The Home-Based Reality Check
by Kathy Burns-Millyard

I Don't Want to Build a Damn List

How many times do you hear it?

Build your opt-in list!

Have you fallen for the hype too? Well, let me clue you in on 
a few things about lists.

First of all... building, maintaining, and mailing to lists is 
time consuming. They'll give you a headache. They'll feel like a 
ball and chain eventually. And whether they'll ever return the 
investment is questionable at best.

So, why do we constantly hear advice about building a mailing 

Well, it goes back a few years. Several actually. Once upon a 
time, in the new beginnings of commerce on the 'Net, mailing 
lists were a source of great income. Mainly because they sold 
advertising. And advertisers were so enthralled with the 
immediate delivery, and potential for immediate response, that 
they bought ads in newsletters and ezines.

So, the bigger the Publisher's list... the more they could charge 
for advertising.

And people made money. Publishers and advertisers alike. But 
that was 1997. '98 & '99 were ok too, and for some people, 2000 
was even a great year for mailing lists. There are even a few 
lists out and about today that make money. I hear rumors that a 
rare handful actually make a profit.

So what about the hundreds of thousands of other lists out 
there? Well, they're probably going through something like this:

1. They're told by "experts" to build a large mailing list... so 
they put in countless hours, weeks, and months to do so. Most are 
lucky to reach 1000 subscribers in a year.

2. They're then told to send regular mailings to these 
subscribers... so they put in more endless hours finding or 
writing content to send out to their subscribers. Content is 
king right? If you give enough away, people will eventually be 
grateful enough to buy something... right?

Hmmm... in my experience -- and I've been marketing online for a 
good 7 years now -- people who get free expect free. They're not 
likely to start paying for something they've gotten for free in 
the past. And if they were looking for free to begin with, they 
aren't likely to start paying now.

3. Once you've gotten at least 1000 subscribers, you can start 
selling ads! Hate to break your bubble... but there are plenty 
of publications with over 100,000 subscribers that can't fill 
their ad space.

4. You can advertise your affiliate programs! Ok, if the 
affiliate program offers something useful... and your subscribers 
haven't seen the ads in dozens of other places... you *might* get 
a trickle of income by doing this. But the average affiliate is 
lucky to make $20 a month now-a-days. Does that cover the time 
and energy you've spent for the list so far?

5. You can advertise your own products! This one is true too. If 
you have products to sell... and you have an interested, targeted 
mailing list... you can make plenty of profits this way -- if you 
do it right.

What I've seen over the years though, is unfortunate. Publishers 
with a great list and great products to sell tend to blast their 
list with advertisements -- Effectively alienating their 
prospects and customers, and getting their messages trashed 
instead of increasing sales. 

On the other end of the spectrum are the really good publishers. 
They have great content but it makes them no money. They have no 
products to sell, and tend to spend way too much time building 
the list and creating the content... so they don't make much 
(if any) money.

Now you've probably caught on to a theme here. If you have 
products and services to sell, a list can be a goldmine. But you 
need to work it. Don't just blast ad sheets, send some tips and 
info. Create a conversation... a relationship. Make your 
prospects feel special. Make them happy to be on your list, and 
anxious to read every message you send.

If you don't have products or services to sell... building a 
large list is a waste of your time and resources. Get products 
or services first.

Now if you're like me, you're in a group I haven't really 
discussed here. Services. Select services that are limited in 
some way. I, for instance, work with just a few clients at a 
time. Sometimes a project lasts for 2-3 weeks and sometimes it 
lasts for months. If I were to try and build, maintain, and 
regularly mail a list of thousands... it would be a wasted 
effort. I can't service hundreds -- or even 20 -- at once.

Instead, I do select, targeted mailings to existing contacts. If 
I want or need extra work... about 10 emails does the trick. I 
don't have to constantly search for content, waste hours tweaking 
my list subscriptions, or put together elaborate news and 
information. I simply send a quick note. And usually within a 
week or less... I've gotten several thousand dollars worth of 
projects booked.

And most of the time I don't even have to do that. I simply 
collect prospects from my website. I'm not collecting "opt-in" 
names and addresses though. My Website does most of my selling 
for me. When a prospective customer wants time or cost estimates, 
or wants to discuss their project needs in detail, they fill out 
an online form. And I respond to that. And if they don't want 
the project right away, I contact them later. The relationship... 
the conversation... is already established.

Instead of me constantly sending email to request sales... 
targeted prospects are sending me email to request my services.

So think about lists carefully. If you already have one, do you
honestly need it? Would you love to shake off the shackles 
associated with it so you can get on with making some actual 

Treat your list like an expensive advertisement: If it's not 
making you money, and won't be in the near future... get rid 
of it.

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