Email Marketing 101: The Beginner’s Guide to Profitable Lists

Email marketing is one of the most valuable assets you can add to your marketing.

It allows you direct access to your subscribers and interested parties through their email without the hurdles of finding content and participation on your website.

In this article, we will be exploring the complete process of building your first email mailing list. You’ll be taken from the conceptual stage and end with a hodge-podge of marketing tips to increase your subscriber count on your list.

Ready to get started?

The BIG Question: Why Build a List?

Before we dig into the juicy details of building a list – let’s answer the question of “why” you should be building one in the first place.

Those that are members of a mailing list already understand its awesome power but for those kept in the dark, up until now, it’s a low-resistant method to deliver marketing messages and build a community.

Through email, you can extend the reach of your website well beyond social media and traditional subscription methods like RSS and bookmarking.

Email marketing provides the following benefits:

  • A hot list of people that have “voted” that they want your information
  • Direct messaging, through email, to deliver content and marketing messages
  • A database of potential leads you can use outside of the restrictions of web-based marketing
  • Individualization and segmentation to focus on different people within your list
  • Tools and services to add a new level of branding for your business

Think of email marketing as a quarterly catalog from a big company like Macy’s except you can send this catalog as frequently as you wish for whatever purpose you may need.

Businesses that employ email marketing, such as with newsletters, will often email their subscribers about updates in the business like a new product launch, coupons to spur up sales, or to drive people to important information about policy changes.

In short, email marketing cuts out the hit-and-miss nature of solely producing content and, instead, gives you a measurable method of content and marketing delivery that can be expanded and optimized, on-the-fly, with a proper understanding of the platform.

email marketing

Step 1: Building a Foundation for Email Marketing

The planning stage is one of the most widely overlooked elements of building an email marketing campaign and list. Truthfully, the planning stage is the most important stage of setting up and rolling out your email marketing because it will prepare you for the majority of hurdles you’ll face along the way and solidify your efforts into actionable results.

Why bother planning your email marketing? Here’s why …

  • Identify your Audience. As you’ve done in the past when building a website – establish who will be reading your emails. Your email marketing will have a different group of readers than those on your blog; there is some crossover but people on your list will be at a different stage than those passing by for a quick boost in content. Develop a reader “avatar” which will help when you’re ready to craft emails that speak to your subscriber type.
  • Set a Budget. How much are you willing to pay for a quality email marketing campaign that gets results? Answer this question and work through your budget to get an understanding of the resources, at your disposal, can be set specifically for your list building efforts and marketing campaigns. This stage of planning may reveal additional leeway to hire outside help or show that you can’t accurately keep an imaginative schedule due to financial constrictions.
  • Establish Objectives and Goals. Like all major projects, it’s important to have a general idea of your objectives and goals. Defining these two items will give you milestones to reach, direction for when you lose focus, and a way to measure your effort and establish your return on investment. Set lofty goals that will challenge your work and resources; aim for incredible value and you will deliver incredible value.
  • Plan a Strategy and Schedule. Set a 1, 3, 6-month schedule for your email marketing campaign. Establish the moments when you will focus on a marketing message and sales vs. strictly content heavy content. Build a rapport with your existing readers to understand which areas of your niche you could cover your emails that will keep them actively engaged and long-term subscribers. Set a schedule for when you will be publishing and broadcasting your emails; find the time that works for your own schedule and that which aligns with when your readers will most likely consume your emails.

As you can see, these four elements that go into an email marketing campaign have an incredible impact on your overall direction. Failure to identify these four items will have you aimlessly creating content that doesn’t result in a gain.

Spend at least an hour or two specifically focused on identifying these main items before pressing onward to the building process of email marketing.

Step 2: Developing the Basic Email Marketing Sequence

With the planning stage out of the way, it’s time to get into the thick of things: the actual creation of your email marketing list. This is the point where you’ll be piecing together the foundation of your list with elements such as creating an opt-in form, filling out basic information and setting up your list for future growth.

To aid you in this process, let’s explore the entire process, visually:

1. Subscribe to an Email Marketing Service

For our purposes, we’ll be focusing on building a list with Aweber which is the most widely used email marketing services used by bloggers at this time. However, there are many other options available for this kind of service including iContact, MailChimp, and more.

2. Applying the Basic List Options

Use the ‘Create and Manage Lists’ followed by ‘Create a New List’ within the Aweber dashboard. Upon creating a new list, you’ll be given options for naming the list, adding your email contact information, and address to ensure you’re adhering to the FTC guidelines.

3. Add some Branding

Following the basic email information, you’ll be given a chance to add additional branding to your email list which adds an additional layer of trust and opportunity to gather additional sales such as when you use the email signature effectively.

4. Crafting the Confirmation

The confirmation email is the follow up that requires an individual to confirm their subscription; this is used to prevent fraudulent subscribers and protect you from the FTC and spam laws.

On this page, try to craft a confirmation page that’s highly unique for your future subscriber. Jump right into the valuable information and why people should complete their confirmation with enticing copy and letting them know what they’re getting themselves into.

Add a great closure and be sure to include a thank you page for people that complete the process; this page can be later used for increasing sales and building brand awareness.

5. Create the Basic Opt-In Form Design

Upon completing the basic account and list information – move on to building the opt-in form by clicking the ‘My Forms’ and jump straight to the editor.

In the editor, you’ll be given a wide range of existing templates to start with or you can fiddle with the design on your own to match the look and feel of your website/blog. Be sure to include just the basic information you need for the list whether it’s a name and email or just the email.

6. Configure the Opt-In Form Basic Settings

This page will give you the option of naming and adding settings to your confirmation emails such as a basic email format or the inclusion of a “smart” page that will add your website information along with a video that shows how to complete the subscription process to your list.

7. Add your Code!

Lastly, snag the code for your form and you’re all set to begin adding your opt-in form to your website!

The editor gives you a few options for adding the code whether you want to do it on your own, have a designer fix it up for you, or host it through Aweber.

Save this code so you can apply it to various parts of your website which is detailed in the next section.

Creating a Follow Up & Broadcast Emails

There are two types of emails you’ll be delivering with your list: follow-ups and broadcasts.

  • Follow-ups are created to be a sequence that goes in the succession of another based on your own criteria for time and delivery.
  • Broadcasts are basic emails that go out to your entire list (or segments) as a one-off thing.

Within the dashboard, bring down the drop-down under “Messages” and go ahead and add your first follow up to your email list.

The Follow-Up email will generally be set for certain periods after a user has signed up; this is an effective tool if you’re building an email course or holding a monthly newsletter. The Broadcast is an excellent method for delivering current information such as a holiday sale.

The process for creating these emails is similar to how you already do with other email services with the exception that you can add personalization to each email which you can play with once you’re in the editor. You can also add freebies to your email via attachments (such as your freebie ebook).

Once you’ve created the email, you can set the date and time for when your email goes out; follow this process until you’ve filled in the ample amount of emails you need and have planned for in your email marketing campaign.

Congrats! You’ve Built a List

There you have it; you’ve got the basics done in terms of setting up your first email list. It may be a bit daunting when looking through this section but it’s as easy as filling out basic survey information. Once completed, it’s time to get your list found …

Step 3: Gaining Awareness to your Email Marketing List

Not to be confused with marketing, the basic principles of setting up an email list is to build awareness.

The large majority of your initial stages of list building will come from your own website; we will explore various ways to gain more subscribers in the next section but, for now, let’s focus on the main elements of your website that will have the greatest impact and potential for your opt-in forms.

  • Top Sidebar. The top sidebar of your blog or website is prime real estate; most people will always catch their attention at the top – expecting additional information or some kind of offer. Use the widget function of WordPress or whatever platform you’re currently using to add your opt-in form right at the top which will have people captured the moment they land on your page.
  • Banner Stripe. Often, blogs and websites have empty sections in their headers or, at most, have banner ads running across the top. Instead, replace banner ads or empty spots with a call-to-action for your email list. Have a simple opt-in form for emails and a submit button; it being right on top will definitely get attention to your list.
  • Drop-Down Header. Recently released tools like Hello Bar creates an unobtrusive dropdown which can be customized for various uses such as sending people to a sign-up page or a full inclusion of an email form. The use of the Hello Bar above the fold is an ingenious way to bring immediate awareness to your new email list without interrupting their website experience.
  • Pop-Ups and Exit Pops. Plugins and scripts such as Popup Domination or exit popups that stop a user before they leave your website can be used for heat-of-the-moment sign-ups. These tools have both proved to be effective in list building but they are often obtrusive and can even result in your visitors immediately bouncing because they feel violated.
  • End of Content. Place an opt-in form right after people complete your article – prior to the comments. People that are “hot” on your content will find an immediate value for signing up to your list if you craft an enticing message that hooks them in. They’ve just gained great value from reading your post – extend it by delivering even more information to their inbox.

Of course, these aren’t set in stone; the majority of these areas are considered “best practices” for opt-in form placement but you’re free to experiment with your own format. Running an A/B test will reveal the true nature of your email marketing awareness so get out there and test it up.

Email Marketing List Building Techniques

Finally, it’s worth mentioning the various tips and tricks to gaining subscribers to your email list.

Like growing a website – the majority of your work in building a list revolves around gaining traffic and attention to your list, then sealing the deal with great value and an offer they can’t refuse.

Here are ten various ways to begin building your email list:

  • Cover the basics. Go through and make sure that you’ve covered all of the basics from this post up to this point. Setup a schedule which will have you delivering great content aimed at the right people. Add your opt-in boxes to the general areas mentioned previously. This is the first step, by far.
  • Create a List Freebie. Develop a new, epic piece of content made specifically for your email subscribers. The additional value delivered through email can be set up to be shared upon completion – automatically. Create something like an ebook, video series, or email course that goes into further detail about the general topic you often blog about.
  • Encourage Sharing. Like a blog post, encourage your regular readers to share the content you’ve delivered to their inbox. Setup unique Twitter, Facebook, and other social media links to point people to a landing page that funnels people into subscribing. Deliver great content and people will feel compelled to share.
  • Link Guest Posts to a Sign Up Page. Skip over the SEO juice and go for the long-term subscriber by changing your author byline link to a highly focused sign up page. In fact, try crafting a page specifically for the readers of the blog you’re guest posting on which will have even more targeting and focus.
  • Joint Venture. Find a reputable individual and begin sharing cross over information with your email marketing “buddy”. Don’t give away everything; you don’t want to give up your entire list to someone else for them to use but work together to help another build an initial list.
  • Treat it Like a New Platform. Ideally, you should see your email marketing as a platform for delivering content that isn’t found elsewhere in your domain. You should treat your email as an exclusive blog; this gives people additional reasons to sign up because they feel like they’re “missing out”.
  • Try some Advertising. Examine your budget and make a decision about building your list through paid advertising. Run a small campaign across multiple networks like Google Adwords, Facebook, and third-party platforms. Optimize your advertising campaign, track results, and work on building your list through dropping a few bucks here and there.
  • Have a Contest or Giveaway. Get users signed up to your list by holding a contest that requires them to subscribe to your list as part of the rules. Likewise, do a giveaway where their entry is only counted after they’ve signed up to your list.
  • Tease Readers. Make hints about joining your list and the incredible value throughout your normal blog posts. Share a lot of information on your website but let people know there is even more if they sign up to your list. People don’t want to be left out and will jump on board especially if you have other bonuses like a list freebie.
  • Be Authentic. Above all else, be authentic and ethical. There are far too much email spam and overly promotional lists on the web; give people what they’ve come for – great, valuable information with the marketing slant. You can still share a recommendation for affiliate products but use great content as a method for delivery (not the other way around).

Play with the different techniques and see what you can come up with when building your email list; you’ll find that there are many different methods that work together to greatly improve your conversions and opt-ins.

Go On and Get Those Subscribers!

Within this post, you’ve learned the complete process of setting up, launching and marketing your email marketing campaign. With time, your list will grow along with your revenue.

Try getting started with services like Aweber or MailChimp.

Setup takes less than a few hours for the basic structure and emails; afterward, you’re free to run your campaign as you wish.

We definitely recommend Aweber as one of the mail services you can use to start your mailing list. Sign up to Aweber here.

Utilize the techniques for building awareness and gaining subscribers on a daily basis; your email list will grow and become one of the most valuable assets for your affiliate business – trust me.