There's an old adage that a person has to see an advertisement seven times before they will buy a product.
When you go and do some research, the science behind this is actually quite difficult to find; there is no readily available scientific research that supports the "rule of 7" as it's commonly known. Some of the reasoning behind seeing an advertisement multiple times is common sense. When you're ready to buy a mobile phone, you're most likely to remember the brand names that you see advertised often - Apple, Samsung and LG are names that come to mind when I think of mobile phones.
Even though the science behind "seven touches" may be lacking, there are valid reasons you need to keep in touch with potential buyers. And the best way to keep in touch is with a subscriber list - also known as a mailing list.
Here are 5 reasons you need that list.
Reason 1: They're never ready to buy when you're ready to sell
The first reason you need a subscriber list is because they're never ready to buy when you're ready to sell.
Last night I was at our local Home Depot to pick up a couple of odds and ends. On the way out, there were two sets of large boxes just before the exit. Each pile of boxes contained snowblowers; one pile a really cheap electric (corded) version (around $150) and the other a cordless version (around $500).
It's the beginning of winter here in Calgary and we've already had to shovel snow a couple of times. Seeing these piles of boxes was a very relevant reminder that more snow is coming up, and though we don't have the same amount of snow here as other parts of the country, this was an enticing offer.
And yet I didn't buy.
I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about why I didn't buy - perhaps I was not quite ready for the cheap version, perhaps I didn't want to spend the money on the more expensive version, and perhaps I was just not tired enough of shovelling snow. Whatever the reason, I was not quite ready.
And it's exactly the same when you sell your own products or services. You may have just completed a new offering and started putting it out to your market, so you're ready to sell. But not all of your target market is ready to buy right now - they're busy, they made another financial commitment, something else is occupying their minds - whatever the reason, some of them are not going to be ready to buy.
So you need a subscriber list so you can remind your subscribers that your new product or service is available. How often you do that somewhat depends on the kind of business you're running, but without a subscriber list you won't be able to remind anyone. With a subscriber list you can remind potential buyers, and when they're ready to buy chances are they will think of you.
Reason 2: If you're not top of mind, they will forget about you
Seeing those snowblowers last night reminded me that there are easier ways to move snow than with a shovel. But when I think about it, I hadn't thought of snowblowers since last winter. Even with the couple of snow dumps we've had in the last month or so I didn't immediately start thinking of snowblowers - I had to physically walk past them in the store before I started thinking about them again.
And again, it's exactly the same with your products and services. If you - and your products and services - are not top of mind for your subscribers, chances are that they won't think of you next time they are faced with a problem you could have helped them solve.
This is quite natural of course. There's a lot going on in our lives and we're bombarded with more advertisements than ever before. Losing track of something specific is pretty common - unless we're reminded that someone has a solution for the particular problem we're trying to solve.
A great example of "being reminded" is looking at how ads seem to follow you around the Internet. Take note next time you Google something - chances are advertisements for that kind of product is going to show up on all sorts of unrelated websites. Google's tracking codes do a good job of keeping that particular topic or item top of mind for you. Enough reminders and you may eventually start looking at that item seriously again.
So you have to stay top of mind with your subscribers. The way I stay top of mind, even when I'm not offering specific products or services, is through my weekly newsletter. I'm not always selling, but I am top of mind for the types of things I do offer.
Reason 3: You need to establish your authority
One of the snowblowers I walked past last night was from a company called Snow Joe. Right next to them were Ryobi with their cordless version.
I don't know that I've heard of Snow Joe before, but I do know Ryobi (if you're not familiar, they make a range of power tools like drills, saws and air tools).
Even though Snow Joe is a lot cheaper than the Ryobi counterpart (it's also corded rather than cordless), I was more drawn to Ryobi because I know the brand a little better. And here's the important bit: I literally don't know if Snow Joe is better quality than Ryobi or not - I just know one brand better than the other. Over the years, I've researched Ryobi (they make a 23-gauge cordless pinner that would help in a lot of my work around the house) so I've built up familiarity with the brand.
In this case, my perception is that Ryobi is a "better" option than Snow Joe. Not because they're necessarily better (I don't know if they are) but because they've built more "authority" as a reliable brand through the research I've done than with Snow Joe.
You need to build your authority as an expert in what you do, otherwise people will go somewhere with a higher perceived authority.
Whether you're selling snowblowers or consulting services, your clients will be looking for the best person (or brand) for the job - not the cheapest. Building that authority is not something that comes fast or easy, so you need to keep providing your target market with "proof" that you know what you're doing.
I build my authority by writing articles like this every week. I get the articles to my target market through - you guessed it - weekly newsletters to my subscribers.
Reason 4: You need to build trust
The Internet lets just about anyone sell anything - and we're so used to hype and false promises that we tend to trust a lot less than we may have even 10 years ago. To build trust, you need to show up regularly, with valuable information.
And that's where a subscriber list really pays off. With a subscriber list, you can over time build trust with your target market by regularly providing information they may find valuable. If you offer the information without asking for something in return (except of course an email address so you can deliver the information in the first place), you build trust. And when someone trusts you they are more likely to buy from you than if they've never heard of you before.
A subscriber list on its own is of course not enough to build trust. You have to build that trust by producing articles like this, or providing case studies of work you've delivered, or by helping in some form or another.
To get that information in front of your target market, you will of course need that subscriber list. Show up frequently and consistently and you will build up trust over time.
Reason 5: You need to be able to make offers to a ready audience
When you're ready to sell your next product or service, you need to get it in front of your target market. And with a subscriber list, you have that audience ready and waiting.
There's no guarantee of course that they're going to buy (see Reason 1 above), but without a subscriber list you're going to have to rely on advertising to people who neither know you nor trust you. With a subscriber list, you have a much better chance of selling your product or service - they're in your target market, you're offering something you know they will be interested in and you're likely to have a much better response than just advertising.
And with the right marketing campaigns, you can build demand for your offerings. You can start teasing the product or service well ahead of time, you can create a sense of urgency by putting time limits on offers, and you can of course create special offers for your subscribers only.
But all of this requires that you have the subscriber list in the first place. Without it, your chances of finding the right people at the right time, ready to buy, are much smaller.
How big does my subscriber list need to be?
There's a lot of hype on the Internet about businesses that have tens of thousands of subscribers on their list. But the size of your list is a lot less important than the quality of that list.
Don't ever buy a mailing list from the Internet.
When you buy a mailing list, the chances that those people are in your target market is vanishingly small. Furthermore, those people never signed up for your information, so chances are they're going to see your first mailing to them as spam. And if you want to adhere to any of the anti-spam laws, sending an unsolicited email is the last thing you want to do.
Instead, focus on building your list slowly but surely with high quality leads that are in your target market. A list with a couple of hundred subscribers who are interested in what you have to sell is a lot more valuable than tens of thousands of subscribers who never open your emails.
Of course, having a large subscriber list - of high quality - is great. But focus on quality before quantity and your results are going to be a lot better.
Does everyone need a subscriber list?
Of course you don't need a subscriber list. But if you want to build trust, establish your authority and make offers to a ready audience you're going to need that list.
There aren't many small businesses that can get away without a mailing list. If you're providing services like medical or dental care, you probably don't need a subscriber list as much as someone like me selling consulting and self-study courses to small business owners.
But even if you're providing higher-end, non-essential services like consulting or executive coaching a subscriber list will help. With that list, you can stay top of mind, reinforce your authority and build trust. Without the list, they're going to forget about you.
So if in doubt, start building your subscriber list now and send them something of value on a regular basis. You don't have to send them something every week - as long as you show up regularly and consistently you will be making good progress forward.
Just about every small business needs a subscriber list. Here are the 5 reasons we covered in this article:
- They're never ready to buy when you're ready to sell. Use your subscriber list to remind them you're there and you have something they may find valuable when they're ready.
- If you're not top of mind, they will forget about you. We have so much information coming at us all the time we can easily forget that someone can help. Stay top of mind with your subscriber list.
- You need to establish your authority. People want to buy from the best. To establish yourself as the best, you need to continuously provide "proof" that you know your stuff. Use your subscriber list to regularly provide useful information.
- You need to build trust. When you show up regularly and consistently, you build trust that you're not just going to disappear after they've bought from you.
- You need to make offers to a ready audience. The people on your subscriber list are in your target market - the chances that they will buy from you are a lot better than people who are not.
If in doubt, start building a subscriber list now. In the long term, you will be glad you did.
Which snowblower is the right one?
Actually, neither of the ones I saw (or any others) may be right for me. I was interested because the snowblowers hold out some promise of making the snow removal process a little easier, but we don't get that much snow - and the areas I have to clear are not that big - that I feel I need another gadget in the garage right now.
But when I am ready to buy, chances are I will go for the brand I know at least a little bit. That's the one that, at least in my mind, has more authority and I trust more. Perhaps they've "touched" me the magical 7 times where the other brand hasn't. We'll see how bad the snow is this year.