List Building 101: How to Grow Your Tribe & Market Like A Ninja

As business owners in the online world we’re well aware of the need for list building. It’s the key to tribe growth. It ensures your tribe is composed of ideal clients – people you love to work with, who value you. We understand the power of an Email List. We know that having direct access to our ideal clients’ inboxes will sell our products and services. But knowing what steps to take for effective list building is tricky. List building allows you to market like a Ninja.

It’s also a constant effort.

And what exactly is an email list? How exactly do you go about building one?

Here are some FAQs and three key things to remember about list building.

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO MY THREE KEY PIECES OF ADVICE ON LIST BUILDING.

What is an Email List?

An email list is exactly what it sounds like – a list of email addresses. They aren’t any old email addresses though. They’re special. These are email addresses for your ideal clients, your tribe. This is crucial to list building: your list MUST be made up of people who LOVE YOU and VALUE YOUR WORK. People who need what you have to offer. Who value your skills. People willing to give you something in exchange for what you’re offering. Initially, this will be their email address in exchange for a regular delivery of quality content direct to their inbox. You give them this for free. An email address for awesome content. That’s the deal.

Once they know, like, and trust you, they will happily give you more. A small sum of money in exchange for a low-level product or service. Follow this up with a higher sum of money for a mid level product or service. Finally they hand over a big bucket full of cash for a tip-top products or services. Generally the last goal is selling one very high ticket item. It can also mean taking a client on retainer. A small to medium fee, paid frequently, is often worth more than a one-off high price sale. For product-based services, these are your repeat clients. They buy multiple products and come back time and again. They’re first in line when you release something new. They rave about you to anyone who will listen.

Do I really have to make List Building part of my business?

No. You don’t HAVE to do anything. Your business, your rules. If you don’t want an email list, you don’t have to have one. I’ll be honest, building one is hard work. It takes a consistent effort. It’s often extremely frustrating, at least initially. But…

It makes everything so much easier.

What software do I need for List Building?

You can build an email list using basic software, or you can go all out. It’s really up to you. You cannot use your normal email account for a list. It MUST be a proper structure in place to manage your list. You MUST allow people to easily subscribe and unsubscribe at will. Which means at a MINIMUM you will need to use Email Marketing Software.

Email Marketing Software.

There are a lot of options for good Email Marketing Software, such as Mailchimp, Mad Mimi, or Active Campaign. I started with Mailchimp and now use Active Campaign. This is not JUST to make your life a lot easier (it will!) it’s a legal and moral issue. You can’t arbitrarily put people on mailing list, they must OPT IN. They must be able to OPT OUT at any time.

It boils down to data protection, common decency, and common sense. You want the people on your list to LOVE YOU AND WHAT YOU DO. If they don’t want to be on your list, you don’t want them there anyway! Uninterested and inactive members of your list will skew your data. You don’t want that. You’re trying to use this list to build your business. You’re ultimately looking to sell people things. Which means you really don’t want to piss them off.

Set up an account with an Email Marketing Software provider. Use it to to manage your list (or lists) and send email campaigns. You can hire email marketing experts and campaign managers if you don’t know what you’re doing, or haven’t the time or inclination to do it all yourself.

Optin Forms and Popups

Aside from this, people need a way to get on your email list, so make sure there are plenty of opportunities on your website and social media. You can install a range of plugins on your website that create Opt In Forms and pop ups in various places and formats. I use PopupAlly Pro, which is a premium plugin, but there are plenty of excellent free options, such as Magic Action Box (which is what I used before I upgraded). You want to make your optin forms as unobtrusive and polite as possible, so that they don’t get in the way of people reading your website, but are also obvious enough that people sign up.

Landing Pages and Sales Pages

In addition, you might also want to get something to help you create beautiful and highly converting landing pages. Some popular choices are Leadpages, Profit Builder, and Unbounce (I use Profit Builder).

Do I need freebies to make people sign up to my email list?

The short answer is yes. It’s worth having a form or two on your website that encourages people to sign up so they don’t miss a post. But, realistically, most people on your list are going to end up there because of a freebie. Think of it as a transaction, You aren’t giving something away for free. Potential clients are buying something for the price of their email address. Yes, some people will signup, get the freebie, and immediately unsubscribe. Most people won’t. Most people will stay on your list for at least a little while. This gives you chance to build a relationship with them. Which makes it more likely they will buy something in the future, for cash. You need to get people on your list before you can sell to them.

If your blog posts are truly spectacular you will find people sign up to ensure they don’t accidentally miss your posts. In most cases, however, you need more than the promise of never missing a blog post to get people to sign up.

Can I buy email lists?

Again, the short answer is yes. It’s possible to buy lists of hundreds and even thousands of email addresses. You should never, EVER, do it however. For one thing, it’s unethical – the people on the list have no idea who you are, and didn’t agree to be on your list. For another, these are RANDOM PEOPLE and very few of them will have any interest in what you’re offering. Finally, any emails you send to a bought list are spam.

Your email might be wonderful and packed with great content, but if the person you’re sending it to didn’t agree to being on your list, it’s spam.

Nobody responds well to spam

So yes, you can buy email lists, but you shouldn’t – it’s unethical, ineffective, and a total waste of money.

Three Key Pieces Of Advice On List Building

Key #1: Content is Queen

Before you can really start building an email list you need to make sure your content is seriously high quality. There are two reasons for this:

  1. Your content is the incentive that gets people to sign up to your email list.
  2. Your content is what KEEPS people on your email list, engaging with you, and buying your products and services.

You need quality content, and lots of it. Ask yourself: who is going to decide what content you need and when? Who is going to write/design/create it? what about uploading, formatting, and scheduling it all? Who’s going to write and schedule your newsletter? Who will design and run advertising campaigns? How is going to network and promote your content in groups and forums? Who is going to promote your content on social media?

These are all essential tasks. Many of us never really get anywhere because we’re overwhelmed by the sheer number of things to do. We procrastinate. We want everything to be perfect, so we never begin.

Don’t do that.

You can absolutely do every single content-related task yourself, but you don’t have to. Outsource tasks you’re unfamiliar with, uncomfortable doing, dislike, or just don’t have time for. Whether you manage all content alone, outsource it, or settle on a mixture of outsourcing and doing things yourself, just remember that CONTENT IS QUEEN. Your content is the most important element of list building. Without quality content, you will never build a good list. If by some fluke you do, you will never keep your subscribers. And even if by some miracle you do, they will never convert into paying clients.

Key #2: Plan For Growth

If you’re using email marketing in your business, you need to PLAN. More than that, you need to PLAN FOR GROWTH. As mentioned, Key #1 is CONTENT IS QUEEN. But using any old content as and when you feel like it isn’t going to cut it.

Your blog schedule needs to be carefully planned to make sure it drives signups and sales. This means:

  1. Posting regularly and consistently.
  2. Always writing for your ideal client.
  3. Only covering topics your ideal client will love, relating directly to your products and/or services.
  4. Providing variety and value in every post.

If your posts are up to snuff, people will sign up to make sure they never miss posts. But if you’re really smart, you’ll plan more than blog content list building in mind. Plan your optin freebies to make sure they relate to your main topics. Ensure at least one thing in every blog post is an incentive to join your list. It might be a freebie that relates to the post. It might be the chance to enter a competition and win a free product or service. When you get really good at this, you will start upgrading your blog content. Content upgrades make sure your most popular posts come with free content. This means creating worksheets, cheat sheets, guides, and other downloadable content. These items accessible while reading and allow people to ACTION what you’re talking about.

You short, your blog schedule should be carefully planned to ensure and sustain the growth of your email list, sales, and business.

CHECK OUT: HOW TO PLAN A KILLER BLOG SCHEDULE THAT DRIVES SIGNUPS AND SALES

Key #3: Let Them Eat Cake

Yep, you need to go all Marie-Antoinette for this one…

In order for an email list work, you need a business that’s structured to take advantage of email marketing. This means you need at least four tiers in your business in terms of products, services, and available content. I like to call this THE CAKE CONSTRUCTION.

The Cake Construction

In a nutshell, The Cake Construction is a business model that relies on attracting clients to you with tasty treats, i.e. CONTENT. You’re going to divide your content into four tiers, which in my world form a CAKE. A four tiered CONTENT CAKE

Tier Four

The lowest tier of your cake is how most of your tribe will get on your list. Tier four is FREE CONTENT. It needs to be SERIOUSLY TASTY free content – providing entertaining, helping, informing, or a combination of the three. It has to make your ideal clients fill their bellies and purr like a kitten. Then it has to make them rub up against your legs begging for more. You need a LOT of free content so you can keep that kitty happy and get it used to eating your delicious cake.

Tier Three

Your cat is now addicted to your yummy cakey content. Which means you can offer that happy little cat something from the next tier up. This is in exchange for a SMALL amount of money. The cake on this tier is even better than the free cake. Your kitty cat will happily had over a bit of cash to try it.

They LOVE your free cake. It’s unbelievable you have BETTER cake. They simply MUST try it! And it’s such a low price it’s DEFINITELY GOING TO BE WORTH IT.

Cake on this tier can be similar to your free content but must be even more valuable. Full versions of your tasters and testers work well. For example, I offer a free blog post to all potential clients to give them a taste of my services. The next step up is to buy a full length post with all the bells and whistles.

Tiers One and Two

Now your cat happily pays for your cake, you can start tempting her with more decadent offerings. The exact products and services you offer on each tier will depend on your business, your clients, how you price things, and whether you divide your offerings by price, skill, or need.

THE CAKE CONSTRUCTION - LIST BUILDING 101 - HOW TO BUILD AN EMAIL LIST - EMAIL MARKETING - HOW DO YOU GET PEOPLE ON YOUR EMAIL LIST - MARKETING

By Price

If you’re dividing by price the price range for each tier will be relative to your business. You may not have anything on offer above £50. You might not have anything on offer less than £500. Businesses vary widely when it comes to pricing, which is why I don’t include price guidance on the three paid-for tiers. Look at your offerings and divide them into low-, medium-, and high-priced products and services.

By Skill

When it comes to skill, look at it in terms of the knowledge level of the client. Are they an apprentice (a newbie)? A journeyman (someone with some experience who is still learning)? Or are they a master (someone who knows the subject well and is looking for specialist knowledge)?

By Need

If you’re dividing by need, consider your clients’ various levels of need. Think about how each of your products caters to them. For example, I offer single blog posts for people who only need a one-off post. I offer twelve post bundles for clients who only need one professionally written post per month. These also cater to clients who don’t need posts regularly enough to have me on retainer. My top-tier service, The Divine Blogging Design, is for clients who need their blog written week in, week out.

Whichever method you use, make sure you have at least one thing on every tier. Make sure your free content caters to all levels of skill and need. That way, your list building efforts will work for all potential clients, regardless of skill or need.

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Hazel is an author, copywriter, content marketer and blogger. She specialises in helping creative entrepreneurs, coaches and small business owners harness the power of the pen (or keyboard!) to market their products and services through soulful selling. She's had several academic papers published internationally, and featured on sites such as The Huffington Post. In addition to her professional work as a writer, Hazel is also a fiction author. She has published several books and short stories, including The Uber Author Planner, Chasing Azrael, a Urban Fantasy novel, and Bleizgeist, a Dark Fantasy novella. Hazel has a regular weekly column on Sci-Fi Fantasy Network, and is currently working on her next novel, Death Becomes Me.

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