I witnessed a conversation happening between two dear friends of mine recently. Both are coaches and course creators, and both were just finishing up launches of their latest things. One lamented that she was seeing a lot of unsubscribes lately and the other agreed.
“It’s reminding me that list building needs to be an ongoing thing and that feels exhausting.”
“It does feel exhausting. Like yet another thing I need to do when there are already too many things to do.”
There are 3 phases of business for most coaches and course creators:
- List Building & Nurturing
- Launching / Selling
The problem is that because many of us are solo creators with small support teams, we often get caught up on one of the phases and neglect the other two.
I see this a lot with coaches and course creators who get so focused on launching and delivering their thing, that they neglect list-building, as with my friends above.
Then they get to the point where they want to — or need to — launch their course or cohort to bring in some new revenue, so they go through the whole process of launching…
But the results aren’t what they expected. Maybe they fall well short of their enrollment or revenue goal.
Suddenly they’re doubting the value of their course or offer — or worse, doubting themselves.
When maybe they just didn’t have enough new people to sell to.
It isn’t that their offer is bad, or that they are somehow bad — it’s that they got so caught up (and exhausted) doing other things that they neglected one of the stages.
And it’s super common.
In fact, I remember one year I had a goal to sell 50 spots in my Content Intelligence Academy course. I worked my TAIL OFF for that launch — and still came up short, selling only 45 spots.
I was so disappointed, I was ready to throw in the towel, call it quits, and shut down my business.
Then I talked to a sales coach and she ran my numbers. I actually had a better than average conversion rate — but I hadn’t started with enough people on my list.
I had set a goal that wasn’t really realistic. Without knowing it, I was fighting an uphill battle the entire way.
Why list building is vital: Running the numbers
One of the first things I do in a Strategy Session with a new client is talk about goals — and then we run the numbers.
For many of them, it’s an eye-opening experience.
Let’s say they want to sell 20 spots in their course or group coaching program.
On average, a sales page converts at 1–3%. (If you’re doing sales calls, you can track your close rate, but average is somewhere between 25–50%.)
That means, to be safe, we need 2,000 people to land on the sales page to see the offer. (20 is 1% of 2,000.)
No problem, my client might say, I have 5,000 people on my email list!
Which is awesome and amazing.
Not everybody on their list is going to ever see the sales page.
See, the average click-thru rate is also around 1–3%. (If you know your numbers and they are better than average, that’s awesome! Apply them to these equations.)
So 3% of 5,000 people on your email list is…
Even if you could guarantee that a different 150 people would be compelled to click every time you send a sales email, you would need to send 14 sales emails to get 2,000 people to your sales page and to get those 20 sales.
(And, let’s be real: it’s not 150 different people opening and clicking every time no matter how many emails you send…)
For my “failed” launch I mentioned before, I actually converted at 4.5% — better than average! But I had set my goal of selling 50 spots without understanding how to run the numbers, and ultimately I didn’t have enough people on my list to see the offer to make that a reality.
Now. These are all just averages, of course (and a highly simplified sales funnel).
The first time you launch something? You might have a WAY higher conversion rate than 3%! Your fans love you and want to buy from you! That is a GOOD thing.
But every subsequent time you launch the same offer to the same people, you’ll get a diminishing rate of returns.
Some business owners take that to mean they need a different offer, when often it just means they need new people to see the offer.
That’s why list building in between launches is so important.
How to make list building (more) automatic
As my friends pointed out, it can feel exhausting to feel like you have to go from
- List Building & Nurturing to
- Launching / Selling to
The answer is to try to automate parts of the process so that they can run in the background.
Sales people will say “ABC: Always Be Closing,” but for us, I think it should be “ABLB: Always Be List Building.” (Not as catchy, I’ll grant you…)
But that doesn’t mean you always have to be running a huge event in order to grow your list.
Here’s how I would make list building a more automatic part of your overall business:
- Optimize your website to collect leads.
This sounds like a no-brainer, but how many of us have actually done this? In the Leadership Marketer’s Library, there’s a “Grow Your Email List” checklist that lists 7 ways you can optimize your site to collect more leads. When I did all 7, I doubled the number of emails I was collecting every day from existing traffic.
- Make content part of your traffic strategy.
The next best way to increase how many leads you get is to increase how much traffic you’re getting, and a tried-and-true method for increasing traffic is by delivering great content — whether that’s blog articles, videos, or podcasts. The caveat here is that whatever the content is, it needs to live on YOUR website (in addition to wherever else you publish it) to take advantage of that optimization you did.
- Borrow other people’s audiences.
Literally the fastest way to grow your list is to get on somebody else’s “stage” so that their audience can see and hear from you. That might mean doing a webinar or training for someone else’s audience, being a guest on a podcast, or even buying ads (you’re paying for access to Facebook’s audience, for example). Whatever you decide to do, make it a regular part of your marketing. Budget for the ads, aim to schedule 1 training a month, or invest in help to pitch yourself to podcasts.
NOTE: It’s important to track how these things work for you, so track the number of opt-ins no matter which tactic you try.
- Warm up your new leads.
For most businesses, it’s hard to get a brand new, cold lead to buy from you right away. So before you try to sell to those people in a launch, you’ll want to warm them up with — you guessed it — more content. This could be in the form of a welcome/nurture email sequence or regular content (see No. 2) or both.
I realize that some of you may take umbrage with the idea that creating new content or providing a training to someone else’s audience is automated — which is why I put the (more) in the subhead up there — but you can automate parts of all of these processes.
For example, you can:
- hire someone to help you produce regular content (hello!).
- systematize how you deliver training to another audience so you just have to show up and deliver the actual training.
- hire someone to pitch you to podcasts or other media outlets (an agency or a VA).
- hire an ads agency or get your ads to the point that they run well without much input.
- automate your nurture sequence emails and your email newsletter with your regular content.
It might not happen overnight, but you can create systems that help ensure that you are Always List Building.
But I think that too often we expect this to be automatic before we have set up or tested any of these systems. We have the “Field of Dreams problem” and think I built a website, people should come…
The truth is, it just doesn’t work that way any more, and in reality, you will likely need all four of the above steps plus the occasional big list-building event to keep your list fresh and have the numbers you need to support your business as you grow.
Don’t think of list building just as an “event”
The point I hope to make here is that list building isn’t (always) a big event that has to happen.
Sometimes it is.
You might do a big webinar, or a giveaway, or a challenge, or create some kind of EPIC content like a new training or ebook. Both of those friends have done big, beautiful 30-day community projects to build their lists.
These are all awesome strategies — and if you have a BIG launch coming up and you know you need to boost your numbers, they can be an important part of your pre-launch. It’s important to build that into your editorial calendar so that you don’t get focused on launching or delivery and forget to do it!
But if that sounds exhausting…
You can build in more opportunities for mostly automated list building that will help keep your numbers high and your list fresh without having to create some big, huge thing.
And the more you make list building a regular part of your business that happens automatically, the less exhausting it will be, and the more successful your launches — and business — will be.