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How do I start building an email list? [Email marketing 101]

Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to market your business for free. Sure, it might take a bit of work to start building an email list, but it’s totally worth the investment. The best part? You can even build an email list for free (the legit way, that is). This episode, we’re looking at how you can get started with email marketing, how you can start building your email list and a quick overview of the process I use to build my own email lists.


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How to build your email list from scratch

I recently wrote about some of the best free ways to market your business. Email marketing is one of these, and today we’re looking at how you can start building an email list.

If you missed my podcast interview with Two Girls and a Laptop, we spoke about how important email marketing is and what great ROI it can have for your business. Sure, it can cost a bit to build your email list (if you’re trying to grow it quickly with Facebook ads or Google Adwords etc.) but once these people are on your list, you can market to them for free. That’s pretty awesome.

Besides, there are plenty of other free ways to grow your email list too. The legit way, that is. Not the dodgy way. I’m all about growing your email list the right way and not building it the wrong way by spamming people and doing other dodgy things.

What’s the wrong way to build your email list?

We spoke about this briefly in my chat with Two Girls and a Laptop. Basically, if you’re using any method of adding people to your email list, where they have not specifically opted in, then you’re not doing it the right way.

One thing I see quite often is people going through Facebook Groups and finding threads where people have put their email addresses. For example, if someone has put a call out for help and people have responded with their email addresses. People often go through those threads and copy all email addresses in it. I know this because I’ve been one of those people who’ve been spammed and I’m sure a lot of you have too. So, just don’t do it. It’s not a good look for your brand. 

Why is it dodgy?

Firstly, it’s illegal in many countries, depending on their spam laws. Secondly, it’s damaging to your brand. And, thirdly, it hurts your email deliverability, which basically means you end up in fewer inboxes and in a helluva lot more junk mail folders.

How does it damage your brand? Basically, it makes people grumpy and, ultimately, they end up going out of their way to not buy from you.

So, that’s the wrong way to build your email list.

How to build your email list the right way

Step 0: Sign up for an email marketing app or email service provider

Before you can start building an email list, you need to go and create a free MailChimp account (or if you need a little bit more functionality, try ActiveCampaign or Convert Kit).

Step 1: Create a free opt-in or lead magnet to build your email list

A free opt-in or lead magnet is something you offer your audience in exchange for their email address. For example, this could be a free ebook, a $10  voucher for your online store, a webinar, mini-course, etc.

It should be of value to your audience, so it should be something that they actually want. I’ve also written a blog post on the logistics of creating a digital opt-in (like an e-book or a cheat sheet).

If you’re going down the free voucher route, you need to consider the value of your voucher. For example, a $5 voucher when you sell $1,000 handbags isn’t really enough of an incentive for someone to hand over their email address.

You also have to consider where you place the opt-in form. For example, if it’s a pop-up that pops up immediately when they land on your website, how do you know that they actually want a $10 voucher, when they don’t even know what you sell yet.

Step 2: Drive traffic to your opt-in page.

This step doesn’t apply if you’re using the $10 voucher type of opt-in, but it does if you’re using a digital freebie or any other kind of opt-in. You want to have the opt-in form on a landing page.

What’s the landing page, you ask? It’s a page designed with one single goal in mind, and that goal is to get that visitor to opt in and join your email list. You essentially want to make the page as simple as possible – so, no distractions that would take them away from the goal. That means even removing your usual navigation links that you’d have in your header menu.

You also want to include a few lines or bullet points of copy that tells the reader what’s in it for them.

I’ve looked at promoting your opt-in in a bit more detail here.

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Step 3: Building a nurture sequence

Most small business owners will start building an email list, but never do anything with that list. Maybe, 4 weeks down the track, they’ll run a promo and they’ll email the list then – but it’s too late. The people who signed up aren’t as hot as they were when they opted in. They might even have forgotten that they opted in and report you as spam. Which means you then end up in people’s junk mail folders and in fewer inboxes.

So, stay front-of-mind by using a nurture sequence.

What’s a nurture sequence? It’s a series of emails that you send automatically when someone signs up. How many emails you send and how far apart is something you should test. Generally, 3 emails over the course of a week works pretty well.

I’ve written a step-by-step blog post on how to build a nurture sequence here.

Step 4: Remember to actually email your list regularly

Don’t only email them when you want to promote something. Email them value – like blog posts or other content that they might find interesting. It’s a “give, give, give, ask” kind of mindset. Give them lots of value before you ask for the sale.

Not sure what to write? Here’s what you should send to your email list.

And that’s all there is to it. Email Marketing is a pretty easy topic, but it’s so often over-complicated by small business owners. So, just try to keep it as simple as possible. And, if you haven’t already, go out there and start building an email list.

I’ve looked at each step in more detail in each of these blog posts:

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How to build an email list from scratch

May 25, 2018

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