How To Build An Email Marketing List

I’m sure you’ve heard it a thousand times before. “The money is in your list”.

Updated: January 27, 2024 by Bill Burniece


Your email list = money.

I’m sure you’ve heard it before many many times but it’s true.

If you have something to sell your list will bring you more income than any other single method.

Not only is your list the most important asset you have but it can come with you.

What I mean by that is if you have a website on your chosen topic that dies for whatever reason your list will be unaffected by it.

You can simply start a new site and move all your peeps over to the new site with one email notification.

It sure beats starting all over again.

On this page I’ll show you how to build an email list step-by-step.

How To Build An Email List At A Glance

We’ll go in depth about how to create your own money-making email list below, but here is a summary:

  • Email marketing is critical to your success since it delivers the highest ROI of all digital marketing strategies
  • You’ll discover why email marketing is so important
  • You’ll learn how to build an email list in 4 simple steps
  • This page is Step 6 in my free affiliate marketing training series. You’ll find the hub page that lists all of the steps and links located here

Why Your Email List Is So Important

In my opinion affiliate marketing is the greatest job in the world.

It’s one of the fastest ways to make a high income online, in a relatively short amount of time, and with little risk or expense.

You get to work when you want to and from where you want to.

Since you’re selling somebody else’s products and services there is no order fulfillment or customer service involved which in my experience (with my other business) are the two biggest headaches.

Which Online Marketing Model?

There are ways to make money online without a website but I definitely recommend the tried-and-true model where you make your own website.

You can start your own affiliate website in three simple steps, with little expense, and without any experience.

It’s so easy. In fact, as proof I built 100% of this site by myself without any experience whatsoever.

But there are some fundamental flaws with the affiliate marketing model mostly because so many key factors that you work on are ultimately out of your control including:

  • SEO
  • Offers
  • JV Partners
  • Social Media Platforms

All of these things come and go and can disappear literally overnight.

The more you rely on these things the more volatile your internet business really is.

That’s where email marketing comes in.

Email marketing to your own private list of fans, customers, and followers will always be 100% under your own control.

In fact, your list is the one asset that nobody can take away from you.

Jeff Walker explains:

Direct Communication With Your Audience

Your list is the most effective way to communicate and engage your audience with information, offers, news, tutorials, and joint ventures.

They subscribed to your list to hear what you had to say so they’re interested in not only what you’re doing and what you think they should be doing too.

They’re fans.

How Much Is Your List Worth?

I don’t have any quantitative data to back this up but many list building experts believe that on average each subscriber on your list is worth $1 per month in income potential.

This may or may not be true, and I’m sure the value swings wildly from niche to niche, but there’s no denying the fact that a subscriber who likes and trusts you is more likely to buy from you.

That’s just common sense.

If you’re just getting started in affiliate marketing don’t be intimidated by the seemingly daunting task of getting started with list building.

All lists, regardless of size, were created one email address at at time.

One of the best ways to learn list building is to select a few affiliate marketers that you know and like and simply subscribe to their lists.

You’ll quickly grasp what it’s all about.

List building and email marketing is so critical to your long term success in internet marketing that I’ve broken it into a four step process for you below.

How To Build An Email Marketing List In 4 Simple Steps:

  1. List Building Software
  2. The Ethical Bribe
  3. Opt-In Forms
  4. Follow Up Message Strategies

Before we get started, please let me first tell you that you do not need to have any technical skills or experience to set up your first automated email list building system.

It’s super easy…

Step 1: List Building Software

Aweber logo
List building is easier than you may think. List building software tools automate the entire process for you once you get it set up and getting started is quite simple.

There are many list building software products to choose from but in my opinion the gold standard is still AWeber. I’ve used it for all of my list building for nearly a decade now and still love it.

Autoresponder Emails

What is an autoresponder?

It’s a program that automatically generates a set response to all messages sent to a particular e-mail address.

AWeber develops and runs an opt-in email marketing service used by over 120,000+ small businesses, bloggers and entrepreneurs around the globe.

There are alternatives out there but I believe AWeber is second to none when it comes to email automation reliability.

Why AWeber?  Most of all: reliability.

And some easy to learn features including:

So, step one in list building is to go get AWeber or a similar list building software product to get started.

And if you click on my link to buy AWeber I will be paid for the referral just like you will once you’re up and running.

In the next lesson I will go into the ethical bribe which is the bait used to lure subscribers to your list.

Step 2 – The Ethical Bribe:

Now that you have your email software system in place (step 1) you’re ready for the next phase – the ethical bribe.

The ethical bribe is simply something of value that you’ll exchange for the email addresses of the subscribers you want to attract.

The ethical bribe is especially important now since people are becoming increasingly concerned about their online privacy.

You’ll need a strong valuable freebie to get them to part with their email address.

 “Match Bait To Critter. If you want a yard full of deer, do not put a 50-pound block of cheddar cheese outside. Put out a big salt block.” – Dan Kennedy 

The ethical bribe is not only intended to build your email list but also your credibility too.

It’s your opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge in your niche and connect with your audience on a personal level.

Types Of Ethical Bribes:

  • ebooks
  • audio interviews
  • resource lists
  • free reports
  • software
  • template
  • tutorial
  • mini-courses
  • videos
  • quick-start guides
  • access to private site area or forum

Where To Get Your Ethical Bribe:

The best way is to create your own.

After all, if you don’t know enough about your topic to share some valuable insight about your topic perhaps you better choose another one right?

If you have the knowledge to share but can’t write well or produce videos, software, templates, or interviews look for some help. is a great place to find help fast with these types of projects, and nearly all for only five bucks.

If you lack the know-how or would rather buy an ethical bribe to share look on a PLR (private label rights) catalog site like this one for rebrandable ebooks, articles, videos, and more.

Whether you know if or not you’re getting bombed by ethical bribes every day.

Coupons, happy-hours, limited time discounts (sales), buy one get one free, bonus products when you buy, free trials, etc.

Start paying attention to the types of offers you respond to and adjust those strategies within your own marketing.

Just remember that the key to your giveaway is that it needs to not only be something of value but something relevant to your target market.

Remember Dan Kennedy’s quote above?

The more relevant and valuable your bribe is the higher your response rate will be, the larger your list will become, and the more money you will make.

I believe there is a tutorial on various delivery methods you can use on the AWeber site. If not let me know and I’ll put together a tutorial here. Thanks.

In the next lesson I will explain where to place your list opt-in forms on your site to attract attention and subscribers.

Delivery Of Your Ethical Bribe

I believe there is a tutorial on various delivery methods you can use on the AWeber site. If not let me know and I’ll put together a tutorial here. Thanks.

In the next lesson I will explain where to place your list opt-in forms on your site to attract attention and subscribers.

Step 3 – Opt-In Forms

Now that you have your list building software and ethical bribe selected its time to set up the email capture forms on your website.

One of the most important components of any email marketing campaign is of course, the web form.

Without a way to sign up to your list, you’ll have a hard time finding anyone to send email to.

That being the case, you want to make sure that your web forms are getting people to sign up.

Your ethical bribe should be clearly stated front and center and your opt-in form needs to be placed where it will get their attention.

As I mentioned in step 1 I prefer using AWeber to manage my campaigns.

I’ve used the AWeber platform for all of my list building for nearly a decade now and still love it.

When it comes to opt-in templates you’ll find dozens to choose from there and every one of them is customizable to fit your site’s color theme.

Plus the AWeber opt-in designer, as well as their other tools, are super easy and fast to use.

Simply pick the template you like, make any minor edits needed, and place it on your site.

There are step-by-step tutorials available to walk you through the process effortlessly even if you’re a non-tech newbie.

Where To Place Your Opt-In Forms:

You’ll want to place your opt-in form on the home page (near the top above the fold) and a few other strategically-placed areas on your site.

Here are some good places for your opt-in forms:

  • Home page (of course)
  • Top of sidebar
  • Footer area
  • On your About You page
  • At the bottom of a post on your site

Pop-up boxes are controversial. If you decide to use then. test your pop-ups on your site first.

Speaking of testing, I highly recommend you test several different opt-in forms on your site and keep track of which one converts at the highest rate.

The AWeber dashboard will help you do just that, and there are tutorials on setting up split-testing opt-in forms there too.

Step 4: Follow-Up Messages

Before you can turn on your new automated list-building machine that will work for you 24/7 you have one more task to complete.

And its important too because it will become the first impression you make to your new subscribers so you want to make sure you come across the way you want to be perceived.

As you’ve learned by now the best part of auto-responder software like AWeber is that your messages are delivered to your subscribers automatically, and in the proper order, as they join your list.

To make this magic happen you’re going to have to write an initial welcome email and perhaps at least a few follow up messages.

How Many Follow Up Emails Do You Need?

So how many messages do you need to write before sending people into your list funnel?

That’s a great question and one without a definitive answer.

It depends upon how much work you want to do up front and how timely and relevant you want your messages to be.

I’ve opted in to lists that have anywhere from one to sixty messages already completed, queued, and ready to deliver.

If you’re more hands-off you may want to write as many messages as you can up front to minimize your work on the back end.

If you’re more involved in your business on a daily basis you may want to consider writing only one or two auto-responder messages and the rest live and delivered as a broadcast message.

A broadcast message is one that’s sent immediately and not pre-scheduled.

I learned list building from the legendary marketer Frank Kern.

Frank prefers to write and queue only one initial welcome message and the rest he delivers live as a broadcast message.

This does take more work but keeps your messages timely, relevant, and news-worthy.

Ultimately it’s up to you on how to implement your list strategy.

How Often Should You Email Your List?

This too is discretionary since frequency is really your decision.

Plus every niche is different.

Many guru’s believe you should email you list every single day.

For me personally I think this is a little overkill simply because when I send a message to my list I want it to be something very good.

I like to be selective in what I send instead of looking for ‘something’ to send my list every day just on principal.

In my experience people get tired of being bombarded by too many messages that are thin on content or 99% promotional.

You need to give before you can get.

Tips To Keep Your List Happy And Engaged:

Always provide value. In fact, you should give more value to them for free than anything you’re asking from them in return. (i.e sales).

Infuse your personality into each email.

Remember each name on your list represents a real person so be conversational to create real human connections.

Keep it real.

  • Segment your list by topic or interest. This is a little bit more advanced but most email providers will give you the ability to do this. Nothing increases engagement more than laser targeted messages will
  • Ask for feedback and promptly return all messages personally
  • Always make sure your list knows that they can simply opt-out any time they want and make sure you let them know how to do so

The bottom line in email marketing is this… be a giver first.

As an email marketer you have to be very careful not to piss off your list.

The most common complaint from email recipients is being sent too many emails each week. I’ve been guilty of this myself.

Sending too many emails to your list makes your flock feel like you’re spamming them and they will either ignore future emails or unsubscribe from your list. (or both).

You will get unsubscribes every single day since it’s part of the business model.

In fact, a certain percentage of subscribers only want your lead magnet and will never open another email from you once they get it.

And if you are not getting daily unsubscribes you’re not doing enough selling and need to push a little harder.

Top 5 Email Marketing Mistakes

While it is certainly true that we live in the age of social media where messages are reaching us faster than ever, email is still very much alive and well, especially in the world of online business.

According to the research done by Mailgen, as much as 54% of all digital marketers consider it an essential tool in their arsenal.

Also, when it comes to generating leads, it is still the king, because 89% of all marketers use it for that very same purpose.

However, despite being familiar with email for a long time, digital marketers still make the occasional email blunder.

According to SuperiorPapers marketer Oliver Mitchell, apart from grammar and spelling errors, the top 5 email marketing mistakes are:

1. Failure to Use Responsive Design

Providing content that looks good is just as essential as making it useful and helpful.

Also, the design itself needs to be functional, so that it guides the user from the beginning of the article to the call to action button, without too many unnecessary distractions.

But, a lot marketers base their design on how it will look on large desktop screens, or screens of their laptops.

Turns out that almost 70% of users check their email using their smartphones, which means that should focus on how your email design will look on smaller portable devices.

2. Not Segmenting Your Email List Properly

People are looking for a more personal experience when looking to purchase a product or a service.

They want to feel as if it was made specifically for them. This means you need to make custom emails that will address their needs and pain points.

Of course, you probably don’t have the time to create a bespoke email for every single one of your potential customers, but you can divide your email list into several groups, each with its own specific needs.

For this, you will need to take at look at analytics data, as well as current trends, and user profiles to be able to create a perfect email pitch.

3. Being Too Promotional

As mentioned in the paragraph above, today’s audiences are very shopping-savvy, which means you will have a hard time winning them over with generic adverts.

They don’t care about your company or your product. What they care about is how it will benefit them, how it will make their life better.

If you are selling something, you should promote it by all means, but try and shift the accent towards all the user benefits your product can provide.

Instead of basing your ads on just facts, try approaching thing from a more emotional angle.

4. Your Email Subject Line Isn’t Clear Enough

People process a ton of information on a daily basis, especially online, which means you only have so much time to grab their attention.

If your email message is too lengthy or if your subject line is unclear, they aren’t likely to read through the entire message.

This is why it’s essential to craft a subject line that will capture their attention right from the get-go.

It should include your topic.

Is it a promotion or a special discount? Then say so.

Let them know what it is that you have to offer them.

5. Not Monitoring the Results Of Your Campaigns

If you are not tracking the results of your campaign, you will not be able to know which elements of it have worked, and which haven’t, meaning that you won’t be able to improve upon them the next time around.

Apart from that, you should also develop a mechanism through which you can follow up with your audience.

For example, if they have subscribed for a free trial of one of your products, you should make sure to contact them after the trial period has ended in order to remind them about your product, so that some of them actually end up buying it.

Let’s Wrap It Up

I hope you enjoyed this lesson on email marketing.

This is Step 6 in my free affiliate marketing training series.

Here is the hub page that lists all of the steps and links.

If you have any questions about the best niches for affiliate marketing please let me know.