How to choose what list to build

By  •  Updated: 01/04/23 •  3 min read

I run a handful of different lists in wildly different markets, so I was interested in how other email marketers pick the markets they operate in.

I banged out a tweet to see which list people would choose to get access to:

  1. 95 high net worth expats in London
  2. 1200 of you beautiful people from Twitter
  3. 140,000 freebie hunters

A couple of the responses that preferred the high net worth list made a typical mistake – assuming that people with money always want to spend it.

Rich people don’t buy things just because they’re expensive.

They buy things the want and sometimes things they need. And those things are usually pretty consistent. They’re human. Their buying decisions are a lot like yours.

Outside of food and rent, my guess is that your big spend items are in a very small number of markets.

Maybe you’re into your cars, maybe it’s exotic travel, maybe it’s your home. It’s rarely all of these at once.

Next up, my friend Jacob got closer to the mark.

Jacob is another email marketer and also does a lot on Twitter so my guess is his offers are similar to mine.

He was tempted by the luxury option, but decided he’d rather stay in his lane.

Jacob gets it.

The list you want to run is the one you can create or source offers for, and those offers need to be as similar to the ones that list has bought in the past as possible.

They might be your offers or affiliate offers, or you might decide to run a newsletter supported by ads.

Whatever your business model, don’t stray too far from the core of what you’re promising to help your audience with.

A quick story.

One of the first lists I built with paid ads was a sweepstake for a Playstation 3.

I could get names for about $1 each, and then send them about a dozen other PS3 offers. I’d make back around $3 for every $1 I spent in ads.

Then I ran out of offers.

I started sending Xbox offers and almost immediately the list tanked.

It went from 10% click-throughs to 1-2%.

And it never really recovered.

So, the lesson is, stay in your lane.

If you want to jump on a new trend like crypto or AI or whatever else 2023 has in store for us, make sure it’s relevant to the market you’re in, or do it with a new list.

OK, practical tip now.

Make friends with your competitors.

If you sell information and skills, you’re not the only place your customers spend their money, so you may as well get ahead of it.

Find people with complimentary or even competing businesses and trade offers with them in your lists.

Don’t send offers that are irrelevant because you’re scared to send something that might compete with you.

My favourite way to do this is to promote a paid offer as an affiliate.
I use ThriveCart for my own offers. Your own course program probably has its own affiliate tools.

If you’re just trying to grow your email list, the recent bubble in Newsletters has thrown up a few marketplaces to find sponsors and other lists to promote you.

If you want people who read and respond to emails, doesn’t it make sense to look for them on other email lists?

My friend Paul Metcalfe (who’s an old hand at this) recommends

So, no excuses now. Get building!

Stephen Pratley

I build email lists, that grow into one-man businesses.