Dear Shama: How Do I Build a List?

Dear Shama,

I would love to get going in email marketing, but I don’t have a list. I don’t think buying is a good idea. How do I build up a list?

– R.L., Accountant

Hi R.L.,

Congratulations on making the smart decision to move towards email marketing. This is a great way to provide value and build a community. The sad thing is that since email marketing has been abused by spammers, many people are shy of giving away their email address. That being the case, you need to first create a plan for the type of content you intend to provide the audience. Setting up a landing page is second. On this page, convey your plan and your privacy policy. This is the ground work for building up your list. Once your page is set, there are a few things you can do to start building up your list of subscribers.

1. The Free Giveaway. This is the most common list building technique. Give away something of value in exchange for someone’s email address. Make sure that this giveaway is 1) relevant to your expertise 2) not a piece of fluff material. Really spend some time thinking about what would provide value to your audience. For example, 10 Ways to Save on your Taxes or 10 Things to Look for When Shopping for an Accountant. Keep the selling or bias out of it.

2. Appeal to Collaborators. As an Accountant, look at who else serves your market or audience. Attorneys? Human Resource Consultants? Find someone who serves the same audience as you do, and approach them about providing value for their clients. Example: “Hey Joe, you know tax time is right around the corner, do you think your clients might enjoy an article I wrote on smart tax planning for your business? I’d be happy to mail it out myself.” This article should not be a selling piece, but an educational piece. At the end of the article, you should include a bio with a link to your landing page. You can also substitute a talk for an article. At the end of a talk, you offer your giveaway in exchange for an email address (or business card).

3. Add Video. Video can really boost conversion rates dramatically. Whenever possible and relevant- tie in video. To learn more about online video, check out Dave at Web Video University.

4. Encourage Forwards. When you do send out content, always invite your subscribers to forward it along to a friend who could use the information.

5. Social Media Marketing. Saving the best for last! Social networking sites are a great way to attract people to your content by your content for more of your content. Did I mention that valuable content is the way to go when building your list? While people may be bombarded by information, they STILL seek it out. The only difference is that they seek it out when they want it and how they want it. So, your job is to always keep putting out fresh, useful, and relevant content. People will find it. This in itself is a great way to grow your list.

Best of Luck!

– Shama Hyder

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  1. Hi Shama,

    Great article! I’d like to include two additional notes:

    1. If RL has a website, he should place the opt-in box for his list on every single page of the site (preferably in the upper right corner) and

    2. His free giveaway should include some type of call to action at the end. Whether it’s to get an e-course, visit a page on his site for more resources, a free question the person can email in about an accounting issue they have, etc. Something to continue the conversation.

    Thanks for sharing great info, as always!

    Sandy :-)

  2. With Regards to #2 on this list:

    Two other things that you might do are build an alliance feed (aka: an anti-blogroll) and build an alliance search tool.

    One other thing, I agree with what Shama wrote about #1 except that I would steer away from the “things to look for in an accountant” because it may just be seen by your audience as sales literature. Remember that your audience has a “What’s in it 4 me” attitude and give them something that they perceive as valuable rather than what you perceive as valuable. Don’t be self-serving and you will get a WHOLE lot more e-mail addresses. remember to nurture the ones that you get. Seeds that don’t get watered die.

    James Shewmaker

  3. I have read several of the posts here and I think that the content is refreshing and informative. I was recently blog tagged and that left me with the task of finding 7 other bloggers that shared good content and tag them as well. Because you’re blog entries are helpful and well rounded, I have decided to tag you. Congrats! You are my sixth and without further adieu… Tag! You’re it! :-)

    Please follow the link ( to see the rules and what is requested of those who have been tagged. It is an honor to be tagged… and remember, this is supposed to be fun as well as allowing others to connect to blogs of worth.

  4. Shama-you are the Rockingest Social Media Princess Diva Maven! You share so mcuh with the world- and such GREAT content! This is great psot as list building is critical. Thanks for sharing!!! I am going to post this on our blog!!!

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