Whether you’re a solopreneur or running a small business, working to build an email list is very important. Your email list is your owned audience. When you build an audience on social media, or YouTube, or Amazon, you’re building your audience on rented land.
Your email list is the audience you have complete ownership and control over. It’s also an asset that you build and can even someday sell with your business.
It’s your one trusted channel of communication with your customers or potential customers, which in this case, we’ll call leads.
But building an email list from scratch can be difficult. I wanted to provide a real hands-on and practical approach to helping you get your first 1000 subscribers (a solid milestone) no matter what niche or vertical you are in.
Why Build An Email List?
So, why should you care? Why should you focus on building your email list above most other business tasks?
The first part of it, is that you’re going to lose a lot less of your traffic. List building is visitor retention.
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Most people that visit your website may never come back again. When you build your list, you’re retaining some of that traffic that you might have lost.
This goes into my next point, which is list building allows for you to build a relationship with your readers. After you retain them, you can start to build a relationship with them by providing them value. Value in this case could be free resources, educational content, or entertaining content.
People buy from people they trust. Showing your audience you care makes it easier to sell your product or service later.
Which comes to my last point, an email list allows you to promote in a snap. You can cut through all the noise on social media by simply sending an email. There’s still a lot of power in sending an email despite what some experts may say, and despite email open rates being as low as they are today.
Choose An Email Marketing Automation Platform
The first step to build an email list is to choose an email marketing automation platform. This is the service you will use to collect and send emails.
You’re going to need to choose an autoresponder/email marketing service. If you don’t have one already, here’s what I recommend:
MailChimp is free up to 2000 subscribers, with some limitations. I recommend MailChimp to most people that are completely new to email marketing and need to try it before committing their money to it. However, to get the most out of MailChimp, you’ll have to pay for it.
MailChimp is also what we use for this blog and our service.
Here’s a few others:
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what service you choose as long as you are collecting and sending emails. Look through the features of each (they offer about the same features you need) and look through the pricing, and decide on the service that makes the most sense for you.
You Need A Website Or Blog To Collect Emails, Ideally
Although you can certainly build an email list without a website by using things like landing pages and social media, ideally, you will need a website or blog.
The most effective strategy to revolves around putting out great content and making it easy for people to subscribe. Obviously, your content will be in the niche you’re trying to build an email list for. For example, if you’re a graphic designer looking to release a new Photoshop course, you will need a blog about graphic design to grow your email list, nurture that list, and then eventually promote your new course.
One of the most important things about your website, is that you must structure your website so that it’s easy for people to subscribe.
Start Here Page
One easy way of doing this is having a “Start Here” page to guide new visitors and encourage them, and provide them an incentive to subscribe.
Here you will talk about who you are, what your blog is setting out to achieve, and why they (the visitor) should join you on this journey, with an opt-in form for them to opt-in to your email list.
Also, your website provides you a lot of opportunity to place opt-in forms around your site that make sense. Whether that’s a sidebar on your blog or an opt-in form in the footer of every page.
Your call to actions need to be good, too. Telling your visitors to “Subscribe” or “Join now!” is not good enough. You need compelling call to actions with a clear incentive. “Join the X community!” or “Subscribe and get a free t-shirt” are more along the lines of how you should be framing your calls to action on your website.
Tell people why they need to join your list, what’s in it for them and incentivize it: “Join and get my 10 free videos series on X”.
Create A Lead Magnet That You Can Create Content Around
A lead magnet is something you give away in exchange for an email address. Your lead magnet, such as a free ebook or video, is usually behind a landing page or opt-in form, in which your visitor needs to subscribe first to download your free goodie. This landing page should be what you are directing your visitors to.
Provide Instant Gratification
Generally, the best lead magnets provide people instant gratification. Most people are too busy to read an ebook right now, which might prevent them from opting in. Make it easy for them to get value from your lead magnet quickly such as a cheatsheet or a list of tools in your niche.
This lead magnet should be something you can create content around for a long time, that way, whenever you create a new blog post, you can include a call to action in that blog post to help build your email list.
For example, if you run a design blog, every blog could include a call to action like the following:
If you liked this blog post about design, download my free cheatsheet, “the 10 design tricks I use almost everyday to 10x my quality”
Create The Content Upgrade
Create a landing page for this cheatsheet and include a link to it in the blog post, in the call to action, to this landing page. Better yet, include the opt-in form right inside your content itself. These are usually called “content upgrades”.
If you need help creating a designing an awesome landing page, most email marketing services such as MailChimp include this as a feature. They’ll even allow you to generate an opt-in form that you can embed inside any blog post.
You can always try to work this content upgrade in as many blog posts as you can, for example, if you’re running a design blog, it won’t be hard to include this as a content upgrade in every new post, whether it’s a post about Photoshop or working with clients.
Remember, just because you had a content upgrade in your last post, doesn’t mean you can’t have the same content upgrade again in your next blog post. You’re always going to get new shares and readers on your blog posts, with people who didn’t and won’t see your last blog post with the same call to action.
Host A Webinar
Webinars are an excellent way to grow your list and generate leads. I’m not going to go in too much detail about webinars since that could be its own blog post entirely, but in a nut shell, you should look to provide a lot of value in a short webinar and drive traffic to it with ads. Alternatively, a webinar could be your content upgrade and the package of valuable content you offer on your website in exchange for the reader’s email.
Nurture The List
Now that you have the pieces in place to start collecting emails, how will you nurture this list? How will you massage it and build a relationship?
It’s really important that you build up a relationship with those on your list. You don’t just want to collect emails, and a few months later, send them a promotional email pitching your book, course or product. You want to provide a lot of value up until the point when you pitch them. When you build an email list, you also need to develop and maintain a relationship with your subscribers.
Make It Personal
The first quick and easy tip is to be sure to collect names as well as emails. Form a personal relationship with each subscriber. “Hey friend!” can come across as disingenuous.
An autoresponder or drip email sequence is a great thing to set up for your new email list, so that you can provide a lot of value without having to manually send out emails.
An autoresponder or drip email sequence is a series of emails that go out to a subscriber after they sign up. These emails are spaced out, usually weekly, and filled with valuable content. I recommend at least 1 weekly email, for 10 weeks.
Front load the email sequence with your best emails. You can determine this by looking at which emails are getting the best open rates, and placing those emails at the beginning of the sequence.
If you don’t like the idea of an email sequence or would like to send out content on your website as it is published, you can also do RSS to Email if you post on your blog frequently enough and want to update your readers on new website content, as soon as it is published.
If you create a lot of content, say 5-6 posts a weekly, then an RSS to Email might not be the best idea. Instead, you should create an RSS to Email that goes out as a digest, say every week, with roundup of all of the new blog posts of the week. This depends on your audience and will be different for every email list.
Manually Send Content
Lastly, you can choose to manually email your list with content. If your email list topical or covers current events, this might be your best option. This can also be when you send any updates you wish to share with your audience such as announcements or product updates.
A great trick to help you build a relationship with your subscribers, is to simply ask questions. Look at the subscribers that have been on your list for a month and email them. Ask them what they think of the content so far, ask about their experience so far, and if they have any ideas for your website or content that they’d like to see.
People love this and they will love you more for doing it. It keeps your audience engaged, gives them a voice that’s heard, and helps you improve your website or product based on the feedback you receive.
Build That List
I hope this short formula gives you a lot of ideas. Now it’s time to simply execute. Go out there, build an email list and have patience. Don’t expect to grow a list overnight. It takes time and more importantly, some traffic to your website and a lead magnet. If you can create content that people in your niche are seeking or share, then it can put more people in front of your opt-in forms and lead magnets.
Be sure to test and track everything as well. If you have any questions regarding this blog post or list building in general, leave a comment below. I respond and engage with everyone.