The Power of List Building

Any marketer who has achieved business success in the long term – either online or off – strongly agrees with the old saying, “The money is in the list.” Indeed most marketers view their lists as the foundation for their success and their most valuable business asset.

However, despite an almost endless supply of tutorials and testaments to the incredible value of list building, most new affiliate marketers still aren’t adding those precious email capture forms to their sites. They fail to either grasp the concept of long-term visitor value, or think that list building does not apply to them.

Many of the list-less affiliates with whom I consult assert that setting up a list, generating ideas for content and publishing a regular newsletter will be difficult and time-consuming, or simply “too much work.” Let me dispel the notion that list setup and publishing are even slightly onerous tasks.

It takes all of one minute to grab form code from an autoresponder service like AWeber, another minute to place the code on a page and perhaps five minutes to tweak it to the site’s look and feel. Alternatively, those without HTML skills may choose to spend those seven minutes writing a project outline to have an e-lance Web designer do all the “hard work.”

Regular publishing is even easier than list setup, especially for bloggers who use AWeber’s RSS to email capabilities. All you have to do is add the feed URL into the Feed Broadcaster form blank and set delivery parameters. You choose whether to broadcast your message each time you post or wait until two to seven more entries have been posted. Next choose between automatic or manual delivery.

Generating ideas is the real stumbling block. Here are 10 ways to constantly come up with ideas for fresh content:

1. Solve a Problem
Identify and make a list of problems that are common to visitors in your niche market and get busy writing solutions. For example, an affiliate who promotes jewelry might suggest alternatives for those with allergies to certain metals; explain how to remove scratches from silver; and how to avoid fake diamond ripoffs. To learn about your subscribers’ problems, visit forums where they hang out and build a comprehensive list of the questions they ask.

2. Create a Series of Top-10 Tips
People love to read lists of helpful tips from which they can glean a useful nugget or three. Better yet, these lists are easy to write. To get your brain in gear, start with the base title “Top 10 Tips to ____,” then add one of following words: Improve, Save, Create, Choose, Prepare, Start, Better or Prevent and feel how the creative juices suddenly start to flow. Build your own list of add-on words or complete article titles to use when you need inspiration and ideas. Tip lists can be delivered tip by tip and day by day via your autoresponder series or written as one complete article.

3. Write a Tutorial
Do you promote a product that involves a learning curve for new users? Then consider writing a tutorial that takes your readers step by step through one element of that product’s functionality. If you sell digital cameras, you could write an article entitled “How to Remove Red-Eye from Your Digital Photographs Online.” As this type of tutorial likely will involve graphics, it’s the perfect opportunity to bring visitors back to your site to “see” the process. As a result, exposure to your site increases, as will your search engine rankings.

4. Send Out Your Latest Product Review
As an affiliate marketer, you regularly review products for inclusion on your sites. The next time you write an endorsement, write a brief summary that emphasizes the product’s benefits and send that out as your newsletter. Keep this tactic to a minimum, as overuse will sour readers and increase unsubscriptions.

5. Provide Public Feedback to Visitor Questions
When a visitor or subscriber asks you a question on a topic that has not been discussed on your site, publish both the question and your answer in your newsletter. If you want to use the name of the person who submitted the question, be sure you get their permission to do so.

6. Interview an Expert or Happy Customer in Your Niche
Other than the time involved in preparing for and conducting an interview, then producing a transcript from audio if required, interviews are a highly valuable source of free content. Adding expert or customer advice and opinion to your publishing mix enhances both your credibility and authority.

7. Look for Clues in Merchant Correspondence
Some merchants write highly informative affiliate newsletters. Look for mentions of significant industry developments, product changes and snippets that might have entertainment value for your readers. Summarize the most interesting points in your newsletter or your blog and be sure to include a link to that merchant’s product!

8. Stay Informed and Share Your Opinion
Subscribe to industry-related feeds and newsletters and review them daily. Sign up for Google Alerts to receive automatic notification by email when there are new results for search terms you specify. Subscribe to your competitors’ news as well. When breaking news occurs, digest the event in your own words and add your opinion. Always aim to be the first to inform your subscribers of significant events in your niche.

9. Celebrate the Holidays
Acknowledge and incorporate upcoming holidays and events into your messages. At Christmastime, affiliates in the financial sector could spin a generic “10 Money-Saving Tips” article into “10 Ways to Save Money this Christmas” or “How to Avoid the January Credit Card Blues.” Dating service affiliates can tap in to the loneliness that some singles feel at that time of year and write the seasonal “Give Yourself the Gift of Love this Christmas.”

10. Repurpose Your Content
When ideas for new content have started to wane, it’s time to review and repurpose your previously written material. Dig one up, dust it off and spin a slightly different twist on the subject. Give an old article a shiny new title, introduction and summary. Or, do what recording artists do and produce a “gold” version that links to your 10 best articles or blogs on a specific theme.

To guarantee that you won’t be at a loss for ideas when newsletter-publishing day arrives, start building a list of topics and article titles and save it to a spreadsheet. Get in the habit of making notes on that spreadsheet whenever an idea for a new topic, or additional content for an existing topic, pops to mind. Build a list of generic “fill in the blank” article titles such as “How to Handle _______,” “Questions and Answers about __________” and “Mastering the Art of __________” to spark your ideas.

Here’s the bonus tip for generating a rash of new ideas for newsletter content: Send a broadcast message to your subscribers and ask them to share their biggest problems or for their opinions on a particular topic. Not only will they respond to your request but they will also know that their input is valued.

Value, as always, is the key ingredient. When you give something of value, you get value in return; and nothing is more valuable than building that list of customers who trust your informed recommendations and turn to you to guide their online buying decisions.

ROSALIND GARDNER is a super-affiliate who’s been in the business since 1998. She’s also the author of The Super Affiliate Handbook: How I Made $436,797 in One Year Selling Other People’s Stuff Online. Her best-selling book is available on Amazon and