Every second you’re not building your list you’re wasting subscribers. And, possible customers.
You’ve probably heard how a list is a marketer’s most valuable asset. I can’t stop to highlight the relevance of this notion to my students.
Maybe you’re waiting to finish your product, or waiting for the designer to upload the final version of your blog, but the thing is, you don’t need to finish anything to start building your list.
I crafted this post to help you either start building your email list or grow your existing one.
I want to help you reach the first big milestone for email marketers, 1000 subscribers.
So, why 1000?
1k is not a magic number, nor one that guarantees long term success. However, it’s a number that allows us to grasp the importance of an email list and teaches us how they behave and what they are really looking for.
There’s a really great resource from Smartinsights called: Email engagement rates for small and medium size business from MailChimp.
With it, you can read the different engagement analytics like open and click through rate for emails belonging to various industries, like e-commerce, education and even real estate.
Looking at the clickthough rates (% of people who click on links within emails), you can see the numbers range from 1.30% in the restaurant category (13 people from 1000) to 5.41% in the hobbies category (around 54 people from 1000).
With an average clickthrough rate of 3.26% it means that you can expect a medium email to link conversion with average engaging content.
So let’s say 32 people out of your 1000 subscribers click on the link and you’ve warmed up your list enough for them to buy whatever it is you’ve offered.
iPage’s affiliate program gives you $105 per signup for each hosting plan your referrals buy. With a 1k subscriber list, that’s $3360 from a single email (of course, clickthough rates and conversions can vary).
There’s no doubt an email list holds enormous power and can boost your marketing efforts and income if done properly.
But, getting subscribers is not easy, and most people just give up whenever they see just a couple of new subscribers each month.
What I want to do is show you how to HACK your way to getting your first 1000 subscribers.
Through various techniques, methods and resources, I’ll let you know how to increase signups, opens, click and conversions.
I want to show you how to reach the 1000 subscriber milestone without investing ANY $$$ to get to that point.
Urban Dictionary gives a flawless definition of what I believe a hack represents:
And that’s exactly what you’re going to learn on this course. How to hack your way to a 1000 subscriber list. A clever solution to a tricky problem, for most of us.
The following list of hacks come from my own experience. They are, basically, the things I wish someone would have told me or I would have fully understood when I started building and growing my own email list.
So, let’s go to the nuts and bolts of the matter here. Let’s learn how to build an extraordinary and responsive email list.
There’s no right or wrong time
When it comes to list building, there’s no such thing as timing. When I first started, I didn’t quite know what I was doing. I was blindly following the advice of my own mentor to do so, without quite knowing how and what to do here.
If you haven’t started building your list already, you’ve got to ask yourself: What’s holding me back?
If you asked me at the time, I’ve probably would have picked from the following reasons.
- I don’t know how to build my list
- I don’t where I’ll get the traffic
- I don’t know what to give in exchange for signup
- I don’t know why I’m building one in the first place
So, we have HOW, WHERE, WHAT and WHY.
Let me tell you how to get over those holdbacks. Just START BUILDING YOUR LIST.
If you see the underlining of the answer listed above, you’ll realize they are completely tied to the SKILLS necessary to build a list. Every purpose behind a list is different, and the only way to get the skills you need to start are by building your own list.
No post, book or webinar can give you more insight into how your subscribers will behave than your own experience. Yes, they will help you make the process easier, by knowing, for example, what worked for them and what didn’t. But, when it comes to marketing, every potential customer is different, and if you set your mind to learn from subscriber #1, you’ll fins yourself taking giant leaps when others just cant seem to move forward.
When I made up my mind and decided to start building my list I realized I was going to fail a LOT. But I also decided I wasn’t going to care. I didn’t care if I was going to get 1 or 10 subscribers a day. As long as my list was growing, I was growing as a list owner.
Know Who You Are
Back in 2012, I was really into the whole Mayan prophecy type of content. Some people talked about apocalypse, others about a spiritual renaissance. So, I spend a great deal of time reading, which really made me realize the true potential within us all. I was convinced it was the beginning of a new cycle and nothing “bad” was going to happen. Come 2013 and the world was still here, and interestingly enough, my spiritual curiosity kept on growing.
This was not the direct result of this new cycle of humanity, it happened because I was getting spiritual content on my email inbox each and every week. Websites like WakingTimes and Paradigm Shift, which I can’t quite recall when I opted into their email list, were making me come back to their sites and sometimes even purchase eBooks. This is because they were building their own email list, and made great efforts to keep me, as a subscriber, pleased.
So, my point here is that you don’t have to be a blogger, or an affiliate marketer to build your own list. Anyone with something to say can build their own email list to enhance their communications.
If you’re an author, why not build an email list to keep readers up to date with your latest publications and writing progress?
If you’re a fitness trainer, why not start gathering all of those you you think you can provide helpful tips to?
Even if you bake cakes, sell refurbished clothes, design or code websites, play Pokemon Go eagerly, do freelance work or any other activity you spend a considerable amount of time doing, you can build an email list.
Our lives revolve around our passion, and our passion is mainly focused on one or two relevant activities in our lives.
Everyone has something to say. Everyone has a message. An email list is just a quicker and more effective way to get your message to more people. Not just once, but as many times as you want. Once you have your list, it’s yours. Once you grow your list, your message begins spreading.
You don’t have to be a prophet to have a message. We are all different. We have different experiences and live different lives. Your message is unique. Craft it. Send it. Spread it.
A Random Visitor
I remember investing 100’s of dollars each month for the greatest email marketing products and services. I was getting really low signup rates. I was doing things by the book. I had my blog, created well designed resources to offer in return for signups and had everything, from popups to in-post subscription forms. But still, I was feeling like moving nowhere.
I went to places like the Warrior Forum and sought advice from conversion and usability experts to see what I was doing wrong. So, I asked about the color scheme of my site, about the location of my signup forms, even about the type of resources I was offering. Everything was good. Optimal, they said.
One day I came across a website called User Testing. I got mesmerized by the concept of the startup. For $49, you could get a short video from an actual user accessing your site and performing defined actions, like signing up to an email list. I didn’t quite order the package, but it got me thinking.
What should I pay for someone to access and review my site when I’m start enough to do it myself?
Of course, User Testing’s service is outstanding. I acknowledge that. But, it’s not necessary to spend money on testing to see what’s wrong with your site… to see why visitors aren’t subscribing to your list when you’re just starting out. Sure, startups and people with larger email lists or blogs could use these insights really well, but if you’re just starting out, your eyes, or a friend’s, are good enough.
And that’s what I decided to do.
I was going to access my site from the point of view of a target visitor and see if I’m tempted to subscribe to my own list.
My site back then was called 19 and Rich. It was a site that mainly revolved around affiliate marketing. I wanted to show young people how to make money online because I was, at the time, struggling with continuing my university studies.
I wanted to prove everyone (including my parents), that I didn’t need a diploma to make a living. I want to clarify a couple of things though. First of all, I got the name from a Clickbank product called 16 and Rich, which was mainly a sales letter with a video showing a 16 year old who was succeeding at affiliate marketing and getting huge checks that allowed her to buy expensive cars.
To my disappointment, or better said relief, I found that the site and the whole product was created by this girl’s dad, who just used his own daughter to create a better purchase hook: if a 16 y/o whiny girl did it, so can I. Second of all, I’m now 25, and looking back, I made a lot of marketing mistakes I feel I regret but can’t, cause they made me who I am today. And lastly, I was not rich. I was making around $600 a week back then, which, living under my parents roof was a lot, but not enough to consider oneself rich. I kind of liked the name, but soon I found myself growing out of the name each and every year (20, 21, 22 and so on).
I remember sitting on my balcony while having my usual Dr. Pepper and thinking, I’m no longer Max. For I few minutes I’ll forget everything I know about myself. I’m no longer 19 and I’m definitely not making any money online. Let’s see where this takes us.
So, I started browsing through my site like a random visitor. For a few minutes I was Joe, I dropped out of college and I had to find a way to pay my rent on my own. Hence, I, Joe, desperately needed this cash.
What I found then mostly crumbled my whole ideal of being a marketer. As I browsed through the extensive posts list, I couldn’t find a single one that really conveyed the strategy, methods or techniques needed to make money online.
- 8 Ways to Make Money With Solo Ads
- The Untold Secret On How Increase Subscriber Retention
- How To Get Every Email Opened.
There was no story behind the posts. There was no meaning behind the content. I was copying the posting style some successful bloggers were using, but I wasn’t speaking to Joe.
As a college dropout who had to make money in order to have a roof over his head, Joe needed a quick but stable method to make money online, and 8 ways to make money online simple won’t make it.
Instead of making posts like everyone else out there, I had to start speaking to the Joe’s out there to increase the size of my list.
So posts like:
- 8 Ways to Start Paying Your Own Bills
- Make Quick Money Online If You’re Thinking of Dropping Out
- List Building Strategies that Pay Rent
…have a much higher chance of appealing to every Joe that was reading my blog. And of course, the resource you give in exchange for an email address should be something that speaks directly to your target visitors to subscribe to your list in a way that says:
Hey Joe, I know who you are cause I’ve been there. I know what you need cause I needed it too. Here’s a quick PDF read on how to quickly set up your own online business by doing something you actually love. Probably something’s not being taught to you at college.
I understood this is what value really was: a feeling Joe will get after consuming my content in which he believes the time spent reading was definitely worth it.
I was trying to fit in. I was trying to be like the big marketers out there. But, they were speaking to their Joe’s. I had to make sure I spoke to mine.
Boostrapping your way to 1000 subscribers
So, enough about me, or Joe.
I want to encourage you to start building your list right away.
The first thing you’re going to need is an ESP, or Email Service Provider. They basically handly everything that has to do with processing the fields entered in the form, storing them and then sending your emails.
If you’re not familiar with the term boostrapping, our friends at Google gave us a perfect definition:
start up (an Internet-based business or other enterprise) with minimal financial resources.
I like to consider minimal financial resources as none.
Yes, there are ways to start collecting email addresses with no investment.
In the past I used to reccommend MailChimp and their Forever Free Plan, which basically allowed you to store information and send emails to up to 2,000 subscribers. However, they only allowed you to manually send emails.
I recently found a new and powerful alternative called MailerLite. They not only allow you to create an account and manually send emails without the need of entering your credit card details. They also allow you to create and send autoresponder sequences (a series of emails sent automatically upon signup over a time span of your choosing).
The only catch is that instead of 2,000 subscribers, you can store up to 1,000 subscribers in their free plan. However, as you can already guess, 1000 subscribers is more than you need to start making money out of your email list. Besides, when you go over 1,000 you’re still paying less than services like Aweber or GetResponse, and they already advertise themselves as cheap.
If you want to automate the email sending process by creating email sequences but you don’t want to invest until your list is big enough, check them out.
The next step is knowing how to collect emails. There are 2 ways you can do this:
- With squeeze pages
- With forms
Squeeze pages are, well, pages. But not any kind of it. It’s one where the visitor can only do one thing: subscribe to your form. This is what a squeeze page looks like:
The example above is a great example of a high converting squeeze page, if we were back in 2008.
Nearly 80% of users own a smartphone. Desktop visitors are used to a horizontal navigation experience. So the form would look perfect on your laptop or PC. However, smartphones have a vertical screen, which completely changes the navigation experience. So, if potential subscribers were to see this form on their mobile phones, one of the following things would happen.
A) It could just resize:
B) It could crop out of the viewing field:
Usability practices suggest that users prefer to have the least amount of steps to performed any desired action. Option A would make the user have to zoom into your page to read the content and then zoom into your form to enter their email. Option B would make the user scroll horizontally back and forth, first to read the headlines and then to enter an email address. This is not optimal.
What usability basically states is that users are lazy, so you NEED to make the signup process as easy as you can. The example below shows a good example of a form that looks great on both, desktop and mobile experience:
Great squeeze pages are responsive. This means that the layout changes according to the device you’re viewing it in. I can’t exactly tell the % of people that sign up to lists in mobile devices, but probable it’s really significant. However, here’s a report that talks about mobile email usage statistics. For you to get an idea 70% of people use their smartphones to read their emails. Pretty significant, huh?
In the mean time, if you wish to download my first HackSheet, fill in the form below and get a summary of this post with actionable hacks and items delivered directly to your inbox!
Mind the pixels
So, responsiveness is a must for modern list building. A standard iPhone 4 has a 3.5 inch display. Nowadays, phone manufacturers don’t make anything smaller than 4 inches. A 3.5 inch display has native resolution of 640 (width) x 960 (height) pixels, so make sure your forms don’t exceed a width of 640.
Some marketers think that the more forms you have on your site, the more chances of visitors signing up. This is not true for most cases. Did you see what I just did as you read or scanned this post?
I asked you to subscribe to MY email list. I placed a form in this post and kindly asked for your email address. If you did not see it, here it goes again:
If you read the text and take a look at the images, you are not being shown a sign up for news and updates type of form. You are shown a specific subscription form I created specifically for this post.
If you take a look at the resource that I offer in exchange for your email address you will see that it is a pdf that includes a summary of the main points of THIS post. So, if you’re reading a piece of content and are shown a subscription form that’s relevant or related to that particular content, you’ll have a much higher likelihood of wanting to give your email address.
So, if you’re aiming to build an email list that reaches the 1000 subscriber milestone, you probably should spend your time in creating subscription forms that relate to the specific type of content you’re publishing.
You don’t need to create a separate resource file for every signup form. You could just change up the title to relate to the specific content where it’s being published at.
This is what I call contextual signup forms: subscription boxes that relate specifically to the content in which the box is shown.
So instead of using a single form published all across your site, create variations. You can change the title or the resource given in exchange for the email. It’s a really smart way to increase the number of subscriptions your list gets.
To pop or not to pop?
Think about this. Popups are just subscription boxes that just pop up. Do you think they’re effective?
Some marketers believe the best thing you can do to turn visitors into email subscribers is to have a signup form popping up and ask them for their email address. Others believe they are to obtrusive, and all they do is interrupt the reading experience, annoy the visitor and make him or her leave.
Well, they’re both right, or well, wrong.
Think about the times you’ve subscribed to a list through a popup. What was in that popup that triggered your decision?
Whenever you want to get a visitor’s email address you need to step into that person’s shoes. It’s all about how the process of asking for an email fits in the experience of, for example, reading a piece of content.
Popups are intrusive, only if you allow them to. If you stop the popup from interrupting the reading experience, or better said, if you wake the pop up add more value to the reading experience, then popups absolutely work.
I already spoke about how subscription boxes can mingle with a piece of content in a contextual way, so now I’ll dig even deeper.
The first subscription method I’m gonna cover is a really nice plugin called the Hello Bar. Though it’s not actually a popup, it’s non-intrusive, as it’s always there.
The Hello Bar is nearly impossible to miss, as it can pop up at the time of your convenience or greet visitors by always staying there on top. It’s completely open to customization. You can change the colors, fonts, messages and even stop showing the bar when the visitor subscribes or closes the bar.
The Hello Bar also comes with a slider that stays at the bottom of the page even when visitors scrolls through your website:
The Hello Bar connects with most autorresponders and it’s really easy to set up. It’s a really smart way to collect email addresses without interrupting visitors.
Now, let’s start speaking about popups. There are some things you need to consider when deciding which popups to add to your site.
Popups can be programmed so that they do not interrupt visitors randomly. Timing is an essential factor when it comes to conversions. There are 2 types of popups that I suggest you try out to see how it affects the number of visitors turned subscribers.
Exit intent popups show ONLY when the visitors shows intention of wanting to leave your site. I am not talking about those annoying exit popups that appear when you close windows and tabs displaying options like Stay or Leave. Exit intent popups are much more sophisticated.
So, how do these popups know when to, well, pop?
Basically, they do in 2 occasions:
a) When the cursor starts going up to close the page or tab:
These popups can be customized to target specifically those who are about to leave. It’s a good idea to display great offers… those one time only deals that you just can’t say not to. Because, they were going to leave anyways so these type of popups are really effective to retain those visitors.
b) When visitors scroll up, to go to another page or close:
These types of popups take into consideration the intentions of your visitors. This does NOT mean they are actually GOING TO LEAVE. It just means that the plugins track the position of the cursor and page scroll to interpret when the visitor could actually be leaving to display the popup.
This type of popups are the ones that pop when a user scrolls to a certain point in the page. Most popup plugins tell you to set the amount of pixels a visitor needs to scroll in order for the popup to show.
Most computers have a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. This means that the height of the screen is most likely 1080 pixels. Most navigation bars are around 130 pixels, leaving the displayed height of your content to around 950 pixels.
If you want your popup to show up at a specific part of the content, all you’ve got to do is count the number of times you scroll from the top to the bottom of the page and multiply it by 950!
For example, if your page takes you 6 full scrolls to reach to the end, but you want the popup to show at the middle, then you’ll need to set the amount if pixels scrolled to display to 950 x 3. This is 2850.
So, why should you even bother to count the pixels. Wouldn’t it be simpler just to display the popup after, say, 50 seconds?
Well, there are many people that open tabs and just leave them to check later. If a user is scrolling it means that he or she is actually reading or scanning through the content. Now, there’s a principle that says that investment leads to action. There are many people paying a lot to go to seminars a-la-Tony Robbins to change their life around. So, even though he’s great, this doesn’t mean that he has powers or anything like that. He simply works around the fact that people have a much higher chance of taking action after they have invested both time and money.
By displaying a popup in the middle of your content means that visitors have already spent a considerable amount of time going through your content, and, according to the principle of investment, they will be more likely to subscribe then.
The worst thing you can do is set up a popup that has absolutely nothing to do with the page it is being displayed on. We talked about this before, one popup signup box is not good for your entire site. You need to customize it to match the content available in each page.
For example, each blog post can have a different lead magnet or resource that you offer to your visitors. Even if all subscribers end up in the same email list, you need to show relevant popups to increase your subscriptions.
If you’re reading this post on list building and email marketing, I should display signup forms that can give you more information on list building and email marketing. Why? Because this is the information you were looking for when you started reading this post. Yeah, I could set up a popup that can give you a resource featuring SEO tips, sure, you can be interested in that. But the popup will be much more effective when it takes into consideration the context in which it’ll pop.
Call To Action.
Smart list building is not just about when to display popups and where to put subscription boxes. It’s also about the words you use to convince people to subscribe. Calls to action, or CTA, are extremely important when it comes to increasing subscriptions.
Every subscription form has one goal: convert the visitor into a subscriber. Now, you can have a greatly timed popup with just the right resource/lead magnet. But a lot of email marketers overlook a simple factor: the subscription button.
Take a look at the following examples and try to guess what this form did right:
Having a button saying I Want Proven SEO Tips is much better than a simple, plain and boring Subscribe button.
The subscription button is a confirmation of the promise behind the list you’re subscribing to. We get it, the button will subscribe us to the list, but is it necessary to repeat this?
Here’s another good example:
Of course I want to increase my conversions, and I’m much more likely to click on a button that says this, rather than one that just says goodbye.
Personalizing the subscription button is a really powerful call to action. Specially if you’re letting people know what they’re gonna get or what they’ll be able to do once they signup.
Your popup needs to reflect the identity of your site. The identity of your site is the colors, typography or shapes you regularly use.
So brand colors are not just the colors that you’re using on your logo. They are also the colors you use on your site and social media graphics. So, whatever colors you’re using are the colors that represent you and your brand. Your colors are your message, and your message is who you are.
Take a look at how this:
I used the green present in our logo twice in the form. This gives a much more solid brand consistency and it leads to trust.
Try matching the colors of the popups to the colors of your logo and site to see what happens.
Now, what resources can you use to create highly customizable popups in terms of timing and design?
OptinMonster: Perhaps the easiest plugin you can use to show popups and forms on your site. It has EVERY feature mentioned on this post, like exit intents and onscroll popups. They also feature a lot of templates that you can customize to your liking, A/B testing to enhance conversions and a lot more features that are proven to work.
They also have a lot of cool animations for when your popups show:
The second resource (and the one I’m using for this site) is Code Canyon’s Layered Popups. It’s a little bit more difficult to work your way around this resource, but it’s a cheap one time purchase (unlike OptinMonster).
You can also customize everything, from timing to design with Layered Popups. The cool thing about this plugin is that in works with layers. This gives you the ability to create your own templates easily from scratch (or choose from preexisting ones), just by adding layers (which you can also animate).
So, this post is now a little longer than I planned, so I’m going to start wrapping things up.
Here we covered 14 HACKS you can apply to help you glide your way towards your first 1000 subscribers. Beginner list builders tend to give up when they start seeing they’re efforts are not paying off. I don’t want this to be your case.
Here’s a secret: The great thing about list building is that you never stop learning how to do it better.
I have a highly reviewed online course on list building and email marketing you can check out if you want to build a solid list. I want to take you to 1000 subscribers and beyond, and my course on Udemy is the perfect resource to take you there!
If you have any questions or suggestions, just leave a comment down below. I intent to keep this post updated, so if there’s anything you want me to add, just let me know!