The Zen Of List-building

The Zen Of List Building

If you’ve invested the time and energy into developing your social, online, or brick-and-mortar presence – really any presence, at that – but have noticed your subscribers, your followers aren’t as loyal as you’d thought or you don’t have any mailing list subscribers to speak of, then it’s time to list-build.

List-building keeps your readers in the loop and hand-feeds them relevant and interesting content, the aim of which is to turn your readers into loyal subscribers.

As a blogger, developing and maintaining this line of communication is essential to getting your words to where they’re needed most.

So why aren’t you? It’s cheap, cost-effective, and do you know anyone who doesn’t have an email address (save your grandmother, of course)?

That’s what I thought. Okay, when should I begin building this list, you ask.

NOW.

Yesterday.

Don’t wait for the right conditions.

Don’t wait until your subscriber metrics hit a self-prescribed degree of success.

A lie can run around the world before the truth can get its boots on.

-James Watt

To get you started, do not, I repeat absolutely do not purchase a list from an email list provider. These are traps. The emails provided are from people who did not opt-in and very likely have no idea who the hell you are. Your emails are most likely junk mail to them and they will resent you for sending them junk mail.

They will feel like their inboxes have been hijacked and sold to the highest bidder, which in actuality isn’t all that far from what email list providers do.

Marketers the world over believe that if readers (read: prospective subscribers) simply knew about their product or service, they would flock to it like white on rice or a fly to … well, you can finish that one.

I’m here to tell you that they’re wrong – sorrowfully, unequivocally wrong.

No, the only proper way of building a relationship with your readers is to forge it on the foundations of mutual trust and benefit.

I offer a service that Joe Schmo needs. A fair transaction is made, free from guile or subterfuge. Joe has received what he needed and I didn’t infringe on his privacy, thus violating his trust. But how do I keep Joe in the loop? Well, that’s where the list comes in.

Plug those leaks

Your website should have an opt-in form for readers to voluntarily opt-in (that’s a key word – voluntarily – you didn’t have to buy their interest or loyalty). This field should be on every page above the fold, save articles (more on that in a minute), meaning when a page loads, I don’t have to waste my time trying to find your opt-in form in order to subscribe to your blog.

The content I’ve found is so darn interesting that I want to sign-up now. I don’t want a contact page. I don’t want to speak to your agents. I want emails now!

Bloggers wish, they fantasize about their content being that good. In truth, few are. However, for those magical few, get that subscription field up and above the fold to increase your reach.

But what about us not-so-magical folk, you ask. Put it up anyway. You’re still building your online presence and reader-writer loyalty. So when it makes it big, when readers fiend for your words like Dave Chapel’s Tyronne Biggums, you’ll have the infrastructure in place to keep them coming back.

If I’ve slogged through a one-thousand-plus word article, I dig your writing style, your content, and I want more. Related articles are great. Ads, not so much. When Google populates the side bar with ads for cashmere sweaters and boots because that’s what I was searching for before coming to your page, I’m going to be a little freaked out. I’ll feel like I’m being watched and I have no privacy (read: you’ve violated my trust and I’m moving on).

No, if I’ve made it through the article, slap me with the subscription form directly beneath the last word of the article, above the author bio. But the author deserves credit, right? Honestly, I really don’t care who this blogger is.

Unless you’re Junot Diaz, Khaled Hosseini, or the reincarnation of Chekhov, you are but one of thousands of people creating the endless stream of content. Sorry. But that’s just how it is.

In the subscription field, in bold, red letters, assure your prospective subscriber that you will NEVER release their information to ANYONE. This is the trust here. They need to know that you won’t take their information and sell it. If a reader likes your content and has been assured they can trust you, they will come back.

So, that’s two leaks down.

Get the subscription field at the bottom of every article above the author bio and on every page above the fold. If your blog runs on WordPress here are a number of mailing list plugins that will help you.

Losing subscribers because they can’t find your subscription form is ridiculous.

What’re you producing content for? Likes?

Come on, we want subscribers who will buy ****.

Plug those leaks.

Increase your ROI.

What do I send to my subscribers?

So you’ve got them. People like you. They like what you have to say. Congratulations. Now don’t screw it up by either a) giving out their email to third-party agencies or b) sending them nonsense.

I don’t care if it’s your 50th anniversary. I don’t care about current events. Unless you’re a news agency, you aren’t a reputable source on anything except your market.

Your emails should expand my knowledge of your market. They should teach me how to better use this information. And heaven forbid you have a sale or a promotion, you better remind me no more than once per sale period. I check my email every fifteen minutes. Yes, I saw the ridiculously gorgeous WordPress theme for 30 percent off. I don’t need 50 emails to remind me that the damned theme is 30 percent off.

No, send me one email. Image-based content works best. Language is learned. We are not born with language. It is an activity that requires cultivation, practice, all of which sound a lot like work. I hate work. So show me a pretty picture. Maybe one with statistics I can spout over the company Christmas party, winning me brownie points.

Always link the email back to your website. If that WordPress theme is all that gorgeous and I decide to purchase it, that email link better go directly to the product. If I have to search for the product or the discount, you’ve lost my business and subscription.

Putting it all together

In short, make sure the email is preferably image-based, teaches me about your market and/or sales, don’t blow up my inbox, and always link to the content you’re pushing.

Don’t ever forget, this is a transaction.

Whether you are selling me a WordPress theme or a relationship between reader and writer, your aim should always be to keep me coming back.

Recommended reading: 

How To Grow Your Email List And Increase Conversions By Over 700%

Photo Credit: angus clyne via Compfight cc

  • Nawar

    Hey Trevor, great insight you are throwing there for people who wants to create that list of their own. One of the things as well that gets me, is how emails are getting older method of communication and with the newer Gmail inbox it gets hard to be noticed like before. Especially if your email end up in the promotion tab. Even if you honest intention is to provide quality content, they’ll be unnoticed easily. What do you think?

    • Trevor LaTorre

      Hi Nawar, Emails are quickly becoming antiquated modes of communication for businesses, unless (always an unless) you’ve cultivated relationships with your readers and your content is relevant to them. There is really not much you can do about being sentenced to Gmail’s “Promotion” ghetto. However, this doesn’t mean your audience is going to stop reading your content overnight. It does mean that you’ll have to focus on your core reader base. Don’t gear your writing to outliers who stumble upon your content. Do gear your writing to those who enjoy what you have to say.

  • http://www.gauraw.com/ Kumar Gauraw

    Great insights Trevor! Interestingly, I am right now in the middle of writing a post about my list building experience and here you are with a very insightful post about list building.

    What I love about your post is, the idea that you dedicated a small section to teach people to take other people’s privacy seriously and keep the list safe. Great idea! Thank you for doing that!

    Regards,
    Kumar

    • Trevor LaTorre

      Hey Kumar, I’m glad I was able to help. With the recent NSA leaks, privacy, I think, has come to the forefront of issues users are concerned with. Respecting that privacy, even if there is a way around it, is key to establishing a relationship with readers. I hope your post goes well.

      Best,
      Trevor