Step 4: Email List Building

by David Jenyns

Guide your customers to the sale.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if someone arrived at your site, already convinced that they need your product?  All they want is a quick look over your prices, confirmation that you have a money-back guarantee, and they’re ready to purchase.  This kind of success is eminently achievable, providing you have a system in place to build your customers interest and trust in your business.

For a moment, compare your website to an offline clothing store.  Occasionally someone will come into your store who, for whatever reason, is in a rush to make a purchase.  A smart salesperson won’t get in the way; they’ll simply guide the person to the checkout so the sale can be completed.  But what about everybody else?  If your visitors are just there to browse, how do they get to the point where they’re ready to commit to a purchase?

Generally speaking, to reach the point of sale, a visitor has to make a series of steps that might include: finding a section of clothing that interests them, choosing something they like, and finally trying on the garment in the changing room.  If you’re working on the shop floor, you’re aware that once your customer enters the changing room, the likelihood that they’ll make a purchase greatly increases, so your goal is to make it as easy as possible for your customers to move from one step to the next, until they finally enter that cubicle.

This illustration corresponds nicely to your online business.  A well-designed and intuitively organised website will allow your visitors to find something that interests them, slick sales copy will create a desire for whatever it is you’re selling, and… what then?  How can your visitors try on your product for size?  What’s the digital equivalent of a changing room?

The answer – if you hadn’t already figured it out from the title of the chapter – is an autoresponder.

An autoresponder allows you to email your visitors on multiple occasions, building trust, establishing your expertise and, hopefully, creating a likeable persona that the recipients will associate with your website.  When used correctly an autoresponder will lead a healthy proportion of your customers to the point where they become the person described in the opening paragraph on this page.  They’ll return to your website, convinced that they need your product, and ready to buy.

In a moment we’ll talk about the kind of emails you can send to your customers, but first let’s tackle the issue that discourages many online business owners from making use of this tool… how difficult is it to install an autoresponder on your site?

Relax.  It’s incredibly simple.  Even if you don’t have a webmaster, as long as you can paste a line of code onto your website then you have what it takes to create your own autoresponder.


The smart solution is to use a third-party autoresponder provider.  Not only does this make the setup process and ongoing management easier, but the emails that you send are far more likely to actually reach your subscribers.  It’s all to do with the relationship that email management providers have built with the major Internet Service Providers (ISPs), allowing your messages to get through without being erroneously flagged as spam.

By all means shop around, but I’m going to recommend Aweber ( as your autoresponder provider.  It provides a great service all around, but it’s especially accessible to beginners since it created a step-by-step “wizard” that walks you through the process.  The end result is a simple, eye-catching form that will allow your visitors to register their name and email address.

The Hook

“Complete my autoresponder form so I can email you” is not going to be a good enough reason to convince your visitors to subscribe.  You need to offer some kind of free gift, such as a free report, to entice your customers to hand over their contact details.  Not only will this increase the percentage of your visitors that agree to receive your emails, but this also hits two core elements of marketing influence.

The first of these is “authority”.  The very fact that you’re publishing something useful is enough to establish you, to at least some degree, as an expert in your field.  This produces something called the “Halo Effect” where the positive effect of your report will influence the perception of the quality of your products and services.  The second element of influence you’re establishing is “reciprocation”.  By giving away quality information, without charge, on some level your customer will feel that you’ve done them a favour.  This will come in handy when it comes to asking for the sale.

If you want to learn more about influence and sales psychology, it’s well worth reading Robert Cialdini’s book, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”, but for now I just wanted to touch on this subject to help you understand the power that an autoresponder provides if used correctly.

Choosing an appropriate free gift will depend on your niche, but a report containing valuable information works in almost all cases.  If you provide a service, then a “white paper” (basically an education report or guide) is a good way to go.  If you’re a plumber, you could offer a report on how to reduce the risk of blocking your drains.

If you sell a product you might have to do a bit of lateral thinking but the principle is the same.  For example, if you sell wedding favours, then there’s a good chance that your visitors will be interested in a report called “7 Things Most People Forget to Do Before Their Wedding Day”.


Don't just blast your messages. Plan it.

A mailing list is always useful if you want to broadcast a message that announces a sale, or a new product, but the core purpose of your autoresponder is to deliver an email series that you’ve created in advance.

What style of email works best?  Unless you have an audience of one, there isn’t going to be a single approach that works for everyone.  Sure, you can split-test your emails and figure out that a relaxed, conversational style gives you a whopping 10% click-through rate, but what about the other 90% of your readers?

To reach the broadest possible spread of your readers, mix up the tone and style of individual emails.  Use various, attention-grabbing subject lines.  Include links to videos and audio presentations to catch the attention of your visual and auditory minded customers.  Try some quizzes or games that might appeal to your kinaesthetic learners.  Throw in some short “teaser” emails.  Test out long, information-packed messages.  Above all, don’t make assumptions about the people on your list.  Be creative with your approach and use Aweber’s comprehensive tracking tools to monitor and learn from your results.

The best advice I can give you, however, before you even start to craft your emails, is to make sure you get the “from” field correct.  Regardless of how good your subject line is, people are far more likely to open an email if it’s from someone they know and trust.  It takes time to build confidence in your brand, but your efforts will be for nothing if you don’t make the contents of your “from” field something that people will recognise and associate with your business.  You can use your personal name if you’re well-known and easily associated with your company, but a brand name is the smart choice, and don’t even think about using something generic, like “Webmaster”.

Think of an autoresponder and email list building as opportunities to “court” your customers.  Rather than asking them to buy your product purely on trust, you’re inviting them to get to know you better and sample your expertise.  An autoresponder is a taster; it represents a much smaller commitment, but it brings your customer one step closer to making a purchase.

Three things you can do now:

  1. Come up with a hook – a free gift to encourage people to subscribe.
  2. Open an account with Aweber and add a subscribe form to a private page that you can test.
  3. Make a list of ideas for emails you can add to your autoresponder sequence.

Three things you can outsource:

  1. Hire a ghostwriter to create a report that you can use as your hook.
  2. Hire a copywriter to write your email series.  Make sure they understand the importance of varying the style and tone.
  3. Hire a webmaster to install your autoresponder form.

Additional reading and support

If you want to learn more about autoresponders, visit the links below.

1. Sample white paper:

2. Reviews of autoresponder services:

3. A tool you can use to survey your list:

If you have any questions about the content of this chapter, please don’t hesitate to contact me at


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