How to Consistently Add Email Subscribers

Email List Growth

It’s about your email list.

Once I learned that, I began to see marketing in a completely different way. It made me realize that marketing (anything) online is still about one-to-one relationships.

One-to-one relationships—at scale.

Engaging your subscribers with messages that truly resonate with them actually isn’t that hard. When you empathize with your target customer, the same way you do with any other individual you have a relationship with, everything gets easier.  The harder part, of course, is finding and attracting those subscribers in the first place.

Some tactics you’ll hear about might help you get a quick spike in subscribers, only to see them disappear next month.

Today, I want to share 3 strategies I’ve used for years to grow my email list and audience consistently, month after month. I don’t have the largest list out there. But I attract readers who are highly engaged in what I have to say (high open-rates) and I continuously work to attract more who are just like them to come join me.

Here’s how I do that…

Growing Email List

My email list growth from Oct 2014-Oct 2015

One Evergreen Lead Magnet

Once I focused my efforts on growing my email list, the first thing I established (and suggest you do too) is one evergreen “lead magnet”.

My favorite form of this is an email course, that educates your audience on the topic you (or your company) is most known for, and is most relevant to what you sell. In my case, here on, that is my Productize Crash Course.

Your evergreen lead magnet serves two important purposes:

  • It attracts new subscribers. It’s the thing you’ll promote everywhere. It’s designed to attract the most ideal people onto your email list.
  • It educates recent subscribers. The first two weeks of your subscriber’s time on your list are critical. They are most engaged and interested in your content at this point. Your email course educates them about your main topic, and leads them toward whatever it is that you sell.

You can update and improve your evergreen lead magnet over time (I update mine from time to time with tweaks to sequences, subject lines, follow up messages, and so on).

I recommend that you focus on only one evergreen lead magnet. You can (and should) establish many other entry-points onto your email list, as I’ll describe below.

But this is your primary point of attraction. The thing you’re promoting on your homepage, alongside every blog post, mention it when you’re a guest on podcasts and so on. It’s also the most optimized path that a person will take from casual visitor to subscriber to paying customer.

Content Upgrades

As I said, you should establish multiple entry-points to your email list, beyond just your primary lead magnet. This is where Content Upgrades come in.

I wrote two in-depth articles over on the Audience Ops blog all about content upgrades:

The idea behind content upgrades is to turn individual blog articles into email opt-in opportunities by offering a piece of bonus content to go along with the topic of a particular article.

As you can imagine, these convert extremely well because they are so relevant to the intent of the person who is reading the article. For example, if you arrived on this article because you happen to be seeking ideas for growing your email list, I’d bet you’d be interested in a roadmap of things you can do to accelerate your list growth.

Well here you go:

Bonus: Get my email list growth roadmap (3-page guide)

See what I did there? 😉

NOTE: Creating a piece of bonus content for your article means putting in more time and effort. And you can’t put just anything into that bonus content. It has to be genuinely useful and actionable for your reader in order to justify asking for their email address.

Setting up content upgrades used to be a total pain. I used to set them up manually each time, adding custom code for the popup form, then hooking it up to my email marketing tool (Drip), setting up an autoresponse email to the subscriber, tagging them accordingly etc.

At Audience Ops, we’ve built a WordPress plugin, aptly named Content Upgrades, and it makes the entire process way easier. With a simple shortcode, you can quickly insert an email opt-in in a post, send the bonus content to the user, and pass their info onto your email marketing tool of choice.


The last piece of the puzzle is to consistently and continuously seek new channels of exposure to your people. Here on, I seek exposure to freelancers and entrepreneurs.

I’m thoroughly aware of all of the tactics out there that can bring exposure in the form of one-time spikes, like having a post go viral on a popular site like Hacker News, or getting mentioned by a high profile influencer. I have benefited from these things a few times, and it’s a pleasant surprise when it happens. But there’s not much I can do make these things happen.

That’s why I’m much more interested in more repeatable, scalable methods for getting in front of an audience. Things I can have direct control over.

Here are the things I have done repeatedly over the years in an effort to bring sustainable channels of traffic to my site and subscribers into my email list:

  • Consistent publishing.  Again, just publishing alone won’t bring in new subscribers. But staying consistent with it over a long period of time does help a lot. Consistency has an impact on organic search results. And when you’ve added unique email opt-ins to your posts, using things like Content Upgrades, this ongoing effort can really pay off. To this end, I’ve been publishing new articles throughout the year on this blog, and we try to publish new episodes of our podcast on a weekly basis.
  • Guest articles. For years I’ve been a guest contributor to a growing list of high-traffic blogs such as Mashable, Smashing Magazine, Michael Hyatt and others. I started by reaching out to smaller blogs, then working my way up the chain. The key to making guest articles pay off is to feature your primary, evergreen lead magnet (in my case, my email course) as the call-to-action in your byline, or if possible, within the article itself.
  • Guest on podcasts. This is something I’ve done a lot more of in the last year, and it’s also the thing I have the most fun doing. I love going on as a guest on other people’s shows to talk about… Anything. Mostly I’m invited to talk about productized services, but it’s fun to get into other stuff too like content marketing, longterm travel, and other things I’m into. Like guest posts, I have worked my way up from lesser-known podcasts to higher profile shows. And again, I usually try to mention my free email course at the end, if it’s relevant to that audience.
  • Paid acquisition. As of this writing, I’m not running any paid ads, but I have in the past and I will again in the future. Facebook and Twitter are particularly effective for promoting specific blog posts. The key is to capture a person’s email address when they read your post and this is why I’m such a fan of using Content Upgrades.
  • Retargeting ads. Again, not running them currently, but I have found them very effective and will use them again. These also work well in conjunction with content upgrades. You can run retargeting ads to people who’ve read your articles but didn’t opt in for the bonus content or your evergreen lead magnet.
  • Social media. I always Tweet my latest content on my personal Twitter account. At Audience Ops, we do more frequent Tweeting and posting content to Facebook over an extended period of time (which makes sense when we’re promoting on behalf of a company rather than a personal brand). The key is to promote genuinely helpful articles and resources to the right people.
  • Social networking. Different from social media… I consider social networking to be having a presence in industry-specific forums, Slack communities, and answering questions on Quora, Reddit, and other places. I’ve done this at varying levels of frequency with great results, especially when I’m answering questions that I’ve built credibility on.

So that’s what I’ve been doing to grow my email list these past few years. We’ve adapted some of these strategies in what we do for clients over at Audience Ops, and we’re continuously testing new ways to drive traffic from the right channels.

Bonus: Get my email list growth roadmap (3-page guide)
  • Jay Broyer

    Hi Brian, great stuff. What would you recommend for someone without any current “street cred” to do first to start growing their list?

    I am trying to find a way to productize the skills ihave aquiredarketing the small brick and mortar biz i work for and start my own thing.



    • Thanks Jay!

      “Street cred” only exists when you’re focused on what other (more known) people are doing. But if you focus on what YOU do (and your expertise) and who you care about attracting to your site (and what THEY need to learn), it all gets easier.

      So I’d start by figuring out what those key topics are that matter to your people, publish some content on those topics, then seek exposure to your people using some of the tactics I listed above.

      • Jay Broyer

        Hey Brian thanks for taking the time and the great reply. Will definitely work on putting that into practice.

        Btw been listening to the podcast started at ep 1! Great insights.

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