For several years, I’ve heard about the importance of building an e-mail list. “The money’s in the list,” I would hear along with examples of how the person implemented it.

I started an e-mail list, but I never did a whole lot with it.

I rarely promoted it.

I didn’t provide a reason or benefit for someone to join the list.

All I’ve done is use it to send blog post updates, an occasional special post, and a few promotional e-mails.

Well, I plan on changing things!

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Since I’ve heard many things about building an e-mail list, I’ve tried to compile several of the important elements from different sources. We’ll look at:

  1. How to collect the e-mail addresses
  2. What to offer someone to join the list
  3. How to promote the list
  4. Options for ways to use the list

I know that I’m not prime example of how to do all of this, but I’m trying to bring all of this together to help all of us though this process. I’ll come back later to report on how things went and how I may change things up.

I also welcome you to join me in building your e-mail list. If you have already started and have some tips to add to this, please add to the conversation in the comment section.

How to collect the e-mail addresses

There are several ways you can start an e-mail list. This list isn’t comprehensive, but covers the most popular methods:

  • WordPress / Jetpack subscribe by e-mail
  • Feedburner
  • Mail Poet
  • MailChimp
  • Aweber
  • Infusionsoft
  • Benchmark

I would highly recommend not to use WordPress or Feedburner for collecting e-mail addresses. They are basically just ways for people to be notified of new posts. As far as I know, there’s no way to send other e-mails to the list.

Mail Poet is a WordPress plugin that allows you to manage the e-mail list from the WordPress dashboard. I have it installed, but I haven’t used it. There is a free and a paid version. Dustin Hartzler of Your Website Engineer has spoken about using it on his podcast.

MailChimp, Aweber, and Benchmark are basically similar services. MailChimp, however, has a free option if you have less than 2,000 subscribers and send less than 12,000 e-mails a month.

Infusionsoft, from what I understand, does more than manage your e-mail list and various campaigns. It can also help with sales and customer management. This is definitely a higher end service (not for the average blogger).

MailChimp is the service I currently use, and I plan to continue with them for the foreseeable future. I have is setup to send the people on my lists blog updates, plus I can send additional e-mails. I plan to start using an auto-responder series soon, which is a premium service for them. I’ll talk about this later.

What to offer someone to join the e-mail list

Even with as great of content that you and I create, most visitors are not going to sign up just for blog updates. They would like a bigger incentive.

One great thing to offer is something special that they can download or view right when they sign up. This can be a PDF (e-book, report, worksheets, etc.), audio file, graphic, video, and more.

There was a few months that I offered a PDF ebook to those that signed up for my list. I since removed it. I can’t even remember why I removed it!

I plan on implementing this on my list for this site. I have a short ebook written to help people get started with their websites. I’ve sent an early copy to those already on the list. It’s being editing and formatted now, and it will be available for official use in a week or two.

How to promote the e-mail list

There are several places that you can promote your e-mail list. Each one has it’s benefits and drawbacks. Here’s a quick list:

  1. The Feature Box
  2. Top of Sidebar
  3. After Single Post
  4. The Footer
  5. The About Page
  6. Little bar across the top of the site
  7. Lightbox pop-up

I got this list from the Social Triggers website, and Derek Halpern goes into more detail on each of them.

Other ways I’ve seen sign-up forms used is:

  • On the home page
  • In the middle of a post
  • SqueezeĀ pages

Each of these increases the visibility for your list. But if you do too much, it may look spammy and turn people away. You need to be strategic.

Options for ways to use the e-mail list

Now that you have a list, are promoting it, and are getting people signed up, you need to decide what to do with it.

  1. You can send blog updates only. This is a little better than doing nothing.
  2. You can have a regular newsletter. This is where you send a special article to your list either weekly, biweekly, or monthly.
  3. You can setup an auto-responder series. This is the one I plan to start using with my other blog.

This is where you have a whole series of e-mail’s already to send when someone subscribes. They will receive each e-mail at certain intervals that you set. This is a way to ensure that each person receives e-mail for you for a period of time. After the series ends, you can continue to send e-mails like a newsletter (which can be worked into back into the series for new subscribers).

I have had my other site for almost three years, so I have plenty of blog posts, podcast episodes, and other writings that I can use in the series. I already have 16 different articles picked out that I can use. My plan is to send one of these each week for the first month, then to send one of them every other week. For the week in between, I plan to find or create some other content that would be relevant. With this plan, I’ll have over six months of e-mails ready to go – plus I’ll be adding new content as I go.

I’ll be testing this out soon, and I’ll report back whatever results I get!

In a week or so, I’ll be sending a list of other articles about building an e-mail list and what to do with it to those on my list here. This will be about the same time that the short ebook is ready for my list as well. If this interests you, please sign up for the list now!