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4 Ways To Build Your Email List Today (Without Spending Time Learning New Tactics)

When I first started out in the online business and blogging world, I tried every tactic I could get my hands on to try to gain more traffic and build my email list. I felt like I was throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what would stick, and what I ended up with was a splotchy wall and very little traffic to show for it.

Today, things are different, and I have a much better “big picture” view of how to generate traffic and conversions, and what works best for different people. You see, I realized all of the information out there about traffic was valid, and it was just a matter of combining the right tactics into a bigger strategy based on the outcomes I wanted.

Let me walk you through the 4 strategic ways to apply common list building tactics, no matter what kind of business or blog you run. The trick is knowing which one to use and when to use it, but don’t worry I’ll go over that too!

(Note from Caleb: When we talked a couple weeks ago about what we wish we’d known before starting our businesses, many of our friends mentioned not focusing more on their email list was their biggest mistake. In today’s post by Nathalie Lussier, she discusses four ways to build your email list faster than you are now. Take it away Nathalie.)

4 Strategies – Which Is Right For You?

Most of the how-to articles you read about list building strategies are actually talking about specific list building tactics. You know, like how to use SEO to drive traffic, how to use a specific type of squeeze page, or how to guest post. These are all specific actions you can take to get more traffic and subscribers, but they don’t constitute an overarching strategy.

If you’ve tried to apply all the list building advice out there with less than ideal results, it’s probably because you didn’t have the strategy in place to make these actions work together.

1. Build Your List The Slow & Steady Way

When I was first starting out online, the slow and steady way is how I built my list. It’s the default way to build up an audience, and it’s not bad but it does take time. This is a perfect strategy to help you build your traffic and list over time, because it’s consistent: you create content, blog, guest post, apply SEO techniques, get word of mouth, and repeat on a regular basis.

This is ideal if you’ve got an actual business to run, or maybe you have a day job and this is your side project. It’s simple enough to dedicate a few hours per week to showing up and creating content. Over time your site’s authority will increase in the search engines, you’ll develop word of mouth from your fans, and things will slowly pick up the pace.

The problem? It’s slow, so if you want to results fast, it’s not going to happen for you.

Many bigger sites started out with the slow and steady path, like Digital Photography School, and my first business Raw Foods Witch. These sites weren’t overnight successes, but now they get steady traffic from the search engines and when people think of the topics for these sites they can point people to them, generating word of mouth.

2. Use Short Focused Bursts To Build Your List

For this strategy, you set aside a month or two dedicated to traffic and list building. During these few months, you put everything you’ve got into building your list. Because it’s timed, it has more of an immediacy factor, and it feels more urgent and fresh.

The types of tactics you’d use for a short focused burst are putting on a live webinar or livestream, running a contest, doing a joint venture, or running ads to your opt-in (since you might not want to run ads 365 days a year but you might do it for a short period of time).

All of these things have an end point, so you can set aside time in your yearly calendar to focus on traffic and list building. If you run a seasonal business, this might be the type of activity you do during your off season.

Here’s an example from Amy Porterfield running a joint webinar with Melanie Duncan about Pinterest. This works great because it’s a specific point in time, and the nature of joint webinars is both parties build their lists.

Another example is the 30 Day List Building Challenge I hosted, which is a contest that runs for a short period of time. It’s also got social sharing built into it, which is also something that works best in short focused bursts.

3. Make a Big Splash With a Launch

You’ve definitely seen the big splash model, it’s usually attached to a product launch and it seems to take over a corner of the internet for awhile. You know someone is doing a launch when suddenly you see their name everywhere at once, they’re being interviewed, guest posting, showing up left and right on social media.

The big splash works wonders because you capture the attention of the market. It’s the be everywhere at once advantage. But to understand how to pull off a launch, you need to know exactly how much time goes into it. The reason a big splash is different from a short burst is because there are usually months of time dedicated to the launch leading up to it. And by months, I mean upwards of 4 months for really big launches.

Securing all the guest spots, interviews, affiliates, and making sure all the buzz goes live at the same time is no easy feat. But when a launch comes together, it really has the potential to drive so much traffic and grow your list like nothing else.

You’ve no doubt seen big launches, but a few notable ones you keep an eye out for are Only72, and Marie Forleo’s B-school. There are entire courses on how to pull together a killer launch, and if you’re offering a new product or service you’ll want to spend some time figuring out your positioning and creating the best product you can.

4. Or, Focus On Reaching New Verticals

One often overlooked strategy for list building is to step outside of your immediate market, and get known in new verticals. Take for example, my list building advice: it works for bloggers, but it can also work for photographers, dentists, and jewelry designers. I’ve been able to repurpose my content and do short focused bursts of list building in these different markets.

You can actually choose any of the previous 3 strategies to go into new verticals, you could do a big launch in a new vertical or go the slow and steady route. The benefit here is you can usually jumpstart your efforts because of the previous work you’ve done in your main market, and you can get more specific in how you serve people.

Someone who has done a great job of becoming known in many verticals is Chris Guillebeau, he sits at the intersection of many markets like travel, entrepreneurship, artists, and so on. I personally stumbled upon this idea with my different blogs and businesses in the raw food market, when I realized there was a lot of overlap and people would follow me from one topic to the next.

Can you think of a few “sub markets” you could focus on, in order to help you reach new people and grow your list further?

Which Are You Going To Use First?

All of these are winning strategies, but which one are you committing to doing next? If you’re already in one of these categories, is it the right one for you and your goals? Leave a comment below, I want to know!

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  • Adam Hagerman

    Nathalie, thanks for this great list! As of right now, I am on the slow and steady route. However, I plan on launching some products within the next few months which may alter my path a little.

    I’m also going to run a contest within the next few weeks where I will offer my services (financial coaching) to some lucky winners. Hopefully that generates some buzz and new additions to my newsletter. That will in turn help out even more with the larger launch in the next few months.

    I guess my point is, I am going to be using almost all of these at some point in the future. I think the combination will work out great and will also allow me to analyze which ones work best for my audience!

    • Nathalie Lussier

      Way to go Adam! I think a mix of all 4 is the way to go, and as you can probably tell I’m pretty fond of the short bursts like running contests. :)

  • Nathan @ Gotch SEO

    Some simple, but super effective tactics! Will definitely put these into practice. Thanks for the good read!

    • Nathalie Lussier

      Thank you Nathan, glad to help! :)

  • Amal Rafeeq

    Hi Nathalie,
    I was really working hard these days on building my Email list and on giving the readers a REASON to subscribe. Why couldn’t you write this post a little more earlier? I mean, you nailed it :D
    Awesome work. Thanks a lot :)


    • Nathalie Lussier

      Hehe thanks Amal, I did actually write it awhile back, so it’s been on the editorial calendar for a bit. ;) But hopefully it’s a great reminder and will help you refine your opt-in offer!

  • Kimberly

    Hey Natalie, great and thorough post! I love the way you talk about combining disparate tactics into an overarching strategy — makes reaching the goal of gaining more subscribers seem less daunting.

    I’d say I’m definitely in category one — slow and steady. With client work to focus on, I do what I can when I can to build my list, but lately I’ve been thinking about bigger things I can do to speed things up, and the ideas you present here are spot-on for doing just that.

    I love the idea of reaching new verticals — I’ve been reaching out to a few photographers lately because that’s an audience I would love to serve, and your strategy #4 is perfect!

    Thanks for helping me think of list-building in a new and fresh way. : )

    • Amal Rafeeq

      You are right Kimberly, I too think the strategy #4 is perfect!

    • Kimberly

      Agreed! : )

    • Nathalie Lussier

      Yay you’re so welcome Kimberly! I’m pretty fond of #4 myself, because you can usually leverage some of your existing content… instead of reinventing the wheel. :)

  • Matt Giovanisci


    Great post!

    I currently fit into two of your categories: big launch and seasonal list building.

    I run a site about pool care, so obviously it’s seasonal and most of my work is done on the off season. I plan on traffic building like crazy this winter.

    I also just finished my first sellable ebook and I’m working on the pre-launch landing page as I type this. I have a grand plan for how I’m going to launch, but I must admit, I’m a little nervous because this is my first product and I’m not sure what my goals are yet.

    Thanks for this big picture post :-)

    • Nathalie Lussier

      Congrats on your upcoming ebook launch Matt! I say for your goals it makes sense to set a percentage of your current email list that feels attainable, and tweaking until you get there.

      Oh, and it’s kind of awesome that you get the work on traffic building during the off seasons!

  • Linda Esposito

    Hi Nathalie–

    Thanks for the list-building tips! I especially like your focus on short, focused bursts. We had an email challenge in Fizzle for the month of April, and it was really fun and fruitful.

    #4 is something I will try with gusto. I just decided that October will be my next challenge. I’m still building my list the slow and steady way. My best boost yet came from a guest post for tinybuddha last month (212 new subscribers over 5 days), so I’ll look to top this and expand my vertical reach.

    And thanks for the raw foods reminder–Off to make a green smoothie :)

    Thanks again.


    • Nathalie Lussier

      Ooh way to go on your 212 new subscribers from TinyBuddha! Oh, and we’re going to be running the new 30 Day List Building Challenge in October, so that’s perfect timing.

      Enjoy the green smoothie! :)

  • AfricaInside

    I have been the slow and steady builder. Thanks for your post although I would have loved more specifics like when you mention it takes a while and took you a while to build your list. How long did it take. Can you give some facts? Much appreciated.

    • Nathalie Lussier

      Hi there! Well to give you an idea of the slow and steady on my healthy eating blog, I got to about 5000 subscribers in 18 months or so. From there it’s been steadily growing on autopilot because I haven’t been blogging as actively. So think of it in terms of adding say 15-30 new subscribers per day, based on the traffic of your site. :)

  • Shabbir

    Hey Nathalie,

    I think #1 should be an ‘always-on’ switch, as it just plain and simple works! Along with #1, #4 is very powerful to get a lot of otherwise untapped exposure to your business. Most of the time, we are just chasing the same leads every single one of our competitors are.

    • Nathalie Lussier

      Hey Shabbir! That’s a great perspective, thank you for sharing. I agree that #1 should be always on, but for some people it can take time to set up their SEO and blogging routine, so they might focus on #2, #3, or #4 first to get “kick started”. :)

  • Ekaterina Ramirez


    I absolutely enjoyed your examples of different strategies. Only72 looks very interesting – too bad I missed it.

    Another thing I wanted to add: so smart that you added ‘it’s pitch-free (not a launch)’ when talking about your 30 Days List Building Challenge in the write-up at the end. My first thought while reading it was “probably launching something.’

    Guess I’m not the only one who thought this way. So this little comment does speak to people’s first thoughts.

    • Nathalie Lussier

      Hi Ekaterina!

      Yes, it feels like most free things you find these days online are lead-ins to launches or pitches. I wanted to make this challenge a “no strings attached” kind of thing. I do have products and programs available on my site, so it’s not like I’m a non-profit, but in this particular offering I’m not selling. :)

    • Ekaterina Ramirez

      Nothing wrong with launches and selling. Selling is good. I think that because people are getting more savvier with how internet marketing works, so being authentic and straightforward makes a difference. Like you saying here that there is no pitching in this offer.

  • Laura Raisanen

    Hi Nathalie,

    Thanks for a great post, you have given us some incredibly useful tips. I hadn’t even thought about #4 before!

    I am mostly a slow and steady builder but I also do the occasional burst, mainly with solo ads but have also used PPC in the past. I’m looking forward to moving to the launch category, I’m just in the process of creating my first product.

    Thanks for sharing :)

    • Nathalie Lussier

      Way to go Laura, I’m excited you’re stepping into the launch phase! It’s exciting to launch things, and it usually grows your list a whole lot, too. :)

  • Amy Zemser

    Great post — very helpful and useful. When I clicked the link to the 30-day challenge it says that it’s closed. Is this an older post? Forgive my stupidity…

    • Nathalie Lussier

      Hi Amy!

      I wrote the post during the challenge and since then it’s wrapped up, but don’t worry because I’m using the feedback I got during the first round to make it even more amazing and we’ll be running it again live in October! :) And it’s going to be even more awesome.

  • Adrian

    I’m having to do slow and steady as my site is still new and populating with content. Most of my current subscribers are friends that know what I’m doing but I could really do with breakin out. I’m trying to come up with a decent incentive like a training video to give away, that seems to be one of the best tactics in my opinion.
    Thanks for the post though!

    • Nathalie Lussier

      Way to go Adrian! You’re totally right that creating a killer opt-in offer is the best next step for you. I’m curious to see what you’ll come up with! :)

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  • Sandy Sidhu

    Hi Nathalie!
    I love the idea of short focused bursts like your 30 Day Challenge (which gave me lots of great ideas, thanks!) to amp things up while the short and steady is great over the course of the year. I have a few ideas that I can’t wait to try out this Fall.

    • Nathalie Lussier

      Yay Sandy, can’t wait to see what you come up with for this Fall! :) Fall is one of my favorite “get shit done” seasons, too. :)

  • Prerna@Social Media Direct

    Great tips, Nathalie! As someone who participated in your awesome 30-Day List Building Challenge with some GREAT results, I am ALL for short, focused bursts coupled with slow and steady growth.. However, I am considering strategy #4 as well so, will keep you posted how that goes!

    • Nathalie Lussier

      Yay Prerna, happy to hear you’ll be giving #4 a go on top of your slow and steady growth. :) And always love seeing past 30 Day List Building Challengers kicking butt!

  • MomChalant

    Just came across your blog and you have a new loyal reader. I just subscribed and am starting to read 18 months, 2 blogs, 6 figures. Love that you have this available for free! Can’t wait to continue reading your posts.

    • Nathalie Lussier

      Yay! That made my day, thanks so much for your kind comment – and welcome aboard. :)

  • Shawna Cevraini

    This is a very useful post! Thanks Nathalie!

    I followed you “way back when” you had the slow & steady growth on Raw Foods Witch. This is what we’ve been mostly doing over the past two years ourselves. However, we really want to take it up a notch, so we’ve begun looking at other strategies.

    I liked (and attempted) your 30-Day Challenge, but was unable to dedicate the time to it that I wanted to. It did boot me into rethinking how I do things though, and I learned a lot from it that we’ve started implementing. We’ve got a couple “short bursts” coming up. In the past, we have been unable to build on these attempts. This time, we’ve got tools in place to help with that (recently I purchased InfusionSoft for this very reason). We hope to have a couple of “launches” too in the next 6 months.

    Your fourth point about new verticals is a fantastic idea! For now, we’ve been focusing on working moms & simplifying their lives. What if we venture into helping small business owners use tools & techniques we recommend to moms to get their office running more smoothly? Definitely something I’m going to pursue! Thanks!

    • Nathalie Lussier

      Awesome work Shawna! Sometimes it takes a little while to get the momentum going, but it sounds like you’ll be getting your list building short bursts going soon. :)

  • Dana

    I’m printing this one out.

    I am slow and steady right now but am planning a launch for 2014. Marie Forleo is a great example of how to launch. I’m currently reviewing everything she did for Bschool and have created a mind map of my own. It’s kind of overwhelming so I’m getting help on my launch (another great strategy).

    Thanks for your awesome advice. BTW, I participated in your 30 Day List Building Challenge (another great example of list building). It was fun!

    • Nathalie Lussier

      Yay Dana! And yes, I totally agree – Marie Forleo is a master when it comes to launching, so she’s one to keep an eye on.

      Happy to hear you had fun with the 30 Day List Building Challenge! :)

  • MomChalant

    This is something I really told myself I was going to focus on when I started blogging, but then I discovered Bloglovin and haven’t really stressed building my email subscription list (since I myself prefer Bloglovin over email subscriptions from blogs I read). But this is definitely something I need to start working towards building back up, for those that don’t have Bloglovin.

  • Tiffany

    This is a great, easy-to-digest article. Thank you for this! I’m still working on content so I will be focusing mostly on #1 right now. I will bookmark this for future use though!

    • Nathalie Lussier

      You’re so welcome Tiffany! I recommend writing down the 4 strategies and referring to them every few months to see if it’s time to give them a go. :)

  • Wilson Usman

    Thanks so much ingraining this thought once again into my head. I’ve been out of the blogosphere for a couple of years because I took a corporate job and I made excuses of why I couldn’t keep blogging. I’m glad to see you succeeding and building that list. I think I remember reading your blog maybe once before when you were just getting started, crazy what happens in just a few year right?

    • Nathalie Lussier

      Hey Wilson! Nice to see you here, and I have to admit that it’s pretty amazing what’s possible in just a few years, absolutely. Keep on keeping on, and the world is your oyster. :)

  • Damian Navas

    Thanks Nathalie for such a useful piece of advice.

    I try to imagine my way of implementing it and I can’t help to think that, along time, all four possibilities will be used.

    I also think that the first one is going to be always there, from the beginning and till the end.

    • Nathalie Lussier

      You got it Damian! I feel like #1 is the one that doesn’t go away, but we can layer on the other strategies when we feel the motivation and have great ideas. :)

  • Chris Hufnagel

    Love tip #4!

    Something I did not really think of. So many possibilities, ohh boy the wheels are turning!

    • Nathalie Lussier

      Happy this gave you some food for thought Chris! :) Thanks for your comment, too!

  • Mallie Rydzik

    I got most of my sign-ups from the build-up to launch/launch day. I’m following the “offer something for signing up” model, but I haven’t received any feedback on the product. I feel like I would need more traffic/a more consistent community before successfully offering a contest/giveaway (I’ve nothing to give away!).

    • Nathalie Lussier

      You’re right Mallie, it helps to have something to offer in a giveaway- but it doesn’t always need to be something you create. It could even be some of the top products/programs/interviews with other experts in your field. You never know what cool ideas for prizes you can come up with when you sit down to brainstorm. :)

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  • Britt Malka

    Excellent list!

    When I started list building many years ago, I started out using your first method for my Danish list, but then I added competitions, freebies (ha, I didn’t even have a freebie to begin with) and used other baits.

    Today, I still use the first method (slow and steady) for my English lists, but I also get new subscribers when they buy some of my products. I haven’t done a big splash yet, though :) Only small launches.

    • Nathalie Lussier

      Exciting Britt, imagine what’s possible when you go for a big splash launch? I think it’s awesome that you’ve got the slow build going on too, way to go. :)

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  • Vukasin

    I would probably use first one- slow but safe. I have time to make everything right.

  • Tendai Chakuzira

    Hi Nathalie!

    Wow I am in awe. You made it easier to understand and I think the short focused burst caught my attention and I would want to start on that. I think lists definitely are the key to building a community out of your readership!

    thanks again

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  • David at St Louis SEO

    Hi Natalie!
    Very happy to have found your post. Good info, I will be sharing in my network. Good info for bloggers as well.

  • Jason Owens

    You bring great insight to number 4. I have often struggled with the validity of becoming known in several verticals because it would be easy for a detractor to say, “Wait a minute, you’re an expert on x, and we are in the y business.” In 2014, I’m going to put the detractors and nay sayers aside. I will expand my content to 2-3 verticals this year. Thanks for the encouragement.

    • Nixon Virtual Strategies

      How’s it going so far, Jason?

      • Jason Owens

        Great timing on your question. I have spent the last few weeks building the infrastructure for the launch into my first vertical, and I’m launching my campaign today!

        • Nixon Virtual Strategies

          Super! Can’t wait to hear some of the results. You know how it is; we often post a comment somewhere and then don’t share the results. You’ve got a new follower!

          • Jason Owens

            Ok, so somehow I totally missed the fact that you had responded to my question. I just installed Disqus on my site, and I’m learning my way around it. I just now found your response. The list building is going slower than I wanted. Truth be told I have found offline list building to be far more effective than trying to build online.

          • Nixon Virtual Strategies

            That’s exactly what I’d presumed and glad you returned to verify. Cheers, Jason!

  • Deon Christie

    Allow me to share a bit of my own experience, in my success and failure of list building. Through recent correspondence with some of my followers and friends, I find that most marketers starting off, find their promotional mails going to spam folders. I had the same problem, my subject lines, and email body was a mess. I inserted too many links in a single email, and some email providers I found, analyze this as spam. But this was just the tip of my iceberg!

    Frustrating, the way you find out!

    For those out there struggling with building their list, I know the feeling guys! I was lucky enough when I started off, to stumble accross a web based software program that build my list on autopilot. Taught me everything I needed to know about subject lines, email body, suggested frequencies, best times to mail and what Not to do.

    A few months down the line, I have Zero mails ending up in spam. All my test emails land in my Inbox on Outlook, G mail and Yahoo. I read somewhere that in general, only 2% of people actually tend to their spam/junk folder…no wonder there’s hardly any clicks on such mail. Here’s the video, that helped me immensely to get the most out of my Get Response Auto Responder:

    Deon Christie

  • joe jacobs

    Hi, im joe jacobs of jand s natural beauty remedies. Spokesman- your idea are great, and thank you for taking out the time to share them. Sometimes we see others doing we in marketing and haveing their list, and we want to get our list also. But your right,- building the list slowly is we think the correct way for us, it allows us to learn much more. But it took your words to not be in such a hurry, steady, Thank you.

Up Next:

Why “Product First” is the Better Way to Build a Profitable Audience

Note from Caleb: This essay is by Nathan Barry, who wrote a post here last year about pricing which has gone on to become one of the most popular posts ever. Here he argues that building a product before an audience is the best way to jumpstart earning a living online. Take it away Nathan. 

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