Do This Before You Build Your Email List

One of my colleagues was struggling to build their email list and asked me a very important question: “I want to start an email list. I currently only have clients on my email list and want to also get prospects on it. Do you have any suggestions for getting more prospects to join? We have a form on our website but that gets little traffic.”

This question made me think of a quote I saw by Erik Jacbson that said, “You can’t “own” your audience if you can’t reach them in the first place.” 

Right now, the only way that person asking this question has to attract people to sign up is through their website, and if they don’t currently get a lot of traffic there, then it’s going to take a long time to build their email list. 

What I recommend when trying to build your email list is to follow a strategic, step-by-step approach.

You can get prospects on your list and begin nurturing them, but it’s going to take a little effort to get the ball rolling. Email marketing is worth the effort – trust me.

3-Step Process to Build Your Email List

Step 1: Build Your Audience

Your audience already exists on platforms you’re on or can join: Twitter (X), LinkedIn, YouTube, podcasts – existing communities. Sure, these are “rented platforms,” and while many email marketers say not to build your audience on them, I have to disagree.


For me, it’s not an “either-or” type of decision. You can – and should – do both. You can use these “rented” platforms as your main channel for attention and distribution. Billions of people are on them already, so why not leverage them?

You can get people intrigued by offering something of value to them.

Where should you start?

  1. Select a rented platform where your audience already spends their time. 
  2. Solve one problem for this specific audience.
  3. Network and reach out to ideal clients daily (do not spam them).
  4. Post content at least three times a week on the platform (you may need to post more depending on your chosen platform).

Over time, you’ll find that you’ve built up a strong audience and can begin transitioning them from this concept of a “rented” to an “owned” platform.

Step 2: “Rented” to Owned: Transitioning to Your Solutions

You’ve started building an audience on your rented property. Now what?

The next step is to futureproof your list. How do you do that? Start focusing on transitioning your audience to owned properties.

Why put more on your plate?

Because social platforms can:

  • Shut down overnight
  • Limit your reach, thanks to algorithm changes

The last thing you want is to pour all of this time and energy into building an audience and positioning yourself as an authority only to lose it overnight.

You’ll have more control if you can move your audience to an owned property.

Remember that this isn’t an either-or thing – it’s both.

There are so many ways to transition your audience to owned properties. But here’s the thing: you can’t just stop delivering on value once they make the move.

This is a big mistake I see people make. They have a transition offer, but they don’t provide ongoing value. Here’s an example:

  • I have a lead magnet
  • Someone signs up for my lead magnet (now, they’re owned)
  • The lead magnet is delivered to their inbox, followed by a few emails
  • Continuous value delivery stops shortly after

If the value delivery stops then so does building the know, like, and trust with this audience member.

So, how can you avoid making this mistake?

Here are a few ideas:

Create a Newsletter Series

I’m not just talking about a nurturing email series or a general one you pay $100/month for in a generic content package. I’m talking about creating a newsletter series that people are excited to open and read. 

Feel free to take inspiration from my Dear Katie series and put your own spin on it. Use the questions you get on a regular basis as topics for your series. Not only will you deliver value regularly, but you’ll also build trust and solve some pain points along the way.

Host Webinars or Live Sessions

Hosting webinars or live sessions on LinkedIn or YouTube is a great way to gather email addresses and deliver value to your audience. The key is to require attendees to register to access these events. Having attendees register will help you build your list and engage your audience in real-time.

Then, you can use your email list to invite them to join future sessions or to send out email recaps.

Bonus: repurpose these sessions as social media content. 

Lead Magnets + Ongoing Value Delivery 

Lead magnets are still a great way to build an email list, but you must ensure that you’re providing ongoing value delivery. 

For example, once the lead magnet has been delivered, you can invite them to join a live webinar session or send them your newsletter series. 

These are just a few examples – there are tons of ways to provide value. Find what works for your audience and consider what they find the most valuable. Remember that people want solutions to reach their goals or solve their problems. They don’t want to be just another contact on your email list.

Step 3: Adjust and Adapt

Great job – you now have people on your email list! But you can’t just set it and forget it. Keep moving forward with your strategy. Over time, you can start expanding your rented channels. Maybe you can add a new social media channel to the mix or try your hand at podcast hosting. If a certain type of content is producing more opt-ins, maybe you can focus on creating more of it. 

Measure your progress and use that data to adjust and adapt your strategy over time. Being agile will help you stay on the right track.

Remember that your goal isn’t necessarily to create the biggest list; it’s to have the most engaged list that you serve at the highest level.

And, that’s a wrap on this Dear Katie question.


Now I want to hear from you. Do you have a question? 

Submit it here

Until next time, cheers to your success!


LeadersOnline NoMotto

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