List Building Strategy and Benefits of a Growing Email List

There are so many benefits to building an email list, but it's easy to get lost in all the other ways to grow your business online. Without a solid list building strategy, you might be asking yourself:

  • Is list building something I need to do right away, or can it wait?
  • Most of my clients are on Facebook, shouldn't I just focus my efforts there?
  • What does an email list get used for, besides blog notifications?
  • Is this going to be expensive?

We all have a limited amount of time every day to invest in our business.

To help you assess why list building is worth your time, let's take a look at some of the specific benefits of building an email list for your business:

The fundamental purpose of an email list

To create a reliable and consistent means of connecting with those who are interested in your business.

That's it.

And that's why email lists will always rank higher than your social media platforms in terms of potential and ROI. Your clients might be super active on social media, but you just don't have any control over that platform.

If you've ever tried to figure out ways to maximize the visibility of your daily posts, you know exactly what I'm talking about. There are tricks you can use to stand out more, but no guarantees. And the rules can change without warning because it's someone else's company, not yours!

But with an email list, you are given a direct link to an individual's inbox…and a brief moment to capture their attention.

Does list building apply in your industry?

It's a question I've been asked repeatedly: “Will an email list work for me, because I'm a ___(fill in the blank)___”.

And it is a good question because we know that the old “one size fits all” marketing promise is a total myth.

The short answer is always going to be: yes.

But here's a good way to start thinking about it, instead: If you ever find yourself with the need (or desire) to communicate with those who are interested in your mission, you can benefit from an email list.

It's all about how you use it.

A way to deliver value to your followers

Photo of two coffee mugs and snacks

Building an email list is a lot like running a coffee shop: it's the perfect way to deliver amazing little treats to your clients.

The moment someone walks through your doors (opts into your email list), you have the chance to truly win them over to become a regular.

So each time you show up in their email inbox, you have the opportunity to offer them those delicious little treats that just make their day special.

Each email can make or break your relationship

It's happened to me before: I become obsessed with a particular little coffee shop and make it a part of my routine. Because each time it adds a little more joy to my life.

Until I have a negative experience that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Then I lose interest and find a new little hub.

The same thing happens to your email list: if you're sending out uninspiring (or super salesy) emails, you can bet they'll hit “unsubscribe” (or even worse: “spam”) before you ever get a second chance.

The pressure is on!

Stay focused on your subscribers

If you're wondering whether you'll have “enough” to say: you totally will!

Just share something that they'll love. That might mean including a link to your latest blog post or podcast. It might mean that you share something personal to help them relate to your mission. And sometimes, it might just mean sharing a few pictures and an uplifting message.

The choice is up to you and your style.

A Way To Stay At The Forefront of Their Minds

This is another one of the many benefits of building an email list for your business.

After all, the statistics are pretty clear: 96% of the people who visit your website aren't ready to buy yet. So even if you've got the perfect product or service to offer, they're not going to take action until they feel prepared and ready to invest.

So don't let them forget you in the meantime!

Use your email list to stay fresh and present, reminding them that you exist and have the solution that they're looking for.

How often should I show up to stay fresh on their minds?

Unfortunately, there's no perfect number to shoot for. The best answer is: consistently.

Your email list should come to expect you as a regular part of their routine… and if you stick to a day-of-the-week schedule, they'll even start to look forward to your appearance.

(And be forewarned: you can always count on getting some flak from your subscribers. Some will complain that you're emailing too much, others that you're not emailing enough. So find your sweet spot and stay consistent!)

A Way To Grow Your Business Without Breaking The Budget

Businesses and budgets go hand in hand.

None of us are cheapskates, but realistically we're in business to make money. And a budget is often stretched in too many directions, all at once.

Good news: the initial investment doesn't have to be huge

In fact, there are a lot of free list-building tools and resources that you can use right off the bat to get started without breaking the bank.

There's even free listing building training courses that will walk you through the setup and initial planning stages of building an email list!

A Way to Build A Successful Business, Naturally

The benefits of building an email list aren't confined to developing a stronger sense of trust with your clients. Rather, what most of us like to hear is that building a strong, consistent relationship with your audience tends to result in something pretty spectacular: a stronger income and loyal clients.

And I'm not just saying that.

There are so many awesome stories of new business owners who quickly built up a 5-figure business through the power of their email list. There are others who stress that the time they spent focusing on growing an email list the right way ultimately allowed them to live the life they were longing for.

The power of a well-built email list can't be overestimated – and a look around at some of the best “success stories” will say the same thing.

I don't have a ton of time to spend learning, how can I get started?

Once you've aligned the benefits of building an email list with your own mission and purpose, it's time for action which can be super overwhelming.

The best list building strategy is to take it one day at a time and use a trusted method to get started.

There’s no shortage of list-building tactics and ideas, and I’ve personally tried most of them… but the results were far from stellar because I didn’t have an overarching strategic approach.

Photo of a woman reading on a phone

4 List Building Strategy Approaches the Pros Use

That meant that my traffic was subpar, and my email list didn’t grow very quickly in the early days.

Today, things are different, and I have a much better “big picture” view of how to generate traffic and conversions, and what works best for different people.

You see, I realized that all of the information out there about traffic was valid, and it was just a matter of combining the right tactics into a bigger strategy based on the outcomes I wanted.

Let me walk you through the 4 strategic ways to apply common list building tactics, no matter what kind of business or blog you run. The trick is knowing which one to use and when to use it, but don’t worry I’ll go over that too!

Most of the how-to articles you read about list building strategies are actually talking about specific list building tactics.

You know, like how to use SEO to drive traffic, how to use a specific type of squeeze page or popup plugin, or how to guest post. These are all specific actions you can take to get more traffic and subscribers, but they don’t constitute an overarching strategy.

If you’ve tried to apply all the list building advice out there with less than ideal results, it’s probably because you didn’t have the strategy in place to make these actions work together.

1. Slow & Steady Wins The Race

When I was first starting out online, the slow and steady way is how I built my list. It’s the default way to build up an audience, and it’s not bad but it does take time.

This is a perfect strategy to help you build your traffic and list over time because it’s consistent: you create content, blog, guest post, apply SEO techniques, get word of mouth, and repeat on a regular basis.

This is ideal if you’ve got an actual business to run, or maybe you have a day job and this is your side project. It’s simple enough to dedicate a few hours per week to showing up and creating content.

Over time your site’s authority will increase in the search engines, you’ll develop word of mouth from your fans, and things will slowly pick up the pace.

The problem? It’s slow, so if you want to results fast, it’s not going to happen for you.

Many bigger sites started out with the slow and steady path, like Digital Photography School, and my first business Real Foods Witch. These sites weren’t overnight successes, but now they get steady traffic from the search engines and when people think of the topics for these sites they can point people to them, generating word of mouth.

2. Short Focused Bursts Build Your List

For this strategy, you set aside a month or two that is dedicated to traffic and growing your email list. During these few months, you put everything you’ve got into building your list. Because it’s timed, it has more of an immediacy factor, and it feels more urgent and fresh.

The types of tactics you’d use for a short focused burst are putting on a live webinar or livestream, running a contest, doing a joint venture, or running ads to your opt-in, since you might not want to run ads 365 days a year but you might do it for a short period of time.

These are all things that have an endpoint, so you can set aside time in your yearly calendar to focus on traffic and list building. If you run a seasonal business, this might be the type of activity you do during your off-season.

Here’s an example from Amy Porterfield running a joint webinar with Melanie Duncan about Pinterest. This works great because it’s a specific point in time, and the nature of joint webinars is that both parties build their lists.

Another example is the 30 Day List Building Challenge that I’m currently hosting. We started off running this a few times each year, but have found that there was such a high demand for the program that we’ve made it available on a rolling enrollment basis so anyone can sign up at any time and receive the content each day for 30 straight days.  

It’s also got social sharing built into it, and we’ve found that our participants stay more engaged when they can focus on list building in short focused bursts.

3. Make a Big Splash With a big Launch

You’ve definitely seen the big splash model, it’s usually attached to a product launch and it seems to take over a corner of the internet for a while.

You know someone is doing a launch when suddenly you see their name everywhere at once, they’re being interviewed, guest posting, showing up left and right on social media.

The big splash works wonders because you capture the attention of the market, it’s the be everywhere at once advantage. But to understand how to pull off a launch, you need to know exactly how much time goes into it.

The reason a big splash is different from a short burst is that there are usually months of time dedicated to the launch leading up to it. And by months, I mean upwards of 4 months for really big launches.

Securing all the guest spots, interviews, affiliates, and making sure that all the buzz goes live at the same time is no easy feat. But when a launch comes together, it really has the potential to drive so much traffic and grow your list like nothing else.

You’ve no doubt seen big launches, but a few notable ones you could keep an eye out include Stu MacLaren's Tribe, and Marie Forleo’s B-school. There are entire courses on how to pull together a killer launch, and if you’re offering a new product or service you’ll want to spend some time figuring out your positioning and creating the best product you can.

4. Target New Verticals

One often-overlooked strategy for list building is to step outside of your immediate market and get known in new verticals.

Take, for example, my list-building advice: it works for bloggers, but it can also work for photographers, dentists, and jewelry designers. I’ve been able to repurpose my content and do short focused bursts of list building in these different markets.

You can actually choose any of the previous 3 strategies to go into new verticals, you could do a big launch in a new vertical or go the slow and steady route. The benefit here is that you can usually jumpstart your efforts because of the previous work you’ve done in your main market, and you can get more specific in how you serve people.

Someone who has done a great job of becoming known in many verticals is Chris Guillebeau, he sits at the intersection of many markets like travel, entrepreneurship, artists, and so on.

I personally stumbled upon this idea with my different blogs and businesses in the raw food market, when I realized there was a lot of overlap and that people would follow me from one topic to the next.

Can you think of a few “submarkets” that you could focus on, in order to help you reach new people and grow your list further?

Which Email Strategy Are You Going To Use First?

All of these are winning strategies, but which one are you committing to doing next? If you’re already in one of these categories, is it the right one for you and your goals? Leave a comment below, I want to know!