How To Build Your Email List From Scratch

How To Build An Email List From Scratch

Marketing

An email list is a key asset for strangers to become leads, leads to become customers, and customers to become promoters. Without one, your business is missing out on the best digital channel for ROI.

There are a number of people who have learned this lesson the hard way. Michael Hyatt, an author and speaker, wasn’t making the income he needed to start his own business from a blog post here and there. It took him seven years to learn that the money is in the list. Now, 90% of his income comes from his email subscribers.

A permission-based email list is an opportunity to nurture an ongoing relationship with your contacts to grow your business, whether you are a tech company, aspiring author, real estate agent, or cupcake shop.

But how do you get started? In this post, I lay out five strategies of how to build an email list from scratch.

1. Craft an email opt-in offer your audience can’t refuse

Your goal in this step is to convey in 2-3 sentences the value subscribers will get for giving you access to their inbox. Potential subscribers are asking “What’s in it for me?”

For example, Pam Slim, an author and business consultant, does a great job of showing major benefits in her email opt-in offer.

“Join Pam’s thriving community of creative professionals and receive inspiration, tools and examples of how to create a powerful and enduring body of work, including the Body of Work workbook PDF.”

She is offering a community, tools, examples, and a PDF for free. There is not an invitation to buy anything. When readers give Pam their email address, it’s the beginning of a relationship to be nurtured with relevant and helpful content over time. By staying top of mind with email subscribers, her list has potential to lead to book sales, speaking gigs, course purchases, or strategic referrals in the future.

The sweet spot of your email opt-in offer

As an expert in your business, you have knowledge your audience wants to soak up like a sponge. The sweet spot of your email opt-in offer (and later, your content) is the overlap of what you can teach your audience and what your audience wants to learn from you.

The Sweet Spot

As a next step to find your sweet spot, write down 3-5 things your audience wants to learn from you and what you can teach your audience. Use this brainstorm to craft a short, compelling offer to join your email list.

2. Strategically place your opt-in form in these five spots on your website

The next step is to combine your compelling offer with easy-to-find forms where people subscribe to your email list.

As a general rule of thumb, only require a name and email address to sign up. Because the more information you ask for, the more hesitation you add to the decision. A compelling offer + easy-to-find forms + easy-to-complete forms makes signing up for your list a no-brainer.

Every spot you place your signup form is an opportunity to get new subscribers. Place your opt-in form in these five high-value places to invite subscribers to join your email list on your website:

  • The footer of your website: Place the opt-in form on your footer on every page of your website to maximize visibility and opportunities to sign up.
  • Your blog sidebar: Visitors are in the mood to learn when they are on your blog.  This is a chance to invite them to greater commitment by asking for their email address.
  • A popup box: Annoying to some, but effective to many. Popup boxes with an invitation to subscribe make readers choose between signing up or exiting. Pro Tip: Set rules so the box only shows to people who are engaging, like to a blog post reader who has scrolled 65% of the page or spent 2 minutes reading. You know already know they are interested, so why not make it easy for them to subscribe to more of your content? SumoMe makes implementation easy.
  • The end of every single blog post: A reader is more likely to opt-in at the end of a blog post after reading content you wrote. If your content is good, there is a good chance they will want more.

Combined with a compelling offer and strategic placement of your opt-in form, you are on your way to building an email list from scratch.

3. Exchange an ebook for an email address

Creating a short 3-4 page ebook of solid content sweetens the deal to sign up for your email list. Because an ebook available as a downloadable PDF has a higher perceived value than a blog post.

In terms of content, you could take an in-depth look at a topic you have already covered in your blog, share results from a study, or create a workbook with checklists and step-by-step instructions a reader could do on their own.

As an example, here at Autopilot we shared the results from a study involving 327 companies from 10+ industries in the 2015 Marketing Automation Performance Report:

Marketing Whitepaper

Up until this point, 300+ people have given us their email address in exchange for the report. These are people who are interested in our industry, product, and thought leadership. Because they opted in, we can nurture the relationship over time by sending relevant and personalized content based on what they have downloaded and any other information they have shared, like company size or industry.

Keeping “The Sweet Spot Principle” in mind from step 1, brainstorm what you can teach your audience in a short ebook to make your opt-in offer more compelling.

4. Write guest posts for popular blogs in your industry

Starting an email list from scratch means you have zero subscribers. Luckily, there are like-minded businesses in your industry with existing audiences you can connect with through guest blogging. Writer Jeff Goins believes “guest posting is the single most important strategy for growing your blog readership and platform.”

Businesses with existing readerships have done the hard work of building an audience through creating remarkable content over a long period of time. So when you come along and ask to take a post off their hands in their calendar it’s like music to their ears.

The catch? You have to write amazing content. Here are a few best practices to get you started:

Send a thoughtful pitch with post ideas.

Use this template:

“Hi ______,

I’m _______ from insertyourblognamehere.com. I’m a big fan of your blog. My favorite post is insert actual post you like here and say why.

I’m interested in writing a guest post for you. After researching your blog, here’s three ideas I think your audience would love:

Idea 1: Insert post topic here

  • main point #1
  • main point #2
  • main point #2

Idea 2: Insert post topic here

  • main point #1
  • main point #2
  • main point #3

Idea 3: Insert post topic here

  • main point #1
  • main point #2
  • main point #3

Would any of those ideas be helpful for your audience?

Look forward to hearing from you,

Insert your name here

This template makes it easy for the blogger to say “Idea #2 looks great, let’s move forward.”

Include a call-to-action at the end of your guest post

At the end of your post, include a call-to-action to download the whitepaper you wrote in step 3.

Here’s an example:

Call-To-Action

Content strategist, Gregory Ciotti, linked to a free download at the end of his 7 Scientifically-Backed Copywriting Tips guest post on Copyblogger. It still grows his email list to this day. With a remarkable guest blog post, you can achieve the same results.

Pro Tip: Create a landing page to accept new readers from your guest post traffic. Welcome them to your site with relevant content and a targeted opt-in offer to join your email list.

5. Host insanely valuable webinars with influencers in your space

A webinar is a live meeting that takes place on the web where you present, teach, or share about a topic your audience cares about. For example, at Autopilot we regularly host webinars for marketers with influencers like Segment and GoodData about topics like analytics and must have customer journeys.

Similar to guest blogging, hosting a webinar with another company gives you access to another audience and can grow your email list, fast. To drive registrations, work with influencers, thought leaders, and other celebrities with a strong following in your space. Companies you are already connected with or guest posted for are great candidates for a co-webinar as well.

These webinar best practices (expect a lengthy webinar blog post later) will give you a jumpstart:

Promote your co-webinar where your target audience hangs out

If you have implemented any of the above strategies, at this point you probably have subscribers on your email list. Email them an invitation to the webinar and encourage your co-host to do the same for their audience.

Outside of that, promote where your target audience and people who would get value from your webinar hang out. This could be specific social media channels, niche forums, LinkedIn groups, industry blogs, or wherever they are focusing their attention. If you have the budget, consider targeted ads on social media, display and retargeting ads, or running a sponsored email campaign with an existing publication.

Create a compelling registration page

The registration page is where people sign up to attend your webinar. For the technological setup, GoToWebinar is the most widely used and integrates with many other services. Fuze and AnyMeeting are worth checking out too.

Here’s an example of a registration page from an Autopilot webinar:

Webinar Registration Page

The title is the most noticeable piece of content and should encapsulate what attendees will learn and gain from going to your webinar. For the body content, follow this formula: Problem + Solution + Invitation + Bullet Point List of Key Takeaways. Make the call-to-action to “Save my spot” stand out from the other sections to drive signups. Lastly, show the speakers faces to add a human touch to the page.

Follow up less than 24 hours after the webinar

Less than 24 hours after the webinar, send a follow up email to attendees saying “Thanks for attending the insert title here webinar” and include a call-to-action like signing up for a trial or registering for your next webinar.

Feel free to modify this template or write your own:

Hi –first name=there–,

Thanks for attending “insert webinar title here” with insert speaker name here and insert speaker name here. We hope you enjoyed this wide ranging discussion, covering everything from insert compelling topic here, to insert compelling topic here.

You can view the webinar replay on YouTube (ADD LINK).

Stay posted for future webinars. Until then, you can insert call-to-action #1 or insert call-to-action #2.

Thanks again and have a great day!

Insert your name here

On average, around 40% of registrants will attend the webinar. The good news is even if people don’t come, you still have their email address to stay in touch. Send non-attendees a follow up email with the webinar replay and a relevant call-to-action.

Build off of this plain-text example or create your own from scratch:

Hi –first name=there–,

Sorry we missed you today, but you can still learn insert compelling topic here.

Watch the replay of the webinar, “insert webinar title here (ADD LINK),” with insert speaker name here and insert speaker name here.

Stay posted for future webinars. Until then, you can  insert call-to-action #1 or insert call-to-action #2.

Thanks again and have a great day!

Insert your name here

All in all, hosting a webinar with an influencer is a key strategy to connect with a wider audience, grow your reputation, and help build your email list from scratch.

Now what do I do with my email list?

Treasure your email list like a pearl. Those email addresses represent real people who have given you their permission to talk to them because they were attracted to you and the value you can add their life. Always remember that every unsubscribe is only a click away.

There are a lot of emails to send to your list going forward: welcome emails, nurture emails, onboarding emails, engagement emails and more. Instead of tackling everything at once, start by sending an email newsletter readers love and keep these 5 tips to doubling email newsletter open rates in mind.

After executing any or all of the five strategies: crafting a compelling email offer, strategically placing your opt-in form, creating an ebook to sweeten the deal, writing guest posts for bloggers in your industry, or hosting insanely valuable webinars with influencers, you’ll be well on your way to building an email list from scratch.

What other ideas do you have to build an email list from scratch? Do you have any strategies that we missed above? Let us know in the comments.

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