You hear the gurus flogging their programs saying that all you need is to build a list to create a successful business online. Is this true? Is it really that easy to create an online business and is the money truly in the list.
Hold on a quick second here cowboy, before you can even think about someone joining your list, you need to find these “people”. In the world we like to call the Internet, this is what we call traffic or having an audience.
I want to solve the myth that you need to build a list to be successful and the idea that building a list is as easy as just getting a “opt in” form on your website.
It’s not and in the coming post, I am going to uncovered this.
Yes, you can make money with “building lists”…
Building lists is just a loose term for email marketing. When you are building a list, you are building a list of emails through a web form (somewhere online), whether this is through your website or otherwise. Once you have a list of emails and they “trust” you, you can generate revenue in a number of ways, one of the most common being, selling products and services to them (through affiliate programs).
Over the years I have built lists…big lists (in the 100,000’s). These were very profitable and lead to a full time income, but in order to build a list, you need to understand first how to build a website, understand your audience (you have to give them a reason to give you their email), and understand how to attract this audience.
You will fail miserably until you understand EVERYTHING ELSE that goes into a build a list (which is the tough part). These lists of people don’t magically arrive out of thin air.
A Word of Advice: Don’t Start Off Building a List
Not yet. If you are just starting out and you “think” you need a list to be successful online, think again. That is the last thing you should be concerning yourself with.
You are putting the cart way ahead of the horse and if you focus on something that you cannot possibly do without knowing how to build a website, get traffic, and promote to a particular audience, you are going to be disappointed.
Think of it this way. Focusing on building a list before you know how to get traffic is like opening a hot dog stand in the middle of the desert. You have nobody to sell your “dogs” to, you have no audience, and you are are not going to see an ounce to success rolling in.
If you are email marketing and you have nobody to market to, then you are well, I’ll let you fill in the rest of this sentence.
So, when you are READY to build a list?
I want to be completely honest for you, the reason I am writing this in the first place is because I am tired of people being lead astray. I am tired of folks being told that they can simple build a list and the ATM is going to start spitting out $100 bills at them. That is not the reality and it is my goal to save you time so you can focus on real things, like creating a real business.
To build a list, there are some important things that you need to understand. In fact, there are 4 MAIN things that you should have a good “handle” of before you try to build a list.
(1) Understand websites. First, without a website, you have no place to build your list, build your brand, or a medium to leverage to communicate and help people. Remember, if you are going into the online business world you are learning how to “help” people, not necessarily sell to people. If you can accomplish this, then you will be very successful.
Getting a website up and running these days is easy and you can get a fully functional and very “visually pleasing” website for free…and do so without any technical knowledge. (learn more here)
(2) Understand how to get traffic. OK, here is the dilemma. You could have the best freakin’ funnel in the world, but if you don’t have anyone in that marketing funnel, you are going to be marketing to “air”. That is what happens to most people that buy into this “build a list, it’s that easy” garbage that is out there. Plain and simple, YOU NEED TRAFFIC!
There are many ways that you can get traffic, my favourite being natural traffic through SEO (Search Engine Optimization) which is actually quite easy to capture once you understand what you are doing. I recommend that you get up to speed with a proper education on “traffic” and how to build it. (get access to the best training online here)
(3) Understand your audiences “hot buttons”. If you don’t understand your potential customers, they will always be “potential” customers and not actual buyers. If you understand your audience, you can then and only then take advantage of a list of people. If you can’t do this,
To understand this, you need to understand things like the “Customer Purchasing Lifecycle” training at Wealthy Affiliate. I would recommend that you read this training (completely free with registration to WA). This teaches you how to take someone through the relationship creation process, which is what email marketing is really all about. I tend to call it relationship marketing because that is what it really is.
Create a REAL Business, Not a Hypothetical One
If you don’t know this, you are not going to be creating a long term business if you try building a list before you are ready. I see it all the time. People put up a website, get an aweber.com account and think that their job is done. They quickly find out that without the REST (the MAIN 3 as I discussed above), they don’t stand a chance of getting off the ground.
This leads to frustration, get discouraged and more often than not and people quitting this “Internet” thing.
That is the last thing I want for you and I definitely don’t want you to become disillusioned by the massive opportunity that is in front of all of us on the Internet. You can truly create success without a list, or when you are ready, with a list.
So the next time a guru tells you that all you need is a list, turn a cold shoulder to them (and get off of their list). The money really lies in the ability to get the traffic that builds that list. If you understand this, your path to success will be shortened.
I would love to hear your opinions and feedback on this. Are you building a list? Have you been “sold” on the idea that you need to in the past? Please leave a comment below!
Hi Kyle! Great post!
I am glad I found Wealthy Affiliate before any of those websites that sell the idea the list is the most important thing! Now I realized how much time I have saved by following the right training!
Indeed, there is not point building a list without enough traffic. If you cannot monetize efficiently a website with SEO, so you will probably not do it with a list. I plan to keep working on my website until I get the mark of 100 unique visitors a day as you recommended. Then I will think about the list! It is a long journey until there though.
Thanks for sharing your experience with us Kyle!
All the best
Yeah, definitely the best approach. You want to focus on building an audience before you build a list or you are simply going to be getting ahead of yourself. It is really tough to collect people’s email addresses if you don’t have anyone to collect them from.
100 unique visitors a day is a good benchmark to determine that it is “time” to build a list.
One thing that I have not done is start a list. I have worked on getting the traffic, it is coming along slowly but surely (which is awesome), by using SEO and training that I worked on at Wealthy Affiliate.
I still think great content and some social interaction is helping to drive most of my traffic.
I still think the biggest problem with most people on the internet, me included, is that they do not put up good content on a regular time schedule. This is one area that I am working on now to improve my website traffic.
You are doing things right John by focusing on traffic before worrying yourself with building a list. The problem too many people have is that they spend all of their energy “building it before they come” and this only ends up to people have a complex set-up on their website with an email opt-in and a sequence…but no traffic (which is useless).
Traffic ALWAYS comes before the list.
Thanks very much for this post Kyle because many newbies like me see this so often, and it puts us under pressure in thinking that this is something that we need to do. Now I know it is not necessary at this point of starting out one’s business. At the moment I will concentrate on building my “hot dog cart” (website) and worry about a mailing list later.
I appreciate your explanation of the approach to take and will certainly be using them in the future. Thanks again.
So much pressure out there on “building a list” and building it fast. The problem is, you are never properly told that in order to build a business through email marketing you first need to understand how to build a website, how to get rankings/traffic, how to create offers that actually get people to want to share their email address from you, and how to get people to convert.
You always get half of the story from any program that claims you get rich from a list. That is only the case if you already have a huge list which takes a considerable amount of effort and understanding to create. The horse always needs to come before the cart and that is why we put so much emphasis on the “horse” side of your business within Wealthy Affiliate...before we ever get to the cart.
Another thing about email marketing though, is that many persons do not like to be bombarded with with them, whether they be newsletters, offers or whatever. Sometimes persons may subscribe to an offer just to see what it is but loses interest after a few months and then become tired of receiving emails thereafter. As you said when you create good content and persons find you via SEO, they are more likely to stay with you. So I agree with you that quality content is what one should aim for.
This can definitely be the case. That is why it is paramount that you first understand your audience before you attempt to build a list. Too many people just throw an email offer together and a bunch of follow-up emails and expect the sales to start coming in.
If you don’t understand how to first get traffic, then how to convert your audience…you are not going to stand a hope of getting someone to join your list or convert within the email sequence.
The horse always needs to come before the cart and “building a list” should never be your first focus when attempting to create a business online.
Absolutely agree with you on this one Kyle,
Building a list can be really profitable but in order to make that profit, we need to understand everything that goes into a list. I learned that the hard way and wasted a lot of money building my list but because I didn’t understand from which campaign are they coming from, they didn’t click with me when I blasted my emails and soon after, they began unsubscribing. Great read Kyle but just out of curiosity, do you have plans on adding an optin page on your blog?
That is the exact problem. Everyone says “build a list” but often times you are only given a few pieces of the puzzle.
To effectively build a list and generate revenue from it, you need to understand everything from getting traffic to your website, how to build content that converts people into a lead, how to build trust with your subscribers, how to build an effective follow up sequence, how to turn someone from a subscriber into a customer, etc.
To say, “just go build a list, it works” is a complete joke. Nobody is going to know how to do this without a skillset in all of the areas that I mentioned and that is why I suggest you first understand how to get quality, relevant traffic before you get into email marketing.
Excellent post and a real eye opener. I really appreciate how you lay out your post in a very straightforward way so I can easily absorb your message.
The analogy of opening a hot dog stand in a desert is excellent. I agree that being successful online has more to due with understanding websites, knowing how to generate traffic, knowing your audience and ultimately offering help rather than “selling”.
I am thankful I found Wealthy Affiliate. It is without doubt the most comprehensive training platform anyone will find when it comes to learning how to build a successful online business. Thanks again.
It becomes very natural and effortless to sell something to someone when you already know what they want. Add a level of customer trust into the mix, and you are laughing.
This comes with a solid understand of first, getting traffic…and second, what to do with that traffic once you have it. A proper Internet marketing education will lead you to understanding both of these.
Tasos Perte Tzortzis
Hey Kyle , there are thousands of misleading programs out there that are teaching the only thing we need is an email list.But I know that the hardest part is “How to create that list”.
I have my website set-up , followed the training at WA and I have published a lot of material online and still have not provided a subscription option.My niche is your niche , the make money online , and lately I watch an increase in the traffic I am getting.But still I can’t say that the numbers are fabulous.But I think is pretty early.
When do you think is the time to create a subscription form on the site?…How much traffic should I be receiving daily?…And from the moment that I start how often do you think I should send out emails?…I am also thinking of producing a short free e-book to give away with the first email…Is that a good idea?…
Exactly, it is easy to say you need a list and show people how to manage a list, build a funnel, lead page, etc. The difficult and most important aspect of “building a list” is exactly that though and that is where all of these programs really seem to lack.
You don’t need to build a list until you are getting stable and consistent traffic, I would say no less than 100 unique visitors per day. If you focus on a list prior to this you are going to be wasting time that could have been much better spent building your audience.
This will also give you much more time to truly understand your audience and likely see a bunch of conversions. These are also very critical because if you don’t know how to convert within your website, you are not going to be able to generate revenue from a list. The cart always needs to come after the horse, in other words, the list always comes after the traffic.
I love this post! I think a lot of people forget to utilize a list for marketing even though personally I only have about 100 people right now! Cant wait to have 1000!
I think it’s important to have an active website first beofre you build a list, so your new coming subscribers actually have something to look forward to!
The bigger the list, the more ongoing opportunity and potential you will have regardless of the incoming traffic that you have (ie, if SEO died for you, you could still sustain a business for some time with a decent sized list).
One thing people fail to understand that there is a lot of “noise” within people’s inboxes and over time you can expect your readership to peter out, sometimes dipping below the 10% open rate mark. A list is great, but as a marketer we need to focus on other sustainable sources of traffic including SEO and PPC.
When I started an online business, some gurus told me about building a list to make tons of money. The bigger the list, the better the money will come.
Well, I jumped in and found out that it is not easy to obtain a list without having a website of mine and know how to get traffic.
Thanks to WA that is able me to learn so much from online business platform concept, build a website, attract visitors, and make money in the following.
One regret in WA that why didn’t I find it earlier?
Now, I am glad that I am in WA community and on the right track building a long-term online business.
The bigger the list and the more engaged the list, the more potential money you can earn from that list. The problem is, how does one build a list in the first place.
It is easy for any so called “guru” out there to show how valuable a list is once they have it, but the problem is that attaining the list is the hard part. Before a marketer should even consider a list, they need to first understand how to build traffic and an audience (which requires a website, it requires content, understanding of keywords/research, etc). Without that, no list is possible.
So glad you are enjoying Wealthy Affiliate.
Thanks for the informative information on building lists. I am new to this industry and I have been doing research collecting emails and email marketing. The sites that provided great reviews did not appear to provide any information or data to back up their claim. I have followed all that you have taught thus far and you haven’t lead me astray yet so I will follow your advice on this topic also.
Build your site as an authority and get traffic before you consider trying to build a list. This is a situation where the horse (the audience) needs to come before the cart (building a list with your audience).
I think that too many people get fooled into the idea that somehow if you build it, they will come. Perhaps in the “field of dreams” this may have worked, but not within the online business world.
Thank you so much for shedding light on that Building a Mailing List is not that crucially important just yet when creating a website and trying to piece it together in a beautifully structured design. I guess this means I can leave Sumo Me Plug-In, Mail Chimp, and Mad Mimi off to a side now since I haven’t quite understood if I am getting enough traffic as it is on my website yet. Thanks for taking the time to explain the rundown that Building a Mailing List can always be done later on!
Cheers to you Kyle the Tiger Tamer,
It’s funny, it is the first thing that people think they need when they start a business online. The reality of it is that before you build a list, you need an audience of people to do this and that should be the first focus when building out your site.
Email management can also be a lot of work and you don’t want to pile on this too early on in the development stages of your business or it can lead to a sensation of being overwhelmed. Too many people attempt to build a list before they know what the heck they are doing and this will definitely stifle any progress.
Thank you for the post. I’ve been reading this “build a list, it’s that easy” garbage since 2000 and was completely confused like many others. I had my business with decent success but it was not long because I was confused by all those scammers. Thanks God I finally found Wealthy Affiliate.
You are absolutely right. What is the use of the list if you don’t know or understand what needs to be done to take advantage of that list. Success is not in the list. Success is in helping folks that are expecting value from you and if you can give them that value you will be successful.
Exactly Rufat. First you need to understand building a website, getting traffic, and then how to create a relationship with your respective niche audience before you can consider building a list.
These are pre-requisites to a successful email marketing campaigns and unfortunately there are so many folks out there teaching otherwise. Anyone that teaches you that you need an autoresponder in your first week of marketing online SHOULD NOT be trusted.
Kyle, how important is having an email list, considering one has already mastered the 3 steps you’ve mentioned to a reasonable level? Can you make good money without having one?
It can be very powerful to have a list, but to create a list you need traffic and an offer that is appealing enough to get people onto a list. So that should be your initial focus (traffic…then the offer).
But absolutely, a list allows you to build relationships with your audience and you have the freedom to contact people as many times as you like, as long as you offer value and continue to keep them anticipating your emails. If you build a list with the only intention to SELL stuff to people, you are not going to have many people on your list or opening your emails for long.
Like any relationship, you need to give and help before you recommend something with trust.
Right, thanks for that, makes a lot of sense. Except I keep on hearing people say I should have some sort of irresistible offer as my lead magnet. Thinking hard what I can do with this!
Your irresistible offer should be something that helps them get to where they are looking to get. It can be as simple as your help to folks if they join your mailing list, giving away some magical ebook has really lost it’s lust as there are too many scams out there doing this.
As you probably already know I previous to joining WA have tried many of the so called get rich schemes the last one was EN luckily i found your page before i joined them,I feel so sorry for those people that have been scammed into thinking it will work for them. I have also had numerous email marketing people trying to sell me a list i have been tempted a few times but resisted as like you say I believe you need the traffic first, so people follow Kyle`s advice follow the training at WA and the sky really is the limit, I just know i`m on the right track now,and i will not be going off it ever again.
Thanks for your kind words Ken, you are definitely on the right track now and I look forward to helping you get the train steamin’ along!
Kyle I got involved in a couple of different IM schemes that wanted us to build of buy a list so that we could make money. The bigger the least, the greater the return would be. I soon found that you need more than just a list. When people contact you, you have to know what you are doing, so you can direct them properly. You are giving us that knowledge. We will be able to assist people in being Positive Achievers, in having great results.
There is nothing wrong with building a list, it can be a wonderful way to create relationships and create long term revenue online. However, buying a list is a bad idea because you are basically paying to “interrupt” people that know nothing about you (you have not created this list on your own).
My point in this article is to let people know that are looking to build a list that you NEED a source of high quality traffic and an established website before you can build a list.
Thanks Kyle, this is an eye opener and feel very blessed to get this education , every day I learn something new very exciting, now I understand my priority is to make sure my website is professional and has value for my visitors.
Absolutely, this is a case of the “cart before the horse”. Too many people are eager to get their Aweber (or other autoresponder account) set up on their website, yet they get ZERO traffic. This is the equivalent to setting up a storefront int he middle of the desert. If you have no traffic, you have no business.
Having been involved in list building (and still am) I totally agree with you Kyle. There is no money in the list unless you have the right training to utilize it!
Recently, I had to erase a 30,000 subscriber list because 99% of it wasn’t doing anything for me. Most of it was my fault, but it just goes to show that without proper training, what’s the point of having an opportunity if you don’t know how to utilize it?
I believe it Vitaliy, a list can go form “hero” to “zero” really quickly if you do not give them attention and you do not continue that relationship. It is one of trust and one that will be lost quickly if you don’t treat them like gold. Too many people think a list is the ultimate path to success and surely it can be, but a list is not good if you don’t understand your audience and how to keep your list growing.
This post is just in time! So a list isn’t that important after all? I keep coming across these other sites all saying it’s Soooo important to build a list lately, that I was starting to worry “do I have to make a contact form to get an email list going on my sites?”
Since I hadn’t really come across that in the WA training so far, I didn’t bother building one yet. This is good to know that I don’t need to do this yet. I still have so much more to add to both my sites that I know they wouldn’t really be ready, or well, I wouldn’t be ready either.
Since I know once you have people subscribing to your email list, you have to be able to answer them back and keep adding quality posts to your site consistently. Otherwise, you risk losing them since they’ll forget all about you.
Whew! Reading this makes me realize I was getting worried about this for nothing.
Great advice and thank you, Kyle!
You will get there Sherry! There is such a thing as building a list too early along in the process. Get your website moving along and understand how to effectively get rankings and traffic….and start to really get a handle on who your audience is, what they are after and what their hot buttons are. Once you have this in place, you are in very good position to start building a list and it will be a very natural progression.
So true guys. I made this mistake years ago, I wasn’t getting too much traffic, set up an account with Aweber and expected the money to flow!
If only it was that easy. I’ve learned now that you need to get consistent traffic first, and then slowly build your way up to a list.
I’m glad I wasn’t ever tricked into that solo ad stuff, JV’s with real list owners can be profitable, but I think that’s a different story then those solo ads.
I have first hand experience building a list I don’t know what to do with. In fact, I was just discussing this with someone a few days ago, so great timing with this post. I now have 3k subscribers to my list and nothing to market to them because I don’t really understand what they’re looking for, and don’t really have an appropriate product to give them.
I too have heard that ‘the money is in the list’, but I guess you need to know how to find that money. For most products out there, they recommend you hit your list with sales pitches very often to get the ‘virtual ATM’ working, but I am sure that this type of sales strategy doesn’t last long.
Someone once told me to start building a list, even if you don’t know why, because it will be useful in the future. Well, I did that, but I do not think it was solid advice.
This is true Nathaniell. The marketers that are telling you to hit their list, in fact, are doing exactly what they preach. They are hitting their lists over and over again, abusing them to the point that their list actually becomes non responsive list. It only takes so many shameless promotions before you have killed the relationship with your list.
And with your 3K list, I highly suggest you do something that checks the responsiveness of your list. You can revive a list, but it will usually take an apology and some weeding out of people that have forgotten who you are. Give something to them, something that they would think is valuable and see if you can get some of your response rates back…and then slowly work on the relationship. People will continue to buy from you IF they trust you and if you continue to offer them value that benefits them and their situation.
That makes perfect sense. I’ve heard so much about email marketing/list building, some people seem to swear it’s where all the money is – yet I noticed it’s not really emphasized in the core training within WA at all. (I know there is training on it, but it’s not touched on in the beginning) I have managed to be successful so far without email marketing, and I will continue to focus on my websites for now. I don’t feel comfortable starting out with email marketing just yet and would probably just overwhelm me.
Anyway, great post and it really cleared up a lot of my confusion about list building!
I am definitely pro list, but I am more “pro traffic’ first. You can have the best product in the world, but if you don’t have an audience your marketing will fall on deaf ears. Same goes for having a list. You could have the best converting sequence in the world, but if you have no traffic, then there is little point.
Website & traffic are the initial focus, then comes the list.
Traffic is the key! Building a list can come later when you can teach your list how to produce traffic. I heard someone once say something very profound. He said something like.. how can you teach something to someone if you never went through the experience of it yourself. There are many fake online marketing gurus. Thanks for your article.
I’ve heard time and time again that I should have a list form up ASAP as well but others say that I should focus on traffic first. There seems to be no strong consensus here… I never was terribly interested in writing content for both my website and list and so far I think Ill be opting out entirely, but that’s just me. How would you compare the monetization potential of a list vs. regular website affiliate links/ads?
The monetization model is completely different. The thing about a list that is so powerful is that unlike a website, you have the ability to connect with people (after they join your list) whenever you like. Those that does this in a way where their emails are anticipated and actually get opened, do very well and you can earn revenue from the same person over and over. Also, with a list you are not subject to changes in SEO as you have a base audience that you can always get in touch with.
I would never argue the benefits of a list, it is a powerful thing to have. I would just argue having a list too early along in the process.
Thanks for the great lesson Kyle. Too many people are trying to sell the idea of building a list and that it is as easy as clicking the button. You have offered some real clarity to the situation.
I see it all the time. These are people that have been spending years building their lists and then they tell you that it is as easy to as sending an email to make $xx,xxx. It is a total smoke screen and in order to build a list, you need to understand the fundamentals of how to get traffic and you need to understand how to build a website in your respective niche the proper way.
Great post as always, in fact I have heard so many self-proclaimed gurus, say the money and in the list (this may be so) but I’ve never taken into consideration, also because like you said, it is not easy if you are to novice, not to mention that you need an autoresponder, and the best responders at a cost.
So always linking up to your post, I was always the idea, “first understand and know how to build a website and how to attract traffic”
Let’s say that I finally managed to make my own little niche website adsense, (and as a newborn baby).
If you wanna take a look and tell me your thoughts, I have a board and welcome.
You are doing great. One thing I actually don’t recommend is creating adsense sites or making it your focus in terms of generating revenue. Adsense pays pennies on the dollar and you would be much better off in a case like this to “build a list” and to incorporate affiliate offers into your website.
When it comes down to it, the people putting “adsense” ads on your site are making money as a result of your traffic…or they wouldn’t be doing it. Isn’t it better off that you made that money instead of them?
At first I thought it was imperative for success but I couldn’t afford an Aweber subscription then, so I went the list-free route. The result? Success. I’ve reached and surpassed the $500 per month mark without building lists and with just one website, so you are undoubtedly correct.
Straight shooting here Charles. It is the absolute truth that if most people dropped the idea of creating a list altogether when starting out, they would be MUCH more successful. A list is something that comes down the road once you understand how to get traffic and you understand your audience well enough that you would be able to connect within them through email in a way that they would actually “enjoy” your emails.
Congrats on your success by the way, your hard work is definitely paying off!
Hi Kyle this is a great eye opener to those of us who have been brainwashed into believing those gurus who sold us on the build a list or fail myth.
You are so right because I must admit I did fall for it so bought a lot of solo ads took part in co ops etc and expected the floodgates to open but nothing.
Great I now have a sizable list but many of them take no action because of how they came to my list in the first place. This post will and should kill the solo ad trade because that is another scam.
Solo ads are a scam and so are the people pushing building a list before you have any knowledge. If this post can stop a few of those people from being brainwashed, then I have definitely done my job Mike. Thanks again!