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How to Build Email Lists for Beginners (2019 Practical Guide)

Learn how to build email lists and communicate effectively with customers and prospects through email marketing. This email marketing guide provides an in-depth look.  This guide complements the Practical Guide to Affiliate Marketing for Beginners.

This guide is for beginners and new entrepreneurs looking for a solid foundation in how email marketing can help build a successful online business.

Until I read Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing,” I was an email spammer. I used an autobot scraping email addresses off of the internet to build email lists and send thousands of emails.

The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 also provided an incentive to only send relevant email to people who want to read them.

Introduction to Email Marketing

Even though this guide is on email marketing, you need to be aware of some fundamental truths about email marketing.

For one, email marketing is not as effective as it used to be. Email marketing started to lose the effect it used to have before Facebook's popularity. More people spend more time checking their social media accounts daily than they do checking their email.

Slightly more than half of the global Internet users have a Facebook account, and people aged 20 and below prefer to check their Facebook account for messages than their email! You can say the same for Twitter in spite of its limitations per direct messaging.

And get this: Gmail, one of the leading email providers, added the "priority markers" feature allowing their users to mark selected emails as important. This changes the way people prioritize their emails for reading every time they check their Inbox. And let's be honest: promotional emails rarely ever reach PRIORITY status!

Furthermore, Google continues to upgrade its mail system to detect and filter spam emails. Therefore, they are making even legit email marketing harder.

In the past, email marketing became the preferred method of contact for businesses looking to cut expenses, connect with buyers, and increase profits.

However, as the dynamic world of marketing changes, analysts have encountered some disadvantages to email marketing. Consequently, other alternatives, like social media marketing campaigns or text campaigns, look more appealing.

The advantages are as below:

Recent research shows that for every dollar invested in email marketing, you can expect a return of $32 according to the Data & Marketing Association (2018). So email marketing has the highest return on investment than other marketing methods.

It Is Very Meaningful

You can customize messages for different customers and provide contents and promotions that are consistent with their profile. Finally, your customers acquire what they want, and, thus, they gain more trust in helping them. So you can continue to send more relevant emails.

It is Measurable

By email marketing, you can easily find the number of emails sent, number of emails that have been opened and that those who have opened up, the number of people who are not registered and click rate (which includes the link been effective and who clicked on it)

It Is Easy

Creating a marketing message via email is almost as easy as writing an email.

It Is Automatic

Email marketing has a tool called an “autoresponder.” For example, if you want to send a campaign message to your recipients on special days, you just create the messages and schedule it.

It Is Fast And Efficient

Timing is everything, so it can be said: this is a quick and efficient way. Offers through email with a clear call to action can have a tremendous impact on earnings. Channels cannot provide any possibility for you in a short period to obtain the customer directly.

Email marketing is known as permission marketing. It is one of its advantages because it allows customers to decide whether they want to be reached via email. Email marketing enables mass customization, so each message can be unique to each customer.

It helps marketers to inform the success of their promotions easily and quickly. Also, it provides significant insights into the recipient’s actions through measurable events such as message open and hyperlinks clicked.

What Are the Benefits of Email Marketing?

Here are a few of how an email marketing campaign can benefit entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Email marketing campaigns are usually profitable. On the other hand, direct marketing strategies require you to have a budget to use them effectively. This is because you create printed newsletters or advertisements. Direct marketing will require spending more money to send promotional material to consumers via postal email.

On the other hand, email marketing uses digital media. This is often much cheaper to produce and send to consumers electronically.

It’s a Targeted Marketing Strategy:
With email marketing, you can target specific subscribers. This means you can focus on individuals most likely to respond to your email. Thus, you can avoid wasting time and money on nonresponsive people.

Tracking Data:
With email marketing, you can track data to improve your results and profitability. Since email marketing is done electronically, it is easy for you to track data that helps you operate your business. For example, useful metrics include email open rates, clicks, unsubscribes, and more.

Tracking data enables you to adjust your goals or content.

It Can Be Automated:
Once you know the types of content you want to send to your subscribers, it’s easy to automate the process. You can schedule newsletters and emails on a weekly or monthly basis. This helps you create content for subscribers. Also, you can set up automated delivery easily and, in the long run, save you time and money.

They’re Super Fast:
One of the best characteristics of email marketing is that it usually fast. You do not need to wait for weeks to see the results of your campaigns. So email marketing techniques can assist affiliate marketers in staying current with their subscribers.

Boosting Revenue:
You can increase your sales and profits. Through email marketing, you can build relationships and trust with subscribers. Subscribers that trust you are more likely to buy from you.

What Are Your Email Marketing Goals?

I believe in planning and setting goals.

Email marketing is more than signing up with an email service provider and building email lists. Email marketing should be a part of your overall marketing plan. Think about what you want to accomplish by building a mailing list. Because your mailing list may become your biggest business asset. It could be worth more than your website.

email list goals

Your goals may include:

  • Creating brand awareness
  • Improving customer service
  • Increasing sales
  • Building customer relationships
  • Educating readers

Once you have your objectives in mind, you can create goals that are specific as well as measurable.

Planning Your Email Strategy

While your long-term objective may be to build extensive email lists, it is crucial that you focus on making it with responsive subscribers because responsive subscribers equal more sales.

Planning also helps develop awareness, loyalty, desire, and trust within customers. This form of marketing can be used to retain as well as engage existing customers. Also, it can as well assist you in establishing new clients.

If you have been worried about the size your email lists, counting new sign-ups, buying lists, or working your tail off to make your numbers, then...


Extensive email lists filled with people who are not genuinely interested in what you have to say or do not follow your recommendation are worthless.

Also, your monthly email service provider cost may be more than necessary.

Change your focus to checking out the value of your subscribers, or how much money you make to your subscriber count. Clean your list and if necessary, divide it into smaller lists with a narrower focal point.

Determine what your subscribers like and give them more. If you give them high-quality content and high-quality product recommendations, you will see more sales. If you watch your numbers, you may see that a list of 1,000 responsive subscribers will generate more sales than a list of 5,000 unresponsive subscribers.



​If you have a blog or create content for your website, save your best material for your subscribers. And tell your prospective subscribers that.

High-quality email lists are the basis for successful marketing campaigns. Your efforts will only be successful if you are providing value to your subscribers.

So concentrate your efforts on quality subscribers, content, and product recommendations.

Email marketing is a great way to build an audience and create long-lasting relationships with them. Yet as with every marketing strategy, at its core, email marketing is about making money. It's about having an active list of buyers who will pay for what you have.

One of the most confusing parts of email marketing seems to be when to start, figuring out what promotions you should send out, and when to send them. Too many ads or promotions that are not targeted to your list can cause your audience to lose interest, unsubscribe or worse, report you as spam. Not enough promotions and they may lose interest, and you will lose sales.

So how do you know what is best? Let's take a look.

Promotional Types

There are two primary ways to mail an ad to your list. The first is to have a primarily informational email; perhaps it teaches a method or offers a tip. At the end of the email, you include a promotion for a paid product. This method is the least offensive but may not generate as many sales.

The second way is what many consider solo promotions in that the entire email is written to promote the paid product. Typically they include a little more detail about the product, perhaps its benefits or something that makes it valuable. As you can imagine, solo promotions, if sent too often, may offend your audience and in turn, will likely be marked as spam.

How Many Promotions

As a general rule, 80-90% of your emails should be informational in nature. They might include a full-length article, a short email message or you may want to direct readers to your website for further information. This helpful information is what keeps readers on your list and encourages them to buy when you send out the occasional promotion.

What Type of Promotions

The most effective promotions give people a specific reason why you are offering the promo. For example, a "20% off back-to-school special" would be great around July/August.

You can reward loyal customers by promoting a "customer loyalty weekend sale." If your basement flooded and you need to raise a bunch of cash quickly, let them know "My basement flooded & I need cash now - so my loss is your gain." So give them a specific reason why you are promoting things rather than just discounting your products for no reasons.

Finding balance isn't hard as long as you keep in mind that the relationship always comes first and the promotions second. You should never jeopardize your customer relationship for the sake of a sale.

What is an Email Marketing System?

An email marketing system is an automated email software application. The system is designed to generate leads or customers and communicate via email. The purpose of communicating with customers and leads periodically is to provide information or create sales.

The email marketing system purpose is to enable marketers to automate and optimize email marketing communications with their target audience.

What are the Parts to an Email Marketing System?

An email marketing system contains three parts.

  • Methods to capture a potential customer’s contact information (email address at a minimum)
  • A database of subscriber information
  • ​Software capable of sending email to the subscriber list

There are some ways to capture potential customer information online. Some of the standard methods include landing pages, surveys, product advertising (banner and text ads), product reviews, e-commerce sites, and commercial advertising services. Websites frequently have opt-in boxes for visitors to subscribe to mailing lists.

Landing pages are specialized webpages designed to entice a viewer to submit their name and email address or even just their email address for more information or free give-away. Instapage.com and leadpage.com are examples of landing page platforms. They are designed to acquire customers on behalf of the users.

Landing page platforms are useful because they allow for the rapid development and deployment of landing pages. They are easily modified, enabling the users to test the effectiveness of their advertising. Email service providers like ConvertKit also provide landing page templates like the one I created here.

The mailing list database is designed to allow the collection of customer information (email address, name, address, for example) and retrieval of information for reporting or communicating with subscribers.

The email software enables the marketer to create email sequences, integrate customer information from the database, and send broadcasts or email sequences to subscribers. The email software portion is referred to as an autoresponder.

What Are the Benefits of Using Autoresponders?

In the business world, anything that can save you time, while still generating money is a keeper. Autoresponders can do just that.

While many people see autoresponders as an impersonal way to communicate with prospects, that simply is not true. You can make an autoresponder as personal as you want. In fact, I've seen some great autoresponder messages that looked so fresh and "real" that I had to take a second look to know that they were part of an autoresponder series.

With an autoresponder, you can immediately follow up with your new prospect by sending them a link to download the free item you offered for signing up for your list. But that's not all autoresponders are useful for.

Autoresponders allow you to offer more targeted information to your list. They keep your subscribers focused on what you have to say even when you're sick in bed or away on vacation.

You can literally teach hundreds or thousands of people how to do something by merely writing the instructions once and loading them into your autoresponder.

Autoresponders allow your subscribers to read your information when it's most convenient for them. Typically when someone signs up for a mailing list, it's during a time when they usually are online. So at whatever time they sign up for your list, all future automated emails will be sent to them around the same time. Some email service providers let you change the timing.

Autoresponders allow you to drip feed information to your readers on a set schedule. This means not only the information content but also your promotions. If you plan well, you could have a year's worth of content scheduled, so you rarely have to touch that list.

You can include social media icons in your messages that encourage readers to connect with you elsewhere, spreading your reach.

These are just a few of the many benefits to using autoresponders in affiliate marketing.

Glen Palo at Pinehurst Golf Course

​Glen Palo

I use ​AWeber for my email marketing and proudly recommend them as a marketing partner. Find out more here

Email Marketing Service Providers vs. Do It Yourself

Whether you are just starting out or have been growing your email lists for many years, there may come a time when you start wondering if hosting your own email program would be better than paying a third-party service.

If you search online, you'll see strong opinions supporting each of the choices, but really it comes down to what you feel is best for you.

To help with your decision, let's take a look at some of the pros and cons of both kinds of service.

Let's start with Do It Yourself programs such as the MailPoet WordPress plugin.


  • ​You can import & export subscribers without having to verify opt-in. This is good if you initially built your mailing list without a double opt-in feature.
  • ​No monthly service fees. You simply buy the product outright, if it is not free, and you're done.
  • ​You can bulk organize and edit large amounts of customer data.
  • Programs are typically simple to use once installed..
  • There is no limit on how many email address and autoresponders you have.
  • You have complete control over all aspects of your list.


  • ​If you are using a WordPress plugin and your website is hacked or crashes, you lose your ability to communicate with subscribers.
  • Your delivery rates could take a hit if your messages are caught in a spam filter.
  • If you get a lot of spam complains, your domain could be blacklisted, which will cost you valuable time trying to get those decisions reversed.
  • Unless you are tech savvy, you may have to pay to have someone install and set up the program.
  • You have to pay for all support and possibly to have custom scripts created or installed.
  • There are typically no updates to the software so you'll have to pay for upgrades.
  • ​The volume of email you send may use too much of your hosting bandwidth, which could cause your site to go down and/or emails not to send.
  • Many offer no kind of tracking feature so you cannot see how well your messages are doing.

Email Service Providers have their own set of good and bad points. Let's take a look.


  • There's no installation necessary.
  • ​Services are easy to use.
  • Many have functional training areas where you can learn how to make the most of the service.
  • Many services offer support via live chat, email, and phone.
  • It's easy to integrate with other third-party services like PayPal.
  • ​Tracking & reporting capability so you can analyze how your messages are doing.
  • Most services offer HTML email templates to make publishing easy.


  • ​Cost is probably the biggest turn-off of email service providers. While most services are relatively inexpensive when your list is small, the price increases as your lists grow. With some services, you may end up paying $200 or more a month to email your subscribers.
  • ​Importing listings can be a problem. Most services require subscribers to re-verify that they want to be on your list. Chances are, you're going to lose a bunch of subscribers during this process.
  • ​Limited ability to edit subscriber data. You may not be able to edit all the data, and most services don't allow you to bulk edit. So you have to change each subscriber individually.
  • ​While a few services may allow you to embed a video directly in your email, many do not. So you'll have to house your videos on your site and link to them in your messages.

Regardless of which you choose, remember to select a quality program or service. Do your homework. Look for reviews, like my AWeber review, from legitimate users of the services and products you are considering. Ask other businesses what they use.

Getting this right the first time will save you a lot of time and headache in the future.

How Do You Balance Selling and Relationship Building?

Email marketing is challenging. I focus on providing more information than promotional material. Too many marketers send too much promotional material. They believe that subscribers will either unsubscribe or buy something.

Do you know how to balance informational and promotional emails?

I will tell you.

I believe approximately 80-90% of emails sent should focus on providing value to your subscribers by offering them quality solutions. This helps you connect with your subscribers and build trust and a stable relationship.

By providing useful information, your subscribers will learn to trust you and your judgment. Therefore, when you recommend a product, they will be more likely to accept your judgment.

The remaining 10-20% is for selling. However, selling doesn’t mean recommending all kinds of random stuff. Again, the products you suggest should be high-quality items that will benefit your list in some way.

balancing act

There are two methods of splitting your selling and relationship content.

The first method uses solo promotions. Most messages will be focused on relationship building and problem-solving. Every 7 or so messages, you send can focus on selling a useful product.

It is still important to provide useful information about the product. This helps subscribers evaluate your recommendation and the benefits of buying the product.

If you are starting to build a list, your focus should be on providing useful information and building a relationship. Become a trusted authority for your subscribers.

The second method includes selling in all or most email messages. I prefer to add a passive reference at the end of the email. The link to a product sales page is either a banner or text link. This method works well for low-priced products.

Finding your balance between selling and building relationships can be tough. However, you simply need to test things out, watch the reactions of your subscribers and before you know it, you’ll find what works best for your mailing list. 

Why Email Lists and Social Media Work Well Together

If you're trying to build your credibility while also improving sales, there's no better way than to integrate your email marketing with social media. The reason these two methods work so well together is that not everyone uses the internet the same way.

Some viewers, especially younger folks, prefer to connect via social networks. They may spend hours on Facebook or Twitter but rarely check their email.

Seeing your updates on social sites or through news feeds is right up their alley. Other viewers such as busy business owners and older adults may not have time or the inclination to visit social sites and therefore would prefer email. By integrating the two mediums, you will be able to reach more of your audience.

Showing up in multiple places can also strengthen your brand equity and your presence in your audience's eyes. It also allows you to reach them in more than one place without them feeling like you're spamming them.

man pressing email icon

Combining social media and email marketing also allows you to build momentum quickly. This is particularly good for product launches and one-time events. The more times a person views your information, the better chance you have of them buying. Furthermore, the social proof from other people participating on Twitter and Facebook improves your results.

As we've mentioned before, use your email list to increase your social media followers. Likewise, your social networking can promote your email list.

Combining email marketing with social media is a win-win marketing strategy.

Readers can see you and converse with you in the way that best meets their needs.

Your email list can work double-duty by helping you expand your reach through social media. Since those already on your list like what you have to offer, it's an easy step to get them to join you on social media sites as well. Here are a few simple ways to get your mailing list subscribers to connect with you through social media.

The easiest and yet most often overlooked way of getting more people to connect with you on social media sites is to ask them to do it simply. Whether you write a solo email asking or just put a short P.S. at the end of your message if you invite people to join you - and you give them the link to do so, they will.

Another way to increase your reach is to create a special offer, a bonus, or a coupon for your Facebook page. Subscribers who click the 'like' link on your page will receive a gift, a coupon or other special offer.

For example, you might offer them a 25% discount on their next order. You could give them a 2-for-1 package or a free consultation. Promote your offer through your emails for a set length of time. This same method can be done with Twitter and any other social media site as well.

Add your social media icons. If you use HTML email, you can easily add your social media icons to your messages. If you're looking to build your social proof, you can even place a code in your emails that will display your follower count.

Follow your subscribers, and they will follow you back. If you allow it, Twitter will scan your email address book for people who have a Twitter account with the same address. If you start 'following' your subscribers, chances are, they'll follow you back. Again, this holds true with many social media sites.

Hold a contest strictly through social media sites. Facebook, Twitter, and many other social media sites are perfect for holding contests because the information is so easily shared. Promote the competition to your email subscribers and ask them to share it with their friends.

There are many ways you can build your social media reach using email, and these are just a few. If you've been keeping your email lists separate from your social media, maybe it's time to combine the two for more significant results.

Social media is a powerful way to get ready-to-subscribe traffic to your website. By combining your social media and email marketing efforts, you can create a highly effective marketing strategy for your business.

Let's look at a few methods you can increase your email subscribers using social media.

Add your opt-in box to your Facebook page. Most email service providers these days can generate a code for you to add to your Facebook page that will create a custom opt-in form. Once you create your mailing list, just look for the option for this where you generate your forms. As Facebook followers that interact with you will now have a quick way to subscribe to your list without having to click away.

Encourage sign-ups through Tweets and updates. While the bulk of what you tweet about or talk about on Facebook should be informational, there's nothing wrong with occasionally asking your followers to sign up for your list. Just be sure you give your followers a reason to sign up such as to receive a free gift, coupon, or short report.

Post or tweet if you have a big announcement or a special deal is coming out. Post an update to Facebook or other social sites. Encourage followers to sign up for your mailing list to get 'dibs' on the special offer or to be the first to receive whatever it is.

Use social media to survey your followers to learn what they want and give it to them via email. Create the survey and then talk about it as you use the results to revamp your teachings to meet their needs. Keeping them informed will encourage them to sign up for your list to get more of what you offer.

Ask on social media sites what your followers' most pressing question is. Tell them you will be answering their questions in an upcoming email series & encourage them to sign up.

There are countless ways you can use social media to build your mailing list subscribers, and these are just a few. It doesn't take much to keep your readers active, interested, and happy.

How Do You Grow Your Email List?

Your mailing list is comprised of people who are interested in what you have to offer. They have already put their trust in you by giving you their email address. Now that you have their attention, it’s important that you keep it. You do this by staying relevant to your subscribers.

So how do you do stay relevant? How do you keep their attention?

Educate your subscribers. Many of your subscribers probably signed up to receive a free report or product that you were giving away. They may not have fully read your opt-in information or be aware of what else you are going to give them.

So in your first email you need to remind them of what exactly they can expect from you. If you promised weekly tips on a specific topic, deliver it. If you promised a promotion such as free mailing list, then don’t promote to that list.

Encourage them to white list your address. Ask them to add your “From” email address to their address book or friends list so that they always receive your messages. Many people fail to check their spam folder and therefore assume if your message doesn’t arrive in their inbox that you didn’t send one out.

Be consistent. If you don’t send emails regularly, people will forget about you. Then when a message does come in, they’ll either delete it without reading or mark it as spam. By providing consistent emails on set days, your subscribers will get in the habit of watching for your messages and will be more apt to open them right away.

Personalize things. People want to feel important. By personalizing your messages, you make them feel special, like you are talking directly to them. It will help strengthen your relationship with your subscribers.

Don’t spam your list. The quickest way to get your email address blacklisted is to sending irrelevant information and promotions for products or services that you have no knowledge of. In the eyes of your readers, this is spam and they won’t tolerate it. Always make your information relevant and only promote products you would personally use yourself.

Following these six steps help you stay relevant to your subscribers and keep their attention.

If you worked in a brick and mortar business, chances are you would never go to a meeting, give a live presentation or try to sell a product without first considering how best to make a good first impression. Yet oftentimes business owners forget that first impressions are still important even if the information is being presented online. In fact, in many cases it is even more important than when presenting it offline.

If you make a bad first impression online, people will click away, never to return. Unless you’ve already obtained their email address, you have no way of making amends or convincing them to give you another try.

From the minute a person lands on your site, you are making an impression. Therefore it is important that your website and opt-in page is easy on the eyes and informative. Your opt-in page should clearly tell readers what benefits they will receive if they trust you with their email address. It should provide an easy way for them to submit their information to you.

Creating a good impression doesn’t stop with getting signups. It continues on through every email you send and how you interact with your subscribers.

Here are some tips to ensure you continue to make a good impression.

1. Keep your subject lines short and relevant to the content
2. Make it personal. Use your subscriber’s first name to make them feel special.
3. Ensure your emails are relevant to what your subscribers want and need.
4. Write your messages as if you were talking to a friend.
5. Stay focused on only one or two topics within a single email. Too many topics or choices with just confuse people.
6. Spellcheck your messages, check that all links and web pages are working properly before you send your message. If you are giving out a coupon, ensure that it is set up correctly and working.
7. Give subscribers an easy way to unsubscribe from your mailings.
8. Close your message with a warm signature by using something like “Best”, “Warmly”, or “Sincerely” along with your name.

For more information about best practices for marketing by email, read this post. Or for more tips, read my direct email marketing tips post.

A lot goes into creating and maintaining a good impression with your subscribers. Testing is a fundamental step to ensuring that your websites, opt-in forms and emails are functioning properly. If your list is experiencing a lot of unsubscribes shortly after signing up, try using a different subject line or rework your welcome message. Let that run for a while to see if it improves your stick rate. If not, tweak it some more to see if that helps.

Keep in mind that no matter how good of an impression you make, sometimes people still unsubscribe. It isn’t personal, maybe they have entirely too much email or their initial problem has been resolved. Perhaps life has gotten busy or they’ve come ill so they don’t check their email as often.

How Do You Attract Quality Subscribers?

By making the most of your website and delivering quality content. What visitors see on your website will give them a good indication of what they will see delivered through your mailing list.

Look at your website.

What kind of content are you offering them? Is it high quality? Do you promote quality products and services? If readers like what they see on your website, they are more likely to sign up for your mailing list.

Another way to attract quality subscribers it to put your opt-in box everywhere you can. Put it in the header or sidebar of your website so it shows on every page. Add it to your Facebook and other social media pages. Where relevant in your content, you can encourage readers to sign up for your list. Be sure to include a great headline and list the benefits they’ll receive if they subscribe.

The more exposure your opt-in box has, the better your chances of attracting quality subscribers are.

Create an opt-in page to promote your newsletter subscription. The sole purpose of this page is to show readers the benefits of subscribing to your newsletter. It will tell them exactly what they will receive, how often they will hear from you and so forth. Do not include distracting sidebars or other navigation on this page. Keep them focused on subscribing and your opt-in rate should improve.

Pop-ups have been proven to be highly effective. Consider adding one to your website where it pops up either upon entry or exit that invites people to subscribe. Just be sure to give them a way to click away from or close the pop up if they are not interested.

These are just a few ways you can build your list. Remember that quality attracts quality so if you want quality subscribers you need to deliver quality content.

How ​Do ​You ​Get ​People to ​Subscribe​?

This is a question I see a lot and the answer is simple, you bribe them – ethically, of course.

An ethical bribe is simply giving something of value to your subscribers in return for their email address and the right to contact them in the future. These opt-in incentives can be anything from a short report to a full ecourse or anything in between.

As you create your list, consider your target market. What is it that they need? What can you offer them that will get them to hand over their email address? Knowing your target market will not only generate ideas for what you can give away but it will also help you decide which type of incentive they would respond to best. Your gift should be valuable to subscribers, yet not too costly for you to create or have created.

Here are some quick and easy ways you can create a valuable incentive gift for your subscribers without costing a lot.

Repurpose some content. Do you have a webinar recording that can help your subscribers with their problem? Consider offering it as an incentive. Have it transcribed and create short study guide from the information. Turn a series of blog posts into a report or ebook. Convert your favorite article into a power point presentation or video.

Create time savers. Everyone wants more time in their day so create some quick reference sheets or forms to help them shave time off their work. Checklists, fill-in-the-blank forms and planning calendars are great opt-in incentives.

Write up a guide, report or ebook. If you are comfortable writing, you should be able to whip up a 5-10 page report that answers the #1 most asked question from your target market, 10 tips for relieving back pain or step-by-step instructions for doing something. These quick-start guides are easy to write and highly popular as incentives.

If you don't have the time or energy to write your own, grab some quality PLR and add your own thoughts to it to make it unique.

Create a video or audio. If you have limited time to create a gift or if your target market responds well to audio or video, this form of incentive may be right for you. Talking into a microphone is quick, painless and stress free. Simply write out the points you want to cover and then record yourself talking about it.

Your opt-in incentive doesn't have to be large, expensive or even new. It just has to be valuable in your subscriber’s eyes.

We’ve talked before about how the quality of the subscriber is more important than the quantity. Marketers have split tested this theory time and again in just about every niche and the results are generally the same. Fewer high quality subscribers will generate more revenue than a lot more mediocre subscribers.

15 Ways to Generate Email Topic Ideas

There is an endless supply of topics one can write about. However, as often happens, when it is time to sit down and write you may find that your mind is simply blank. Here’s a list of 15 ways to ensure you always have plenty to write about.

1. Make a list of major concerns, issues and general topics relevant to your target market. Leave plenty of room between each to break these down into sub-categories and then into specific topics.

2. Keep a notebook or an app on your smart phone handy for jotting down ideas as they come to you. It’s frustrating to be at the grocery store, in a waiting room or a meeting and you get a great idea but have no way to record it. Having some way to jot down those ideas will ensure no topic will ever be lost.

3. Consider your target audience for a moment. Make a list of the types of products they buy. Then consider what information they need to make an informed buying decision.

brainstorming email content ideas

For example, if you sell acne products, your readers might need to know the types of acne, causes of acne, treatment options, what to look for in specific treatment plans, etc. You can even go a step further and get specific about products, i.e. alcohol-based products vs. water based.

4. Write product reviews & comparisons. After you have your list from #3, you can easily write product reviews and comparisons on those products.

5. Conduct interviews and create case studies. Turn your customers into case studies. Interview a series of successful customers. This by itself will give you lots to talk about. Once you’ve interviewed several, turn their results into a case study report. Be sure to make it interesting and beneficial to the rest of your readers.

6. Answer reader questions. Ask your readers to submit questions. If your list is small, visit topic-related forums to see what people are asking.

7. If you get feedback from customers, turn their questions and comments into topics. Taking a proactive approach to addressing issues or concerns not only gives you topic ideas but it builds trust with your readers.

8. Talk about topic-related new stories. Check news.google.com, news.yahoo.com, happynews.com and other places for stories you can use to share your point of view.

9. Browse other information websites for topic ideas. You can search some of your target market favorites or you might search the categories at larger multiple-topic sites like alltop.com, which provides top news and information in real time.

10. If you read an article that you have a strong opinion on, write about it. While you can certainly leave a comment on the original post, you can also share your opinion with your readers.

11. Write Top 10 lists. “10 Secrets to _______,” “10 Strategies for ____”.

12. Read magazines as you wait at the doctor and dentist offices, beauty salon and such.

13. Watch your local newspapers, editorials, and ads to find topics of interest, ​if you market within your community.

14. If your topics are related to home and family, look back at photo albums, recall family stories that have been handed down for generations. Think about things that happened in your life as a child, teen and young adult. Consider struggles you went through early on during your marriage, when the kids were babies and when you purchased your first car or home.

15. Check the competition. See what competitors are talking about and then see how you can offer better or more up-to-date advice.

Having constant flow of new ideas may seem daunting but if you train yourself to look for ideas in your everyday dealings, you’ll never run out of fresh ideas to write about.

How Do You Writer Killer Email that Communicates?

​To create killer emails, focus first on the subject line and then the call to action.

Subject Lines

Subject lines are the single most important sentence in emails. The more enticing it is, the more people will open your email and the better your chances of making a sale. Subject lines don’t have to be long; they just have to be attention-grabbing.

Two cool headline tools are CoSchedule's Headline Analyzer and Portents's Content Idea Generator, which I use for titles and subject lines.

portent idea generator tool

Here are a few ways to improve your subject lines.

Personalize it. When possible, use your subscriber’s name in the subject. While some people may not like this idea, it has been split tested time and again by marketers. The general consensus is that subjects with a person’s name it has a higher open rate than the same exact subject line without the name.

Keep it short. Email service providers typically have a cut-off threshold on their subject lines, meaning if your subject is too long, it will be chopped off. As a rule of thumb, try to keep your subject lines to 50 characters or less to keep them from getting chopped.

Give them a reason to open. Magazines have tested this extensively. Headlines that imply a benefit work better than those that are shocking, only interesting or that engender curiosity but don't imply a benefit.

Always, always tell people what they'll get by opening your email.

Create a sense of urgency. When readers see that your message is time-sensitive, they’re more likely to open the message immediately, read it and take action. Be sure to use genuine scarcity. Don’t lie just to get the message opened as you’ll quickly lose credibility with your readers.

As I've said time and again, split test. People respond to different things so split test your messages using two or three different subject lines to learn what works best with your audience.

Put some time and effort into your subject lines while using these tips as a guideline. Before you know it, you’ll be creating enticing subject lines on the fly.

Call to Action

The call to action is where everything in your email marketing comes together. It's where the culmination of all your work - from your marketing strategy to your subject line to your message itself - results in a click or a purchase. Having strong calls to action can make all the difference in the world.

So how do you maximize your call to action?

Make it stand out. Your call to action should garner more attention than anything else on your email. If you're writing a text email, use arrows >>> to showcase your call to action. If you're using HTML emails, use buttons to get people to click.

Give readers a reason to click. If you are holding a webinar with limited space, you want to do more than just give them a link that says “click to buy.” Click here to buy gives them no real reason to follow your instruction. By saying “only 25 spots available. Click here to reserve your seat”, now you’ve given them a reason to click. If they don’t do it right now, they may not get a seat.

Be precise and assertive when you tell people what to do. You’d be surprised just how many more clicks you can get if you simply give clear instruction; “Join our newsletter here,” “Click to watch this video,” “Reserve your spot by clicking here.”

Split testing your calls to action is easy and it can have a huge impact on your email marketing campaigns. Do you know whether your audience responds better to buttons or links? Does red text get better results than blue? These are just two of many things that split testing can tell you.

Just by changing one or two things with your call to action can make a drastic difference. Take some time and test a few different ways to see which your audience responds to best.

Successful email marketing means getting subscribers to open your messages, read your messages, and then act on them. Miss any one of those steps and you’ve lost the sale.

As a business owner, your goal is to get your subscribers excited enough open their wallet and buy. You do this by creating urgency. You want them to believe that not only do they want to act but they want to do it right now before it’s too late.

So how do you create urgency?

Limited offers are the most effective way to create urgency. Here are a few types of limited offers that work well with most businesses.

Limited Quantity: Limit the amount of product you sell and let your subscribers know that once it’s sold out, it will never be available again.

No matter what you sell, you can limit how many copies of each product is available. For example, you might offer an ecourse to only the first 200 buyers, 500 copies of a new video or even 20 spots for your next coaching class.

Limited Time: This is probably the most popular limited offer. With this type of offer your subscribers only have a short amount of time in which to take advantage of your special offer. Your offer might be for a discounted price to the first 20 buyers, a special package sold only for a few hours or a few days.

Whatever your special offer is, it is for a limited time and needs to be explained out clearly so your subscribers feel the need to jump up, open their wallets and buy right now.

Don't abuse your visitors or subscribers by using a never-ending countdown clock. When the time is up, it should be up.

Bonus Offers: Traditionally save your best content for your subscribers. When combined with a limited time offer, bonus offers can be great motivators. Some bonus items might include; a free 30-minute coaching call, a two-for-one package special, bonuses only available to those who sign up during – or within an hour - of a teleseminar you are holding, etc. Whatever bonus you offer, keep in mind that it needs to be highly appealing.

The most important part of limited offers is to follow through with what you say. It’s inevitable; someone will miss your offer and will email you asking for ‘one more chance’ or ‘just one more copy’. To make urgent offers effective, you have to hold your ground and say no. Once subscribers realize that you are serious, your urgent offers will convert like crazy.

How to Track and Analyze Email Results

One of those more tedious tasks in email marketing is measuring the results from each email campaign. Tedious or not, knowing your results is important to your overall success.

Results consist of much more than just how much money you made. To properly understand how effective your email marketing campaigns are – so you can improve on the next campaign, you have to look at several things.

Day and Time

If you sent out your emails on different days and at different times, compare the days and times. Look for trends in when people opened and took action. Note the most active times so you can plan your next campaigns schedule.


In order to keep your list clean & improve your stats, you’ll want to watch your hard bounces. those from permanent invalid addresses. Regularly remove these hard bounces from your list. For the remaining soft bounces, if possible, check the replies for the reasons for the bounces. Was the inbox full; was your content spammy sounding?

Delivery Rate

Look to see what percentage of emails were actually delivered to the recipients inboxes. If your email service provider does not offer this measurement, you can find it by taking the gross number of emails sent and subtracting the hard & soft bounces. Then take the balance and divide that by the gross number sent.

Knowing your delivery rate will help you see if things start to slip. If you have a particularly low delivery rate for one campaign, compare it to a few who had good delivery rates to see what the difference was. Look at the subject lines and content. The items you promoted and the wording you used in your call to actions. All of those can affect delivery rates.

Click-Through Rate

Determine how many people opened your message and clicked through to your offer. The click through rate (CTR) will help you determine if your messages are relevant and compelling enough to get people to take action. According to studies, the average click through rate for all industries is 2.69%. If your campaign is falling short of this, look back at others that did better and see what you did differently.

These are just a few of the metrics you should look at with campaign you do. The information you gain will help you build better performing campaigns in the future.

There’s nothing wrong with having mailing list comprised of hundreds or even thousands of subscribers. However, the large list that you’re so proud of could actually be working against you.

Just like anything else, email lists need to be cleaned periodically to remove inactive subscribers, duplicate addresses, ‘role’ accounts such as ‘sales@” or “support@,” invalid addresses, and so forth.

Email services are costly, especially if you have a large list. They typically charge by how many subscribers you have so you don’t want to pay for a bunch of inactive subscribers and dead addresses. In addition, having duplicate addresses and addresses that bounce can have a negative impact on your deliverability rates. So it’s important to clean your mailing lists regularly.

There are software programs and web-based services available that can help clean lists, but the jury is still out on how effective they really are. Instead, you can manually clean your list in a weekend or less, depending on the size of your list.

The first step is to remove bounces addresses. Most email service providers these days will have a way for you to view and delete bounce addresses. As you work through these, check the addresses to see if perhaps there is a misspelling. For example, it might say yahoo.cmo instead of yahoo.com. If a subscriber was rushed when they signed up, they may have inadvertently left out a letter or rearranged letters in their email address.

Once you have finished removing bounces. You can go through your list looking for and removing duplicate addresses. Some of the top email service providers will check as they send messages to ensure they are only sending the message once for each address, however, that doesn’t mean the address isn’t in your system more than once – so you’re are being charged for the same address twice.

The final step is to work through your list to delete subscribers who have not read or clicked on any links in a given period of time, let’s say the past year. A lot of these addresses will probably be role addresses that go to a support desk or to unmonitored address that people only check once in a blue moon.

Now that you have a clean list, you should see your deliverability and click through rates improve because the only people left on your list are those who are active and still interested in what you have to say.

If possible, you should plan to clean your list quarterly or at the very least, twice a year. Also, if you are using an email service provider like AWeber, clean your list as you approach the subscriber count that will trigger a price increase.

For example, if you have 975 subscribers and the monthly price increases at 1,000, clean your list. You don't want bad email addresses triggering a price increase. 

Building Email Lists Summary

When it comes to building email lists, size does not matter. What does matter is the quality of your subscribers and how they respond to you. High quality subscribers want your information, look forward to your emails, stay with you long-term and act on your offers and recommendations.

It is important to develop goals and strategy for building email lists. Goals will keep your focused and on point, minimize costs, and help you save time.

If you have questions or comments about email marketing or building email lists, please fill out and submit the form below. I am looking forward to responding. Please share.

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