Subscriber-Focused Content Marketing: How Pros Build Lists in 6 Steps

11 minutes read
Subscriber-Focused Content Marketing: How Pros Build Lists in 6 Steps

Nobody in your audience is as reachable as the people in your email list.

This is a fact.

Most of your social media followers simply do not see most of your posts.

Twitter? Nope – the average Twitter user spends only 1 minute a day on Twitter.

Facebook? Nah – Social@Ogilvy reported that your Facebook organic reach could be as low as 2% all the way back in 2014.

In contrast, the average open rate for email is a staggering 25%. That’s the open rate, arguably a stronger statistic than social media “reach.”

That makes list-building an incredibly valuable way to stay in touch with your audience.
Let’s talk about how to build your list.

1. Choose A Subscriber-Focused Keyword

I’ll say it right now, most people who want to build a list are bombing it right here, right from the get go.

The first thing you need to do is choose a keyword that is actually going to generate subscribers, and that means you need to change your mindset. Priority number one is a high opt-in conversion rate. And that keyword has to fit into the ‘informational’ or ‘intentional’ bracket.

Choose a subscriber-focused keyword

This isn’t about choosing keywords that have massive search engine traffic. It’s not even necessarily about choosing a keyword that is all that low in competition, as long as you’re confident you can bring in some traffic for it.

So, how can you tell if a keyword will be good for generating subscribers?

  • Perfect fit for a lead generation asset – We’ll dive deep on choosing a lead generation asset next, but it’s important to have some understanding of it here. Your lead generation asset is the reward people are going to receive for opting in to your email list. We’re talking about an asset that goes above and beyond a blog post, something worthy of thinking of as though it were a product. This is crucial, because giving away your email address is psychologically equivalent to spending your own money.
  • There’s money in it – Generally, these are keywords that are going to have some financial value, the kinds of things that rack up a fairly high cost per click in AdWords. This isn’t always true, but the point is that we’re talking about a keyword that indicates something more than mere curiosity or interest. These are keywords that indicate the searcher is looking to take an action of some consequence.
  • Nobody else has a satisfactory lead generation asset – This is the important part when it comes to competition. If you’re a relatively new or small player, you don’t want to enter a market where the top ten listings in the SERPs are already offering an on-topic eBook or similar asset. Obviously, you also want to make sure that none of the listings are precisely that asset without the need for an opt-in. The point is that you need to be able to offer an asset that people can’t already find on the front page of Google, one that is enticing enough to get them to sign up.
  • Intent – The user intent that drives a subscriber-focused keyword is one of intense drive. People searching for these keywords are dying for something that will solve a real problem for them, and they can’t get a definitive solution to their problem on the free and open web.

2. Create A Laser-Tight Lead Generation Asset

Once you’ve chosen your keyword, it’s time to build your lead generation asset.

Now, eBooks are usually the go-to, but I want to stress that there are other list building assets. As I said above, the primary thing you want to achieve is something that elevates itself to the level of a product. Here are a few examples:

  • Whitepapers and eBooks – You know the drill.
  • Step by step guide or challenge – This takes things a step further than the typical eBook by making the subscriber an active participant.
  • Templates – I’ve seen these work incredibly well. We’re talking about spreadsheets, form templates, and so on that are designed to make your audience’s life that much easier.
  • Calculators – If you’re in the right industry, these function incredibly well as lead generators. Specialized calculators designed for very specific problems are incredibly useful and worth giving away your email address for.
  • Quizzes – People love learning things about themselves, and quizzes are a great way to accomplish that. Likewise, practice tests designed to help your audience hone their skills are invaluable tools.
  • Courses – Get you audience to sign up for a full course in a topic. This offers the kind of structure some people in your audience would die to have because that kind of structure simply does not exist in most places throughout the blogosphere.

Whatever asset you choose, make sure the format is the perfect fit for your target keyword. Understand the user intent behind the keyword like nobody else has before, and create the perfect solution to fit their problem.

Create A Laser-Tight Lead Generation Asset

But before doing so, I’d recommend taking a look at the next section, because it pulls extra weight by acting as competitor research.

3. Build Your Landing Page

Your landing page should blow away the reader.

The only way to accomplish this is to understand their problem perfectly, as well as every step they might have taken on their journey before they came across your landing page.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the landing page needs to be long and complicated. Often short and simple is best. This is honestly something that you will need to A/B test in order to be sure, because every market is different.

Either way, to demonstrate how well you understand the reader, you need to go on the same journey that they do, and further. That means exploring every crack and crevice of the search engines related to your target keyword and looking for patterns. Look for the things that get said over and over again. Look for sources of frustration. Look for those things that everybody “knows” but that don’t seem to be validated at all.

If you’re feeling especially determined, I’d also recommend signing up for other people’s list building assets to see what they’ve covered. Obviously, these make for a great source of information that you won’t otherwise be able to find. You’ll also be able to discover what is missing from these assets so that you can appeal even to those people in your audience who have already downloaded an asset.

After doing this for long enough, you’ll be able to put together a list of “grievances” that your audience will have with what is currently publicly available. And you’ll be able to address those in your landing page to assure the reader that you’ve got them covered, you’re addressing something they can’t find anywhere else, and you’ve really got the answers.

Build Your Landing Page - GEICO

Because of this, I actually recommend developing an idea of what your landing page messaging is going to look like even before you develop the actual asset. That way you know exactly what you’re trying to “sell.”

4. Write an Authoritative Blog Post

Like it or not, your landing page probably isn’t going to show up in the search results. So you have one of two options, find a way to turn your landing page into a blog post, or write a blog post separate from your landing page. Both can be effective. As you probably expected, it depends on your market.

Writing the blog post is a balancing act. You’ll need to make the blog post useful enough that it stands on its own, but you can’t give away the punchline either. Your lead generation asset should still be valuable after your readers finish the blog post.

This is one of the reasons why alternatives to eBooks are so powerful. Alternative asset types are so fundamentally different from blog posts that the blog post alone can’t really take the asset’s place.

If your asset is an eBook, though, this isn’t the end. Since blog posts are, by their very nature, expected to be much smaller than eBooks, it’s virtually impossible to give away everything from the eBook in your blog post, unless of course your eBook is very short or full of excess verbiage.

Another way to do it is to write a blog post explaining the problems with the knowledge that’s already out there, basically an editorialized version of what you should be doing with your landing page. By addressing the problem at length and with uncanny accuracy, you prove that you understand the situation very well. Now your eBook can tell the reader what to do next.

One thing you need to avoid, though, is being too cynical about this. At the very least, you should genuinely believe that your blog post is more useful than what people are going to find on the front page of the search results. If your blog post doesn’t seem to be anything special, your readers won’t trust you enough to go for the asset.

5. Tell The World

When you’re trying to build an email list, I wouldn’t recommend relying solely on search engines and random discovery to get the word out. So bust out that keyboard, it’s time to start writing some emails.

Actually…I’d recommend sending the emails before you’re even finished with the asset. That’s another thing to keep in mind: people are more likely to share something if they’re involved in the process.

Consider reaching out to influencers while you’re working on the asset. Offer to let them use it for free. Ask for feedback. Let them know that you’ll publicly thank them for your help when the asset goes live.

You may even consider including some proprietary quotes from influencers in your asset. Having influencers provide you with this kind of “insider knowledge” makes your product look more authoritative and the cross-promotion increases your reach.

Tell the world some proprietary quotes from influencers in your asset

If you’re past the stage where influencers can be worked into the asset itself, no worries. You can still reach out to people to let them know about the asset. Just make sure to offer them a peak at the asset without needing to sign up for your email list. Most people who email them aren’t offering anything near as valuable as an eBook with no catch.

A few notes on outreach:

  • I’d recommend against including an attachment in your first email. That’s a red flag and it will raise their internal spam and virus alerts to DEFCON 1.
  • Keep your email very short and conversational.
  • Make sure to ask them if they would like to take a look at your asset. This might seem obvious but a lot of people are so polite that they forget to actually ask people a question in order to get a response, hoping instead that they will ask for a look.
  • Give context for the email. People expect a reason to be receiving an email from you. Give them a reason why you’re contacting them specifically. At the same time, don’t pad. Keep the context brief, and be honest. Never offer fake praise.

6. Do It Again

This is the one thing I’d say that gets missed more than anything else. It’s actually a bit surprising how many people go through this process, start picking up subscribers, note how effective the process was, and then never do it again. They think that the next step is to focus on building their traffic more so that they can pick up more subscribers.


The next step is to pick a new subscriber-focused keyword, make a new asset, and go through the whole process again.
Feeling fired up? Stick to a list building strategy and watch those numbers grow.

  • Manish Dudharejia is the founder and president of E2M - a full-service white label digital agency. E2M helps agencies scale their business by solving bandwidth/capacity problems when it comes to websites design, web development, eCommerce, SEO, and content writing. E2M has been helping agencies for 10 years and currently works with about 130 agencies across the U.S., Canada, UK, Ireland, and Australia.