How to Build Your Email List Starting at Zero - Prue Madden

If you have ever tried to find information on building your online business, you likely were overwhelmed. The reality is that everyone throws their two-cents into the circle to say why their methods are the best. What you will find – even with extensive research—is that most will give you a vague skeletal model of what you should be doing. They don’t give you a step by step plan. It can be incredibly frustrating to try one thing after another and have little to no real success.

In this post I am going to give you just that — a step by step guide to take your email list from zero to hero!

But before I do… let me introduce you to a good friend of mine, the double opt in.

Double Opt-In-Lists – What They Are And How You Can Benefit

Let me introduce a concept to you that will prove to be invaluable for you throughout your online marketing journey: the double opt-in list.

Double Opt-In Lists Defined
A double opt-in list is nothing more than an email newsletter or email that allows people to sign up using your web page or by sending an email to the software that manages your opt in list.

Why is that different from an ordinary opt-in list? The difference is anyone who subscribes through a double opt in list must confirm their request to subscribe to your list twice.

The first time a subscriber usually opts in is when they give you their name and email address from a web based form. Once the initial request to join is received, software or your opt-in list management system like Aweber.com sends a confirmation email to the address the person entered as their email address. Users must then confirm their subscription by clicking the link provided in the email to affirm they agree to join your newsletter or ezine.

This is why the process is called double opt-in. People literally opt into your list twice. Once as an initial agreement to sign up then again to confirm their desire to be included on your list.

Why have people opt-in twice? Many marketers feel this process is mandatory to a business owner’s success. The double opt-in list confirms that someone entering his or her email address is genuinely interested in receiving your newsletter or other publication. The extra confirmation also verifies you have the correct email address.

By confirming a subscriber is really interested in signing up for your list, you can rest assured the chances are very high you are getting a better quality prospect.  How so?  These are people that are very likely to buy from you in the future because they have a solid interest in what you have to offer. They’ve given you an actual email address rather than a bogus one, and they’ve taken the trouble to go to their email to opt in to your list. Providing your subsequent emails are jam packed with info that they love, you are well on your way to building a healthy relationship with your lead.

When you don’t offer a double opt-in option, a person can go on your website, enter another person’s email address and leave. Then the person receiving your confirmation email and following emails will think they are being spammed, and may report you for spamming.

You don’t want to upset someone accidentally, so your best bet is to protect your interests and those of your clients by providing the double opt-in list choice.

It’s also important you confirm people signing up genuinely have an interest in your email or newsletter. If they don’t you will not sell anything to them. A single opt-in list leaves more opportunity for subscribers that won’t respond to your emails because they will think they are Spam.

Advantages and Disadvantages Of The Double Opt-In
The point of an opt-in email list is attracting people to your list that are good, solid prospects. Good prospects are those likely to buy products from you in the future. A double-opt-in list will almost guarantee you get a high quality group of subscribers on your list. This will include people that want to receive the information you have to give.

You may have a smaller list of only 5,000 people if you do a double opt-in list, but chances are very high the people on this list are very eager for the information you have to offer. They are more likely to respond to promotions posted on your email, which may result in higher conversions, and more people benefiting from your products or services.

Having 5,000 high quality prospects is much better than having one million general prospects that may or may not have an interest in your product. You want to spend 80% of your time focusing on prospects that are genuinely interested in what you have to offer. You can spend the remaining 20% on leads that may result in some sales.

The biggest advantage of a double opt-in list is it reduces the number of complaints of Spam your host receives. You don’t want to be charged with Spam accusations too often, or major ISP’s may ban your domain name. So make sure you always set up a double opt-in list when you can.

Not sure how to implement a double opt in? Check out the help or support section of your email marketing or autoresponder software. Each one has a different way of implementing the double opt in feature. In tools such as Aweber, Getresponse and Mailchimp it’s as simple as ticking a couple of check boxes and inputting the URL of your thank you page.

So the double opt-in list is a good alternative to the traditional opt-in list for many reasons. The most obvious reason is if a customer chooses to confirm their subscription to your email list, you can rest easy knowing they will not consider your emails Spam. It also prevents the likelihood that someone else may enter your site and enter someone else’s information as their own. If someone receives a subscription they did not want, they are more likely to report your actions as spam, and you want to avoid that at all costs.

Now that we have the introductions out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the tools you need to get started on your list building.

Your Website

  • Step 1:
  • The great news is that there is a huge array of tools to get up and running quickly. A good WordPress theme or a WIX account will easily do the trick and only cost you a few dollars in the process. You could hire a freelancer on Upwork to put your website up, but with today’s easy-to-use tools it benefits you to do it yourself. Spend a few hours looking at the tools available to you. Once you learn about the website you pick, you can easily take complete control of your website and how it functions.

    What you don’t want to do though is get caught up in the world of fixing “just one more thing”. Trust me- I’ve been there. I have worked with people who spent months, even years, working on the “perfect” website. Get your head out of that mode! In fact, if you think you’re prone to the perfectionist-problem then put a deadline on your website for yourself. Give yourself two weeks to get it up and running, and that’s IT! If you absolutely don’t have time, you can pay someone a few hundred to get your website up.

    In the end, two of the most important features you need to get right are:

    • An intriguing opt-in form that takes advantage of above-the-fold placement (above-the-fold means what the user sees prior to having to scroll down for any information. Anything below it is referred to as below-the-fold.)
    • Additional opt-in forms that make it easy for anyone to sign up at numerous locations on your website. Some people make the mistake of having one opt-in OR having one position for their numerous opt-ins. You want to make your opt-in exciting and eye-catching.

    Consider using opt-in locations like these:

    • In the sidebar area
    • In the navigation menu area
    • Above-the-fold
    • Underneath each of your blog posts
    • In pop-overs, pop-ups and light boxes
    • Within the body of your blog postsWhat you want is to make your opt-ins impossible to overlook. Just think about how you view websites. You go to them and get “web blindness” after a while. That’s why you want to use all the tools out there to give yourself the biggest chance of being heard. Here’s a studied fact: 66% of people have popovers. Does that discourage you? It shouldn’t. What it means is that 33% of them don’t hate popovers. In fact, 33% like the content enough to sign up! I encourage people to use light boxes with a 15-30 second delay and only one per session. These can be highly effective and bring you results.Answer “What’s in it for me” clearly and often. The internet has had a striking effect on people. No longer do they have time to debate whether or not a website is relevant. If they don’t see what they want immediately, they can click on any number of other websites offering equitable products and services. This is a great thing for the consumer, but it makes it harder for the seller. You want to find out what your audience wants and then communicate it clearly to them time and time again throughout your website. If you can do that, they are much more likely to sign up and eventually, buy.One way to do this is to offer a blog that is stocked well with value. In fact, each of your blog posts should be value-driven. It’s better to skip a blog post than just phone-it-in. Your audience will appreciate it! Just look at your current situation: you’re early on in the game and don’t yet have 1-million-plus visitors. Right now you want to build to that. That means that you have the chance to test your own market. Write long-copy form and write some short-forms. Find out which works best. As you get in more feedback, put that feedback on the website. Personal testimonials convey firsthand what the “what’s in it for me” truly is with your product.

    Your Autoresponder

  • Step 3:
  • Of course, as you are going to be emailing people, you are going to need some automation. You can’t be sitting there all day emailing people as soon as they sign up to your list, right?  Thankfully there are so many options when it comes to automated emailing. You can start with a free option such as Mailchimp, which does the job perfectly for zero dollars when you are just starting out.

    As your list and business grows,  you’ll possibly want to move into a more robust system such as Infusionsoft, Ontraport or something similar. Check out this post on essential tools for your online business which goes into greater detail about the options available to you.

    The power of a good incentive

    • Step 4:
    • As you delve deeper into the world of marketing, you will find that incentives are awesome ways to encourage people to join your mailing list. In fact, they aren’t just “awesome”, they are a necessity. It is the to the point today that people need some impetus to give their information to you. Yes- you want visitors to your website but no- you don’t want them to just read it and leave. You want them to return again and again. A good incentive can grow your email list exponentially.Here are some examples of opt-in incentives that work:

      • A working outline for them to follow to solve a problem
      • A checklist
      • A printable calendar to follow
      • Worksheets
      • A smaller version of your for-sale item
      • A video training course
      • An audio series
      • An e-book
      • A library of resources including e-books and worksheets
      • A video series

      Regardless of what opt-in tool/s you use, make sure that they are value-drive. The number one way to speak to your potential audience and draw them in, is to offer them something they can’t “live without”. In general there are two different incentives you can work with:

      1. The incentive that offers relevant broad content.
      1. The incentive that offers specific tailored content.

      Both are helpful and you usually can use them in some combination to get the most out of your efforts. A good structure would be to offer your blog readers a free e-book that helps them to hone in on what type of online business they can create (broad) and then a blog that gives them specific steps on how to develop their top three business ideas (tailored).

      Though this is a simple example, when you get in the game you are going to find that some strategies are much harder to implement than others. That’s ok though—remember that this is all a learning process, for both you and your readers. If something doesn’t work with your audience, switch it up. If it does work, ask yourself what you can do to make it better. The internet is always changing, so you want to change with it!

      ternet has had a striking effect on people. No longer do they have time to debate whether or not a website is relevant. If they don’t see what they want immediately, they can click on any number of other websites offering equitable products and services. This is a great thing for the consumer, but it makes it harder for the seller. You want to find out what your audience wants and then communicate it clearly to them time and time again throughout your website. If you can do that, they are much more likely to sign up and eventually, buy.

      One way to do this is to offer a blog that is stocked well with value. In fact, each of your blog posts should be value-driven. It’s better to skip a blog post than just phone-it-in. Your audience will appreciate it! Just look at your current situation: you’re early on in the game and don’t yet have 1-million-plus visitors. Right now you want to build to that. That means that you have the chance to test your own market. Write long-copy form and write some short-forms. Find out which works best. As you get in more feedback, put that feedback on the website. Personal testimonials convey firsthand what the “what’s in it for me” truly is with your product.

    Use Contests to Further Engage Readers

    • Step 5:
    • Have you ever seen a contest and jumped for joy? I saw one the other day offering a free top-brand-name mixer. For any avid cook or baker this would be a great way to attract their attention. Knowing these machines can retail for up to $500, who wouldn’t want to at least take a chance? The great thing about contests is that you can structure them any number of ways. You can use a voting system, content submission, trivia…the possibilities are endless. They are a great way to engage your viewers and get them excited about what you offer.Contests are also great at getting personal information. When someone visits your website, you want them to submit their name and email. Period. This is the number one goal you should have. Without it, they are just a visitor who browsed and most likely won’t return. If you get their name and email though, you can reach out to them and prove how valuable you are.One thing to remember though is that when you are offering some type of contest, always make it on target with your goals and the goal of your website. If you are marketing herbal supplements, what good would it be to give away a pair of pants? Think of what your audience would want. If you’re selling herbal supplements, how about a contest offering a bag of specialized herbs? Or, a small shaker cup with your branding on it? Those are the tie-ins that speak to your audience and make your name resonate with their goals.

    Traffic should be Organic AND SEO-Driven

  • Step 7:
    • When the internet first started, those who were innovative enough to delve into it went one of two ways:

        Some people just wrote whatever sparked their own interests and let people naturally find them. They hoped people would stick with them, but they rarely did.
        Other people defined their audience and built content that spoke to them. They had bigger success with numbers than those solely relying on organic finds did.

      Now that the internet IS the basis of business for billions-of-dollars’ worth of activities, you have to utilize all the tools available. That means using both organic and SEO-driven tools to maximize your potential audience. Let’s consider SEO first. SEO stands for “search engine optimization”. What it means in a nutshell is that Google ranks content for quality. So let’s say your blog is written with a target around “improving study techniques for children from 7 to 11 years of age”. As you continue to feed content to your blog and website, Google has automated tools that take note. They start to affiliate your web address with that topic. As you continue to grow your traffic, Google’s metrics tell it that if a customer wants information on their 10-year-old who needs study help, they should send them to your website.

      When you write your blog and set up your website, you have to know how Google works. If you are tempted to have blog posts or content off-topic, fight it! You want Google to understand without-a-doubt that “THIS” is what your blog is about. “THIS” is your specific product or service. Targeting who you are (remember that from earlier??) is the way to communicate it and grow your readership…with Google’s help. Just think of how powerful Google is!! Having them on your side when it comes to search engines is invaluable!

      As you continue to build your website and blog with relevant topics, you will see your rankings on Google rise. Think of when you search for something online. Rarely, if ever, do you likely go to page 10 of your search engine results. Most people go to page 1 and possibly page 2 IF they absolutely can’t find what they want on page 1. That’s why it is so important to do whatever you can to push your website up on the rankings.

      Keywords are something you definitely should know about when it comes to ranking. A keyword is something people search for. For example, let’s say you have a website promoting your special smoothie making powder. You want to pick keywords that target that. Words like “smoothie”, “banana”, “protein”, “healthy”, “meal”, “supplement”, “delicious smoothie” are all keywords that people may potentially use to search for your product. They are integral to helping people find you and to building your reputation with Google.

      Speaking of Google, once you decide what your most important keywords are, you also have to use them wisely. Here are some rules to follow:

      • Always put your keywords in your blog post’s title. Google’s search machines gather this information.
      • Put your keywords in your blog’s body too…not overly abundant, but a few times.
      • If you put images into your blog post, make sure the name of the files have your keywords in them.
      • Put a keyword or two into your blog post’s URL.

      It honestly isn’t difficult to get results but it does take diligence and a general know-how of the way Google works.

    Paid Traffic takes you to the stars

  • Step 8:
    • Facebook ads are undeniably the fastest way to reach the right people fast. Creating ads the drive droves of highly targeted traffic to your email list is both and art and a science. So many people top money down the drain when they first start out in Facebook Ads, but with a little know how, you won’t be in that bucket.

      Everyone is on Facebook – it’s the social platform with the widest demographic and the largest user base. Never have we experiences such a treasure trove of consumer information on one platform, and for advertisers, at such a cheap price! For as little as $5 a day, you can reach highly targeted potential leads and bring them over to your email list where you can begin to build your relationship in the interests of helping your customers to find what they need.

    The Social Media Factor

    • Step 9:
    • The bottom line is that Social Media is huge these days…and not just for creating a personal brand. It is integral to creating any business brand. Remember how we discussed letting your audience know who you are? This is where Social Media can help you to reach out to your audience. Plus, it does a lot of the work for you by suggesting friends and connecting like-minded individuals.If you have an e-book you’re marketing to get the word out on your product or service, create a Facebook and Twitter campaign to go along. Not only will you be promoting yourself, but your message will be shared. You also can put social sharing buttons on all of your content. This is a great way to help people who really find value in your blogging to promote you. With today’s online tools, you can easily drop these buttons into every blog post you put out, without having to know in-depth coding or programming.You also should look at things like LinkedIn and Pinterest. Both are tools that millions of users subscribe to and utilize every day. With LinkedIn, you can build your own professional profile and share it with the community. You can even garner certifications and recommendations that only add to your credibility. The same goes for Facebook. There are a number of tools with Facebook. You can create a business page, and also you can create members-only pages. It may not be useful at the beginning, but once you have a set audience who you want to share specific extra-value information with, this is a tool that can make them feel special and convey how loyal you are to them.

      Pinterest is another tool that is picture-driven. Like Instagram, you want to use a relevant picture that has your keywords in the file title. You want to change it often too—this is a way to not only affiliate it with your intent, but also to keep people interested in what you are going to do next. You can market your e-books and products via both and tie them to your Twitter and Facebook posts.

      Finally, whatever tools you use in terms of Social Media marketing, be sure that you have plenty of calls-to-action. When I go to your website, I should know what you want me to do. Don’t just let me wander around aimlessly. Tell me exactly where to click for what. Tell me why I should click there (what’s in it for me) and why I need to return to your page for more great content!

    The Rules

    • Step 10:When you continue to market your website and blog, be sure that you follow the rules of the game:
      1. Be transparent. Let your audience know who you are, what you value and what you want to offer them. Be inspiring. Give them insight into why you do what you do.
      1. Be inclusive. Tell your audience about what you’re working on. No- you don’t have to give them details of everything, but get them excited about what you’re going to do next.
      1. The gift. Everyone loves freebies! Come up with some that directly tie to your product/service and showcase how valuable following you is.

      Remember that you are asking for their email. Likely they sort through hundreds of irrelevant emails daily and you don’t want to end up on the “spam” list. Make everything you say count.

    The numbers

    • Step 11:
    • Even if you weren’t good in math in high school, that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook with online business. In fact, numbers are the very things that will let you know if you’re on the right track or not. Most website building tools and web hosts have easy-to-use tools that help you to gather the numbers you need. You can find out how many people clicked on your links, how long they spent on a page, how many people signed up for your special, how many are new visitors and how many are repeat visitors. This is all needed information. Remember that with the internet, you are always a work in progress. That means you have to consistently be gathering metrics and making changes to find out what performs best for your audience. Test some blog topics. Test pictures. Test a mini-version of your products and services. See how they work before you roll out the big product! This is a great way to make sure that you’re on target for success.