When I explained to you why you need a website, I said that having your own website allows you to make the transition from being a ‘tenant’ online to being a ‘property owner’.
I also said that
If you don’t have your own website, you have no assets online!
Well, I should probably qualify that as that is not entirely true.
It is possible to have a very valuable asset online without having a website.
It’ll be quite hard to acquire this asset without a website, but it is possible nevertheless. People have done it before, and have managed to create a thriving business out of it.
So what is this online asset that trumps even a website in its importance?
Well, if you noticed the image at the top of this page, you probably already guessed it.
That asset is email and more accurately, an email database.
Why having an email database is so important?
You might think that in this day and age of social media, search engines and multiple online advertising options, email is a bit ‘old school’.
Do people still put as much importance on their email? Do they check it as often as they check social media?
Well, I don’t know how often you personally check your email but according to research, a whopping 66% of people who have an active email address (who doesn’t these days?) check it several times a day with 13% out of those checking their email every hour or even more.
When you compare that against Facebook for example, research shows that 70% of the people who have an active account on the platform, log into Facebook at least once a day.
So does that mean that a person who follows your business page on Facebook is as valuable to you as a person who you can contact through email?
Far far far from it!!
You see, when someone connects with your Facebook page, you don’t ‘own’ that potential customer or lead!
Let me ask you this:
Can you send a direct message to each of your Facebook fans whenever you want?
Can you send them customised marketing material and promotions whenever you want?
Can you be guaranteed that they will be able to see every post or personal communication you send them through Facebook (whether they choose to read it or not that’s up to them)?
Most importantly: If Facebook suspended your business page or ceased to exist completely tomorrow, would you still be able to contact those people?
Ok ok, I know I can’t rely on Facebook for my business. That’s why I am getting my own website that I own and control. Isn’t that what you suggest?
Absolutely, getting your own website is a great idea and is an absolute must for every single business owner, whether large or small.
Having your own website gives you a ‘home’ on the Internet in which you can do as you please and gives you total and complete control over what content you put on that website and how you promote it. It also ensures you retain ownership of any intellectual property you create or upload to your website.
However, there is one crucial aspect over which you do not have control, even with your own website.
This aspect is the primary reason you have an online presence in the first place and without which, building such presence is a futile exercise.
That element is visitors to your website or what we in the Internet Marketing community refer to as “Traffic”.
A website without traffic is like a shop without buyers and a business without customers.
The problem is that unfortunately, you have no control over this most important resource. That’s in the hands of the likes of Google.
If you do what they want you to do, they will ‘reward’ you by giving you a high ranking in the search results. This will lead to more traffic and hopefully more sales and a healthy bank balance.
However, if ‘master’ Google changes their algorithm and decide they don’t like you any more and as a result your ranking in the search results tanks, you could see all that traffic disappear very quickly.
The only exception to that is if you were able to collect email addresses from all these visitors who came to your site. If you did that, nothing can stop you now (not even ‘mighty’ Google!) from contacting these people any time you want and bringing them back to your website, promoting your products & services to them or just building relationship and rapport with them.
Here is a short video which adds a few other important points
Did you know that most visitors that come to a site never come back again?
They either didn’t find what they want on your site or maybe they did, got the information and moved on with their lives.
The only way that you have a reasonable chance of bringing them back at some point is if you collected their email address.
Maybe you don’t even want to bring them back to your site? Maybe you want to market your products and services to them instead or just further develop a relationship with them in the hope they will become customers (or even repeat customers if they’ve already spent money with you in the past)?
Maybe you want to congratulate them or make them a special offer on their birthday or some other meaningful day in their lives (e.g. wedding anniversary)?
Whatever you want to do, you need a reliable way to contact them directly and without intermediaries.
The easiest and the most cost effective way to do that is still email and will remain so for the foreseeable future.
What about if you have a shop or some other business premises where you have customers or prospective customers coming through the door? Do you collect their contact details?
Have you noticed that people are a lot more willing to give you their email address than their phone number?
Having someone’s email also gives you much more flexibility as far as when and how often you contact them. You don’t have to worry about disturbing them at dinner time or when they are asleep (if you have customers located across different time zones or who are shift workers).
Email is less intrusive but, if done right, can be as effective as a phone call (and sometimes even more).
Having someone’s email also allows you to take the relationship with them to the next level and ask for their phone number and a permission to contact them and discuss business over the phone.
If you have been in contact with them over email first and they can see the value in what you can offer them, most people will be only too happy to give you their phone number.
Bottom line, keeping an email database of your clients and prospects gives you a great level of both flexibility and control and there really is no one that can come in the middle and prevent you from contacting them as long as they are happy to keep hearing from you.An email database gives you the ULTIMATE level of flexibility & control in your business Click To Tweet
It is also, hands down, the most effective form of digital marketing by a long shot!
However, in order to be able to get the full benefit from your email database, you need to make sure it is set up the right way from the start.
Why you shouldn’t use Outlook, Gmail or an Excel spreadsheet for your email database?
Many small business owners I come across are already aware of the importance of collecting emails from their customers and prospects.
The problem is that they then record those email addresses in Outlook, their personal Gmail/Hotmail/Yahoo Mail/Whatever email account or just keep it in an Excel spreadsheet or maybe in a paper folder.
Are you one of those people? 🙂
Look, doing that is totally fine if all you want to do is email those clients or prospects 1-on-1.
The part where it gets really tricky is if you want to send bulk emails to a group of clients or your entire email database as a whole. The issue becomes even more complex if you want to send them marketing emails in which you promote your products and services and make them offers to purchase.
If you send those emails by simply putting their email addresses in Microsoft Outlook, Apple Mail or whatever other product you are using for sending and receiving your personal and business emails, you are actually breaking the law in most countries and could face a hefty fine.
The reason why you are breaking the law is because you are effectively spamming your clients!
Spamming is defined as the sending of bulk emails to people without first obtaining their explicit permission to do so and as I mentioned before, most countries now actually have laws against it!
Therefore, if you want to be able to get the maximum benefit from your email database and be able to send them bulk marketing emails whenever you want while staying on the right side of the law, you need to maintain your email database through a bulk mailing software which is often referred to as an ‘Autoresponder’
This software completely automates the process of obtaining customers’ permission to send marketing emails and bulk newsletters, the actual sending of these emails (including customisation such as greeting the client by their name) and also the removal of email addresses when customers have indicated they no longer wish to be contacted.
Given that bulk marketing emails and email newsletters can now effectively only be sent using an ‘Autoresponder’ (unless you want to ‘donate’ some cash to your government 😉 ), the range of such products has absolutely exploded in recent years.
These products vary greatly in the amount of ‘bells and whistles’ they have in them as well as obviously the price.
If you want to go and figure out which one of those will be the best for your small business, be my guest 🙂
However, I would suggest that for the vast majority of small business owners, this email marketing service is the best when taking into account the features, ease of use and last but not least….the price!
It’s important to note that while the review above is very good and unbiased, it is also slightly out-of-date.
This is because it says towards the end of the video that there are no automation features available.
This is no longer accurate as the video below clearly shows:
Mailerlite used to have pretty basic Automation functionality compared to their competitors but that has improved significantly in early January 2017.
Now, Mailerlite has what I think is one of the best email automation capabilities in the industry!
As a result, I am now using them myself in my own business so any email you receive from me, will actually be coming from this very same platform.
To get an idea of how easy it is to create email broadcasts in Mailerlite, have a look at this updated video tutorial:
As already mentioned in the video review above, one of the great things about this product is that if you are just starting out in building your email database and have less than 1000 people in it, it comes with the absolute best price tag of them all – FREE! 🙂
Not only that but you also get:
- Full access to all the features (including the automation & landing pages platform); and
- Unlimited sending.
This is unlike MailChimp for example which allows you to have up to 2000 subscribers for free but doesn’t give you access to its automation features and restricts your sending to 12,000 emails per month.
Once you exceed 1000 subscribers, you do have to start paying but, as demonstrated in the video review, the pricing is extremely competitive and as a matter of fact, Mailerlite still remains as the absolute cheapest platform amongst all of its competitors which offer similar features.