List Building 101: The Ultimate Email Marketing Setup Guide

It’s been said time and time again: “the money is in the list”.

Email marketing provides your business with a direct form of contact to your customers and followers; you don’t have to battle it out in the search engines over higher keyword placement, you’re not dropping a fortune on advertising, and you’re certainly not chasing dead leads.

Building a list will become one of your most lucrative assets because it allows you to cultivate a following of buyer’s. You condition your email subscribers.

The list becomes a platform very different from your website, social media accounts, and any other platforms in your repertoire. Using it correctly can turn it into a cash flow machine.

In this post, I’ll take you through the exact step-by-step process of launching an email list for your affiliate marketing business – and, how to make massive profits while you’re at it.

The Importance of List Building

Owning a list in affiliate marketing presents a wealth of opportunity, such as:

  • Access to your community even if your website goes down
  • The ability to publish timely updates on the fly
  • Promoting new affiliate products or services
  • Building your brand through value driven email content
  • Gaining (almost) instantaneous feedback from your community
  • The ability to launch new ventures with a bang

Shall we go through this list? Certainly!

There may be moments when your website receives a big slap and dip in the search engine rankings especially with regular algorithm updates on behalf of the search engines but with an email list, you’re able to still access a large part of your community and keep traffic up because you’re driving direct traffic when you’re releasing a new email to your list. In the end, you’re not left in the dust because you have, in essence, a “customer” list.

Big announcements happen at all times of the day especially since the Web never seems to slow down. When these announcements go out, it’s pretty difficult to whip up a blog post in a timely manner let alone the fact that you may not necessarily want to push content related to the topic (so you can keep the content curated). Email lists allow you to get those quick updates to your list without much effort; a quick broadcast email will have your community informed (which can be very important such as during short sales for the products you’re promoting).

Perhaps the best use of an email list in your affiliate marketing business is to use the platform to promote products and services. The subscribers on your list have already voted that they accept your message so a timely promotional campaign will hit the nail on the head because the products provide additional value beyond your website and campaigns. You can setup automatic campaigns to promote products or do broadcast emails that generate great excitement.

List Building

An email list, when used as an additional publication platform (not just to promote stuff), becomes a very powerful way to build your brand. Highly informative emails become added value to your subscribers which compounds their interest in your message. Treat the email like an exclusive blog (by creating content as good as you publish to your website) and you’ll segment your community into feverous fans and buyers.

Not to be forgotten, email lists allow you to send out questions, comments, opinions, and links to forms that you can use for feedback about your business, products you’re promoting, or services you’re thinking about starting. These followers, because you’re giving them great information, will be likely to voice their opinion and feedback which is quite difficult (and erroneous) if you’re only using the one-time visitor landing on your site through search engines; your subscribers have the better opinions, essentially.

Finally, and here’s a real treat, is the ability to launch new ventures with a starting audience rather than starting from zero. You’ve already built a following – now you’re working on something new for your business assets – doing a promotion campaign around a new product, service, or business will instantly create buzz which is quite a difference compared to waiting for people to find it through other platforms.

Okay, you get the point – email lists are awesome.

Now the question is how you go about building one of these powerful assets.

Here it is …

Email Marketing: Step-by-Step Setup

There are many various tools and services at your disposal for launching an email list; they’re all generally the same, to be honest.

There are minute differences in each platform but the general use is to collect and send out emails.

Most email marketing services will come with the ability to create and edit emails, setup automated responses, track your email performance, and segment and run split tests. It’s email, there’s not a whole lot to it. So, with that being said, you can rest assured that your decision in an email marketing platform will go without remorse.

The big three, of these email marketing services which we’d like to recommend, include:

  • Aweber
  • Mailchimp
  • iContact

These are some of the most widely recognized and used email platforms in the industry.

Of course, you could operate an email list from your own records but there are far too many drawbacks in terms of tracking, automation, and segmentation – so don’t bother if you aim to do more than a dozen or so contacts.

In all, you’ll spend about $10 – $50 a month, on these services, for the basics. A larger business will obviously have larger expenses but your affiliate website will make do with the normal plans offered by any number of these services.

For the sake of this tutorial, I will be using Aweber as the example for setting up an email list – it’s a platform that I’ve been using for years. The interface may be different but the general idea of building a list, on any one of these platforms, is essentially the same …

The Basic Setup

As I’ve mentioned, each email marketing service is generally the same (except for the user interface); the labeling may be slightly different in terms of wording but the general idea is similar across the board.

Though the following may be a little rough around the edges – here’s how you can get started with setting up a basic email list (with Aweber):

1. Sign up for an account

Account costs depend on the number of subscribers; it’ll generally start free or about $10 and scale up as you accumulate the numbers – it can get expensive if the list is massive but by that point you’re most likely making nice revenue through your promotions to a huge crowd.

2. Go to “Create and Manage Lists” – and create one

In the top selection, open the “create and manage lists” tab, choose to create a new list and input the basic information about the list.

3. Personalize the List

Input the branding, social media sharing, and snippets; just basic account stuff.

4. Customize the opt-in confirmation

Leave the confirmation the same or add some spice with your type of writing. Keep the “require opt-in on web forms” to on (so you’re doing a double opt-in which is in accordance to spam laws). Create a “success” landing page (often a “Thank You” page) otherwise leave this blank, for now, and come back to it before you go live.

5. Create the follow up messages

In the “messages” tab, create the initial set of follow up messages. I’ve included a sample email sequence below for reference but, for now, do an opener, a few days of content (think: series), and an email that transitions into the next set of emails. You could give away the freebie on the first email or use the initial email sequence to offer an email e-course – your choice.

6. Setup the web form (the opt-in box)

Use the wizard and editor to create your opt-in box. Consider hiring a freelance designer/developer to work on the opt-in design and copy if you’re unfamiliar with best practices or how to catch your users attention with this design element & form.

Once you’re through the design phase, you can now install the opt-in form onto your website using the Javascript (or raw HTML) code provided at the end of the wizard. Copy and paste it into various sections of your website or create alternative forms for the areas to track the various “zones” from which your subscribers opt-in (such as a “sidebar opt-in” form, “below post” form, and so on).

The email marketing services have made the process a true breeze for getting situatuated. There are many tutorials and resources within the knowledge base of these websites to help you get started if you’re hung on the technical details; likewise, they all have customer support that can guide you.

One last thing before the marketing side: read up on the CAN SPAM act to understand what you’re getting yourself into when using email marketing – it’s very vital to know considering the large amount of legal issues with email over the years.

Email Marketing: In a Nutshell

Steve from SteveScottSite has created an excellent infographic about the types of email marketing messages which gives you a great starting point.

Though each presents a unique, powerful opportunity in your email marketing, I, personally, would recommend focusing on the following when you’re just getting started:

  • A Newsletter – A newsletter is a great way to regularly keep in contact with your subscribers ( has one, if you didn’t know); these emails are generally based on a timeline and scheduled such as weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. The goal of the newsletter is to keep subscribers informed with your business and brand. A newsletter gives your website a bump in traffic (when sharing links) or can be used as a medium for promoting new products. You’re most likely on a newsletter already so you get the general idea here.
  • Automated/Scheduled Emails – This segment of email marketing is generally done at the beginning such as when you’re running an e-course or it could also be used if you’re taking time away from work but need emails to go out (scheduled). These automated emails, when used properly, can take a subscriber through various ups and downs; it creates a story. You can divide these automated/scheduled emails to promote products/services during holidays, when you’re promoting new products, launching a project, or releasing your own products/services. In fact, a lot of the email messages you’ve received (as part of being on a list) has probably been automated in some fashion; it’s often employed after signing up so the freebie is delivered, a short course follows, and then you begin receiving regular updates.
  • Broadcast Emails – These are the one-off emails you receive such as a quick update, when a new blog post goes out, some sale, or whatever is needed for the marketer. You can use these however you wish but don’t abuse them – don’t overload people with too much information. The best use of these broadcast emails, in my opinion, is when you’ve published new content (especially reviews) so you’re driving people to your site, getting them into the content, having them share your work, and building the buzz around your brand. If you publish frequently, these broadcast emails become a quick way to bump your daily traffic.

If I could say just one thing about this idea of email marketing it would be this:

Don’t think of your email list as a group of people that want to be hit over the head with marketing messages. Treat the list as if it’s a small group of friends and family. Give them great information, exceptional resources, and respect. Occasionally promote affiliate products and services but keep the focus on the subscriber – give them value and they’ll exchange it for money when the time is right.

The best way to get into email marketing is to simply do it.

Test out various campaigns, email formats, and messages while your list is still fresh and new; when it doesn’t have a boat load of people. The initial adopters of your emails will take your message with a grain of salt because they most likely understand that they’re first on the list – there are “bugs” to be worked out. It’s best to get the basics down when there are a few people subscribing than in front of thousands.

Forming a Coherent Email Marketing Campaign

The success of an email marketing campaign relies, heavily, on your ability to deliver consistent, timely, valuable information to your subscribers.

A great way to overcome the hurdle of email marketing is to create a content schedule (much like one you’d create for your website and other marketing projects).

The email content schedule is slightly different in that there are “transitionary” emails mixed into the lot but the general principle stays the same. These transition emails allow you to jump to the next topic in the emails which creates consistency in your email delivery.

This section of the guide could be an entire blog post in itself (which is may be, in the future) so let’s stick to the absolute basics and run with a sample email marketing campaign you can get started with today, this includes:

  • Day 0: The first email thanks the subscriber and delivers their freebie (or introduces the course)
  • Day 1: The start of the course or opening segment of a 2 – 3 email length “series”; this is often where you introduce a problem.
  • Day 2: The problem is addressed through very informative content but also leaves enough room for future information (which comes in the next email).
  • Day 3: The problem is finally solved which is often done through the use of a product (though it may not necessarily be the case if you do not want to be overly promotional – it’s good to give people time in between product promotions).
  • Day 4: You can ask for feedback, suggestions, or list out additional resources for solving the problem; this is a good time to get your subscribers to take action.
  • Day 5: You setup a transition into the next problem or topic by explaining a related situation that appears after the previous.

Think of the email sequence as story telling – you’re taking a subscriber through a tale where they’re the main character, they battle the odds, and come out shining but, like suspense, there are cliffhangers and the next journey begins.

In between these sequences, drop a few broadcast emails asking questions, linking to new blog posts, hosting a webinar, giving away a new freebie – basically something to jar the subscriber from their lull if they’re zoning out from your message.

The great thing about an email marketing service is that you can actually create automated email campaigns for weeks on end – you simply write them out, schedule them, and everything runs on its own. I’ve heard of some marketers using email marketing that has sequences scheduled out into the next few years!

You can repeat this simple sequence time and time again with great ease.

Track, test, optimize, repeat.

Five Required Strategies for List Building

Email marketing has matured, to the point, where most “best practices” have been established; it’s an old platform for delivery that has been dissected every which way so the good news is that it’s not some ever-evolving service such as modern social media. There’s always room for evolution but, in short, email is simple – as long as you do the required strategies.

In order of importance, here is what you should do:

A. Develop a list building freebie – A freebie is extremely powerful in building your list because it helps people overcome the dread of being on yet another list; the freebie is a valuable “thank you” to the subscribers and sets the tone for what they will begin receiving on the list. The freebie can be anything of value. The point is that it goes beyond the normal content on your website; it’s a complete product – but for free. Consider creating a very specific, valuable piece of work that answers the biggest question(s) in your niche; add it to your email segment as something they receive at the beginning or divide it into an email course to start your list in the right direction.

B. Include your opt-in box anywhere and everywhere – The opt-in is where you’re collecting your subscribers so, as you could expect, it’s important to have it in any area that draws a lot of attention. If you can, hire a designer to create a very visually stunning, copy rich opt-in box that immediately catches the visitors’ attention and draws them in with a powerful call-to-action. Place this opt-in in the top of your sidebar, after posts, on landing pages, and any location you have access to.

C. Utilize point-of-contact to generate leads – Running a physical shop, going to conferences, or doing meet ups with people interested in your niche? Have a lead generating platform for these points of contact. For example, distribute business cards at conferences with links back to a landing page for your email list. Use tablets with a landing page so people can put in their information and subscribe when they’re in your location. Ask for subscribers when you’re chatting with people in Google+ hangouts, webinars, or Skype. Basically, get the lead whenever you’re talking with people – promote your work!

D. Develop specific landing pages for your marketing campaigns – Speaking of landing pages – start making them. Make a landing page for each segment of your campaign. You can use highly specific landing pages that are directed at certain communities coming over from your guest blog posts. You could have landing pages aimed and tailored to online advertising campaigns. Ones for Facebook, Twitter followers, LinkedIn, and any other you need. Doing these specific, tailored pages will increase your opt-in chances because it’s congruent with your message on each of these platforms – there’s less resistance because it’s familiar.

E. Encourage subscribers to share and promote the message – Refrain from treating your email content as being exclusive to the list. Yes, subscribers get the first look at the information but re-use and recycle that content into various areas of your website (after all, it’s your content). For example, republish the email content onto your website’s blog, convert it to a PDF and distribute it through document sharing websites, compile it and offer it as an Amazon Kindle ebook. There is an unlimited amount of opportunities for your content once it’s been created so use it in any fashion that aids in your brand and link building.

Do just these five strategies and you’ve already won the battle. Repeat them, over and over again, and the email marketing side of your affiliate business will see successful growth – it’s dead simple.

It Doesn’t End Here …

Let me get one more word in before you rush off to begin building your email list.

An email list requires a lot of dedication and perseverance.

Reflect on the work you’ve placed into your affiliate marketing business and remember that everything great takes time. The early days of your email marketing efforts may not be entirely fruitful but that’s because it’s still in the early stages of growth. You may find yourself discouraged by small list count numbers but that will grow with the effort you put into list building – trust me.

In fact, it’s not just about the numbers.

Your email list is comprised of individuals that have “voted” for your message – they want to hear what you have to say versus randomly stumbling onto your blog through the search engines or a share within the various social media platforms.

People on your list become absorbed within your community. They become brand ambassadors, long-time customers, and will be very vocal about your business; cherish it, not many businesses have the opportunity to readily contact their customers on the fly.

You must, must, must stay constant with your emails, responses, and ability to create engaging email content; you have to literally treat it as if it’s a secondary website.

Don’t want to send out an email today because you’re too busy? Tough it out. Do it.

Every email you broadcast is another opportunity to reach your followers. Another opportunity to generate sales. Another opportunity to grow your business.

Setting up the list is the easy part – it’s what you do with it afterward that truly matters so build it like a true asset because it will earn you success in your industry.