6 Ways to Build an Email List From Scratch

cut out men around worldMany solo professionals and business owners will quickly see the value of email marketing — and who need your help making it happen month after month. The problem is, they don’t have a list.

Overcoming the hurdle of a nonexistent email list can be the biggest challenge to making it work as an email newsletter writer. You can do it. All you need is a plan for how to help those clients who are starting with nothing.

Before you dive in, make sure your client is on board with the idea

Your client’s satisfaction will be delayed when you have to spend time building a list. That’s why it is so important for you to paint a picture of what it will be like for them when they do have a list.

There are many compelling benefits to building a list: It’s the cheapest and most cost-effective way to stay in touch with qualified customers. The larger the list, the more money your client can make. Without a list, every message and promotion must compete with the overwhelming noise of social media’s daily tidal wave of ads.

Starting a list from scratch will be more work for you, so make sure your prospect is committed to building their list before you agree to take them on as clients.

#1. Add opt-in forms to the right places on their website

Of course, your client needs to have an opt-in form on the top sidebar of their website, but don’t stop there. Consider adding a sign-up form after each blog post to get people who arrived at the site through the blog, ask people to sign up after they buy something through the site, and send a thank you email asking people to join the list after a sale has been made.

#2. Build demand to be on the list

Let subscribers know advantages they will enjoy when they are on the list.  Will they get exclusive deals? Gain insider knowledge? Get to know the company’s leaders better? Make sure you spell out every benefit wherever you are trying to collect names and emails, and deliver on promises made.

#3. Have a drawing or giveaway

Here are a few examples of how my clients have gotten people in the door (and on their mailing lists) with drawings:

  • An art gallery owner had a drawing for a 90-minute hot stone massage. She waited for a day when there was an art fair being held in the park two blocks away and then walked around telling people about the drawing. All they had to do was visit the gallery to qualify. She made $1,300 in sales in three hours, and collected 50 names.
  • The owner of a real estate company partnered with a home design store to give away a $1,000 gift certificate to the home design store. People signed up by calling into the real estate office. (People who called were asked if they were interested in buying or selling — and many were.) People could also sign up by sending in a coupon from a space ad, or attending their one-year anniversary party. They collected 150 email addresses, they discovered dozens of qualified leads, and the large dollar amount generated interest in our relatively affluent community and helped them gain local news coverage.
  • The owner of the home design store partnered with a carpet cleaning business to offer a drawing for a free carpet cleaning. Before offering the drawing, they had a simple sign-up form for the newsletter by the cash register and nobody signed up for it. With the drawing as motivation, people were more willing to provide their information.

To make the drawing work, make sure you offer a prize that will appeal to your client’s ideal customers. Use your client’s space ads and their Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest accounts to promote the drawing. Let people know they can qualify simply by signing up for the email list. Clients with a brick-and-mortar store can collect names and email addresses at the checkout counter, too.

#4. Trade skills with someone who has a large email list

Email Marketing Strategist Ben Settle wrote about how he built his email list from scratch in www.copyblogger.com: “What I did was ‘trade’ writing half a dozen press releases to a marketer I knew (who had a big email list) in exchange for plugging my site a set number of times to his list over the course of a month.”

The first step is to identify a few list owners in your industry. Local business owners can ask other local business owners in their community. You or your client will probably have a skill that will be useful to that list owner. See if they would be willing to trade the skill in exchange for promoting the newsletter. According to Settle, it is a good idea to start with smaller list owners and work your way up the food chain.

#5. Write a bait piece

Offer a bait piece or free report that will be valuable to your prospects in exchange for their contact information. Visit http://www.bly.com/reports/ to see a perfect example of how Bob Bly uses free reports to collect email subscribers.

Notice that Bly has created a specific landing page for getting people to subscribe to the free newsletter. On that page, he made an offer where subscribers can get four special reports for free just for signing up. He sells each of the free reports by including a headline, several bullet points explaining what the reader will get when they read the special report, and a picture of the report.

He also includes a list price ($29) for each report. You can buy each of those reports for $29 on his site. This is important because the price tag makes it possible for him to say, “Get a FREE GIFT worth over $100!”

“That $100 price point is key, because it makes the gift sound incredibly valuable,” said Bob Bly in an article called Copywriting Secrets from Bob Bly, by Constant Contact Editor, Amy Black. Bly also pointed out, “We have added 40,000 new names to my list using this offer.”

Unlike Bob Bly, your client might not have four reports ready to go. That’s why it is your job to create the free report. When you get to know your clients, start thinking of topics for free reports.

What information can your client provide to prospective clients? For example, a car mechanic can build trust by writing a report on do-it-yourself car maintenance that will save customers money.

#6. When you start sending out the newsletters, make them sharable

Constant Contact and other email programs have an option that lets readers forward the email newsletters to their friends, lets you share the e-newsletters on social media pages, and also makes it possible to sign up for the email list in the body of the email. Use these features, and encourage your readers to share the newsletters.

When you find something that works, keep doing it

The only way you’ll know what email-collecting methods will work best is to try a few and see which ones work. When something is effective, repeat the process. If something doesn’t work, move on and try something else.

2 Responses to “6 Ways to Build an Email List From Scratch”

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  1. Ralph Roberts says:

    In the process of building a B2B list now … thanks for the suggestions. I need them. 😉

  2. Bonnie Fox says:

    Very helpful — thanks!

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