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:
- Pre-Launch Email List Building With Directories
- Episode 199: Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers (with Gabriel Weinberg)
- Product Hunt
- Microconf Europe
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 email@example.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.
In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and Mike do a short series on e-mail list building from zero to a thousand. They talk about how to build an e-mail list and some of the different strategies that you can use to take it through the different steps.
Items mentioned in this episode:
Mike [00:00]: In this episode of “Startups For The Rest Of Us,” Rob and I are going to do a short series on Email List Building: From 0 to 1,000. This is “Startups For The Rest Of Us” episode 238.
Mike [00:17]: 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 of it. I’m Mike…
Rob [00:24]: And I’m Rob.
Mike [00:26]: And we’re here to share our experiences and help people avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What’s going on this week Rob?
Rob [00:29]: Well, we got the MicroConf Europe contract signed. Very excited about that. Thanks to Xander for helping us out with that. And the dates are set: August 31st and September 1st in Barcelona, that is MicroConf Europe 2015. We also have six speakers on board already. We have myself, Sherry Walling, my wife who hosts ZenFounder with. We have Patrick MacKenzie and Rachel Andrew form Perch, Dave Collins from Software Promotions, and Peldi from Balsamiq. So it’s shaping up to be another good conference this year. If you’re interested in attending or even think you might be interested in attending, we’re probably going to sell out fairly quickly, so head over to microconfeurope.com, and we have a little Drip widget over there where you can sign up to be notified when we do our early bird launch.
Mike [01:15]: And we have a brand new website up there now.
Rob [01:18]: Yup, you can check out our re-launch because our old website was pretty long in the tooth. Although I think it was long in the tooth when we launched it.
Mike [01:23]: That’s probably true.
Rob [01:26]: How about you, what’s going on?
Mike [01:28]: Well, kind of the same as you. I started the process of getting us the MicroConf Europe sponsors. And if anyone is interested, we do set aside tickets for a sponsor’s pool. So if you’re interested, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll be sure to get back to you with details about that. Again, it is in Barcelona, so just the venue itself should be awesome.
Rob [01:46]: Indeed. Hey, we have a bunch of new reviews. We’re up to 418 worldwide reviews. We had one in April from Rob Vinning, and he says, “Learning packed into a tight 30-minute spot with no fluff. I can only wish every podcast listed, when I search for startups with this high quality. Keep it up guys.” And then we have one from Blogandarg, who says, “Not a wasted word. With so much great content out there to choose from, it’s often hard to decide which podcast to keep up with, and which are not simply worth the time and investment. Startups For The Rest Of Us is succinct content and consistently helpful, top of the heap. Keep up the great work guys.” So thank you so much for your five-star reviews. We’d love it if you haven’t, post a review for us, in the past, it helps us continue the momentum, and frankly motivates us to continue producing this podcast. What are we talking about today?
Mike [02:29]: So on today’s episode, we’ve gotten a couple of different requests for email list building strategies. And one of the ones that came in, actually had a really good idea, which was to essentially talk through how you would go about building an email list and some of the different strategies that you would use to take it through different steps or different tiers. So what would you do if you get an email list from ground zero, nobody on it, to like 10 subscribers? And then to 25, and then 100, and then 1,000? And what is the process that you go through for that? And it seems to me like there are a lot of different strategies that you can use along the way, and there’s a lot of different questions that you need to answer when you’re doing that. So it’s not really a one-size-fits-all approach. And just based on the format that we use for this podcast, it doesn’t really make sense to try and do it like we’ve done in the past where we have just one episode on it. So what I thought we’d do, is I thought we’d deviate a little bit, and we do sort of a short series on how to build an email list. And basically, walk somebody through the different ways to get to those different tiers inside of a list building activity.
Rob [03:31]: And what’s interesting is you often hear this question asked of experienced entrepreneurs on podcasts, someone will say, if you had to start over today, what would you do? And this is what I would do, I would build an email list, right? This is something that I’ve been such a proponent of for years, and it works in so many situations. And I think, we should talk a little bit about, there’s a bunch of different types of email lists, right? All lists are not created equal. You have Verizon building some type of big marketing email list, and that’s not what we’re going to be talking about today. We have people building personal brand lists. You imagine someone like a Brandon Dunn who has his list that sells a lot of his information about freelancing. Or you have maybe a Tim Farris who has 100,000, 200,000 people on a list. We’re not going to talk about that either, because it’s not as relevant to our audience. The two types of lists that we specifically want to talk about how to build is, number one, a product launch list. So whether that product is a piece of software like I did with Drip, whether it’s a book or information like you did with the single-founder handbook, and I did with my book when I launched it, or a conference or live event, like MicroConf, that’s our early bird list we talked about earlier, some type of product that you’re going to sell, it’s a no-brainer to build an email list in order to sell that product out quickly. So we’ll touch on that. And the other type of list that we’ll talk about, because they’re closely related, is an ongoing marketing list for a product. So if you go to Bizsketch.com, you go to KISSmetrics, their blog, you go to the Drip blog, this is an ongoing marketing list. It’s not a launch list because the products are already launched, but it’s a way to build a list that’s not based around a person or a personality, but it’s more based around people who want to learn from the folks who are producing content at that product, as well as perhaps to keep up to date with that product. Maybe there’s some updates and that kind of stuff mixed in.
Mike [05:15]: Right, there are people who would subscribe to that list because they’d look at the product and like, oh, that’s interesting, I want to learn more about it. But there’s also the side effect of just people will sign up for a list, because they’re not quite sure they’re ready to commit yet, and using that email list and communicating with them on an ongoing basis can just essentially help people trust, whether it’s that person or the company that is sending you those emails. And over time, you eventually get to the point where you decide, hey, maybe I’m going to take a shot and invest in this, because people aren’t going to come to your website and just click the “Buy Now” button. It just doesn’t usually happen that way. But if you get them on an email list, they see your emails on a regular basis, and eventually they get to the point where they trust you enough that hey, I’m going to give this a shot, and they provided me enough value. And in return, I’m going to try out their products, because it seems like it might be solving my problem, and I think that they are going to be able to deliver value to me.
Rob [06:05]: And I should also clarify, when I talked about there being an ongoing marketing list for product, this is different than your trial or your customer list, because you would be sending different emails to trials and customers. Those folks have already bought in. They either need to be on-boarded, or they need to be supported and told about new features and shown how your product is continuing to get better. Whereas, the folks on the front-end of your marketing funnel, they really need to hear more about, probably some content, some education, stuff surrounding your product. You don’t want to be all salesy – there might be a sales pitch now and again. But it’s quite different because you’re not trying to sell trials and customers, but this ongoing marketing list, ultimately, you are trying to sell them. I just wanted to clarify that.
Mike [06:44]: So we’re going to walk through these different tiers, and we’re going to start off on the 0 to 10. And there’s a couple things to keep in mind here. The first one is that there’s a few different types of strategies that you would use for these. There’s the one-time things, and then there’s the ongoing or repetitive tasks. And we’ll touch on those briefly as we go through each of these different tiers. But the 0 to 10 tier, essentially there’s a few different requirements that you have to even start this process. And the first one is that you need to have at least some idea of what your basic value proposition is. When somebody comes to your website, what is it that they’re going to be signing up for? What’s in it for them? You need to set expectations and be able to deliver on those expectations. But at a fundamental level, you have to know what it is that you’re using this list for. Is it the product launch list? Is it going to be an ongoing marketing list? Is it something that you’re going to start out with as a product launch list, and then transition into an ongoing marketing list? And the specific type of list that you use is going to influence some of the strategies down the road.
Rob [07:41]: Right. And so to kind of give an example with a product launch, when I was building the list for Drip, it was a very simple statement of the value that Drip was going to provide. There was a headline, and then there were a few bullet points describing why you might want to sign up, and just something about get early access, and there might have been a mention of a lifetime discount. If you’re selling a book, then you’re going to want to have a little more content about what the book is about, why someone should care about it, how it’s different from other products. And this works for software too. If you’re building more of that ongoing marketing list, typically you don’t have something to offer, right? Like be notified when we launch, because you already launched. So in that case, you’re going to want to come back to my fundamental, which is an email crash course, like a five-day email crash course, or a seven-day mini course. And you can also do as an opt-in reward, you can also do something like a top-10 tools to do this, or top-10 tips for something. I find that email mini course gets folks used to receiving and reading emails from you. And so that’s my personal preference, and that’s why we’ve really focused on that with Drip in providing that kind of thing, instead of helping people set up this one time PDF download. It used to be you gave away e-books to get folks to opt-in, I found that I had gathered a lot of free e-books into a Dropbox folder and never read them. And so I did get on the list, but since I didn’t get much value out of it, because I never read the book, I didn’t get used to reading the person’s emails, I typically unsubscribed. Whereas, if it’s done via crash course, you have a little more leeway, five days or seven days, to create some value there, and the folks are a little more used to hearing from you. So those are kind of the ways that I would think about trying to drive someone to want to sign up for your list, depending on which type of list you have.
Mike [09:17]: So once you’ve kind of established what your value proposition is going to be, you need two other things. You need a basic landing page to capture an email address, and possibly a first name. And then you need a back end email service provider to manage that email list, so you can use A-Webber, you can use MailChimp, you can use Drip, you can use Constant Contact. I mean, there’s probably 30 or 40 different options out there. But you need to settle on one and use that consistently through all the different pages on your site. And you don’t need to have more than one page to start off with, I don’t think. I think you can get away with just the one page, especially when you’re trying to go from 0 to 10.
Rob [09:50]: Yeah, and if I was going to set up a standalone page, I would either go to Theme Forest and download a $7.00 HTML template, which is how we launched the first MicroConf, and how I launched my book originally. Or you can set up a WordPress install and use John Turner’s WordPress Coming Soon plug-in. Or frankly, you can go to some place like Kickoff Labs or Lead Pages and sign up for an account there. These are all easy, quick options for getting a landing page out.
Mike [10:17]: So we’ve talked about some of the different requirements that you have to have in order to go from 0 to 10, but we haven’t talked anything about how to actually get people on to your mailing list. And I think with 0 to 10, it’s extremely straightforward. It’s not like you’re shooting for the moon and you got to get hundreds or thousands of people to that webpage, typically going from 0 to 10, is you can go to things like Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn, and just ask your friends and colleagues on those lists, or go through your personal contact list of people you email on a regular basis. And send them your basic value proposition in an email. And say, is this something you’d be interested in hearing more from me about? And most people have enough contacts that you can get to that 10 mark without a heck of a lot of trouble.
Rob [10:57]: You know, something to keep in mind is if you have any kind of audience already, you’re going to blow by 10 in like a millisecond. Even if you have a blog with 500 or 1,000 RSS readers, or you have any type of small email list, and you’re driving them to a landing page, you’re going to be in the 50 to 100 to 500 range pretty quickly. And the other thing to think about is that you really want people on that list, who have some type of interest in what you’re going to be doing. Because getting folks on who are not going to buy from you or are not interested in your product, is just going to lower your open rates, lower your click-through rates, lower your conversion rates. So this is not a vanity metric, when we say 0 to 10. We mean 0 to 10 quality, qualified people who may actually have interest in it. Because getting your mom and your dad and your brother on your list, may add three to the list, but it’s not going to do anything for you when you actually go to sell your product.
Mike [11:45]: Yeah, that’s a very important distinction to make. Is that it’s about quality, and you want those people who are coming on to the list to be qualified for whatever it is that your value proposition is.
Rob [11:55]: Last thing I’ll add is, I’ve talked a lot about the concentric circle marketing approach that I use, and this, in essence, would be the center circle. And that center circle is people that you know. And then typically, the second circle is the people that my friends know. And then outside is the cold leads, and it’s breaking outside your network. So depending on how big your inter network is, your audience, this could get you to 10, or like I said, it could get you to 5,000 if your audience is big enough.
Mike [12:20]: So let’s move on to the next tier, and that’s 11 to 25. And like the 0 to 10, there’s certain requirements. And the first one is that when you get into this tier, you really need to start iterating on your value proposition, and start using more landing pages. Now, what does that really mean? It means that you need to start playing a little bit with the language, and seeing if certain things that you say on your landing page is going to resonate with people a little bit better. And there is a little bit, I think of, measurement. But I think it’s mostly gut feel when you start taking a look at these things. Because you’re not going to have enough traffic yet, in order to make solid determinations or do some sort of real A-B testing. It’s more just gut feel than anything. And the other thing that you want to do, is you want to start engaging with people who are getting on your list. I mean, once you’ve got 10 people onto that list, you should start asking them questions. And one of the questions I really like to ask is: what are your current challenges with “x” whatever “x” happens to be? And usually, it’s got to be geared towards your product or towards whatever the marketing approach is that you’re using, or the information that you’re trying to share with people. But you want to learn from them what things they’re having problems with. And you can use that later on. You’re probably not going to use it right away, but you want to start gathering information from people, to figure out what things that you want to talk to them about later on. And the other question I like to ask is: why did you join this email list? What is it that you are hoping to learn? Because that helps you find out where the gaps are in their knowledge. And essentially where on the playing field or the experience level that they are. Because you might have thought that you were talking to these people who were, let’s say, advanced email marketers. And then you suddenly find out that you’re getting all these people on your email list that are very entry-level. And from there, you have to figure out, okay well, do I want to go after the advanced email marketers, or am I okay with those entry-level, basic people, and I need to tweak whatever it is that I’m going to be doing down the road.
Rob [14:08]: And just to clarify, you mentioned that you want to think about having multiple landing pages right now, and not split that thing because you probably don’t have enough traffic. But that depends on, if you are doing a product launch, or if you’re doing that product marketing list after you’ve launched. Because early on, if I’m launching a product, I’m going to have a one-landing page. And if I have enough traffic, I’m going to split test it. Otherwise, I’m going to use my gut feeling like you said, and I’m going to go with the best headline that I have, the best value prop. After you’ve launched and you are a – like I said, a Drip, a BizSketch, a KISSmetrics or a SassApp, that’s trying to build a list just to keep you people updated, that’s when I do have landing pages all over the place, right? I have opt-in forms, on the blog, after blog posts, you might have a little Drip or a SumoMe widget that’s asking at different places. And that’s where you can easily set up landing pages even to start ranking for Google, for different SEO terms. That’s when I think you really start doubling down. Now, I don’t know if you do that this early, because we’re talking 11 to 25 subscribers, and that tends to be pretty early. But I do think that’s the next progression for each of those scenarios.
Mike [15:10]: Yeah, that’s absolutely right. As I was thinking about this, 0 to 10, and 11 to 25, it’s almost like there’s different levels. 0 to 10 is a very specific set of strategies. And for up to 25, it’s a very different set of strategies. Just because early on, you say yourself, you might be able to tap into your own personal network, and suddenly you’re at 500 subscribers, which puts you into a completely different realm of things that you’re going to be doing in order to build an email list. So I almost feel like maybe instead of talking about these as this is 0 to 10, and this is 11 to 25, it’s like, this is the first set of things you do, this is the second set of things that you could do. Maybe that’s a more appropriate way to look at these numbers. But as Rob said, it’s absolutely right, that depending on the type of list that you’re doing, kind of the stuff that falls into this tier two, it’s going to depend on whether or not you’re doing a product launch list or an ongoing marketing launch list. And it’s pretty clear already that we’re only on the second tier here, and your strategy is already starting to diverge, which is why we decided to make this into more of a series about building an email list than just a single podcast episode.
Rob [16:13]: And to kind of wrap up this 11 to 25 portion, I think this is where you sit down and you draft a welcome email and maybe a welcome auto-responder series to introduce yourself, try to deliver some value to your new subscriber. Frankly, it encourages folks to start opening their emails. And you want to keep the list warm. That’s a big thing. Like collecting this list, doesn’t do you much good if you don’t email them. So if you’re going to launch your product six months down the line, now is the time to start touching base with folks and giving them updates. And an easy way to do that, at least early on, is to have an evergreen auto-responder that’s able to introduce yourself and then ask some basic questions just so people do in fact, are used to hearing from you. And if you’re doing more of the product marketing list, like I talked about, that’s where I do have that five- or seven-day crash course, and then I skip to probably weekly updates from there where you can update folks on other new stuff that’s coming out with your product. But much more than that, it’s like new blog posts or new content or new stuff that you’re giving away.
Mike [17:09]: Now, question for you. I have my thoughts on this. What are your thoughts on – during that auto-responder, you’re asking questions of people. Do you have a preference for having them reply via email or fill out a form?
Rob [17:21]: I like to have them reply via email, because A) it shows them that the email does in fact come directly to me. And what I’ve heard is that it’s also a really good anti-spam signal. Like in Gmail, as an example, that if someone replies to an email early on, it indicates that you’re essentially kind of becoming a contact. I would think of it as like a shadow contact. You may not actually be in their contact list, but they replied to you. So that’s a plus mark in your favor.
Mike [17:47]: No, that’s exactly how I felt about it. And that’s what I do as well. I thought about sending people to a form, and then I looked at the form itself in relation to what I had been doing previously, because I wanted to be able to have that information automatically associated with somebody’s contact. I was like, oh well, I’ll just send them to a form and have it automatically sent over via Zapier, and I started implementing it. And then I looked at it after the fact, and I was like, this feels, not wrong, but just different, feels odd to –
Rob [18:13]: It’s not super personal.
Mike [18:14]: Yeah.
Rob [18:15]: It’s like we’re almost having a conversation because you’re emailing like you’re a real person, and you’re talking to them like they are a real person. And then suddenly like, oh click this form and give me feedback. That’s not how we interact. We’re used to hitting keyboard shortcut, or the “A”, which does reply-all, and just talking to someone. And I think that’s a much better experience, and it makes them feel like there’s one-on-one communication going on, which is really what’s happening.
Mike [18:35]: Right, and the end result of that is if there is information or questions that they’re responding to, you have to end up copy/pasting them out into a spreadsheet or something like that. But I think the cost of doing that, in relation to making those emails personal, is probably well worth it, especially when you’re early on. And later on, you can maybe turn into some parsing application or something like that to go into your email or maybe forward them off to some place and have a VA do that sort of thing. But I think early on, I agree, I think you definitely want to have those people just hit reply and be able to respond to the questions directly.
Rob [19:06]: Yeah, even with thousands of people on a list, you’re not going to get so many replies in general, that you’re going to be overwhelmed. I’ve done this myself with several lists of that size and it’s manageable.
Mike [19:16]: So let’s move on to the third tier, which we kind of ball-parked it, 26 to 100. And I think this is where things start to get a little bit harder. Because here what you have to do is you have to start adding automated questions to your auto-responder. And you have to use information from previous discussions to start honing your messages so that you already understand what the challenge is people are having, so you have to ask questions around that topic, and provide them information around those topics. So this isn’t something that you can typically do on day one, because you have to wait until you get at least some level of replies back from people, and then you start crafting messages that relate directly to the challenges that people are having. And you can’t know those things in advance, you have to ask them and wait for them to reply, and then create that content that you can send to them.
Rob [20:01]: I think this is also the point where you start adding more emails to your evergreen sequence or you just send out broadcasts. If you’re going to do a launch, maybe you have an update that really is only time appropriate, and you don’t want it to go out in a few months if someone’s subscribed a few months later. So you just broadcast it out. My rule of thumb, if I have a launch list, is to email once every six weeks. I dropped the ball a little bit on that with Drip, but I probably averaged maybe every two-and-a-half months, I think. And most places I see doing product launches, don’t email at all. And they basically email you once when the product launches and that’s a big mistake. So this is the time to start offering some value around what people are having challenges with or you ask them what they hope to get out of your product, if you’re doing a launch list, and then if you’re doing that product marketing list, that actually should be either a weekly broadcast, or a weekly auto-responder campaign that’s kind of just going out in an evergreen fashion.
Mike [20:56]: Something else you can start doing as your email lists starts to build up, is you can ask your subscribers to start sharing the fact that that mailing lists exists with their friends. And if you can make it easy to share though Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn or Instagram, Tumblr, or any of the 30 or 50 other applications that are out there, that social networks that people are using, then depending on which ones are appropriate for the offering that you have, then that can really help drive the number of subscribers up to the next level. Now it’s not going to double your subscribers overnight, but let’s say that it gives it a 20% or 30% boost, then that 20% or 30%, can take you from 200 to 240 or 250 instead of just the 200 that you were at. And it won’t be all in one shot either, it’s going to be a little bit here and there over time. And as you add more people, that extra 20%-30% lift is going to be important. One that I’ve seen from Noah Kagan specifically of AppSumo, is that adding a link to your email signature can be extremely helpful to help drive people through to that. I’ve seen him use this before. He always has this P.S., like hey, have you seen this, or why don’t – I think the specific thing he uses is like, hey, why you no use Sumo Me? And I remember seeing that on one of his emails before, and I was like, oh, that’s interesting. And then I went over and actually checked it out. But it was not something that was really on my radar to check out at the time, it was just I saw it in his email signature, and I was like, oh, let me check it out. And that’s something that if you’re just interacting with people, it can help drive traffic over. And some of those people are going to convert. So it could be just a nice little thing to add on there that is going to help you get some people over to your email list.
Rob [22:31]: And this is probably a good place to end this Part One of our look at how to build an email list to a thousand. We basically looked at the beginning steps of getting set up, how to do that initial circle zero discussion with your market, with your audience. And just try to get some folks on the list, try to hone that value proposition. What we’re going to step into in the next episode, in Part Two, is how to go from 101 to 1,000. And that’s really where you start leveraging marketing, you’re going to try essentially 10x your list. And we’re going to get into it. The big approach is that I think are used to really grow lists, because at this point, you’re still doing a bunch of stuff that doesn’t scale to get to 100, right? You’re just kind of scratching and clawing, and at 10x, you need to start branching out a little bit and doing more traditional marketing approaches. And with that, we’re going to wrap up for the day. If you have a question for us, call our voicemail number at (888) 801-9690, or email us at email@example.com. Our theme music is an excerpt from “We’re Outta Control” by MoOt 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. We’ll see you next time.