Is Your List Building Destroying Your Business?

List building and email marketing is still massive and by far the most effective way of building your online sales potential. You want proof of this?

And you know that you can’t build a successful sustainable online business without a mailing list – in fact without a flourishing email list.

But are your list building efforts actually undermining you and instead becoming the “silent killer” of your entire online operation?

There are so many myths (and legends) out there about email marketing and the sad fact of life is you may be following closely what you’ve been taught about building your list but in reality all you are doing is wasting your time and hard earned money.

list building“The Money Is In The List”

This mantra is pushed down everyone’s throats right from the first minutes they are online.

This is not only a myth but also the beginning of a sad chain of events that only ends in disaster for any new online marketer

Everyone is telling you to build your list but they are not telling you the dangers involved in taking that very action.

You see the money is NOT in your list

And this brings us to the next notorious hackneyed myth.

“The Money Is In The Relationship You Have With Your List”

The problem with this “manifesto of magic” is the belief that you can simply build relationships with your subscribers by immediately providing them with valuable content that will persuade them to consider you as an authority and someone who they will value and trust.

What a lot of bunkum – “senseless nonsense” (Wikipedia)

Really and truly if you believe that then you really need to rethink your understanding of building relationship with people either online or offline.

In today’s fast moving internet-connected, information overloaded environment, people are extremely skeptical and often seeking instant gratification.

This spells trouble for online marketers who think by that by simply providing even more information it will somehow magically make people think kindly of you.

Many new marketers desperately try to “build relationships” with their new subscribers by sending them some free content or anything that they think the subscriber may need.

We’ve all done this – me included, but it rarely works.

Would your vegetarian neighbor appreciate you giving them beef and chicken pies when they first moved in?

You need to know the specific problems being faced by your subscribers and then as part of your “relationship building” strategy, send them a SOLUTION to their problem.list building

Many list building practices will not enable you to know this vital information about your subscribers and the focus is all too often on “building your list” rather than “building your community”.

There is a HUGE difference in these 2 strategies that I will look at later on in this post.

Suffice to know that content that is useful and relevant to your subscribers WILL always be a positive factor in building your relationships.

There is a distinct difference in the perception of your subscribers between relevant and non relevant content.   

Words of Caution You’ve Never Heard Before

Your reputation and you’re very future online is at stake here.

If you don’t know what are the real needs (“pain points”) of your newly acquired subscribers then sending them what you consider to be “valuable content” (and it may well be for some folks)to begin building a relationship with your subscribers is just a complete waste of time.

To your new subscribers it’s probably perceived as spam email.

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Ever wondered why when you have send out some great content, a free ebook or video or even a link to a blog post that you considered to be valuable, there was an immediate increase in the unsubscribes from your list, or even worse, registered complaints to your email service provider.

TIP: Always, always, always initially send content to your new subscriber that’s completely relevant to the original reason they joined your list. Never assume you know what they want and need because YOU DON’T AT THIS STAGE!

The problem was not the content you provided or even the intent. I mean we all want to maximize the opportunity of people joining our mailing lists.

The hitch in your list building process is HOW you build your list.

Building you list the wrong way will destroy you and your business.

It can be so incredibly frustrating when you are doing everything you’ve been told to do to build your list and your online business – and you’re just not getting the results.

Other businesses seem to have just taken off and are growing like mad and making profitability look easy.

In fact it can be downright disheartening if either you have not had many join your list or the ones that have joined you are the wrong sort of people –they show little or no interest in you and what you give to them.

list buildingDo you want to know where the REAL money is with your list building?

It’s not in the size of your list or the relationships you try to create with your list although over time this will deliver great results for you if done correctly.


“The real money in your list resides in the perception each and every member of your list has of you as a provider of valuable solutions, as someone they feel comfortable to follow, as a leader of their community” – Peter Beckenham 2016

TIP: The attitude or mindset your subscribers have of you is the key to creating an engaged, enjoyable and profitable list, a community that will follow you and your recommendations.  

That is where the magic of list building really happens.

You may be the most ethical marketer on the planet but don’t expect your new subscribers to engage with you, to know, like and trust you. They won’t. Period!

You have to work hard to earn their respect and their trust. It takes between 8- 10 touches before a person may have the perception that you are the person that can really help them.

The time frame it takes can shorten dramatically if you are more “visible” to your new subscribers. Video is a powerful way to connect and that’s why my new subscribers always see a video from me on a bridge page as soon as they optin. I want to “meet with them” asap and guide them through my join-up process. 

Then in my first scheduled email there is another video welcoming them and setting their expectations in joining my online community.

Are you a “Churn and Burn” Marketer?

If you are simply buying leads or building your list in order to sell as many times as you can in every contact you have with your list then you are a “churn and burn” marketer.

You must accept the fact that most of your subscribers will leave you sooner rather than later as you are providing little or no value. There will be no relationship building, no community spirit created and your sales potential is limited to those lower priced front-end offers with maybe an occasional upsell if you are lucky.

I appreciate that some online marketers prefer this model – it works for sure but it’s not my cup of tea!

“Churn and Burn” list builders will never be in a position of trust that enables the great email marketers to have their subscribers enthusiastically follow their recommendations and purchase products and services worth literally thousands of dollars.

That’s where the real money in with list building and email marketing.

So let’s look at some other list building fallacies that are probably destroying your valiant attempts to build your online business.

Accepting Low Open Rates As The Normlist building

Let’s assume you’re doing OK as an internet marketer and your email open rates are say 20% – let me tell you many internet marketing folks would love to have those rates!

But this means 80% of your list, that you have the ability to make a real difference in their lives, is not getting your advice. Why accept this?

Sure we may never get 100% open rates for a variety of reasons but why settle for being average or even worse, less than average, with your open rates?

I don’t want to send you an email that just sits in your inbox (or even worse in your spam folder) and not be able to make a difference in your life.

Like many others I have failed miserably as an email marketer and made so many crazy and stupid mistakes.

But I finally learned my lessons and even confessed my failings publicly to my list.

Now I believe in me and my value to others so why should I settle for some miserly 20% or less open rate for my messages?

I’m passionate about this because I care about every single person in my community and I’m all about being part of something and engaging rather than folks just lurking around in the shadows and not participating.

If you don’t want to engage with me then fine – maybe this is not the right community for you.

I want to know if you want to be connected with what I have to share – that’s why I ask my list simple questions regularly – because if a list member is not interested in what I have to offer then that’s fine with me and they should move on.  

There’s also an economic reason for this approach. I mean you wouldn’t normally want to pay for a service that you’re not actually using. Right?

Well you’re still paying for the autoresponder service that is sending out your emails to folks who are not even opening them – that’s a crazy thing to accept from a simple cost point of view. Agree?

What can you do?

It’s Not That Hard to Be Humble

Clean your email list regularly – ask them what’s missing and do they want to leave your list. If they don’t even open these emails then I make the unsubscribe decision for them.

With my list building I have actually removed lists with thousands of subscribers because of the engagement factor. It wasn’t the subscriber’s problem, it was mine. I build the list the wrong way and never gave myself the chance to engage with them as part of a community I was building.

It’s easy to remove subscribers but they are people and you probably paid handsomely for them either in time or money. So cleaning your lists should be a regular yet carefully thought out process.

list buildingOnly recently one of my lists of around 900 subscribers was showing declining responses. I looked carefully at the email messages I had been sending them plus the open and click through rates.

The open rates were down to 5% and no one was clicking my links.

What a wasted opportunity.

I sent them 3 email messages asking for their input and response. Here’s the last message I sent out.


Tough List Building Lesson

The result of this mini “revival campaign” was an amazing open rate of over 83% and an actual response by 208 members of that same list.

No open rates like that are completely abnormal for me but it taught me a lesson and a powerful reminder that subscribers are people!

Of that 208 responses 57 of them told me that I was no longer providing the same quality of content and they were going to unsubscribe – they just hadn’t got around to doing it yet!

Ouch that hurt. But it was true as well. I had not given enough of myself to that list so lesson learned – at least I got engagment and I’ll never make that mistake again!

Forget List Size

This statistic is only great if the majority of them are engaged with you on some level and at least opening an occasional email.

Otherwise you’re simply talking to yourself and that is not a very profitable strategy to follow.

Actually this principle applies across the whole range of community engagement including your Facebook group, a forum, events, workshops and meet ups – always be assessing the engagement levels of the participants (and yourself by the way)

You may have a following, you may have a list BUT you may NOT have a community! There is a big difference. Remember list building bis all about people not just the numbers of subscribers on a list.

Be pro-active and engage those people following you and on your list who are not relating and involved with you – maybe all they need is a little genuine care and attention.

Everyone is at a different place in their online journey and you can’t expect to relate and resonate with everyone either.

I’m really interested in people who want to grow, want to grow themselves and their business. That’s my focus – helping people to help themselves to a more enjoyable and prosperous online experience.

You Have To Be Selective Sooner or Later.

I do try to help people on my lists who have no idea of what they want to do but to be honest that can only go so far.

If my subscribers simply want to hang around looking for the occasional freebie or never want to take action and implement the ideas I give them then there is no point in continuing the arrangement.

If they are not finding what you share of interest then don’t just discard them and delete them.

Don’t be afraid to approach them – ask them if they want your help in finding a more relevant community.

Ask them how you could be of better service to them or give them some suggested links to places that may be of more interest to them…and only then remove them from your list.

I love getting great feedback but I also have to run a business and I can’t do that if most of my subscribers are not “buying my recommendations” both figuratively and literally.

Next bit of myth debunking…

Growing a Successful Community is Easylist building

It takes a lot of work, a lot of time and a heck of a lot of effort

I’m not sure what you want to build but for me I want to build a business that makes me come alive every single day.

As a 70 year old marketer, I want a business that fuels my excitement, enthusiasm and passion in believing that I am making as real difference to the lives of those around me in my community.

Together with MY “WHY”, this passion is what gets me through those difficult moments we all face at some time or another.

Remember anything can be possible if you just take well planned consistent action – this applies not only to your business but to your life in general.

It’s not an easy road building a business on your own and you should be seeking support.

By all means keep showing up and taking action but as well don’t ignore the critical importance a coach or mentor can be to you on your journey.

In today’s fast paced internet -connected world everyone can get nearly everything they want almost immediately so don’t think you are failing if it is taking you lots of time to build your business. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

TIP: Be prepared in your mindset. It’s almost impossible to get your website visitors paying for anything online without winning their trust first.

It WILL take time, patience, determination and courage to build the engagement levels with your email subscribers and your community.

list buildingA Massive List = Massive Engagement and Massive Income

Watch out – here comes your “Funnel of Disillusionment”

Building a list very quickly like with solo ads is entering the “mass marketing” space and that definitely means little engagement.


You’ve got your future sewn up with your 3,000 subscribers you amassed in a week.

Now you excitedly send out an email with some great information and…

You hear nothing…not a bloomin’ sound!

You think – what’s going on here? You just spent all this time, money and effort getting people onto your brand new sizeable list and for what if they don’t even open your emails.

You created a great lead magnet or spent a lot of time putting on a webinar and you get all these people to come because it’s free and so they sign up for their freebie….

And then it’s time to communicate with them, to engage with them and you hear nothing.


Because you now have achieved this massive list building result but you don’t know who is who, you have virtually zero relationship with them even if you presented a great webinar.

You really don’t know who you can be of service to and who of this new massive list would be a good fit for the community you are trying to build.

So you send out a second email and you get frustratingly few emails opened and even fewer responses of any kind.

This totally impersonal way of building your email list and your business is doomed to failure.

Sure you may get a few quick low priced sales if you are lucky but with no relationship and trust factors the chances of building your business based on this email list is like building a house on quicksand

Sooner or later it will sink and you’ll go with it!

Mass list building never leads to mass engagement opportunities – that is an absolute myth.

What happens is the exact opposite and either you give up like so many internet marketers have done or you start all over again from scratch.

I know because I tried that mass marketing solo-ad driven method of building my lists…and it failed…3 times!

Yes I’m a slow learner and repeated the mistake 2 more times in my rush to create an online income.

No engagement means you’ll never be able to finance what you’re trying to build so instead of only driving traffic to your sign up pages why not attract traffic to you by creating great content that shows you understand, you are real and authentic and you may have the solutions to the challenges that people have.

TIP: People who have joined my lists after visiting my blog are way more responsive and engaged than any other source of subscribers.

This alone is a major reason to have a blog as an integral hub of your online business.

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In today’s world you’ve got to stand out in a big way if you want to get noticed at all.


Because for any one online there is so many different offers coming from so many different list buildingangles plus there is heaps of cynicism out there.

Don’t be scared to be vulnerable, to be completely open and honest in your engagements with your list and your community. Share from the heart, share what you truly believe and why you want to serve the people in your community and on your list.

Amazing things can happen when you do this. People will respond to your authenticity – it’s one of the most powerful forces of attraction on the planet so why not use it. Just be you – build your list one person at a time all the while with a focus on engaging them at every step.

Enjoy the experience of having people reach out to you and tell you how you helped them, how you actually made a difference to them.

This is where the magic happens with engagement.

This is where your business really starts to rock.

This is where you can finally see that light at the end of the tunnel and your PayPal balance will easily pay for the lighting expenses!


I know how busy you must be so many thanks for your comments.

What problems are you having with your list building?

What’s the open rate of your messages by your community?

Are you satisfied with this? What have you tried to do to improve your ability to impact on the lives of your email community?

What’s one thing that is not working for you with your list building or your levels of engagement?

What is the one thing can you change or stop doing today?

What is something new you can start doing today to really have these super-engaged connections?

Leave me your thoughts in your comments below – I appreciate you and always respond.

Peter Beckenham

I'm an Aussie entrepreneur who lives and runs his online sales & marketing coaching business from a remote Thai village. I help small businesses to build authority, attract quality leads and generate sales If you enjoyed your visit with me then SUBSCRIBE TO MY TRIBE where you will get lots of tips, ideas and practical, down-to-earth information about how to make the most of your online business journey.

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  1. Thank you for sharing several awesome points Peter!

    And you have really gone to a much deeper and far more meaningful
    level, then most bloggers even bother!

    I can certainly relate to what you’re sharing here.

    And I love your explanation of the potential problems with “solo ads”.

    Because total of totally inexperienced newbies, initially think that’s the way to go!

    Thank you so much, for sharing so many extremely valid points!

    • Hello again Mark,

      Always great to have you visit with me mate.

      Thanks for your kind and supportive words but really all I did was share my experiences, both good and bad, with list building.

      There is no doubt about it I have lost a lot of money by building lists the wrong way – looking for quick solutions that rarely if ever work out.

      List building is like so many other activities we have to face every day.

      We need to be always offering relevant value plus be consistent and persistent in our list building efforts.

      The more I understand my target audience the better I am at attracting the right sort of subscribers who want to hear from me and share with me.

      It’s a far cry from solo ads but to be fair, paid traffic can be very effective if you target it properly – something I never did very well with in the past.

      Great to see you Mark

      Best wishes from a remote Thai village list builder


  2. Hi Peter,

    My first ever comment on your platform, got here via Kim Willis article, what an amazing guy he is! And so true is the quote People are known by the Company they keep, Adrien Smith, Kim, well that means you are amazing too!

    Superb post, I think now I see my problem, the thing that has confused me a little is open rate, 20% is that even possible ?! (yes you said for example but ..)

    20% is like really great! Can you tell me yours, I hope I am not asking for too much!

    Here is a little fact that highlights my confusion, The usual response rate (according to research of Direct Marketing Association) for snail mail is 1.1 to 1.4% vs email 0.03%.

    • Hello Arsh and welcome to my place.

      Great to know you are in contact with Kim and Adrienne – both are fantastic bloggers and very supportive online marketers.

      Your confusion re open rates is very understandable but please don’t be guided by the stats from the Direct Marketing Association.

      If you have identified your target audience and their real “pain points” then in your emails (and posts) simply address one problem at a time.

      Your solution to a specific problem being faced by yout subscribers will ensure your content is RELEVANT. This to me is the key to better engagement both in your emails and your blog posts.

      Then your 20% open rate and even higher can be attained.

      For your information my current open rates vary between 19% and 26% depending on which autoresponder I am using.

      Nothing sensational I know but its far better than it used to be and one some occasions I can even get an open rate in the 50%+ range.

      However, I always resend my messages to those who did not open previously with a change in headline. To be honest I’m not sure how effective this practice is to my bottom line but the open and click through rates are always improved by the process.

      I always encourage feedback in EVERY email.

      Usually my email sequence is 4 valuable relevant content emails that also build on each other like a little story (inlcuding links to my blog posts and videos) followed by a soft “pre-sell” of a paid solution I have available.

      Then I finish the sequence with a call to action – the benefits of my paid solution that is usually available on a blog page with another video from me talking about my thoughts, experiences and use of the recommended product/servive..

      Every subscriber knows who I am plus what I look and sound like as they have all seen at least one welcome video plus many of my posts have me on the embeded video.

      This helps me to get people to relate with me and what I stand for. Your videos don’t have to be Hollywood productions – just real and totally authentic. Folks can then really start to know, like and trust you in a way that the written word cannot do.

      So leverage your email and video marketing with your blogging and watch what happens to your open rates. When people can relate to you they look forward to seeing what you have to share. Become one of the names ion thewir inbox that your subscribers just have to open because of the great value you always seem to provide.

      Hope this helps you Arsh

      Best wishes from a remote Thai village email marketer


      • I see, so you are talking about a having quality leads via very specific content/pain points, well that does make a lot of sense now… you saying you need to really connect with your weblog readers, understand them, their painpoints, their needs and then when they subscribe (quality leads) then send them mails in a specific way (I really appreciate your step by step logical method).

        Now I see what you meant by 20% open rate, that is an interesting approach but I think its not an easy one rather way too hard then the usual approach and perhaps not everyone online can do it… but that’s where all the chips are… that’s where the real money is…

        Interestingly IMO you are making quite good money, ;p I mean quite good money … for instance if you subscribers around 1000, 25% of that is 250 and even if 150 buy out of that, let suppose net profit per sale is $20, you made $3k straight away with one email……… wow!!!!

        over 10k in one month, off course that is my guesswork I am sure you are doing way better than that … I know you won’t share with me but let me ask how much … ;p

        • Hi Arsh,

          Thanks for your feedback but really its not all that difficult if you treat every subscriber and blog commentator as a real person with real needs.

          Sure there will be visitors to my blog with real needs that I cannot solve but these folks will see the types of solutions I do provide and either decide that what I have is of interest to them or not.

          Interestingly my Google Analytics demographic stats for my blog have showed a dramatic change in the age groups of my blog traffic. Previously the biggest segment was in the 25-34 age range but over recent months the trend has resulted in the biggest age segment of my readers being in the 45-54 age range with interests in travel, computers, financial freedom and personal development.

          I’m not sure of the major age ranges of my email lists ( that’s the topic of my next survey!) but I do know they have a very similar range of interests to my blog readers.

          Arsh I’ll let you think about the conversion results I achieve but to be honest you should not be thinking about how much money you can make.

          Rather think about about much value you can provide? How can you serve your community in even better ways? I have found if my focus was on bottom line profits then it truly impacted on the way I engaged with my readers and my subscribers – and my bottom line suffered!

          My philosophy is very simple – give the best value you can in everything you do then the money will take care of itself.

          I know that sounds lke some sort of platitude but it works for me.

          Best wishes and look forward to your next visit to my place – make sure you subscribe with me so you don’t miss my next dose of reality!

          Thaks again for your comment – much appreciated


          • Thank you so much for taking time and replying to me so thoroughly, really appreciate that!

            Coming to analytics point, as soon as you mentioned I went to check mine ;p… I didn’t check it like looking at it but once I comment here I will move to check it out to see how things are going, haven’t checked for months…

            I am not after money but when you put up so much effort, sweat in your work, you expect some rewards, that include spiritual, emotional and financial rewards…

            Anyway you don’t want to share that with me .. ;p is perfectly fine!

            I will be visiting your blog over and over don’t you worry! because you are bookmarked plus have you saved in notes with me … ;p yeah I am smart haha..

            Thank you man! 🙂

          • Hey Arsh,

            Great to have you visit my place again mate
            Delighted if you find some gems that really work for you – that’s my aim every time I post actually.

            I appreciate your situation re all the effort you put in – sometimes we just have to wait a little longer.
            Don’t give up, be persistent and your success will slowly but surely unfold around you.

            All the best Arsh – see you again soon!


  3. Dear Peter,
    As always you are very informative. I believe you have unearthed what most people are still missing in their online businesse.
    I think they get lost too much to wanting to hurry up and make money and miss the point. There are humans on the end of ones read!
    I’ll keep this short, thanks for recon firming my journey. Jennifer

    • Hi Jennifer and welcome back,

      Thanks for your kind and supportive comment.

      Actually I’m not exactly sure what “I have uneathed” for you but if you found some list building gems that you can use then I’m delighted!

      I totally agree with you re the fact that all too often folks forget that their subscribers are real people with real needs and problems. The trick is to connect with them in such a way that they are both willing and wanting to share with you what they are seeking.

      Then we have the chance to provide the most relevant solution they need and boost the businesses we are all trying to build.

      As always appreciate your visits Jennifer

      Best wishes from Thailand


  4. Hi Peter

    It’s my first visit to your blog and I am glad to find you! What a great informational article. We have these concepts about email marketing shoved in our faces time and time again and yet have a tough time getting results.
    In the last couple of weeks I oped out of so many email lists that I was subscribed to. Although the initial items I downloaded for free was something helpful, the subsequent emails definitely were not. I didn’t feel a connection with the person at all especially since they were just trying to sell in every email.

    My own email open rates are low as well. I have called some people on my list that left a phone number and they have no clue what they opted into! They were opting into many things on the Internet searching for information. We definitely need to do a better job of standing out!

    Thanks again for the great post!

    • Hello Lisa and welcome to my place,

      List building is a challenge to get right. What I mean by that is that its easy to build a list – just buy a solo ad and send traffic to a half decent squeeze page and you will very quickly build your list of subscribers.

      But that’s where the challenge begins because now you have 500, 1000 or whatever number of brand new subscribers on your list who don’t know you so how can they trust you? Not only that, they are more than likely on 50 or 100 other’s people’s lists, all of whom are trying to sell them something.

      No wonder they are skeptical and only joined for your freebie. They more than likely joined with with a little used or even a fake email address, and want nothing else from you.

      Sure, we can build a relationship with those new subscribers but it takes time and a lot of effort and it cannot be done just by sending them out more free stuff.

      Lisa you hit the nail right on the head when you mentioned the “lack of connection” in the follow up emails you got from folks you had subscribed with.

      That’s my point exactly. We have to get our subscribers engaged which means they will communicate with us some form or other. We have to discover what is important to them and how we may be able to help.

      I love the fact that you reached out to some of the people on your list – very few do that and you are right we all have to do far better job of “standing out” with our email marketing.

      Thanks again for your visit and great feedback – hope to see you again soon

      Best wishes from Thailand


  5. Hey Peter,

    Wow, what a post and of course I had to stop by and read this one.

    I too was told over and over and over again that the money was in the list. I was told to have giveaways and do solo ads and all that stuff. The only things I learned from those experiences were that it attracted nothing but freebie seekers. They could care less about me or what I shared. Because of those experiences I’ve deleted my lists so many times and started from scratch.

    Now what disturbs me is that you said “The Money Is In The Relationship You Have With Your List” isn’t true. I disagree 100% and here is why. Just because you might be an influencer or authority figure doesn’t automatically mean you have a “relationship” with your list. The word relationship means being connected. You’re not automatically connected just because they’re on your list.

    My definition of having a relationship is that there is communication involved between two parties, you actually talk with each other. You have to get to know each other and start having those conversations. It’s that engagement that you spoke about but that comes with the relationship. So that verbiage is correct in my eyes when it’s defined the correct way.

    Of course I agree that you’ll never get anywhere with your list if you aren’t targeting your specific audience and of course helping them with their needs. We should all know that of course yet so many don’t unfortunately.

    I still to this day have just a small list because I haven’t done all the things to build a massive list only because I can’t have a relationship with thousands of people and that’s my main goal. But I have a very high open rate and we do chat back and forth a lot. They can come to me and I check up on them. I think that’s the best way to do well in this area so you are spot on with the direction you were taking this post.

    They trust me so that when the time is right and they’re ready to work with me or buy from me they do. It’s a beautiful thing so having that relationship is huge and I’m sure anyone who is having a problem in this area will really appreciate that you’ve shared here.

    Thanks Peter and enjoy the rest of your week.


    • Hello Adrienne and welcome back,

      I can totally understand and appreciate when you talked about “starting again from scratch” with your list building – me to!

      Adrienne let me clarify something. You say you disagree 100% with the statement I made re saying that “The money is in the relationship you have with your list” just isn’t true.

      Sure relationships are very important but like you said, its all a matter of definition and happens when people actually communicate with each other.

      The point I was trying to make (maybe not clearly enough!) was that far too often if you willy nilly send out all sorts of information to your new subscribers that YOU think is valuable, then this will automatically build authority and respect for you. This will never work.

      Why? Because if you have no idea what your new subscriber’s needs are then no amount of information (free or otherwise) is going to create the relationship you seek and the only form of communication you will get is probably an unsubscribe or a spam complaint.

      Adrienne I agree that we have to target our audience and if we do that then we have a much better chance of knowing what their “pain points”.

      Then we can definitely build the relationship with these new subscribers by surprising them with our level of understanding of their particular situation.

      Folks will be eager to see our follow up messages as we are providing something that THEY perceive to be valuable – not what we assume they may want.

      Once we can understand what our target audience wants and needs then we can start the relationship building process with confidence. We can build authority and trust and be appreciated for providing them with the solutions they are seeking.

      I don’t know about you but when I open my email accounts I look first and foremost not at the email headline but the “sender’s name.” This is the most powerful factor to get me to open an email because I already have a relationship with that sender. That’s what I am aiming for with all the subscribers on my lists – and for me this will always be a “work in progress!”

      When people feel connected to you there’s a good chance they will also accept your recommendations and then you’re running a profitable business based on a profitable list.

      Wow….got carried away wth this reply but it’s a hot topic for me.

      Many, many thanks as always for your superb feedback Adrienne – always so very much appreciated.

      Best wishes from a hot Thai village


  6. Fabulous post, Peter

    You are dead right – engagement is vital. It doesn’t matter how big the frigging list is. A small boutique style list with good engagement is worth more than a much larger list with little or no engagement

    In regards to open rates, I have some lists where the open rates are only in the 5-10% range. But I have other lists where it is above 20% and sometimes as high as 60%. Why the difference?

    Well, the poorly performing lists consist of people who had come from cold traffic sources (e.g., solo ads). On the other hand, the higher performing lists are comprised of people who knew something about me before they opted in. The blog, my youtube channel and even Facebook were the sources. So my experience reflects yours in a way.

    Referring to the poorly performing lists – 5-10% open rates. To me, it’s awful that such a small percentage of people open my emails. But after talking to some people in my team, I don’t feel so bad – their open rates are often only 1-2 percent!

    Of course, email engagement is but one of the engagement issues marketers face. Social media engagement and blog engagement are a couple more. Fortunately, both you and I are getting much better engagement outcomes for our blog and our social media activities.

    Crikey, I’m now even getting lots of shares and follows on Twitter – finally! Same comments now apply to Facebook after a long drought. All good, and we’re heading in the right direction.

    By the way, your ‘Have I disappointed you?’ letter is a gem.

    Thanks Peter


    • Hello Kim and as always its great to have you visit,

      It was interesting to know that your better performing lists not only came from your blog but also from Facebook and YouTube.

      Just goes to show you that people who have had some connection with us before are much more likely to engage with us in our email marketing.

      Engagement is such a huge issue and it will always be work in progress for me – but I really like that type of challenge.

      By the way the letter I showed on the post was the last of a sequence of 3 and to be totally honest, the open rates staggered me.
      I’ve never ever got anywhere near that open rate before and just wish I could “bottle the magic” of that email in different forms!

      Thanks as always for your wonderful feedback Kim – its always greatly appreciated

      Best wishes from Thailand


  7. I’m going to focus on building a list soon so this article was rather helpful. The thing is a lot of “internet marketers” are just people trying to get their affiliate links in front of people. It’s not necessarily their fault that they don’t try to provide value, it’s just that they don’t know any better. I noticed that if you really narrow down the articles that you publish and reveal how you solved a problem people will subscribe and the open rate will always be incredibly high. It all comes down to value!

    • Hi Timothy,

      May I suggest the sooner you get started with your list building the better.
      Without a list you really cannot build a sustainable long-term business online.

      I truly appreciate what you are saying about affiliate marketers and their strategy of getting their affiliate links in front of as many folks as possible but that is short term thinking.

      Sure they may not know any better but if they just thought for a moment how they would like to be approached with some sort of affiliate offer then perhaps their mindset would change from being under pressure to sell things to one of wanting to help and support others.

      Then let the sales process naturally take care of itself as you build integrity and trust with the audience.

      Attract sales rather than drive sales is the key. I know this is easy to say but not that easy to do, especially when you need the cash flow!

      People can sense the desperation in marketers who are pushing like mad to make sales – and no one responds positively to that.

      My dear old dad told me many years ago that “people harden to a sale but soften to any offer of support”.

      I love your idea of “narrowing down” your articles and providing a clear and simple solution to a specific problem your audience has.

      This will not only improve your open rates but will do wonders for your engagment levels and your sales potential.

      Please let me know how this goes for you Timothy as its a great strategy and I look forward to hearing about your successes with it..

      My best wishes from a very hot Thai village


  8. Hi Peter,
    What a brilliant article, packed with very useful information for anyone but especially someone like me just starting out with list building. I can see so many things which I thought I knew were wrong and would have wasted so much time and energy for me. Will carry this message with me at all times through my list building journey.
    Thanks again,

    • Hello Gordon – wow that was quick. I only just got through posting this one!

      I am delighted that you found some ideas and helpful information.

      Most of what I shared comes from my own experience, including some very expensive list building episodes that cost me an arm and a leg before I realized I was never going to cover my expenses with this strategy.

      Don’t get me wrong with list building strategies – paid advertising is indeed by far the quickest way to build your list. But please don’t expect it to convert anywhere near a list that you have built from people wishing to join you rather than being “thrown at you” via a solo ad landing page!

      My experience shows me that attracting folks via your blog are definitely far more responsive than any other source of subscribers.

      Build a community not a list was my message – this will definitely differentiate you right from the start and lay a great platform for relationships and the building of trust.

      Best wishes from a remote Thai village


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