If you run any kind of online business, then you know list building is a crucial part of having a thriving business. And, no matter how many subscribers you currently have, you’re always looking to add more to your email list. Because, as we’ve all heard, “money is in the list.”
And, I’m sure you’ve also heard that the best way to grow that email list is to regularly create fresh content for your blog. To show up consistently on your social sites: share, post, comment. Create fresh email blast content to keep your current subscribers engaged.
But let me take a step back and ask you something:
Have you ever thought about what you would do with a bigger email list?
By that I mean, what are the actual benefits of having a larger list for your business?
My personal goal is to get 20,000 subscribers by the end of this year!
What changes when I get there?
When my husband and I started several years ago, we only had 200 subscribers on our list. And those weren’t even targeted subscribers. Some of them were previous colleagues and friends.
I knew we need to grow our list, but I had no clue what the ideal number of subscribers should be.
How many subscribers did we need to make a comfortable living?
3,000? 5,000? 20,000?
I honestly had no clue.
So I started tracking it.
Fast forward one year; we had acquired about 2,100 targeted subscribers and we launched an online training course for $97. We sold 168 enrollments.
That’s $16,269 in gross revenue.
Not bad, right?
That is one of the reasons everyone is so focused on building an email list.
And the reason you should be too!
But how do you grow your email list?
Far too many so-called “experts” will tell you the key to attracting fans and building a list is by regularly updating your blog and social sites with engaging content each week.
I’m here to tell you that couldn’t be further from the truth!
Look, I totally agree that content marketing is a solid strategy to grow your business. But the problem is that most companies narrow their focus solely on creating regular, recurring content.
And then, they put in a lot of time and effort to drive traffic to that content: through social media, email marketing, etc. But once their potential customers land on their blog or website, they don’t have a solid strategy in place to convert those visitors into subscribers.
Though content marketing should be the backbone of any marketing strategy, many bloggers, entrepreneurs and companies find themselves in the “content creation rat race,” as Social Triggers founder Derek Halpern calls it.
Even if you have a solid strategy to drive traffic to your site, it’s not going to be sustainable if no effort is made to convert those one-time visitors to subscribers.
Here’s how you do that.
The goal of this article is to help you with your content strategy first — and then market it — so you can get 1,000 subscribers on your email list in the next 90 days. And then repeat the same process to grow your list from there.
Now, that’s not exactly how I went about it when we started our online business. But knowing what I know now, I absolutely believe this is the right (and fastest) way to do it. And for those of you who’ve been following me since December of 2016 (since I launched my Udemy class Create and Sell Your Own Online Course), you’ll see that this is the same exact process I use to build my own email list.
But before we dive into the details of content creation strategy, let’s step back and talk about the basics of list building and a high level look at what we’ll do in the next 90 days.
Let’s start with technology — your email marketing tools.
At the beginning, when you start your list building, you need two pieces of software:
- Email marketing software
- Landing Page software
These are the essentials right now. As you grow your online business and get past your first 1,000 subscribers on, there will be more types of software you’ll need to help you grow your list further, efficiently and effectively.
But for right now, let’s focus on these two types.
Email marketing Software
There are many good Email Autoresponder software packages to choose from. I recommend ConvertKit, because that’s what we use and have had success with. The interface is really easy to use, and it has lots of great features that make starting out easy. In addition, there are a ton of great features that will come in handy as your business and your needs expand and grow!
Some other really good and reasonably priced Autoresponder software packages are: Mailchimp, ActiveCampaign and Aweber.
Landing Page Software
A landing page is the place where people go to enter their name and email to join your email list. It’s also integrated with your email autoresponder software, so those names and emails are added to your list automatically.
Because I’m an ex-developer, I code my own landing pages. But if you aren’t tech savvy, then I’d recommend using a software package that’ll build one for you.
If you decide to use ConvertKit, you’ll have everything you need to create a landing page, and because it’s the same software, it’s already integrated with the email autoresponse feature.
If you decide to use another type of Email Autoresponder software, however, you’ll also need to look into an additional software package to create your landing pages.
Lead Pages is one such landing page software package, and it runs about $30 per month. Its drag-and-drop feature makes it very easy to create professional landing pages. And it has over 50 templates to choose from; all you have to do is click the portion of the template you wish to modify and make your changes.
Other common landing page software packages include SumoMe and ThriveLeads.
Let’s talk about list building and getting subscribers on your email list.
Now that we’ve got the techie stuff out of the way, I’m sure you’re wondering how we’re going to get 1,000 subscribers on your email list in 90 days! With all the conflicting information and promises you see all over the internet, I know it seems to be a tall order.
Regardless, it’s completely possible. We’ll do it by breaking our plan into three parts:
- Month 1: We’ll build the foundation by figuring out your personal profit path. We’ll also work on a conversion-focused content strategy. Don’t worry if this sounds too vague — we’ll get into the details shortly.
- Month 2: We’ll focus on driving traffic to your content, authentically and organically.
- Month 3: We’ll take it up a notch and strategically expand your reach to drive even more traffic — and convert it to subscriptions.
Ready? Let’s dive into this.
Month 1: list building foundation.
Your focus in the first month is on finding your profit path and creating a solid content strategy to get you there. This is the step almost everybody seems to miss, so pay attention!
That’s where a well-formulated strategy comes in. That strategy, in this case, is made up of four parts:
- Figure out your desired outcome (this one is the most important). Your short-term desired outcome is obviously to get people to subscribe to your email list. But it’s also important to have your eye on your long-term desired outcome. At the end of the day, what do you want to accomplish? Do you want people to book a coaching session? Sign up for your workshop? Buy your product?
- Identify the gap between your buyers’ need and your desired outcome. Find the path that takes your ideal buyers from where they are and what they need, right now, and the action they need to take in order to produce your desired outcome.
- Fill that gap with a well-planned content strategy.
- Set up opt-in forms and an autoresponder to capture subscriber information.
Step 1: Figure out your desired outcome.
As I said before, this one is the most important — but it’s also the easiest to figure out.
I’ve found that using examples is the best way to make a point and help people learn. So let’s pick an example and use that for the rest of this article.
Keeping an eye on your long term desired outcome, ensures that you are not just adding numbers to your email list. It helps you collect relevant leads. This will in turn help you tremendously to convert those leads from subscribers into customers with ease.
Let’s say you are wellness coach, and your ultimate goal is to sell your product, which is a detox plan. Selling that detox plan is your desired outcome.
Using this example, think about your desired outcome. What’s the one thing you need to have happen? You want it to be as clear, simple and straightforward as our example here.
Answer that and you’re done with step one. WOW, that was easy!!
Step 2: Identify the gap between your buyers’ need and your desired outcome.
Now you need to find the path between your ideal buyer’s need right now (wanting to be healthier) and getting them to take the action that produces your desired outcome (buying your detox plan).
Hopefully, you’ve taken the time and researched who your ideal buyers are and know exactly what it is that they’re looking for.
I know I may have lost some of you at “research,” but this step is crucial to a successful outcome! You should never assume you know who your buyers are, or what they want. You need to do some research and find out for sure. And that’s really not as hard as it sounds.
Knowing your ideal buyers doesn’t mean figuring out their demographic information: 54-year old female, owns a 3-bedroom house, has 2 kids and a one legged dog, drives a 97 Honda and goes to the circus every other Tuesday.
You don’t need that information — trust me!
Instead, you need to know what problems and pain points they have! What goals they’d like to achieve? What their deepest desires might be.
Find out what they want to experience in the future — and what they want to stop experiencing right now.
If you don’t know how to go about finding this information, I outline several ways you can do it in this article, The Real Reason People Aren’t Buying From You.
Also, it’s paramount that you do this research yourself. You can outsource other parts of your business, that’s fine — but make sure this work is done by you!
Why? Because it’s your expertise and your passion that has led you to the business you’re in right now. Nobody knows your business, your services and your products as well as you do. All of that makes you the best person for this job!
So please promise me not to let someone else do this —OK?
Now, back to our detox plan example: When you do the research, you come to find out that although many people struggle with their weight, their major frustration and obstacle is that for different reasons, they can’t make the commitment to exercise.
And although you created your detox plan to help people get healthy, you know that the by-product of following your detox plan is that people will lose weight.
So I want you to take a piece of paper and put two dots at the two opposite ends. Next to the dot on the far left, write down where your ideal buyers are (they want to lose weight). On the far right, write down your desired outcome (sell them your detox plan) – which is also the solution to their problem (lose weight without exercising).
I’ve created a simple planning checklist that you can use to figure all of this out. Click here to download it.
Remember, if you do this right, then your desired outcome and the solution to their problem should be the same thing!
If not, then you should go back to the drawing board and figure out what other products or services you can offer that would address their problem.
On to the next step!
Step 3: Fill the gap with a well-planned content strategy.
This is where we roll up our sleeves and get to work.
But before we get down to the nitty gritty of things, let me first explain what we’re trying to accomplish.
Remember the drawing you did? On the far left of the spectrum is your ideal buyer’s most annoying pain. On the far right is your solution to that particular pain.
When you look at that pain, that problem they’re facing, consider the fact that there could be many things causing it: smaller problems that — when combined — create this one BIG problem.
If you can help them solve some of these smaller problems — by giving them small wins each time they engage with your relevant content — then you can easily convert them from browsers of your content to subscribers on your list.
We do that by creating 3 to 5 pieces of relevant content. Each is going to address a different solution to a specific smaller problem that’s contributing to their big, main problem.
Let’s walk through this.
Going back to our example, we know they’re frustrated with being overweight. So some of the smaller problems — and corresponding solutions —could be:
- Problem 1: They need a way to decrease stress and lower their cortisol levels.
Solution 1: Meditation instruction.
- Problem 2: Their metabolism is stuck in low gear.
Solution 2: A morning stretching routine that jump starts metabolism.
- Problem 3: They aren’t aware of how much food they’re actually eating
Solution 3: A plan for journaling to keep track of their daily food intake
So basically, you come up with 3- 5 solutions to 3-5 of their smaller problems, and write an in-depth article around each of those topics. I mean the most in-depth article anyone has ever read on this topic.
Look, anyone can put together a 700-word blog post about “5 ways to get more twitter followers.” You have to be different — you have to dig deeper and go further, in more detail than anyone else.
You need to amaze and awe your readers.
Pour your heart and soul into it; Give lots of detail and actionable advice.
Now at this point, you may be thinking … what does any of this have to do with building my email list? Don’t worry, we’re going to walk through that next. Stay with me!
So far you’ve created content focused on a small solutions to small parts of their big problem.
Awesome. Now it’s time to leverage that work to build your email list.
Creating a “Content Upgrade”
We’re going to create something called a Content Upgrade for every single one of these smaller topics.
A Content Upgrade is an additional piece of content focused on that same topic. You offer it to your readers (who are potential buyers) for free, in exchange for their email address.
For example, if you’re doing a post titled “Use this simple meditation to decrease stress and lower your cortisol levels,” the Content Upgrade would be a short meditation audio track for them to download for free.
Or if you’re doing a post titled “The easy way to keep track of what you eat: Journaling,” you can create a sample daily planner that they can download to use for free.
The key here is that the free content upgrade has to be relevant and complimentary to the article they just read.
This targeted piece of content is extremely compelling, because if someone has already read through your entire article, then it’s a safe bet they’ll be interested in hearing more on that specific topic.
There’s some strong psychology behind this as well. You’re creating reciprocity, because you gave them massive value BEFORE asking anything from them (e.g. requiring an email). This makes them want to return the favor, makes them more likely to sign up.
This proven psychological phenomenon is MASSIVELY important in business — because it works.
Keep in mind that these free content upgrades don’t have to be lengthy or complicated.
Step 4: Set up opt-in forms and an autoresponder
Now you’re ready to connect all the pieces.
Create a post or landing page.
First, you create a post or landing page for each article focusing on a smaller part of the big problem. Make sure each post or page includes the following elements:
- A very clear, strong headline that highlights the problem you’re solving.
- A short intro paragraph quickly describing 2-3 points about what’s inside your article.
- A link to get your Content Upgrade, or an opt-in form on that same page.
- An image representing the Content Upgrade.
Set up your autoresponder.
Next, once you have a landing page setup, set everything up inside your autoresponder so that once they fill out the form, the Content Upgrade you’ve created is delivered to them.
Most autoresponders work the same way: when someone joins your list, it sends an email to them that includes a clickable link to the freebie (in this case, the Content Upgrade).
Be sure to personalize this email! This is a great opportunity for you to start building a relationship with them, especially if this is the first contact they have with you and your brand.
Along with the link to the freebie, the autoresponder email should include a warm thank you note for signing up. Briefly give them some information about who you are and what they can expect.
I always include links to my social sites as well, and encourage them to join me there. This allows me to continue engaging with them on different platforms.
Connect your landing page to your autoresponder.
The last step is to connect your autoresponder form to the landing page you’ve created.
This is the integration I referred to earlier. Every software package is different, so — depending on which software you are using — I’m very confident you’ll be able to ask my best friend Google for that information 😉
As I mentioned earlier, my favorite Autoresponder software is ConvertKit. It’s really easy to use, is packed with features and it includes both the autoresponder and landing page software functionality. So you’re basically getting two software packages for the price of one.
If you decide to use ConvertKit, here’s a tutorial on how to use it.
Month 2: Drive organic traffic to your pages.
The fun part of your work has just begun. Now that you’re set up and ready to go, the next step is to drive authentic, organic traffic to your landing pages.
I’m listing a number of options for doing that here. You don’t have to implement every single one, but commit right now to doing at least 3-4 of these activities to drive new people into your offer.
Without that commitment, your landing page won’t convert any leads — because no one will know it exists.
- Share on Social Media. Create different social media images and posts related to each article you’ve created. The best way to go about this is to create at least 4 variations (image and excerpt) for each article, for each of your social media channels. So for your first article (e.g. How to Meditate to Lower Stress), create 4 different sets of images and excerpts, for each of your social channels (FB, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest). Do the same for each article. This allows you to rotate each article and promote your offer once a week to any audience you may have.
- Update Your Social Profile Links. This is a broad stroke, but it makes a difference over time. Update your Instagram profile, update your Facebook cover photo, update your Twitter bio. Anywhere that you have a social media profile, include a link to one or more of the articles you’ve created.
- Engage (and then share) in Facebook Groups. Now, I don’t mean you should just drop your links in every group you’re in. I mean you should start engaging in that group you joined and then share your resource when it makes sense — when people ask for help that your links provide! Also, check to see if your group has a weekly self-promo thread where you can share.
- Contribute to forums. Find forums that deal with your topic and provide answers on relevant threads by giving them the solution — and then providing a link to your pages so they can learn more. Community forum websites in particular are a great place to maximize the value of your newly-created content. Some of these sites are essentially half social network, half blog.In these types of Forums, registered members submit content, such as articles or images. Think of them as an online bulletin boards. A few of the most popular sites include: Quora, Growthhackers.com, HackerNews and Reddit. These websites are very valuable to your distribution strategy because they receive a lot of traffic from very dedicated, niche audience segments.
- Write articles on other blogs. Identify at least 8 different blogs in your niche. Aim for bloggers who are not direct competitors. Instead, their topics are complimentary to what you offer and they (a) have an audience that fits your target audiences, (b)are open to guest blog posts, and (c) make sense for you to pitch to based on their audience sizes. Send them a personal, short and sweet email and ask if there might be an opportunity to guest post on their site or write for their newsletter about a similar topic. Don’t make it about you. Communicate the reasons why having you as a guest will benefit them. Then, if they accept, write a 500-700 word post related to the content you’ve created with the link to that specific article for their readers to get more information.
- Ask a friend Contact the people you know who have networks you can tap into. Ask them if they’re willing to share the links to your articles with their social media followers.
Month 3: Expand your reach and convert.
By the end of Month 2, you should have at least 100 people on your list. Now that you have some traction and engagement, we’re going to take it up a notch. This is the month you’ll be picking up most of your subscribers. Here’s how:
- Do a Weekly Livestream. Once a week, use Periscope or Facebook Live to share a tip or exercise related to one of the freebies you’ve created — and give them a link to go sign up for it. This doesn’t have to be long. All you need are 3-4 bullet points or one main tip from your article. At the end of the video, send them to your article post or landing page to get more information.
- Upload your live video to YouTube. Download the MP4 from the Facebook Live Video and upload it to YouTube. In the description, start with a link to article post or landing page. Then do a full circle on other social media outlets: share the YouTube video URL on LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter. And don’t forget to include a link to your content upgrade related to that topic as well.
- Create a Facebook Ad. Over 44 billion people hang out on Facebook every month. So it’s safe to say that if you have valuable content, then at least a small percentage of those people could be potential readers of your blog — and even subscribers on your list. Many business owners either don’t realize the potential of using Facebook Ads to get new leads. And even if they do, they dismiss it for two main reasons:
- They’re worried that they’ll spend money but not get measurable results.
- They think Facebook advertising is too difficult, and too time-consuming to learn.
Look, I don’t think Facebook Advertising is for everyone. And you definitely should not be going down this path unless you have all of these 3 elements in place:
- A Landing Page with great content to drive traffic to from your Facebook Ad
- A Content Upgrade or other freebie offer to turn those readers into subscribers
- A conversion rate strategy. Stay with me on this, so I can explain. You’re paying for traffic, so the conversion rate of your landing page will play a huge role in how much you spend to get your content into people’s hands.Your conversion rate is the percentage of all visitors who subscribe to your list to get your Content Upgrade/freebie offer upon hitting your landing page.Let’s say you spend $150 ($5 per day) to bring a total of 100 people to your landing page per day (3,000 people in one month).If your landing page has a conversion rate of 10%, then you have paid $150 to get 300 subscribers. That’s about .50 cents per subscriber.But if your landing page converted at 20% instead, now you have double the number of subscribers (600) for the same amount of money. So now, it’s only costing you .25 cents per subscriber.An eye-catching Facebook Ad — combined with a compelling landing page — is the way you get more subscribers. So pay close attention to your Ad headline and make sure its design is appealing to your audience. The content of your landing page is another critical element; it has to be valuable and actionable.Even if you’ve never done this before, I promise you it’s possible! To help you, download this FREE guide I’ve put together to help you create a sound conversion strategy and get the most out of your Facebook Ads.
Don’t lose focus: your work here isn’t done.
Getting your list to 1,000 is a huge milestone; this is when things start to happen for you.
Now you have a solid list building foundation that you can use over and over again, by repeating the same steps in month 2 and 3 to gain more subscribers on a daily basis.
But at the same time, don’t forget that you still need to get PAID! In other words, building a list isn’t enough; you now have to convert those subscribers into buyers.
You’ve collected leads with your incredible free content and a rockin’ landing page. Now you need to give your new subscribers a way to get to know you, your business and your offerings.
Don’t assume that since Jane read your article and even subscribed to your list, she’ll be coming back to your site day after day. That repeat engagement isn’t guaranteed — it’s something you have to build and cultivate, just like you did in order to get subscribers.
Remember your profit path.
I see so many businesses spend most of their focus on building their list — but fail to plan anything past that. This is where the profit path that we talked about at the beginning of this article becomes important.
You need a solid marketing strategy and a well-thought out Sales Funnel to help your subscribers get to know you more. And the more they know about what you do and how you can help, they’ll come to realize that your solution (paid products and services) is the exact answer to their very own prayer.
But that won’t happen all by itself.
It’s your job to make sure you’re emailing your list strategically and purposefully, by sharing relevant content and guiding them to the pages of your site that will hopefully turn your new leads into new customers or clients.
Above all else, I want you to remember that your list is essentially a tool — don’t forget to use it!