If you build it...Stop Making Excuses and Start Building Your Email List… in the Next 10 Minutes

Stop Making Excuses and Start Building Your Email List… in the Next 10 Minutes

Email marketing is like showering. Everyone tells you to do it, but you just never make the time.

Umm… I meant to say it’s like… changing the A/C filter in your house. Yeah, the A/C filter. Don’t know why I mixed those two up.


Note from Chase: Rob is an accomplished self-funded entrepreneur. I’ve been paying attention to him online for the past few years because he’s good at this stuff. When he talks, I listen. I think you’ll like how simple his list here is.


Anyway, email marketing… it’s awesome, it works, but you’re not doing it. Most likely because you think it’s going to take a bazillion hours to setup.

Well I’m here to show you how, in about 10 minutes, you can setup your first email marketing campaign (including several key pieces of content) in 4 easy steps. Walk with me…

Step 0: Focus

You don’t want to setup an email campaign. That sounds like hard work.

So the secret is to dive in with both feet and sprint until it’s done. If you hesitate, your brain will try to shift your focus to Reddit, Hacker News, or some other form of entertainment masquerading as productivity.

I recommend you drink some caffeine and set a 10 minute timer. Then run like gangbusters through the next 4 steps.

Step 1: Write Your Headline

Notice that you haven’t written any emails yet. Start with your headline.

To get going fast I’d recommend creating a 5-day email mini-course. This is a series of 5 emails linked together by a particular thread.

For example, a 5 day course on doubling your consulting revenue, or a course on taking 6 strokes off your golf game.

And the best place to find this content? Existing blog posts, ebooks, or whitepapers that you’ve already published. This is typically solid gold content that most people aren’t reading, and repurposing it into emails is an excellent way to find a second use for it.

Start by skimming through your old blog posts and find 5 along a theme that will make a compelling 5-part course. Then write a headline and short description for a mini-course that fits that theme.

This isn’t a post on writing headlines (there are some here, here and here), but I use this tactic to promote one of my products, HitTail.

The positive side effect of this approach is that you don’t need to write emails and create an opt-in reward. Your emails are your opt-in reward.

Step 2: Sign Up for An Email Provider

MailChimp is free up to 2000 subscribers, but you’re going to want their plan that includes autoresponders, which is $15/month.

An autoresponder is a sequence of emails that you pre-schedule so that anyone who signs up for the list receives an email X days after the previous one. Autoresponders are genius, and they will allow you to create content once and have it dripped out over time.

The other service to consider is Drip. It’s more expensive than MailChimp (starts at $49/month), but it’s completely focused on autoresponders. I’m biased, though, because I’m the founder. The plus side is that if you run into any trouble getting setup we’ll be there to help you out. Also, we’ll help out with step 1 (above) and take care of step 4 (below) for you.

But either way you go, once you’ve made it through the sign-up process you’re ready to…

Step 3: Add the Email Capture Form

If you’re using MailChimp, add their opt-in form HTML code to your high traffic pages (on every page if possible). If you’re using WordPress, adding it to a widget in the top right of every page is ideal.

If you’re planning to add it to the footer, don’t bother. It’s not worth doing due to low opt-in rates.

If you’ve decided to try out Drip, simply add the Javascript tag to each page of your website and an opt-in form will magically appear in the lower right of every page on your site. You can control its visibility on individual pages within the Drip web app.

Step 4: Repurpose Your Content

Grab the blog posts or ebook you referenced in step 1. Paste them into 5 emails. Add intro and outro text, set the first one to send immediately, and put a 1-day gap between each.

If you don’t have any content to pull from, then you’re kind of a slacker. But fear not; the fastest way to generate content is to grab 5 questions that relate to your business that you’ve received via email, seen on Quora or a forum, or been asked in person.

Then download the Rev Voice Transcription App for iPhone (or equivalent for your mobile OS), and answer the questions into your phone. You’ll pay $1 per audio minute for the transcript, and with no typing you’ll have the core of your first 5 emails.

Remember that short emails (even 400 words) are just fine if they are valuable and targeted.

Step 5: Relish Victory

It feels like there should be more to it than this…but you’re done.

By following the steps above you can get a 5-day email mini course live in about 10 minutes (15 if you stopped for a beer).

My final recommendation: don’t stop here. Once you start building your list, write more emails and add them to the end of your autoresponder sequence. Over time you will build a flywheel that spans from here to next year.

Nothing like having people sign up to your list and receive a year’s worth of email without you having to write a word.

To accomplish this with class, update the final email of your course to let people know you will be emailing them every few weeks now that the course is over (and offer an unsubscribe link if they’d prefer not to hear from you). Most people will not unsubscribe, and you’re off to the races.

Give this a shot and let me know how it goes in the comments.


Rob Walling has been launching products for most of his life, and almost every one has used email to accelerate growth. Rob is the founder of Drip (among others), an angel investor and mentor who has been quoted in Inc. Magazine, the Wall Street Journal and dozens of other national publications.

Photo via Yakobusan
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  • http://nckn.de/ Niklas

    thanks for that one. i haven’t yet got around to integrating autoresponders … another useful nudge in that direction, thanks!

    • Rob Walling

      Sure thing; glad you got some value out of it.

  • writeahead

    My free Mailchimp account comes with autoresponders!

    I have a question about autoresponders. How many should there be in a sequence? I know you’re going to say, “it depends on your audience”. My audience is pre-launch, emerging entrepreneurs who are focused on creating a great plan for the launch and growth of their businesses. Their biggest problem is focus. They start to write a business plan before they’re ready, so they get overwhelmed and they give up. I’ve just launched an ebook for them, called The 5 Most Critical Steps for Taking Your Business from Idea to Open. There are 3 autoresponders that lead them towards the purchase of our $97 DIY Business Planner. Clickthrough rates are very low, though. I’m wondering if more touchpoints (and therefore more added value) would make it more likely for them to purchase at the end of the sequence.

    Thoughts?

    • Rob Walling

      Free autoresponders with MailChimp – sweet! There must be a glitch in the matrix :-) They are normally only included in their paid plans.

      >>How many should there be in a sequence?

      As many as possible. I recommend starting small, with 5, then expanding to 50+ over the course of a year. As I said in the post above:

      “Once you start building your list, write more emails and add them to the end of your autoresponder sequence. Over time you will build a flywheel that spans from here to next year.”

      >>Clickthrough rates are very low, though.

      Your highest CTR will typically be in the first email of your sequence, so if that’s low (i.e. single digit %), work on improving your call to action or email content, not on adding more emails to the sequence.

  • http://www.regainedwellness.com/ Regained Wellness

    Thanks for the great article.
    I’ve been stuck in keeping my autoresponder just 3-4 emails as I feel I want to have them updated with current posts i’m making (working in nutrition)
    Am I missing out on not having a longer autoresponder series?

    • Rob Walling

      You are; in general the longer your sequence, the more touchpoints you have with potential customers. With that said, the odds of someone becoming a customer does decrease over time (i.e., you’ll get more purchases with your first 5 emails than in your 45th-50th).

      So there’s a balance you have to find for your business of spending enough time to populate your series, and spending too much time writing your 105th email.l

  • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

    Love this. Need to keep building out my auto responder series.

    • Rob Walling

      I’ve actually setup a weekly calendar reminder that goes off and tells me to add another email to my sequence. I won’t claim that I *always* add a new email when it beeps, but it’s a good reminder for me to be consistent.

      • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

        Interesting. I like it.

  • LisaSonora

    So helpful : “Once you start building your list, write more emails and add them to the end of your autoresponder sequence. Over time you will build a flywheel that spans from here to next year.”

    love this idea…plus repurposing existing content.

    • Rob Walling

      Indeed. If you’ve been writing for any length of time you have loads of material that most people will never read, since we’re all obsessed with the next “new” thing that’s being pushed at us, even when a lot of stuff that’s *gasp* a year or two old still has a lot of value.

      Another idea that I’ve implemented: I took 4-5 years worth of blog posts and picked out the “evergreen” posts, had a VA compile them into an ebook, had a designer lay it out, and it’s now a 171 page free ebook I give away when someone signs up for my newsletter at http://www.softwarebyrob.com. You’d be nuts to spend that much time writing an opt-in reward from scratch, but when the content is already around it’s a no brainer, IMO.

  • http://freshspectrum.com/ Chris Lysy

    I keep thinking about doing this, but for some reason I keep stopping myself. For some reason it does seem like more work than it really would take. Thanks for the straight talk :)

    On the note about free mailchimp autoresponder. If you happen to have had an account with mailchimp long enough to pre-date their autoresponder updates (mid 2012?), you were grandfathered in and get the autoresponder for free.

    • http://www.dennisjsmith.com/ Dennis J. Smith

      I’m glad that I got grandfathered with MailChimp.

    • Rob Walling

      Got it; thanks for the clarification on the free vs. paid MailChimp autoresponders.

  • Krista Summitt

    Rob: What is the headline in step 1 for? the email opt-in form? the intro email itself? or something else? Thanks for this post. Its just what I needed!

    • Rob Walling

      Good question! This headline is for your opt-in form…it’s what needs to capture a website visitor’s attention to encourage them to opt in. Here are some samples I use that work quite well:

      – Start Small, Get Big: Growth Secrets for Self-Funded Startups
      – Long Tail SEO Crash Course
      – Capture More Leads. Convert More Customers. (A Free 7-Day Crash Course)

      • Krista Summitt

        Perfect! Thanks Rob.

  • http://www.debistangeland.com/ Debi Stangeland

    Dude. You just crushed all of my excuses. Fine. I’m on it. Thanks for the kick in the pants.

    • Rob Walling

      Awesome! Glad to hear it.

  • Mitchel Schwindt

    I use dragon on my iPhone for free. Another service for longer transcripts is VoiceBase. I used them to create text for a membership course. Last time I used VoiceBase it was free.

  • Kevin McLaughlin

    Interesting… Now, as a fiction writer (rather than nonfiction), what sort of effort do you think could replace old blog posts for this sort of autoresponding list? Short stories? A longer work broken up as a serial?

  • http://www.telecommutingmillionaire.com Telemill

    Wow. Congrats on your success in affiliate commissions! It seems that you should experiment (so you can have your cake and eat it too . . . commissions and great opt-ins). Is there another place that you can put the email-opt-in? Right after the first video in your tutorial series? At the top of the page? If your conversions go down, you can always quickly delete the opt-in.

  • http://www.paul-doran.com Paul Doran

    Neat article. To the point

  • http://www.pierrecquinn.com/ Pierre Quinn

    Great stuff. Thanks for the insights and the challenge. Ready to grow my list!

  • http://www.sparkyourprofits.com/ Sarah

    Nice article. A lot of people overthink the free offer. This shows it doesn’t need to be that complicated. Thanks.

  • http://www.paul-doran.com Paul Doran

    Have you ever thought of a post on SMS marketing?

  • Krista Summitt

    Rob: Wanted to let you know I followed through on this challenge. It feels great! Check it out when you get a chance. I really had to fight to keep perfect from getting in the way of done, but I did it. Thanks! http://www.braincurrency.co/2013/09/19/use-get-things-done-moleskine-notebook-hacked/

  • http://www.ldnaturephotography.com/blog Ld Nature Photography

    A fabulous article, and I’m inspired to start creating a mini course!

Up Next:

What To Send Your Email List (FS046)

In the previous episode we showed you how to grow your email list. Now it’s time to talk about the nitty gritty nuts and bolts. In this episode we get into:

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