How I Accumulated 10,000 Email Subscribers in 13.5 Months

After making the mistake of not setting up an email list when I first started, I’m sharing the unique strategies I’ve used to gather email subscribers.

When I started this blog back in October of 2008, I had made the newbie mistake of not including a way to accumulate email addresses. No newsletter, no opt-in form—nothing.

Over a year later, I finally got my head on straight and made the decision to invest in an AWeber account and start building my list. (For details about why one should build an email list, I recommend you read this post.)

Editor’s Note: Pat now recommends ConvertKit for building an email list. To find out why he switched from Aweber to ConvertKit, read this post. [Full Disclosure: Pat is a compensated advisor and an affiliate for ConvertKit.]

I went live with my newsletter on January 2nd, 2010.

Screenshot showing modified date of 01/02/2010

1 year, 1 month and 14 days later (yesterday), I surpassed 10,000 subscribers—a mark that I never thought I’d reach, at least not this fast.

Screenshot showing email list with 10,014 subscribers

Please realize, however, that 10k is just an arbitrary number. The only difference between 9,999 and 10,000 is the extra digit. But, in the same way a lot of people strive to become a millionaire (are you less accomplished if you have only $999,999?)—it does feel pretty awesome to reach the 10k milestone. A lot of people have way more, but I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished in such a short period of time.

As always, I’m not here to boast. In fact, I try really hard (especially in my monthly income reports) not to come off as cocky or better than anyone else, because I’m not. This site is all about the methods and lessons I’ve learned from my accomplishments (and my failures), so in true SPI fashion, here are some of the unique strategies I’ve used to build my list.

A New Vision for Email Lists

I’m subscribed to almost every internet marketing guru’s email list so that I can learn their marketing techniques first hand. These are professionals who know exactly what to write to get us to open their emails, click on the links inside and potentially earn a commission from us.

So what was the biggest lesson that I learned from these experts?

Getting sold to via email sucks.

The hard sell doesn’t make me like that person any more or want to connect with them any further.

It was because of my dry experience with all of these experts and their emails that I decided to go a totally different route with my email list: no selling.

It’s a simple concept, but for some reason “that’s not how you’re supposed to do it“.

Some people might ask, “Then what’s the point of an email list if you’re not going to use it to sell anything?”

I use my email list like I use social media—a medium to further connect with my readers, followers and subscribers. A place to interact (gasp!) and inform—not a place to promote and sell.

Because of this methodology:

I also use my list as a way to give away awesome, unique content, and occasionally I’ll drive traffic back to my site, which is where any promotions or recommendations for products I’ve used take place. It’s all non-aggressive, non-direct and totally soft sell. For example, I may link to blog posts that relate to the content in the emails that people receive, and within those blog posts I may describe a product or two that I use.

The experts may still find success with their old school methods, but I guarantee I have a list that’s built for the long-run, one that will continue to grow quicker as the hard sell becomes less and less popular both for the expert and for the consumer.

An Unforgettable First Impression

A standard, but powerful technique for increasing the number of subscribers is to offer something for free in return for signing up. Typically, this is something like an ebook, a free report or some type of email course—although it could be anything.

You probably know this already.

That said, not too many people spend enough time on their giveaway because all of the focus is on getting people onto the list, which is, of course, the point of offering the giveaway in the first place.

The Problem

We’re forgetting that when people sign up and get something in return for free, that something is usually the very first thing that they’re going to look at. The followup emails and broadcasts come later.

If the giveaway is anything less than impressive, it weakens all of your interaction with your new subscribers—forever.

If you over-deliver and truly create an unforgettable first impression, you’ll have a long-term subscriber who will be more likely to share your content, help grow your email list and potentially become a customer too.

I spent over 2 months designing Ebooks the Smart Way, the ebook that would become my free download for those who signed up for my newsletter. I highlight the word “designing” because that’s exactly what I did. The content was already written, since it came from a popular 10 post series I wrote about publishing an ebook in early 2009.

[Editor’s Note: The content for this ebook is no longer current, and so the ebook is no longer available on this site.]

2 months of work, for a free ebook…but why?!

Because I knew that if I could blow people’s minds with the design and delivery of this content, it could, on it’s own, grow my list, increase overall readership and heighten my authority.

Now, my ebook is constantly being mentioned on other blogs (there are over 2000 instances of the title in Google), people are tweeting and retweeting my landing page, and a few people actually offered to pay me for it.

Here is some actual proof that the time spent creating my ebook was well worth it:

Three Ebooks the Smart Way comments on the website, complimenting the amount of value the book offered for free.

Again, remember that your giveaway is one of the first and best opportunities to leave a long lasting, unforgettable impression that could also help exponentially and virally grow your list.

Planting Seeds

sidebar opt in area

The most common place to accumulate new subscribers is in the sidebar of our blogs. Because the opt-in form is in the sidebar, it’s shown on every single page, so it doesn’t matter what page people are viewing for the first time—there’s always an opportunity to subscribe.

You can do a few things within this area of your blog to slightly increase your conversions:

A lot of people stick to just the sidebar to promote their list, but really you have an endless opportunities to plant seeds in many places that will help grow your list. Here are locations where I do just that:

1. At The End of Each Post

I have a second opt-in area that can be seen at the end of my posts. The idea here is that when people read our content, they scroll down the page and our sidebar opt-in form may disappear (depending on the length of our posts). We definitely want to give our readers an easy, second opportunity to subscribe here because this is after they’ve consumed our content and are most engaged with us.

2. Within Each Comment Form

Using the Subscriber’s Magnet Plugin, I’ve enabled a way for people to subscribe to my list when people leave a comment, which is pretty cool. After testing this for several months, it actually does work very well. Over 1000 people have signed up this way.

Of course, if you’re not getting any comments on your blog this particular feature of the plugin won’t do you any good.

Screenshot showing that 1099 people have subscribed via the comments opportunity

3. On My Podcast

One of the best things I ever did to increase my traffic, readership, authority and my email list was start a podcast.

In nearly each session, I mention an easy url that forwards to my landing page here on the blog that describes my ebook, shows a few testimonials and includes an opt-in form.

The “easy url” is key because people are not reading the content—they are listening to it. So, you’ll have to rely on either show notes, or a very memorable url that people can plug into their browsers.

This is why I picked up It’s much more memorable and easier to read than “smart passive income dot com slash ebooks, dash, the, dash, smart, dash, way”.

Every time I mention this url it’s an everlasting seed that can grow into a subscriber from the moment I publish the episode.

4. In YouTube Videos

Same as the podcast, except with video on YouTube.

5. In Guest Posts and Interviews

When submitting guest posts to other bloggers, or if you’re fortunate enough to land an interview (email, audio or video) instead, you’re typically given the opportunity to link back or say the url of your website. If you have an “easy url” that forwards to a landing page that describes your newsletter and giveaway, you will mostly likely be able to drop in that link as well and you’ll get some hardcore targeted traffic going straight to into your list.

You can also promote your list on Facebook and Twitter, and even on articles that you write for article directories too.

Don’t just stick to one method if you really want to grow your list. Diversify, diversify, diversify.

Thanks again to everyone for your support, and a special thank you to those of you who have subscribed to my email list and downloaded Ebooks the Smart Way. It really means a lot to me.

All the best to you! Cheers!

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  • Pat Flynn

    Hi, I’m Pat, founder of SPI and host of the Smart Passive Income Podcast. Let’s continue the conversation over in our communities.

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