Was I Speaking Up For You?

October 11, 2010

I raised a question on behalf of internet marketing newbies (including myself) when I posted a comment to a blog post a few days back. The post was about building an e-mail list. My comment looked like this:

Brilliant! But, uhh…. we have to figure out what we’re going to sell first, right? I run into a lot of people trying to grow a list and then figuring out what they might do with it. I don’t bother with a list because I don’t have my first training product ready yet. Hoping my enthusiasm to share it with people will drive my list-building efforts when it’s on the launchpad.

That comment was on a post about how to have the best chance of making money through internet sales if you have just a month to do it. It’s an entertaining read, as much for style as for content, because it was written by Naomi Dunford of IttyBiz. Yes, that IttyBiz – the one with 35,000 subscribers.

How do I know she has that many? Because she mentions it in the blog post she wrote as an answer to my question. [gulp] So… I tried to cram a complicated dilemma into a blog comment and didn’t make my main point clear. Naomi responded to what I actually wrote and chastised the dumbass I appeared to be.

In front of 35,000 people.

I said I’m working on an information product, which is true, and that I haven’t bothered with list-building yet, which is also true. Of course that person (me) should already be building a list! But that wasn’t my point. It was late. I was trying to say four or five things where I should have said one. Have pity.

Thing is, I didn’t really decide until a few months ago that I would create an information product. I thought that some day I might but hadn’t really committed to it. On my own path creating a small business I have been tripped up by the same mistake several times. I hear about a marketing technique, get excited to learn the technology and how to use it, and invest my time, energy, and money into it. Then I reach a point where I ask myself, Why am I doing this again? That’s because I’m playing with the newness but don’t really have anything I’m marketing, other than individual coaching. (That’s a tough sale all by itself, in case you didn’t know.)

I wrote about my list-building escapades and how I realized I had no plans for the list two years ago. That happened after my experiment publishing a blog-based e-zine for a year, before I realized I had no real plans for it.

See the pattern?

I meant my comment on Naomi’s post to be about people in situations like I was in previously: learning marketing techniques and trying them because we’re told that’s what we should do. Following someone else’s marketing model without having a clue about what steps we want our prospects to take to move them closer to making a purchase. When I wrote that I finally decided to sell information products I completely changed the subject from talking about the people I was trying to help – the ones who are told they need a list but don’t really have a purpose for one yet.

(Have I mentioned it was late?)

You might be one of those people. If so, this post is for you. Here’s what I meant.

I run into a lot of people trying to grow a list and then figuring out what they might do with it. Most offer professional services like consultation, coaching, bookkeeping, or holistic health and wellness. They hear an introduction to one marketing technique, e-mail marketing, and think they have just drunk from the holy grail of successful marketing.

They pay for an auto-responder service and start trying to collect e-mail addresses. A few months later their list has slowly grown but they don’t have any more clients. They get frustrated and think there’s some secret that nobody has revealed, so they pour money into buying people’s training programs and templated systems for internet marketing. They’re excited for three or four weeks while attending online training or going through the system in a box that just arrived, but a month or two later they haven’t implemented anything new. They don’t have any new income and their frustration is turning to despair.

The problem is they really can’t tell you why they have a list, other than someone told them they need to have one. They don’t plan to sell information products right now. They just want clients for their professional service, but they’re not sure how to go from having a list to getting more clients.

The point I didn’t raise clearly in my comment to Naomi is that these people don’t have a plan for their lists. In her post she says she has no grand strategy, but intuitively and organically she does. She grows an audience of people who resonate with her clear information shared with wit and sarcasm and profanity – I have to admit her bold, playful attitude is a big part of the charm for me. She listens and responds and continues to learn what people want. Then, as she tells us, she creates products around areas where people are having trouble.

Naomi, that’s a strategy!

It’s actually Product Launch guru Jeff Walker’s plan for developing products. He says you can start by getting into the conversation with prospects, begin to grow your audience, share your knowledge and hear their questions, and then find ways to solve their problems and meet their needs. Product design happens through those conversations.

As I raise the question about the need for a list, I’m not talking about people who will develop a product but just don’t know yet what it will be. I’m talking about people who don’t even want to create a simple product to offer in exchange for an e-mail address. I’m talking about people who publish a twice-a-month e-mail newsletter for three months and then give up because they’re not getting results – and they’re not even sure what results they want! I’m talking about people who create a twenty- to thirty-page e-book and wonder why “I have an e-book” isn’t an effective marketing strategy.

I ask my question on behalf of people who hear “the money’s in the list” and feel compelled to grow a list, but have no idea how having a list will make money for them. I don’t mean no idea as in Naomi writing, “I don’t have a big strategy when it comes to product creation and development.” I mean no idea. They hope people will get on their list because there’s a sign-up box. They hope people on their list will decide to contact them to hire them as a consultant or coach or holistic health provider. They hope they can make money e-mailing a link for an affiliate product to their list.

But they have no idea why people will choose to sign up, or hire them, or buy a product they recommend. They have no plan, and no idea how to develop one. Some of them don’t even realize what they’re doing is not a plan. If you ask them, “What’s your marketing plan?” they’ll tell you it’s to grow a list for e-mail marketing. That’s as far as it goes.

Are you part of this group?

Do you feel the pressure to use e-mail marketing and list-building, even though it doesn’t feel right for you? Do you wonder how or why it’s supposed to work for you? Does it seem like a really poor fit because you aren’t comfortable with the technology, you aren’t comfortable writing a newsletter, or you aren’t comfortable being in the spotlight?

If so, my experience tells me you’re in a pretty large group. It’s a group of people who get excited about self-employment, about taking charge of their work and serving people, but then slam into the obstacle that is marketing. When “experts” tell them, “This is the way you have to do it,” they drop their heads and turn around and walk away.

Marketing in this specific way using this person’s specific system feels as much like a trap as the cubicle and the corporate employee manual.

You chose self-employment because you want to be in charge of your own creativity and your own productivity. You want your work to align with the rest of your life and to complement it. You want your work to flow from your natural gifts and talents and give you the opportunity to develop them more fully.

You want the freedom to live authentically, with your choices expressing your values and your natural way of being.

All of that comes to a screaming halt when someone says, “You must market in this specific way, using these techniques and these communication channels.”

Naomi’s post answers the question about when to start building a list if you intend to sell information products as part of your business model. Start yesterday! (I wish I still had my original list, minus the casinos and enhancement peddlers.) But it doesn’t answer my question, because I didn’t frame my question correctly.

My question is: What about the people who aren’t sure if they want to develop information products and sell them? What if they aren’t sure e-mail marketing is right for their kind of product or service? What if they aren’t sure if it’s right for their target audience? What if they aren’t sure it’s right for their personal style, their natural way of being? What if it doesn’t feel authentic?

If you’re one of these people, you already know that following the steps of growing a list feels like drudgery. It can feel as suffocating as the job you left or are trying to leave behind.

I know that, until you see a connection between growing a list and expressing who you are by serving people, you’re going to despise the steps of growing a list. They’ll feel wooden, methodical, empty, and pointless. First you need to know if e-mail marketing and list-building are right for you. You need to see how they serve you, how they fit into your plan to get the word out about your business and connect with your target audience in a comfortable, authentic way.

You are the people I have in mind as I write my manuscript for Anything But Marketing! You haven’t “bought in” to the idea of list-building yet, or you’ve tried it because other people tell you it’s the only way, or the best way, to market so you feel like you have to.

But you don’t really want to.

I believe you have to figure out what marketing techniques and communication channels are right for you before you spend your time and money on them. You have to choose what feels honest and ethical to you and what will resonate with your target audience.

I imagine Naomi would agree, though I really don’t know for sure. I just didn’t ask the right question to be able to find out. Here it is now:

I run into a lot of people building a list because they’re told that’s what they have to do in order to market their new small business successfully. They aren’t ready to develop information products and may never be. They just want clients. Do they have to grow an e-mail list in order to be successful?

I don’t think you do.

What you do have to do is find the marketing techniques and channels of communication that are suited to your style, your business, your target audience, and your message and use them regularly. For some of you, that will include list-building for e-mail marketing. For others, it won’t.

Curious to find out how to decide if list-building is right for you? Anything But Marketing! is on the way! Sign up for my brand-spanking-new, Naomi-inspired list to get updates about it and be part of the conversation as I fine-tune it.

And don’t worry… I will never sell, rent, or trade your information. Not ever. Period! And I won’t flood your inbox with messages. I’ll just send you something once in a while. Okay, October 14-17 I’ll be updating regularly from The Joyfully Jobless Jamboree, but after that I’ll have to remind myself to send things out more than twice a month.


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