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3 Dead-Simple Tactics for a Killer Early-Stage Email List

By Joelle Steiniger

I recently had the chance to talk with email marketing guru and founder of Vero, Chris Hexton. You can listen to the full interview here.

He had some simple, must-follow advice for people who are just starting to build a list. There’s a lot of us out there, which is why I found this particular advice so helpful.

RULE #1:

Yeah, we’ve all heard it a thousand times. Starting is the hardest part of anything. It goes in one ear and out the other. You find all kinds of reasons why you shouldn’t be emailing your list. But take a second to really think about what those reasons are, and why you haven’t started. I’ll bet when you do, you’ll realize how easy it is to combat the roadblocks you’ve built up in your mind.

Most common excuses:

  • What if they get annoyed, or don’t like what I send?
  • My product’s not ready yet — I should wait until it’s finished.
  • What if what I have to say isn’t valuable to them?
  • I don’t know what to say (we’ll come back to this one)

See a trend here? Most boil down to the fear of the dreaded “unsubscribe”!

Get over this. Right now.

Here are the truths:

  • The people who sign up early in your company’s lifecycle are passionate people. Heck, they may have put their email down for something that doesn’t exist yet!
  • They’ve come to your landing page for a reason, and given you their email. So you’ve got to trust that these are people who are interested in what you have to say.
  • They’re going to be supportive. Trust me.

“These are going to be the guys that help grow your business from nothing — they’re going to be your first 10 paying customers.”

— Chris Hexton

You’ve got to just start. But how?

RULE #2:

Sounds like basic advice, but like anything there’s thought and nuance involved.

You need to talk to these early subscribers as though they’re your friends. Nathan Barry has said before that even when he sits down to write a blog post, he does it as if he’s writing a letter to a specific friend.

Still not sure what to say to them?

  • Tell them about your journey you’re going through what advancements you’ve made this week.
  • Tell them what awesome new idea or feature you’ve finally included in the beta.
  • Share something new you’ve learned in the process and pass along a lesson.
  • If you’ve got questions or you need validation on something — ask them! Get them engaged. “Hey, here’s what I’m thinking of doing, what do you think is best: A, B, or C.”

Emails like this are trust building, because they’re honest, not ‘salesy’. People are happy to receive these kinds of emails, particularly the kind of customers who’ve shown interested in a concept that you’re willing to build out.

But remember, part of the enjoyment for them is receiving an email from the founder or from someone who’s an individual at the company. Don’t email them from a big fancy template from “sales@”. Don’t try to seem bigger than you are. There’s a right time for that down the road maybe, but not in the beginning.

Use your smallness to build credibility — to build trust. Become friends with these early subscribers of yours and they’ll pay it back to you.

RULE #3:

You’ve heard it time and time again: Build your list early on.

This means getting active about asking for email addresses. Sure, some people will see a simple email form and fill it out. But most wont. Most need a nudge — so give them one.

If you’re blogging on your own site, get creative with your calls to action. Why should someone sign up? What value will they get? Dangle some bait and see who many bites you get.

Here’s a great example from Vero’s blog:

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Chris sees about a 13% conversion rate from email course sign-ups to product sign-ups.

If you’re guest posting on other sites (which is something you should be doing to grow your own exposure) — it’s still okay to have some CTAs to drive people back to your site or get them to sign up for your list.

You have less control than if it were your own site, but don’t hesitate to link back. Almost any site you guest post for will understand and be okay with it. It’s the whole point of growing your audience and posting elsewhere in the first place.


About the Author

Joelle Steiniger


I'm Co-Founder of HookFeed and Co-Host of the best podcast on the planet. Writer, reader and triathlete. IPA connoisseur

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