How to build an opt-in list

subscribe to email list


List building is all about connecting with your niche by offering them high quality information and consistently working towards building a strong relationship with each and every one of your subscribers.

What is an opt-in?

Opt-in is a term used when someone is given the option to receive emails. This is typically some kind of mailing list, a newsletter or advertising.  Anyone that completes a subscription form on a website, or checks a box that says: “sign up to our newsletter” is considered to have opted-in.

What isn’t an opt-in?

Here are examples of emails that are not considered opt-ins:

  • Contacts in your email address book
  • Purchased email lists
  • Email lists obtained from business cards
  • Customers that have purchased products from you
  • Friends or followers on any social media platform

These opt-in forms or check boxes are generated by your autoresponder.  Some of the most popular autoresponders are Aweber, Mailchimp, Get Response and iContact, and there are many others.

Each time a visitor to your website enters their name and email address, they are automatically added to your mailing list, and become an active subscriber of your newsletter.

Once a subscriber is a confirmed member of your list, you can start sending out follow up emails that offer quality information, such as links to blog posts, articles, reports, video tutorials and resources that your subscribers would find helpful.

So you want to build an opt-in list!

After reading countless blogs or articles; sought expert advice and have read many success stories of people earning great money with opt-in lists, you finally realize you need one too.

What typically happens is you think you know everything there is to know about opt-in lists; you’ve followed all the advice, but you are still not able to make any money from it.

In fact, it’s likely you’re losing money, especially if you’re paying for an autoresponder, hiring a writer, or have other associated costs.  Regardless of whether you have a big list or not, if only a small percentage on your list are buying from you, you’re probably losing money.  You’ll soon realize after a few months when you see your list analytics and sales figures, you’re definitely loosing money!

So what could the problem be?  Why do some succeed and some don’t?  The most common reason is that most people just “dive straight in” without really thinking about it.  They’ll chose a topic they think would be popular and make them a lot of money. Bad mistake!  Just because you write to your list about a product it doesn’t mean they are going to buy it instantly.

For those of you who have started an opt-in list but it hasn’t worked out, you can still rejuvenate your list; or if you are just starting out, then this next part will be helpful to you.

Building a profitable opt-in list

Here are three easy ways to build a successful and profitable opt-in list:

#1 Build trust

Build an open and honest relationship with your customers.  Just launching your opt-in list will not make you an expert and a credible seller. Send out many articles first before you start an opt-in list. Write about the topic you know well and for which you have set up your website. Put their needs first, by gathering knowledge about your customers and target their wants and needs.

Join other online forums.  Provide expert advice and recommendations. When you feel that people trust you enough, you will be able to start your own opt-in list. You can build a base as well with other forum users. You can ask them to join your list. Friends are always a great place to start.

Add links to your site so that they may be able to see what you’re business is all about.

The truth is, the money will only start coming in when customers and subscribers believe and trust you. They want products or services that will be good value for their money. People are not going to buy anything just because you made a recommendation unless they know and trust you.

#2 Find the right product

Find the right product or service that people want and need. Invest your precious time, effort and money into researching what products or services buyers or subscribers of your opt-in list need or want.

While it’s true that it is better to sell something that you have an interest in, there may not be as many people as you think who have the same interest as you, so think twice about selling something that is not entirely popular nor profitable. Do your homework well and you will see the profits come in. It’s also a good idea to provide your subscribers with promotional material that they can use and share with others.

#3 Learn from experienced users

Make friends with other opt-in list users. Find people whom have already launched a successful opt-in list. These are people that already have the experience in this initiative and experience is still the best teacher. While there are many articles available online, there is nothing like getting a firsthand account from someone you trust.

Experienced opt-in list users will be able to tell you what works and what doesn’t because they have gone through it all.  While situations may differ for some people, experienced people will be able to tell you which ones to avoid.

Building a profitable opt-in list doesn’t happen overnight. There’s much preparation and effort that goes into the task. You must build your Opt-in list from scratch, and as your list grows, you should also maintain the quality of your list.   Keep it organized and manageable. Hire help if you need to, but be sure your subscribers are satisfied and they in turn will be more likely to buy from you.

If you enjoyed this article, leave me a comment or share your experiences in the comments section below.

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20 Comments on How to build an opt-in list

  1. What great information you have here, Gayelene. I was not going to go the opt-in route, but with this info, I think I will try it out. I have given myself three years to be able to retire and work full time with my websites. I even joined your e-mail subscription for updates. Thank you

    • Hi Linda,

      I think 3 years is a realistic and achievable goal of working full time on your online business. And I think it’s a great idea to start building your list now. All the best and thanks for subscribing to my email list 🙂

  2. Great information! I have just started my website about a month ago and am adding content and gaining trust and have the opt-in list in mind for future use here. As you said you should not jump right in and I am currently being patient to gain my following and build trust. What auto-responder would you recommend? I have heard a lot of mixed reviews lately on auto-responders not working 100% of the time.

    • Hi Erik,

      Thanks for the comment. If you’re clear on who your target audience is (your niche) which I’m sure you are, and you’re publishing content regularly, then now is a good time to start building your list. For people starting out I recommend using Mailchimp as it’s easy to use, they have a “forever free” plan that allows up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails, but free plans have their limitations and I’ve commented on other comments made in this thread about those limitations. This will allow you to learn how to use the tool while building your list. When you’re ready, you can move on to a paid plan either with Mailchimp or another provider like Aweber or GetResponse, but “shop around” read reviews and decide which one is the best for you.

  3. Hi Gaylene,
    I was going to wait a little bit before creating an opt-in but you have opened my eyes to the fact that i need to do it now. Thanks.
    I believe mistake some people make is putting themselves under pressure by giving a short time frame to start making money online. What those just starting should be concerned with most is building trust, creating great content and offering wonderful services. I believe if i do this constantly for about 1-2 years things will turn out great.

    • Hi Ephraim,

      I totally agree about setting short time frames to make money online, it takes years. So I think two years is a reasonable amount of time to start seeing great results – although I don’t think anyone should expect to be a millionaire in two years. But it is possible to be earning enough to allow you to be working full time from home. I think you have a realistic attitude towards building a successful online business, and like you, I think building trust is a key component. Thanks for the comment 🙂

  4. Hello Gaylene,
    Great post.
    I just launch my site and have been look for a way to create an opt-in form for to get my visitors emails and keep them in touch and this post will greatly help me.
    thanks so much.

    • Hi Godlove,

      Thanks for the comment. Even though your website is new, I think it’s wise to start building your list now. Many successful bloggers and entrepreneurs waited until their websites were established before building an opt-in list and most of them have said, if they had to do it all over again, they would have started building their lists at the beginning, because they missed many opportunities to get sales. I’m pleased this post has helped you. All the best 🙂

  5. Thank you, Gaylene. I like your points that you mentioned. Getting that all-important trust is a must if you want to capture their email. And usually you have to do it in a fast amount of time, too. Also, a great product is definitely a must-have. There’s no point trying to spam your email list with a product that they don’t even WANT or NEED, this will only result in them unsubscribing and no money being made.

    There’s some great tips mentioned here, so thank you so much. I needed to brush up on my opt-in skills 🙂 Cheers!

    • Hi Brandon,

      Yes, building an honest relationship with people is very important to me, ant therefore, using emails from people that haven’t “opted-in” is highly unethical. Developing great models of Online Business practices now will “pay off” in the future. Thanks for taking the time to comment, have a great day 🙂

  6. I want to launch opt-in list but I don’t think I have enough visitors when do you think it will be suitable launch it? For example, are 100 unique visitors per day enough or should it be more?

    • Hi Furkan,

      I would start growing a list now. Many successful entrepreneurs made the mistake of waiting to grow their lists and they believe they missed out on a number sales because of it. I think Mailchimp would be a great place to start, as it’s easy to use and they offer a “forever free plan” for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. As I mentioned in a comment below, free plans have their limitations, but once your list begins to grow, you can always look at other autoresponders for more features. Hope this helps 🙂

  7. It is not that easy to build an email list. I am having a hard time driving traffic to my website let alone have people that want to subscribe to my email list. Maybe If I had more traffic more people would be interested. Or maybe it is my content no one is interested in.

    • Hi Kurtis,

      Yes you’re right, it’s not easy building a list. I started building my list a month ago and I’ve had some success – not a lot, but I’m confident it will grow. I strongly believe, building a relationship with subscribers and website visitors based on trust is the best strategy. And that means providing useful content. I think traffic to your website will come, just keep creating great content, make sure your target audience see it and then watch your list grow. Thanks for the comment 🙂

  8. Great post!

    You said that the most popular are Aweber, Mailchimp, Get Response and iContact. Which one do you use? What is your impression about Mad Mimi? Thank you for a great article and I am looking forward for your response

    • Hi Andrei,

      I’m using Mailchimp at the moment until I can grow my list. Mailchimp is a great option if you’re just starting out as it’s easy to use and they have a free plan that allows you to have up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. But with all free plans it has it’s limitations, for example it does not include aurtoresponder features or analytics. The other autoresponders I’ve mentioned in this blog are the ones I believe are the most popular. However, I’ve read great reviews about Infusionsoft, but I personally like the look of Convertkit because it allows you to segment your list based on what subscribers do, e.g. if they open your email, if they click on any links or if they download anything. However, they’re a bit pricey and I’d only go down this track once I had a bigger list. I haven’t looked into Mad Mimi, but I will. Thanks for the tip 🙂

  9. Hi Gaylene,
    Thanks for providing this great step by step training for opt-ins. I really have to find a better way to do this because I have nobody signing up to my email list. I’m not discouraged as I have so many things I’m working on. Thanks for this, really well done and keep up the good work.

    • Hi Peter,

      It takes time to build a list. My list is small at the moment but my priority is on building a relationship based on trust with subscribers and with website visitors first. I strongly believe, if you do that, your list will start to grow and ultimately you’ll gain sales which is the whole point of opt-in lists. Thanks for taking the time to comment Peter 🙂

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