It's been said many times that the money is in the list. The logic is simple. People don't often buy on their first visit to a website or exposure to a product, so the trick is to capture their email address through some giveaway or mailing list sign up form, and promote to them later. This also means that regardless of how your site might fare in the search engine rankings, an email address is for life (in theory.)
I don't agree wholeheartedly that the money exists purely in the list, I've made lots of money online without a list. It all depends on how well you can help your website visitors. If they're looking for a solution to their problem or an answer to their question, and you can provide it to them on your website, there's no need for an email campaign.
The problem with this is, in the modern world where scams are rife and trust and integrity take time to build, it's easily more prudent advice to say “Get their email address, and win them over gradually”.
One person I learned an incredible amount about email marketing from, Andre Chaperon, said that making money from an email list doesn't come from when you promote to them. It comes with every email you send.
Every time you send an email offering some advice, or information, and “warming them up to you”. By doing the groundwork over time, promotions come naturally and people will buy your recommendations.
It's a lot easier to build this level of trust up during a series of emails and newsletters than it is over the 5 or so minutes (if you're lucky) that this person will be browsing your website.
In this regard, the money really is in the list.
How To Start Email Marketing
I'm going to assume you've already got a website and visitors to that site. You can start email marketing without a website, capturing emails on a Facebook Page, Twitter account etc, or even through physical flyers, but at Human Proof Designs the focus is on websites, and that's where I'm sticking for now.
The first thing you'll want to do is sign up for an email autoresponder service. There are a number of popular ones, and I recommend Aweber every time. Mail Chimp and Madmimi are both good, but have their limitations (and a lot of rules about what type of emails you can send). Aweber also lets you get started for $1, which is a great plus.
You'll need to connect your website with your email autoresponder service, and this is usually done via a web-opt-in form. If you click on the “subscribe” link on my site here, you'll see what I mean.
People enter their email addresses and after a confirmation email, get added to my list. Later, when I send out a promotion or just an update, I can type it once, hit send, and it goes to everyone on my list (or a segment of that list, depending how I organize it).
Aweber will give you all sorts of statistics about how many people open the email, how many people click links inside it, and so on.
Setting all that up is pretty straight forward, and every respective autoresponder service will have a lot of tutorials teaching you how to do it.
The Real Skill – Learning How To Market
Now, setting up an opt-in form and building a list is a relatively easy thing to achieve. It's actually successfully marketing to that list that really takes skill and practice.
There's no set formula for success, as every website has a different set of subscribers, with different interests and personalities. Different strategies will work for different groups.
At the end of the day though, as long as you are giving people value and not just spamming their inboxes, you'll be off to a good start.
Remember that laying the foundations by doing the ground work and delivering value over and over again is what will lead you to success. If you hit someone with a promotion on their first email, they'll likely just hit the unsubscribe button, but if you can practice “the strategy of preeminence” (giving before taking), then you will be onto something.
Here's a good example of what I mean:
Your site is about dating, and you want to promote a dating advice product to somebody. Do you choose option A or B?
You sign them up to your email list.
You hit them with some emails talking about the best dating advice products, hoping that one or two will score a sale.
If they don't buy, you keep hitting them with emails until they either buy or unsubscribe.
You sign them up to your email list.
You deliver them a sequence of emails giving them great dating advice.
You build up a relationship and rapport with them, demonstrating that you know your stuff and you care about them.
You recommend some products to them, which they are inclined to buy based on the value you've demonstrated and the trust you've already built.
I know that it seems obvious to choose B, but so many people go with A, perhaps without even realizing it.
One thing I know is that without guidance, it can be pretty tricky to learn how to give your subscribers what they want.
If you are serious about email marketing, then you absolutely have to check out Andre Chaperon's Autoresponder Madness. Reading his guide changed the way I approach email marketing, and basically blew my mind.