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Why You Don’t Want a Big List

April 18, 2014

Photo courtesy of Espen Sundve

Bigger is better. At least that’s what a lot of the emails delivered to my spam box tell me…

A lot of marketing people have the same philosophy when it comes to the size of their lists. For them, numbers are everything.

Is This You?

Several years ago, I was at a conference in Indianapolis. I was on a panel with a few other people, one of whom introduced himself as the founder of the “world’s largest musician organization.”

“We have 50,000 members,” he bragged.

My friend Suzanne was also on the panel. She had a similar company and knew his numbers were bullshit.

When she introduced herself, she said, “Right now, we have 51,000 registered users.”

Not that it would have mattered anyway. Numbers like this mean nothing.

Why You Don’t Want a Big List

Here’s why…

  1. Not all customers are created equal.
  2. You have a limited marketing budget.

Would you rather spend the $10,000 you’ve got to market your new book (or whatever else) to 1000 people who are highly qualified or spread that money over a more random selection of 10,000 people?

The answer should be obvious. But just in case you’re not getting it yet, let me give you a very specific example…

How It Works In The Real World

You’ve got a new product. Let’s say it’s wedding dresses.

You have a list of 1000 women who are engaged and actively planning their weddings. You also have a list of 10,000 less qualified people.

Which list are you going to focus on?

Yeah, now it’s obvious. But here’s how the people who play the numbers game would handle this question…

“You know, everybody knows somebody who is getting married. Even men on this list will know women who could probably use a wedding dress. Why not take the chance on the bigger list?”

Almost everybody who markets online does stupid shit like this because we think things like “email is free” or “it doesn’t take any more time to send to more people, even if they are less qualified.”

Plus, as marketing people, we love potential. Part of the reason we’re in this business in the first place is because we love the gambling aspect. What if the gamble pays off?

In the real world marketing isn’t free. Even a “free” mode of reaching people like email takes time, energy, and other resources.

And in the real world, gambling is never consistent. You may win a time or two, but you’ll never do it consistently.

Quality Always Trumps Quantity

Your competition, even the ones with big lists, is likely reaching the same people you are. This means a portion of their lists is qualified too.

Unfortunately for your competitors though, because they’ll be spreading their time, energy, and resources over a much larger area, they won’t be able to hit the qualified people in the way you will when you focus all your resources on a smaller, more dedicated group.

And that’s how the marketing game is won…

Big numbers sound great on panels, but unless you’re focusing on quality over quantity, they aren’t as profitable as most people think. Focus on the people who really matter and the real numbers, your income, your word-of-mouth referrals, and your satisfied customers who love your service because they’re truly a great match for it, will take care of themselves.

ABOUT THIS SERIES: Every Friday, I give tips on how to build the foundation needed to have a successful business and platformSee other posts in this series here and, if you have a request for me to cover something specific, let me know via Twitter.

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