Is the Money REALLY in the List?

This is one thing internet marketers don’t seem to ever shut up about, mainly because there’s some truth behind it.  The thing that always bothered me about the phrase “the money’s in the list” is that it implies some kind of instant value:  subscribers to your newsletter = money in your pocket.

The problem I have with this equation is that it’s like saying “the money’s in a high traffic, well-monetized website.” Obviously.  Honestly, I think half the reason many internet marketers preach “the money’s in the list” is so they can use their affiliate link to Aweber or another subscription mailing service.  I’m purposely leaving out my affiliate link here.

Really, the money is in how you use your list.  Having a list is a lot like running a niche affiliate site – you can’t just focus on getting traffic – you must also focus on converting that traffic.  Keep reading, and I’ll keep ranting…

Why I’m Even Writing About This

I didn’t just wake up this morning and decide I want to criticize e-mail marketing.  In fact, I think e-mail marketing is an excellent way to both connect with an audience and ultimately drive sales of a product or service (even as an affiliate).  My problem is, I’m terrible at it.

My blog isn’t wildly popular, so it may surprise you  to learn that I currently have over 2,500 subscribers to my e-mail list (see a screenshot from my Aweber account below).

A lot of people signed up to receive my free backlink tracking tool, and many have remained subscribed for my general newsletter.  I also do other exclusive things for my list, such as the “newbie niche site month” I’ve done a couple times, which was very well received by many readers.

With 2,500+ subscribers, I’m spending $30 a month with Aweber.  It might shock you to know that, even with over 2,500 subscribers, my list probably doesn’t generate $30/month most months.  That’s right – I’ve built a somewhat large list within the internet marketing niche, and I’m possibly losing money with it.

Now, that’s not to say there haven’t been non-monetary benefits to the list.  Whenever I send out broadcast e-mails (i.e. e-mail that isn’t part of my pre-written newsletter content), I see an influx of traffic to my blog.  By being able to do this, I know that at any moment I can utilize my list to receive a lot of traffic in a short period of time, to my blog.  And some of this traffic may lead to income generated through affiliate links on blog posts, so I’m sure my list has indirectly led to income.

Here’s My Point

You can’t just build a list and expect the money to start rolling in. You have to have a plan and you have to stick with it.  And you have to respect your list. Pat Flynn does this well – although he doesn’t push affiliate products in his e-mails, I can virtually guarantee that he has indirectly made thousands of dollars from his list.  Yet, he provides massive value, so no one really complains.

I, on the other hand, have done a good job “respecting” my list, but a poor job of converting subscribers into value for me.  Ignoring the fact that I don’t really try to make money off the list (I have thrown in a few random affiliate links here and there, but it’s been nothing substantial), I’ve done a poor job staying in touch with my list beyond my 7-8 pre-written newsletter e-mails which are sent once every 1-2 weeks after you subscribe.

Utilizing an e-mail list effectively is a lot like running an authority website – you need to provide regular content and stay in touch with your readers.  To make money with a list, you need to respect your subscribers and absolutely do not spam them.  Even promotional e-mails should add some kind of value that doesn’t require a purchase.

I used to subscribe to a lot of “guru” e-mail lists (John Chow, etc.) until I couldn’t stand it any longer.  It was educational to see how an income-generating e-mail list functions, but after awhile, I found myself deleting all e-mail without reading it.

What are your best e-mail marketing tips? Everyone tells you to build a list, but from there, it can be a challenge to utilize the list effectively.  I’m curious to see what you think.  And yes, this is the first ever internet marketing blog that wrote an article about e-mail marketing without using an Aweber affiliate link! :P

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22 Responses to “Is the Money REALLY in the List?”

  1. Hey Eric,

    I’ve got a lit about the same size and I can agree with you. Unless you start pushing things hard or lead people to tutorial content, money doesn’t just pour out of the list.

    I’ve been considering deleting my list as of late and just pushing the freebie as a free download so it gets right into the hands of people no questions asked. I may do an experiment with it overall but my line of thinking is that you get way too many freebie hunters joining up and it starts to distort your perception of who’s actually following you so you end up making bad decisions for your blog.

    Can a list be good? Certainly. I’ve made money from doing a few campaigns but it’s never in the ball park of what people show off.
    Murray Lunn recently posted… Groupon Deals, Fun Things to Do and Saving Money: A Match Made in Heaven

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Yeah, that’s right in line with what I was thinking. I’m certainly not looking to make thousands off my list, but I think it’s disappointing to build a large list and do nothing with it.

    Don’t delete your list :) I feel like you’d ultimately regret that…

    [Reply]

  2. I have a list for my PLR site so people know that they will be receiving sales related emails. However I haven’t bothered to set up lists for my other site because I wouldn’t know what to do with it.
    It is great to keep in touch with people but it could end up becoming more of a chore if there is little or no financial gain.
    Tiptopcat @ The PLR Boutique recently posted… Creative Gifts For Children PLR

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    That’s true – I think lists for product/service based sites are powerful, as these people have basically opted-into receiving offers and other promotional type e-mails. I think with other types of lists (like mine), you need to get more creative and create compelling content just as you would with a blog post.

    [Reply]

  3. Hello Eric,

    I am one of those 2500+ on your list and haven’t been on your site since I signed up. In fact I actually forgot all about you. My critique to you is that you should be engaging with your list more frequently. Ask yourself why these people are on your list and what valuable infirmation can you provide to them? A list if used correctly can be a great way to build your authority and get people to trust you, the first step in selling anything.

    Used this way, your list doesn’t need to directly generate anything if it drives sales on your site. (I think you noticed a part of this just with the ability to drive traffic to your site)
    Dustin recently posted… iTestGenPRO ver 1.4 released

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    I appreciate the critique, Dustin, and I definitely agree. I’ve done a poor job engaging with my list beyond the initial contact and some pre-written newsletter content.

    This is something I’ll need to think about, since I don’t have any specific plan right now (I’m not launching any products and I don’t really push many affiliate products). For me, I just like having the list because I know that I always have a method of communicating with people who have been to my blog before.

    [Reply]

  4. It depends on the quality of that list. Because regardless of how you work with it, you won’t sell much if people aren’t remotely interested in your niche. And if they are (as in your case) are they willing to spend on it? They might have subscribed for different reasons.
    Richard recently posted… Wagner 518080 Control Spray Max HVLP Sprayer Review

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Very true – I think the quality of my list is decent, as people aren’t quick to unsubscribe after downloading the Backlink Tracker (which is why many subscribe in the first place).

    I’m not sure if they’re willing to spend, but that isn’t my biggest concern. While it’d be nice to make money with the list, I’d rather maintain a strong relationship that can be used for more valuable purposes in the future.

    Even if no one from my list ever bought anything, I’d hope that one day they could recommend me or my product (if I ever actually have one) to people they know. To me, that’s the real power of being connected to a lot of people.

    [Reply]

  5. I agree the money is not necessarily in the list. I have a few lists for my big sites. I mainly look at my lists as a way to drive traffic to my sites. It’s a great way to remind users I have new content and to drop on by!
    PPC Ian recently posted… Fun At Google’s SF Giants Luxury Suite

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    I definitely agree, Ian! For me, that’s been the most valuable part of my list so far.

    [Reply]

  6. I think e-mail lists are useless unless you have a product to sell. Otherwise I don’t see e-mail marketing as very efficient in driving traffic. Seems like a waste of time.

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    They definitely can be useless if you do nothing with them, however, if your list is large and responsive, is can definitely be a source of good traffic. I guarantee there are many people on my list who never visit my blog, however if I send out a link to a recent blog post, many of them will click through and read it.

    It’s not to say e-mail marketing is absolutely essential, but it’s another good tool to have at your disposal.

    [Reply]

  7. Your post have the information that is helpful and very informative. I would like you to keep up the good work. You know how to make your post understandable for most of the people.

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks!

    [Reply]

  8. It’s obvious, you can own a Ferrari but it’s pointless if you don’t know how to drive it. So if you do get a great list, not using it at its full potential would be a waste. Even so, most people don’t, because don’t have the knowledge.
    Chris recently posted… Stamina 4545 Magnetic Fusion Recumbent Bike Review

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Good analogy, Chris, I agree. The key is not only knowing how to build a list, but learning how to provide value to it and get value out of it. If you miss one of those keys, you’re probably not going to find success with it.

    [Reply]

  9. Hi Eric…Thanks for clearing out some points here…Now I am more familiar with this…Thanks!!
    Helga recently posted… How Many Leukemia Types on Earth

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    No problem, thanks for the comment Helga!

    [Reply]

  10. Hi Eric…I thank you for bringing up a good post like this…It is helpful for me…
    Sophie recently posted… Muscle Gaining Protein FAQ

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks Sophie, happy to help.

    [Reply]

  11. Hi Eric…I am really glad that I have found your site her and it makes me think a lot of insights too…
    Gia recently posted… Points That Help You to Know That How to Impress Woman

    [Reply]

  12. Hi Eric…when I was reading your post, it makes me think that you are really a good write…There are a lot of information here and they are useful…
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    [Reply]

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