Intentional Blogging [Lesson 6: List-Building]

Building Your List

OK. This is an important one.

Whether you realize it or not, you need an email list. You need a way to reach out to your subscribers on a personal level and connect with them. Blogs don’t do that. Facebook doesn’t do that. Only email.

There are lots of ways to build a good email list. My favorite, though, is to write an eBook you could charge money for and give it away.

If it adds value, people will talk about it. And if people talk about it, others will want it.

All you have to do is ask for something in return – like their email address. Pretty soon, you’ll have a robust email list that you can use to build a tribe, sell products, drive traffic, or do whatever you like.

Why Email?

Because email is still one of the best ways to reach people online.

It’s practically the oldest piece of web technology, and there’s a reason it’s stuck around while other fads (remember chat rooms?) have faded. There’s a reason for that.

Plus, if you build your own email list, that’s another property that you own (unlike a fan base on Twitter or Facebook), and you can take it with you wherever you go (even if you start a new blog).

For more about the why of this (which we won’t cover below), check out this post: Why You Should Start Building Your Email List Now

How Do You Build a List?

First, let’s talk about the eBook.

You need an idea. Pick a really compelling topic that other people will talk about. It’s best if they are already talking about it. It may be a common problem or felt need – whatever it is, be sure to put yourself in the audience’s shoes when you begin writing.

Look through your blog archives and see if you’ve already written something. Find a post or idea that really resonated with people. Expand upon it. Keep it as short as possible, while still being thorough.

Build an early feedback group by asking a small group of editors to help you develop the content. This will also become your early adopter list that will help you spread the book once it’s written (because they share ownership in it).

Design it. I used Keynote, a simple Mac slideshow program that allowed me to build pages and link to them easily from a table of contents.

You could also use a Word Processor and export it as a PDF (most do this pretty easily). If you don’t have either of those tools, you could use any number of online DOC-to-PDF programs and services, many of which are free.

Release it. But before you do, build it up with some hype. Leak it out to a few influencers and “sneezers” who will start talking about it. People who are active on Twitter and Facebook are particularly good.

Build a custom page or post for it on your blog. On that page, explain how people can get the book and what they can expect (i.e., let them know that they’re joining your newsletter list but can opt out at any time). Make it easy to capture their emails by embedding the form into the page.

Then, give it away for “free.” Ask for people’s email in return. I did this pretty easily through Mailchimp by uploading it to my website and then including the link to the PDF in the confirmation email for anyone signing up for my newsletter.

Encourage people to share it. Give them a sample phrase to share it with, or start a few communities where people can interact with each other. A Twitter hashtag or Facebook group/page are usually good ideas. If you see a lot of traction, you could even launch a website for it.

Ask for endorsements/feedback. Don’t just depend on your big launch. Encourage ongoing feedback and use that to promote more signups. With endorsements, start small. Pick someone you know will say yes, and the build on that momentum for others. It works.

Follow up with people . Thank them. Go over the top in terms of customer service, letting them know how excited you are that they read what you wrote. Don’t be afraid to ask them to share it. You just gave them something for free!

What you want to do is work your hardest in the first week of the ebook’s release, so that you can reach a tipping point, establishing enough momentum that your tribe will carry on the promotion of it.

Then, watch your subscribers grow.

If the content is good (and I mean really good), this will be a “long tail” growth strategy for your blog and email list. To read more about how I did this with my eBook, check out this article: The Process of Writing & Sharing an eBook

And if you haven’t read The Writer’s Manifesto yet, you can download it for free here. It took me about a week to write and when I released it, it caused my puny email list of 75 people to grow to over 1000 in only 5 days (and to surpass 10,000 subscribers in the next six months). And it continues to grow every week…

Again, the trick is to write the very best thing you can – something you wouldn’t feel bad about charging for – and then give it away. This can be a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it in the end.

Why? Because it builds trust with your tribe, telling them that you care more about adding value than earning a few bucks. And yes, eventually, you’ll be able to earn a few bucks. But let’s start with making people’s lives better, shall we?

What’re You Waiting for?

That might be my favorite question to ask. 😉

What’s your big idea for an eBook?

(You could also do an online course like this one or any number of other projects; it just so happens that I love the eBook approach.)