Don’t Overcomplicate Building an Email List

Don't make list building any harder than it has to be

When I was young and dumb I had a pretty distorted view of list building. I remember marketers telling me “the money’s in the list,” but I would shake my head and think “I don’t have time for all of that.”

I had this idea that in order to grow my list of subscribers, I had to quit my day job, live on a farm and spend all day writing content, hoping someone would read it.

I overthink things. I’m pretty notorious for that, actually.

Today, I understand that building a list is really not that difficult. In fact, it’s one of the easiest things I’ve ever done in business to be honest. Yes, there are questions to be answered and work to be done, but once you get the ball rolling, it’s a piece of cake.

That’s why I have said – and will say again – that anyone can build a list. I don’t care if you’re a major corporation or a solo entrepreneur or a guy living in a studio apartment who just needs to make a bit on the side. You can do this.

But many people can’t get out of their own heads. They’ve bought into the idea that building a list – and building a business – is just too hard and that there’s no point in trying.

How sad!

Hopefully you’re not one of the many, but if you are, here’s what I have to say to you.

Don’t overthink list building

Some things in life are difficult.

Breakups. Deciding to eat at Chick Fil A or Popeyes. Health insurance.

This isn’t among them.

The process of building a list is actually stupidly simple once you understand the major components.

Think of it like a house. A house has many parts: sinks, chairs, light switches, lights, etc. All good things. But if you think about it, there are only a few major parts:

  • Walls
  • Roof
  • Individual rooms
  • Plumbing
  • Electrical wiring

Obviously, each of these can be broken down into many parts: fasteners, wiring, furniture, pipes and fittings, switches, etc. But the major parts are pretty easy to understand, right?

That’s how you need to start thinking about your list.

Carpets, paint colors, light switch covers, etc are all nice and needed, but they’d be pretty out of place without – you know – walls and rooms

In other words, make sure you have your major parts: your lead magnet, your value, an email service provider, etc. Then and only then you can get into the smaller details.

Don’t get hung up overthinking every little detail.

Focus on building the bones of your list first. Then you can go crazy with everything else.

Find what people want

This is where lots of people get stuck. If you’re going to sell anything to anyone, you need to know his likes and dislikes. What are his pain points? What does he need? What does he want? What questions is he asking, and how can you help him get answers?

This is the first step of any marketing plan.

I don’t care what industry you’re in, and it doesn’t matter what niche you’ve chosen.

You need to know what people want.

Put yourself in the shoes of your target audience. What questions are you asking? What problems do you have? How could someone save you time and money?

You can be that someone. Save someone time and money or answer a question and solve a problem.

Anyone can do this.

Create value

Business runs on value. Think about the last thing you bought. Why did you buy it? Unless you’re addicted to throwing money away, you had a reason – even if you weren’t conscious of it.

You spent money to receive something you consider valuable.

When you pull something off a store shelf, you’re thinking to yourself – even subconsciously – I want this because… fill in the blank.

If I buy a sandwich, I do so because I’m hungry, and I think the sandwich will satisfy my hunger.

If I buy fuel, I do so because I need it to get from point A to point B.

I’m exchanging money for value.

That’s how business works, and it’s how your email list grows.

People are willing to give up something for perceived benefits.

Now, you’re probably not charging people to subscribe, but you are asking them to give up personal information: namely a name and email address.

People are “buying” your content with their personal information. If they don’t think your content is valuable enough, they won’t be interested.

Remember, people aren’t going to scour the Internet looking for email lists to join – unless they’re just weird. Your future subscribers need a good reason to give up a small part of their privacy and subscribe.

That reason is typically what we call a lead magnet. This is a small, free information product that addresses a problem or question or in some way provides real value.

A lead magnet can take many forms and can be delivered in any of a number of ways.

  • Instant download
  • Link via email
  • Membership site / Members’ area
  • Drip campaign

Each of these has a place in your marketing toolkit and should be used for different audiences.

I know this may sound like a lot, but it’s really not. Many men and women don’t get past this step because they can’t get out of their own heads and into the shoes of their customers.

Your goal is not to write the next classic novel. You simply want to put together a small – tiny – resource that provides a bit of value to your target audience.

Don’t overthink this. Ask yourself, “If I were my target audience, what sort of free download would I find helpful?”

Build a landing page

If your email list is a house, your landing page is the door. People come to your door, and it needs to impress.

Your landing page – also called a lead capture page or squeeze page – is where most people will see your offer for the first time, so it needs to be awesome.

This page needs to explain:

  • Who you are
  • What you’re offering
  • How it will be delivered

Further, to comply with various privacy laws, you should have a clear cut privacy policy visible. (I’m not a lawyer, and as I like to say I don’t play one on TV either, so this article won’t be discussing those laws in depth. Just be aware that privacy policies are good policies. I may address those in another post.)

Your goal with a good landing page is pretty simple: entice visitors to sign up for your list. You want to present your lead magnet in such a way that every visitor to your page has to have it. Show people how amazingly valuable your content is, then ask them to sign up with a clear call to action.

Now, like the other two steps, I understand this may sound like a lot. And, perhaps, at first glance it is. But once you get into the process, you’ll find it’s not nearly as complicated or as difficult as you thought.

Why am I telling you this?

It is my opinion that building an email list is one of the easiest things anyone can do online. But there’s a lot of misinformation out there – and consequently, there’s a lot of misunderstanding.

People hear there are lots of little parts and processes that go into building a list, and they panic.

“Must be a lot of work – too hard for me.”

Except it’s not. That sort of sentiment keeps lots of people from getting far. I don’t want you to buy into that mentality.

The antidote to overthinking

I’m an over thinker extraordinaire. Ironically, while writing this post, I’ve been staring at my screen wondering how to finish.

Overthinking will paralyze you­­ and slow your business growth to a crawl.

Sometimes it’s best to major in the major and minor in the minors, so to speak. Remember the simple list building formula. Find what people want. Create a product. Create a landing page. Those are your major blocks. Each of those items can be broken up into many smaller subtasks and things that need to be addressed. No doubt.

But right now, beginner, I want you to focus on the basics.

Think about your target audience. Find what they want. Create a product that addresses their needs. Build a landing page.

If you want the full picture, come join me in the ListBootcamp course. We’ll cover each of these steps in depth.