Building your platform – Part III

By Greg Turnquist

Greg L. Turnquist worked on the Spring team for over thirteen years and is a senior staff technical content engineer at Cockroach Labs. He was the lead for Spring Data JPA and Spring Web Services. He wrote Packt's best-selling title, Learning Spring Boot 2.0 2nd Edition, and its 3rd Edition follow-up along many others.

December 6, 2016

In the previous article, Building your Platform – Part II, we discussed how to integrate blogging with social media and why it’s good to write more on your own platform, while using social media as a channel to reach others. This week we are going to talk about building a mailing list and why it’s critical.

Blogging vs. Email

As we mentioned last week, blogging takes time. You can’t build a following in weeks or even months. It often takes a couple years to really establish a blogging platform. But guess what – building an email list is just as hard. And to top it off, it’s even more valuable. Why?

Because people still covet emails as more important and more valuable than articles from any other medium.

  • friday

    “Nothing but the facts, ma’am.”

    Email is more popular than social media (85% vs. 62%)

  • People guard their email accounts, making engagement higher (59% open rate vs. 31% click through rate)
  • Better return on investment ($40 return vs. $2-$17 return for every $1 spent)
  • Higher conversion rate (4.16% vs. 0.48%-2.64%)
  • A/B campaigns – battle tested way to improve

In a nutshell, when people launch a business, build some following over the years, they inevitably decide to create a mailing list, wishing they had started it sooner.

You can do that today. Several offer free options for small lists (first 2000 subscribers free at MailChimp). It’s easy to embed a MailChimp subscribe form on the sidebar of your site, on a page (, and through other various channels.

Another nugget of value – when you go pitch your book to an agent or a publisher, indicating you ALSO have nnn subscribers on top of your Twitter follows and monthly traffic only increases your position. You will appear as someone serious, because you have now covered the trifecta of platform building:

  • a blog site with traffic
  • social media channels with a following
  • mailing list subscribers with periodic newsletters

What to do and not do to build a mailing list

follow-me Sometimes, having too many choices isn’t the best solution. It’s great when you go to the store shopping for goods. But when it comes to your site, avoid letting people sign up for too many different things. For example, WordPress has the option for people to sign up for new posts. This is a dated feature that precedes Twitter/Facebook.

It’s better to turn that option off and instead encourage people to follow you on social media while also signing up for your newsletter. Having another option means they might not take those preferred paths.

In other words, think of how you WANT people to follow you, and build your site to support that. (P.S. If you look at my site, you’ll find those bits of the sidebar pretty close to the top making them hard to miss.)

Go for the ask

email-ask This one is hard. Hard for many. In sales and advertising, it’s called “going for the ask”. It means, ask people to sign up to your email list.

I’m quite familiar with how a large number of writers are introverts, and going for the ask feels, evilllll. It’s not. It takes a little to overcome this, but do things like put a teeny, tiny link in your mail signature asking people to sign up. If one out of a thousand emails yields a potential signup, then it did it’s purpose.

When you have other opportunities (like the Bio in my latest tech book), consider putting a single sentence asking people to sign up. And in your next e-book, on the very next page after the last page of your story, ask people to sign up.

Those opportunities can pay back over time.

With great power…

doctor-strange-02-03 When you build a mailing list, use it wisely, or it surely fall to pieces. Modern mailing lists must comply with anti-spam laws. All the mailing list platforms support this. Hence, if you do stupid stuff, like publish weekly (without telling people that) they will ditch it FAST. Publishing something quarterly may be more to people’s liking.

I subscribe to the Reacher Report from Lee Child. I think they publish no more than twice a year. It doesn’t intrude upon my life, yet provides value to me.

Hopefully, I’ve convinced you of the value in building a mailing list. In the next posting, we’ll discuss some advanced techniques to turn your platform from a cobbled together mess into a synergetic brand.

Good luck and happy writing!


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