How to Start An E-mail List to Increase Sales

One mistake entrepreneurs make, as they build their business online, is failing to start an e-mail list that makes money.

Now, I know … this is Tom “Living on the Beaches of Hawaii with a Big Fat E-mail List” Gaddis speaking. Yes, it’s true. I have a large e-mail list. But once upon a time, it was like Jeff Foxworthy joked: “Godzilla used to be an itty bitty lizard, too!”

There was a season when I couldn’t get spammers to subscribe to my list! So I don’t pretend it’s easy; it’s just worth it.

I do know this, however … your list won’t grow itself, and you shouldn’t be in business without one.

(On a somewhat relevant thread, here’s a shameless self-plug to invite you deeper into my funnel, via this podcast episode where we discussed, among other things, starting an e-mail list that makes money.)

Okay, back to more important things. We know you’ve got to start a list, but the deeper question is, “Why? Why, Tom? Don’t we have alternatives, like Facebook or YouTube?”

Social Media: It’s Not Yours

“Nooooooo,” I would reply, a wry smile on my face. “FACEBOOK has Facebook. YouTube has YouTube. You have NOTHING!”

Unless you have an e-mail list, of course. Social networks are great “funnels for your funnel,” but the giants of Silicon Valley own that data, and can revoke or restrict you from accessing it at any time.

In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and agree, you need social media – but not for the reasons you think. Social media’s a great way of interacting with your audience differently than you do via e-mail.

Some people on your list may not be very excited to read your marketing messages. They’ll remain subscribed, but they’re likelier to enjoy your InstaGram Lives or informative videos on TikTok.

Don’t get me wrong, people get plenty of business via social media … it’s just unwise to rely on third parties for capturing your audience in a permanent sense.

What’s the First Objective with Starting an E-mail List?

That’s simple … turn a profit. In this recent podcast episode, I shared why it’s so important we get “little wins” from business activities like e-mail marketing.

The response rate of your e-mail list will help to validate your ideas, so you don’t overspend time and money to create products nobody wants. You can test the market, by testing your list.

Also remember – you don’t need to spend eternity or liquidate your home’s equity to develop your first product. If you know what problem you solve, the most important test for viability as a product is the market’s response to its availability, not perfection. You can always refine and enhance the original and offer the new version as an “upgrade.”

If it doesn’t make sense to open up a brick-and-mortar location, pouring money and time into it without making sales … what makes you think doing it online is any different?

If your offer doesn’t resonate, it’s back to the drawing board – and stop the bleeding. You’ve got to get some “small wins” going so you can fund your marketing going forward.

Okay, But What If You Don’t Have Subscribers?

Good question, because we know you don’t just “start a YouTube channel and gather viewers and subscribers.” You’re going to need to put in an investment of time and interaction with people to get them interested in “keeping tabs” on you.

Some people have pre-existing followings they can tap into, but for a worst-case scenario, consider this story from a friend of mine who advised a client in the business of payment processing and CRM for martial arts studios:

This client had almost nobody on his e-mail list. He excelled at in-person interactions, but frequently lost people’s interest afterward. They’d forget meeting him, or get busy with other things, which brought plenty of discouragement in his follow-up process.

The initial meetings, however – at trade shows or online forums – went swimmingly well. What this man needed was a way of staying on people’s radar, after he’d succeeded in getting on it.

But he couldn’t always come out and say, “I’ll add you to my e-mail list.” That would have asked too much, too soon.

Instead, my friend advised him to start his own “network of dojo owners and managers,” offering free professional management and operations advice.

This was much easier, and he could do it optimally through a private Facebook group. It was in the voluntary, open interaction of the Facebook forum that he began to extract subscribers to his list.

Not long after that, this client began to offer low-level “do-it-yourself” training courses for these target customers on his e-mail list. Some of them purchased, giving “validation” to his idea … some, of course, ignored it …

… but others, after studying the material, realized how dysfunctionally they’d managed their dojos. They reached out to the client for help, engaging his entire agency and system (his “high-ticket offer”) to correct the problem.

Moments like these are why you hear online entrepreneurs say “I average $5k for every e-mail I send.” But don’t forget, they put about $50k or more worth of hours, effort and consistency building that funnel to start with.

When people ask me, “What’s The Secret?”, that’s as close to secrecy as it gets. The secret is in working smarter AND harder … but in the right sequence, at the right time, for the right customers, and the right reasons.

About the Author
Tom is the host of What's the Secret podcast and co-founder of Offlinesharks.com

4 comments on “How to Start An E-mail List to Increase Sales

  1. Great article Tom. Put a facebook share button on your page so I can share it to my pages and groups. I did share some posts on your FB page but I could also be sharing your blog post/article. Woo Hoo!

    1. Tom says:

      Will do Blaine. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Chris Byers says:

    Love this! Thank you for sharing such an insightful article!

  3. Accountants says:

    Love this post, definitely an underrated arm of marketing! Thanks for sharing

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