Once upon a time, I was trying to grow Copy Power‘s list so I could sell more online courses.
I bought one of those Black Friday bundles that digital entrepreneurs like to sell (myself included) over Thanksgiving week.
I bought it mainly to learn how to write killer proposals & to get paid more for my client work. But one of the “bonus” courses in the bundle was a course that had the “absolute, 100%, guaranteed” steps to get me to 10,000 subscribers. I was stoked, but you can probably guess what happened. 😒
It was a course by a dude who, yes, was good at business…. but who also assumed everyone & every business that existed was just like him.
I’d been doing guest posing as a list building strategy, and since I was tired of it and wanted to try something new, I decided to go all in and gave it a go.
After all, he GUARANTEED me that if I showed up & followed his steps perfectly, I’d double my subscribers every time I went through them & would be to 10,000 subscribers within 6 months, if I was dedicated. And I was. 🤷🏼♀️
But… I bet you can guess what happened when I tried to “hack” list building.
On the first go-around, according to my math, I should have gotten around 1,000 new subscribers. I got MAYBE 40. And I’d spent a fuck-ton of money and time.
To put that in perspective: I’ve gotten 40 subscribers out of a single, easy-to-write blog post for a small niche site before. (In fact, that’s not at all uncommon.)
So needless to say, I went back to guest posting & podcast interviews as a way to grow my subscriber base. (And of course, the word of mouth of my lovely readers. 😘)
“Big” sites are sometimes bullshit
So once I’d sworn off gimmicks & raffles & all other kinds of bullshit sensationalist ways to grow an email list out of desperation, I went back to guest posting.
And if I could easily get 40 subscribers from one easy-to-write post on a tiny niche site, I should be able to get at least 10x that on a larger site that had 30x the readership, right?!?
I had someone from SumoMe reach out to me for a guest post, siting their 300,000+, nearly 400,000 readership size, and I was drooling at the opportunity. 🤤
Thing was, they only wanted incredibly in-depth content (written for free of course, but that’s another rant for another day), but I was so excited to get in front of such a large audience that I just went with it.
After all, my conversion rates are AMAZING (2.3x to 3.5x industry standards in 2018 😉), so it was pretty much “guaranteed” that I’d be getting at least a few hundred subscribers from the hours & hours of work I put in, right?!?
Guess how many subscribers I got?
(Side note: At the time of publication, I had an author bio at the very end of the article that gave a call to action back to my lead magnet… which made it FAR more likely for people to sign up. The agreement was in exchange for me writing that epic post FOR FREE. I can now see they’ve taken it down and backed out on that part of the agreement. #absoluteBS)
8 Things I’ve figured out when it comes to list building
The point of this post wasn’t to name & shame SumoMe… but in using that example, I guess that’s what happened.
Anyway… in all my years of blogging, guest posting, and managing ALL KINDS of online content marketing for myself and my clients, I’ve figured out some things when it comes to list building:
1. It’s about the audience, not the publication.
It doesn’t matter two shits how large the company claims their list is. They might be telling the truth, they might not. It could be that 70% of their people haven’t opened an email from them in 3 years or more. The numbers they claim mean nothing. (And if they come at you with numbers as their first “reason” you should post for them… be weary.)
What matters is how ENGAGED their audience is, and you’ll be able to gauge this rather quickly: if you take a look at their content & imagine yourself as one of their target audience members, how likely would you be to keep coming back for more??
Do you find their stuff helpful, or preachy?
2. Only work with websites & biz owners (i.e. publishers) that give a shit.
In line with the point above, only ever work with people who actually give a shit about their audience, no matter how small.
You want people that focus on providing ACTIONABLE, useful content… not just shit they’re clearly trying to manipulate the search engines with. (Also, people who clearly have a heart behind what they do & aren’t just in it for the money. I knew SumoMe wasn’t like this based on interactions I’d had with them before, so I should have taken it as a warning sign.)
3. Bigger is NOT always better.
Again, not about numbers.
(And quite honestly, I’ve yet to be convinced that size matters… in any respect. 😉 It’s about quality, not quantity.)
4. You’ve got to be hella helpful, too.
And while it is your job to 100% judge other people’s websites for their authenticity & helpfulness… you’ve got to be authentic and helpful too. People online have some of THE BEST bullshit detectors out there, and if you’re full of BS and obviously just trying to collect more email IDs for the sake of collecting more email IDs, they’ll run the other direction and never come back.
5. Big sites aren’t always bad. They can yield great results.
That’s not to say big sites can’t be incredibly helpful.
I’ve seen SO MANY of my clients get spots on major online publications, and reap the business rewards of it.
The thing is, even on the huge, mega-name sites, it STILL comes down to being helpful and authentic. If you are, people will click through and join your list… and then share the article so more people can do the same. If you’re not, they’ll dismiss you after the first few sentences & never come back to your content again.
6. Anyone can do it, if you put in the time.
I’ll have my Blogging With Balls Masterclass up for sale pretty soon… and this thing has worked MIRACLES even for non-writers. You CAN write interesting, helpful content, and you CAN market yourself. (Even if you, like me, cringe while doing because you have some weird internal feeling about promoting yourself.)
7. Outsourcing is usually not an option.
I’ve hired publicists and ad managers… and they’ve NEVER gotten the results I could get for myself with half as much time & none of the budget.
I don’t say this to stress you out about putting EVEN MORE on your plate… I say this to encourage you in your own awesomeness. (And, honestly, once you do it a few times & set your awkward feelings about promoting yourself aside, it does get pretty easy and you can do it rather quickly.)
8. It can (& does) get easier.
Yes, like I just said above, it can (& does) get easier.
The first pitches you send out might feel really hard to write. They might get rejected. Writing your first few articles might take an hour or more.
But once you get better at the habits of doing those things, they become more automated & require a lot less brain function to do… making it easier & meaning you can do more in less time.
Need some help building your list?
In the years I’ve done this for myself and my clients, I’ve become a bit of a “list whisperer.”
I know exactly which publications you should hit up, exactly which ones to avoid because of their BS, how to frame your pitches, and how to plan a low-key, low-stress content outreach strategy that’ll help you build your list in a MASSIVE way over time, without overwhelming yourself.
(BTW, side effects of a larger list include, but are not limited to: more clients, ability to raise your prices, getting booked out, word of mouth, invitation to podcast interviews & digital summits, easier marketing, easier selling, higher Google rankings, more social media followers, and a book deal to tell your mom about.)
Get in touch with me, and we can make a plan to cut the crap & get to the results ASAP.
Even if you’re not sure “what” to do or “how” to do it, I’ll work with you to create a fool-proof plan that’ll get you press coverage (& more email subscribers) before the month is over. (Of course, your participation is required too. 😉)
I’m a hella awesome business coach, and you can click here to book a free 15-minute discovery call with me to see if working together is a good fit & makes sense to help you grow. (Or just do it below.)