Email Marketing

How to Get Started Building an Email List

It may not feel like it in the direct response social media world we’re living in these days but building an email list is still a very important part of your marketing strategy.

There’s no point in denying the communication landscape is changing and I interact with brands I follow much more on social media these days than I do via email.

But a weekly email from a brand I like is a good reminder sometimes that I haven’t caught up with them for a while and will encourage me to go and check out what they’re up to.

Plus if they’ve just released a great blog post or podcast or piece of content that would totally pique my interest I may not hear about it unless I get an email.

The simple fact is your attention is so divided these days that the maximum opportunity we give ourselves to communicate with our customers or potential customers, the better.

However the medium has changed.

Back in the day email was my No 1 sales tool.

Nowadays I would not attempt to sell via email.

In fact I recently signed up to join the email list of a podcast I regularly listen to.

The podcast hosts always give great value, they’re entertaining, generous with their content and I always get a lot out of each episode, so it was a no brainer for me to leave my email address at their website.

What followed however was totally incongruent with their brand. Within minutes I had a sales pitch in my inbox, followed swiftly by another and every day I continued to receive 1 – 2 emails all trying to sell me something and offering me nothing of value.

I was so annoyed by their emails intruding into my day, I unsubscribed and sadly haven’t listened to one of their podcasts since.

These days I pretty much ignore anyone who sends me daily emails of any kind to be honest. I haven’t yet come across anyone who offers so much value that they can get away with a daily email.

I have 3 or 4 people I look forward to receiving their weekly emails and rarely do they pitch me anything, the emails are pure value which I always get something from.

So how do you sell to your audience then Jo?’ I hear you ask?

Well let’s use my gardening niche as an example.

Let’s say my sales goals are;

3 streams of income;

  1. Books, ebooks & video courses on various elements of gardening
  2. A ‘done for you’ gardening design service
  3. An ecommerce business selling gardening tools

I don’t need to overtly sell these things in my emails or on my social media platforms.

Let’s say on my website I had content pieces around my books & courses, my done for you design services and my tools and each of those informative content pieces led to a well crafted sales page.

Then all I ever need to do is send people to the content pieces and let my content do the talking.

Make sense?


1. How This Single Mum Designed the Garden of Her Dreams on Her Rooftop

This content piece could talk about how this single Mum used my course, my books, my education to help her do this and how my reader can do the same. I would add in the relevant links and hopefully the reader would get so much value they would click through to check out my products. (Please note be sure to use a real person for posts like this, don’t just make someone up.)

2. X Garden Design App vs X Garden Design App; The best app to use for your garden design.

This content piece could talk about garden designing software and compare one against another, all the time showcasing how hiring a designer is of course your best option and I just happen to know an awesome one….

3. A Beginners Guide to Designing Your Garden on a Budget

This content piece could highlight all the tools needed to create the best garden on a budget and links through to all the tools I sell.

You really don’t need to shove sales pages in people’s faces anymore. It’s a different world out there.

An old friend of mine used to say – ‘people hate to be sold to, but they love to buy.

Another good example of always but never selling is to add a nice graphic of your products at the bottom of all your content emails. Tim Ferriss is the expert at this, only ever offering top drawer content and never overtly selling.

This image is of all the books he has available is at the bottom of all of his emails.

A far nicer and more acceptable way of marketing to your email list these days!

So how do we go about building an email list? That is the question.

Here’s a 6 Step process to follow;

1. Create a solid lead generation offer.

Why does someone want to give you their email address in the first place?

Just because you have a form on your site that says so?

I don’t think so my friend, competition is fierce and you need to be thinking out of the box.

Or as my old friend Jason says;

This is where knowing your customer intimately is so important.

You need to get to the heart of what your potential customer wants & needs. What is their main motivation and how can you address it for free and in such an attractive way they want to trade their name & email address for it?

In my gardening example I’m imagining my ideal customer as my sister who is a keen gardener. What are her biggest sticking points, what does she really need to know, how can I offer so much value that she’ll want to read my emails, consume my blog posts, join my group & buy my products?

After all your objective here is for someone who will get true value from your content to leave you their name & email.

It’s not just about getting the lead, it’s about whether you can really help that person and they therefore become a valued member of your community.

Awesome List Building Examples

Marie Forleo knows her audience well and knows that women who follow her want to build a business & life they love.

They may be plagued by doubt, fear and all the other insecurities that stop us from going for our dreams.

So her offer is her audio program;

How to Get Anything You Want!

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty attracted to learning how I can get anything I want!

Talk about owning the box, Jenna Kutcher breaks all the rules here and offers not one, not two, not three but four different ways to join her email list!

1. What type of Instagrammer are you quiz
2. 5 must have instagram apps
3. Get your next 1000 followers webinar
4. Captions that convert PDF

These are just some of the many ways you can join her email list. She has free offers scattered all over her site.

Boom by Cindy Joseph doesn’t just offer the old get 10% off here discount button. They have a club. A club that 400,000 pro age ladies are already a part of!

With pics of both their products and ‘normal’ looking more mature ladies they’ve nailed their target market to a tee. No wonder their on track to do $20mill of sales this year.

Gardeners World has an entire page dedicated to competitions which of course to enter you have to register for the website leaving your name and email address.

Gone are the days of a simple sign up to my newsletter unless you’re a huge name & brand already and then you’ll probably get away with that.

You need something specific and highly targeted to your target market.

Going back to my sister as an example, she’d probably leave blood for a chance to win a robotic mower! There is the power of knowing what your ideal audience wants.

Types of Lead Gen Offer

As I’ve shown with some some of the examples above, your lead gen offers can range from;

  • Quizzes
  • Audio programs
  • Competitions
  • Webinars or Videos
  • PDF’s or ebooks
  • A club or closed community of some kind


  • Templates
  • Printables
  • Free trial to software
  • Apps
  • Vouchers or Discount codes

Whatever your imagination lends itself too and that can be delivered in a scaleable form.

Remember you could end up with 100’s of sign ups a day, so a 15 minute free coaching session may be quite tough to fulfill.

Check out Amy Porterfields ‘The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Lead Magnet for Your Audience

Here Amy walks you through 7 different lead magnets including;

  1. A cheat sheet
  2. A workbook
  3. A guide
  4. Video or Audio Training
  5. A challenge
  6. A quiz
  7. A free course

Listen to the podcast to hear Amy give awesome examples of these strategies in action.

But what if you want to get going fast and don’t have a lead magnet? Or what if you absolutely don’t want to create a lead magnet at all, but still want to build a list! What then?

Well believe it or not, you can build a list without a lead magnet.

Think Tim Ferriss 5 Bullet Friday

Tim Ferriss

or Mari Smith’s Social Scoop.

Mari Smith

No ebook, guide or video training course here. Just good old fashioned content curation!

Gather together the best resources in your industry on a weekly basis and send that out to your subscribers so they don’t have to go searching for it. This is also a fantastic way to start to network in your space with people you’re linking too!

You can send them a message every so often and let them know you love their stuff and are sharing with your audience. I know I’d be over the moon with an email like that and the more I heard from you, the more likely we’d strike up a relationship!

As Brian Dean from Backlinko says in his blog post about Blogger Outreach send an ‘I Love Your Blog’ email;

Alrighty so there’s some ideas on how to start attracting people to leave you their name and email now how do we actually set this up technically?

2. Sign up for an Email Provider if you haven’t already.

So if you don’t currently have an email provider you’re going to want one!

There are a multitude of options available for you.

Active Campaign
Mailer Lite
Convert Kit
Get Response
Constant Contact

and the list goes on.

From my perspective, in my early days I used Aweber for years, however over time it’s counterparts began updating with all sorts of flashy bells and whistles while it stood still. So being a bit of a sucker for bright shiny objects I started to try lots of different providers out including Get Response, Constant Contact, Active Campaign and Infusionsoft.

Right now I’m using Mailchimp which is pretty simple to use, although it’s a little clunky and has limited automation features, so I may well start to investigate a better option.

For Ecommerce my platform of choice is Klaviyo as it is built for Ecommerce stores and has all the flows you need built in, such as abandoned cart, product purchase etc. However it’s not the cheapest option.

As your audience grows you’ll want to ensure you have an easy to use platform, with great segmenting and automation tools.

The guys over at Email Tool Tester have actually done a fab explainer video walking you through what your ideal email provider should have;

They also have a great article to accompany the video – The 13 Best Email Marketing Services for 2020

From looking at their video and reading through the article it looks as though Active Campaign may be a solid all rounder for any business model, including Digital Marketing, Service Providers & Ecommerce.

The best thing to do is pick the top 2 or 3 you’re attracted to, give them a call to see if you can access a demo account or sign up for free and have a play.

Nothing will beat you actually going in there yourself and seeing how everything works for yourself.

However, don’t spend too long choosing. Just pick one and get going! Remember action is the name of the game!

So we’ll get to creating email campaigns shortly.

Beforehand you’ll need to;

3. Create a Landing Page

When I first started in this business back in 2010, my first landing page was built using a platform called Kompozer and I was guided through the process by a very popular ebook at the time called, Create Your First Website by 3.45 This Afternoon, written by my good friend Chris Farrell.

That was back when you had to put yourself through the steepest learning curve to learn how to build one of these bloody things!

Nowadays, you don’t have anything like that kind of learning curve.

Platforms like Leadpages or Clickfunnels do all the heavy lifting for you. You literally add text & images and drag and drop boxes into position and boom a beautiful looking landing page is created!

I’ll be honest I’m a Leadpages user and have been for years now. Quite simply, its super easy to use, I can get a new landing page up in less than 10 minutes and I love the lead links and the pop ups.

Here’s a quick tutorial on creating a landing page inside of Leadpages;

There are, as with autoresponders, a multitude of choices available to you though and once again you just have to do a bit of research and decide which is best for you.

But before you head off to drag & drop to your hearts content, it’s important to know the most important elements of a landing page so you can create something that converts.

As I said above platforms like Leadpages make it easy for you and offer conversion optimised templates for you to personalise.


However, I am not happy unless I’m getting upwards of a 50% conversion rate on my landing pages and in my experience there are 5 key components;

The 5 Components of a High Converting Landing Page:

1). Specific headline

This is critical! All the time, I see people using really vague headlines which don’t tell me exactly what I am going to get.

Look at your lead magnet and think about what problem it solves and get specific for example;

  • 25 blog headlines that will increase your readership today
  • 10 ways to do SEO in 5 minutes day
  • Lose 10 pounds in 7 days

Your landing page headline needs to be specific so someone can look at it and think, ‘This is exactly what I am going to get today’. Specificity sells!

Also, test different headlines to see what works in your niche (and what doesn’t!)

2). Image / video showing a visitor what they will get

An image tells a thousand words! Years ago images outperformed videos almost every time. Nowadays studies all over the web prove that video increases conversion rates.

BUT it is worth testing and measuring in your own niche. To get going, start with an image and then when you’re ready add video and see if it gives your page a boost!

Here is a great article by the folks over at Instapage with some rules of adding video to your landing pages. I particularly like Rule #3. Short and sweet is key!

3). Add benefit-driven bullet points

Your landing page bullet points need to be benefit driven, NOT feature driven.

Drive home the benefits someone will get from receiving your free gift for example;

  • ‘Diet book with 25 recipes’ could become ’25 recipes that will help you shed 10 pounds in a week.’
  • ’10 expert SEO tactics’ could become ’10 SEO techniques that will generate over a thousand new visitors to your blog every day’

See the difference?

4). Opt-in button

I’m a real advocate of playing with the wording on this button. You don’t have to stick to ‘Submit’ or ‘Opt in’. I like injecting a little personality. ‘Yes I want in! Give me my free gift.’ or, ‘Yes Jo, can’t wait to download my free Ebook!

Feel free to play with the text on your opt in button and, as before, test and measure to see which one gets you higher opt ins.

Also, make sure it is as near to the top of the page as possible so it’s instantly seen when someone lands on your landing page.

And lastly, add a ‘spam notice’ message under the opt in button, e.g., ‘We will not share or sell your email address.’

It’s important to reassure people that they won’t regret giving you their email address.

5). Add ‘social proof’

In an ideal world, it would be great to add testimonials at the bottom of your landing page from people who have already downloaded / opted in. Social proof is huge in this day and age!

Think about the different products you buy and the things you try, based on recommendations, reviews and referrals. Testimonials are becoming more and more important and they’re relatively easy to gather.

Just ask two or three friends to have a look at your lead magnet and get them to write you a little testimonial.

Whatever you do though don’t let this stop you from putting up your landing page. It’s something you can do as you go, in the meantime just finish the landing page after the opt-in button.

For more great tips here’s The Definitive Guide to Creating High Converting Landing Pages from Neil Patel, complete with visual examples!

4. Create your Thank You Page

Unfortunately your landing page is only one piece of the puzzle, two hugely important elements that directly follow the landing page are the thank you page your visitor lands on after leaving their email address and the first email you follow up.

Here’s a video from yours truly explaining the importance of your thank you page;

I also wrote an article with examples of great thank you pages right here – Why This Page is the Most Important Page in Your List Building Funnel, so do be sure to check that out to see how others in the industry are presenting their thank you pages.

Lastly here are some more examples of great thank you pages from the folks over at Optin Monster.

5. Create the first follow up email in your email platform.

As soon as your visitor has entered their email and viewed your thank you page, your email platform will now do it’s job (because you told it to) of sending out that all important first email.

But what should be in that first email to a), get them to open it & b), get them to open more!

Here’s another video from me talking about what should be contained that first email;

(Please note no longer exists, the creator Justin who’s main gift was in the ad buying world has moved on to bigger and better things with his new company AdSkills)

Here’s an example of the first email subscribers receive when they sign up to get my 6 Ways to Build a Business You Can Run From Anywhere in the World ebook;

Hey *|FNAME|*,

Thanks for requesting the ‘6 Ways to Build a Business You Can Run From Anywhere in the World’. 
Your download link is below, but before you get consumed in all this fab information I would love for us to get to know each other better!

My name is Jo Barnes and I have been building & running businesses online since 2010.

It’s afforded me the opportunity to travel the world and although originally from the UK, I’m now living in Phuket, Thailand. 🙂

If you haven’t introduced yourself already please click the link directly below to tell me about YOU!

Come and Introduce Yourself Here

In the meantime here is your link to download the ebook.

Download the 6 Ways to Build a Business Ebook Here

Please note information without action, is just that, information which over time gathers dust on your desktop. So do please take action from what you learn in the book.

Also come and join my community over at our facebook group – Build a Business You Can Run From Anywhere in the World. 

This is where all the magic happens and we can chat directly!

Thanks again for requesting this information and welcome to the YLB community!

Please don’t hesitate to contact me should you have any questions. I endeavour to answer all my emails, even when traveling!

Speak again very soon.

Jo 🙂

For more examples of great follow up emails look no further than the master of email marketing Ryan Deiss and his team over at Digital Marketer.

Here’s his guide to building an Email Marketing Machine!


6. Create valuable, entertaining or educational follow up campaigns.

Ok so here’s where it can get tough.

How do you come up with great emails that your audience are going to want to continuously open and consume?

Firstly know that you’re not going to get a 100% success rate. Some you’ll win, some you’ll lose.

Also it’s highly likely your open rates & click through rates will diminish over time. People get used to seeing your emails, they’re busy, they get distracted, they don’t have the time, they move onto other projects and forget to unsubscribe, etc.

As I write this I’m playing with my email campaigns. Mainly because email always feels like such a one way street. I so much prefer my FB group as I get instant feedback and can see whether a post has resonated or not.

But with email, you send something out and….. nothing.

Your open rates & click through rates give you an indication of whether you’ve hit the spot, but you never truly know what action someone took as a result of your email.

That’s why recently I’ve become a bit obsessed with trying to get my email subscribers to join my group in order to build a huge community of active & engaged participants all on the same journey and helping and supporting each other.

Your Lifestyle Business FB Group

But I digress, what kind of content you should be sending out on a regular basis?

1. What’s your objective with your emails?

Is it to create conversation, connect with the person elsewhere online, showcase your expertise, get them to click through to your website, highlight offers or promotions?

Start with knowing what you want your outcome to be for sending each email.

If you want to showcase your expertise, then you might send a long informational email with some great tips on how to achieve something.

If you want to highlight a promotion it might be an image heavy email showcasing your products.

If it’s to create conversation, you might link out to other resources and offer your opinion.

If it’s to connect elsewhere you’ll probably be telling them about a post you published or a new video on youtube.

Whatever you do, don’t send emails just for the sake of sending emails, know what you want to achieve and what action you want the reader to take, if any.

2. Be human!

There’s nothing worse than an impersonal email that offers no value whatsoever accept to assault your senses with huge caps based headlines, bold colors and promises of great offers!

When are the bigger companies going to get it?

Here’s one I received today from a hotel we’ve previously stayed at here in Phuket.

Why would I vote? What enticement is there in that email for me to take time out of my day to vote for the hotel, as lovely as it is?

I’m sad to say that some smaller businesses do this also. I’m not going to name & shame but there is a very successful brand online who started as a digital magazine and now sells courses, who simply bombards my emails with impersonal sales message, many of which come with big colorful headlines and huge impressive numbers of what they’ve achieved which is supposed to make me swoon.

There’s a book out which I haven’t read yet, called Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins by Mark Schaefer.

The world is changing my friend and the more human you are and treat every single email subscriber as a friend and member of your community the more people will stay with you, open and read your emails and take the action required.

When writing your emails, try chatting with your subscriber as you would a friend over coffee.

3. Add value

Why will anyone open and read your emails if they don’t get anything from them?

People are busy busy busy these days and being bombarded with content every second of every day.

There needs to be a reason they open your emails and a good one!

I love Tim Ferris 5 Bullet Friday emails as an example.

Every week he links out to cool short reports he’s discovered, a book he’s reading, a show he’s watching, something amazing he saw on YouTube or Netflix. His emails have led to me going down all sorts of rabbit holes consuming all sorts of great information.

Here’s the real kicker though, its information you won’t find anywhere else on his site.

He’s not just linking to his own blog posts or doing a round up for the week of information you can access at anytime.

(Although he also sends out a weekly email with links to his podcast episode or blog posts.)

Each link is to something unique, something timely, something that’s piqued his interest that he hopes will resonate with some of his audience.

It’s an interesting approach.

On the other hand I also receive a weekly email from a local fitness guy here in Phuket who sends out a mini blog post in his email on something to do with feeling good, putting mind and body first etc. I always have something to think about after reading his email and it’s only a 1 minute read. Fast & valuable.

You know your audience, you know what they want. When you craft your emails ask yourself, how can I best serve my audience and don’t be afraid to…

4. Test & measure

There are no right or wrongs when it comes to this, there is only test & measure.

What appeals to me won’t appeal to you. What appeals to you won’t appeal to someone else. And you must remember you’ll never please all of the people all of the time.

So don’t be afraid to try out different approaches. I’m going through that myself at the moment.

I used to do a video every week, then I tried a podcast, then I tried linking out to other bits of content I produced plus my FB group etc.

I still haven’t quite found the winning strategy, which for me is a combination of crafting emails I enjoy writing and increasing my open and click through rates.

But what is a winning strategy for me won’t necessarily be a winning strategy for you. Trial and error will tell you that.

5. Show up!

I’ve always preached consistency when it comes to anything you do in your business, but the meaning of that term has changed over the years.

With the sheer amount of content on the web today whether your email comes out every Monday, Friday or a different day each week I don’t think is important anymore, (unless like mine it’s called Make It Happen Monday, or Tim Ferris 5 Bullet Friday, then clearly it needs to come out on that day).

What is important though is that when it is published it’s consistently great. Don’t email for emails sake and send out something half heartedly.

Show up for your business, show up for your community, respect their time and send them content that’s worth it.


How you communicate with your audience will absolutely determine how your business grows.

People do business with people, never has that saying been truer than it is today.

However don’t mistake this current trend of baring all with our customers and being ‘vulnerable’ with rambling on about your problems all the time, especially in text in an email.

Feel free to throw in a personal sentence or two to add context and personality, but always have your end objective on mind which is how can you serve your reader the best way you know how.

This is a huge subject and I could probably cover a lot more, but for now you need to get going my friend and make it happen!

Get your email funnel in place, set up your first few emails and when you’re ready the best in the business for email marketing is the super knowledgeable Amy Porterfield. She is my absolute go to for anything email marketing and digital course related. So checkout her podcast and take it from there!