Email list building: 11 of the best How I did it” stories”

23 August, 2014

Flickr Image Courtesy Kevin KrejciWe’ve all been there. You’re sitting by the barbecue, grease sizzling, the salacious smell of grilled meat in the air and an ice cool beverage in hand.

You’re chatting with a bunch of friends. Inevitably you’re dragged into some shop talk by that over enthusiastic friend of a friend.

Next thing you know, he’s solving all of your business’ problems with this one great ‘technique’ his buddy Angela used to revolutionise her company’s marketing.

“They got over 90,000 email subscribers in 6 months. Oh and sales. Wow, the sales. You don’t even know…”

All the while (in between your clandestine eye rolling) you’re wondering why this guy is still a science teacher if he knows the secret to launching the next Google.

Instead you placate him;

“Sounds really interesting Glen, I’ll have to look into it when I get back to the office.”

Then you excuse yourself to ‘check on the kids’.

Your kids probably aren’t even at the barbecue.

Talk is cheap. Particularly in the ‘everyone is a publisher’ online marketing free for all. We are always skeptical of those with all the answers. We want proof.

Building a loyal online audience is hard. Turning that into profit is harder.

It’s a new challenge. This makes it a haven for textbook peddlers and online shysters. There’s a plethora of general “How to win at content marketing” tell alls out there, but we want tried-and-tested NOT too-good-to-be-true.

Thankfully, there are some generous souls out there who have been there, done that, recorded what works and shared their audience building success stories with the world.


That’s content marketing. (If you haven’t already, get yourself acquainted. You need to understand this concept inside out)

Sending valuable, helpful content to prospects via email on a regular basis is one of the most effective ways to turn a lead into a loyal customer.

These guys share their process for email list building to help you. You get value from their content. You want more of said value. So you sign up to their list. They send you more and more content over time. Eventually you trust them enough to buy a product or service. You’d pay good money for an apprenticeship from the master.

Learn Email List Building From The Experts

Their content marketing system of audience building works.

Here’s the proof, from 11 of the best.

Read. Learn. Attempt. Then share your own success story. And thank us later.

#1. The Road to 50,000 Subscribers

How Pat Flynn Builds His Email List

Pat FlynnPat is royalty amongst bloggers in the online marketing world. He proves that you can build a huge audience and still be a top notch guy.

The Smart Passive Income Blog started from scratch in 2008. With 50,000 subscribers and counting, Pat has managed to keep his integrity and his personal touch.

SPI shows you how to do online marketing without trying to game the system.

If you’re prepared for the long hard slog of consistently developing super helpful content, Pat’s your guy. His humble, transparent approach leads him to lay everything bare. He even publishes a monthly income report to show you exactly where he makes his money.

You can trust Pat for common sense, tried and tested tactics to build your audience.

Even better, you’re bound to learn a few things about using your content and your online marketing to make you a better person.

  • This archived gem from August 2012 shows you how SPI made it to 50,000 subscribers, with some reflections on the big picture along the way.

The best bits lie in Pat’s honesty. You can feel how deeply he wants you to succeed. Why else would he share all of his mistakes with such unwavering transparency. Here’s some of Pat’s SEO fails you can learn from.

So many thousands of people can’t be wrong. If you only subscribe for email advice from one of these online marketing oracles, make it Pat. His autoresponder email series is the best ‘spam’ you will ever receive!

#2. How Buffer Doubled Email Sign Ups in 30 Days

How Buffer Builds His Email List

Kevan LeeBuffer will save you at least 15 minutes per day if you are not using a social media scheduling tool already. If you tweet, post or gram multiple times a day, Buffer helps you load up your posts all at the one time, allowing you to schedule them out across the day. You don’t need to log in and post throughout the day and you won’t be swamping your profile all at once.

The Buffer curation team hand pick some of the most interesting articles from around the blogosphere for you to read and share with your tribe.

If you don’t subscribe to their self professed “Awesome, actionable social media advice” delivered to your inbox daily, get right on that. I can vouch for its awesomeness.

Kevan Lee, Buffer’s chief Content Crafter keeps pumping out streams of helpfulness. For those playing at home, here’s how he does it.

You’ll find a collection of Buffer’s learnings from their success stories and their failures on their blog. Kevan is all too happy to take you on a step by step journey through all of his online marketing secret paths.

  • This post shows you how Buffer uses a plethora of email signup sources to double their subscribers in 30 days.

Buffer use 9 different sources to give visitors every opportunity to subscribe. You’ll find at least one that can help you build your audience.

#3. 41 Tips That Put Over 10,000 Subscribers On Blog Tyrant’s Email List

How The Blog Tyrant Builds His Email List

Ramsey The Blog TyrantThe Blog Tyrant – Ramsay – is living the online marketing dream.

He’s a 27 year old flying the flag for Australia in the superstar blogosphere, working full time from the income generated by his site

How does he do it? Well he’ll tell you. That’s exactly what his blog is dedicated to.

Ramsay opens the lid on all of his audience building treats, just for you to indulge. If you’re after some online marketing advice to help you dominate a niche, this young Aussie has the goods.

Blog Tyrant is more suited to the DIY entrepreneur. His bootstrapping tips will help you build an audience from scratch.

If you’re at enterprise level, you’ll have to pick and choose – Ramsay’s small budget focus means that most of his advice is tailored to individual bloggers and small business owners.

  • This post gives you 41 ways that helped Blog Tyrant reach 10000 subscribers.

Ramsay gives you a more personal insight than most of the other examples on this list. He is not afraid to voice an opinion, and unlike many bloggers, he jumps off the fence and makes some controversial statements about the strategies and tactics he believes in (just check out tip #20).

If you like the cut of Ramsay’s jib, sign up for more. You won’t be disappointed.

#4. 10 Surefire Ways To Get 1000 Blog SubscribersHow Pushing Social Builds His Email List

Stan SmithThis is not the Stan Smith of Adidas retro fashion fame (although he is a fan, he is not being paid royalties). Nor is he the pumpkin jawed Stan Smith laying down the politically incorrect laughs on TV series American Dad.

This is Stan Smith the audience building man.

He does know how to use social media and blogging to grow a group of loyal customers with content marketing.

Pushing Social is a hub on content marketing goodness.

Stan’s podcast is worth a listen if you like your learning through your earphones and you’ll find a haven of free downloadable ebooks on the blog.

Whether you’re struggling for your first 100, getting to 500 or building your email list past 1000, you’ll find a little four-liner here to add to the idea bank. Don’t expect super detailed, step-by-step walk throughs from this one. Instead you’ll find some original gems quickly. Much faster than the time it takes to recite all of the ‘S’ words used in this paragraph…

#5. How One Blog Post Received 1052 Social Shares In 3 DaysHow Bluewire Media Builds His Email List

Will BluntSo our focus this month is primarily on building your audience. But social media promotion helps, right? Especially if you find yourself a formula for gathering 1052 social shares in 3 days.

Will is coming from a clean slate, launching his own blog just before his guest posting social success – which means you need to listen up and take notice. If he can do it, you can.

The juiciest part of Will’s article?

He’s got the inside word on nailing a feature on Buffer’s Suggested Content.

This alone makes it worth the read. A foot in the door with Kevan and the team will give you access to huge chunks of new potential customers.

If you like Will’s enthusiastic style, there’s more where that came from. Jump on over to his personal blog – he’s doing some worthwhile work with his content. As opposed to the slew of ‘get rich quick’ characters muddying up online marketing education, Will’s blog is all about authenticity.

We all need more advice on developing genuine relationships. He’ll show you why it’s not about what you sell, it’s what you stand for that matters.

#6. How Moz made $1Million With 1 Landing Page and a Few Emails

How Moz Builds An Email List

Rand FishkinBuilding an audience is not just about delivering great content. Distribution, promotion and giving your visitors the opportunity to subscribe matter.

  • This case study shows you why your content marketing job is never done once you click publish. You can always work on making things better.

The kind folks at Conversion Rate Experts take us behind the scenes of a four month process they used to generate a 52% increase in landing page conversions. This amounted to over $1million worth of sales for their client – the SEO pro’s Moz. The mustachioed marauder to the right here is Founder Rand Fishkin.

Even though the case study focusses on a sales landing page, you can use all of the juicy, expert tips to help you optimise your blog pages and the landing pages you use to gather subscriber’s email addresses.

The most unique aspect of the Expert’s advice is one that we forget about all too often.

Collaboration. Communication. Consultation.

Actually speaking to your potential customers.

Ask what made your subscribers sign up.

Find out why your unsubscribes left you.

Determine exactly what the most important information is to your audience.

Then you can work out how to change your landing pages, sign up forms and email content to entice and keep more customers.

#7. How Groove Got 1,000+ Subscribers in 24 Hours From a Single Blog Post How Groove Builds An Email List

Alex TurnbullAlex Turnbull and the team at Groove HQ make audience building seem so straightforward. As soon as you find Groove’s blog you’ll find yourself furiously trawling their archives.

Be prepared to fluctuate between forehead slapping ‘of course’ moments and a thick green cloud of envy incited by Groove’s chronic overachievement. They’re just so good at things.

What makes Groove’s blog story on their journey from 0 to $100K per month so intriguing?

It feels like it could be you.

Alex shows you exactly what his team has done to build his audience, and the truth is – it’s not as hard as you expect.

Sure, it’s a bunch of dedication, careful strategising and hard work, but Groove’s content makes you feel like you just have to get out there and do it. Their industry, software as a service, is not the most exciting, but Groove has found a way to matter to people through the power of storytelling.

Out of any of the audience building examples in this list, Groove’s blog content will get you closest to developing an entire audience building strategy (except for number 11). Making money from that audience is up to you.

Better than a kick in the teeth. Better than 999 subscribers also.

Anyways, Alex takes us through a detailed six step process that Groove used to get some of the biggest names in the industry to subscribe, comment and even advise directly on their blog content.

It will make you want jump straight on to your computer and get better at content marketing. Immediately.

While you’re at it, these two posts are also cringingly perfect.

You’ll just wish Groove was your business by the end of the post. And I have about as much interest in customer service software as I do in flying with toddlers…

#1 How We Grew Our Blog to 5,000+ Subscribers in Five Weeks

#2 How We’ve Reached More Than 1 Million People by Guest Blogging

#8. How To Improve Email Click Through Rates By 127% One HourHow Campaign Monitor Builds An Email List

Aaron BeashelHere’s a nice, simple one. Different tactic to the others outlined in this list.

For Campaign Monitor, the changes they made took one hour to implement.

No long term relationship building, no crafting of a unique story, no harrowing online research.

Want an idea to help you build your audience?

Make your emails better.

Yeah, it’s not all about the creation and promotion of phenomenal content that gets people on to your list. You ought to keep em there.

If your emails are as good as your content, those subscribers will become your little online marketing tribal army, sending your best stuff on to their friends and colleagues.

So small fix, more loyal subscribers and possibly new ones.

Simple solution: Improve your email template.

Content and Community Manager Aaron Beashel is a lead nurturing, email marketing, conversion rate optimising boss. His personal blog is also a good time for all things online growth.

Not bad for under an hour’s work.

#9. How to Double Your Subscribers Without Doubling Your TrafficHow Digital Marketer Builds An Email List

Digital MarketerRyan Deiss is one of our new favourite resources here at Gorilla HQ. As the guys admit, the world does not not need another digital marketing blog, so what makes this one stand out? We’ll let the guys at DM explain:

We actually DO THIS STUFF!! (And we’re pretty dang good at it.)

In fact, in the last 36 months the DM team has:

#1. Invested over $15,000,000 (of our own money) on marketing tests…

#2. Generated tens of millions of unique visitors…

#3. Sent well over a BILLION emails, and…

#4. Run approximately 3,000 split and multi-variant tests…

The content is created and managed by a collection of real marketing pro’s with real experience building real businesses. The results are actionable insights with real examples. The guys don’t just throw you a general outline. You can expect a detailed step-by-step guide with professional explanations and recommendations on relevant tools and strategies.

You’ll find some actionable techniques to optimise your landing pages with some advice on a specific solution that will suit your site’s design.

Ryan and the team at DM give you realistic insights. No sugar coating here. At times they straddle the online marketing ethical boundaries in their attempts to hack consumer psychology, but they always have the audience’s interest at heart.

For info on opt in pages, this article is a must read.

#10. How To Build Links To Your Blog (And Grow Your Audience)How To Build Links To Your Blog

Matt BarbyOkay, I’m kinda cheating with this one. It’s not really about increasing your email subscription rate and it’s not quite specific about results, but boy-oh-boy is it helpful.

It’s a virtual link building, outreaching, guest posting super playbook with more detail than your new digital camera’s user manual.

  • So the way I see it, anyone who wants to build an audience with their blog will be as thankful for Matt Barby’s masterpiece as I am. I dare you to read up and not learn something. You’ll be sharing this one with your team, that’s just the way it is.

So enough of the gushing (seriously though Matt, thank you).

Moz, together with Wyatt International Digital Strategist Matthew Barby, bring us the ultimate case study on how to build links to your blog.

There are plenty of articles out there with more technical info, secret new tactics or general advice, but Matt teaches us about link building in a language we can all understand. Even if you don’t know what SEO stands for, you’ve got this one covered.

Matt decided to start a new travel blog to chronicle his many overseas adventures (and to try and make money whilst living everyone’s dream). He takes us along on the most difficult journey of his travels – building up the traffic to his blog.

From identifying backlink targets, to prospecting through competitor links, to briefing freelancers on research projects, to finding guest blogging opportunities, to landing regular writing gigs… Ahhh, sorry, I’m getting carried away.

Just read it. Learn it. Bookmark it. Come back to it. Use it. Share it.

You’re welcome.

Thank Matt on social media as well. I’m sure he’d appreciate some more love if he hasn’t already got enough here.

#11. The Ultimate Guide To Doubling Your Traffic In 30 DaysHow Quicksprout Builds An Email List

Neil PatelI’ve left the godfather of audience building until last. Almost all of the other posts in this list have referenced the techniques, tactics and strategies made internet famous by Neil Patel.

Neil and his myriad of endlessly helpful blogs (we’re talking Kissmetrics, Crazy Egg and Quick Sprout among others) are built on sharing real success stories.

Different to the other examples in this series, Neil’s advice runs the spectrum. No matter if you have 10 subscribers or 200,000, you’re going to find something you can use to build your email list.

As Jay Baer suggests, this is content so good you would pay for it. Quick Sprout in all of their endless generosity offer it for free. They don’t even charge you your email address.

Bookmark this one and read it in full if you’re serious about educating yourself on the best practices in this area.

Oh, and I mentioned Neil was the godfather of sharing specific successes. Quick Sprout is wedged full of these posts. Here’s 3 – there’s just no splitting them.

#1 How We Grew Crazy Egg To 100,000 Users With a $10,000 Marketing Budget

#2 How I Grew Quick Sprout From 121311 to 244923 Readers in 30 Days

#3 How To Grow Your Blog To 100000 Visits a Month In 18 Months


A Little Bonus…

How The Ecommerce Pro’s Build An Audience

While you’re in the content marketing research mode, you might want to find out online stores go about growing a community. For these guys, an email address is like gold. Their list is their livelihood.

Content Marketing allows ecommerce stores to prove themselves to potential customers. Continually sharing helpful content through email maintains and develops relationships with customers in the same way that the daily chat you share with your barista keeps you coming back to the same cafe.

Ecommerce is our specialty at Gorilla and we’re always on the lookout for the kings dominating their online jungle.

We’ve compiled the process that some of the ecommerce elite are using to turn one time blog readers into loyal customers. Here’s four of our favourites to inspire your content marketing:

#1. Wholefoods

#2. REI

#3. Netflix

#4. Beardbrand

If that’s not enough for you, I give up.

KIDDING! Content Marketing 101 – never give up on helping people.

There’s 30+ more pages on how to improve your ecommerce content marketing in our Guide To Building an Audience You Can Bank On.

Even if you don’t have an online store, you’ll pick up some practical advice to help you grow your blog audience.

Okay, enough research – we’ve got some audience building work of our own to do to get our content marketing up to scratch. Time to become the success story ‘that guy’ talks about by the barbecue…

By James Dillon
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