Elayne Whitfield, BA, MVA ~ VA Industry ExpertSubscribe Now

Five Ways to Monetize a Mailing List

5 ways to monetize your mailing listSuccessful marketing plans require creativity. The most creative marketers, entrepreneurs, and businesspeople are almost always the most successful as creativity is what separates you from the pack. Email marketing may offer security and long-term income, but it is nothing without an effective and creative platform for monetizing it.

These five options take different approaches to monetizing email traffic and all offer the potential for outstanding results. No matter how your business operates, these five strategies can help you boost income and increase orders.

 1) Sell affiliate products.

A popular method in the online marketing world since the late 1990s, affiliate marketing brings the potential for profit more than any other strategy. In exchange for potential clients, affiliates are paid for every sale that is generated.

The business of email marketers puts them in a unique position to be wildly successful with online affiliate programs. With a trusting and value-added email marketing list, even a slight mention of an affiliate product can generate sales for the advertiser; sales that mean valuable commission income for yourself.

 2) Drive leads directly to clients.

There are countless businesses out there that, while lacking an official affiliate program, would happily pay you for incoming business leads. If your email marketing efforts are focused in specific markets, you could contact businesses in these markets directly and offer leads to them.

From real estate agents to simple product-based businesses, almost all local, national, and international businesses are interested in generating more sales, and with the valuable leads that you bring them, you could collect a substantial commission. Refine your business-to-business sales pitches, get on the phone, and get to work earning directly from local businesses.

 3) Market your own products and services.

It is one thing to take a commission from another business, but it’s an entirely different game when you’re making 100% of the profits from your own product sales. With a minor time commitment, you could have your own eBook to sell, your own utility to market, or your own coaching program to advertise for. Rather than taking just a portion of the returns from someone else's product sales, apply your creativity to your own business and create a way to market to your email subscribers directly.

4) Ask for client or customer referrals.

The success of referral-based businesses is evident all over the internet. Zappos, a leading online shoe store, generates business almost entirely through word of mouth marketing efforts and customer referrals. By offer focusing primarily on their incredible customer service, their email subscribers spread the word to their friends which expands Zappos' marketing power and their audience size.

It’s simple, ask your email list for client or customer referrals. If you market to people who are seen as authorities in your target market, you could very well end up with an endless stream of referral sales and contracts.

5) Send subscribers to Adsense-powered websites.

Although sending subscribers to an Adsense-powered website is unlikely to earn you more than a few dollars per email, it can be a good way to test websites before they are officially launched. With a few quick split-testing scripts, a small list of hundreds of prospective customers and visitors can be the perfect testing resource for a pre-launch website or commercial online property.

Permission Marketing: How to Market Ethically Through Email

Permission Marketing - How to Market Ethically Through eMailMarketing in general often raises ethical questions and subjective interpretations of what is right and wrong. From online marketing to face-to-face and traditional direct mail marketing; advertisers, businesses, and marketers have always had to walk a relatively clear, well-defined line. On one side: ethical business -- opt-in lists that let people opt out just as easily, buyer-friendly sales tactics, generous return policies, and a desire to build trust. On the other: unethical business -- aggressive marketing, unfriendly tactics, and a short-term business mindset.

While marketers are often branded as the latter, most are very ethical and buyer-focused. Marketing depends on repeat business, and the most effective online businesses know that satisfied customers, clients, and participants are exactly what they need to ensure that customers return to them in the future. Returning customers spend money, are very easy to deal with, and are often the most profitable and valuable customers available. Rather than focusing on the short-term, most smart marketers are intensely focused on the long-term potential of establishing customers who will keep coming back to them.

Email marketing is one of the most popular and trusted forms of online marketing but it, too, draws the same kind of ethical questions. Spam is a major problem online and it hurts responsible email marketers more than anyone else. Just like short-term offers and unfriendly tactics hurt the rest of the marketing and direct sales world, massive spam marketing efforts have affected legitimate email marketers more than they have the spammers.

When Email Marketing Becomes Spam

The word ‘spam’ gets thrown around so often that it’s easy to lose track of what it actually means. Spam is not sending targeted messages to interested buyers, but rather it is sending too many emails to too many people who never asked to be contacted. Unfortunately, many email marketers overestimate the value of their email updates and cross over into the latter category. This short-term focus might lead to rapid sales and quick product uptake, but it leaves little in terms of long-term potential and establishing a reputable brand name.

How to Market Ethically Through Email

Provide value, don’t just offer what your business is selling. Whether you are providing tips and advice through email or merely interesting content, you have an obligation to provide value to your prospective customers before you expect it from them.  Marketing guru Seth Godin is fond of a specific term, one that he coined himself. He calls effective email marketing “permission marketing” and defines it as marketing that has the audience's permission to be received. Permission marketing is always more effective than its alternatives over time, and is a real boost for return customers, repeat clients, and long-term arrangements.

Why Permission Marketing is Best for Customers and Marketers

Marketers are human. Despite the overwhelming (and somewhat alarming) belief that marketing plans are thought out in a harsh corporate office, most marketing plans are pieced together by people that are just as susceptible to marketing as the audiences they target. Marketing is about trust, and consent is the basis of all trust.

When your email marketing becomes spam, every transaction is temporary and short-term. Customers appear, but they never stay. When your email marketing is based on permission – namely deep and value-providing permission – customers appear and keep appearing. As both a long-term marketing platform and a low-maintenance marketing method, permission email marketing provides more results, less work, and greater returns for your business than any unethical approach can provide.

There’s just something unappealing about the spam approach that cannot be rectified by any amount of other positive business practices. If you want to establish your business and your brand, focus on the long-term and use permission marketing; it will be worth it.

Three Reasons to Market Through Email AFTER You Sell

3 Reasons to Market Through EMail After You SellFor years, email marketing has been a pre-purchase exercise. Marketers spent almost all of their resources on acquiring customers before selling to them, rather than reaching out to customers after the sale. While this method is obviously effective, it is by no means the be-all and end-all of marketing forms.

After the worldwide recession hit in 2008, businesses everywhere responded by cutting their marketing budgets. Advertising expenditures plummeted, global marketing presences were almost eliminated, and sales-focused businesses found themselves running out of buyers. In a new environment of business, companies began turning to uncharted methods to attract customers, leading eventually to an expansion of the email marketing world.

Today, the focus on size over substance is clearly present in almost every form of marketing, from offline resources to online marketing tactics. Marketers brag about their mailing lists, touting millions of readers, all the while ignoring the fact that each reader is almost completely valueless. Despite their massive size, these marketing lists are largely pieced together and almost completely devoid of any post-purchase subscribers.

The money is, as they say, most certainly in the lists, it's just not in any list. The most valuable marketing resources and the targets of any serious email marketer are the attention of any prospective customer that can, will, and has bought before. Once you have overcome the initial sale, repeat business is as simple as creating additional marketing resources to stay engaged with the customer.

Sometimes it is best to forego the short-term subscription and focus on customers that are ready to buy. Before you start an all-inclusive marketing list, consider these three reasons to keep your list exclusive and limited to customers that have already bought from you before.

  1. Post-purchase marketing gives you authority through established trust: It is easier to sell a $1000 product to a current customer than it is to sell a $20 product to someone you barely know. Commerce, especially online commerce, is all about building trust and establishing authority. Build trust with a small initial sale and you will give yourself an avenue for larger, more profitable future transactions.
  2. Customers qualify themselves. Prospects require your qualification: Marketing to new customers is an uphill battle. You are constantly re-evaluating your assumptions to appeal to possibility and quite often they can fail to be worth your time. The vast majority of pre-purchase prospects turn out to be duds and the few that buy from you are typically the types of customers that would buy from you on their own anyways. Focus on fostering qualified customer connections, not indiscriminate and valueless connections coming from anywhere.
  3. Post-purchase marketing is exclusive and value-adding: Exclusivity is a currency in itself. Marketers have forever capitalized on the “exclusive offer” strategy, offering each customer a one-off opportunity that is available to almost everyone else. While many are content with false exclusivity, true exclusivity gives you a marketing opportunity that is almost completely unparalleled.

The internet, especially over the last few years, has given marketers intense power to undervalue and skim over  personal relationships with customers. It has become all too easy to send a generic  template email to all contacts instead of differentiating previous purchasers versus prospects. A focus on true exclusivity and one-on-one treatment goes a long way in the world of template emails and form letters, and will be appreciated by your clients, customers, and business contacts.