The 4 Step Simplified Email List Building and Marketing Formula

By Chris Shaffer •  Updated: 09/25/20 •  23 min read

So before we dive into the four simple steps that you can use to build your email list and really get the most out of it, I wanted to take just a second to explain why in the year 2020 we are still talking about email marketing.

It can be confusing for people, if you haven't heard us talking about email marketing the past, with all of the modern marketing tools that we have, from Facebook ads to text messages and Facebook Messenger that email marketing is still the single most important marketing channel for your business.

 Don't take my word for it our friends over at run an annual email survey they recently discovered that the average marketer see a 38 to 1 return on investment from your email marketing efforts.

That means, for every dollar that companies put into email marketing they see a return of $38.  

Just for reference a 2-1 or 3-1 return-on-investment from something like Facebook ads, is generally considered to be outstanding.

I don't know about you, but personally if I have the choice between getting $3 and $38, I'm going to choose the 38 every….single…time.

Step #1 Choose a Lead Magnet

Before we can actually start taking advantage of all of the benefits we find inside of something like email marketing, we need to actually start building our list.  This process involves us creating something to attract the attention of people that could be our potential future customers.

 Generally speaking, this is referred to as a lead magnet.

What is a Lead Magnet?

Lead magnets, just like the name implies, are designed to attract the people that we want on our email list, and also to push away the people who we don't want. 

That means, the ideal lead magnet is not something that everyone would be interested in, rather something that only people who are specifically interested in the things that your brand talks about and sells would be interested in.

Types of Lead Magnets

While there are many different things that could be considered a lead magnet for the sake of this conversation, we've bundled them into three different categories and we will be talking about each one below.


Product giveaways are one of the most common types of Lee magnet, they're very easy to set up and can bring in an extremely high number of leads for a very low cost.

 We used this method several times in different brands that we'd run and have always done it to be extremely reliable method for generating interested leads.

I'm not going to dive into the ins-and-outs of giveaways too much here, we've done that in a bunch of other articles at, but I will say that if you don't have something to use from one of the other two categories of lead magnets, that giveaways are absolutely worth taking a look at.

The biggest upside to using this method is that it can be used regardless of if you've ever created a single piece of content or if you have any other resources ready to go on your website.

It does come with a downside in that, unless you choose the products you were giving away perfectly, it is easy to bring in a large number of leads who are not a perfect fit for your Market,  which means you need to do a little bit more work from a marketing perspective, in order to get the most out of a list built using this method.


Information in the form of ebooks, video series, checklist, or guides is another excellent way to attract people to your email list.

 While this method does involve actually creating some content and having a few resources in place on your website, it generally does a much better job in screening potential customers to make sure that they are the perfect fit for your email list.

After all, who's going to opt in for an ebook about the best way to feed your backyard chickens, if they don't have any interest in keeping or having backyard chickens.

Well this is not the absolute best way of bringing people into your list, we'll touch on that in just a minute,  emails added to your list using this method are going to be much more engaged and responsive than emails gathered from something like the giveaway method. 

The downside to that is that building a list this way typically tends to cost a bit more, because you're targeting people more specifically.

Low Cost Products:

The final  type of Lead magnet that we're going to be talking about in this article, Is the low-cost product model.

 If we're using low-cost products to bring people into our email list, this means we're actually selling them something before they join the email list. You may have seen something like this over at,  where we have the Brand Creators Playbook.

People who have actually paid you money, are virtually always going to be the most valuable people to have on an email list  and it's almost always easier to sell something, when we get to that stage, to someone who has bought from you in the past, then it is to sell to someone who has never purchased from you previously. 

Lead Magnet Ideas: 

Don't you have a basic understanding of what a lead magnet is, it's time to come up with a few different ideas that you can Implement in your business.

The Customer Journey:

 The first exercise that I like to use to come up with a magnet ideas is what’s called the Customer Journey. 

Essentially, we're going to create a timeline on a sheet of paper. On one side of the time line I'd like you to write down where your customer or potential customer currently is and on the other side of the timeline you need to write down where your ideal Prospect would be after they have joined your email list.

 In between those two points, list a few of the things that they need to know in order to get from where they are to where you want them to be.

 For example if we were in the fishing niche, on the left side of the timeline ( where our customers are),  I would say something like “wants to fish but doesn't know how”.

The other side of the timeline would say something like” can catch a fish”  because we want everybody on our email list to have the basic knowledge that they need in order to catch a fish.

 Now all that's left is to fill in the space between the two sides of the timeline.

In our example we may write down three different steps or things that people would need to know to go from wanting to fish to being able to catch a fish.

By filling in these gaps, we're able to see the information or products that we would need to provide to our audience in order to get them to the place that we want them to be.

Facebook Groups:

 Like with most things that we need to do a little bit of research on these days, Facebook groups are an excellent place to start if you're looking for ideas for a lead magnet.

Simply go to the Facebook search and type in the main keyword for your audience. Then click on the group's filter and join several of the more popular groups in your space.

 Side note: one easy way to find the best ribs in your Niche is to look for the activity inside of each group before you join the group. Facebook has a little feature, which you will see in the image below, that tells you how many active posts that group gets on a daily or weekly basis. the higher this number is the more active and engaged the group is likely to be.

The Spy Method:

If you're not already taking advantage of all of the wonderful information inside of Facebook advertising Library, you're missing out.

 In response to the controversy surrounding the 2016 United States presidential election, Facebook created a portion of the website where you can visit and see any Ad that is currently running on the website.

 Basically, you can type in any Niche and find any pages in your neck that are running as. By selecting any individual page you can see any ad that page is running.

While at first glance this may not seem extremely beneficial in the research stage, if you're able to find a few different pages in your Niche that are running ads for lead magnets, you can see how long has it been running and get ideas for potentially successful lead magnets in your space.

Sidenote: the older the date is on the ad the longer it has been running. I know it sounds silly to bring us up, but something that most people miss is the longer it has been running the higher likelihood it has of being something that is successful for the company that's running it. 

Meaning, if we find an ad from a year or two ago, chances are that that ad has been very successful and we should take note of what it is that they are advertising.

Step #2 Build a Landing Page

The second step in building any email list is going to be to take your lead magnet and turn it into something that people can actually give you their email address in exchange for.

Regardless of the type of lead magnet that you chose from Step One, you're going to need what's called a landing page for potential people to opt-in to receive the lead magnet.

I know that quite often when I say that someone has to “ build a page”,  that people's eyes glaze over and they imagine something a little bit like the Matrix, with a bunch of numbers and letters and code flying out them. 

Fortunately, regardless of the type of lead magnet that you are using, the landing page creation process has never been easier, especially if you follow the simple steps layed out down below.

What Makes a Landing Page?

There are five key elements that makeup every good landing page. We're going to take a deep dive into each of them below.


This is going to be essentially the first thing that most people see when they arrive on your landing page. Your headline should always be simple and straightforward and should clearly State what you're offering without being too wordy. 

Copy :

In the context of a landing page, when I say the word copy what I'm referring to is physically the text on the page. Essentially it's going to be everything that is not our headline or the few words that exist inside of the form submission button.

The most effective copy will help communicate to your audience exactly what they're going to get and potentially some of the benefits that your lead magnet will provide to them. For example if we are using a lead magnet design to target backyard Chicken Lovers, we are going to write some copy that explains how our backyard chicken toys ebook will help them pick the perfect chicken toy for their breed.

This does not have to be paragraphs and paragraphs explaining everything that they're going to get inside of the book.  Rather, a few sentences occasionally accompanied by some bullet points generally tends to do the trick.


Landing page images or graphics can be one of the most important aspects of your landing page. Generally speaking, we're going to want to include an image of what the person will get if they give us their name and email address.

 That means, if we're giving away an ebook about the best toys for backyard chickens, we should include an image of that book on the page.

 Images should serve a supporting role to your headlines and the copy, and are really there for clarification of exactly what your prospect will get after they fill in the form.

A Form:

Obviously, if we want someone to give us their name and or email address, we have to have a way for them to do that. 

When we're dealing with landing pages, this is always done with a basic form. At a minimum, we need to collect their email address, but it can also be helpful to collect first and or last names. 

Be careful to avoid adding too many additional pieces of information to your form, like address and phone number( if you don't absolutely need them),  because the more information you ask for the less likely someone is to actually fill out and submit the form.


Lastly, we need to make sure that the Forum has a way for someone to actually submit the form.  

This is accomplished by a button. 

 No need to worry,  you don't have to do any coding magic to create a button, any of the landing page solutions that we recommend have the button built in as a part of the form.

 One thing to keep in mind is that we don't want the button to say something like submit or subscribe, no one likes licking on that.

 Rather we should rework the copy on the button to say something that is positive and reinforcing of the action that we want them to take.

 Going back to the example of the chicken ebook, our button may say something like “yes, I want to entertain my chickens”.

By changing this copy, we're taking the button from something that looks like very obvious marketing and turning it into something that is an affirmation of the action that people are about to take ( plus it's much more fun).

Step #3 Follow Up:

After you followed the steps above to choose your lead magnet and creature landing page, it's time to start actually following up with the people who are taking advantage of your new lead magnet.

 At this point, we're going to be regularly adding people to our email list and that means we need to start the process of communicating with them and starting to build a relationship and Trust. 

The 3 Basic Emails

In order to master basic email marketing, we're going to have to have an understanding of the three different types of emails that we could send to our list.

For a more in-depth guide on how to create emails that your audience will love, you may want to check out 3 Steps to Writing Emails that Actually Convert 

Content Emails:

Content only emails are going to make up the vast majority of the types of emails that you should be sending to your audience.  These emails are very simple and they're designed to communicate New pieces of content with things your audience may find interesting.

 Realistically all we are doing with this type of email, is sending something valuable to the audience for them to take advantage of.

These are the easiest emails to create because you should already be creating at least one piece of content per week and don't you need to do to send one content-based email per week is to share a little bit about that content with your audience along with a link.

Sales Emails:

Sales emails or promotional emails, exactly like they sound, are used to sell or promote something. We need to be careful with sending these type of emails( especially when renew to the email marketing game),  because sending them too frequently can lead to burning out our list.

 Most marketers don't like writing these kinds of emails because they're scared to actually ask for something from Their audience, but sales emails absolutely do and should have a place in your email marketing mix.

Hybrid Emails:

 As the name would imply, hybrid emails are a mixture of a sales-type email and a content-based email.  With this type of an email we're going to lead with something of value, like your newest piece of content from the website, and then we are going to gently ask the customer to do something( like buying a product that is on sale)

The Basic Follow Up Strategy:

Now that you have an understanding of the three basic type of emails, let's take just a minute to talk about the basic follow-up strategy that we should be using with our audiences.

At a minimum, you need to be sending at least one email per week to your audience.

The vast majority of these emails should be your content based emails and since we're creating at least one piece of content per week, all we have to do is write a few sentences letting our audience know what the content is about and Link them to the blog post or video that we have created for that week.

If you have a special sale going on or there is a holiday where you're launching a new product, it's okay to mix in some hybrid or sales type of emails as well. 

Step #4 Engage and Sell

Now that we've mastered the basics of email marketing, it's time to step it up. At this stage of the game you should have already started building your email list and you should have built the habit of sending at least one email weekly if you have not done that stop reading break here and go back to master the first three steps.

 In this section we're going to cover how and when to sell, as well as, some strategies for boosting engagement and making sure that everyone on your list is actually getting your emails.

Keeping Your List Engaged

 Before we focus on selling, it's important to understand that the single biggest factor in the success of any company's email list is how engaged the people on that list are with the emails that are being sent by the company.

 We don't always need to build a bigger list, sometimes we just have to focus on sending better emails and maximizing the  results from the email that we currently have.

Resend To Unopens

 One of the single easiest strategies to boost engagement from your existing list is resending your broadcast emails to people who did not open them. This is referred to as sending to unopens.

While most email service providers have some ability to do this, convertkit makes this as simple as clicking a single button inside of your broadcast results.

This simple process has not only increased the overall engagement from every email list that I've ever attempted it on, but it can also boost open rates and click-through rates on any individual email by between 10 and 20%.

 I don't know about you, but getting an extra few hundred to a few thousand people to see the message that I sent them is absolutely worth just a few extra clicks.

Subject Lines:

Another feature you may want to look into before you start down the path of mastering the selling process via email, is by split testing your subject line.

 Just like with resending to people who have not open the email, by split testing your subject line, you're going to increase your overall open rate.

 Email service providers like convertkit, make this process super simple. All you need to do is come up with an alternative subject line for the email,  enter both of them into the email editor, and hit send as you normally would.

 Your email service provider will then send a small number of messages with each subject line to your email list oh, wait a small. Of time to see which one resulted in more opens or engagement, and then we'll send the email with the winning subject line to the remainder of your list.

 This process will only take a handful of minutes each time that you do it, but we've seen between a 5 and 10% increase in open rates on emails where we use this subject line test.


If you're a nerd like me, you may have seen the British television show “The IT Crowd”.  Even if you haven't, there's a line from the show that you need to take to heart.

 The show is based around the IT department of a company in the early 2000s  and there's a bit of a running joke about how IT people, before they ever take a look at the actual issue, will ask you to turn off your phone or computer and then turn it back on to see if that resolves the issue.

 Ironically, most of the time it actually works.

 Just like with your phone or computer, sometimes sending more emails isn't the answer and if we can't figure out why our open rate is low we may want to take a look at what are called cold subscribers.

 These are people who have not opened an email from us in the last several months, convertkit uses the six-month Mark, to indicate who is a cold subscriber.

 By focusing on” rebooting”  our  cold subscribers, rather than adding new emails to the email list, we can easily boost the number of people that are seen our emails and interacting with them.

 Just like with subject lines or resending to unopens, this process is fairly simple.

First,  we need to grab the list of people who have not opened emails from us recently (Convertkit labels these as cold subscribers and keeps a running list for you).

Then, we're going to send a few emails just to the list of people who have not opened emails from us in an attempt to get them to re-engage.

 If after several emails, they have not opened any, we can feel free to delete them.

Side Note:  Make sure to download a full list of your emails before you delete emails from your list. Keeping hard copy of this list means you can use it for things like Facebook audiences, even if you're no longer going to be emailing those people. 

How And When To Sell

Now that we have a growing and engaged list, it's time to focus on how and when to sell.  Honestly there's no bad time to sell to your email list, but there are a few things that we need to keep in mind when we do. In this section we're going to cover the easy way to sell tier list as well as the harder, but also more effective, way. 

The Easy Way:

The easiest way to sell to your list is simply to swap one of your broadcast emails from the content type to the hybrid or promotional type.

 A simple way to do this  is by using what's called a super signature.

 To give credit where credit is due, I believe this concept originally came from Dean Jackson but don't quote me on that.

 The super signature is simply a way of adding a promotional call to action to any email  in a non sleazy way.

Essentially, it's three simple lines.

 The first line, is going to contain a bolded question. The reason we use bold is because it will draw the eye of the reader and using a question will generally create curiosity.

 the second line of our super signature, will contain our link where they can buy whatever it is that we are selling.

 The third and final line is going to give them the reason why they should click on the link. 

Remember, it can be any reason.

You may have heard me talk in the past about a study that was done several years ago related to people cutting in front of other people in line.

 What the study discovered was even if the reason was “because I want to”,  that virtually the same number of people allowed the participants to cut in line as if they had a valid reason, such as they were in a hurry.

Obviously if our reason for them to go buy our stuff is more compelling than that, then it's even better.

The Harder/More Effective Way 

While super signatures can help to drive some additional sales from each email, there's nothing quite as good as using a true promotional sequence to drive as many sales as possible.

Because these emails are slightly more aggressive, we generally will want to save something like this for a product launch or holiday promotion, when we really want to drive sales.

 There are two key things that we need to make these emails as effective as possible.

 The first, is we need to send more than one email. We typically like to send at least three emails over the time period of the sale.  There is nothing quite as effective as an email reminding people that a discount is about to go away, to drive a huge spike in sales.

When you combine multiple emails with an actual deadline of when the sale will expire oh, you can create a truly effective sales sequence.

We use this exact strategy to do everything from launching new products on Amazon to selling brand creators Academy and everything in between.  Chances are, if you're on our email list for brand creators, you've seen this done at least once.

This simple four-step process from finding something that will attract your audience to mastering selling through email, is actually fairly simple once you've done it a few times.

I know it can seem absolutely overwhelming when you're looking at it on paper, but if you implement it step-by-step it will come together and start to generate revenue for your business.

If you're looking for more on exactly how to do this step by step, I would suggest you take a look at the Email List Building Playbook from us here at Brand Creators.

Yes,  It will buy us a cup of coffee, but it will also provide you with the step-by-step guide along with photos and screenshots of exactly how to do each and every step of this process.

Chris Shaffer

Chris lives at the intersection of business strategy and growth tactics. Having consulted with dozens of different businesses (as well as building several of his own), he brings a unique perspective on what's working across the eCommerce world in businesses of all shapes and sizes.