3 Truths About Growing Your Business Through List Building

10/17/2016 04:49 pm ET Updated Oct 08, 2017

As entrepreneurs, we’re inundated by success formulas. One of the most common goes something like this: Dangle the perfect carrot (freebie) in front of the perfect people (ideal clients). Then, once you’ve snagged their email address, immediately upsell your carrot consumer on a low-price offer. The people who jump on your low-price offer? Upsell them on a higher price offer.

And so on and so forth until you’re a billionaire, swimming through pools of gold like Scrooge McDuck.

It’s not a terrible formula. It certainly contains effective elements. But, like so many aspects of the entrepreneurial world, the truth behind it has become obscured.

If you want to build your business through an email list, you can do so and be incredibly successful. Just remember these three truths:

Truth #1: Your carrot must provide actual value

When I taught high school, we had a saying around curriculum creation: Go deep, not wide. Instead of touching on a million different topics on a surface level we chose a few topics to explore more thoroughly. Doing this allowed our students to develop the skills they needed to explore a broader range of topics on their own.

The same is true of your freebie. Freebies (also known as lead magnets or opt-ins) have been all the rage for years, and they’re still useful when it comes to building out an email list. Often, your freebie is the first opportunity someone has to interact with you on a deeper level—which means you want to provide a great first impression. Yet somehow this space is still inundated with surface-level freebies.

You aren’t doing you, your business, or your audience any favors by providing rotten carrots. A valuable freebie doesn’t need to be long, but it does need to solve a real frustration. Notice I said a real frustration—as in one. By focusing on a single pain point, you can go deep instead of wide and provide more value.

Truth #2: The instant upsell is not a foolproof plan

I’m sure there are some industries where the immediate upsell works well, but in my experience it’s not a great idea. The clients I work with are all in the business of relationship marketing, and those relationships aren’t built upon transaction after transaction. Instead, their energy goes into creating lead nurturing sequences, because these do establish a genuine rapport (which translates to more sales down the road).

When your business revolves around quality relationships and mutual respect it’s not smart to pelt your subscribers with offers right from the get-go. Instead, give your subscribers time to digest and implement your freebie, so they can experience its full value.

To do this, send out additional emails after the freebie to make sure the subscriber is getting exactly what they need. Expand on your freebie’s topic or provide links to existing blog posts or other free resources you’ve already created. Once you’ve established a quality relationship based on value, you can make an offer.

Truth #3: Your list is only as good as your engagement

Want in on a secret?

Your email list isn’t worth a dime if you aren’t receiving opens, clicks, or responses. The list doesn’t matter. The engagement matters.

I’ve seen far too many people put together a quality freebie, promote the hell out of it, and then wonder why their business is flatlining, even as their list is growing.

Ask questions. Tell stories. Don’t spend every single email asking for the sale. Put those lead nurturing sequences into place from the get-go so your leads become accustomed to interacting with you.

If your subscribers aren’t engaging with you, ask them why! Rethink your strategy and periodically evaluate your audience. Over time your list may grow in unexpected ways, and your target audience may shift. Make sure you’re using your list for everything from market research to casual conversation.

How do you love your leads?

Building your business through an email list is a great strategy, and it can be immensely successful. It’s all about making sure your free content is valuable, your upsells make sense, and your emails are designed to build relationships.

What next?

  1. Review your freebies to make sure they provide real value
  2. Grab your copy of my email sequence, so you can create your own lead nurturing sequence
  3. Periodically check in with your audience to keep them engaged with the content they want
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.
CONVERSATIONS