5 Important Keys to Growing a Healthy List

Our host today is Mitch O'Conner. If you're interested in getting in front of the readers of Site Sketch 101, check out our guest posting invitation here.

To which mailing lists do you belong? I can tell you right off the bat that I am a member of 15, none of which have ever had any success converting me on anything – from yet another terrible PLR content-generated ebook to offers claiming that I’ll be rich overnight without leaving my couch. And yet, I stay a member of these super-secret online societies. Maybe it’s because I like to see what others are doing wrong, and maybe it’s because I’m waiting for that one offer that changes my life with cheap car insurance.

But in the midst of a sea of special offers I don’t need, I have learned one thing. You absolutely must maintain a healthy relationship with your list in order to make it worthwhile. Keep in mind, though, this is not a matter of hiring an expert copywriter or abandoning all hope of ever selling anything through email. There are five ways that you can keep your emailing list healthy and keep your messages from being forever designated to the bottomless pit of woe known as spam folders.

Create Content That Requires Action

Think back to all of the advertisement emails you’ve ever received. What was one thing most of them had in common? They were actionable. Email marketers do this for a very good reason – it works. Actionable phrases accomplish the following:

  1. They create urgency – “Act now to take advantage of this limited time offer!”
  2. They give the reader something to do – “Grab your copy of my new book today!”
  3. They make the reader feel special – “Exclusive to my members only, take an extra 15% off your next purchase!”

Actionable text doesn’t necessarily have to lead to a sale. In all reality, new members of your list might need time to trust you before taking action. You can sort your list based on how long your recipients have been on it and consider action they’ve taken in the past before sending them offers.

Let’s suppose you are emailing a list of people and you want to get them to buy Halloween costumes (I bet you didn’t click that link because you don’t trust me yet). Consider using the first few emails to butter up your list with some valuable content, like how to alter normal Halloween costumes for our plus sized friends, or a list of the 15 most creative Halloween costumes ever. Once your new readers trust that you have some valuable information, you can start sending some actionable links for them to click.

Finding the Right Email Frequency Balance

The amount of emails you send to your list depends entirely on the people on the list itself. But not emailing your list enough can make them forget that they ever signed up for your list, resulting in some potentially costly spam complaints. On the other hand, emailing your list too often can be just as costly, especially if you’re not providing valuable content. The best way to find this balance is to do some testing:

  1. Split your mailing list into several different groups, but try to group people based on how long they’ve been on your list and their previous responses to your emails.
  2. Create around five emails that you plan to send in the near future.
  3. Set a different schedule for each group. You might send one group an email every month, while you send another an email every week.
  4. Monitor your conversion rates with each group (and other email data like whether the recipients open the email, delete it right away, or mark it as spam).

After a month or two, you should have enough data to set a permanent schedule for your list. If the data is inconclusive, you might need to extend the testing period – or even keep the testing schedule the same if it seems to be working just fine with each group.

As far as gathering this data goes, there are a variety of different programs that can help you out. Most Internet marketers tend to stick with the following four:

Choosing the Right Offers to Pitch

One of the trickiest parts of maintaining a healthy relationship with your list is choosing the offers that you pitch. There are several easy and important rules that you should follow when choosing pitches:

  1. Never try to pitch something from a different niche (trying to sell $250 watches to a baking list).
  2. You can, however, pitch across horizontal niches (pitching a Thai cookbook to a Chinese cooking list).
  3. Try to push products that you would buy yourself (your genuine interest will show).
  4. Better yet, push products you already bought because you liked them so much.
  5. Support your pitches with real, valuable content – not just other pitches.
  6. Try a variety of different products (like ebooks, physical products, and exclusive videos).

Just keep gathering data about your list’s spending habits and activities after receiving your emails. Eventually, you’ll naturally know what your list likes to purchase.

Use an Autoresponder

This tip is especially for those who have an enormous list (even those among you that might have bought your 100,000 email list from a spam company, you sneaky buggers). Especially in the early contact phases, it’s important to keep in touch with your list, even if it becomes a nightmare to respond to complaints, questions, and comments. Using an autoresponder with prewritten messages can help you seem like you are getting back to your list members right away, even though you aren’t.

Using this tool isn’t an end-all method for not having to respond to anything your list sends you, but it does help cut time spent responding to the same questions – giving you the time to come up with your next email. A popular email tool that has some good options for autoresponding is AWeber.

Act Like a Real Person

If you skipped right over the last tip because you want to truly be in touch with your list, congratulations. If not, read carefully. You will not realize your true conversion potential until you build yourself into a trustworthy and credible brand.

If you don’t have time to create entirely custom emails, even little things can make a difference. Use a mass emailer program to put members’ first names in emails, for example. You might even surprise a few members by sending an entirely customized email once in a while, especially ones with a long conversion history, offering a special deal only for them.

Part of this involves making absolutely sure that your list knows that you are a human. This doesn’t mean you have to send them each a hand-drawn Christmas card every year – use stories from your own life in your emails to relate to a product. Use a badge system to give list members an incentive to keep responding to your emails and buying the products you pitch. Above all, be as personable and real as possible, and you will find the members of your list that are willing to convert, even if that cuts your list down by thousands. After all, I’ll take a list of 100 that convert after every email over a list of 1,000 that might buy something down the road.

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32 Vibrant Comments

We would love to hear yours!

  1. September 27, 2011

    Ava Jae said:

    I haven’t started an e-mail newsletter yet, but I’m taking all the tips I can get before I jump into it. You’ve got some really great insight here–I’m bookmarking it to look at it again later. Thanks!

  2. September 27, 2011

    Ryan Biddulph said:

    Hi Mitch,

    Super tips here, your last one sums it all up.

    Be human and your other tips fall into place naturally. Focus on making real connections with your list. These people are not numbers; they are human too. Help them. Ask questions. Listen for answers. Provide usable content on a consistent basis. When the call to action is offered, many members of your list will follow the call, because they trust the real, genuine person who helped them.



  3. September 28, 2011

    Alex said:

    My idea is to make even auto-responding emails as personal as possible. It will help you to increase CTR. Am I right?

  4. September 28, 2011

    Aaron said:

    Email Marketing is very new to me, I haven’t tried it yet but I’m going to start it by next month. I’ll try to implement your tips and let’s hope everything goes well.

  5. September 28, 2011

    Tiffany said:

    Hi Mitch,

    Amazing tips. As a reader or subscriber, I agree most on “act like a real person”. When I feel that an email was written by a robot, I immediately take no interest on it. I think it just makes me feel that it was automated. I like those that doesn’t make me feel like you sent the same email to everyone else. 🙂

  6. September 28, 2011

    Grady Pruitt said:

    Mitch, great post!

    I am surprised by how often I go to a site and see an offer that violates that first rule. In fact, often, you’ll see ads for things not even related on the same site. Everything seems so all over the place rather than organized and planned. Just this one tip will go a long way.

    And acting like a real person is a great idea online for every aspect of your site. Keep in mind, too, that the visitor to your site is a person too. Treat them like you want to be treated, and you can’t go wrong.

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. September 28, 2011

    Christian Rosenvold said:

    This is a great post! I can’t say how much I agree with just being a real person. After all, we are communicating with other real people…

  8. September 28, 2011

    Gary Riding said:

    A very timely post Mitch, thank you. I have been struggling with my email marketing and asked for support on the Warrior Forum: the response was amazing. My most recent blogpost is a video about this thread and all the help I received.
    I can add your sound advice to the canon. 🙂

  9. September 28, 2011

    Joanne said:

    Hi Mitch,

    Last post is the most important for me.Act like a real person.We all know that online business has really a lot of bots and spammers that only wants links to their site.Thanks for the tips shared.

    My latest Blog post: Water Damage Restoration Services Kansas City

  10. September 29, 2011

    Sahil Kotak said:

    I am not right now focusing much on building an list but, I surely keep that into my consideration. Just had an question regarding one thing, I find you haven’t mentioned about Aweber in your post is it so that the other ones are better then Aweber?


  11. September 29, 2011

    fashion jewelry wholesale said:

    Great article, no doubt it contributed to fashion jewelry wholesale

  12. September 30, 2011

    Kavya Hari said:

    Have to choose right offers to the pitch on here 🙂 At the time, have to gathering information about your activities after receiving your emails. Thanks a lot for sharing up your post on here 🙂

  13. September 30, 2011

    Sandip said:

    Awesome tips. My number 1 tip that worked amazingly well on one of my sites was to include a pop up box which requests the users’ email in exchange for a freebie. A lot of people do it and it really does work! 🙂

  14. September 30, 2011

    Scott said:

    Great info here. I haven’t yet started to build a list yet but plan to soon. I’ve seen from other blogs that email lists can be very very powerful. I hadn’t come across the email tracking services yet those links are very helpful.

  15. September 30, 2011

    Scott said:

    Hi again. Sorry to post back to back comments but after I submitted my last comment I noticed something very interesting. The word “email” from my last post was immediately changed to an affiliate link to Aweber! Do you use a specific program or service to do this? It is a fantastic idea to turn other people’s comments into potential profit. Any advice on this matter would be much appreciated. I learn something new every time I come to this site.

  16. October 3, 2011

    [email protected] blog said:

    Hi Mitch!

    This post suits my needs at the moment, because I will sign up in aweber..

    This far, I have only promote my list via feedburner, and surprisingly it has a good amount of subscribers..never know what I should do with them, but now I am willing to try aweber and let’s see what will give 🙂

    This post then gives me an idea to distribute my old ebook to grow my list.

    Thanks to you! cheers


  17. October 3, 2011

    Rakesh Kumar said:

    Still yet, i have stored my all important links in a txt file but looking to do better management for them.

  18. October 3, 2011

    Noel Addison said:

    Act Like a Real Person – I guess this is the ultimate secret in online marketing. Selling as a real person demonstrates credibility and accountability.

  19. October 3, 2011

    Jane | Merry Relationships said:

    Using email autoresponders is one of the best ways to keep in constant touch with new subscribers. But one should make sure that they don’t automate the whole process. Too many automated emails may kill the experience!

  20. October 4, 2011

    Web Sitesi Tasarımı said:

    acting like a real person is a great idea online for every aspect of your site. Keep in mind, too, that the visitor to your site is a person too. Treat them like you want to be treated, and you can’t go wrong.

  21. October 5, 2011

    Jade said:

    Nice post mitch, thank you for the great tips.

  22. October 5, 2011

    Barry Wells said:

    Hi Mitch, that’s a great list of tips you’ve put up, thanks.

    I’ve not got a huge list at the moment but one thing I have found is that when someone higher up the success ladder than myself joined my list i really pulled my finger out when writing emails.

    I now tend to write the emails as if I’m writing to that person and try to be a bit more personal than business like.

    I’ve started checking my reports on Aweber and see that since I’ve started writing in this way I tend to generate more clicks.

    It certainly looks like it improving 😉

    Thanks for the tips, Barry

    • October 5, 2011

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      That’s a really unique approach to it that I like very much. The next time I write an article or newsletter, I’m going to select a reader in my mind and write it directly to them.

  23. October 5, 2011

    [email protected] said:

    yeah great post…
    it’s (not) funny to have subscribers who never buy anything ^^
    but that’s the game

    • October 5, 2011

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      Very good point. I guess that depends on whether you’re working on growing your numbers or putting a little more food on the table this month.

  24. October 9, 2011

    Satrap said:

    Great tips Mitch. I have started building my list but unfortunately haven’t been able to really do much with it.

    I dont have any experience with list building and I am still learning. Although I have around 2000 subscribers, I haven’t managed to make any money with the list yet, since I really dont know the art of communicating with the subscribers and sending messages. Thanks for such useful tips.

  25. October 11, 2011

    ah hong said:

    I believe that creating content that requires action and communicate like a real person is beneficial to decrease user’s bounce rate not only in e-mail but blog post as well. Good tips.

  26. October 11, 2011

    Mel Melhado said:

    There is really a huge difference between receiving mails from real people and the automated ones. The automated ones are the least the receiver cares. If we really want people to feel that we’re interested in knowing them, the mail too should not be an automated one.

  27. October 12, 2011

    BODHost Ltd said:

    With email list you will also have other benefits such as tracking who responded, sending out reminder messages to those who didn’t yet respond and being able to organize your email list by status. In addition, you can also send a survey or review request to your own email list using a simple list of management tool.

  28. October 13, 2011

    Monica said:

    I have just started to form a marketing campaign, because I am still new to the blog world; so hopefully, I can avoid the usual newbie mistakes by following your list! In my former job, I loved interacting with people in a positive way, and I want to carry that on in the online world. I know that I prefer to be treated nicely, and after all, customers/readers are the ones who support you so why not give them a wonderful experience?

  29. October 16, 2011

    Bilbarnstol said:


    Were good post i found here. I am setting up a newsletter so this was a great post for me. I looked at some autoresponders. I gonna check out the tool Bronto, never heard of them.