If you’ve spent any time reading about the importance of building an email list online, then you’ve likely experienced the overwhelm that comes from learning a ton of different tactics and having one list building strategy after another thrown at you can leave you feeling a lot of pressure to figure out which one is the best for you and your market.
There’s no shortage of list building tactics and ideas, and I’ve personally tried most of them… but the results were far from stellar because I didn’t have an overarching strategic approach.
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List Building Strategy Matters
That meant that my traffic was subpar, and my email list didn’t grow very quickly in the early days.
Today, things are different, and I have a much better “big picture” view of how to generate traffic and conversions, and what works best for different people.
You see, I realized that all of the information out there about traffic was valid, and it was just a matter of combining the right tactics into a bigger strategy based on the outcomes I wanted.
Let me walk you through the 4 strategic ways to apply common list building tactics, no matter what kind of business or blog you run. The trick is knowing which one to use and when to use it, but don’t worry I’ll go over that too!
4 list building strategies that the pros use
Most of the how-to articles you read about list building strategies are actually talking about specific list building tactics. You know, like how to use SEO to drive traffic, how to use a specific type of squeeze page, or how to guest post. These are all specific actions you can take to get more traffic and subscribers, but they don’t constitute an overarching strategy.
If you’ve tried to apply all the list building advice out there with less than ideal results, it’s probably because you didn’t have the strategy in place to make these actions work together.
1. Slow & Steady Wins The Race
When I was first starting out online, the slow and steady way is how I built my list. It’s the default way to build up an audience, and it’s not bad but it does take time. This is a perfect strategy to help you build your traffic and list over time because it’s consistent: you create content, blog, guest post, apply SEO techniques, get word of mouth, and repeat on a regular basis.
This is ideal if you’ve got an actual business to run, or maybe you have a day job and this is your side project. It’s simple enough to dedicate a few hours per week to showing up and creating content. Over time your site’s authority will increase in the search engines, you’ll develop word of mouth from your fans, and things will slowly pick up the pace.
The problem? It’s slow, so if you want to results fast, it’s not going to happen for you.
Many bigger sites started out with the slow and steady path, like Digital Photography School, and my first business Real Foods Witch. These sites weren’t overnight successes, but now they get steady traffic from the search engines and when people think of the topics for these sites they can point people to them, generating word of mouth.
2. Short Focused Bursts Build Your List
For this strategy, you set aside a month or two that is dedicated to traffic and growing your email list. During these few months, you put everything you’ve got into building your list. Because it’s timed, it has more of an immediacy factor, and it feels more urgent and fresh.
The types of tactics you’d use for a short focused burst are putting on a live webinar or livestream, running a contest, doing a joint venture, or running ads to your opt-in, since you might not want to run ads 365 days a year but you might do it for a short period of time.
These are all things that have an endpoint, so you can set aside time in your yearly calendar to focus on traffic and list building. If you run a seasonal business, this might be the type of activity you do during your off-season.
Here’s an example from Amy Porterfield running a joint webinar with Melanie Duncan about Pinterest. This works great because it’s a specific point in time, and the nature of joint webinars is that both parties build their lists.
Another example is the 30 Day List Building Challenge that I’m currently hosting. We started off running this a few times each year, but have found that there was such a high demand for the program that we’ve made it available on a rolling enrollment basis so anyone can sign up at any time and receive the content each day for 30 straight days. It’s also got social sharing built into it, and we’ve found that our participants stay more engaged when they can focus on list building in short focused bursts.
3. Make a Big Splash With a big Launch
You’ve definitely seen the big splash model, it’s usually attached to a product launch and it seems to take over a corner of the internet for a while. You know someone is doing a launch when suddenly you see their name everywhere at once, they’re being interviewed, guest posting, showing up left and right on social media.
The big splash works wonders because you capture the attention of the market, it’s the be everywhere at once advantage. But to understand how to pull off a launch, you need to know exactly how much time goes into it. The reason a big splash is different from a short burst is that there are usually months of time dedicated to the launch leading up to it. And by months, I mean upwards of 4 months for really big launches.
Securing all the guest spots, interviews, affiliates, and making sure that all the buzz goes live at the same time is no easy feat. But when a launch comes together, it really has the potential to drive so much traffic and grow your list like nothing else.
You’ve no doubt seen big launches, but a few notable ones you keep an eye out for are Only72, and Marie Forleo’s B-school. There are entire courses on how to pull together a killer launch, and if you’re offering a new product or service you’ll want to spend some time figuring out your positioning and creating the best product you can.
4. Target New Verticals
One often-overlooked strategy for list building is to step outside of your immediate market and get known in new verticals. Take, for example, my list building advice: it works for bloggers, but it can also work for photographers, dentists, and jewelry designers. I’ve been able to repurpose my content and do short focused bursts of list building in these different markets.
You can actually choose any of the previous 3 strategies to go into new verticals, you could do a big launch in a new vertical or go the slow and steady route. The benefit here is that you can usually jumpstart your efforts because of the previous work you’ve done in your main market, and you can get more specific in how you serve people.
Someone who has done a great job of becoming known in many verticals is Chris Guillebeau, he sits at the intersection of many markets like travel, entrepreneurship, artists, and so on. I personally stumbled upon this idea with my different blogs and businesses in the raw food market, when I realized there was a lot of overlap and that people would follow me from one topic to the next.
Can you think of a few “submarkets” that you could focus on, in order to help you reach new people and grow your list further?
Which Strategy Are You Going To Use First?
All of these are winning strategies, but which one are you committing to doing next? If you’re already in one of these categories, is it the right one for you and your goals? Leave a comment below, I want to know!