Rob Frankel - Branding Expert

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Build it, don't buy it.

There's absolutely no doubt that one of the best methods of valuing your online enterprise is by tacking a bounty on the head of each ember of your branded community. At the very least, companies are being bought and sold today for anywhere from $100 per member and up.

Even the cheesiest communities -- and I use the term "communities" very loosely here -- have run up valuations of $200 to $1,000+ in recent years. Some are worth it. Most are not. In any event, as you build your own branded community, you might have asked yourself the following question:

HOW DID THOSE GUYS BUILD THEIR LIST SO FAST?

I know, it bugs me, too. You and I sit here, day in and day out, giving the best we've got to give to our members. The list grows every month, but by tens instead of hundreds. Meanwhile, some of the junkiest operations out there boast memberships of tens of thousands of members.

How do they do it? Simple: Pretty badly. Here are a couple of strategies:

1. BUYING MEMBERS: It's true. You can actually pay services to recruit members for you. You might get them for a dime or a quarter per name. At that rate, you can buy as many as they've got. But why would you do it? Most of those names are free for all e-mails that don't send back INVALID messages when you send to them. Fine. So you send your message to a bunch of ghosts on the other end who don't respond, participate or grow your community at all. If you think advertisers are hot to buy that, think again.

2. CONTESTS: I have a couple of clients who run contests to build membership. Again, what good does it do when you offer people the chance to win $1,000 when they have no interest in what your community is about? One client garnered 600,000 names that way -- many of which at hotmail, yahoo or bigfoot type addresses.

3. GIVE AWAYS: If you've ever been to a rescue mission, you know that people will show up and eat anything -- no matter how bad it is -- as long as its free. Yeesh, I once had a college roommate who filled out every junk mail card just so that he would get mail every day. There are a lot of lonely, misguided people out there who will take anything you offer if it's free. But they're not high-response, eager to play members. Those type of member actually drag down the quality of your community, because they lower your response rates. Who needs 'em?

So what's the right way to build? Probably the way you're doing it. Stay the course. Put a link in every issue that asks people to refer the list to others they think would find it useful. What's your rush? I can tell you that doing it this way is why the FrankelBiz list can generate response rates of 10% to 25% any day of the week -- and we get real, honest to goodness interest with high rates of conversion.

You want to build a business? Build it. Don't buy it. And don't buy into any of these other "Get Big Quick" scams, either. If you're rally about quality, how you build it is just as important as what you build.

Rob Frankel

 
 
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