How do I build email and/or snail mail contact lists for recreational boaters in the US, both power and sail?
I have a startup which provides a free search engine service specifically for used boat parts. The MVP is functional and online at http://www.boatusedpartsearch.com/ I'd like to communicate its availability to boat owners. What is the best way to build an email and/or snail mail list to market to?
Snail mail as well as blanket postcard marketing is the way of the past. The direct marketing industry has moved into a data driven approach saving marketing dollars for business owners who know how to implement.
Creating a direct mail campaign targeting boat owners can easily be achieved using online web-to-print platforms. Users simply go online, choose their target geographic, lifestyle interests (boating in your case), and purchase the mailing list. From there they can either upload their own postcard, flyer, or brochure design or edit pre-made templates.
After that, choose shipping type, attach the list to the order and wait for phone calls or website hits to come in. Make sure to set up unique tracking URLs and phone numbers to confirm the ROI on your campaign.
If you are seeking lists, I can set you up with my outsourcing specialist. All you 'd need to do is provide the data you'd like and they'd get it right over to you. If you'd like to learn more, just send me a message.
The thing with snail mail/email marketing is it's been overdone so much to the point where people don't half pay attention to that stuff if they haven't specifically requested being in the loop. In fact sending emails to people who don't expect them will 9 times out of 10 go unseen because they'll go directly into their spam folder.
I read through everything on your site and see the potential for numerous campaigns based around the points you made about what makes this service great. For example, you could make TONS of funny youtube commercials around searching for a part and getting a thousand results for an Island in California and Alaska, but that of course would be when you get to the point of being able to afford it.
If you're looking for a free or low cost way of getting the word out I would suggest placing some of your focus on the parts vendors. If you're charging them for their listings you could offer a discount or a monthly bonus of free listings for promoting your site by saying stuff like "check out our great listings on boatusedpartsearch.com" or something.
You could also look into boat shows around the country and offer to advertise the events on your page in return for being listed as one of their proud sponsors/supporters. I would even go as far as to say advertising them for free anyways wit or without them knowing just to put yourself in the loop with them from the Customer's point of view and let them eventually find out you've been supporting them. Sometimes that works better than contacting them to sell advertising because of the defense mechanisms people have already developed against it.
Also consider the value of being an "exclusive resource" by not being so well known. Not saying you should thrive to be unknown, but in the beginning when nobody knows about you, the few people who find you will feel like they stumbled on a gold mine which will make them feel special for knowing about you which will make their "word of mouth" more potent when they pass the info on to their other boating buddies. When things are small and less known, they're viewed as being more separate from "corporate America" which can be good because it doesn't fit in the same box as every other "big shot" who claims to have the best deals around who are really just as expensive as everyone else. So that can be another benefit to play on.
All in all I would urge you to find other ways of getting the word out and place snail mail and e-mail farther up the chain where people will actually care about receiving it and not just write it off as spam and junk mail. The value of your service isn't just convenient for the Customer looking for boat parts, it also provides an additional stream of income for Business Owners by providing an atmosphere where their products are filtered out from millions of irrelevant results. That's a pretty strong edge to work with and I'd encourage you to take full advantage of it.
You can always set up lead capture pages targeted to the market you want to reach and then make sure to clean the data. If you want to buy or rent a list I would be more than happy to assist I provide both services to various clients of mine with very granular targeting.
Who is your target market? Where are they? Where do they go to find information to buy?
First, you can buy or rent an email list from a list broker. That is never a good idea intuit you have no relationship to that list, they do not know you from a bar of soap, so the results won't be very good.
You could find and join associations of boat owners, get their list and do a direct mail campaign.
Or better yet, hire a marketing strategist who understand small business marketing and how to do this correctly. It takes time to get all the pieces in place to do it correctly.
Kyle S is on the right track - find out where your target market hangs out - both online and in the real world - become part of their community by offering useful advice - either by posting on their community forums or by publishing your own "lead bait" articles on a blog - make sure your blog or website has a popup that invites them to join your email list "for helpful boating tips" (not direct marketing material). You should also do what Kyle S suggests and have an offer of some sort and a marketing landing page to further qualify interested buyers.
Do consumer boat shows publish or sell attendee lists? That could be another way to jump start some direct marketing if you have a bit of budget to invest. Start with helpful info, get them signed up for your informational blog / email newsletter - then sell them over time. Check out the book New Rules of Marketing and PR for more ideas like this.
Sounds like you may be trying to reach out to end-users of a product (boats).
You may need to be a little creative here and do things like:
- setup an email/info capture page via some sort of value prop to induce your market to share their info with you. This may involve some sort of advertising on enthusiast websites, forums and publications. Point being..there will be a cost involved.
- create a program or value add for boat re-sellers where they will capture customer info for you at point of sale
Alternate, you can try growing organically by 'scraping' boat listings from other sites (ie: craigslist) and then populating these listings on your site. The aim here is that you'll have strategic advertising or some sort of info capture to snag visitor info.