8 Expert Tips For Building Effective E-mail Lists

An e-mail list full of people eager to hear from you can lead to great paydays. Here are 8 expert tips to get started.
October 06, 2011

Nowadays, you can't glance at a business blog without reading, "the money is in the list." Many small business owners have discovered the hoopla is true: a mailing list full of people eager to hear from you can lead to great paydays. As the founder of Create Hype, a weekly marketing e-mail for creative entrepreneurs, I've launched virtual products, promoted quality affiliate products and opened consulting spots to my mailing list of more than 3,000 people.

But if you're just starting out, building an e-mail list may seem daunting. Here are eight expert tips to help you hit the ground running.

1. Clear strategy

Business and marketing strategist Ashley Sinclair of Self-Activator advises having a clear goal in mind before starting.

"To build a devoted following via a mailing list, begin with the end in mind. There's a lot of indirect strategies out there to build that list, but if you don't clearly know what you'll do with the list itself, it's a much harder sell to get people on it.

“A list is only an asset to your business if it's set up to deliver value to your people, and drive results for you.”

2. Incentivize subscription

Jonathan Fields, author of Uncertainty, says a subscription is valuable; be sure to reward subscribers with something valuable.

"Incentivize subscription. When you ask someone for e-mail, you're asking them to give you something valuable. Reciprocate by offering something of value in return. Possible incentives might include a training video, a 10-part mini-course or a webinar. Get creative and figure out something with a perceived value that is substantially higher than the value of an e-mail to make the choice a no-brainer."

3. Use an auto-responder

Nathalie Lussier, creator of 25 Set It And Forget It Ways to Build Your List, suggests using an auto-responder to leverage your list building efforts.

"Having an auto-responder with a set of different value packed e-mails is a great way to not only entice people to get on your list but also a subtle way to add in some social media share buttons and requests for people to forward your site on to their friends. This way you're building word of mouth right in your email sequence while providing a great experience for people and they'll stick around longer."

4. Place sign-up forms in the right places

Business Blogging Coach Michael Martine urges list-builders to make their lists visible.

"Ask people to subscribe by placing sign-up forms in the right places (bottom of blog posts, top right of pages, prominently on home page)."

5. Know your list

Natalie Sisson of The Suitcase Entrepreneur thinks it’s important to get to know who is reading your list, and why.

“One of the activities I’m constantly looking to improve is knowing who is listening and reading my Highflyer newsletter. The more I know about you, the better I can cater to your needs.

Luckily, e-mail clients like Mailchimp tell you a wealth of information like how many people opened your e-mail, who clicked, who didn’t, what time the e-mails were opened, where in the world and what percentage of your list cares. Common industry open rates are around 20 percent and click rate around three percent.”

6. Guest post

Heather Allard, founder of The Mogul Mom and frequent contributor to OPEN Forum, suggests guest-posting as a means of broadening one’s audience.

"I've been building my list for four years and the thing that has grown it the most is guest posting on sites that have a similar audience that hasn't been exposed to your site before. In the fall of 2010, my list was at 1,400 and now one year and several guest posts later, it's at 4,200."

7. Create compelling content

Business Coach Tara Gentile reminds that there’s no substitute for quality content.

“Building your list isn't only about getting as many e-mail addresses as quickly as possible. It's better to create content that generates a list of your right-fit customers and prospects, people who are excited about your mission and your work. To do that, make sure your e-mail content is direct and always on message, whether a sales pitch, lesson or encouragement.”

8. Reward subscribers

Danielle Laporte, author of The Spark Kit says that an email list is a two-way exchange.

“Reciprocity. Offer people something in return for their subscription—a free worksheet, a complimentary chapter, an MP3. The month I started offering 'The Authentic Dreaming Worksheet' when people subscribe to WhiteHotTruth.com, I had an extra 2000 sign-ups. What's important here is to offer content that is core to your brand. Just because it's "free" doesn't mean you cheap out. Make it matter.”

Justine Grey is a Web entrepreneur who writes Work Life Joy for frazzled business builders who long to work vibrantly and live beautifully. You can find her on Twitter at @JustineGrey chatting about life, work and her pop culture obsession.