The No. 1 Tool For Making Money From Your Blog

October 27, 2010

in Business, Tech

How Are You Building Your List?

Why do you blog? Are you blogging to attract more customers to your business? Are you blogging because you simply have a lot to say? Are you blogging to establish your reputation in your field?

There are dozens of reasons why people start blogs, but if one of the reasons you started blogging was to make money, listen up!

Before you run off to create your shiny new product, or make yourself nuts trying to generate traffic, you must consider the following fundamental tool for making money from your blog. You’ve got to build a list!

The No. 1 Tool

You may have read the expression “the money is in the list.” Well, you may want to read that expression again because it’s true. More importantly, your e-mail list is not merely your potential pot of gold; it’s the key to your lasting success.

Why Building a List is Important

First and foremost your list helps you build your personal brand. It gives you the ability to deliver on your promises over and over again by providing valuable content to your subscribers. When you communicate with your subscribers on a regular basis, you establish a relationship with them.

And, if you communicate with your list about things that matter to them, they will come to know, like, and trust you. This is very important, because if your readers don’t feel like they know you, if they don’t kinda like you, and if they don’t really trust you, your product or service pitch is pretty much dead on arrival.

Your list also provides you with access to the inside scoop on your readers needs. What better way to create a product or service then based on the known needs of your readers? If you build a list from day one, you will have the opportunity to conduct FREE market research to the very target market you seek to serve.

When to Build a List

So when is the “right” time to build an email list? Like yesterday!

“But my blog is only one day old.” Great! Where is your opt-in form?

Don’t wait until you “have the perfect product” or “want to test your market” to build a list. Even if you never plan on selling a darn thing your list, you need a way to stay connected to your readers on a deeper level. This only can be accomplished with a list. What are you waiting for!?!

How to Build a List

The best way to build a list is to establish an account with a reputable e-mail marketing provider. I prefer Aweber, but there are many other options available. Mailchimp is another email marketing provider that offers a free account up to 1000 subscribers, so if you’re new to the biz and low on cash that may be the way to go.

But if you really want to keep it simple, you can just use FeedBurner’s RSS e-mail subscription feature. If you use FeedBurner to syndicate your content, which you should, you can set up this feature inside your dashboard. Just login to FeedBurner, click on your feed title, click on the “Publicize” tab, and then click on the “Email Subscriptions” link to your left, and voila you’re ready to get list building.

Once you’ve created a method for obtaining your reader’s e-mail addresses, be sure to set the expectation for communication. If possible, avoid using the phrase “Subscribe Here” Instead opt for something that communicates what you will send your subscribers. For example, “Get Biz Blogging Tips Weekly.”

Tell your readers how frequently they should expect to hear from you, tell them what topics you plan to cover, and tell them how much you appreciate their trusting you with their e-mail address.

How to Care For Your List

This one is should be a no-brainer. Don’t spam your list! This doesn’t mean that you cannot make frequent contact with your list. In fact, most people don’t make contact with their list enough. Instead focus on sending messages that provide value or have a specific purpose. Even better, strive for both because this will make people look forward to your content. No-brainer number two, don’t share your list’s contact information! If you are ever going to sell anything to your list, you must build rock-solid trust with them. If you sell them out you won’t sell s**t!

Show your list you care by asking them about their pressing needs. This benefits you in two ways. First, it lets them know you give a crap and that you appreciate their readership. Second, it gives you an opportunity to create kick a$$ products and services around their needs.

Above all, give them something good for no good reason. We aren’t talking kidney’s here people. It doesn’t have to be major. You could simply provide a legit coupon code that relates to their interests, or give away a teeny bit of your time to a certain number of immediate respondents. Be creative and don’t limit yourself by thinking “they won’t care about that.” As long as it speaks to their needs and wants, they will care about it a whole lot. When you do these things you are able to engage with your readers, and that is how you can care for them best.

How to Grow Your List

As the ancient script says “Ask and you shall receive.” Ask them to sign up on your homepage. Ask them to sign up at the top or bottom of your blog posts. Ask them to sign up on Twitter. Just ask people to sign up! If your blog is worth reading, your target audience will sign up.

It also helps if you make it easy to sign up for your e-mail list. Web designers far and wide and have helped train our brains to look for an opt-in box in the upper right or left had corner of a web page. Do yourself a favor and put your opt in box in a highly visible location.

Why Building a List Matters Even if You Want to Stay Broke

If you’re saying “I don’t plan on selling anything to my readers….ever.” Good for you. You still need an e-mail list. Why?

Because you need a way to stay connected to the people who are willing to invest time in reading your content. And, you need a way to make sure you stay relevant to those people. Having a list allows you to do those things.

Besides, what if you suddenly change your mind? It’s more important to have a way to get in touch with people if you want to, when you’re ready, than not have a means to reach them at all.

So tell me, how are you going to start building your list today?

Rajesh@Hack Faceboook Account November 26, 2010 at 11:31 pm

Nice information friend. Really, building a list is very critical aspect of promoting your product which I was neglecting. I need to work on this more. Thanks for lightening this poing. Great work.

Xtreme Trampolines November 15, 2010 at 1:19 pm

The most important thing you can do to get more visits to you blog is to create good content. make things interesting so that people wanna read your stuff!

Xtreme Trampolines November 12, 2010 at 9:54 am

Try doing a little bit of SEO for your blog to get more visits to your page!

Biodun @ UK Webmaster Forum November 8, 2010 at 12:25 am

Good post, the e-list is one the lifeblood of a business if you know how to play your games.

Shiva@Web Magazine November 7, 2010 at 11:05 pm

Nice tips Marlee,
Seems I really have to stop procrastinating and build up a list now. I have been too much lazy it seems. I have seen almost all the Internet Marketers say that the list is the best tool for money making but it seems I never learn.
Thanks a lot Marlee, This post is surely an Eye – Opener and has some great tips

Rob@Spokane Website Design November 1, 2010 at 10:24 pm

I never really considered getting an email list on certain websites til now, signing up for mailchimp ASAP

Shilonda Downing November 1, 2010 at 8:57 am

Hi all:

I really enjoyed this post as well! For those of you who don’t have the time or find the tech side of operating MailChimp, 1 Shopping Cart, etc. intimidating; I’d like to suggest hiring a virtual team to handle your list creation, solicitation and email campaigns. We do this for clients world wide on a regular basis.

Catherine Lockey October 31, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Hi Marlee and Tia,
I agree that using an email client is best and just started using one myself. Let me tell you both a sad little story – I used to keep my email list on my Outlook. Foolishly, I never backed it up. (I’m sure you can guess what happened.) Yes, I lost my entire list when my hard drive died three months ago resulting in hours of extra work for me. Thankfully, email clients save the list and do so much more.

DiTesco October 31, 2010 at 4:09 pm

I have hesitated for a long time before building my list. Had I known the benefits before hand, I would have not made that mistake. There are still people who do not believe that a “list” is the right way to go because of the hundreds of emails that some of us get flooded with. On the other hand, there are those that I do read and if I read some, it is likely that if done properly some will also read yours. Solid advice.

Isabel Rodrigues - Pro Blogger Journey October 31, 2010 at 3:36 am

Thanks Marlee for sharing this useful information about building list. We are often ignorant when it comes to building a good quality list. It’s time to understanding the expression “he money is in the list”

Ileane October 30, 2010 at 1:01 am

Hi Marlee, I see you on Twitter often but it’s really neat to find this great guest post on Tia’s blog.

At work we’re using Vertical Response to manage our email campaigns. I love the tracking features they provide which include real-time stats.

For my blog, I’m experimenting with FeedBlitz because I noticed that two of the blogs I subscribe to are using the service (including CommentLuv) and I like the format of those emails. Do you have any experience with either of these services?

Thanks for all the tips and links Marlee, enjoy your weekend.

Henway October 29, 2010 at 8:27 pm

I’ve always been hesitant in building a list since it requires delayed gratifications – I always aim for the instant sale, but I guess conversion rates will be higher if you build authority.

Vikas Sindher October 29, 2010 at 1:57 pm

Hello Marlee,
I am really thankful to you for introducing such great tool. I am really looking for ways to earn money online and to increase my income from my blog. This post told me the thing that i was neglecting. I must agree if you can build up a relationship with your reader, not only you are gaining their trust in you but also you are more likely to attract new readers to your blog. A very worthy post to read.
Thank You.

Richard October 29, 2010 at 5:13 am

Great tips on mailing list. I would actually put it second on my list of money making tools. I put the number one tool is your mind. After that, then comes the list. :)

Marlee October 29, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Hey Richard,

I have to say, I totally agree with your philosophy. It begins and ends with what you bring to the table. :)

Ashlie October 29, 2010 at 12:52 am

Love the post! I like your take on making email lists make money for you by staying connected with your list and not by selling the list to others. I will have to consider that. But for some sites that is the biggest source of revenue, so I can see how a lot of people would be against your ideas. The truth is I wouldn’t want someone to sell my email. So why should I do the same to others.

Joseph Archibald October 29, 2010 at 12:22 am

Hi Marlee (& mia Tia!), thanks for a ball-busting article – erm, excuse me! Very nicely written actually – easy to read and flows real well. The amount of times I begin reading a blog post these days and give up half way simply because the post does not flow or its too rambling etc. I think my own posts are a bit like that ;-)

But, to the point. I can’t get my head around building a list of subscribers but not monetizing, or not setting out with monetization as pretty much its sole purpose. I guess if I was making a ton of money already, then its much more of a pleasure not to have to worry about monetizing to a list of subscribers and just writing “thoughts for the day” or something like that.

In fact, my most successful list building effort was indeed based on a topic that I found to be pretty much impossible to monetize. I gave up on it…

And, I just can’t get comfortable with some other stuff that I’ve done before – creating a blog and then setting up an optin for subscribers. Just has not sat well with me. And you know why? Cos a while back I spent a ton of money on a list building course which was run by two of the best known list builders and they were all about sending out email after email after email, and for me that’s merely a form of spamming and I detest those methods.

Funny thing is though, these guys are so wealthy from doing this sort of spam over-drive that it would blow your mind.

As much as I want the wealth there is no way I’m going down that road to obtain it!

However, I’ve got a JV just getting going now and there is absolutely no doubt that building an optin subscriber list for this niche is dead on the ball! It feels absolutely right to me to go with this, and thus its going to be my biggest focus with regards to this whole business venture.

How strange, I finally feel comfortable with the thought of building up a subscriber list.

Thanks again Marlee for a super article! And thanks Tia for having Marlee guest post on here or I would most probably never have seen the article in the first place!

Regards to all…
Joseph (the pro list builder – not!)

Oh, and I ticketh the box that says “confirm you are NOT a spammer”. How novel – never seen that before.

Marlee October 29, 2010 at 2:50 am

Hey Joseph!
Thanks for your comment. You are a crack up! And, I completely agree with you about excessive e-mailers. They are merely spammers who try to get permission first.

I suppose one way to use a list you didn’t plan to monetize would be to use those readers as a source of feedback and insight. If a person isn’t blogging to support a business model that could be a very good intent of maintaining a list.

That aside, it’s important to remain true to who you are and what you are comfortable with. Good on you for sticking to your guns, and best of luck with your upcoming JV!

Joseph Archibald October 29, 2010 at 3:30 am

Thanks for your reply, Marlee!

I do tend to stick to my guns Marlee, yes. I can be as stubborn as the proverbial jackass – some folks no doubt think that an appropriate description for me ;-)

That particular list I mentioned – I did manage to get a writer from it, writing free for me, for that site which is heavily geared to a large fan base – its a niche that I have very little comprehension of, even though its now been made into a television series which is roughly based on a series of novels.

Mind you, the writer only lasted with me a couple of weeks, but even though the site gets no fresh content its still ranking nicely for a variety of popular keyword phrases.

So, when I think about it, I guess you can indeed utilize list building in a variety of ways as you previously mentioned within your post. Food for thought there! Thanks for helping to shed some light where there was little before.

Regards
Jo

Kansas City Movers October 28, 2010 at 9:22 pm

Thanks for this. I’m going to follow you on Twitter and keep up-to-date with your tips.

Andrew @ Blogging Guide October 28, 2010 at 6:34 am

Money is in the list. This is often said, but also often ignored. A list is not optional, it is really needed. And once you’ve created one, take care of it. Thanks for the good points you’ve shared to us here in your post.

Fran Aslam@Kw writer October 28, 2010 at 6:16 am

Hi Marlee:

Wonderful blog post, I just read from you. I know the importance of list building but still I am not as assertive taking care of it every day and I feel guilty about it too. Your blog post stressed it. I hope it works for me.

Thanks for a great post.

Fran

Patricia@lavenderuses October 28, 2010 at 5:41 am

Hi Marlee

Really helpful post. I have been putting off doing this mainly because it involves techie stuff that gets me into panic mode.

I am such a technophobe but have now found some techie friends so will ask one of the nicely to guide me through Aweber as I want to put out a fortnightly newsletter. You have motivated me to get it done so thanks.

Patricia Perth Australia

Marlee October 28, 2010 at 12:13 pm

Hey Patricia!
I’m glad you are encouraged! I’d also recommend that you try not to stress the tech and design stuff too much. A plain text e-mail can suffice and it increases the likelihood that your e-mails will get delivered. As you get more comfortable with your content and your readers the bells and whistles will come…promise!

Gera@SweetsFoodsBlog October 27, 2010 at 10:40 pm

Hi Marlee and Tia,

I’m guilty! – guilty still I haven’t a list. Yes I’ve email-rss subscribers but I don’t consider them as an email-list.
Several other tasks in parallel; apart I must have something useful before send in it :)
Anyway these are good advices and I’ve it in my pending “list” of things to be done.

All the best,

Gera

Marlee October 27, 2010 at 11:31 pm

Hi Gera!

You bring up and interesting point. I noticed you said “I must have something useful before send in it :)” So my question to is, do you think that it is possible that you are underestimating what your readers might consider “useful”?

Consider this, I subscribe to the e-newsletter of a relatively popular/high profile social media consultant. Every week this person sends out a to the point, SUPER SIMPLE, tip on using social media. For example, in a recent newsletter they explained how to get a gravatar. That was it. It probably took 10 mins to put together. And although I already knew about Gravatar, I suspect much of her target audience may not. As a result her tip was probably very “useful.”

Looking at your site it seems you have an excellent opportunity to replicate something similar. Perhaps you could ask your rss subscribers if they would like to receive your “Foodie Tip of the Week(or Month).” It could be a few simple sentences or a photo, some kind of content, just for your readers.

Just some food for thought! ;)

Gera@SweetsFoodsBlog October 30, 2010 at 4:11 am

I understand your idea, my theme is the content inside but you’ve given some useful tips. I’ve accustomed to long things and my few time is the main impediment.

Marlee good points! Really delicious food for thought :)

Cheers,

Gera

Tristan October 27, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Great intro to list building. I use AWeber and definitely think it’s worth the $19 a month. If you’re serious about making money with your blog, you’ve got to spend some money, right?

Anna October 27, 2010 at 9:00 pm

This is really great information. I do not currently do this and it sounds like I should. I thought that you had to be in the market for a certain length of time before you could do something like this. Great information.

Marlee October 27, 2010 at 9:48 pm

Hey Anna!
I’m glad you found the information helpful. It is something you certainly don’t want to wait on. It sounds like you may be a great candidate for my BizChickBlogs contest – check it out at Metamorphoself before it’s over!

Dave@Do It With WordPress October 27, 2010 at 4:36 pm

What an excellent and thorough run-down. You mention that you can use FeedBurner’s “subscribe by email” feature to collect addresses. How can you see the addresses, or, how can you send newsletters to them? It seems to me that it’s simply an RSS-by-email service right? So there’s no real way of targeting your email subscribers? Thanks for the great article – it’s another one of those things that I must get around to doing…

Tia Peterson October 27, 2010 at 9:44 pm

Marlee can also weigh in, but you can see your FeedBurner subscribers’ email addresses and export them to CSV.

When you log into FeedBurner, you’ll see something that says See More About Your Subscribers, and you can just scroll down to find the email subscribers link, and when you click Manage Subscribers, you’ll see all of the email addresses, both the verified and unverified ones.

Marlee October 27, 2010 at 9:49 pm

Yeah…what Tia said! ;)

Marlee October 27, 2010 at 9:53 pm

Oh! But make sure you ask permission to send your RSS subscribers something else. Give them the option to opt-in on your other content. If you don’t, you run the risk of annoying your peeps!

Tia Peterson October 28, 2010 at 7:01 am

Agreed!

Dave@Do It With WordPress October 28, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Yeah, therein lies the dilemma. I definitely wouldn’t want to sign them up without asking, but then you need a way to get them to sign up, using another service, like Mailchimp. I know it’s possible – I just need to give it some thought as to how to best achieve that with minimal input from me and my readers.

JackieSpellen@Pictureme2 October 27, 2010 at 4:34 pm

This is truly an amazing and interesting article that inspired me to write and take notes! I have never thought about a list. I am an event photographer and I love taking pictures as birthday parties, special events, baby showers, family reunion, and sweet sixteen.

I was told to find, create, and look for my target market. I don’t know who they are and what they want. I was told to send out surveys and do my homework. What type of survey and send them to whom? I had already research this business in my local town (Harlem – NYC) and there is a need for it. But they don’t know I am there or what I offer.

Well, after reading your article, I am going to build me a list. I am not going to wait until I have a nice product to sell and beg people to read my blog or website (I always do this)

Oh wait… A light just went on. As an event photographer, I always have my clients to fill out a form when they hire me. It has a space for their email and phone number. I like to keep connect with my clients outside of Face-book, Twitter, etc. This is a slow process but it will work.
Girl, you have my brain spinning now. Thank you so much for this article.

Marlee October 27, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Jackie!
I love that you totally had an ah-ha moment right before our eyes! I’m so excited for you. I love photography and there are so many creative things you can do to set yourself apart from others and get found online in your community.

If you haven’t already you should enter my contest at Metamorphoself (Tia, I hope you don’t mind the plug ;) ). I’d love to help you find some more direction. Go girl!

jackieSpellen@Pictureme2 October 28, 2010 at 5:18 am

I am going to sign up asap! Thank you so much Marlee!
This blog/page is FIRE! (ok, I mean very nice)!

John Garrett October 27, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Hey Marlee, this is a great post, especially since it’s kind of kicking me in the butt as I need to get my list going.

It’s shameful because I already have my Aweber account and everything in place, but I was just too lazy to really get the mechanism in place on my site.

Thanks much for a great piece!

Marlee October 27, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Hi John!
Okay, first of all your site totally kicks a$$! Talk about working in your sweet spot. I love what you have going on there. Not to mention, you have an incredibly cool niche that REQUIRES you build a list. Whatever you’ve got on your MVP (Most Valuable Priorities) to-do list – make sure adding an opt-in form to your site gets on it! I’m glad you found it motivating. ;) Keep up the great work over at Hypertransitory!

Tia Peterson October 27, 2010 at 4:10 pm

John, since you’re using Aweber, I strongly suggest using MaxBlog Press Subscribers Magnet. It’s worth the investment! I don’t use it to its full capacity on this blog. Someone who does it really well is Ana from TrafficGenerationCafe. You can see it in action there.

John Garrett October 27, 2010 at 6:02 pm

@Marlee thanks for checking out my site, I appreciate your praise. Seeing what you’ve accomplished over at your site makes it high praise indeed!

@Tia I just went over there and subscribed to Ana’s list. Wow, she’s good! LOL.

See ladies, you all are making me work! :) I’m impressed. I wanna be an honorary bizchick, y’all. Put me down as the mascot, I gotta get like you two.

Tia Peterson October 27, 2010 at 9:44 pm

LOL Done. You are an honorary BizChick. :)

Ryan Biddulph October 27, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Excellent advice Marlee. As you note build a list and stay connected with it. Don’t spam, but don’t be afraid to provide value either.

Thanks for sharing your value!

Ryan

Tia Peterson October 27, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Thanks for this great post, Marlee. I was always pretty skeptical of list building with BizChickBlogs because I didn’t have a business plan for making money with this blog, but with Webbed Ink, things are very different.

For doing a little research with your list building, add fields to the signup form that give you greater insight into the subscriber. In the B2B world, if you are offering, say, a whitepaper or webinar for download, you can actually get away with requiring this information (such as size of business or business goals). It’s worth the risk of annoying a few people who can’t be bothered to fill out two extra fields because you end up with a much better level of insight into who is subscribing. Other industries can make it optional and see who fills it out.

If people are annoyed about filling out two extra fields in exchange for information that will help them (talking B2B here), they are not going to be bothered to buy anything from you anyway. You won’t active, and proactive subscribers.

Cheers, Marlee! Thank you for this awesome article.

Marlee October 27, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Thank you Tia! It’s really a joy to get to connect here on BizChickBlogs.

You make an excellent point about adding extra fields for obtaining more info about your reader. In B2B that information can prove essential to identifying your target market. I see it all the time with my healthcare marketing business, and I do have extra identifying fields for those opt-in forms.

Thanks again for the opportunity Tia!

steve@technical support firms November 4, 2010 at 11:26 am

Not just for market research, but this is also good for qualifying potential customers.

Anyhow, I think social media friends and followers can be equated to an email list as well. Its just that a lot of people nowadays are used to get their info and updates from social media.

Marlee November 4, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Hi Steve!
That is an interesting point you make about social media being likened to an email list. I’d like to challenge that opinion based on the following consideration:

How many of the social media tools that you use do you own?
Exactly.
If twitter, facebook, youtube, linkedin and all the others fell of the planet tomorrow how would you be able to get to your “qualified potential customers”?

The beauty of a list is that it is yours. There is no FCC regulation, Internet law, or company holding the power to connect with your readers. When you have a list, it’s up to you.

Thanks for your comment, you have an interesting perspective. And you are totally on point about finding qualified customers. :)

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