Every small business owner in the past few years has been bombarded with marketing gurus telling him or her they have to get social. “You have to make a Facebook page, start Tweeting, send out newsletters, connect on Foursquare!”

While it is true that these marketing avenues have produced some very fascinating success stories, the reality is that most small businesses fail miserably at these endeavors.

Why do they fail? Because no one is listening.

The only way for a marketing pitch to work is if someone actually hears the message. Furthermore, it cannot just be anyone on the other end; it has to be the target audience. In order for Facebook to be effective, there must be followers (read: get likes) of the business page. If an email newsletter is actually going to bring someone back to a business website or get them to walk in the front door, there have to be people actually signed up to receive it.

There are a lot of successful ways to build a subscriber base; the following is a process that we have come up with at CardPaymentOptions.com in recent months to make our numbers grow exponentially.

Users Want Value

More specifically, they want something of value.

Most businesses throw a Facebook medallion on their website and ask their visitors to “like” them. That is definitely the first step, but as most small business owners can attest, it garners very few actual likes. It is the same with newsletter subscribers. Putting a signup box on your homepage is a good start, but it is very hard to actually get people to do it.

When we were starting out, that was the approach we took. We got a Facebook “like” here and there, and probably gained about 100 newsletter subscribers over a year’s time. It was a hundred more than we had, but was very unlikely to tip the scales when sending out messages.

Until recently we had sold an e-book called Fee Sweep – How to Get the Merchant Services You Need Without Getting Scammed, which helps small business owners get the best deals on their credit card processing. It is a great resource, and we sold quite a few of them. The turning point started when we decided to give the book away for free.

Instead of requiring business owners to buy the book for $10, we simply forwarded them to our Facebook page and gave them a free copy if they “liked” us. We quickly discovered there were two main results:

  1. Our Facebook likes skyrocketed.
  2. Instead of getting the book into dozens of business owner’s hands a month, it was getting in front of hundreds.

The first result was somewhat expected, after all, that’s why we were giving it away for free. The second result quickly became beneficial because the book is filled with not only great information, but great opportunities for us to engage further with the readers by adding parts that referred back to our website.

Building Newsletter Subscribers

After a few months of successful Facebook-follower-building, we decided to focus some additional efforts on building our newsletter subscriber base. After all, we were still only sitting at around 100 overall.

What we decided to do was give users a choice on either following us on Facebook or signing up for our newsletter. This allowed us to build both at the same time. What we found was that many people elected to sign up for both, which greatly increased our ability to engage with them. You can check out how we implemented this on our credit card processing guide page.

Giving Something Away Specific to Your Industry

Obviously, not everyone can go out and write an e-book to give away for free. Every industry is different, and the customers of that sector will cherish something unique. It might be a coupon for future use, a money saving tip, or a cool picture they can use as a desktop wallpaper.

The important thing is to find something of value to your customers. Asking for a signup or follow is a good start, but providing them with something in return is much better.

Less is Better

Here is an added bonus for once you have built your follower and subscriber lists: Keep your message simple and brief.

Too often, small business owners spend time and money to build a following only to lose them because they overload them with too much information. No one wants to see your business three times a day in his or her Facebook feed, nor do they want an email every day (there are a few businesses that can do this, but yours is probably not one of them.)