Episode 239 | Email List Building From Zero to 1,000: Part II

Show Notes

In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and Mike continue their discussion on e-mail list building zero to 1,000. They talk about the best approaches that they see working today for people trying to build a product list or launch list.

Items mentioned in this episode:


Rob [00:00]: In this episode of “Startups For The Rest Of Us,” Mike and I discuss Email List Building: From 0 to 1,000. This is part two in the series. This is “Startups For The Rest Of Us” episode 239.

Welcome to “Startups For The Rest Of Us,” the podcast that helps developers, designers and entrepreneurs, be awesome at launching software products. Whether you’ve built your first product, or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Rob.

Mike [00:28]: And I’m Mike.

Rob [00:29]: And we’re here to share our experiences to help people avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What’s the word this week sir?

Mike [00:34]: Well, today I’m coming to you with a little bit of Star Wars trivia. What is the internal temperature of a tauntaun?

Rob [00:40]: Um…

Mike [00:42]: Lukewarm.

Rob [00:43]: Boom. We need a rim shot right there.

Mike [00:46]: If you want to hear that or any other terrible MicroConf jokes, you are going to have to go to MicroConfEurope.com, sign up for the mailing list. We are going to be sending out e-mails pretty shortly about MicroConf Europe, how you can get tickets for that and hear more of our terrible jokes and hopefully learn some stuff to help further your bootstrap entrepreneurial endeavors. How about you this week?

Rob [01:04]: Well, this week, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that Drip was featured in a VentureBeat report on marketing automation and with a few hundred different marketing automation tools, they chose around 20 or 25 and Drip is one, and then actually recommended Drip as the go-to for small and medium size businesses. So, that was, I think about, a week, a week and half ago that went live, so that feels good.

Mike [01:27]: That’s really cool.

Rob [01:28]: That was the good news. The bad news is it HitTail interfaces with Google using a certain type of API log and I’m not going to the details here because it’s kind of all arcane stuff. But, since they deprecated it and I didn’t know it was deprecated, and so this morning we wake up and HitTail’s struggling to connect to Google and import keywords, which is its core function, so we are scrambling now to integrate the newer form and try to get that live as soon as possible.

Mike [01:57]: Do you think that Google would send out an e-mail about something like that to the people who are using it?

Rob [02:01]: Well, that’s the problem because I don’t know if they know who is using it because it’s not like we had to set up and account to do this. It was just kind of this programmatic way of integrating. So, it’s a bummer. It feels like every, let’s say two to four months with one of my apps runs into some type of issue like this, whether it’s an issue with an API that stops working or it’s a scaling issue or it’s someone misusing your service or just some kind of semi random thing that kind of takes you off your game, stops you from developing new features, takes your eye off the ball, and yet, everybody has to scramble to kind of make up for it.

Mike [02:37]: If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

Rob [02:38]: Indeed.

Mike [02:39]: Well, I think today we are going to be diving into part two of our series on Email List Building. And today, we are going to start off by talking about how to get from 101 to 1000 and there’s a lot of different techniques that we are going to be talking about. Some of them will be applicable to what you’re doing, some of them won’t, and I think the key here is to really take a hard look at each of these and try to identify whether or not it’s a strategy that is going to meet your needs to take your mailing lists to that level. And like I said, some of them are not going to work for you just based on the type of mailing list that you’re using. So for example, there is certain social networks that are probably not going to work very well for enterprise software and then there is other types of techniques like video marketing or webinars and things like that, they would work really well for that. So, it’s really a matter of identifying what the type of mailing list you have, it is who the audience is and whether or not some of these different strategies fit into those paradigms for you.

Rob [03:30]: And if you haven’t listened to episode 238, that was the previous episode and it was part one of this discussion where we talked about how to get from 0 to 100 e-mail subscribers, give some techniques, building up in blocks of 10 or 20, and now we are going to take it to the next level and try to TEDx that. And as Mike said, this is essentially a big list of marketing tactics, its marketing approaches and it kind of kills me when I hear on Twitter, “Hey guys, I’ve set up a landing page I’m gonna collect e-mails, how should I build the list?” because that question is so huge. We could seriously sit here for a few hours and discuss every marketing approach that there is, because all of them are intended to drive traffic somewhere, right? and they are intended to drive traffic whether it’s to convert some into a [trial of your app or to get someone on your product list, if you already have a product, or to get someone on your launch list, almost all of them applied to all of those things. So asking, “How should I build my mailing list?” is a lot like asking, “How should I market my product?” which is an enormous, enormous topic that multiple books have been written on. So, what we’ve done is cherry picked what I consider the best approaches, these are, I think, all online approaches, there may be one or two offline. But it’s the best approaches that we see working today with folks who are trying to build either that product list, if you’ve already launched, and you want to get a notification list, to send blog post to, or product updates, actionable contents, good stuff for them but then also a few mentions of every product here and there. Or, if you are trying to build that launch list around a product that has yet to launch.

Mike [05:00]: So, to start off with, I think the first one that we came up with is leveraging existing startup list. And to do something like this, what you would do is you’d post links to your landing pages on relevant websites and that would include things like Reddit, Hacker News, Product Hunt, Launchlist, BetaList, etc. And there are hundreds of these, not just a couple or a couple dozen. There are literally hundreds of websites that you can post your website to or your landing pages to and do product announcements. Now, some of those are going to work better than others, so there is varying levels of activity. So for example, something like Reddit gets a lot of traffic, same with Hacker News or LifeHacker or Product Hunt and then, there’s also the other fact that you have to take into account, which is how targeted is that list going to be, like the traffic that’s coming in from that source, are they going to care about whatever it is that you’re offering. So, if you were to go to SecurityWeek.com, for example, and you are pitching a product that has something to do with e-mail marketing, is probably not going to convert very well. There is not going to be a lot of people who come over even though there is a lot of traffic on that site. But there are others that you can go to and you can start leveraging those to start driving traffic to your site. We’ll link this up in the show notes but, Robert Graham, from Whitetail software had previously put together a list of these prelaunch e-mail list building directories. As I said, we will link it up in the show notes and you can go over there, check it out. There are probably 60 or 70 of them on that list, something like that, but there is a lot of good information there and its serves as a good starting point for you to start doing those submissions.

Rob [06:30]: The nice part about the list that Robert put together is it’s broken up into beta, launched. beta or launched, and there are some [?] several categories here, and so you can choose the categories based on where you are with your app. The nice part about doing is you can either do-it-yourself one evening while you’re watching Game of Thrones or you can have a virtual assistant do it if you provide them with all the information. It’s not hard work and it will yield some sign ups. As you said, they may not ever convert to paying customers, but this is something that I do, this is all of my marketing plans, I’m going to launch a new app. There is really no reason not to do it because it is such low hanging fruit.

Mike [07:09]: The second strategy that you can try to leverage is content marketing, and content marketing by itself is just a huge topic but really, you have to start small. You start with a blog and you start posting content to that blog and into your auto-responders, and this helps with a couple of different things, and it’s a long term strategy. It’s not something that you’re going to do short term and you’re going to expect that you post one or two blog post and suddenly you’re going to go to a thousand people on your list. But, it can help you with long term SEO, it can increase the overall footprint of your website and your content marketing strategies and essentially helps you move the business forward. Now, again, this is a long term strategy. This isn’t just do it once and forget it. This is something that you’re going to want to invest in over time and make sure that you’re going to be able to put a process in place where this will carry forward even after you’re done building that initial list or hitting that initial goal, you’re probably going to want to take this and carry it forward and keep driving people to that e-mail list.

Rob [08:06]: So I haven’t done this one with a pre-launch product. So for example with Drip, we had a landing page before the product was built and ideally, it would’ve been nice to get a blog up around that, so you start building that SEO footprint, but I was never able to do that. I don’t think it’s something that will pay off early, like you said. It’s something that more of a long term process. I think it’s possible, I think Mint.com did this well actually. They had quite a bit of budget and they did get a blog up even before they launch and they got that flywheel going. I don’t know if many bootstrappers who have the funds or the bandwidth to be able to be building a product, planning for marketing, getting a prelaunch landing page up and have someone blogging or be blogging themselves. So I think that’s quite a bit to bite off, given how time intensive and/or cost intensive good content marketing is. Post-launch once you have revenue and customers and you know your customers and you know what they want, you have a lot more certainty in what you’re doing and this is where we’ve had a lot of luck with this. There is good examples like KISSmetrics, and Bidsketch, and Groove are all really good examples and Baremetrics is another good example of SaaS apps that do content marketing and its blog post for their audience and it drives traffic over time through a lot of social shares and then you can easily built up that e-mail list and then use that e-mail list to perpetuate itself the larger it gets. You can notify people when new post come out and then give mention infrequently of an awesome new feature that your product has. But, some people don’t like the term content marketing, they just want to blog about whatever interests them and that’s fine. You don’t have to call it content marketing, but it’s a short phrase for this idea of being able to write good stuff and draw people to your site and hopefully get a few more of them on your mailing list.

Mike [09:51]: The other thing that you can insert in there in addition to the occasional mention is something that people can use specifically in their startup or in their business and it is a problem that would be addressed by your product. I think there is a difference between doing a pitch for your product with this list and embed it into that content versus saying, “Hey, this is this problem that a lot of people have and here is how you can solve it and, by the way, our product also does this.” So, if there are ways to leverage those thoughts or ideas into those types of post, then the social shares alone should help with that especially when your list starts getting large.

Rob [10:25]: And another tip is, within Drip, when we are sending this out, we actually have a liquid template “if” statement at the bottom of the e-mail that only shows up to folks who are not currently customers. And so it say, “If the person is not a customer, then say, “Hey, we noticed you haven’t used Drip. If you’re interested, sign up for a trial.” And so it is, typically, I put that in the P.S. instead of in the body of the e-mail. I like your approach to teaching and tying it in. I think that’s optimal and then having some maybe stuff specific for non-trial users and non-customers that does in fact pitch in link to your trial sign up page can be definitely useful on this type of context.

Mike [11:02]: Next on the list of strategies is leverage in the contest or giveaway. The interesting part about contest and giveaways is that typically, it’s tricky. And the reason it’s tricky is because if you have a contest that you’re running and let’s say that everybody who enters gets a chance to win. The problem is that there is no incentive for people to invite other people to come in and also enter into the contest. So essentially, there is a disincentive for people to share it because of the fact that if, let’s say that there is a hundred people in there and you’re one of them and the company ask you to share it, well, now by inviting your friends. Let’s say you invite two or three people, you’re less likely to win. But, there is a nice little trick that you can use to give them additional chances to win if they get other people signed up. So let’s say that for each person that they get signed up, they get an additional three chances to win or something like that. I believe that idea came from Noah Kagan of AppSumo. I think that they’ve got a plugin over on SumoMe that allows you to do something like that. And so that’s definitely something to look into when you’re trying to do something like this. But in terms of the giveaway itself, there is lots of things that you can giveaway. You can give away a free book bundle, you can give away gift cards, you can give away one on one consulting, you can give away licenses to your products or anything along those lines that you feel is going to be helpful for your customers or the people who are coming to your list. Now, again, it really depends on what type of products you have and what the people are interested in that are joining your mailing list but there are a lot of different things that you could come up with to essentially sweeten the deal for people to sign up.

Rob [12:32]: I personally have not run a contest like this. I am innately skeptical about it because if you’re going to give something away, let’s say a MacBook Air or an iPad or whatever it is, I know that you’re going to get a bunch of people who are signing up for that and don’t really want to hear from you and so it’s going to dramatically lessen the quality of your list. So I would certainly segment this out from my main list and allow the giveaway to happen and then start pruning that list quickly because you don’t want a list with a 10% open rate or 1% click through rate or high bounce rates and high unsubscribe rates. It just doesn’t do well for your deliverability, but with that said, I have talked to a few people who’ve run contest and have had success at it. The thing to think about is that it will spike your e-mail list really high and then if you wind up with even, let’s say half of those or third of those sticking around and being somewhat engaged, then you’re probably doing pretty well. So, I agree. I think this is something that’s worth doing, it’s been in the back of my mind that is something to try for a while. I just think you want to think through it and do it well and do more research on folks who’ve done this successfully and the steps they’ve taken to make it work.

Mike [13:43]: So, my inclination for something like this is that I agree with you on being a little bit skeptical about how well this would work. But, remember back to the beginning of this podcast episode where we talked about the type of list that you’re building and the type of product that you have is going to make a big difference here. And my inclination is that contest and giveaways are probably going to do much better in a B to C offering than a B to B offering. I don’t know for sure, but that’s my inclination, that’s my general impression about that.

Rob [14:09]: Yeah. I think they will do better in the more B to C or B to beginner, maybe it is B to B but it’s folks who are just getting into [?] just getting into becoming designers or entrepreneurs or photographers or whatever, so they are still more in of the consumer mindset. However, the two people I was thinking of who have run contests to a level of success both had, in essence, more B to B topics. And maybe that is why only a third of their folks stuck around afterwards, maybe bunch of folks came in just to enter for the MacBook and didn’t really want to hear about their B to B offering. But this one, like I said, I think it deserves a little more research and some time to think about.

Mike [14:47]: The next strategy in our list is leverage in social networks. When you talk about social networks, it almost come down to the big three, there is Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, but there are tons and tons of other social networks that you can leverage, there is Tumblr, there is Pinterest, there is StumbleUpon. The list goes on and on. I think the key with social networks is that if you’re going to dabble in social networking, you really have to post content to it pretty regularly. You have to make sure that you’re staying on people’s radar and that you’re using special offers like lead magnets that almost require an e-mail sign up. So, you use those social networks to get in front of people and you really want to be driving people to an e-mail list. Because just getting in front of them is not necessarily going to help you a whole lot, but at the same time, you really want to make sure that you’re getting contact information from them. And doing so, in a way that it is not, I’ll say, over the top or not too much in people’s faces because you can burn out that audience. You don’t want to go to the point where you’re burning them out and you’re not going to be front of mind because they start tuning you out. I do know somebody who has used, I think it’s Instagram to gain some pretty massive followings through Instagram and they’ve been able to verifiably boost sales by huge percentage, and I was shocked when I heard the story and heard a lot of the details about it. But, it’s crazy the amount of things that you can do on these social networks and there are definitely ways that you can leverage them to drive people through to your site and start getting them on your mailing list.

Rob [16:12]: I have always thought of social networks as hub and spoke model, where my hub is my website that I own and my e-mail list that I own and then the social networks are all just traffic device, right. They are the spokes surrounding that and so, as you said, driving folks back to get them on your e-mail list is always my number one goal. And if you want to see some folks who are using Twitter well in this fashion and more of a B to B fashion, go to the folks that I showed earlier who are doing content marketing really well. Because content marketing and social networks go hand in hand, and so, look at the KISSmetrics, the Bidsketch, the Groove, and Drip is doing so so on Twitter right now. It’s not growing super fast but we definitely have a decent size of audience and are able to drive folks back and get some engagement with some of our post. The nice part is Google is once again using the Twitter fire hose and putting in search results and that tells me that they are probably else using this as a some type of ranking factor. So if you have a blog that ghost town and no one sharing it socially, then odds are good that it’s going to get a little bit of ding or it’s not going to get the plus of having, let’s say each of your blog post get tweeted even five times or ten times, that’s going to be a signal to Google that real people are using your account. And I think of social networks is being used in multiple different ways, the one idea is to send folks back to build your mailing list. It’s also a good way just to engage with folks who were talking about your products online, right, and you can get into conversation. Sometimes feature request or support request come through and that’s a little harder. It’s pretty hard to do support at 140 characters at a time. So, I tend to try to get into e-mail discussions with folks when they do that, but I think the conversations that can be had are often worthwhile. It’s hard to lead this back to some type of return on investment based on the amount of time that you might have to spend on it. And so, if you don’t have a ton of time to devote to something, this would not be at the top of my list for building your e-mail list. I think there are lot more effective ways that we are going to talk about today, but I do think that especially if you’re a B to B in a text space that being on Twitter at a minimum is probably par for the course.

Mike [18:18]: Yeah. I kind of relate in social networks back to the content marketing. It seems like it’s a much more of a long term strategy and there might be some quick wins that you can get to drive people over. But in some ways, it almost feels like this might be strategy similar to content marketing where it works better if you’re larger. It takes you from 1001 to 10,000 or 50,000 or something along those lines. Next on our list is video marketing. And I think with a video marketing, you essentially choose a platform of your choice and you can throw out all the different video platform providers, things like Wistia, Vimeo, and YouTube, and essentially leverage those to either make videos of yourself or do interviews or screencast or online webinars. There is lots of different ways to use video of something to put in front of your audience and then leverage those things to drive traffic to those videos and then put some sort of an e-mail capture in place or a sign up form that allows people to view the videos. I’m using this on a couple of different apps, I even went so far to create a video course. I think you’ve got a couple of video courses you’ve done as well. I think it’s hit and miss sometimes. There are certain things that will resonate really, really well and there are certain things that just for whatever reason, they just don’t.

Rob [19:28]: Yeah. I think video marketing works really well in the B to C space, that’s where all the YouTube stars come about. I’ve heard of some B to B players doing it, but it’s always the same examples, right, it’s the Will It Blend guys or Red Bull or some big corporation doing something. I know that there is room here for a smaller B to B player to have videos and I guess maybe like SEOmoz, not that they are that small, but they are not Fortune 500 size. Moz does the whiteboard Fridays that have been frankly just excellent and very consistent over the several years. And I kind of think a video marketing in that way, a bit just like a video podcast. It’s kind of a weekly thing that you release like clockwork and I think that if you’re providing value in entertaining way and you provide unique voice on something, then having the recurring nature of video marketing, I think can be powerful. I also agree with you on webinars. I guess you have to have some expertise or some credentials so that folks know to trust you. But once you have that, if you can stack your funnel through other means and get folks to come to a webinar, you do build a tremendous amount of trust if you make a good presentation and you make a good case for something and you offer a lot of value in that webinar, you can definitely build your list quickly by advertising a free webinar like that. Even just building the webinar list itself, you can build a list and then beyond that, it just creates more engagement and I bet you get more opens and clicks in your overall list after doing a webinar.

Mike [20:56]: That brings up an interesting point, do you ask for the e-mail before or after. And I think that it depends on whether or not you’re doing a video versus a webinar. Because when I’m running webinars, what I do is I will drive people to a landing page and then ask them for their contact information, so that I can let them know when and where the webinar will be and it’s usually like a live demo or presentation or something along those lines. In that way, I got their contact information and I can create a follow-up sequence. And I talked to a couple of other people about this as well in terms of what their e-mails to actual attendees and it seems like it’s about, somewhere between 30% and 50% is pretty average. You get over 50% for a webinar where people have signed up for it and then you’re e-mailing them about it the day before and then the day of an then maybe an hour before. The sign up percentage to people who actually is only about 30% to 40%. I’ve seen lower as well. I’ve seen as low as 20 but it does work. You can get people to sign up for those webinars. But once you’ve got their e-mail address, then you can continue to market additional stuff to them. And that’s really the point of this is getting their e-mail address first. I think if you go to the other direction and you put in like a turn style or something like that, either at the beginning of a video or the end of a video, there is varying levels of success with that. Wistia has some pretty good contextual information about whether or not it’s better to do with. But again, it’s all relative based on what it is that you’re doing, what the product is that you’re trying to sell. Some of the data is just a little, I don’t want to say is misleading, but it’s very sensitive. So I don’t know as there is any hard conclusions to draw from, you really have to test it based on what your market is and figure out which approach works whether it’s better to do it at the beginning or at the end.

Rob [22:38]: And this is also the time to ask yourself, “What is your unique gifting?” are you good at writing some blog post, are you good at interacting with people on Twitter, are you good at standing in front of a video camera and dong a whiteboard presentation like Rand Fishkin does, whatever. I’ve heard he just write off the cuff, write some things and then spits it out to the camera. Depending on your gifting, you’re going to lean towards that approach because all of these are things that you’re going to do over time. You either going to do them every week or you’re going to them on a quarterly basis or maybe a twice a year basis in terms of like maybe a contest or something that, but each of these you’re going to have to get good at. It’s going to be an acquired skill and so it’s something you’re going to do often. So don’t pick something that is a fad that is not going to be interesting or exciting for you or that you’re going to be really bad at because then it’s not going to be successful.

Mike [23:28]: The next strategy on our list is leverage in other people’s networks. And by other people, it doesn’t necessarily means just people, but it can also be other companies. So, if you want to do a guest blog post on, for example, KISSmetrics blog, you would talk to them. If you want to do something over on the Groove blog, you would talk to them about it and some people are going to be open to it and some people are not. But, the key is to recognize whether or not your audience is going to overlap with theirs and whether or not there is enough value that you can provide to them that is going to encourage them to essentially lets you come on and talk to their audience. Because the reality is they are giving you a certain amount of trust and regardless to the additional vetting process that they put in place to take a look at your content and make sure that whatever is going out to their audience is appropriate for it. The fact is that they want to make sure that you’re going to be delivering that value and they may say yes at front and then say no later on based on what they actually see. But hopefully you can find and identify those people and work with them to get through those types of issues and put your message in front of them and hopefully drive some traffic back to your website, and you really want to be able to capture those e-mail leads. And some of this is a little tricky because if you go and post something on, for example the KISSmetrics blog, they really want to keep people there, so it’s going to be a little bit difficult for you to drive traffic back to your website and capture leads because they want to be able to do that. But you can put in like a little byline that maybe gets a link back to your site and essentially helps to establish some authorities, then you can use it to say, “I’ve got this authority because I’ve been published over on the KISSmetrics blog for example. And I think that those are definitely things that you can use to help create additional trust on your site to help get people to sign up for the things on your landing pages. Another option is using joint ventures with people, so if you do a joint webinar series with people or a podcast episode or anything along those lines, there are lots of different ways to essentially get in front of other people’s audiences and then use those to essentially pump up your own audience.

Rob [25:22]: In terms of my concentric circle marketing approach, this is the second circle, so the outside of your own audience, but you can start with friends that you have, like colleagues in your network, right, and then branch out to then colleagues or folks who you don’t know, so they are not even warm leads but it’s kind of a cold pitch to Copyblogger or KISSmetrics or Unbounce blog, or whoever you do want to guest post for, and as long as you have some examples of your work, I found that it’s not that hard if you have high quality writing to go in with a cold pitch and get a decent guest post. Now, there is some kind of scare going on where Matt Cutts had made a comment, like guest posting was going to soon be seen as spam and that has not happened high quality guest post as far as I can see are still high quality guest post and they work really well. So, that’s not something that I have been too concerned about. I think spamming guest post like anything are being found out and Google is smarter than the spammers, in essence, and will eventually catch you. But if you’re actually doing high quality stuff, this is kind of a no-brainer, I’ve used this for a number of products and I’m quite a bit of guest posting as well as joint ventures and everything you mentioned, and I think this is a no-brainer. This is a little harder to do if you prelaunch but it’s not impossible to do, certainly the joint venture is something you’re going to want to do postlaunch.

Mike [26:44]: Next on our list, we have paid advertising. And I think paid advertising is one of those things you really want to stay away from until you get some idea of what your leads are worth to you, but it could be valuable to at least start experimenting with it early just to figure out and get a ballpark idea of how much some of those leads are going to cost you, so that you can reverse engineer what your sales going to looks like. But there is lots of different ways that you can go about paid advertising and there is numerous channels that you can go through. I think that I would almost pull in remarketing into paid advertising as well because you can leverage people who visit your site and then market to them later to try and drive them back to landing page or mailing list later on and get their contact information so that you can market to them directly later on. But, going back to just the concept of 101 to 1000, paid advertising can definitely work in that lower range. As you scale it up, obviously, it’s going to cost you heck of a lot more to start gaining those leads. But early on, it’s really not that hard to start using paid advertising to start gather e-mail address. It’s just a matter of your budget at that point and how much budget do you have to allocate to that. I think the last time I did some Twitter ads, it cost me around $4 a lead or something like that, and that was for my book launch. I probably spent around $1500 or so to get around 400 to 450 leads. So it’s definitely possible and it’s not terribly expensive to do it, but again, you have to have the time to do it and you have to have the money sitting around in order to be able to use that strategy.

Rob [28:12]: Yeah. I’m a fan of paid acquisition. This can work with both pre-launch and post-launch products. I drove a ton of prelaunch e-mail sign ups to Drip. I think it was somewhere between 500 and a thousand of the e-mails that were on the list came from Facebook ads and there are several networks out there that are worth exploring, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and AdWords are probably the top four that I would look at especially if you’re B to B, and yes, even B to B ads can work well on Facebook if you target the right audiences. Nice part about paid acquisition is you can turn it on and off very quickly, so it’s like a faucet, it doesn’t have to be a long term strategy, but it can become that if you can figure out your ROI and drive a lot of traffic. There is a lot to be set on each of those topics. What I do is, since this stuff changes every six months so dramatically, I don’t keep up on it when I’m not doing it. But if I decide I’m going to go back in and run a Twitter campaign or a Facebook campaign, then I try to find who is the expert today, who are the folks with the podcast and the blogs on this and try to buy one of their courses because they are going to have the most up-to-date information on exactly how to tweak the dials and the knobs in order to make a paid advertising campaign work for that specific network.

Mike [29:28]: So we are starting to wind down our list a little bit her, and the next one we have is offline or in-person events. And I think for offline or in-person events, you can use things like Meetup.com or you can use joint ventures with existing businesses. To me, this seems much more like a localize strategy than anything else. So if you have a retail store or physical presence some place? This is probably going to be a lot more effective than if you have just an online presence or your software company or marketing company where you’re selling something solely online, it is probably not nearly as effective for those types of things. But if you’re a consultant who works locally or freelancer and you’re trying to land local business clients, then it can be highly effective to offer a presentation or a free seminar or anything like that. You can also talk to local workshops or work groups. There are lots of small business associations throughout the country almost no matter what country you’re in. There is almost always small business association of some kind and you can talk to them and find out more about what their audience is and how they get in front of people and talk to them and say, “Hey, I’d like to do a free seminar on “X” and you just ask people for their contact information once you get there.

Rob [30:34]: I think this also includes conferences. We are at the MS build conference a few weeks ago, not something I would typically do to buy a booth at a conference, but we happen to get it included in it a partnership we are doing with Microsoft. And so, it was nice to be able to meet some folks and we did in fact add people to our mailing list based on this with their permission and we are not interfacing with them whether to get them to check Drip out or there are several partnerships that could potentially come out of that, folks wanting to offer Drip to their customer list which is obviously the more lucrative thing instead of trying to find one off to actually interface with their audiences. And so, offline events I think are so important for that networking site and getting that face to face contact that we have so little over these days with social media and webinars and all that stuff. I think there’s a real value to meeting someone in person.

Mike [31:23]: Next up, we have tweaking your website. And by this, we essentially mean, make sure that the call to actions the lead capture is on your website and that is available for everybody across the different browsers and make sure that you take a really hard look at the call to action to make sure that each page has a single function. And that function in most cases is to take them from one place to another, but in many cases, the function of that page is going to be to get somebody’s e-mail address, and it’s not necessarily to sell them something, it’s really because you want to be able to follow-up with them. I think, Rob, you did a really good talk at Business of Software a number years ago, where, I forgot the exact title, but I think it was the number one goal of your website is not to sell them something, I totally butchered it at this point, but the whole talk was about the number one goal of your sales website is not actually to sell somebody something, it’s to get their contact information so that you can follow-up on it later. Why don’t you talk a little bit more about that?

Rob [32:18]: Yeah. That talk was just based on the idea that you don’t sell very many things to first time visitors and you sell the majority of your sales are going to come to folks who have been to your website multiple times. And so getting folks back to your website is really the number one goal rather than trying to make the sale too soon and asking for the sale too soon is a real danger. It will drive people away for kind of up in their face asking for money with buy now buttons and you don’t get their e-mail or you don’t get away to connect with them later, then you’re going to leave a lot of money on the table, so building your e-mail list is really the whole point of this episode. In the last episode, I know we’ve talked about doing it as a prelaunch thing but frankly, it’s the same thing, it’s just getting permission to contact folks and get them to come back to your site when it launches or if you already launch, it’s to educate them and build a relation with them over time, provide them a ton of value and then as they come back and once they are really ready to move into your product’s market. S

So let’s say they are already using MailChimp and they are just thinking about switching to a different e-mail provider, but it might take them three months or six months to make that decision, and if you’ve been sending them any mail newsletter every week with some pretty valuable content, then you’re going to be top of mind when they do in fact decide to change. Because most of these decisions to buy a product or to switch from one product to another, don’t happen instantly. They don’t happen in the 10 seconds that someone has between launch and the first meeting after they get back from launch, they don’t decide it that quickly. And so getting their e-mail address and being able to reconnect with them is really where the value comes. And to round out our approaches for the day, I had added the invitation viral loop and the idea here is that if you’re prelaunch, you’ve probably seen some places where you put in your e-mail address and then it says, “Hey, you’re on our list, we love it if you’d tell other folks about it.” You can either just ask nicely which won’t result in a ton of shares, but if you have a really sought after product, you can run it almost like a contest where the more people who- this person signs up, the higher they move in the list, the higher the priority. So they get access to it first, and again, this only works on something that folks really want to get access to but I see a bunch of B to C or B to b company has used this to effect and it can help build your prelaunch list faster than if you were just trying to find folks [?].

Mike [34:35]: I think this is interesting concept. I know Kickofflabs has it, but they do it directly as part of the sign up. So when you first sign up for a mailing list, immediately ask you to share it with your friends and I think that works in certain scenarios and I think that there are other scenarios where you essentially have to provide the value before somebody is willing to essentially spend their social credit in order to invite their friends or talk to their social networks about whatever it is that you’re offering. For this particular thing, think about what it is that you’re offering and whether or not it makes sense to have them share it upfront or ask them down the road. I think that there are opportunities for both of those things, you just have to think about which one applies to your situation. And I think last on our list is we had an interview with Gabriel Weinberg a while back and we were talking to him about his book called Traction, and I think that virtually every approach in the Traction book is also something that you could use to try and help build your e-mail list. So we won’t recap that but we will link it up in the show notes, so that you can go take a look at that episode and find out more about it.

Rob [35:34]: As we said at the beginning of this episode, this episode could go on forever because it’s essentially a long list of different marketing approaches, it’s the, “How do I market my product? How do I build my e-mail list?” question. It’s a very large question and for me, I put together a marketing plan in a Google doc., so that I can capture all these ideas and figure out which ones are working and figure out what ideas I hear on a podcast or in an audiobook or somewhere else that I think, “I totally want to try that.” So typically, I will e-mail it to myself, so it’s in Trello board and then later on I will transfer that into a marketing plan that’s more of my long term vision of what I want to do over the next couple of years as I have time, and then as soon as I have bandwidth, as soon as I want to try that next marketing approach, then I pull it out of that marketing plan and I go after it. The short list, this is what we see as a low hanging fruit for building your e-mail list and basically, marketing your business and expanding it, but there are whole lot of other approaches available for your podcast, books, and the like.

Mike [36:29]: If you have any other ideas for building your e-mail list, make sure to go over to the Startups for the Rest of Us podcast website and add them in to the comments at the end of the post. If you have any others that you want to add to building your e-mail list from 0 to 1000, please feel free to go over to the Startups for the Rest of Us podcast website and add them in to the comments. If you have a question for us, you can call our voicemail number at 1-888-801-9690 or e-mail it to us at questions@startupsfortherestofus.com. Our theme music is an excerpt from “We‘re Out of Control” by Moot, it’s used under Creative Commons. Subscribe to us on iTunes by searching for startups and visit startupsfortherestofus.com for a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening, and we‘ll see you next time.

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3 Responses to “Episode 239 | Email List Building From Zero to 1,000: Part II”

  1. The link you supplied for the email list building directories is not working for me. Could you please check?



    • The link does work, but the server is a bit flaky sometimes. Try it again and see what happens. We don’t control that server though so there’s only so much we can do about it.

  2. One thing that I’ve had really good luck with is co-registration advertising. Effectively, you’re advertising on other websites’ “thank you” pages after someone signs up for their mailing list. If someone checks your offer, they’ll send the email lead through an API that you provide. It definitely works better in some industries than others.

    It typically costs $0.50-$4.00 per lead depending on what industry you’re in and what information you want to collect, so you have to have a pretty good sales funnel in place afterwards, but it scales up nicely.

    I’m currently buying about 10,000 co-reg email sign-ups per month from TheStreet.com and am making back 3x the cost of the lead over a period of about 18 months.

    I also generate leads through a mobile app (“StockAid” in the AppStore), AdWords that lands on a squeeze page, organic opt-ins from my websites (I have an incredibly effective popup if you want to steal it), doing email swaps with other sites in my industry and paying to email other people’s lists.

    Hopefully one or two ideas will be useful for someone that listened to this podcast!

    Matthew Paulson
    MarketBeat.com (Formerly Analyst Ratings Network)