10 Lessons I Learned From My First 20,000 Email Subscribers

Josh Dunlop
    Topics: Email Marketing     More posts about: List Building, Popup Domination

It’s no secret that the money is in the list.

When it comes to making money online, you need to have a relevant list of email subscribers that you can call upon.

It’s direct, and easy to do.

I tried to launch my first product with just a few hundred people on my list.

And looking back, that was a big mistake.

Here’s the fundamental lessons I’ve learned from growing my email list to 20,000 subscribers.

1 – You Have to Bribe People

No one really wants more email, so to get them onto your list, you have to offer them a small freebie that they’re interested in.

It’s often referred to, almost as an oxymoron, as an ‘ethical bribe’.

I created something (in an afternoon) for my photography website titled ‘1 Simple Trick to Dramatically Improve Your Photography’.

There’s enough intrigue in the title to make people want to download it, but first they have to sign up for my email.

In the past, I’d tried to get people to sign up to my list ‘for updates’, and it just doesn’t work as well. You need to give them something in return.

Honestly, it doesn’t even have to be much, but it has to be good. Mine wasn’t much more than a long, interesting blog post, in ebook form. It shared some useful information, and kept them interested in the emails which followed.

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2 – Know the Value of a Subscriber

Big companies usually know this information really well, but it shouldn’t be too hard for you to work out.

You’re first going to need the list size of about 1,000 people, as it’s a good sample size that you can extract some data from.

After you’ve had the list for a while, and you’ve sold to them, add up how much money you’ve made. From your own products, and affiliate products. (Of course, there’s till money left in the list, but it’s best to be conservative). This will give you the minimum value of each subscriber.

Lets say your list of 1,000 people earned you $1,500.

That means that everyone on your list is worth at least $1.50, and that’s really useful information to have when it comes to buying subscribers.

3 – ‘Buying’ Subscribers Is Cheap

I have used Facebook ads to find subscribers many times in the past. It’s a really simple process.

You set up a squeeze page using OptimizePress, with your offer (which comes through in the first autoresponder message), and then simply drive your Facebook ad traffic there and watch it convert.

Speaking from experience, I usually only pay about 20¢ per click on my ads, and my squeeze page has at least a 33% conversion rate. This means that it costs me about 50¢ for every new subscriber.

If my subscriber is worth $1.50, and it only costs me 50¢ to obtain them, I’m going to triple my money.

This is the importance of knowing your numbers.

Of course, there’s more to the picture than this, but we’ll get to that.


4 – Know Your Market

If you’re going to pay for Facebook ads, you really ought to know your target market first.

Do you have an avatar of your average customer? This is the sort of person you need to be targeting.

I only target people who can afford to buy whatever I’m selling. That means narrowing down my ads to only appear to people who speak English, live in English speaking countries, and are above a certain age.

I don’t want to target anyone under the age of about 25 really, as they tend not to have the sort of disposable income required to purchase my products.

I want a list of potential buyers.

5 – Collect Their Name

This is something I stopped doing a while back, on one of my lists, and I regret it.

It’s easier to get people to sign up with just an email address, but it’s not really ideal as you have a much stronger connection with someone when you talk to them by name.

They’re drawn to their name when they see it, and they will feel like you know them, rather than treat you like some stranger from the internet (which you probably are).

I’m going to be going back to collecting names pretty shortly, when I implement my new marketing strategy.

6 – Get Them to Reply To You

If you can get people to reply to you, they’re much more likely to buy from you, in my experience.

In my first email, I ask them a question, saying ‘If I could write about one thing to help you with your photography, what would it be?’.

When they reply, I’m getting them to complete an action that I’ve asked them to do, this is so they’re used to following my actions, such as ‘Click Add to Cart Now’.

When I reply back, I make a personal connection and now they know I’m a real person. A real person who’s proved that they can help them with their problems.

That’s really powerful for me, as I try to sell them a solution to their problems, in a couple of days time.

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7 – Email Them Often

Those online who are emailing daily, are easily outselling those who don’t. And it makes sense really.

Who are you more likely to buy from: someone who teaches you something new every day, replies to your emails, and have a personal connection with…. or someone whose list you signed up to a few months ago, and haven’t heard from since.

Seriously, I spend maybe half an hour a day emailing my list, and I’ve not a never-ending list of tutorials and tips I can share with people. Most times I’m not even selling either, which makes it even more powerful when I do.

And trust me, people appreciate your emails.

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8 – Don’t Be Afraid To Sell

Look, you’ve collected this list because you want to make sales, not friends.

I understand that you don’t want to annoy your subscribers, or maybe you’ve gotten a cranky reply in the past, and that’s maybe put you off, but don’t worry about it.

Email them every day, and sell to them often, until they either unsubscribe or buy something.

Otherwise, they’re just taking up room on a list you’re paying for.

The money is certainly in the list, buy you have to ask for it.

Unsubscribes are OK.

Think of it this way: if they unsubscribe from your list, then you’re no longer paying for them to be on there, and they were never going to buy anything anyway.

Being worried about unsubs is something that will hold you back in your email marketing.

9 – Listen to Your Mailing Provider (and Backup)

Love ’em or hate ’em, they’re in charge.

If your emails get too many complaints (marked as spam), then they’re not going to be happy hosting the list.

In Aweber, and I’m sure many other email list providers, they have something called a spam score. It looks over your subject line and scores it, depending on whether it thinks it’s too spammy or not.

Listen to this, and try to get the best score possible, because it knows from experience what’s going to get complaints, and what’s not.

They will contact you if you’re not playing by their rules, and make sure you talk to them, so that you can reassure them you’re on the same page.

Lastly, make sure you back up your lists as often as possible. Because if you mess up one too many times, they may delete your account and not give you access to the list.

And you don’t want that.

10 – Write an Autoresponder!

The best digital product I’ve ever bought is something called the McIntyre Method by John McIntyre.

It teaches you how to write an amazing autoresponder sequence which converts and makes you a ton of money.

It’s the reason my writing has developed to become so easy to read too.

I mean, you’re on the final point of this post and you’re still reading it, right?

If you do this one thing, I promise you’ll triple your business, and you’ll work a lot less… spend the next two weeks writing 1 year’s worth of followup.

– Perry Belcher

A good followup sequence takes the pressure off you to write every day, and it means that you only need to focus on growing your list.

The money is in the list.


This can be broken down to three different points.

1 – You need to build your list, in every way you can, starting yesterday!

I sound like a broken record, but if the money is in the list, then you need to start building a list.

Our most effective way of doing this is to turn website traffic into subscribers with PopUp Domination.

We use it to display a highly effective light-box popup to everyone who visits our website, offering a freebie, in return for their email address.

But there’s loads of other ways we use PopUp Domination too. We target different offers to different pages and categories, and we also use it to link visitors to other pages of the website, such as a sales page.

The list goes on.

2 – You need to email your list often.

Every time you have something you think your subscribers may be interested in, email them. You can’t expect them to buy from a stranger.

Something I like to do is just link to my front-end product at the bottom of every email. Last time I did that, I got 3 extra sales. That’s an extra $291.

3 – Learn how to write your emails so that they’re always opened, and easy to read.

My email writing style consists of short, well crafted sentences.

One sentence paragraphs.

And not too many big words either.

They’re easy to read, which means they’re more likely to get read.

And lastly, I always leave an open hook at the end of an email, which gets people to open the next one.

But I’ll tell you more about that in my next post…

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. I honestly can’t recommend the McIntyre Method enough.