We all want a huge mailing list. I’m guilty of it. Take a look around the archives of Blog Tyrant and you’ll see all the references I make to building a huge list.

But, if I’m honest, a huge list is totally irrelevant unless the subscribers are engaged.

So what’s more important? Building huge relationships.

In this post I want to take a look at why you need to get your list engaged and addicted to your content and give you some tips on how to do it.

Its not the size, its how you use it

Take a look at any of the big blogs around the web, Problogger, Viper Chill, Copyblogger, Shoemoney, etc., and most of the time they talk about how to grow your list. Very rarely do we hear them discuss how to grow an engaged list.

I’ve touched on it a few times here and in my post on why bloggers should use Aweber for their email marketing software but I’ve never really gone into much depth. I always sort of considered it a “given”.

But its not.

Recently I’ve heard stories of bloggers building up 3,000 email subscribers in order to do a product launch and then having absolutely no success despite having a very sexy launch formula.

Why? Because their list doesn’t give a crap about what they are doing.

A quick question for you
Okay so here is one way to think about it:

Would you prefer 10,000 subscribers that don’t interact with you in any way or would you prefer 100 hyper-loyal subscribers that re-tweet everything you write and buy everything you sell?

I’ve rather the 100. You’ll also find that 100 loyal subscribers will each bring you dozens of new subscribers.

Your readers are your best marketers. Make sure you take that in.

How to build relationships with your list

Now, building relationships with your mailing list is very similar to building relationships on your blog. They are the same readers after all. That being said, as the mailing list is already subscribed there are a few extra things that you can do with them that you can with the non-subscriber readers. And a lot of it is done with Aweber.

1. Offer exclusive content for your mailing list
One of the very important features that Aweber offers is Follow Up emails. These are pre-set emails that you write out and set to get sent to every subscribers automatically after a certain number of days.

For example, after two days I have set my Follow Ups to send out a thank you note and then every 8 days I’ll send out some exclusive content. Its all fully automated but because it works on the timeline of the individual user it all looks very personal.

You can even set it so that the follow ups arrive at a certain time of the day on certain days of the week. For example, you will find that Fridays have a very low opening rate.

2. Don’t limit to written content
A lot of mailing lists just send out regular content. This is a bit of a mistake. If you can offer more than written content you will find that people get more engaged.

Let’s take my list as an example again. If I find a goof plugin that I think will help people I will let them know about it. It’s not just me writing to them again.

This is the extra stuff that the list allows you to do. I would never write one post on just one plugin because it would be too short and uninspiring. But you can send it out to the mailing list easily.

3. Let them know about events early
Part of a good product launch is letting your list know that something is coming up soon and that you should be excited. What most people forget is that you should do that with your list occasionally as well.

For example, if you have a really huge post coming up that you know is going to do well on the social media sites you might want to send out an email to your list letting them know it’s coming and that they should get their comments in early.

It’s not much but it makes a difference to some of your readers.

4. Send a few personal stories
One of the things I notice a few of the good lists do (Smart Passive Income, for example) is send occasional stories that have a really personal edge.

Getting personal with your list is really important for making it as loyal and responsive as possible. If people really know what is going on with you once in a while they will get more interested in what you have to say.

A good way is to just think of your list as a group of friends studying together. You’re not really someone speaking down to them. That group mentality is important.

5. Keep it scarce but seductive
This might seem like a little bit of a contradiction but scarcity goes a long way to building relationships. You don’t want to make your emails so infrequent that everyone forgets who you are, but you do want to stagger them so that people miss you a little bit.

This type of marketing is talked about a lot in dating circles – you don’t want to give too much of yourself in the beginning because you might come off desperate. A little bit of mystery is good.

Whether that works in dating I don’t know but it seems to do well on blogs.

6. Get your list to do things
Darren Rowse was really the pioneer of this in my opinion. Back in the day (many years ago) he used to get all his readers to write a blog post in a certain style and then he would give a back link to everyone’s posts. We all generated traffic from it, got a link from Problogger and had a really good time. Super engaging. Here is an example.

A lot of people are afraid to ask their list to do something for them but this is a huge error. Your list, if they are warming up to you, will love to repay your kindness somehow. Just don’t ask too much. Some ideas include:

  • Getting them to suggest ideas for a post or series
  • Asking for an occasional Tweet or Stumble
  • Asking for help finding a specific resource
  • Getting people involved setting up a webinar or Skype chat
  • etc.

Of course you don’t want to do this all the time but the occasional request will actually solidify your relationship even more.

Is your list engaged?

I’d really like to know whether your email list is engaged and responsive. Have you done anything that really helped that engagement? On the flip side, have you ever done anything that caused a lot of people to unsubscribe? Please leave me a comment and let me know.


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  1. I do a biker (bikie if you’re Australian) cartoon three times a week. I gain about ten new subscriptions a month. One of your pointers reminded me of a British biker blogger who did a sort of contest last April called All Bikers Centerline Day, where bloggers got a pic of themselves on the centerline of the road, posted it to their blog, then posted the link as a comment at the blog that sponsored it. http://garysusatour.blogspot.com/2011/04/abcd-will-you-take-part.html
    I was impressed with the engagement factor on this, and how many people had cool pictures and creative approaches to fulfilling the assignment. Eventually I’d like to try something similar, maybe creating an award from my own product stash or that of a local merchant.

    1. the Blog Tyrant on November 21, 2011

      That’s a really cool idea. Thanks for sharing Rob.

  2. Gregory Ciotti on November 20, 2011

    I definitely agree with you on the scarcity, there is nothing that will make me leave a list faster than too many emails.

    I’m not sure I agree with emails containing a snippet of information like with your widget/tool example… that might honestly annoy me more than anything.

    Other than that, solid advice on making things a little more personal.

    1. the Blog Tyrant on November 21, 2011

      Yeah, you gotta be careful with the annoying factor. Thanks Gregory.

  3. Cool topic. I’ve actually been signing up for e-mail newsletters of my favorite Internet marketers. A cool way to see how the pros do it.

    One thing I’ve noticed a few of them do is make their first follow-up e-mail ask, “What are you struggling with?” or something similar. I imagine they must generate lots of ideas for future blog posts from that. Maybe even ideas for paid products!

    If I remember right, Corbett Barr at ThinkTraffic noticed that a lot of people were interested in affiliate marketing for beginners. He launched a product, and even called it “Affiliate Marketing for Beginners.” I think he did very well, making tens of thousands of dollars within the first few days of releasing it.

    So when they say, “It pays to listen,” it’s true.

    1. the Blog Tyrant on November 21, 2011

      I’m going to borrow that! Thanks Marcus!

      1. Cool. I actually went back and read your “I need you to succeed” e-mail. You could easily just ask, “What do you need help with?” at the end. Save you the trouble of writing a whole new message from scratch.

        1. the Blog Tyrant on November 21, 2011


          Hey, what do you think of the new content font here on the site?

          1. I like it! Very clean and readable. Nowadays, I often find myself hitting “Ctrl +” on other sites where the text is too small.

            There’s a rising blogger called the Information Highwayman. He writes about copywriting, conversion rate optimization, and Internet marketing. But what makes him stand out to me is that he’s a real activist on typography and readability.

            You might even say he’s a “tyrant” about it. Ha ha! He’s very opinionated, but backs up everything he says.

            This guest post in Smashing Magazine is his manifesto:
            “16 Pixels for Body Copy. Anything Less is a Costly Mistake.”


            Font size is something I pay more attention to now when I shop for WordPress themes. I prefer big, readable fonts out-of-the-box. Sometimes I look at the theme demo and see how easy it is to tweak the font size with Firebug. And check if enlarging the font throws off the layout.

            If the CSS is too hard to track down or adjusting the font size throws everything out of whack, I won’t bother and look at other themes.

            By the way, what is your new content font called?

    2. P.S. Small request: would you create a category for “E-mail Marketing”? You stress the importance of building a mailing list and you’ve got excellent posts like this one about it. But I have trouble sifting through your archives to find them. Thanks!

      1. the Blog Tyrant on November 21, 2011

        I was just thinking about that last night Marcus. Its an emphasis of mine and I don’t have anywhere for them.

        I was thinking of either reducing all my categories down to like four broad ones, or creating a new one for that.

        1. I don’t think you have an excessive number of categories. If you’ve got at least 3-5 posts on one topic, I think it deserves a category.

          If you do combine them, I would really recommend keeping the categories based on format, e.g. Videos and Podcast. For people in a rush and not wanting to read, I think they’d like having quick access to those types of content.

          Definitely keep the category of “Making Money.” I don’t know your analytics, but that’s something I think people would click on. 🙂

  4. wonderful post. I also have always maintained that the relationship and the people are far more important than the whole blogging and money and list type of things. Because if there will be no people, there will be no success for you.

    1. the Blog Tyrant on November 21, 2011

      Absolutely right Tushar.

  5. Weirdly I just want to point out the downside to an engaged list.

    Abandonment issues…

    If you make a personal connection with people and they have a relationship with you or feel like they do because of the type of person you are, and you stop writing or disappear, it hurts their little feelings and reduces the amount of trust they have in you.

    If you have people who are committed to you and what you have to say to keep them on your list and keep them trusting you then you must communicate with them if you disappear.

    This may seem weird, but it’s the truth of these personal connections, even if it’s over the internet.

    As a blogger, the relationship is more real for the reader who feels like they have a personal connection to the blogger. For the most part the blogger does not reciprocate that feeling simply because it’s impossible to feel that way about 20,000 people. Still this relationship exists.

    Now if I was a blogger who didn’t write regularly I would be very careful about what the first content I sent out after a prolonged absence.

    It should probably be something like Hello I’m back rather than check out my font.

    As I write this I notice many regulars are absent…

    I too am doing the same thing in June of this year I became very busy, and someone trademarked my business name and copied my site and so on. Those two items together made it difficult for me to write. Whenever I deal with the lawyers I get a bad case of writer’s block. I can’t seem to write when I’m angry.

    When I come back to my blog after not writing for a while, comments are way down and obviously traffic is down.

    In closing my comment essay, I am thinking that for those of us who do made a personal connection, we should say if we can’t write for a while…and then say I’m back when we come back. That is after all what we do in real life.

    1. the Blog Tyrant on November 21, 2011

      Hi Rachelle.

      Great to see you still around, of course.

      Very interesting comment-essay. I assume its talking about Blog Tyrant?

      I’ve always sort of maintained that I’ll only write if I have something to say. But, perhaps you don’t think this is an entirely good idea?

      Lots to think about… Thank you.

      1. Well it was a disclosure of how I felt after I got your typography email last night followed by my arrival here and noticing my comment buddies were not here.

        But from the other end, I know how I feel because blogging consistently is very hard.

        Still luv ya! 🙂

        1. the Blog Tyrant on November 21, 2011

          You – are – amazing

    2. Good point, Rachelle. That’s one reason I avoid having too many blogs at one time. You want to give your audience dedicated attention.

      At the same time, I’m with Blog Tyrant about only writing when I have something to say. On my “Marcus Goes Global” travel blog, I only write if there’s an interesting story to tell. If there isn’t, then I don’t write.

      1. the Blog Tyrant on November 21, 2011

        Its a really tough one to balance. I think Glen from Viper Chill does it well.

        Perhaps it more about setting expectations than keeping regular?

        1. I agree that if a reader gets used to lots of excellent quality posts often then nothing for a while we wonder what happened with the blogger.

          This is the other side of engaged lists, I don’t wonder about Darren Rouse because I have no personal connection with him. Maybe I would feel differently if I had subscribed when he was the only prolific writer.

          Glen of Viperchill does update his manic readers, he tells people hey I’m working like a dog on this amazing thing the latest is a newspaper blog contest in the UK of some sort… see what I mean?

          Where were you? Where was I? to my readers they don’t know.

          Just saying. BTW I’m just stating my observations.

          1. the Blog Tyrant on November 21, 2011

            Yeah that is a really good point. I do update on Twitter almost every day but maybe I need to do other things? Maybe a little column on the site somewhere?

  6. the Blog Tyrant on November 21, 2011

    Marcus – the new font is just verdana with a tiny bit of letter spacing and not quite black color.

    1. Thanks! Good to know.

  7. Best Blogging Content of the Week Ending Nov. 15, 2011 | Monthly Income Report on November 25, 2011

    […] Blog Tyrant on email list size vs. email list engagement. It’s a common conundrum — would you rather have thousands of email subscribers that aren’t active, or just a hundred that are super engaged. You can probably assume what the correct answer is, but read this post to find out exactly why. […]

  8. Sarfrazul Ameen on November 19, 2020

    I really like the content in your post on why the size of your subscribers list is important. I agree that you should build a bond or rapport with the people on your subscribers list but doing it effectively is what your post is about.

    I really did not know that you could make the people on your subscribers list do stuff. That is awesome. Thank you for the helpful advice. Cheers.

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