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Setting Bold List Building Goals (and 3 Lessons Learned Along the Way)

House and car - your dreamPicture this: I hit publish on a video that told the entire internet at large that I am working on doubling an email subscriber list in 30 days, from 15,000 to 30,000 subscribers.

My hands are a little sweaty, my heart is racing, and I hope I didn’t make a huge faux pas in front of my existing audience by making such a bold goal public.

Today those 30 days are over, and I’m happy to report that although I didn’t reach that audacious list building goal, I did create a lot of positive buzz about my business and brand… and more importantly, my challenge encouraged others to build their lists too!

Now I’m going to share with you the three biggest lessons I learned from issuing this challenge to myself and others who wanted to join me in this list building journey.

1. Setting A List Building Goal Inspires Massive Action

There are different types of motivators that work for different people. For some, just an inner knowing that they want to achieve something is necessary for them to take action and make it happen. For others, no matter how good their intentions are, if they aren’t being held accountable by an outside force, they’ll continue to avoid doing it.

I think audience building is one of those activities in business that tend to take the backseat if your business is already humming along. Maybe you already have a steady stream of new subscribers joining your list on a regular basis, and there are enough items on your todo list as it is… so new list building tasks fall to the wayside.

That’s where setting a list building goal comes in, and you get brownie points for announcing it to the public or to an accountability partner. Even just writing down a goal can be enough to get you to work toward it with renewed enthusiasm.

But don’t let your list building goal force you into such a driven mode that you sacrifice the values of your business.

I love the late martial artist Bruce Lee’s take on goals for perspective:

“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it serves as something to aim for.”

2. Not Every List Building Effort Will Yield Results Immediately, If At All…

When you have a goal to reach, and you set a time limit like 30 days you really need to prioritize what activities you have time to do. One of the things I learned during this challenge is that not all list building activities are made equal: some will give you a quick boost in the short-term, others take longer to show their effects. Still, others might be total flops.

That’s why I believe that having proper metric tracking in place before you undertake a major traffic or list building effort is crucial. If you can’t evaluate how effective each of your list building efforts was, how will you know which ones to repeat in the future and which ones to avoid?

Here are a couple of examples of the different list building activities, and how they panned out:

This post got a lot of traction on social media and was shared over 620 times as of writing this piece. However, due to the nature of a big site like LifeHack, the post only generated 10 clicks to my website. So although I had high hopes for this avenue, I realized that it’s not the best way to bring people back to my website.

The way I organized the contest, participants could gain points by sharing it on social media or having friends sign up. Because of this built-in sharing capability, I was able to reach 40% more people than I would have directly through my social media and subscriber channels.

  • Upcoming podcast interviews

One way to reach a new audience is by being a guest on someone else’s podcast or web show, and these shows usually take more than 30 days to go live. So while I was able to secure some spots on a few different online shows, I don’t know how these will impact my list building efforts since they haven’t gone live yet!

3. List Building Is Not A Solo Activity, It Takes a Village

As a work-from-home introvert, I have a preference for focusing on a task and doing it all myself. What I’ve learned through years of audience building is that the nature of the work is not “solo work”. Writing guest posts or coming up with ideas might be things you can do by yourself in your office, but the act of getting these out there takes a village.

The whole concept of building an audience is a social one, so it only makes sense that you’d need to get outside of your comfort zone if you’re an introvert or you sometimes get shy about asking for things. Putting yourself out there means asking to be interviewed, offering a guest post, or connecting with a joint venture partner to host a webinar.

You can’t build a list in a vacuum! Even one of my darling strategies of writing search engine optimized content can’t work in isolation. If your site doesn’t have inbound links or any social love, then it doesn’t matter how perfectly optimized your posts are.

So if you are undertaking a list building effort, know that you’ll need to enlist the help of your friends, peers, and existing fans. It’ll go much better that way, especially if you remember how valuable your know-how and business is to the new people who are about to discover you!

I’d Love To Know Your List Building Lessons…

I know I’m not the only one who has focused on building an audience here, so I’d love to read your lessons learned. Please leave a comment below, and let me know which of these lessons resonated the most with you!

About Nathalie Lussier

Nathalie Lussier teaches you how to employ digital strategy to match your ambition, to take your business Off The Charts every week. Follow her on Twitter.

34 comments

  1. Azalea Pena says:

    Hello Natalie, thanks for this wonderful post. I must agree with Lynn, your post is both informational and inspirational. But for the most part, I really felt the latter. It’s true that doubling your subscription list in 30 days is quite a ridiculous goal to set for one’s self. But I have to admire your courage and telling yourself that you can do it. Not only is that positive thinking but it helps motivate the people reading this that–this is not just about reaching a goal and gaining success, it’s the journey to achieving the goal that matters the most.

  2. Lynn Silva says:

    Wow Nathalie! Your post is not just informational, but inspirational as well. Thank you for both. And I have to say, I learned even MORE from the comments on here. By the end of reading the comments, I’ve started to map out my own list building goals. Thank you to you Nathalie, and to everyone who provided such honest, helpful information.

    1. I totally love the discussion this post kickstarted, too! Thank you Lynn – it’s amazing what a strong and smart community can do to help you reach your goals, right? 🙂

  3. Keri Kight says:

    Nathalie, I feel you in that I’m an introvert who loves working from home. I realized that I can’t always work solo, and when I started putting myself out there and making more connections, my business started growing much faster.

    I also started keeping track of my goals and numbers in a spread sheet. Just being aware of my goals keeps me on track for the most part.

    You rock Nathalie!

    1. Yay Keri, you rock too! I love that you’re tracking, that makes a huge difference for me too. And yes – getting connected with other people is such an important aspect of being in business!

  4. Natalie says:

    Nice article Nathalie,

    As a fellow introvert, ‘putting myself out there’ is out of my comfort zone. But I know I have to do it.
    I agree with the adage that we learn more from our mistakes than our successes. But I still prefer success!

    Lifehack.org got hit with one of the google updates and had their SE traffic cut in half last year. They still get 160,000+ visitors per day (semrush.org), but with over 11,000 pages indexed I suspect those visitors are quite scattered. I also suspect the quality of the posts has gone down.

    I would like to know more about your contest. How do you track the sharing that gives people points in your contest?

    You might want to update your rules as it has the wrong dates on it:
    “The Contest begins on 2013-05-30 12:05:00 and ends on 2013-07-29 23:59:00 “

    1. Hi Natalie!

      Thanks for the info on Lifehack – that’s quite interesting! And yes for the contest I used a service called Contest Domination, that tracked all of that for me. 🙂

  5. I thought I was being ambitious aiming to triple my list by new year. Considering that I am starting from a lower base than you, I am going to have to up my target.

    Thank you for the kick up the backside.

      1. Carthage says:

        Nathalie, your post was perfect timing. I have been focusing on list-building this week and setting goals for the new quarter. I like to think that I am ambitious but your post has reminded me that I need to aim a little higher.

        I pride myself on my ability to challenge others to get more from themselves. So, I like when I read a piece which challenges me. Your post has certainly done that. I don’t think a good ‘metaphorical’ kick ever hurt anyone. I just hope I didn’t scuff your shoe.

  6. A. Lynn Jesus ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Hey Nathalie,

    Thank you so much for not only sharing the things you did to build your list, but actual results. This was very helpful. And I appreciate your willingness to share!

    PS: Love the Bruce Lee quote. It is spot on!

    1. You’re so welcome! Each part of the process can bring up our vulnerability, but I’ve found that it’s when we share those moments that we’re able to get real transformation happening. 🙂

  7. Lindsay says:

    Thank you so much for this Nathalie. My biggest take away was definitely stop trying to do it alone! When will I ever truly understand the importance of it???
    There really is a lot of love out there in ‘bloggerville’, so thank you for the reminder!

    1. You’re so right Lindsay! It’s easy for us to try to be independent “if I just push harder” types… but if you start with the intention to let it be easy, you can really get the results you’re looking for without burning out. 🙂

  8. Razwana says:

    Nathalie – bold move! The fact that you announced it is great – scary I am sure, but great all the same.

    I absolutely agree that a community is what makes this stuff work. I recently created a facebook group for friends/acquaintances with websites and blogs so that we can comment on and share our material within the group.

    It’s small for now and I am certain it will grow (since the community will put in the work). Here’s to group support !

    – Razwana

  9. Jane says:

    Well said Nathalie. As you’ve quoted Bruce Lee, a goal gives us a great focus point to work on. Otherwise, we will simply be slacking off or putting our focus and energy in difference areas leading to minimal or no results. Having a BIG goal and taking it as a public challenge are really good! I’ve had very positive experiences earlier.

    Just as Ali, I am shocked to know that the LifeHacker guest post didn’t do quite well for you. Now, I haven’t written for Lifehacker but anyone will expect it to give you some reach. Hmm.. that’s surprising! I’ve made guest posts on sites like Search Engine Journal and they give me consistent amount of traffic and subscribers.

    I get a page where it says that the July 2013 challenge is over. And I am asked to enter my name and email address to get notified next time you launch it. Am I on the right page?

    Thanks for sharing your experiences 🙂

    1. Hey Jane!

      Yes, oh and I need to make sure to clarify that I guest posted on Lifehack.org and not Lifehacker – very similar sounding but two different sites. 😉

      We’re starting the next challenge Oct 8th – so if you jump on the list at 30 Day List Building Challenge.com you’ll be the first to know when we’re getting started!

  10. Ali Luke ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Nathalie, what an inspiring post — thank you. 🙂 (And how cool to hear a bit about what you’ve been up to recently … I’ve been very out of the loop!)

    I’m particularly struck that you didn’t get much traffic from the LifeHack post. I’ve noticed that I’m getting fewer subscribers / pageviews / etc as a result of guest posts today compared with a couple of years ago — and I’m wondering if that’s a general trend? Do you have any suggestions as good alternatives to guest posting?

    Anyway, I’m signing up for the challenge and looking forward to taking part next time you run it. 🙂

    1. Sharmeen Akbani Gangat says:

      Ali, you have pointed to exactly what I am wondering; hence, I am jumping in. Recently, I guest posted for one of the very prestigious blogs, but I was disappointed with the results. But, on the contrary, when I targeted my specific audience and guest posted on a niche social networking site, it gave me subscribers AND clients. In fact, it has been more than several months now, but it gives me clients every single week. Did I say it is not one of my best writing samples?:-) So, I guess we have to go in with a strategy.

      And Nathalie, thank you very much for this post. I am starting webinars, and I think I’ll go for JV partners with an engaged list vs. a big one. Do you think that can be a good strategy for list-building considering that the attendance for live webinars has dropped significantly?

    2. Hi Ali.. Hope you don’t mind me jumping in here.

      You struck a cord with:
      “I’ve noticed that I’m getting fewer subscribers / pageviews / etc as a result of guest posts today compared with a couple of years ago — and I’m wondering if that’s a general trend? Do you have any suggestions as good alternatives to guest posting?”

      My experience with guest posting is that while yes, I’ve written for some of the “biggies” with less than stellar results, I’ve also written for fledgling blogs that resulted in sales and signups. So for me, I try and do a mix because the big blogs no longer equate to big results and vice versa. BTW, when I don’t get the results I’d hoped for, I figure at least I’m getting link juice.

      Which brings me to the next part when you asked about a better avenue for traffic.

      Again, I’m inserting myself into this conversation, but I was just thinking about this very thing this morning.

      I’ve noticed some of my biggest returns (especially considering the time vested) is to find four or five blogs where my audience hangs out, and comment there. I won’t go into my whole strategy of how I comment but I started commenting on purpose after one comment brought over 1200 visitors to my site. Obviously that got my attention, especially with only ten minutes of time invested. Your 1st thought might be “Commenting? That’s passe” but I get a ton of traffic and new sighups.

      I don’t want to write a book here, but Pinterest is another one. This I plan to cultivate more for BlogBoldly.com because I get thousands of visitors on another blog from Pinterest and want to do the same for my primary blog.

      darlene 🙂

      1. Great insights Darlene! I’ve gotten good results from commenting, too – though not as many as 1200 visitors. 😉

        I also think that the web is going more visual so Pinterest, Instagram, are really taking off!

        1. Yeah.. the 1200 visitors was a complete surprise but that’s when it occurred to me to comment on purpose because the return on time invested is phenomenal.

          I want to get more involved with Pinterest than I already am.. At minimum create cool “sharable” when I post that has the title or maybe a quote that pertains to my post (and my domain name of course.)

          Then I want to learn how to get the darn thing to show up on Twitter. I see pp put full images on Twitter but don’t know how. Anyone here know?

          darlene
          p.s. Also does anyone happen to know of awesome Twitter course I can recommend to my peeps?

      2. Ali Luke ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

        Darlene, of course I don’t mind; thanks for your great thoughts! I only ever tend to comment on blog posts when I feel moved to add something (and/or am fond of the author — hi Nathalie!) … but I could certainly be more strategic about this.

        I’ve not even got a Pinterest account (one thing too many!) but I do get traffic from Pinterest, so I’ll perhaps bump that a little higher up the to-do list!

        Of course, I appreciate the link juice from guest posting, and there are other benefits beyond just traffic, so I’ve no plans to give it up. 🙂 Like you, I try to post on a mix of larger and smaller blogs, and I find the middle-sized ones ofetn give the best results.

    3. Hey Ali!

      So good to see you here and catch up! I hope being a mama has been treating you incredibly well! 🙂

      And yes, I’ve noticed that guest posts haven’t been getting me the same traction as they used to – and I think it might just be an overabundance of content. I’ve had great results from doing webinars (either solo or with a partner), contests, and interviews, too.

      Yay excited to have you joining us for the challenge!!

      1. Ali Luke ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

        Thanks Nathalie! I’m loving motherhood, just wish I had a few more hours in the day to fit everything in.

        Webinars are on my “to try” list: I’ve not had a go at a contest, but maybe that’s a next step… 🙂

  11. John Gibb says:

    Hi Nathalie

    There are some red and underline titles within the article like for e.g.
    “The 30 Day List Building Challenge contest”

    Are they supposed to link to somewhere on a page?

    I cannot click on them…

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