How Solo Entrepreneurs Are Using Their CRM To Break $1 Million in Revenue Guest Author A guest post by Elaine Pofeldt, author of The Million-Dollar One-Person Business. When writing my book The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business, I noticed that there a number of common threads among people who broke $1 million in revenue in a one-person business or partnership. Making smart use of an email list or customer relationship management software (CRM) was one of them. In today’s digital world, it’s very possible for a one-person business to reach a global audience. Taking the time to build an email list to keep in touch with followers can make that job easier. Instead of always having to rely on pay per click or other types of advertising, you can reach out directly to your followers through an email list or CRM. “If people are willing to give you their email addresses, which they treasure, they are willing to listen to your message,” as Sol Orwell, founder of Examine.com, a Toronto-based website that generates seven-figure revenue per year selling reports on nutrition supplements, told me. So how can you make the most of your email list? Here are some strategies deployed by the high-revenue entrepreneurs in the book and others I’ve interviewed since its publication. Build your list before you need it. It’s hard to build a high-quality email list overnight. The earlier you start building your list, the better. Orwell, for instance, spent years building his. So how do you build it? If you run a brick-and-mortar business, ask customers and prospects who come into your store or buy a product if they would like to join your list. If you offer the option to email them a receipt, give them a chance to opt into your email list, too. In an online business, consider running a promotion where you give new visitors to your site an incentive to join your list. Keep it tidy. Abby Walker is a Denver-based entrepreneur who brings in $3 million in annual revenue at Vivian Lou, a one-woman company that sells inserts to make high-heels comfortable. She licenses her product from the manufacturer, Insolia. Early in that licensing arrangement, Insolia passed along a list of 18,000 names that had many outdated email addresses. By spending the time to update and resuscitate it, Walker gave herself a jump start in attracting customers to the website for Vivian Lou. Plan before you send. When it comes to email marketing, sending more and more messages doesn’t always pay off. An email list will work best for you if you send out messages to your subscribers only when you have something valuable to share. That may be when you are offering a special discount or when you have information to share that will truly benefit or entertain them. I’m a subscriber to Orwell’s list, which I consider a good example of how to use an email list successfully. Orwell sends out mailings infrequently and typically months apart, but when he does, he focuses heavily on making his missives fun to read and valuable, instead of trying to sell something. When we rang in the New Year, for instance, subscribers received a newsletter from Orwell with the subject line: “News to Share 2018 – Lessons from 2017, $40k+ raised for charity, and more.” The newsletter included links to a year-end/summary, lessons-learned post he wrote, his annual letters for 2016 and 2017, a charity cookie bakeoff event he ran that raised $40,000 in Canadian dollars for a nonprofit that educates girls, and a practical and entertaining article he wrote about reputation management for business owners. I found myself clicking on every link—and enjoying what I read there. And he keeps himself honest by inviting readers to disengage if they’re not finding the newsletter valuable. Here’s how he puts it: What’s this email? I hate how we just ‘connect’ but never engage, and this is my attempt at changing that paradigm. If you don’t want any more of these, just hit reply and let me know. Keep it real. I’ve enjoyed meeting Orwell in person, and one reason his email newsletter is so appealing is his messages are written in his natural voice, not marketing-speak. The more authentically you express your own voice in your e-mail marketing, the more you’ll be able to connect with readers, too. As business broker David Fairley told me in reporting The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business, the key to success in ecommerce is “building a reputation as a curator of a certain type of highly specialized product and creating a community of aficionados with a unique consciousness.” Sharing your unique voice gives customers a powerful reason to buy from you, not the corporate commodifiers of the world. That may seem like a lot of work, but if you send out your newsletter selectively when you really have something to say, it doesn’t have to take much time. One hour a month of well-focused effort can go a really long way when it comes to making the most of your CRM. Author Bio Elaine Pofeldt is an independent journalist who specializes in small business, entrepreneurship and careers. Her work has appeared in FORTUNE, Money, CNBC, Inc., Forbes, Crain’s New York Business and many other business publications and she is a contributor to the Economist Intelligence Unit. She is the author of The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business, a look at how entrepreneurs are hitting seven-figure revenue in businesses where they are the only employees, tapping automation and other technology to scale their efforts (Random House, 2018). As a senior editor at FORTUNE Small Business, where she worked for eight years, Elaine was twice nominated for the National Magazine Award for her features and ran the magazine’s annual business plan completion. During her time at FSB, she ran the magazine’s website, fsb.com, for four years, building its traffic from two to five million page views a month.