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If we use golf as an analogy for online marketing. Then, of all the clubs in your golf bag, email would be that Big Bertha driver with the huge club head that looks so out of place among the rest of your clubs.

And if we're being honest, it would probably be the club that's gathering the most dust. You know email's a monster. You also know that it can be a pain to maintain.

But sometimes, you really need to bite the bullet and just go for it. Here's what I mean. What if you had a list of all the email addresses of all the customers you've worked with in just the last five years.

And what if, instead of letting that list gather dust, you were in the habit of reaching out to the people on that list every so often, just to say hello or to keep them up to date on what's new and hot in the industry?

Imagine how useful that list would be for your business. A list of people who know you're going to send them stuff from time to time and who are some what curious as to what useful stuff you're going to send next.

Percolate on that for a minute.

For the rest of this conversation, when I refer to “your list,” I'm not talking about some list of randoms that you bought from a list broker like InfoUSA. I'm talking about a real list. A list you built the hard way. Part clients and part prospects.

A list like that is one of your most valuable assets. To put it in some sort of context, if you were a farmer, your list is that crop that you sweat over each season.

And when it comes to tending to that crop, email is still the reigning champ. The average email open rate is 32%.

If you work that crop the smart way, you'll not only grow that list, your open rate and engagement will be much higher than a mere 32%. So let's take a minute and talk about a few ways to increase that crop yield.

Make them an offer they can't refuse…

This is sticking point number one so, we're going to get it out of the way first. You want new blood to join your list. The problem is, new blood doesn't know how much goodness you bring to the table. They're skeptical.

If you want someone to release that death grip on their email address, knowing that you're going to start hitting their inbox, you gotta give them something, and it's got to be tasty.

Bland lead magnets don't work. Whatever you're offering, it has to be appealing to be effective. And you want to make sure it's appealing to the right people.

Let's take coupons for example. Personally, I'm not a fan. Not because they don't work, they definitely do, but because of the message you're sending. When you lead with a coupon, you attract people who are focused on price. And as anyone who's ever used Groupon will tell you, when you start a conversation talking price, it's pretty difficult to pivot to a conversation about value.

When I'm coaching clients on creating lead magnets, I advocate tapping into that “emotional why.”

That's something you can apply no matter what stage of the Buyer's Journey they're at. But more important than that, people are more likely to make decisions with emotions, than with reason, logic and common sense.

It's just the nature of the beast. So, if you can create a lead magnet that appeals to the emotional hot button that's really driving the train, you'll get a higher quality of subscriber.

If you want more and better subscribers, focus on “the why behind the what” and give your target audience what they really want.

Make the Process Smooth Like Butter

If you're talking to a client on the job site or one who's sitting in your office, you can simply ask for their email address. But for those nameless, faceless folk that discover you online, you're going to need them to fill out a form.

When it comes to opt-in forms, there are two schools of thought. Get as much information as you can or make it simple. Both have their place.

If you primarily sell high-end B2B services, it's in your best interest to make sure you're in touch with the right person. It would be pretty darn annoying to spend time and resources to attract and nurture a relationship, only to find out that the person you're working with is in the wrong department or doesn't have the ability to make purchasing decisions. In that case a longer opt-in form makes perfect sense.

If, on the other hand, you're primarily a B2C business, you probably want to go simple. One line. Just the email address. Two lines if you want to grab a first name. Any more than that is just plain greedy and is probably going to be a deal breaker for a lot of potential subscribers. Keep it simple. You can get all those other details later. Right now, grow your list.

Remember, the exit is only one click away. Always do whatever you can to make it easy for prospects to stick around.

Sharing is Caring

Let's assume that you're already in the habit of pushing out helpful information to your subscribers. When you come across a particularly helpful nugget of information, it's a good idea to ask your audience to pass it along. Ask them to forward it on to friends, family and any colleagues that would find it useful.

But before you start getting all kinds of generous, make sure you set yourself up for success. Don't assume that everyone reading your email is already on your list. Always include a way for people to subscribe to get their hands on some more of those tasty morsels. A simple link that says something like “For more helpful tips like these go to …” It's nice to provide helpful information, but let's be honest. A little leverage goes a long way.

Give Your Subscribers options

No one likes the feeling of drinking from the fire hose. And that's what it can feel like to a subscriber if you blow up their inbox with a data dump several times a week.

Helpful information is nice. Too much helpful information is called noise.

While many of your subscribers will enjoy hearing from you quite frequently, a large number are going to get annoyed and opt out just to get you to stop abusing their inbox.

The goal is to keep your list growing. If you gain two subscribers and lose one, you're kind of defeating the purpose.

An easy way to avoid this and give your subscribers value at the frequency they want is to offer different subscription levels. Your autoresponder software has the ability to offer subscribers a choice of how often they receive content from you. Some are going to be fine hearing from you a couple of times a week. For those that aren't, you can offer to limit your sends to once weekly, once every other week or even monthly.

You don't get points just for hitting send. The value of your list is in having subscribers who respond when you hit send. The last thing you want is for them to unsubscribe or worse yet, just filter your emails into their SPAM folder.

Here's the point of all this is. Remember that your list is made up of people. Take the time to treat them right and tailor your efforts to what they need and you'll find yourself with a very responsive list that's capable of sustaining your business far into the future.