In the SaaS marketing world that I’m from, a lead is a person who gives you their email for some reason or other. Ideally, it’s because they’ve liked something that they saw, and they want to hear more from you. (Seth Godin called this permission marketing.) They liked you enough to give you access to their inbox, you repay them by sending them something interesting or delightful.
I never really cared about leads when I was starting out on my own. I just wanted to have a decent place, I guess, and didn’t want to worry too much about visitors. (Is this true? I’m not sure…) On retrospect, I should’ve started collecting emails earlier. I guess I thought, I don’t have any products to sell, I don’t have any ebooks or anything like that, and I don’t even really want anybody’s money. Why should I bother?
Well, if you’re depending on people following you on social media, you might find that Facebook or Twitter changes their algorithm tomorrow and suddenly it’s a pay-to-play environment. If you’re depending on search, you may find that Google changes their algorithm to penalize you one way or another. The humble mailing list remains the most direct way of reaching out to your readers. So build it. I had so much blog traffic coming in to this site in the past, but I’ve had to re-earn a new audience most of the time with most of my new posts. If I had built an email list, I could’ve sent a blogpost to a few thousand people right after publishing it. I think that’s great motivation to publish, too.
I used to personally think that I don’t really like to subscribe to anybody’s newsletters, but that’s just me, and I’m not representative of how most people are. Also, you can manage newsletters with Gmail labels and filters, so you can collect those things without them disrupting your email reading flow.
I recommend using SumoMe – that’s what I’m using at ReferralCandy and it’s what I’m using for some of my blogs.