How To Get People To Happily Build Your List

Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are crucial to spreading your message, growing your network and building your reputation online – but for a lot of people, turning that into cashflow is a challenge. While promoting your expertise and personality is part of the “acceptable” social media ethic, asking for the sale can sometimes feel icky and ill-received.

Let’s talk about how to fix that. :-)

Self Promotion and Promotion Are Two Different Worlds

On social media sites, no one is going to knock you for bringing the focus on yourself (provided that’s not all you do). Your fans and followers want to hear about your latest projects, your business growth, who you’re meeting with. There’s an incredible dynamic of sharing going on where people actually want to spread the word about your hard-earned successes, your thought-provoking blog posts and your all-too-human moments. Self-promotion is part of the conversation.

But when the stream becomes littered with product promotion, that dynamic can turn on you. While some people will get excited about your offerings, other people won’t – and if the conversations start getting too focused on links to sales pages, people can begin to tune you out.

Does that mean you can’t sell via social media? Of course not – social media is absolutely essential for bringing in an audience, deepening the trust factor they have in you and warming them up for your offer.

But the offer itself? If you make it solely on social media sites you may be disappointed with the conversion. That’s because while the courtship may take place on Twitter or Facebook, the proposal works best when you have them somewhere else: on your email list.

Building A List Is Where Promotion Really Works

One of the reasons that social media sites (including blogs) are less effective at driving sales is because people look at them in a non-linear way. Depending on what time of day you pop on Twitter of Facebook, you can miss 95% of what specific people are saying as their messages get buried in the stream.

The same goes for blogs – when things get busy, people can’t keep up with the dozens of blogs that they follow. And so your short-term sale doesn’t get seen until it’s been long over.

Email is a different story. It’s linear. When people fire up their inbox, they read the subject line of every message to decide whether to open (or delete) them. If you have a list you can mail to, you can let them know about your offers as soon as they’re available – and they’re much more likely to see them.

Plus, people are used to seeing offers in email. Seeing a link to click that goes to a sales page isn’t going to seem jarring to them (and if they don’t want to deal with the stress of their inbox, that click may be a welcome diversion).

That click is where sales come from – and that’s why you want to focus on building your list just as much as you focus on warming up your audience on Twitter and Facebook.

How To Build Your List Without Being Lame

What I tend to see people do when they want to build a list is they either put something up like “please join my newsletter” or they make a simple “bribe” like a free report to get people to sign up. That tactic may have worked 5 years ago, but it’s not that effective now.

It gets even worse when the free thing being offered is tired, recycled content (or something shallow and superficial because the author didn’t want to put the “good stuff” in there). They just want to give away the small stuff.

The problem with giving the small stuff away for free is that the bar has been raised, and everybody can tell when it’s small stuff. So it’s a lot harder to get people to get (and stay) on your list than it used to be. You need to step up your game and offer something “above and beyond” is you want to wow ad woo people onto your list.

Create A Resource Worth Being Wowed About

When I work with one-on-one clients, I always tell them to treat their free offering like a product – create something truly worth paying for. This serves two purposes:

First, it blows their minds because you’re giving them something much more than they’re used to getting. That’s going to establish an amazing level of credibility with them right off the bat.

Second, it gives you a competitive advantage. If you have the guts to deliver product-quality stuff for free, you’re going to be ahead of all the people who don’t. They aren’t going to do what it takes to catch up, and you get the reputation for being a premium provider (who can charge premium rates).

This is exactly the model I used with The Launch Coach Library – it’s an enormous online business resource with 4 free workbooks (almost 100 pages in total). And each workbook is contains product quality content, too.

Still, giving all that away was a difficult thing to come to grips with. When you give something away that you truly could charge for, it feels painful because you’re thinking of the effort you put in and the money you “could” be making if only you charged for it.

The truth is, though, the opposite actually occurs – that time you put into creating that free stuff now will come back to you in the form of loyal fans ready to buy from you, again and again.

How To Make Your Audience Tell Other People About Your List

The key to getting people to talk about you is getting them results. Whatever it is that you offer as your free list-building content, make it something that gives them an immediate result, a take-away that makes them better off than they were before they got on your list.

And to take it a step further, share the results with your audience. Blog about their success with your free offer and use that as social proof that what you offer works. Encourage your audience to tweet or write about that success story and spread the word. Put the spotlight on them, and they’ll be more than happy to tell others that you helped them.

Do this over and over again, and you reputation (and list) will increase. Each time you tweet about a new success story, the older ones will join in with their retweets as well. It builds and builds, and your list does, too.

If you really give your audience something worth sharing, you won’t have to beg them to spread the word, either – they’ll want to do it. Solve their problems and help them move forward and they’ll become more than customers – they’ll be come referral engines that bring you more buyers every month.

Take One Minute Now To Make Your List More Attractive To People

I don’t want you to leave this post without taking one step towards making your list grow at a faster rate. Think of one highly valuable product-quality solution you can create in the next week or two, and tell us what it’s going to be so you can create some accountability for making it happen.


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Dave NavarroDave Navarro is a product launch manager who specializes in teaching smart business owners how to build responsive email lists and create their own high-demand information product platform. You can find out if he's for real by digging through free workbooks like "7 Steps To Networking With A-Listers Fast" and "7 Ways To Start Playing A Much Bigger Game" in the Launch Coach Library.


  1. Great stuff Dave,

    Your message couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m working on a new product with Chris Garrett, and one of the things I was literally working on when I took a break to check my tweet stream was a killer free ebook that I would probably charge a minimum of $50 (if not more) for.

    I’m going to be giving it away for free, because I believe it will pay off in the long run like you mention in this article.

    Content truly has to be amazing for your list, and you can’t just give them weak stuff ever really… The free stuff has to over deliver and be something you could easily charge for. I did this with my 40k person list and it’s only been a blessing for me over and over as sales keep going up and I get repeat buyers on all of my products I create and sell as an affiliate.

    Again, thank for the message as I feel even more confident about what I’m doing in knowing it will pay off :)

    Rock on…

  2. Lewis –

    Glad to hear the message was on target. Touch base when you have a chance, I’d love to do an interview with you.


  3. One of the ways I’ve created “products” to give away is to create interactive mind maps on various topics. People who are new to an area can quickly get an overview, while experienced people can drill down to fine-grain details.

    Pages with these interactive tools have a higher return rate (i.e. loyalty) than my traditional content pages.

  4. Wow Dave, good stuff here. Trouble is, you make it sound so simple. At this point, if I had a list of 40k i too would feel really great about what you said. Just feel like their are some holes missing…perhaps that’s where hiring you comes in. Perhaps, that’s the key to building a list…showing what’s missing & providing a solution.
    Sorry, am new to this & it’s not as easy as I thought it would be.
    Cynically Optimistic,

    • Andy Fogarty says:


      It’s really not all about list size. Of course numbers make a difference but everyone starts with the same number, 0. You can make money and grow with a list of 5 people if you know what those 5 people want and need.

      Dave has amazingly useful workbooks that really do guide you through it all. Follow his stuff and you’ll be building those numbers sooner than you think.

      Chin up, full steam ahead :-)

  5. Hmm…Dave/Laura, I’m still confused b/w the opt-in for the free stuff (bonus to giver is email list growth), versus giving it w/just a click minus the opt-in.

    And not to brag, but my product is quality, not re-cycled, trite, nor sh*tty…


  6. Hi Linda!

    I think what Dave is advocating – it seems to be the model he’s using with the LC Library, anyway – is that instead of saying “have a free thing (but you have to opt in to get it)”, you say “if you opt in, you get access to the page where I give away my free things”. That way you can add new free things to the page and just tell the people who are already on the list, “Hey, there’s a new free thing on the free things page, go get it!”.

    It builds loyalty in your existing clients because they know that they’ll be getting new Free Things occasionally and all they have to do is check back to the page every once in a while (“what if I don’t get the email where you provide the free-thing download?” “Just go to the page occasionally, it’ll be listed.”). It also provides more incentive for new subscribers because they’ll see a) that you’re honest about telling them that they’re subscribing to a list and in exchange they get X (instead of saying “get X free by giving me your name and email address!”), and b) that X is going to grow over time. :)

    Does that make sense? (My caffeine stream’s blood level is especially high today…)

    • Carol Griffin says:

      Great advice, Dave! Laura, yet another very helpful and timely post! I’ve been building my site as you know, Laura, and we’ve talked about my offering a preview/sneak peak of my new work before it’s offered in a more general way. I’m also really interested in your suggestion, Dave, of creating products specifically for the purpose of giving away. Since I’m an artist, perhaps free note cards or giclee prints of my work might work well for this purpose…

      And Chris, thanks for clarifying the whole “opt-in” issue; I’ve been confused about that. Makes perfect sense the way you explain it.

      Dave, I’ll check out your workbooks. Thanks again for some good, solid advice.

    • Thanks Chris!

      That really clears the air–appreciate you taking the time to explain.


  7. Kim –

    I understand your frustration. I felt the exact same way when I started.

    It’s not about list size, it’s about the relationship you have with your list. I certainly don’t have a 40K list and to be honest, when I hit the 6 figure mark in sales it was off of a list of maybe 3500 people, tops (and that’s a combo of lists where some people are duplicates). And it took me 18 months of non-stop effort to build it up that far.

    I cerainly don’t want to give the impression that listbuilding is easy, because it’s not. It’s hard work. But the path I laid out makes it easier and more likely to work.

    Create a great hook for your list and keep engaged with your audience and you will grow.

  8. Linda –

    I try to strike a balance – I offer some content that’s not opt-in (looooong blog posts related to my workbooks) with a workbook opt-in at the end.


  9. Andy & Dave,

    Thanks for your votes of confidence & being transparent. Any good sites or tips on creating a good hook?

    Chins Up…steaming ahead,


  10. Dave – What I like about your work is that it’s *hard.* My guess is that 90% of the people that download your workbooks (or even purchase) don’t get through the material. I suspect some don’t even start once they realize they’re faced with having to actually, you know, execute.

    I like that.

    It means once I get through it, I have a set of tools that other people know are valuable, even when they can’t find the motivation to do that work themselves.

  11. Alright, I love what this post is saying. HOWEVER. I took a look at Dave’s “How To Start Making Real Money From Your Own Products In 3 Days” and I just don’t think the message in that is the same as in here. In order to make a quality product that you can then turn around and give away for free, a PDF made in 3 days just isn’t going to cut it. I get that the headline is appealing and it’s really just a starting point, but I’m going to disagree with you on this one here.

  12. Hi Dave / Laura;

    This is good stuff, Dave – thank you for your post! It now has me thinking about more things that I can create to give away, especially after reading some of the other comments. ;)

    I currently have a 10-page report on the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Websites, but I think I need to expand it and go into more detail, with more how-to stuff to really help people be able to put the 7 habits into action right NOW. :) Thanks for inspiring ideas! ;)

  13. Dave,

    Great post, as always, just finished reading the Third Tribe transcript of your interview, which was simply awesome.

    I just wanted to thank you for the comments you made here in response to other folks. You said some things that really hit home with me.

    I’ve read all your stuff, and being responsive in commenting after a guest post is just another great example (that you teach) of engaging your audience. Sweet.

  14. Dave,

    Great advice! I LOVE reading your content because you’re so spot on when it comes to list building, creating good content, and setting yourself up for failure. I gain something new from your insights and words everytime I read them.

    Thank you for spreading your brain power and launch know-how. You rock!


  15. Well, I find giving out free stuff and promotion very effective when it comes to building email lists. We want to get the people’s interests by showing that we can give them something that they want and for free of charge, that surely would give us extra points and help them decide whether or not to sign up for our list.