List Building VS Relationship Building (and Why They’re Not the Same)

November 12, 2017

business woman and man workingI subscribe to a lot of email lists. In most cases, I’m subscribed because I want to see what that entrepreneur is selling and what information they’re sharing about their industry.


It’s also a good way to keep up with trends. You can always tell what the hot thing is when you see it referenced repeatedly: Facebook advertising,  webinars,  sales funnels, ‘bots,  podcasts,  Facebook Live, online courses, list-building, etc.


Let’s be honest, most of the things I’ve mentioned above are not new. For instance, I’ve had a podcast since 2008. Webinars have been going on for quite a while too. And of course, funnels and list-building are definitely not new.


There’s so much talk about the list, but not about the people on it. The relationship with your prospects is the real reason for building a list.


You want “warm leads” who will know, like and trust you. People who will tell others about you (word-of-mouth marketing).


On some Facebook groups, I’ve seen fiction authors talk about how they have 2000 subscribers, or 5000 or even 10,000. Okay, that’s great. But how many of them are engaged? How many are opening their emails on a regular basis?


Numbers don’t tell the entire story. Back in the day, people would get so excited when they had thousands of followers on Facebook and Twitter. Then people began to “unfollow” and “unfriend,” realizing that just following anyone (and being followed by anyone) isn’t always a good thing.


Your Money isn’t in the Email List – It’s in the Relationships


You’re building a relationship with your subscriber. That’s the reason you want them on your list. And it’s the reason they gave you their email address.

What I see far too often is non-stop selling with very little relating. It turns me off as a subscriber, and my next step is to click the unsubscribe link.


Here are 3 things consider if you’re building an email list.

1.Don’t be discouraged if people don’t sign up OR open your emails.

Keep in mind that most people selling list-building programs and systems are (usually) internet marketers. Email lists are the foundation of what they do. There are lots of “proven” systems to get you hundreds, if not thousands of followers. But which ones will actually work for you and your business?


The person selling an online class about how to make money might get an entirely different result than the person building a list for her Etsy shop. Just because it works for the person selling you the solution, doesn’t mean it will work for you. Be willing to test different things and do keep track of what works for you.


It’s not cookie-cutter. Oh, and everyone on your list won’t open every email. They won’t click on every link. There will be unsubscribes whenever you send something out. You’ll be constantly adding subscribers and having them leave your list. It’s an ongoing process.


But if list building were really that easy,  everyone would have thousands of admiring subscribers opening every email and buying every product and service offered.


According to the stats I get on Mailchimp, the open rates for professional services are around 17%. When I started out several years ago, I was getting around 50% opens regularly. There are fewer emails being opened and read these days. That’s a fact. Email may be (statistically) the best way to reach your prospects, but you won’t consistently reach every single subscriber on your list.



woman working on her mobile device


2. Decide on your intention for your email list before you begin.


I send out a monthly newsletter to subscribers of my fiction email list. Usually I let them know what books are coming out, let them know what I’m up to and set up subscriber-only giveaways.


My second email list is to build leads for an online course I’m going to be launching.  How I communicate with those subscribers will be different than how I communicate with my fiction subscribers. But, the bottom line is communications. I want to make a connection with them.


These are ways to build relationships and let them know they’re appreciated. By the way, if you are looking for ideas for what to say to your subscribers in your emails, check out Melissa Cassera’s Clicksanity class. (I’m not an affiliate and won’t receive compensation. I’m a student myself and I’m learning a lot so far.)


But I know fiction authors who don’t send anything out. Or they only do it when they have a new book coming out. There are no hard and fast rules!


business woman working on her laptop
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3. Don’t ignore the other ways that your prospects and fans are connecting with you.


Eight years ago I started Women Entrepreneurs Radio. Through it, I’ve networked with hundreds of people and increased my discoverability (check out “Discoverability: A WMG Writers Guide” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch for more details on what that is and how to get it).


Having my podcast has connected me to thousands of people and continues to market for me long after the show has been recorded.


Email marketers encourage business owners to have lists because social media isn’t something you can control. It’s hosted on someone else’s platform, and if the algorithm changes or the platform goes away, your followers/fans can disappear overnight.


But, if you have a following on a social media platform (or from any in-person activities and events) there’s a lot of value there as well. So, don’t ignore the connections (or the value) if the participants don’t join your list.


Marketing is constant tweaking and experimenting. There is no sure thing, if there were, we’d all be doing it! Don’t be afraid to follow what works for you.


About the Author: Deborah A. Bailey is a writer, coach, author of several fiction and non-fiction books and creator and host of the Women Entrepreneurs Radio™

Photo credits:

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This article was originally posted on the Secrets of Success blog.


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Deborah A Bailey

Deborah is a writer, writing workshop presenter and published author. She's host of the Women Entrepreneurs Radio podcast.

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