I lost my list. Here’s how I started again.

By  •  Updated: 02/04/22 •  5 min read

In 2013 I had to start my list all over again after I sold my first business.

Now I make more sales from lists of a few hundred dedicated readers than I used to from emailing millions of ecommerce buyers.

Watch this 5 minute video to find out how I do it…


Every successful person gets asked,

“If you lost it all, and you had to start again with no list. What would you do?”

That happened to me, and this is what I did about it.

I got into email marketing quite early. Back in those days I did loads of work with E commerce businesses like online shops, and the general type of email that we used to run was you know, take all the promotions that are on somebody’s homepage, and stick them in an email and push them into your inbox.

And that kind of worked.

Most of the people on those lists were people who’d already shopped through their their online stores, so they kind of knew them and we made a decent amount of sales.

But that kind of promotional just, you know, jamming stuff outbound all the time. I kind of got sick of it, and I realised that what I really liked was not stuff, not the kind of things you buy in shops, not clothes, handbags, you know, interior gizmos.

What I really liked was experiences and learning.

So when I sold my ecommerce agency, I started working with training businesses and online courses and information products. And I had to start again with my list.

I started from from square one because people who were into selling handbags, were not interested in what I was doing. So I did have to start again from square one.

And it taught me a really valuable lesson. Because when you start to build a list, and you get that first person on your email list, quite often you know them. Quite often they’re somebody that follows you on Twitter that you’re friends with on Facebook or that you’re connected with on LinkedIn and that’s that’s how they found out about you how they found out about your list, and how they decided to sign up.

So when you get that first email signing up, you know, I would I would just ping them a note.

I figured out where they knew me from and I’d go back into Twitter or LinkedIn and just ping them and say, you know, “thanks for signing up. What kind of stuff is that you’re interested in?”

and actually start a conversation. Email conversations are just like DMS they’re much more personal.

You find out much more about what’s worrying somebody what they’re struggling with, and they’ll ever admit you know, in that on the timeline out in public. So it’s a really good way of, you know, finding out what stuff you should be writing about on your list and also how people perceive you how, what what do they think you’re good at that you can help them with because a lot of times stuff that you know, and take for granted can be the very thing that they’re struggling with.

Now, when I started this, although I didn’t have many training clients, I knew loads about email. I know all the technicalities of it. I knew about crazy things like deliverability I knew about you know how all the systems worked. I knew which tools to choose.

So I started off with lots of that kind of technical help. And then over time brought in things which are new but hadn’t hadn’t been doing in public so much like copywriting and creating information products.

But I was brought into those by people who sign up to my list and who I reached out to and said, Hi, you’re one of the first people on this list, you know, really like to know what it is that you’re interested in. And if you do that, by the time you’ve got even 100 people on your list, nevermind 1000 or 10,000 you will have some really strong relationships.

You will have people who have totally got your back. You will have people who will recommend you and some of those people will become friends. You know, there are people that I’ve met in real life because they sign up to my email list, which chatted about where we lived realise they were local. And we’ve gone out and had drinks together all met up in London.

It’s a much more fulfilling way of running your marketing than just hammering stuff down people’s throats all the time.

So as you start to build out your information products, a lot of people get into this game because they don’t want to do the one to one work.

They don’t they’re a bit scared. They’re a bit introvert, and they don’t want their time you know, locked down by the people. I understand the time aspect.

But if you really understand a tiny group of people really well it will set you up to create much, much more successful products than just trying to guess by throwing things out there and just seeing if anything sticks at all.

So as you go through any of my content, any other tips and advice and as you create your first information products, just keep that in mind.

And as you start out, do things that don’t scale, talk to people individually, get feedback, make friends make connections.

You will be so much more successful than by copying what big brands do, which is just to hammer stuff out to a million people and live off the tiny percentage of them that respond

Stephen Pratley

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