Building an Email Subscriber List from Scratch

If you speak to most successful online marketers, the thing most of them wished they had done sooner is build their email subscriber list.

Why is that?

There are a number of reasons, but the main reason is that it gives you an audience. A group of people who want to hear from you and have an interest in what you have to say.

A big list of subscribers also puts them in a strong position to sell a product promotion or new course. Watch, next time a big affiliate promotion comes out. Who are the people selling the most? The people with the big list of subscribers.

Email is still one of the most effective ways to communicate and share things with your audience, no matter what line of business you are in. It is a way to make your audience ‘sticky’ so you can communicate with them directly whenever you have something interesting to say or sell.

However, when you are just starting out you have to build your email subscriber list from scratch. This may seem a bit daunting, I know it was for me, so here are some expert tips from people who have already built sizable lists.

There is another factor to consider. The loyalty of those subscribers. Have they just signed up to receive a particular offer or are they “raving fans”.

People who have subscribed to your email list, what to hear from you, they want to receive your emails.

You need to deliver value to your subscribers. We will discuss how you do that later in the article.

Learn From the Experts

When I first set up my online business, I was not an expert. I am still not, so I have had to learn list building techniques from others.

Learning from the experts, people who have built big lists, is a good start. Try visiting their web sites and seeing how they get you to join their subscriber list. In almost all cases they offer their visitors something of value if they sign up. This is referred to as a “Leadmagnet”. This may be an ebook, a mini course or a set of tips that is designed to be of help to their audience.

I’m subscribed to a number of internet marketing gurus’ email lists. People like: Pat Flynn, Ramit Sethi, John Lee Dumas, Amy Porterfield and Neil Patel. As well as giving me access to some really good material, it also lets me see how they are interacting with their subscribers, which allows me to learn their email marketing messages first hand. They are professionals who know exactly what to write to get us to subscribe to their lists and keep our interest. Delivering value is a big part of it. I actually often look forward to receiving their emails.

Ways to Drive Traffic

This is a whole topic in itself and it probably the most difficult part of building a list.

Bryan Harris of, has built a list of over 120,000 subscribers and has a number of novel and proven methods to generate traffic.

Take a listen to his podcast interview with Chris Ducker

Combining Your Marketing to Generate Email Subscribers

It is a good idea to combine growing your list with other activities, particularly what you are doing on social media or through links and offers in your blog posts. Visitors to you Facebook or Twitter page or your website can be greeted with an offer of additional content, in exchange for signing up as a subscriber. Adding a link to download an ebook you have written, from within a relevant blog post you have written, can also be very effective.

I recently listened to an excellent podcast on Social Media Examiner where social media expert, Amy Porterfield was talking to Michael Stelzener about what has been working for her in attracting and signing up new subscribers.

Here is the link in case you want to listen:

Amy has found that one of the best ways to grow an email list is through blog posts that offer a content upgrade. First write a blog post, with valuable information that people will want to share; for instance, a post in which you list seven ways to do something. Then inside that blog post, include a content upgrade (a freebie) that readers can get after they click a button and give you their name and email address.

They get the freebie and you get a new subscriber. It’s a win win for both sides. What you do with them when you have them on your list, we will discuss later in the article.

What to Give Your Subscribers to Keep Them Wanting More

Pat Flynn from Smart Passive income uses different ebook giveaways to get people to subscribe to his email list. The big advantage with this is that he learns something about the subscriber from the content they have been attracted to. He then follows this up with an email that asks where the subscriber is in the cycle of building his or her online business, so Pat can follow up with relevant content in subsequent emails. You may say, “when I have spent so much time writing an ebook, why should I give it away?” You do this because this is your first impression on that subscriber. If they get something of high value when they sign up, they are more likely to read your follow up emails and become “true fans”.

Remember that your giveaway is one of the first and best opportunities to leave a long lasting, unforgettable impression that could also help exponentially and virally grow your list.
Pat Flynn, Smart Passive Income.

Pat has an excellent video on the do’s and don’ts of email marketing which gives some useful insights into how to and how not to build an email list:

Landing Pages

Using landing pages to drive subscriber traffic, can be very effective, especially when combined with advertising.

Traditionally, a business would use a web site as its main online presence. They would try to bring traffic to that site through SEO and Google ads. The downside of this approach is that the web pages aren’t always optimized for the people who would click those ad links. The pages may not have a way to get people to subscribe either. Instead it was hoped that they would find the content so compelling and relevant, that they would be compelled to pick up the phone and call a salesperson – not very likely. I know, because this is what my company did for many years.

More recently we have been using landing pages linked to specific ad wording. A visitor will click on a link and will be taken to a landing page that is very specific to that ad. The landing page will offer them something relevant, if they subscribe, and also have information that matches the ad description. This can work with Facebook, Google or Linked in ads. In certain markets Intagram, Snapchat or Pintrest can also be used to drive traffic to landing pages.

Here is another technique from Bryan Harris of Bryan is an avid tester of different methods and has built a proven process for using landing pages to build an email list. He uses something called an “upside down home page”, which is basically a landing page that either replaces the home page or opens ahead of it like a welcome page. is a good example.

Bryan uses and recommends Leadpages as a landing page tool and so do I. They have recently launched a series of “Drag and Drop” landing page templates that allow you to customize a landing page to get the exact look and functionality you need. The templates are designed to look like web pages so they can easily be integrated into an existing web site or blog. If you want to try Leadpages out, click here.


Automated Email Sequences and Courses

Once you have people signed up on your email list, you need to have a way to efficiently communicate with your subscribers. Using a series of follow up emails in a “Course” or “Sequence” is a great way to keep your subscribers engaged. It can also help you further profile them to make sure you send them relevant content.

One of the easiest ways to lose a subscriber is to send them content that isn’t relevant to them. They may have signed up to receive a specific content upgrade, but now you have their attention, you need to keep their interest.

Here are some example steps:

1) A subscriber who downloaded an ebook will receive a follow up email asking them some questions to profile what they may be interested in. They indicate their preference by clicking a link in the email.

2) Based on which link they click, their are placed in a “bucket” within the email marketing tool.

3) Within that bucket you can set up a series of emails that provide the Subscribers with content that is of most interest to them. These emails are sent out at regular intervals and may include links to blog posts, courses or software tools.

If you sign up to Pat Flynn’s email subscriber list, you will see this techniques in action.

I recommend sending out sequence emails mails once a week and try to avoid actively selling. I have worked in sales and sales management for many years and the market is definitely moving more towards nurturing than selling these days. There is no harm in promoting a product by giving it a glowing endorsement based on personal experience, but it is best when combined with some valuable information that is related closely to that product. I recommend Drip if you are just starting to build your list. It is very powerful and is free for the first 100 subscribers, so you can get acquainted with it without breaking the back. If you want to try Drip out, click here.

If if you want to learn more about this topic, I recommend you check out a really good podcast interview by Chris Ducker, where he interviews Greg Hickman of Greg runs an email marketing consultancy business and offers some great tips on effective email marketing.

Building a “True Fan Base

Kevin Kelly, coined the phrase “1,000 true fans” to define the number of dedicated followers someone needed to be able to make a living in the music business or as an author. Although the theory has been cross analyzed many times, it can still be applied to building an email list of subscribers. Building that core of dedicated subscribers who trust what you tell them and who look forward to receiving your content, is invaluable. To do this your content must be both interesting and valuable every time. Again, the easiest way to learn how to do this is to sign up as a subscriber to someone who is already delivering valuable content in your space. Read their emails and follow some of the links. This will give you an excellent insight into what makes a good email and a good email sequence. It will also tell you when and how to promote a product or service so that you stand a better chance of making a sale and keeping your subscriber happy.

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