The 11 Best Ways to Grow Your Contact List
If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you know how important it is to build a robust customer list. But no, I’m not talking about creating an email list where you send an occasional broadcast when you have something new to share.
No, I’m referring to a customer contact list of people you meet at networking events, past clients, and people who could become future clients. Here’s the thing, this probably isn’t something crazy new for you, but I find so many businesses skip this step because quite frankly, it’s hard to set up in the beginning.
If you aren’t doing this, you are missing out! But you probably have some questions like:
- How do you even start a list?
- What do I share with my contacts?
- When do I reach out to my contacts?
- What software or programs should you use?
- What type of information should I store for each contact?
And a lot of other questions, right?
Look, I totally understand and want to help you simplify the process as much as possible.
Why Your Contact List Matters
You might be thinking, why does this matter so much?
Here’s the reason… the better you get at meeting and attracting new people into your contact list (aka your network), the faster your business will grow. While I’ll go into some tangible strategies for email marketing as well, my goal with this post is to help you master more than just an email list.
I want you to truly know and connect with your customers and contacts. As Steve Jobs said, “Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.”
If you haven’t built your contact list yet, now is the best time to start. And if you do already have a list but aren’t sure how to maintain or grow it, keep reading for a ton of helpful strategies.
How to Start Your List
Now that you can see the insane value from having a contact list, let’s start creating your very own list. You can do this a lot of different ways; whether you use a formal CRM like Salesforce, a service like Constant Contact or a good old-fashioned Google sheet.
Step one is having the correct contact info all in one place instead of being scattered on apps, software and a Rolodex. Whatever system you choose, make sure to include the basics like full name, phone number, best email, etc. Then, don’t forget to add social media handles, where you first met, and any other notes from previous interactions.
Next up you want to have some sort of system to have regular touch points so you don’t go dark on anyone. Also, make sure to include recaps of meetings, mutual friends, and past sales history so that it’s all-in-one spot.
Starting is half the battle so take this step before going through the next section. You want to get in the habit sooner rather than later so you can make building a contact list easy and scalable in the long run.
3 Phases of Growing Your Business
Your contact list grows with your company, and each stage presents its own challenges and strategy opportunities. The goal is to keep evolving through each stage, so you can create a list with an active pipeline and have amazing customer relationships.
How to Build a Contact List (Starter Stage)
Step one is getting people to learn about you and join your network (and list) in some way, shape or form. With so many strategies available, you can do this in a lot of different ways but here are five of my favorites.
Start With Existing Contacts
The first step in creating your list to organize all of your existing contacts. Then, ask for their help to expand your marketing efforts. But don’t just shoot them an email telling them to introduce you to people that may or may not buy your products or connect with you. This is the wrong strategy!
Instead, have an objective and let them know that you’re simply trying to grow your network and connect with like-minded people. This will help build your list quickly and probably get some warm leads as well.
Post on Social Media
The next step is utilize your online network across several social media platforms. Post on social media letting people know that you are looking for more opportunities and to connect with like-minded people. Don’t have any objective (like pitching your offer) and simply ask your network on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
More than likely you’ll have several connections refer you to friends, family, coworkers who have mutual interests. From there, you can meetup for a coffee or do a virtual hangout for 15-minutes as well with video conferencing.
Create High Value Free Content
Once you’ve tapped into your existing network, next up is creating content that will help you attract the right people to your list. To begin, pick one platform, whether it’s YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, or something else and begin creating content. This should be highly focused content about your niche and shows off your expert status.
My team does this very well with my Instagram as it has a mix of content for people who want to use webinars and are entrepreneurial in nature. Plus, I share a lot of personal content inside Instagram stories to get people to know who I am as a father and husband, not just the webinar guy.
While creating content is key, don’t forget the next step… lead magnets!
Use Lead Magnets and Autoresponders
Creating content is a huge part of attracting people into your world. But if you don’t have an opt-in for people to take the relationship one step further, you’re missing out and held hostage by social media platforms. If something happens, you lose all your followers and could lose out on a huge number of followers.
The solution is to take your business and contacts off social media by adding them to your email list. To do this, create lead magnets (aka freebies, freemiums, gifts) to get the email address of people.
It’s a win-win situation; they get free content that can help their life or business and you now have their email which you can use to interact with them at a deeper level. To take it one step further, I also suggest having some sort of welcome email sequence (also known as a nurture sequence) that gets automatically sent out once they subscribe.
An autoresponder will help you automate the communication process and help people learn more about you and your business without any work on your end.
Appear on Podcasts
Podcasts are one of the best ways to increase your awareness and get new people worldwide to learn more about your business and vision. While you can have your own, don’t forget to be a guest on others podcasts as well.
But here’s the trick, you always want to do three things to make the most of your time on other peoples podcasts:
- Be 100% Genuine: People who are first learning about you likely don’t know a thing about you or your business. So it’s up to you to make a phenomenal first impression in your interview. The best way to do that is to provide real value and share your story. People can tell whether you’re giving stock answers or if you’re being 100% real with them so be vulnerable and connect with them.
- Seed Authority: You also want to show your expertise and confidence in yourself and your business throughout the interview. While you shouldn’t outright pitch during a guest podcast, don’t be afraid to share your wins!
- Give Them a CTA: Finally, make sure the podcast host will give you a few seconds to talk more about how people can learn more about you. Whether it’s directing them to your social media, an automated webinar, or an opt-in page for your lead magnet. Don’t forget this step!
Attend Networking Events
If and when business events come back, I can’t stress the importance of them enough. While we have more online tools than ever before to connect with people worldwide, you can’t replace human interaction.
This is why EasyWebinar regularly attends events and trade shows where my team and I can meet new people. Not only can they learn about what we’re doing with EasyWebinar but it’s easier to connect quickly, exchange information, and stay connected in the future.
Become an Expert In Your Niche
While networking events and seminars might change in a post-pandemic era, it’s more important than ever to become an expert in your niche. To build your list, get actively involved in communities where your audience hangs out. Maybe it’s a few Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, forums or more.
Plus, you can also host your own free training webinars as well. This will help attract new individuals into your ecosystem and seed your authority where your ideal clients hang out online.
How to Engage Your List (Growth Stage)
The biggest hurdle for most entrepreneurs is step one (the starter stage). This will take the most work and it’s usually a little slower in the beginning than you want.
But if you stay consistent with the strategies mentioned above, you will take advantage of the compound effect and see a huge growth. Once you start acquiring more people in your list, next up is engaging with them to take the connection to the next level – here’s how to do it.
Send Regular Emails
While email marketing is as effective as it was in 2010, it’s still a valuable tool to connect with your list. You can do this in a multitude of ways including sending:
- Segmented automated emails
- Broadcast emails to your entire list with valuable FREE content
- One off emails to check in with individuals to learn more about them and set up calls
The key is to provide consistent value without constantly selling all the time. If your email is only associated with always selling, people aren’t’ going to keep opening your email rates. Instead, mix up the content and make sure it’s always valuable for everyone who opens and engages.
Reach Out via Social Media
If you’ve built out your contact list correctly, you should also have social media handles for your contacts as well. While emailing is great, only 20-30% of your contacts will even open an email and an even smaller percentage of them will click on links.
Sticking with a consistent email marketing strategy but also interacting on social media as well… but with a twist. Instead of thinking as social media as just a platform to kill time, reframe it and think of these platforms as “business media.” Remember, people are more likely to see your content or messages and respond compared to email.
According to a 2019 study done by Rescue Time, “The average person spends 3 hours and 15 minute a day on our phones!” And a lot of that time is spent on social media.
So if you’re neglecting social media, you are missing out on a top strategy to engage with your list. Plus, you can interact in a variety of different ways:
- Short text DMs
- Commenting on their posts
- Sending video DM’s or audio messages
If social media stresses you out, I suggest picking the one you like the most so you can stay consistent and not get overwhelmed. Don’t try to use LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok to engage with your contacts. Instead, pick one platform that you’re familiar with and focus on using it as a tool to grow your business.
Maintaining Your List (Scale Stage)
The final stage to growing your list is to maintain and scale. At this point, you likely have a firm grasp on your audience and what they need from you but here are two more strategies to implement.
The trick here is to keep staying consistent. So many businesses try to adapt or pivot instead of simply repeating what got you here in the first place.
Building your list is a long-term game… no one trick or single hack will save your business. It’s the entrepreneurs who put in consistent effort, month after month, year after year that see the biggest benefits.
Don’t Buy Email Lists
A huge mistake that so many businesses make is buying email lists to grow their contacts overnight. While this can work a very small percentage of the time, it’s not the best use of your time and money.
First off, it’s not cheap so be prepared for some sticker shock depending on the size of the list. Second, you never know how a cold audience will respond to you and your offer even if there is a warm introduction from the previous owner. Plus, you still need to get permission to send them emails and not violate any anti-spam laws.
Finally, buying an email list of people who have never heard of you can also affect your reputation more than anything. Even if you’ve built up tons of good will on your existing list, this tactic could leave a bad impression on new users. Remember as Warren Buffett said, “It takes 20 years to build a repudiation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
While I understand that you are eager to grow your business and list, don’t sacrifice your reputation either.
As you can tell, there are a lot of different strategies to start and grow your contact list. But none of them work unless you schedule the time and prioritize this as a part of your business plan moving forward. The key to long-term success in building your list and network is three-fold:
First, make sure you are keeping everyone and everything straight with an organized database. This will make it easier to stay consistent and not go dark on your contacts. Even if you start by organizing old business cards, get the foundations created so you can stay consistent.
Second, make sure to actively keep growing your contact list with some strategies mentioned above. Utilize in-person events, referrals, social media, email marketing, and other online tools to keep growing and offset people who go dark.
Finally, don’t forget to stay consistent and focus on the long-term game. The key to building a world-class network and engaged list is to show up regularly. While you don’t need to reach out too often, it’s important to stay top of mind and have a strategy to keep providing value.
What are some of your favorite ways to build your contact list?
Let me know in the comments!