I’m probably the last person you should be listening to on the topic of building a healthy email list right now. My newsletters have been infrequent and uninteresting, to say the least. But, take this as a do what I say, not as I do kind of thing, okay? If you’ve got that firmly in mind, let’s move on.

You see, I’ve managed lists from a few hundred subscribers all the way up to ten thousand, and the secret is? They’re all the same. Big lists or small, established or brand new. You grow them the same way. You maintain them the same way. And in the end, if you don’t take care of it, people unsubscribe the same way.

Let’s get started, shall we? Email list building 101.

When building an email list, you have to offer people a decent reason for them to be there. Your offer must have genuine value to the subscriber. And no, as fun as it seems to you, subscribing to buy stuff from you one day is not a good enough reason.

That said, side note, make sure you are collecting email addresses, with consent, from people who ARE buying from you. At least you know those people already like you. Right? Do this by asking existing customers and clients to join the list, give them the opportunity at every stage of the transaction and more often than not, they’ll take it. Now back to a decent offer thing.

A decent offer to subscribe is the reason you see so many offerings of content upgrades and freebies on websites. Things such as how-to guides, sample product (especially popular with stock photos), checklists, webinars or eBooks. The subscriber is offered the ‘thing’ for free in exchange for your email address. These are great. I highly recommend having an offering or five because they work. People love a bargain and something that’s free, well even better.


And that’s a BIG BUT.

Make sure what you offer for an incentive is actually worth the trouble of subscribing, confirming and waiting for that download to appear. Because if it’s a page or two made in Word and half of it is your bio, then you’re not offering actual value there. I once subscribed to receive a checklist for creating a YouTube video. The document I received was very schmick and professionally done, but the content was a single page long. I mean, hardly worth the effort and I was immediately a little put off the list.

Then you have to consider if it’s something your audience really wants. I offered a Suger Drinks cocktail ebook once, not a great lure at all. People just weren’t that into it and so they didn’t see the point of signing up to get it. No problem, moving on to the next idea. Start by testing it with your existing audience. If they’re not that into it, back to the drawing board for you. This item, this discount or free download or offering, MUST be worth the effort.

Bring the value, not the sales pitch.

Think creatively, this part of the journey isn’t about making a sale. Put that out of your head. You’re not selling your wares right now. You’re selling value. This offering has one purpose. And that is to be of value enough to the person who sees it that they subscribe immediately.

When you have an offer (or five) that are performing reasonably well when promoted to your existing customers, clients or audience, you can move on. That last part, it can take a while and an investment in developing something great. But rest assured, when you get something that works, it will keep working for a long time afterwards.

Widen the net.

Next, you need to widen your net to promote your list. If your offer is performing well enough with your existing audience, they’ve signed up already. But how do we reach more people, right? Short version, with ads. Facebook and Instagram ads.

Stop. Don’t eye roll at me that Facebook and Instagram are over. That’s not even close. What is even close to being over is the free ride we’ve been enjoying up until now. Chalk the freebies up to good luck and implement a genuine Ad strategy to grow your list.

Not sure what you’re doing? There’s SO much free information online. Google it my friend. Spend smaller amounts to test the performance of your ads. Find something that works, then and only then, put more money behind it. Have a look at brands like Showpo and Wish, they out pretty much 100% of their marketing budgets into content creation and Facebook ads. You can’t argue with that kind of growth!

And finally, make it idiot proof.

If you want people to subscribe, you need to mention it, make it easy and generally talk about your list whenever the opportunity arises. For the first year of my newsletter, I posted the link to Twitter and Facebook every single week. I’d talk about what great content was coming and the freebies for subscribers. It was a whole thing. People felt part of it and being on the list was worth it.

This section is called make it idiot proof for a reason. Mentioning it, telling people to subscribe is one thing, but making it easy is the real key. Have multiple subscribe buttons and options, even word the ‘subscribe now’ differently to make sure it’s clear. Include a link to your sign up form whenever you can. Add it to your website’s menu bar for goodness sake.

The last thing you want to do is have someone land on your business page or website, and NOT be able to figure out how to subscribe. Make their life easier and your list fatter. Make it EASY. Not sure if you’ve made it obvious enough, ask a friend to head to your site and subscribe. If they can’t find it, no one will. Move it!

And that, my friends, is my post about making your email list MORE subscribe-able.

This was a question sent to me by Carly, who is looking to grow her audience for an upcoming book release. Hopefully, that helped, Carly. But the tips will work for anyone. Keep it simple, offer people value, and really consider what’s in it for THEM when they subscribe. We’re all clear what’s in it for us. Before you take the first step, know what’s in it for them. No arguments.

Have a question for me about blogs, business or branding? Let me know, I’m happy to help. 

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