As you learned above, growing a large, targeted email list is one of the primary keys to successful online business. But when you're starting from scratch, the idea of growing a list of thousands or more can be intimidating. While buying email addresses seems like a quick and easy solution, these lists are usually junk, with inactive addresses or contact information obtained illegally. So what can you do? Try giving away free stuff to grow your list! Here are five “ethical bribes” that have worked for online businesses just like yours:
 
1. Write an ebook. Everyone wants “insider info” that's not available anywhere else. An original ebook that offers quality content in your niche will attract a ton of subscribers. Some internet marketers use this tactic alone to grow their lists. And it's not as hard as you may think!
 
Begin by writing 5 to 10 original articles of approximately 500 to 750 words that your readers would benefit from. These can be on all different topics, or they can be related. But be sure they offer good information and are totally original. If writing is not your strong suit, consider hiring someone on a contract basis. Good writers are easy to find and very affordable nowadays.
 
Place all your articles together in one Microsoft Word document. Add a cover page to the front with an appropriate graphic, your byline, the name of your business and your web address, a statement that the content is proprietary and that they can only get a copy from you. For an added boost of traffic, include a page at the end inviting readers to direct others to your site for their own copy.
 
Once your document is complete, create a PDF file using one of the many free PDF converters available online (if you're on a Mac, it's even easier – it's included in your operating system). Then offer this special report as a gift for signing up for your email list, and watch your list explode!
 
2. Free downloads. Who can pass up free stuff? There are scores of free ebooks, software, graphics packages, podcasts, videos, audios, articles, and more that come with permission to distribute freely. Pick a few that would appeal to your market. Upload them to your website, or a file storage site if space is a concern, and give the links only to subscribers.
 
Add a few new downloads every week and you'll keep subscribers longer and keep them coming to your site for more free goodies.
 
3. Physical publications. While you may think only electronic or "intangible" freebies can grow your list, think again! A free printed booklet is an excellent way to reach subscribers. You can create one easily in Word or a similar program and print them one at a time on your computer or get a batch put together at a copy shop.
 
“101 Ways to…” or “45 Tips for…” are great titles for any niche. Just flesh out the title with quality tips and data, include your contact information and offer it to every new subscriber to your list.
 
4. Password-protected resource pages. If you prefer to not worry with downloads, create a free resource page that provides quality information your subscribers want. For instance, if your target audience is women in business, you can find free hundreds of places for women to advertise their business online, free.
 
Use this information to create a password-protected page for subscribers only on your website. Update the information weekly or monthly, and change the password each time so subscribers have to stay on your list to use the updates. Simple. Free. Effective.
 
5. Templates. Another great freebie to offer subscribers is website and blog templates. Create your own, hire someone to design a few, or find them online and share the links. Whatever you choose, make sure there's a natural match between the templates and your market for best results.
 
With these ideas in mind, put your thinking cap on and come up with a list of ten possible freebies for your list. Start with one and see how it's received. Remember, one of the best parts of working online is that it's easy to test multiple concepts, change your model, or try several things at once. The important thing is to pick an idea and implement it. 
 

 

Once you've selected your list manager, it's time to add subscribers. There are a number of ways you can successful entice website visitors, customers and prospects to join your email list:
 
1. Bribery! Not in the monetary sense, but in the “Let me make you an offer you can't refuse” sense. Offer a free, original ebook to anyone who subscribes to your email list. This method works especially well if your subscriber can only get the ebook from you. Don't have an ebook to give away? Try writing 5-10 original articles on your niche topic and compiling them into a PDF. It's a quick, easy and cost-free solution to create a unique product.
 
2. Tweet about it. Let your Twitter followers know when you publish a new newsletter. Tweet the link to your subscription form. Offer a free ad to any of your followers who subscribe and email you their Twitter user name. Ask your followers to retweet (RT) your posts promoting your list.
 
3. Add a subscription form to every page of your website. The upper right side is considered the best location, but if that doesn't work, choose a spot and add it to every page.
 
4. Offer email list-only specials, coupons and information. Make sure your email list gets your best of your best, not just rehashed material from your blog or other publications.
 
5. Update your Facebook status with a note about your newsletter. Encourage your FB friends and family to subscribe and tell their followers. Be sure to thank them when they do.
 
6. Promote your mailing list instead of your website. Then use your mailing list to promote your other offerings. Your goal is to capture the names and contact info of your prospects and customers. Once you do that, you can steer them to your website, products and services.
 
7. Create a separate sign-up page (also known as a “squeeze page”) for your mailing list and link to it from every page on your site. Include sample content and detailed information to let your visitors know why they should want to give you their email address. Make it worth their while by offering something they can't get anywhere else except through you (see hint #1 above).
 
8. Write guest posts and articles for blogs and websites that reach your target audience. Instead of promoting your website in your resource box, encourage readers to subscribe to your mailing list and let them know what they'll get if they do.
 
9. Include a link to your subscription page in your email signature (sig file), as well as in your signature on discussion forums and groups you belong to. Most forums will allow you to do this automatically through customizing your profile. This method is an easy way to capture names from prospects without their having to visit your blog to learn about you.
 
10. Ask subscribers to forward and share your mailing list with their friends, family and colleagues. Include a line at the bottom of every email asking your readers to forward the information on if they've found it useful. You might even offer an incentive, such as a free ad or a special discount for every subscriber they refer to you.
 
There are many other ways to promote your mailing list, but the main thing is to do it, and do it now! Use every means at your disposal to spread the word and encourage subscribers. Building a mailing list is the best way to build your business online, and promoting it wherever you can is the best way to grow your list.
 

Once you've decided to start an email list, you'll need a way to manage your contacts so you can easily add and delete contacts, and send them a variety of electronic communications. While some people try to handle their lists through their personal email accounts, when your list grows, you'll soon run into problems. Not only may your internet server flag you as a potential spammer, keeping track of hundreds – if not thousands! – of subscribers would be a nightmare. Make it easy on yourself and start with a robust system from the beginning.

Here are some questions you'll want to ask when evaluating email list management systems:

  • Will it generate an online form for installation on your blog or website that allows someone to subscribe and unsubscribe easily, at the push of a button?
  • Does it have the ability to send your newsletter in the format you choose (text or HTML, for instance)?
  • Will it scale as your list grows (plan ahead – you don't want the hassle of moving your list later on)?
  • Does it offer the ability to create autoresponder messages, where you create a series of email messages and new subscribers receive the messages in order, regardless of when they subscribe?
  • How much does it cost, and does it charge by list size or by number of messages sent?
  • If it is a free service, does it include ads in the email messages?
  • What are its statistics for message delivery?
  • Can you attach files to messages? What file types are supported?
  • How difficult is it to use? What kind of support is available?

A little research online will bring up a variety of options, any one of which may be ideal for your purposes. One of the most popular for Internet marketers is Aweber. Aweber is a popular choice because:

  • Outstanding technical support. Live online chat and help lines make it easy for you to get person-to-person support to set up your list.
  • Great training. A number of online training videos are available to help you learn the ropes.
  • Inexpensive trial. With your first month just $1, you can try the service before you commit.
  • Competitive pricing. Aweber's price structure is competitive to services with fewer options.
  • Unlimited lists. You can create as many lists as you like – one for each location, product line, market segment, etc. – all for one price.
  • Unlimited emails. You can send as many messages per month as you like, for the same monthly price.
  • Follow-up series. You can set your list so all new subscribers will automatically receive a series of scripted email messages, regardless of when they join.

There are many other possible email list managers such as Constant Contact, MailChimp, List Mail Pro, AutoResponse Plus, and Yahoo Groups. Do some research and ask pointed questions to determine the best solution for you – not just for your current list, but for the future. Experts say that you lose an average of 50-90 percent of your subscribers when you switch from one list manager to another, so the decision you make today is one for the future as well. 

If you've ever entered an online contest, offered your email address to an online or local store, or given the okay for a sales consultant to send you information, you've joined an email list. Email lists are simply the email addresses and names of people who signed up, by one of many different means, to receive emails such as electronic magazines (“e-zines”) or newsletters, electronic courses (e-courses), or product information in their inbox.

Collecting customer and prospect contact information and keeping in touch with them on a regular basis is the key to any online business's success. Here are some of the main reasons to start building your list now:

Presence – An email list that you use regularly gives you an easy way to keep your name in front of your customers and prospects on a continual basis. By making your name top-of-mind, you're increasing the likelihood that your customers will purchase from YOU when they're in a position to buy.

Connection – Say you're a florist. Your average customer may only purchase from you a few times a year. But you continue to stay in touch with her, providing her with quality information that relates to a topic she's interested in – holiday decorations and entertaining tips, for example. When she DOES need a flower arrangement, you'll be the one she buys it from. Why would she spend her money with some website she's never heard of when she knows you, her online friend who sends her useful information every week?

Education – Some products and industries require more education before prospects are ready to purchase. Email lists offer an easy, inexpensive way to provide the information your prospects need, moving them through the learning curve, until they're ready to buy.

Feedback – Do your customers want your next product to be bigger or smaller than what you have now? Do they hate the background music on your website? Do they wish your software was compatible with a platform you don't currently offer? Don't guess — just ask them! Email lists give you a simple way to solicit feedback from the real experts – your customers themselves.

Easy to Share – Word-of-mouth can be your best source of new business. By providing easy-to-share electronic newsletters or product information, you make it more likely that your current customers will pass the word to their friends, without incurring a minute of your time or a penny of your money.

Revenue – Some enterprising electronic newsletter publishers make money by selling ads in their publications to complementary businesses. The larger and more targeted your audience, the higher rates you can command.

Starting, growing, and maintaining an email list of targeted subscribers is one of the most profitable things you can do to build a successful business online. Not every prospect will become a subscriber, and not every subscriber will turn into a loyal customer, but you'll find you're much more successful selling to your list than you are to a group of relative strangers.

Provide subscribers with quality information on a topic that interests them, and they'll gladly allow you to tell them about your products and services, knowing you're an expert at what you do.