Each time I embark on any business venture, I have some expectations and failure isn’t one on the list at all. I always have the strong belief that if I connect the dots correctly, the results will be positive, stepping me forward to another level in life.

When I got into Email Marketing, I was just throwing a shot in the dark. The reason was simply because I had no coach or any guide to hold my hands along.

But the unexpected expectation which is failure came knocking. I wanted a list of real people who would open my campaigns, click my links and buy whatever I was promoting.

The last time I checked, everyone running an online business with some list building activity aims at creating a list of real people who would go through these steps:

  • Receive the campaigns straight to the inbox
  • Open the messages and read through
  • Click the links in the message (except the unsubscribe link)
  • Take some necessary action once on the destination page.

And these are certainly your expectations if you are building an email list for your online business. So how do you make sure your expectations are not cut short?

  • What if your messages are not delivered straight to inbox (poor deliverability)?
  • What if your subscribers actually got your messages into their inbox but never click to open?
  • And what if they open and click the Unsubscribe link or report your message as spam?
  • What if they click through to your destination page and quit without taking any required action?

The greatest expectation of any marketer is to have the subscriber take some important actions on the destination page. This doesn’t matter how many messages are necessary in a campaign aimed at gradually moving the subscriber to a well-cherished action.

It all depends on your strategy as a marketer. Maybe, you want the subscriber to take action from reading a single message or you want to drive them gradually through a series of warming up messages to the final stage. All you probably want is that final action:

  • You want them to buy a product or service
  • You want them to signup to a webinar or any other event
  • You want to get their opinion on something
  • You want them to check out your new blog post and share on social media or comment
  • Etc

These are just some expectations on the destination page of your campaigns. Sometimes I send a message to my list and all I expect is just a click to open and read the content. This happens when I want to give out some general information to my subscribers without a link to any page for any further action.

In this case, my open rate tells me how near I am to my expectations, which often is somewhere above 60%. Most of the time, I get up to 80% open rate which is far above my industry average. I’m going to share with you some of the strategies in this post.

4 steps to build an email list that will not disappoint your expectations!

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1 – Get your campaigns straight to inbox:

This is the most difficult part of email marketing. The reason is that at every step of building the list and marketing to it, there are delivery obstacles. Here are some tips to help improve your inbox deliverability

  1. Choose a reliable Email Service Provider (ESP): My experience in the past was a bitter one because my choice of an ESP was driven by price. Beware of any service that’s cheap and attractive. Pay attention to other factors and you may discover a reason to stay away.
  2. Get real people to signup: It’s easy to guide real people to your email list and avoid invalid addresses and bots. Simply implement double opt-in across all your signup forms. Use permission based signup procedures. It’s generally not a good idea to use email harvesting tools. You end up with a massive list of invalid and irrelevant subscribers.
  3. Focus on quality (Targeted) not quantity: A very crucial success factor is relevancy. Don’t just be excited by seeing your list swell. Size isn’t always important. Make sure you get people who are interested in you to subscribe to your list.
  4. Avoid spam trigger words: Some words should be avoided in your messages. Generally, these are words that are present in most emails marked as spam by users. Each time you use these words, your spam score rises. These words differ from one industry to another. You may want to check out this article for a long list of spam triggers classed by industries.
2 – Get them to open your messages:

It’s one thing to get your messages to the inbox of your subscriber. It’s another thing to get that subscriber to click and open the message. Like you, I get hundreds of emails to my inbox every day. Do I open all these messages? No!

Here are three factors that influence the open rates of any email hitting the subscribers’ inboxes:

  1. Sender name recognition: Once subscribers signup to your list, they know you are John Doe. If your sender name is St. John D., you mislead them. Chances are that a massive portion of them won’t recognize you. That may heavily affect your open rate.
  2. Pay attention to your subject lines: Subject lines are simply a summary of the content of the message. If they are boring and dumb, they cause your subscribers to move to the next message without opening yours. If they are misleading, they will simply get them annoyed and you’ll soon see them clicking the unsubscribe button.
  3. Send messages at the right time: You probably have subscribers from different geo locations. What this means is time differences. By the time you are thinking it’s 1 PM GMT, you are 4 hours ahead of Eastern Time. That has huge implications on your open rate. Fortunately, many premium ESPs allow you to set sending time for different time zones.

Every email you send from a reputable ESP today has the Unsubscribe link as a spam requirement. There is nothing you can do about it and your worst experience is to have your subscribers click that link. Each click on that link means a lost subscriber.

That’s why you must be sure to only get the right people to signup and don’t annoy them with boring or misleading subject lines, irrelevant messages, sending too many times, etc

Here are some helpful tips:

  1. Be personal in your messages. Write from a point of view of results not just expectations
  2. Don’t be too promotional. Build a more personal than business relationship with your subscribers
  3. Avoid crazy claims and be moderate
4 – Get them to take the right action on the destination page.

If you are driving your subscribers to an external resource, you must be careful not to get them irritated. Make sure there is something in for them. Put them on top of your list. If what you want them to checkout is not of any value to them, you’d better not send the message.

Marketers have burnt their list because of selfish business drives. Readers have subscribed to your list because they expect help from you. They didn’t signup to make you earn money from their wallet. If you do not give them the expected value, you’ll see them move away.


When building a list of real people, avoid anything that seems like a short cut. Follow steps to naturally grow your list and deal responsibly with your subscribers. Once they earn your trust, you will be getting exciting results.