Email Marketing: How to Start Building a List and Developing Relationships in Your Sleep!

email marketing and list building 1

Image by @jorgegask

How many times have you heard “the money is in the list” and thought to yourself “that’s easy for YOU to say. I don’t even have two subscribers to rub together!”

I can tell you from my own business experience that regularly communicating with people via email builds trust and credibility – and once that trust and credibility are built up, it’s MUCH easier to make sales.

Here’s a screenshot from a few emails I sent to one of my lists this past Christmas. The emails were to announce a Christmas “sale” for an information product I sell in a farming niche (yes, farming. It’s an ebook and audio interviews teaching famers how to raise a particular kind of farm animal):

This handful of emails (which I’ll tell you more about in a minute) was to a small list, without any formal “launch” process, JV partners, or affiliates. I generated these sales just by sending a few emails to one list.

In this post I’m going to show you how to start building a list of your own, so you can start nurturing the relationships that lead to cashflow.

But first, let me take a minute to explain a few reasons why email marketing is so powerful.

Three Little-Known Reasons Why Email Marketing is Hugely Powerful

We’ve all heard the blather about email marketing “building trust” and all that business. But there are a few other compelling reasons why you should consider starting to build a list TODAY. And those reasons aren’t always obvious. Here are three unconventional reasons why email marketing kicks heiney:

1.      Making a sale requires repeat exposures. In advertising, there’s something called “effective frequency”, which refers to the number of times a person must be exposed to a message before they respond to it. While there seems to be no consensus on the number of exposures required to get a prospective customer to take action, there IS agreement that the number is not “one”.

This is why it’s so important to get the email address of your site visitors if your business model focuses on making sales (if you’re going after Adsense revenue, it’s a different story).

If you don’t have someone’s email address, once they’ve left your site, they might be gone for good. With their email address in your database, of course, you can keep communicating with them via your autoresponder messages.

2.      Submitting an email address establishes “emotional momentum”. The simple act of submitting one’s email can put a person into a buying mode. I’ve never seen any Internet marketer talk about this, but I’ve observed it over and over again on my sites.

Here’s an example to illustrate what I mean: for the past year or so I’ve been advertising one of my health products on adCenter (the pay-per-click program for Bing and Yahoo). My sales process on Bing/Yahoo works like this:

  • A person searches for a particular health treatment keyword on
  • My ad shows up for that keyword
  • The searcher clicks on my ad, and is taken to a page that offers them a free e-course on treatments for that health condition, and asks them to submit their email address
  • When they submit their email address and click the “Get My Free E-Course” button, they’re automatically taken to a page that promotes my health information product (my “sales page”)

The key step in this process is asking the searcher to submit their email address. I’ve experimented with simply linking the Bing ad straight to the sales page (i.e. cutting out the email opt-in page), and the sales rate is always lower.

In other words, a higher percentage of people buy from my sales page when I FIRST ask them to submit their email address.

I haven’t seen any studies to back this up, but my hunch is that when people physically type in their email address and click the submit button, they’re making a psychological commitment, and this establishes emotional momentum. That makes them more receptive to buying my health product when they’re presented with it on the next web page.

(Sidebar: if you’d like to learn more about psychological commitment, read my synopsis of Robert Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion).

3.      Email marketing can increase your income in unexpected ways. Most people associate email marketing with making affiliate sales, or making sales of one’s own information product, but there are other ways to generate income from your list. For example, you can:

  • Direct your email subscribers to an article on your site that has Adsense on it. By placing a 300 x 250 block of ads right below the article title, you’ll get a high clickthrough rate on the ads. This is a technique that I use regularly on my lists.
  • Conduct a survey and create an information product. I’ve also done this with my lists, and it’s allowed me to create tailor-made information products that I’m confident have demand (I cover this in detail in my Niche Sherpa course).
  • Rent your list. I don’t do this personally, and before doing it you’d want to consider the ethics of “lending” your email list to other marketers, but I know there’s a huge industry in list rentals.

So I hope by now you’re convinced of the benefits of building a list if your business model is focused on MAKING SALES.

But how do you start building a list in the first place? Hmmm, that’s a good question…

5 Simple Steps to Start Building Your List

Setting up your website to collect visitors’ email addresses is a straightforward process. Here’s the process I follow for all of my sites:

  1. Do niche research to find out what your target audience is looking for.

If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, you know that I preach (evangelize?) the importance of understanding your market every chance I get. Marketing, at its core, is all about getting your target audience to take action. And you can’t motivate people if you don’t understand where they’re coming from.

2. Create an “ethical bribe” to get your visitors to give you their email address.

The content of the ethical bribe will depend on what your niche research finds is the most pressing problems faced by your target audience. Examples of ethical bribes include:

  • A free report. Create a 5-10 page report that provides useful (but incomplete) information on a topic that will be of interest to your visitors. I say the report should be “incomplete” because you should have a PAID product that completely answers your target audience’s most burning questions.
    • A free e-course. The e-course can consist of – for example – lessons delivered in an email, or access to a series of online videos.
    • Free software.
      • A free MP3 interview with an expert

In my case, for I offer my free report on finding a niche, and on my health sites I offer a free 7-day e-course on treatments for a particular health condition.

3.      Sign up for

Once you’ve created your ethical bribe, you need to set up your email database, so you can capture the email addresses of people who come to your site. “Email database” sounds pretty scary and complicated – but fortunately, there are some services out there that make it easy and inexpensive to collect email addresses. is the service I’ve always used, and it’s considered the “gold standard” for internet marketers.

4.      Put an email opt-in box on your website.

So you have your ethical bribe and an email database to store email addresses. Now you need to start collecting those email addresses on your website!

The best way to start collecting emails is to add an opt-in box on your site. If you’re using WordPress to build your sites (and why wouldn’t you?) and have signed up for, you can get this done pretty easily. Aweber will give you a snippet of code that you can add to the sidebar of your site.

There’s an excellent tutorial on how to add AWeber code to a site’s sidebar here (scroll down the page a little to see the AWeber tutorial).

And here’ an example of a simple email opt-form form that you could put in the sidebar of your site:

Note: I would NEVER recommend you use “Subscribe to our newsletter” as your call-to-action! You need to make your pitch far more compelling than that.

In my blog’s email opt-in form I use “Free 60-Page Report. 4 Proven Steps to Finding a Profitable Niche” The language you use in your call-to-action will depend on what you’re offering, and the language used by your target audience.

5.      Add a pop-up plugin to your site

The last thing I’m going to recommend might go against your instincts, especially if you think those boxes that pop up on websites as soon as you hit the homepage are tacky.

But here’s the thing: pop-ups are tacky, but THEY WORK.

Yes, they work in getting more site visitors to give you their email address.

I know this from personal experience, because every time I add a pop-up to one of my sites, it increases email subscriptions. (Unfortunately, I don’t have any hard data on this one. You’ll just have to trust me!)

The easiest way to add a pop-up to your site is to use a pop-up plugin for WordPress, and the one I highly recommend is PopUp Domination. If you’ve seen the pop-up on this blog, you’ve seen PopUp Domination in action. I use it on all of my sites that are sales-driven (i.e. NOT on sites that I’m trying to maximize Adsense revenue on. The reality is that pop-ups probably cause some visitors to hit the “Back” button right away, and with the Adsense model we want as many people staying on the site for as long as possible).

So now that you know HOW to start building an email list, let me give you a few tips on WHAT KIND of emails to send…based on a little-known technique I call the “principles of persuasion autoresponder series”.

Six Types of Emails to Send to Your List

This is a technique that I invented (if I can toot my own horn!) and have been using for the past year with success. It involves using the six principles of persuasion developed by Professor Robert Cialdini of Arizona State University (if you haven’t read Cialdini’s book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion make sure to check it out. It’s considered a classic in the field of marketing.)

As mentioned earlier in this post, last month I used the six principles of persuasion email technique on one of my lists. I was particularly surprised by the response of my farming list, which has become a bit of an orphan, because I haven’t paid attention to it in months (longer, actually). Yet with just a handful of emails I was able to make around fourteen hundred dollars.

I learned a couple of important things from that small email campaign, and I want to share them here:

Lesson #1: If you don’t ask, you don’t get. As you can see from the image below, on the day that I didn’t send out an email (December 14th), sales were below the days that I did send out an email.

I think this is a problem that many newbies to IM have: they’re scared to ask for the sale.

Bottom line: if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Ask for the sale!

Lesson #2: The TYPE of email you send out is hugely important. In other words, what message are you trying to convey in each email?

One of the hardest parts of email marketing is knowing what to put in your email messages. Should you make an email all information, and no sales pitch? What “angle” should you use in the message?

This is where Cialdini’s principles of persuasion come in. I’ve developed six types of emails that are crafted around the six persuasion principles outlined in Robert Cialdini’s book.

In the video below, I take you through each of those principles, and how you can incorporate them into your email messages.

Here are 6 types of emails I cover in the video:

  1. The “reciprocity” email
  2. The “social proof” email
  3. The “authority” email
  4. The “commitment and consistency” email
  5. The “liking” email
  6. The “scarcity” email

Wrapping Up

There’s a cliché in internet marketing: “the money’s in the list”. If your website’s number one goal is to make sales (of affiliate products or your own info products) you ignore that cliché at your peril. Because people buy from those who they like and trust, and there isn’t an easier or more effective way of building rapport and trust than through regular email communications.

In this post I discussed several little-known reasons why email marketing is so powerful, took you through 5 simple steps to start collecting email addresses on your website, and showed how you can use principles of persuasion to turbo-charge your email messages.

What’s your experience been in using email marketing to boost sales?

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  1. Mias Muller says

    Cracking good info Moe!!

    “that’s easy for YOU to say. I don’t even have two subscribers to rub together!”


    Best wishes

    • Moe says

      Great question, Rea. Google’s Adsense program is such a massive gorilla that nobody talks about Bing’s publisher program (which has the beer-related name “Microsoft PubCenter”).

      As far as I know, PubCenter is the equivalent to Adsense. Might have to try it out myself one day…


  2. says

    Thanks Moe
    Liked that you make a distinction between adsense and product based sites. That really makes sense.

    I have an information site and the email list never went down real well, even with an ebook as a bribe. And then I never knew what to send to my list as I wasn’t actually promoting any particular product.

    Would have been a lot easier with a specific niche and product I thought.

    • Moe says

      I guess it depends on how broad your information site is, Kim. It’s always good to have a target audience in mind for a site – makes it easier to know what to promote on the site, and what to offer as a bribe.


  3. says

    Hey Moe,

    I think I built lists for all of my niche sites only because I didn’t want my income to solely depend on Google search. But it makes sense what you are saying now. Having less adsense rev if you have an opt-in pop up display that visitors see right away.

    I would like to have my cake and eat it too! Have you experimented with exit-pop ups on adsense sites? Just wondering though if the exit pop can be configured not to show if adsense ads are being clicked on.

    • Moe says

      Hi Samuel – that’s a good point about using email to reduce reliance on Google traffic. I should have mentioned that in the post.

      Re. using exit pops for Adsense, they’re not allowed, according to Google’s policy. There’s a post on a Google forum about that here.



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