviated some of your concerns, and helped you understand why 'OPT-in' isn't an OPTion.

Article by Rosalind Gardner, speaker, consultant and author of the best-selling "Super Affiliate Handbook: How I Made $436,797 in One Year Selling Other People's Stuff Online". To learn how you too can succeed in Internet and affiliate marketing, sign up for Rosalind's "Net Profits Today" newsletter at:

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