All You Need To Know About How To Build An Email List

This article is the first of a 3-part series on how to build an email list. 

“There’s money in the list.”

That’s a line that sounds like it’s straight out of a cheesy mob movie but it’s a line that every content creator has heard at least once.

It means that an email list can be an extremely profitable marketing avenue. No matter what you sell, whether it’s online courses, coaching calls or crocheted octopus dolls, you need to have an email list so you can directly reach out to your customers. Because the experts are right: there is money in the list. Email marketing has a 4400% ROI, or you earn $44 for every $1 spent!

Email marketing has been around a long time, much longer than most people realize. The first email marketing message was sent in 1978! (Oh and that email made that company $13 million in sales so it seems like there’s always been money in the list!)


But while email marketing is time-tested, there have been some experts who say that email marketing is dead. Don’t believe those experts. Email marketing is still alive and kicking. Even Edgar, who is the biggest social media fan, insists we have an email list because even with all the features and capabilities of social media networks, everyone still needs an email list.

What’s that? A social media tool telling you about the importance of email lists? Yes, that is correct because we know the secret: when you combine email marketing with social media marketing, you are harnessing all the digital marketing power you need.

Here’s how it works. Social media is a lot like going to a party to meet others. There are many new people there for you to mix and mingle with and you never know who’s going to walk through the door and become your new best friend. But having an email list is like hosting the party. It’s throwing open the door and having all your new friends come into your house so you can wine and dine them.

The difference is there’s a bigger level of interest and trust when someone actually goes to your house as opposed to just running into them at a party. They are showing you that they know, like and trust you enough to want to spend more time with you.

When someone joins your email list, they are showing you just how interested they are in you and your business. They’re saying, “You were really fun at that party and I want to get to know you even better.


In short, social media is where you can find new friends to invite to your party and your email list is where you wine, dine and impress them enough that they’ll want to purchase from you.

There’s another really important reason you should have an email list. When you collect emails, you get to own your leads and build a direct connection to them. Social media is powerful, there is no doubt about it and it’s a great way to build community. But when your only connection to your audience is on a 3rd party platform, you are at the mercy of that platform. That means if they make changes, you could risk losing access to your audience.

Remember when Facebook made the great algorithm announcement of 2018? Publishers who had been growing their audiences for years suddenly could only reach a fraction of their audiences!

What would happen if Instagram just disappeared tomorrow? Would you still be able to reach your audience?

This is why having a space on the internet where you can collect and have ownership of your audience is so valuable.

Now that we’ve sold you on having an email list, you might be wondering exactly how to build an email list and what the heck should you be doing with one?

What Should You Email Your Audience?

The most important thing to remember about your emails is they should be valuable. Like every other piece of content you create, you want your audience to gain something from it. Don’t email for the sake of emailing because you will quickly see your list unsubscribe!

With that being said, it’s not a good idea to only email sporadically or when you want to have a sale. If your audience doesn’t recognize your email or can’t remember why they signed up for your list in the first place, then they’re not going to buy from you. Choose your frequency and stick with it! Many content creators email their lists weekly but if that feels overwhelming, bi-weekly or monthly are good options.

People don’t join email lists because they love the idea of more emails in their inbox. They sign up for emails because they want something, whether it’s to learn something new, to be inspired, to be motivated or to be entertained.

What does your audience want from you? The best way to figure it out is to ask them! Poll your audience about what they’d like to see from you and your emails.

Need some ideas to get those content juices flowing?

  • Answer frequently asked questions
    • Are there questions you hear often from your community? Answer them in your emails.
  • Offer a behind the scenes look at you and your business
    • People love to know the person behind the brand and your emails can feel personal when you include some personal anecdotes or behind the scenes moments.
  • Provide recaps or extra information on popular content
    • If you have a blog post that is attracting tons of traffic or a social media update that has gone viral, share it with your subscribers so they don’t miss it. Add in some extra information or thoughts to make it exclusive.

Above all else, make it special.

Your email list should feel exclusive. You want your audience to feel rewarded for being a part of your email tribe. By offering them content or access to special resources or sales that they can’t find anywhere else, you’ll give them a reason to stay on your list.

You might be wondering, what to do if you already have been growing your list and you’ve nailed what to say and when to say it but you’re still not seeing enough success from your email marketing. There a few common obstacles content creators run into after they’ve started building their lists that we can address.

If you see low open rates, try testing your subject lines. 35% of people say they open emails based on their subject line alone. Just changing one or two words in your subject lines can make a huge difference in your open rate. (We know this because tested it for ourselves!)

If you have a big list but you have low click-through rates, try segmenting your list.
Every email provider offers multiple ways to segment your list so you can send targeted messages. You can segment based on any number of factors including location, sign-up source, and last email they opened. Segmenting your list allows you to send more relevant messages to your audience. Different members of your audience may have joined your list for different reasons and they probably have different wants and needs. Discovering those segments and tailoring your messages to them will improve those open rates. Plus, your audience will actually enjoy opening and reading your emails because they know they are just for them. A delighted audience that loves to open and read your emails = business goals.

If you want users to take specific actions, try personalizing your emails.
Personalization is that exciting new trend that everyone seems to be talking about these days. Why is everyone is buzzing about personalization? Because it works! 82% of businesses reported that personalizing messages increases open rates. Personalization is also known as one to one marketing and it’s about creating personalized experiences for your audience. In email marketing, you can do this by knowing your customer and tracking the right data.

This might sound like a very complicated task that only giant corporations can do but it’s actually really easy for solopreneurs and small businesses, especially if you’re just getting started!! Get in the habit of using tagging features and segmenting early and you’ll easily be able to personalize future emails.

How to get started?

The number one rule of using email marketing is the number one rule of social media marketing: know thy audience.

Specifically, know your audience. If you really want to see returns and success from your email marketing, you’ve got to know who you are talking to. Creating customer personas is a fantastic exercise for any content creator. You can also poll or survey your audience to get a clearer picture of their wants and needs so you can deliver.

You also want to be smart about growing your list. No one ends up with a huge list overnight so practice patience as you grow yours.

Buying email lists is so 1990 so don’t even think about using that shortcut anymore! Also, adding emails without their permission is a big no-no. Last year, Europe introduced GDPR regulations, which brought massive changes to how businesses can collect email addresses and violators can lose access to their lists, be blackballed from email providers and face massive fines! No one is messing around with privacy these days so even if you’re not located in Europe, these changes can impact you!

Instead, follow tried and tested tactics for growing your email list by promoting it on your website, your blog and your social media pages. Include a link to sign-up in your email signature or create a landing page where subscribers can join.

Be sure to share why someone should join your list and what types of content you share. Most people hold onto their emails and will only share it if they see they’ll get value out of an email so promote that value to them.

Now that you know the basics of how to build an email list, we’re going to keep sharing smart ways you can grow your list. Next week, we’re going to share one of our favorites ways to build an email list: creating lead magnets. So stay tuned!

Email marketing is never going away and it might be more powerful than ever. We’ll be sharing more email marketing tips and tricks over the next few weeks on our blog so you can learn the best ways to combine your social media marketing with email marketing!

In the meantime, we’d love for you to join our email newsletter. Every two weeks, we send out our latest blog articles, exclusive webinar invitations and special offers! Join us here.

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