Email opt-ins have become ubiquitous. You know the deal, right? “Enter your email address to receive (a free ebook, guide, report, etc.)” So you do and within seconds, a link to whatever freebie was being offered magically appears in your inbox.
But you may be wondering: Why do so many online marketers make me put in my email address first? Should I be starting a list of email addresses?
Or, you might have a more cynical outlook: I would never give out my real email address and open myself up to spammers! Why would I ever make my blog readers do it?
So, today we’ll talk about these questions. We’ll look at:
- Why your blog or business needs a list of email addresses
- How to approach email list building ethically
- The two types of people who don’t need an email list
Alrighty, let’s get to it!
Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase after clicking on one of my links I may make a small commission; but don’t worry, this comes at no added cost to you. I only post affiliate links for products and services that I have personally used and genuinely recommend.
When I first started blogging, I was on a mission. I wanted to build my blog the “right” way. The “content is king” way. The non-marketing way.
So, I refused to start building an email list. Refused!
That was several years ago. Today, I’m proud to say that I’m much more educated about blogging and have a very different outlook: When used correctly, email lists aren’t spammy at all. In fact, sending emails can be very helpful to your audience. It’s a great way to connect on a deeper level, make a large online community feel a bit more personalized, and tailor content delivery to the right audience.
Why You Should Start Cultivating a List of Email Addresses
To be perfectly honest, even after I started building my list of email addresses, I didn’t feel 100% comfortable with it. But, once I began using email to correspond with my audience—and actually have meaningful interactions—it made more and more sense. Here’s why I think you should start building an email list if you haven’t started already:
1. Besides your website, email is the only other line of communication you have with your audience of which you are in direct control.
Think about it. All of the other lines of communication are controlled by someone else: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Sure, you might have 10,000 Facebook followers, but what if Facebook suddenly suspends your account? Or, what if Twitter gets taken down by a massive cyber attack (again)? By maintaining an email list of your true fans, you become less reliant on social media and other platforms.
2. Those who opt-in to your email list are your raving fans. They love you, and you love them.
These people want to hear from you. They like what you have to say. So, when it comes time to launch your new ebook, your new course, or your new service, the subscribers on your email list should be first in line to receive your new offering. Usually, email subscribers convert at a rate much higher than cold traffic.
3. Your email list subscribers can help you figure out how to grow your business.
Here’s something I completely underestimated when I first started building a list of email addresses: Fans love to be involved.
If you’re thinking about developing a new product, such as an e-book or an e-course, but you’re not quite sure what direction to take, surveying your email list is a fantastic way to find out what your subscribers want. This helps them get the information and services they seek, and it also helps you create things that are in demand. Just be careful not to overuse this privilege. If you survey your audience too much, it can appear as if you don’t know what you’re doing.
4. It’s convenient for you and for your subscribers.
One common myth is that sending emails to your audience is a one-way street. And, it definitely can be a one-way street if you treat email solely as a marketing tool. However, I’d like to offer a different perspective: Sending email newsletters can open a line of communication.
What I’ve found is that many of my subscribers reply to my newsletters because it’s an easy way to get in touch with me. With a simple click of a button, my subscribers have asked thoughtful questions and sent praise for my work. They may not have reached out to me otherwise, so it makes me happy to know that they were able to express what they wanted to say.
Ethical List Building Guidelines
I have a number of email list pet peeves. As such, when I contact my email subscribers I’m very careful not to annoy them in the same ways that annoy me. If you’re new to list building, you might not be familiar with the unspoken rules of email marketing, so let’s go over those now.
1. Do not put your friends and family on your email list without asking them first.
I’ve had friends do this to me. It’s always awkward. I don’t want to receive their emails because I’m just not very interested in the topic at hand, but I also don’t want to unsubscribe and make my friend feel bad. To avoid this, I suggest letting your friends and family opt in to your email list on their own.
2. Always use a reputable email service provider.
Do not use a personal email service such as Gmail or Yahoo for sending bulk emails to your subscribers. Gmail and Yahoo may be fine for one-on-one emails, but they are not meant sending mass emails to your confidential list of email subscribers.
Believe it or not, one particular company that I used to be an affiliate for (but not anymore!) used Gmail to send their email newsletter to a list of very high-profile bloggers and entrepreneurs. Their mistake? They CC’d everyone instead of BCCing. As a result, my email address went out to hundreds of other entrepreneurs, and I had suddenly had access to their email addresses as well. It was a massive breach of information.
Avoid messes like this one by using a reputable email service provider such as Active Campaign.
3. Every email should contain an unsubscribe button or link.
In the U.S., this is required by the CAN-SPAM Act. All reputable email service providers take care of this for you; if yours does not then I would advise you to switch providers pronto.
4. Every email should contain a physical address.
This is also required by the CAN-SPAM Act. If you do not want your subscribers to know your home address, I highly recommend getting a P.O. Box, private mail box, or virtual mail subscription. I use Virtual Post Mail.
5. Limit your emails to 1 per day maximum.
Some online marketers tend to be a bit overzealous with their email marketing. I’ve gotten up to 5 emails from the same blogger/business owner in a single day! Needless to say, it’s annoying. While there are times when it makes sense to send multiple emails in a single day (e.g. live webinar reminders), try to stick to 1 per day max. On the other end of the spectrum, I recommend a minimum of 1 email every 10 days to keep the line of communication open.
6. Do not share your list of email addresses.
This one should may be obvious, but in case it isn’t … your subscribers opted in because they trusted you. Do not betray their trust by sharing your list.
Who Doesn’t Need an Email List?
Now that we’ve gone over why you need a list of email addresses and how to build your list ethically, let me address the two types of people who do not need an email list:
- If you never, ever plan to monetize your blog or sell a product, then you do not need an email list.
- If you are planning to stop blogging, then you do not need an email list.
And I completely understand if you are in either of these camps, as I have found myself each of them at one point or another as well. The thing to keep in mind is that even if you don’t plan to monetize your blog now, you might want to in the future. Your future self might regret not starting an email list sooner. But you’ll cross that bridge when you happen upon it.