List building 101 for Coaches (Part 1): The What, Why, When and How Of Building A Thriving Subscriber Community

List building can have a flood of benefits, but if you're just starting out it can be a daunting idea. Read on to see that it doesn't have to be!


Shamefaced confession:

When I started my business, I didn’t start building a list of subscribers straight away.

And when I did… I completely half-assed it.



Seriously: Looking back, I think my first opt-in basically just said: “Join my mailing list!”, but I didn’t have any incentive for people to subscribe.


At the time, I assumed that if people wanted to sign up, they just would.

And if they didn’t? That was cool! They must just not be interested.

(Sound familiar at all? Maybe a teensy bit? Stay tuned, lady.)


It wasn’t until my coach at the time really kicked my ass, made me accountable, and gave me some good tips that got me into action that I really did something about it properly.

And you know what?

As soon as I got serious about list building, I noticed a dramatic shift.


In the first month after I landed on the right kind of opt-in, and the right formula? I added about 700 people to my email subscriber list.


These days, almost all of my clients come from my subscriber list, and for good reason.

Having an engaged subscriber list is a great way to build relationships and community, grow your business, and stay in contact and connected with peeps who love your work, and share your values.

So SO many women coaches I talk to have had list building on their To Do list for the past 6 months/12 months/forever, but tell me they just haven’t found the time to focus on it yet.  Lady, if you haven’t been prioritising growing your subscriber count, here’s the deal:

List building is really important for coaches of all kinds; whether you’re a health coach, a business coach, a career coach, a life coach, an executive coach, a book writing coach… whatever field you’re in.

If, just like me back in the day, you’ve never tried to build a list, or are feeling a little overwhelmed at the thought — you may have a few really important questions about where to start, what to create for your opt-in offer, and what to do after someone signs up.

In this post I want to hop right in and answer all those questions, so you can get clear on your next steps, and start rethinking your list building strategy A.S.A.P.

(BTW it’s a big fat myth that your list building strategy has to be complicated to work.  I’ve learnt that clear, easy to implement, totally doable strategies are often the most impactful.  You can do this!)

(Also, hang around, veteran list builders! I have some tips for you at the end to help you take your strategy to the next level.)


Question 1: What do I mean when I say list or list building?


Basically, your “list” is a community of prospective clients (usually email subscribers) and people who are interested in hearing from you, learning more about the topics you discuss, and your take on things.

The coolest part about a list? When someone signs up, that means they’ve literally put their hand up and said that they would like to know more from you. That’s a really powerful thing!


Question 2: Why do you need to build a list?


There are about a million reasons, but I’ll run through the top ones. 

Having an engaged list means that you’ll be able to:

  • Fill your docket with great potential new clients
  • Nurture people to become a part of your tribe and huge fans of your work
  • Stay in contact with your community
  • Stay at the forefront of people’s minds
  • Help people get to know you and build your credibility

Fact: An engaged, targeted, well-built list is your greatest source for new clients ever.

How do I know?

Because anytime I shoot out an email that says “Hey guys, I’ve got space available for a client! Want in?” chances are, I’ll fill that spot fairly swiftly.

To be clear, this isn’t unique to my list, either. This is consistent for every coach and entrepreneur I know with a bustling, engaged subscriber community.


Question 3: What is the easiest thing to do to get started on list building?


Simple, babe! Offer something valuable in exchange for someone’s contact details (usually their first name and their email address).

These days, it’s important to offer some kind of incentive in return for people’s information — and it’s expected. Years ago, people may have just kind of dropped their contact details to join your list easily, but nowadays, most people need to be incentivized to do it.

Why? The way I think about it, my inbox is a private space, where I’m able to have one-on-one conversations. I have to be intentional about who I let in! Which means if there’s no clear reason to sign up to your list, I likely won’t — even if I need your services | I’m your dream client | we could be a perfect match.

(Psst: There’ll be a second post in this series specifically about tips for creating a great opt-in gift or lead magnet. So stay tuned next week!)


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Question 4: What would you offer as an opt-in?


My philosophy? Think about a specific micro-problem your ideal client has, and how to solve it.

For example, if you’re a health coach, a micro-problem might be that your ideal client is trying to figure out what to have for dinner midweek.

Or, perhaps if you’re a career coach, your ideal clients are struggling with how to format an attention-getting resume.

Maybe if you’re a money coach, you can help them figure out how to afford to buy more luxury items like that Gucci handbag.

The beauty of micro problems? They often have quick, clear solutions. So figuring out an itty bitty issue your client is experiencing that you can fix is a great first step to coming up with a captivating, enticing opt-in gift.

(And, like I mentioned before, hang tight for more on how to craft an awesome opt-in gift or lead magnet.  That post is coming next week.)


Question 5: What customer relationship management (CRM) tool should you be using?


Why do you need a CRM instead of, say, just sending bulk emails out to people?

First of all: Sending stuff out by hand is exhausting.

And secondly, CRM’s are how you make sure everything you’re mailing out is above board, and people’s information is protected securely. Plus, it makes life so much easier when it comes to integrating opt-in boxes and registration pages, landing pages, and banners on your website, etc.  Trust me on this!

There are heaps of options out there, MailChimp, AWeber, ConvertKit, Infusionsoft, Mad Mimi, and more.

So: Which one should you use? It really depends on the stage you’re at, your business model, and your budget to determine which one is right for you at the right time.

Some options, like Mailchimp, are free up to a certain number of subscribers, where others have rates based on a sliding scale depending on how many subscribers you have.


Question 6: How should you promote your opt-in gift?


Once you’ve done the work of establishing your CRM and you’ve created your opt-in gift, your work is only half done (sorry!).

Bottom line: Lady, it’s very, very important to promote your opt-in gift as much as possible and to get it in front of the right kind of audiences as often as you can.  But don’t stress, this can be fun!

You can promote it in paid or unpaid ways, or explore organic options.  In fact, you can get really creative about all of the ways that you can promote your opt-in gift.

I recommend taking advantage of as many different channels for promoting your opt-in gift as you can that align with your overall marketing plan and brand values.

For example, you’ll probably want to share that bad boy on your website. If you do share it on your website, then don’t just share it once.  Promote your opt-in gift somewhere above the fold — which means, that people see it when they land on your website without scrolling anywhere, they just see it straight away.  Have a sidebar on your site? Pop a note about your opt-in there.   Writing a blog post? Add a mention of your free gift at the end and a call to action to sign up to grab it. You can also mention it in the body of blog posts.

I also recommend having a special registration landing page on your website promoting just your opt-in, so you have somewhere to direct peeps who stop by your Facebook ads, catch your blog posts, guest posts, interviews and more.

Here are a few really easy ways to promote that landing page and opt-in gift:

  • Include it in your signature block
  • Link to it in your Facebook header image
  • Mention it in your Pinterest bio
  • Promote it in your Facebook Lives and Instagram Stories
  • Write specific blog posts promoting it
  • Mention it in your Instagram bio URL
  • Drop the link into relevant Facebook groups (with permission)
  • Mention it anytime you’re interviewed, at the end of a guest blog post, and more


Question 7: Once someone’s signed up — how should you welcome them into your list?


This is where a lot of entrepreneurs and coaches tend to drop the ball a bit. So read carefully, smartypants!

When someone downloads your opt-in gift, that is the very first step of developing a relationship with them.

Imagine if a person you hadn’t met before was coming over to your house, and you really wanted to start a friendship with them. You’d do your best to make them feel welcome, right? You would think about how you could introduce yourself, and how you could get to know them, how they could get to know you. You would want to learn about them and share how you might be able to help.  

I recommend designing a simple email sequence to welcome your new subscribers aboard, keeping this analogy in mind.

So, to start off with: Map out a simple email sequence (that I like to call a “nurture sequence”) where you nurture the relationship with your brand new friend who has put their hand up and said that they would love to check out your opt-in gift. Welcome them in, tell them what’s coming next, tell them you can’t wait to learn more about them, and share with them, etc.

Again, consider how you’d like to be welcomed into someone’s home, or onto their list. This process really helps build that trust factor, so that your new friend can figure out if you’re a good fit for them and if they should continue to hang around and be an active member of your community.

You’re not just attracting customers – you’re building relationships. So this step is crucial!


Question 8: What’s next?


Continue to engage with your subscribers consistently.

Once you’ve got peeps on your list? You can’t just leave them gathering dust! Make sure you stay in touch consistently.

I like to think of my subscriber list as a special community full of my friends and supporters. They are the people that I LOVE to stay in contact with and catch up with.  Want to create the best environment ever for your subscribers?  I recommend you steal my mindset on this. It makes all the difference — seriously.

I like to recommend to my clients that they stay in contact weekly or fortnightly with their community at a minimum. Some people really like to stay in contact a number of times a week and if that’s right for you too, that can be great.

Commit to consistently turning up and engaging with your community on the same day every week, or every fortnight – and you’ll naturally train people in your community to expect that you’re going to be in touch regularly.

I’m not perfect at this yet, but I’m definitely getting there.  These days if I skip a week or if my subscribers haven’t heard from me in a little while, I get emails or messages from people asking if I’m okay! (Which can be a bit embarrassing, but still feels awesome.) That’s because I’ve trained people to expect to hear from me at a certain time of the week.

When you’re building this engagement and staying in regular contact, I recommend that you treat your subscribers like they are in your inner circle, because, well, they are.

Really think about how you can share value every week — whatever that may look like for you. To be valuable can mean that you’re sharing information and/or entertaining and/or educating or it can be any combination of those things. Whatever you do: Make sure you share genuinely and in an aligned way.


Mastered these beginner steps already? Here are 4 steps to help you take it to the next level:  


1) Set targets.

For example, set a monthly or weekly target around how many new people you will attract to your subscriber list, and then get really serious about deciding and applying the strategy to bring those targets to life. Commit to them, and keep yourself accountable to them.


2) Design a special promotion around your opt-in.

This really gives people a reason to join your community, and give your list building a big push in the process. Think about doing that perhaps once a quarter or every 6 months.


3) Consider experimenting with split testing.

Split test landing pages, or the copy/visuals/other elements you use to promote your opt-in gift on pop-ups, or at the end of your blog post, or on social media etc.

Split test to see which one converts more leads into subscribers — and it can be pretty fun and eye-opening to find out exactly what works for your tribe, and what doesn’t.


4) Have more than one opt-in.

Now, this is definitely a bit more of an advanced move. If you’re just starting out, please – I’d hate for you to think that you must have more than one opt-in gift, because that’s just totally overwhelming when you don’t even have one ready to go.

But if you DO already have an opt-in down? Frankly, there’s no reason why you would just have the single opt-in gift. You could have a number of different ones, and they could all be part of different types of promotions and different funnels. The online | email | opt-in gift world is your oyster!


Which brings us to the end of this Part 1 post!


Stay tuned for the next post in this series where I’ll be spilling the beans on how to create an awesome opt-in gift.

I know this has been a long post.  Don’t let the information you learn here overwhelm you if you’re a first-time list-builder. This process can be as easy as you want it to be (seriously – your opt-in gift can even be just a single page along with a few short nurture emails if you like!!).

And remember: the results you can reap from having a great list building strategy are enormous. Getting this down pat can open the floodgates for loads of consistent clients and customers, and set you up to be the go-to pro in your industry, with a tribe that loves you.

So, if you’re a bit nervous about stepping up your subscriber count, and wondering “Who am I to expect hundreds, even thousands of people to want to know what I have to say?!”

I ask you this:  “Who are you not to?”

Have a fantastic week — and I’ll catch you in Part II of the series.

See you there!


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Kate xo
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About Kate

Through her passion-fuelled coaching, consulting and writing, Dr Kate Byrne helps women coaches and consultants intentionally engineer success so they can shine neon bright in business. She is an advocate for being all in, charging what you’re really worth and premium pricing.

Connect with Kate now at Betty Means Business, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.