“Are you crying?” I asked my friend and fellow business owner, Jennifer. I didn’t need to ask because her eyes were all watery and tears were making their way down her face. Her lips pursed, her chin quivered and her nose got all red. You’d think her dog died. But it was obviously worse than that. Jennifer was contemplating the thought of saying good-bye to an unresponsive list of several thousand old names and addresses.

This was obviously an emotional and personal moment to her. To me it was just a list of unresponsive names and addresses in a spreadsheet, but to her it represented her one-sided relationship with her list.

Nurturing your e-mail list is not the same as loving your list

Jennifer was suffering from an extreme case of list love. Yup. She’d fallen in love with the e-mail list she’d built over the years. I get where she’s coming from. You run campaigns, you collect leads and you build this list to what you think is a high number. But if they aren’t talking back to you, they are not really yours. They are gone.

How to have relationships with the people on your e-mail list

Look. You can’t have a relationship with a list. But you can have relationships with the actual people on the list. Here are some habits that you can start in 2013 to build better relationships with your lists.

Get your contacts into a master e-mail list!

I’m still surprised at how many people do NOT use email marketing tools to manage their relationships. They think that Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections and Twitter lists are good enough, but just because you’re connected to someone via social media doesn’t mean that you “own” them. When those people are subscribed to your list — you own them.

The first thing you’ll want to do is choose an email marketing tool to manage your list. I use aWeber, but you can also choose Vertical Response, Constant Contact, iContact, MailChimp or Emma. Take a day and explore the different tools, ask your friends which ones they use and pick one.

Your next step is to create an email list using the tool you’ve selected. Here is a quick look at how I created my email lists in aWeber:

Now that you’ve created your e-mail list, you’ll want to move your existing contacts from your Facebook, LinkedIn and Outlook (or Gmail) into your master list. There are several ways to do this.

Send them a link to a form: ?This is the easiest way to get people into your master email list. I’m going to use aWeber as an example because this is the tool that I use. Here is a quick example of that:

e-mail form

Post a form on your web site or blog: ?Another fantastic way to collect new emails is to put an email form on your web site or blog. You can keep it simple and just use a basic form for newsletter sign ups or you can get more fancy like I did on DIYMarketers.com and have people fill out a survey or download a FREE report in exchange for their email.

Talk to your list — yeah – a real conversation

Every time someone opts into your email list, you will get an email. As much as we’d all like to have hundreds of people join our list at once, that’s not going to happen right away. The first thing you’ll want to do is create a follow-up email that welcome’s your audience to your web site or email list.

You’ll be tempted to write this email from the perspective of sending it to hundreds of people, don’t do that. Write it as if you were sending it to a friend — just one friend. Be sure to encourage folks to reach out to you and have a conversation. This happens with my list on a daily basis — people receive the follow-up email and they will often send me a hello email and we will get into a short conversation.

Connect with your list on social media

I have two tools that I use to connect with my list on social media:

  1. Nimble — This is my social CRM tool. It’s like SalesForce.com for those of us in the online marketing world. If you get most of your business and relationships from online marketing efforts, this is what you should be using to keep track of and nurture relationships.
  2. Rapportive — I use Gmail and Rapportive is a killer extension that I use to see who I’m interacting with — here’s a shot of my email screen.

See that column on the right? ?That’s Tea Silvestre (from Prospery’s Kitchen) When she sends me an email, I can see how we are connected on social media and if she is subscribed to my list. This way – every time I interact with someone on email, I can make sure that I connect with them on social media tools, get them on my master list and add them to my Nimble database where I can keep track of our conversations and projects.

BooHoo They Unsubscribed!

So? ?They unsubscribed! Don’t take it personally. I subscribe to EVERYTHING all the time. Then I UNsubscribe to everything about four times per year. Then I RE-subscribe to things all over again. It’s not personal.

I have a client who is an elder law attorney. This means that he works with older folks whose parents are going into a nursing home. A reality of the business is that his customers DIE. Yes. Often they die within the year and that means that once our work is done and our customer pass away – they will unsubscribe. It’s the nature of our work. This is a real-life tangible example of “no hard feelings” unsubscribing.

You want people to unsubscribe — especially if they do not want what you are offering. This is a good thing. People who are on your list and aren’t going to refer you or buy from you or value what you are offering are taking up space on your list. This doesn’t mean we don’t love them — it means that we only want people on the list who need what we have. That is all it is.

Don’t fall in love with the NUMBER or size of your list. Fall in love with the conversion rate. Focus on the numbers. Good conversions mean that you are connecting with your list and giving them value — low conversions mean that they are ignoring you. At that point you have decisions to make:

  1. Adjust your offer and message so that you have higher conversions
  2. Go in search of an audience that resonates with what you are offering.

This year, set a goal to build a good, solid high-conversion list. Make a vow to provide them great value and build relationships with the people on your list and not the number.

Overall – have fun making money!