5 Steps to Build Your Email List, Engage Your Subscribers, and Make Sales With Email Marketing

Melyssa Griffin

13 min





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So, you’ve heard that having an email list is essential if you want to grow your business and online community…but you’re wondering, “Where do I start with email marketing?” Well, m’friend, you’ve come to the right place!

When I first started my business, I didn’t really understand the point of an email list. What do I send to my subscribers? And how is it different from what I’d post on my blog?

I wasn’t fully on the Email List Train, so it took me almost two years to grow my list to 2,000 subscribers. I’d share opt-in forms in passing, advertising my vague “free newsletter.” It’s a wonder that so many people subscribed in the first place! But I couldn’t deny it: I’d hit a plateau. My list wasn’t budgin’.

But then, things started to change dramatically.

I started becoming more savvy with online marketing and kept hearing over and over again that my email list is my business’s biggest asset. I doubled down on growing it (using many of the strategies you’ll find in today’s blog post!) and the results were ah-mazing.

Within a year, that 2,000 person email list had grown to 35,000 people.

One year after that? My email list was over 100,000 subscribers! And today, it’s hovering around 200,000 people. Wild!

List-building is one of my favorite things in the online business world because it involves two topics I adore:

  • Building community (your email list will undoubtedly be full of your biggest fans, and it’s a wonderful place to connect with people).
  • Online marketing (it’s also the place where you’ll make most of your sales if you know what you’re doing).

So without further ado, let’s dive into today’s post! You’ll learn 5 MAJOR steps when it comes to growing your email list, making your subscribers fall in love with you, and using your email list as your #1 sales asset.

Let’s begin with step numero uno…

Step 1: Create an Opt-In Incentive

The problem that many people make when trying to grow their email list is that their content and opt-in forms are too general and vague. In short: they don’t give people a reason to opt-in.

Your Opt-In Incentive changes that. 🙂

(By the way, in case you’re new to the lingo, Opt-In Incentives, Lead Magnets, and Content Upgrades are basically the same thing. Kind of like how a Puma is a Cougar is a Mountain Lion. I know, confusing much? But don’t worry, if you remember that they’re all the same thing, you’ll be golden).

First, you want to make sure the content on your website is designed to help or teach someone. What I recommend is that you focus mainly on Informational Content as opposed to Inspirational Content. I explain this concept in depth inside of this post!

Why is Informational Content important? Because it means that you’re teaching people about a certain topic. These are usually “how to posts,” tutorials, or “list posts” with lots of information in them (hint: like this one!).

Informational Content lends itself perfectly to growing your email list because people will know exactly what they stand to gain by joining your list, since it’s clear that you’ll be teaching them fresh tips on a certain topic.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s chat about your opt-in incentive.

Is there a topic that’s EXTRA juicy to your ideal subscribers? Is there a question you seem to get from your audience repeatedly? A subject that they always need help with?

This is the basis for coming up with your opt-in incentive: figuring out what PROBLEM you want to solve for them.

For example, let’s say your blog is designed to help first-time moms adjust to their new life with a baby. And you’ve noticed that you always get questions about Postpartum Depression (which happens to be a topic that you know a lot about!), then this could be a great “problem to solve.”

Your opt-in incentive topic may be something like, “6 Holistic Ways to Heal From Postpartum Depression” or “18 Journal Prompts to Help You Come Back to Yourself When You Have Postpartum Depression.”

After coming up with your topic, you obviously want to make your opt-in incentive! The beauty of this is that you can create it in virtually any format you want.

Some common opt-in incentives include:

  • Checklist
  • Cheatsheet (typically a one-page PDF with a list of steps)
  • Video
  • Worksheet or workbook
  • Meditations
  • Journal prompts
  • Any kind of PDF (ebook, etc)

For your very first opt-in incentive, I recommend starting small by creating a one-page PDF. No need to spend days “perfecting” this thing. Trust me, it WILL help people even if it’s only a page long.

Psst: Do you want an Implementation Checklist that breaks down every step in this blog post, tells you exactly what you need to implement, AND how long each step should take you?

Click the button below to download the free Implementation Checklist. 🙂

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Once you’ve created your one-page Opt-In Incentive, it’s time to add it to your website…

Step 2: Optimize Your Website for Conversions

In this step, we’re going to add your opt-in incentive all over your website…sort of.

What I recommend is that you choose at least 3-4 opt-in locations for your website. What you don’t want to do is add only one opt-in form to your site because you’re afraid of bothering people. If what you have to say to your email subscribers is valuable, then you’ve got a duty to get people onto your email list. Full stop.

There are two opt-in form locations that I think everyone should have on their site. Let’s start with these:

1. In the header of your website.

Your “header” is the area at the very top of your site. This is PRIME real estate because every single website visitor will see this opt-in form since it appears before they ever have to scroll down.

Here’s an example from one of my Email List Academy students, Coach Sofia Fitness, of an opt-in form in the header:

2. As a timed pop-up.

I know, I know, everyone loves to hate on pop-ups, but the fact of the matter remains the same: they work. And truly, if the opt-in incentive you’re giving away is juicy, then your ideal subscribers won’t mind the pop-up…they’ll be excited to grab your freebie!

Here’s an example of a timed pop-up opt-in form:

Other opt-in form locations you can use are:

  • Below your blog posts (so that they see an opt-in form when they’ve finished reading your post)
  • In your sidebar, if you have one.
  • As an exit-intent pop-up (this pop-up only appears when someone goes to exit out of your site)
  • In a “hello bar,” which is a bar at the very top of your site
  • In your site’s navigation menu
  • In the footer of your website
  • Inside your blog posts themselves

Software I recommend using to create opt-in forms:

Note: You don’t need ALL of these. These are just some of my favs. If you’re on a budget and can only pick one, go with ConvertKit since they also allow you to send emails.

  • ConvertKit: this one’s great because it’s simultaneously an Email Service Provider AND it allows you to create beautiful opt-in forms.
  • OptinMonster: they have some beautiful opt-in forms and allow for neat strategies like A/B testing.
  • LeadPages: They are mainly for creating landing pages and pop-up opt-in forms. I love them!
  • Thrive Leads: They offer all kinds of opt-in forms at a very affordable price.

Now that you’ve added opt-in forms to your site, it’s time to boost your traffic!

Step 3: Get Traffic to Your Website

You can litter your website with opt-in forms all day, but unless you’re simultaneously growing your site’s traffic, no one will opt-in. That’s why this step is so essential.

There are many ways to grow your website traffic. These are some of my favorites…

Google SEO

Google is one of the biggest search engines IN THE WORLD. This means that with the right strategies, it can become a gold mine for your website’s traffic. And the best part? Once you start receiving an increase in traffic from Google, it pretty much runs on autopilot for-e-ver.

For step-by-step tips on how to use Google to get traffic to your website, I recommend checking out this post!

Pinterest SEO

Pinterest is a powerful (and often underrated) search engine. Would you believe me if I told you that if used properly, Pinterest will drive heaps of traffic to your site, no matter WHAT niche or industry you’re in?

It’s true! With hundreds of millions of users and billions of pins, Pinterest is an excellent platform to grow your traffic, email list, and sales.

Check out this post to learn some key steps for getting traffic to your site from Pinterest.

Get on podcast interviews in your niche

If you love chatting with people, then podcast interviews can become a solid strategy to grow your traffic and email list. Just pitch some podcasts in your niche (who have the audience you want to attract) and tell them which topics you’d love to talk about and why you’re qualified/what experience you have.

Generally, the podcast host will allow you to tell listeners where they can learn more about you. This is the perfect time to share a link to your landing page or opt-in form where people can subscribe to get your opt-in incentive.

Write guest posts for sites in your niche

If you want to share information on other outlets, but the idea of a podcast interview makes you cringe, then you can apply the exact same strategy for writing guest posts!

Simply reach out to other bloggers or websites to pitch them on your guest post idea. Write a super valuable and memorable post and make sure to include a link to your website or landing page where people can subscribe to be on your email list.

Host a collaboration

Pitch someone in your niche or industry (with the audience you want to attract) to do a collaboration together — be creative!

Some examples of collaborations:

  • Host a free challenge together
  • Host a joint venture webinar to their audience
  • Do a video interview on their platform
  • Host a Facebook Live for their Facebook Group
  • Do an Instagram Story takeover on their account

Truly, the sky’s the limit. And just because you haven’t seen someone do a particular type of collaboration before doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea. Thinking outside the box is often what gets people to remember you.

Related: A Step-by-Step Plan to Grow Your Email List When You’re Starting From Zero

Step 4: Create an Indoctrination Sequence

Your Indoctrination Sequence is the FIRST thing a new subscriber receives after opting in to your list. It’s a set of emails, sprinkled over the span of a few days, that all new subscribers will receive, which welcome them to your email list and community.

I know, I know, the word “indoctrination” makes it sound like we’re inducting people into a cult. Ha! But really, we’re using this short sequence to build that TRUST with your subscribers so that immediately after they sign up, they feel like you understand them and that they can relate to you.

Remember: Your subscribers are often most excited about you right when they sign up for your list. They just gave you their digital phone number (ahem, email address), which means a lot in the online world. At this stage, they want to know EVERYTHING about you. It’s kind of like the Honeymoon Phase in dating. Giggity.

There are 8 essential components that I recommend including inside your Indoctrination Emails. Let’s break down each section you’ll include so that you can write truly compelling, informative, and personable emails. Woohoo!

1. Give ‘em your freebie.

If you’re following Step 1 and offering people a free opt-in incentive when they subscribe, then now’s the time to deliver it. In the first few sentences of your very first email, make sure to send them the freebie they asked for.

Common Question: What if you have a ton of freebies? Should you create a ton of Indoctrination Sequences with the only difference being the freebie you give them? Wouldn’t this mean that they’d get this sequence over and over again if they opt-in for different things later on? AHH!

Yeah…don’t do that! Instead, I recommend creating a free Resource Library where you house all of those freebies. Then, you can just direct them to your library and let them know that their free download is sittin’ pretty inside. I share all the deets about resource libraries right here.

2. Show your wild colors.

I wanted to say “true colors,” but that sounded too much like a sappy Phil Collins song (just kidding, PC, I love you). But on the real, show your new subscribers your “wild” colors. Don’t be afraid to be you and to show your personality and all your quirks.

Sometimes, we feel like we need to sound “professional” in order to be taken seriously, and while you don’t want to sound super stiff or completely fake, you DO want to show your new subscribers that you’ve got personality and that you’re relatable. Be you!

3. Who you help and who you DON’T help.

This may seem counter-intuitive. “Wait, Melyssa, I should tell them who I DON’T help? What if they ARE that person? What if they unsubscribe?!” Yes, young grasshopper, that may happen! But really, do you want to grow a list of people who don’t totally resonate with what you do? Heck no!

You’ll find the most engagement (and sales) if you focus on intentionally growing your list of the right people instead of ALL the people.

So, make a little list of some of the people and topics you love helping out with, and another list of some of the things you’re not here for. The people who ARE right for you will feel even more at home with you when they find themselves nodding along to all the “who you help” indicators.

4. What you believe.

This is an important section, which builds on the last. It gives you the chance to share some of your potentially controversial beliefs about your niche or industry.

Think of some of the biggest values and beliefs you have about what you do or teach. Which ones epitomize who you are? Which ones are a little polarizing or surprising, that will grab people’s attention? Which ones might be common misconceptions that your new subscribers could mistakenly believe?

Make a list of 3-5 major beliefs about your industry and list them in this section.

5. What they can expect.

Here’s your chance to be straight with them. How often can they expect to hear from you? What kind of content will you share? Will you ever mention your products? (Yes, there’s a way to tell them that you’ll occasionally mention your products…without coming off like a total sleaze-ball).

6. An option to unsubscribe inside the email.

Yup. Right inside the email, after telling them who I am and what I believe, I let them know that if we don’t seem like a good fit, they are welcome to unsubscribe now, and I give them a link to do so.

“GASP. Seriously, Melyssa? But I just spent all that time getting them on my list! Why would I ask them to unsubscribe?”

I know, it sounds bonkers. But hear me out: If someone reads your email and thinks, “This person sounds AWESOME! I’m so stoked to be on their list,” then there’s no way they’re going to unsubscribe.

But for people who are like, “meh, this isn’t what I expected,” then why would you want them to stay? Why not just cut ties right now so that you know you’re only filling your list with people who care?

At the same time, you’re doing a little bit of reverse psychology, you little sneak! When people see you asking them to unsubscribe, it makes the right people want to stay even more. Almost like a test that makes them CHOOSE once more to stay in your community. Those choices are powerful.

7. Tell your story.

Now, everything I just covered is typically reserved for the first email in your indoctrination series. But I have two emails that I send to my new subscribers (over two days).

The second email shares a little bit more about my story, but it also links to some of my best content to allow my new subscribers to see the value I can bring them.

In the beginning of your second email, I recommend telling them more about your actual story. How did you get to be doing what you’re doing right now? Don’t worry! You don’t need to be an “expert” and have a ton of extraordinary accolades in order for people to care about how you got started. Just use this time to be real with them and share a bit of the “behind the scenes.”

Also, if you have a compelling before and after story as it relates to what you teach or sell, then now’s the time to share it.

8. Links to your best content.

Think of it this way: Your new subscriber could have opted in from ANYWHERE. You have no idea if they saw that killer blog post you published last week or heard the vulnerable podcast you shared a few months ago.

So, in the second email of your indoctrination sequence, link to a few of your best pieces of content. Try to choose content that’s super valuable, relevant to your new subscribers, and possibly shares a more personal or vulnerable side to who you are. This will all help your new subscribers to Know, Like, and Trust you.

We’ve covered a LOT of steps so far. To help you, I created a free Implementation Checklist that walks you through each step and action item you need to complete. It even tells you how long each step should take you!

To get the free Implementation Checklist to help you implement everything in this blog post, just click the button below:

Click here to subscribe

Step 5: Create a Sales Sequence

Last but not least, once you’ve spent time cultivating engagement with your subscribers (psst: This post shares 8 examples of the types of emails you can send to your subscribers to create engagement!) it might be time to sell them something.

A Sales Sequence is similar to your Indoctrination Sequence — it’s a series of emails that you send to your subscribers over the span of a few days or weeks.

The main difference? While your Indoctrination Sequence is designed to build trust and connection, your Sales Sequence is designed to make sales of your product or service. Makes sense, right?

For your first sales sequence, I recommend sending 5 emails over the span of about 2 weeks. Here’s what I’d put into each email:

Email #1: Teach something

Give them a tip or break down an important process that you know they’re dying to learn more about. Make sure that whatever you teach in this email is directly connected to the product or service you’ll be pitching later on.

Email #2: Shift their mindset

Do they have any mindset blocks or thought patterns that might keep them from investing in your product or service when the time comes?

For example, let’s say you are a personal trainer and this sales sequence is designed to get you new clients for your personal training business.

Some of your ideal clients might think that they don’t have the time for personal training, or they’re afraid to go into a gym because they’re ashamed of their body.

In this email, you get to speak directly to the FEARS that your ideal client or customer is experiencing about this topic. How can you help them see that their fears aren’t real? Or how can you validate their fears, but help them to see why it’s worth it to push past them anyways?

This is one of your most empowering emails of this sequence.

Email #3: Share myths or misconceptions

What myths or misconceptions exist in your industry or surrounding your product’s topic? Keeping with the personal training example, perhaps people believe that personal training is for “rich people” and that they could never afford it. But YOU know that the price is worth it for the results they’ll get, and that your clients can pay in monthly installments to split up the cost.

Whatever the misconceptions are surrounding your product or service’s topic, share them in this email and break down why they’re not true.

Email #4: Introduce your product or service

Now that your subscribers have gotten a taste for your knowledge and have eliminated many of their fears and objections…tell them about your product or service!

As you explain your offering, make sure to tell them how it will BENEFIT them instead of just telling them what they’ll get.

For example, don’t just say, “this package includes 10 personal training sessions.” Tell them that “within 10 sessions, most of my clients tell me that they’ve lost at least 10 pounds, feel tons of energy, and actually ENJOY going to the gym.”

What’s the benefit of what you’re selling? What’s the potential transformation?

It helps to add scarcity or urgency to your email because people are more likely to make a decision if they HAVE to. What you don’t want is for people to read your email and think to themselves, “hmm I’ll think about it.” If that happens, they’ll often forget about your product and never purchase.

But with scarcity or urgency, you’ll get your subscriber to actually DECIDE if they want what you’re selling. Yes, this can mean that they decide that they don’t want to purchase. That’s just fine — why would you want someone to purchase if this isn’t the right product for them?

But for someone who KNOWS deep down that this product is exactly what they need? Adding scarcity or urgency will help them realize that now’s the time to enroll.

For scarcity, this could be something like, “I only have 5 spots left!”

And for urgency, it might sound like, “The price is going up in 24 hours — enroll now to get the lowest price!”

Email #5: Share a tip + harder pitch

In this final email, share another tip to keep them engaged, and then go into another pitch of your product or service. It may feel repetitive to pitch your product again, but most of your subscribers won’t open EVERY email, so this ensures that your subscribers see your email, or reminds them to make a decision.

Don’t forget to remind them of the scarcity or urgency as well, as your offer is about to expire.

Once you’re finished writing your Sales Sequence, upload it to your Email Service Provider (I recommend ConvertKit) and send it to your subscribers.

Alright, my friend! If you got this far then I’m sending you a gold medal — well done! I hope these 5 tips on how to grow your email list, engage with your subscribers, and make sales were extremely helpful for you!

I know that this is a LOT to implement (and I recommend working on these tips over the next 1-2 months), so I created a free Implementation Checklist, which highlights every single step you need to complete (and how long to spend on each step) to get the best results.

Just click the button below to get your Implementation Checklist for free:

Click here to subscribe

Now leave a comment below and tell me: what is holding you back from growing your email list?

I can’t wait to hear from you!

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My name is
Melyssa Griffin

I believe that an unstoppable mindset can be your #1 business tactic. So, my job is to lead you back to yourself and to help you reprogram the limiting beliefs and patterns that are keeping you small. 

Around these parts, I share my best business secrets, as well as help you cultivate a life of true freedom, purpose, and fun. I’m also big on bear hugs, anything unconventional and creative, and teaching people like you how to live an abundant and limitless life. Let’s get weird.


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