Basic Steps to Build a Profitable Email List

build a profitable email list

The money is in the list!

Okay, great. So how do you get a list? Telling you “the money is in the list” all day long won’t help you a bit if you don’t know how to build one! You might as well tell a giraffe to fly. Not very helpful.

In this guide, I’d like to lay out the basic steps to build and maintain a profitable email list. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can scale up as much or as little as you want.

What you will need:

An autoresponder

This is essential if you plan to create and maintain an email list of any size. An autoresponder enables you to create, build, design and maintain email campaigns, automate the process of following up with potential buyers. Naturally, such services are rarely free. Depending on the service you choose, expect to pay $15 to $30 (USD) per month. My personal favorite is AWeber, but GetResponse and TrafficWave are great options as well.

  • An autoresponder is your best tool going forward.
  • Whichever autoresponder company you choose, get comfortable with it and learn it well.

A word processor

My personal favorite is Google Docs because I can work from nearly any web-enabled device. Docs (and the rest of Google Drive) is a totally free option that works within a web browser such as Chrome or Firefox. It doesn’t require any expensive software, like Microsoft Office, and has decent formatting and stylization tools.

Also in the free camp are the offline office suites Libre Office ( ) and Open Office ( ). The two are forks of the same project and are completely free for personal or commercial use.

Paid options like Microsoft Office or iWork are also perfectly workable of course.

Web Hosting and a Domain name (.com address)

Starting out this may not be 100% essential as your downloads could be hosted via Dropbox or other file sharing service, but if you expect to succeed, a web host and web site would serve you well. This is where you will store your files for subscribers to download.

The Incentive

“Why should I give you my email address?”
This is what your potential subscribers are thinking – if subconsciously. “What’s in it for me?” You must provide something of value to your visitors, something he or she wants or wants to know. Marketers refer to this as a “lead magnet.” Good lead magnets provide information your visitors want or resources to help them make or save money and time.


“But what do my future subscribers want?”
Ah! Excellent question! For the answer, you will have to put yourself in their shoes. What would you want to know if you were looking for information in your niche?

Take some time to jot down ideas.

(Tip: As you make a list, check out blogs and forums in your niche. Search out social media groups and YouTube videos – especially the comments. Find out what people are asking or looking for. Ask yourself “What are these people asking for? What problems do they have that I could solve?”)

Once you have a few ideas on paper (or screen, as the case may be), cross off anything that is easy to get or find out. If I can get what I want without divulging personal information, I will (and yes, an email address is personal information).

The important thing is to provide something that is not easily or quickly obtained elsewhere. Doing so will make your offer unique and pull in subscribers, like a magnet (hence the term, lead magnet).

Moving forward

“I know what they want, but how do I use that knowledge?”
Decide what format your lead magnet will take. You could write a few articles for download as a PDF eBook or you could record a video or series of videos.

You’re not looking to write a whole book or shoot a movie here (though you can if you really want). All you’re looking to do is create a small but value-packed product that will draw people in but also help them in some way.

That said, you certainly could charge a small amount – but not too much – for your lead magnet.

Delivery of the magnet

Deliver on your promise
Once your visitor becomes a subscriber, you must deliver the promised product.  Pretty simple, right?

The Squeeze Page

Don’t skip this!
A squeeze page is like a gate in a fence. On one side of the gate is your list magnet. On the other is your future subscriber. In order to get to your list magnet, your future subscriber must go through the gate. In other words, he or she must enter their email address into the provided form and subscribe to your email list.

Your squeeze page doesn’t have to be a brilliant work of art, but it must have the basics:

  • A call to action – Why should your visitor subscribe? What will he or she get out of it?
  • An autoresponder form – This is the form into which your visitor will type his or her email address.

You can create your own squeeze pages if you know HTML/CSS and have decent graphic design skills.

Alternatively, you could use a third-party service like PreWrittenEmailMarketing which has pre-made, customizable squeeze pages and autoresponder messages. This is a good option for those of us who don’t know web coding or design.

Even if you do, PreWrittenEmailMarketing might be a good place to start while you hone your skills.

Getting traffic to your squeeze page

A squeeze page that gets no traffic gets no opt-ins and generates no sales, but I suspect you knew that already since you’re reading this section. So the question is, “How can I drive traffic to my squeeze page?” You have at your disposal free and paid options.

Free traffic methods

Free traffic is….well, free. It simply may not convert into opt-ins and sales as well as paid alternatives. But that’s not to say that you shouldn’t use it in fact, you would be silly to not make use of it.

Set up a blog

Blogging is easy and very low cost. I highly recommended buying web hosting and a domain name and installing a niche WordPress site  or something similar. I like WordPress for its ease of use and customization ability.

Post at least a couple of articles per week to keep your blog interesting. One cool feature of WordPress is the ability to schedule posts ahead of time. So you definitely don’t have to sit down and write a post twice a week if you don’t wish to do so. You could write several posts in your free time one day and schedule them to be posted or “published” on the days you wish.

You most likely won’t get a huge influx of traffic from your blog, but it will be your marketing home on the web, and you would be silly to not use it. Fill it with useful content.

Comment on blogs

Most blogs have a section for comments. WordPress blogs especially have a field which asks for your web address. USE IT. This turns your name into a link to your website or squeeze page.

In your comments, please say something useful. Never post generic, useless junk with the express purpose of promoting yourself. Develop a relationship with your fellow bloggers. We can help each other.

Forum signatures

Forums are a key hangout of the Internet. If used properly, they can be a great source of passive traffic.

Find a few forums in your niche and join them and actively participate. In your forum signature, usually configurable via your profile options, add a link to your squeeze page.

Before doing so however, make sure you read through the forum’s rules. Some forums are strict about links in signatures. If they don’t allow links in signatures, respect their rules. Don’t be a jerk about it. Remember, you set the rules on your site. They have a right to do the same on theirs.

Paid traffic methods

Paid traffic is any traffic source for which you pay a fee, though that’s a bit obvious isn’t it. You will find that paid traffic, if used well, you will find that paid traffic will bring better results than free traffic.

Pay Per Click

Pay Per Click, or PPC, advertising can be an effective way to advertise. Good examples of this would be Google’s Adwords or the ads on the side of Facebook. You pay a few cents for each time a person clicks on your ad up to a dollar limit you define.

This traffic is targeted to a point. Someone only clicks on your link if he is interested, even if remotely. This is far better than untargeted, uninterested traffic.

  • Facebook Ads:
  • Google Adwords:
  • Bing Ads:

Solo Ads

Solo ads are a viable advertising method for many marketers. Here’s how they work:

  • 1 – List owner Bob has an email list of a few thousand subscribers.
  • 2 – You have an ad / squeeze page that needs traffic.
  • 3 – List owner Bob offers to send your ad to his email list and guarantees that your ad will receive at least X number of clicks and keeps sending the ad until that click number is reached.

Solo ads are a great way to get new subscribers and sales.

Ad swaps

Ad swaps are like solo ads, but instead of paying list owner Bob to send your ad, you agree to send list owner Bob’s ad to your list as well.

Obviously, this only works after you have begun to build your list. Use solo ads to get opt ins and build up a few thousand subscribers.

Once you reach that point, contact a few list owners and discuss swapping ads.

A site like is a great place to look.

Trial and Error

My advice when it comes to paid traffic is to tread slowly at first. Paid traffic works very well, but some methods work better than others depending on your niche. Try a round or two of pay per click ads. Buy a solo ad. See how it goes. Find what works and then do it again.

The Relationship

The importance of the relationship between you and your subscribers should not be underestimated. From whom are you more likely to make a purchase: Someone you know and trust or someone who is unknown or worse known to be dishonest and scheming? I want to be someone worthy of your respect, and you should as well for your subscribers, and perhaps not even for the financial aspect. We should be worthy of respect simply because it is the right thing to do.

Don’t waste their time. Provide quality.

Who likes having his time wasted? Do you? Yeah, didn’t think so. Respect the time of your subscribers. Don’t send them junk that you know is of no value to them or anyone else. Only send what you believe, in good faith, to be useful.


Don’t lie. Tell the truth. Speak no falsehoods. Are you sensing a theme here? Liars suck. Don’t be one. Unfortunately the Internet marketing world is full of scams, unrealistic income claims, and other outright lies. Never do this. Seriously. You will lose the trust of your subscribers in a flash. Even further, don’t promote products, services or people spouting such falsehoods.

All too often I see claims such as “This offer will be taken down at midnight tonight!” or “There are only 7 6 copies left! Order now!” only to check back the next day or later and see what I suspected. Hey, what do you know. The offer wasn’t taken down at midnight, and there are still the same number of copies left. Hm. This leads me to believe that the seller is a liar using deception to make sales. Does this tactic work? Yes, unfortunately it does. That doesn’t make it right, and you will find honesty generates better long term sales and repeat customers than deception.

Take an interest in your subscribers’ success

Be involved. Be active. Communicate with your subscribers. Offer to help. What are their goals? What are their struggles? How can you help? Even if the offer isn’t accepted, your offer of assistance will go a long way in the effort to earn and keep your subscribers’ respect and attention. Whatever your niche, don’t be a jerk.

Genuinely seek to help others, and you – and they – will have a much better chance at success.

The financial factor aside, we should want to help others. Let’s work together to improve lives.

A Leaky Bucket

Even if you send the best possible content, you will lose subscribers. That’s normal and perfectly okay.

Think of your list as a bucket with a small leak in the bottom. People will unsubscribe, or leak, from your list. In order to keep the bucket full, you must maintain a steady inflow at the same rate or better as the outflow.

Keep up your list building and marketing efforts in order to keep your list healthy.

Carefully read this section. Your relationship with your contacts is one of your best assets. Don’t neglect it!

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