The Definitive Guide to List Building

by Giles Thomas


If you are an ecommerce marketer or entrepreneur and need to build your email list then this is the guide for you.

Do you often ask yourself:

How do I get more emails?

Why won't people sign up to my email list?

How do I increase my email sign up conversion rate?

Want to grow your audience and business whilst creating return customers? Then you are in the right place.


Chapter 1

Why You Need to Build an Email List

Building an audience for your business is by far the most important thing you can do in ecommerce marketing.

The best product or service is useless without anyone to sell it to.

Some people think email is old, not very trendy and that it doesn’t work anymore.

They are simply wrong.

Email still outperforms paid customer acquisition and social by a long way.

Not only that it gets the support of industry leaders across disciplines.

Famous List Building Quotes

Here are some quotes on building an email list from some of the most successful list builders ever:

“I have literally built a multi-million dollar business on the strength of my email list. Ninety percent of my income comes from it. Even today, my email list is still my number one business priority—and asset.”
Michael Hyatt,, 115,000 subscribers
“Without a doubt, our email list is the best investment we’ve ever made.”
Douglas Karr,, 100,000 subscribers
“Email is the most important channel for you to cultivate.”
Michael Stelzner,
“When I started this blog, I made the newbie mistake of not including a way to accumulate email addresses. No newsletter, no opt-in form – nothing.”
Pat Flynn,, 75,000 subscribers
“The biggest social media mistake I’ve ever made. Email matters. People don’t change their email addresses. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, people join and drop that pretty often. But changing your email address is a hassle.”
Jon Acuff,, 100,000 subscribers

Email beats Social and Paid Customer Acquisition

The data doesn’t lie, email is more popular than social.

According to a study 85% of people use email whilst only 62% use social media.

This study included ALL social media sites, so comparing a single social network like Facebook against email for example would show that email is even more popular.

Email is a single, unified distribution platform for communicating with all your customers.

Social is spread out across multiple channels and therefore more expensive and time consuming to manage.

Email engagement is higher

Email open rate is around 25% as an industry average and click through rate is 3.5%.

This is way better than social and paid. Facebook organic reach (equivalent to open rate) is only 6%!

And Twitter click through rates are 6 x worse than email at 0.5%!

Litmus an email marketing analytics firm collected data showing email has a higher return on investment than social and paid.

When you don’t believe the stats, nothing speaks louder than dollars!!

Email has a higher return on investment at a $40 dollar return for every dollar spent.

Paid and and social have much lower ROI.

Permission Marketing

Seth Godin popularized the term permission marketing.

Permission marketing is the opposite of interruption marketing. Marketers get consent from the prospect before advancing them down the sales funnel.

They ask before they sell.

Email is the best form of permission marketing, you ask for the persons email address. Their most personal form of contact other than their phone number and a better one to sell to them on.

You then have a direct channel to add value, people rarely change their email address so it is often a lifelong channel.

Build a Blog Marketing Community

A blog marketing community is a group of followers and subscribers that want the information you share.

It is your list of potential customers.

Today's successful business owners are using a new strategy for selling.

And it's based on helping first, and generating revenue second.

The time is now to start embracing change.

The people and companies still using interruption marketing will be quietly usurped by the permission marketers focusing on adding value and building a loyal email list.

Start now. Build an email list, add value to the list with content and resources and finally once you’ve nurtured your prospects; sell.

Finding A Niche, Sub Niche, Sub Niche

The internet is a crowded place, it is hard to get through the noise and get eyeballs on your content.

The best way to do this is to be known for one thing.

No, not ‘marketing’ or ‘travel’.

Not even ‘email marketing’ or ‘backpacking’.

The smart marketers go after a niche, sub niche, sub niche.

And don’t worry, once you own that NSNSN you can move onto another and another until you are big enough to target broader niches.

Why should I target a NSNSN?

Firstly, SEO. You are not established and therefore cannot rank for broad terms like ‘email marketing’. Instead shoot for medium competition keywords around your NSNSN.

For example:

A blog about conversion rate optimization could start with a focus on optimizing the checkout process for ecommerce conversion rate optimization.

Only blog and guest post about this one topic until you build up at least 10 posts on your site and 10 - 20 guest posts on the topic.

It is better to be THE person or company in a NSNSN than to be no one in a niche or sub niche.

I have talked about using personas in the past also to personify your target customer in my landing page optimization checklist post.

Make sure you know who you're targeting (hint: not everyone).

Quant Based Marketing

Quant Based Marketing is when you work backwards from your end goal to a solution.

Now you know you need to build an email list you probably wondering:

“How many emails do I need”

Well this is not so easy to say, small email lists can generate huge profits if the list are nurtured properly.

We can used quant based marketing to work this out.

Start with your revenue target, divide it by the cost of your product or service and then look at your conversion rates from the last time you monetized your list.

Note: If you don’t have previous data for conversion rate then 2% is a good starting point for information products.

For example:

You need $50,000, your product costs $175, therefore you need roughly 286 sales.

Your last conversion rate eg the number of people for every 100 list members who bought the product was 3%.

Divide the number of required sales by the previous conversion rate.

285 / 3 = 95

Times this number by 100 and you have your required list size.

95 * 100 = 9500

Therefore if 3% of the 9500 list bought the product it would be 286 sales and roughly $50,000 in revenue.

So in our example we need 9500 emails.

The next question is how long do we have to collect them?

6 months.

Ok so 6 months is roughly 182 days.

9500 / 182 = 53 emails per day.

This is the most important figure.

We can focus on collecting 52 emails a day for six months and this should get us to our £50,000 in revenue if the email list converts at 3% conversion as last time.

Focus on your highest converting traffic sources

Another truly important reason to track your daily email capture rate is so you are focussed on which marketing efforts generate the most emails.

Look at your google analytics referral traffic for example.

You should set up a goal in your google analytics for when someone signs up to your list, give it a monetary value.

A destination goal is good, the page they land on once they double confirm their email from your transactional email.

Then you can see which sources drive the most goal completions, have the highest conversion rate and the highest potential revenue generation.

Do more of what works and improve the campaigns that do not return your investment.

Next Chapter:
Design Your Blog for Optimal Lead Generation

Now you’ve learnt about why you need emails, let’s redesign your blog to capture more emails.

giles thomas


Hi, I’m Giles Thomas. Founder of AcquireConvert, the place where ecommerce entrepreneurs & businesses go to learn how to increase conversions & profits. I’m also the founder of ecommerce growth agency Whole Design Studios. I’m a head marketing mentor at the Google Launchpad Accelerator & Google Marketing Expert. Ps. Check out my new blog

28 Responses or Pingbacks

  1. […] I’ve created an 8000+ word guide to building your email list, click here to check it out! […]

  2. TheSuperjab says:

    Oh man! This is a super in-depth guide. Thanks for the effort and hard work. Love it!

  3. […] Un ghid foarte detaliat şi TLDR în care înveţi cum să construieşti şi să menţii o listă sănătoasă de email-uri. […]

  4. Sam Barnes says:

    Holy crap – this is a hell of a bit of content.

    Great work Giles!

    Lots of interesting stuff there and it’s something we could always improve on.

    And that Twitter card thing … Awesome.

    How did I not know about that before?

    Thanks again for the awesome content guys keep up the good work!

    (Of course I’ve subscribed to your list too :D)

  5. Content Cliffhanger for free?

    That’s just madness!

  6. […] The Definitive Guide to List Building […]

  7. […] never have to wonder about building your list again! Giles Thomas posts the definitive guide to list building. Check it out, it’s worth the […]

  8. […] an email list, even though too many people don’t want any more emails…so don’t build a […]

  9. […] An in-depth, 7,000 word guide to list building. If you are a marketer or entrepreneur and need to build your email list then this is the guide for you. Want to grow your audience and business whilst creating return customers? Then you are in the right place.  […]

  10. […] For me it is my Definitive Guide to List Building […]

  11. […] your email list and offer an incentive to existing customer to give you 20 mins of their time. Some people suggest […]

  12. […] rely increasingly on audience building via mail, blogs or social media to be able to reach people whenever we prefer it instead of being dependent […]

  13. […] want customers, build a robust email list. Giles Thomas of has your back with The Definitive Guide to List Building. Email is the most unified distribution platform for communicating with your customers. According […]

  14. […] one might seem obvious and thus I didn’t want to add list building at the beginning so that my readers don’t think I’m just writing a “me too” […]

  15. Appreciating the commitment you put into your website and
    in depth information you present. It’s great to come
    across a blog every once in a while that isn’t
    the same outdated rehashed information. Wonderful read!

    I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m including your RSS
    feeds to my Google account.

  16. web page says:

    An impressive share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a friend who had been conducting a little homework on this.
    And he actually ordered me dinner due to the fact that I found it for him…
    lol. So let me reword this…. Thanks for the meal!!

    But yeah, thanx for spending time to discuss this subject here on your website.

  17. Amitabh says:

    Nice article. Thanks for your insights on list building.
    Link building is a must-do task for any business.

  18. Roger Butler says:

    Thanks, Giles for great insight on list building.

  19. Times says:

    nice bro

Speak your mind