First things first: We hate spam. And we hate spammers. Maybe even more than you do.
So this article isn’t about endorsing spam in any way, or suggesting that you do anything unethical.
But as much as we hate spam and wish it didn’t exist, we can’t deny one fact.
Spammers make a killing online.
Just to give you an idea, last year a Russian investigation found a network of spammers selling fake goods and fake pills online. Each spammer was making, on average, $4,600 per day.
Sure, the spammers use the “law of large numbers” to achieve these results. But you also need marketing savvy to make more than $1.5 million a year selling fake stuff to people who would rather shoot themselves in the left foot than listen to you.
When I started looking more closely at their tactics, I found some valuable lessons any marketer should know.
1. Go where the fish are
What is the most important factor you need to have if you want to go fishing?
Most people will say the fishing rod. Others will say the bait, or a boat. Interestingly enough, they are all wrong.
The most important element of the equation is the presence of lots of fish.
If you have a lake full of fish but don’t have a fishing rod or bait, you can probably still improvise something that would let you enjoy a fish dinner tonight.
But no matter how great your bait or how cutting-edge your equipment, if there aren’t any fish, there’s no fish dinner.
Spammers know this, and they always focus their efforts on the niches with the largest number of fish. That means they always target known customers willing to spend money. Examples include health-related niches, luxury goods, anti-virus software, and, of course, men who want access to certain prescription medicines without getting into embarrassing conversations with their doctors.
Lesson learned: If you target a niche that’s too obscure, you’ll have a hard time making money even if your product and marketing are outstanding. If you target a large and profitable market, of course you’ll face more competition. But it’s a lot easier to improve your product and marketing than it is to manufacture buying customers out of thin air.
2. The money is in the list
Email is the most direct type of communication we have. That’s why spammers love it so much. It allows them to display their messages right in the face of their victims.
Now, if creepy, bottom-dwelling spammers get a conversion rate high enough to keep them in business, imagine what kind of results you can get with:
- A legitimate, permission-based list of people who want to hear from you,
- Terrific content that benefits the reader, and
- Smart, respectful promotion of excellent products and services?
Lesson learned: If you are not building your email list, you are almost certainly leaving a lot of money on the table. Blogs, social networking, and various kinds of advertising are all useful tools. But email is still the “killer app” for building relationships with your prospects and clients.
3. Copywriting, copywriting, copywriting
Ever wondered how scammers manage to convince people to buy fake products?
It comes down to one word: copywriting.
Spammers may not always write the most poetic English. But they do use solid, time-tested copywriting techniques. If you master the essentials of copywriting yourself, you’d be able to sell crappy products to a fair number of people. (Not that we recommend that.)
But because you have a quality product or service and a great reputation, you’ll be able to sell it to lots and lots of people. Who will, in turn, tell their friends about how terrific you are.
There are lots of places you can get solid copywriting advice, including:
- The Copywriting 101 series on Copyblogger (free)
- Copyblogger’s Internet Marketing for Smart People newsletter (free)
- Read classic books on copywriting (inexpensive)
- Take a paid copywriting course — one that focuses on persuasive writing that sells rather than beautiful or “creative” writing (can be expensive, but if you’re a serious marketer, it’s worth it)
Lesson learned: Copywriting matters just as much as having a quality product or service. In some situations it matters even more. Never shortchange the attention and care you give to your copywriting.
4. Scale matters
Do you know how many emails a spammer needs to send out to get one sale? More than a million.
That’s right, their conversion rates are usually lower than 0.0001%.
So how can they make those thousands of dollars per day in profits? By sending out millions and millions of messages.
Obviously we are not saying you should start spamming people like there is no tomorrow. What you need to keep in mind, however, is that even great conversion rates are still pretty low in the scheme of things.
If you were able to convert 5 or 6% of your list to becoming paying customers, you’d be doing a fantastic job. Which means 95% of your list won’t ever spend a dime with you.
In fact, for many marketers, a conversion rate of 1% is doing quite well. That means if you have 1,000 subscribers on your email list and you send them an email talking about your latest product, you’re doing well if 10 people buy it.
Lesson learned: Numbers aren’t the only thing, but they do matter. If your main income source is your website, learn how to get as much traffic as possible. If your main income source is your email list, learn how to get as many subscribers as possible.
How to do that? Keep following blogs like this one and putting their advice into action.