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3 Essential (But Often Missed) Elements to Growing Your List

Photograph of Terry Starbucker and Chris GarrettWhy do some people with so-so content seem to easily grow their community, while other much better writers seem to struggle to get a few opt-ins? I believe there are three factors that set a growing list apart from a struggling one, and many people either overlook the necessity or are unaware of it.

When we talk about list building and growing your audience, two topics always seem to dominate. Those are traffic and conversion. Yes, they are important. If you only focus on those two elements, and ignore these three others, then you are going to be in for a very hard time.

What are those elements? Let’s find out …

See that photograph up there? That’s Terry Starbucker. We don’t get together often but I always look forward to seeing him and thoroughly enjoy any time we get together. I am sure everyone who knows him thinks the same.

Why am I telling you this? Because that’s how you want your audience to think of you. As a valuable person who they enjoy being around and look forward to hearing from.

This breaks down into the three elements I mentioned:

  1. Connection – First … Are you reaching the right people? In advertising terms you could think of this as “audience targeting” or “qualified leads”. Second, are you giving these people an opportunity to feel connected to you as a person. Geek it up and use your nerd powers! Be approachable, friendly, vulnerable, inclusive, and generous.
  2. EngagementOnce you have someone’s attention you need to reward them for that attention. Give people the value you promise but in a way that is interesting, genuine, entertaining, or at least easy to understand and put into action.
  3. Loyalty – What makes me think of Terry even though I haven’t seen him in a while? Partly because he has always been a brilliant human being, he would never betray his positive reputation. Partly because we have had some epically deep conversations (value, experience). Partly because I know next time I see him we will catch up and then he will say something that makes me smile, think deeply (anticipation). Again it is about feeling good as a member of an inner circle combined with the expectation of future reward. You have to treat your audience well, while giving them something to look forward to. At the end of each episode of the Mainframe we will refer back to the past episode, give the key takeaways from the current episode and let people know what they will get out of the next one. It’s very simple but necessary.

Think about the great lists you are on. How do they make you feel? Can you replicate some of those positive feelings in your own content and sequences?

Don’t just build a list, nurture your relationships with the people on it.



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  1. I’ve been trying to do this on my own site, lately. It has not been going well, particularly. I’m a writer, not an emailer (damn it!).

    I’d never really paid much attention to it. In fact, a site move or two ago I actually lost my entire email subscription list; I say a move or two, because I have no idea when that happened. I guess I’ll have to try being personable or something.