6 Uncommon Techniques For List Building

We all want to build up our email lists and get more subscribers.

And the common way to go about that is to offer an “ethical bribe”, or “free giveaway”. And, in almost all cases, this ends up being an ebook.

In some niches, an ebook is still a rather novel idea. However, in a growing portion of the Internet, free ebook giveaways are getting so common that the effectiveness of the offer has dropped a lot.

A lot of great questions have come in for the “20 Questions” webinar next week. Make sure to RSVP for it. 🙂

We all want to build up our email lists and get more subscribers.

And the common way to go about that is to offer an “ethical bribe”, or “free giveaway”. And, in almost all cases, this ends up being an ebook.

In some niches, an ebook is still a rather novel idea. However, in a growing portion of the Internet, free ebook giveaways are getting so common that the effectiveness of the offer has dropped a lot.

Of course, much of this comes down to how well you entice people. With an effective title, good cover images, enticing bullet points which tap into that sense of mystery… you can undoubtedly still get people to drool over your free ebook.

However, the perceived value of an ebook has dropped. The novelty has worn out, to a degree.

So, let’s look at some more uncommon ways to go about it. “Uncommon” not in the fact that nobody has thought of it before… but because the majority don’t seem to do it.

#1 – Webinars

Doing webinars is a FANTASTIC way to build a list. Think about it… not only are you getting their email address when they register, but you’re also getting a PRIME opportunity to really build a strong relationship with them by providing solid information for an hour or so.

More people are doing webinars now, but a vast majority still don’t. They either think it is too technical, don’t like the cost of a GotoWebinar account, or are still afraid to do a live event for fear of looking like an idiot. But, I promise you… it isn’t technical, the cost is minimal when compared to the return, and you’ll get over that nervousness VERY quickly.

Take what you might otherwise offer in a blog post and doing it in a webinar instead. You should know what kinds of things your market will go for.

On the technical side, it is imperative that you capture emails. If you use a GotoWebinar system, the emails go there. You can export the emails and put them into an email system like IContact… but that’s tedious. A MUCH better way is to use a system which dual-subscribes the user. It captures their email in your email list and RSVP’s them for your webinar at the same time.

There are a few of these solutions out there now, but my favorite (and the one I use personally) is WP Webinar Pro. You just set up a page on your Wordpress blog for the webinar RSVP page, enter the settings, pick a template – and you’re done. Instead of pointing them to GTW directly, you point them to your own RSVP page.

I personally prefer WP Webinar Pro over the others because I think the templates are better and the functionality is just cleaner to use. And, I’ve tried several others.

Works fantastically to build an email list.

#2 – Free Membership Sites

Simple idea, of course. The big idea behind it is that membership sites have a higher perceived value than an ebook. So, whatever you might otherwise pop into a PDF and give away, just put it into a membership site instead. You can even use other forms of delivery (like video, MP3, etc.) because you’ll have that flexibility.

Using Wishlist Member, you can have people sign up for a free membership very easily. Wishlist will auto-subscribe them to your email list using the built-in autoresponder integration.

#3 – Facebook Fan Pages

This is one that I’m going to be soon acting upon. See, I have a Facebook fan page. I even have a custom landing page on it. However, I DON’T have it set up to subscribe people to my list. And I should.

The way to do this is using a “fan gate”. It means showing different content for non-fans versus fans on a custom tab. So, you set your page to point to a custom tab. That page defaults to the non-fan version, which of course is all about getting them to hit the LIKE button. Once they like the page, they then see the fan version… which is an OPT-IN FORM.

So, first they like your page, then they opt-in. The fan-gate page can be customized to tell them why they should opt-in. You can even have video on there if you want. And, now you’ve just suddenly turned your fan page into a real lead generator.

There’s a free Facebook app called TabPress which can help you set up a fan-gate. Problem is, you’ll need to manually code some stuff in HTML to use that.

A much more full-featured solution is WP Fan Pro, which will allow you to set up your fan page using… Wordpress. Freakin’ awesome. 🙂

#4 – Facebook Opt-in Forms

I’m starting to see these on a few sites, but it is still a pretty new idea. Instead of having an opt-in form have the standard name and email fields, you have a form which is pre-filled using the reader’s contact information from Facebook.

This is powerful because (1) they see their own profile photo, which is instant recognition, (2) the name is pre-filled and it is actually accurate, (3) the email is pre-filled using their REAL email address.

Those last two points are important. Because more and more people are (unfortunately) entering “throw away” email addresses into opt-in forms these days. Or bogus names (like “Mickey Mouse”). However, on Facebook they have their real information. And most of us are surfing the Internet already logged into Facebook.

These are super easy to make now using Aweber (my preferred email list provider). Aweber now provides super-easy Facebook opt-in forms you can use. If the person isn’t logged into Facebook, they just see a normal opt-in form.

#5 – Comment Opt-In

When people post a comment on your blog, they’re entering their email address anyway. Why not give them the option to subscribe to your list right then and there? Only make sense, doesn’t it?

An easy way to set this up is using the Action Comments plug-in. The only “catch” is that this won’t work if you’re using a third-party comment system like Disqus or Livefyre. You have to be using Wordpress’s built-in comment system.

#6 – Mini-Courses and Training

This one is, again, simple. If an ebook is a 2 or 3 on a 10-point scale of coolness… access to a full training course would be a good solid 9. 🙂 Give your subscriber something you would normally expect to pay for… but they’ll get it for free just by subscribing. A 10-video series might be a nice example. Really over-deliver.

I’m throwing some ideas around to set this up myself. I mean, my Blueprint report is pretty good (so I’m told), but still…its an ebook. There are clearly untapped opportunities here. Hell, the Blueprint itself could even be turned into a mini training course.

You could even use Wishlist Member with this idea and protect the whole thing with a free membership level (see above).



The idea here is to think outside the box. If everybody else is giving away an ebook, there’s a lot of opportunity in trying something different.


  1. I’ve always been puzzled by the best *delivery* strategy for some of these “ethical bribes” and wonder if you have any thoughts on this, David. I’ve seen a few different approaches:

    1) Once you subscribe, you receive the content by email.
    2) Once you subscribe, you receive a password that you can use to access password protected pages on the site.
    3) Once you subscribe, you are redirected to a page where you can access the content. It’s not password protected.
    4) You must become a member of the site (during which process you are subscribed to the list), then you log in to access the content.

    Seems like the main issue to consider in choosing your approach would be around balancing protecting the content with not creating a barrier to subscribing.

    Any advice on which way to go and why?

    Thanks so much!!

    1. Yeah, make it as easy as possible to get the content they’ve opted in for. I would err on the side of #1.

      It is less headache, for one. And that I know from personal experience because free memberships come up support headaches.

      Other thing… I think some people get way too uptight about the need to secure the content. It is a free offer, right? So, WHO CARES if somebody manages to get a copy of it without subscribing? If you’ve done a good job with the offer, then they’ll WANT to subscribe to you if they haven’t already.

  2. The link to the action comments is not working. Great post, by the way! I am getting so much out of your site. I hope to be ready to join in the near future.

  3. I love your point # 5. By giving option of “send emails” in comment box will give you more list of email addresses. I remembered that I have many times checked the box of this option and get emails, newsletter, offers etc from these sites on daily basis.

    1. It can be a bit unnerving to see Thousands Sign up and no Cash Flow, but with a well designed follow up campaign, full of surveys and questions, you can winnow out the chaff, over time.
      BUT I have had people BUY after two years of no movement on the FREE site

      1. That is true. But, there’s a difference between using the membership site purely as a list builder… and using a free membership level with the idea of upselling them into a paid one. Two different purposes, the way I see it.

  4. As always some great ideas…especially like the FREE membership site concept..Have used that for several years and if quality information provided properly the conversions are reasonable and rewarding, IF one does not hurry the process

  5. Super post and love that by getting more people to think outside of the box we will all have more fun!  It was also perfect timing as I am getting ready to put together a FREE membership site and although I have seen it done I wasn’t sure how to make it all work. Thanks for the info..

  6. Hi Dave, these are great tips. Of course, they are not totally new, but you’re right in that they are totally underutilized and a great alternative to the ebook giveaway. Trouble is, what to tackle first..lol!

    On another note…I’m on your list and have a copy of the blueprint ebook. How can I get access to the MP3?

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  8. Problem with Facebook pages is that they’re interruption marketing, people are there to talk to friends and relatives. I’ve tried various services such as 5minutefanpages but with little luck. Perhaps if you’ve got a very large ad account you can drive traffic using the FB system. Perceived value is tricky, it depends on the content and personality type. Due to the short attention span I think people prefer video these days. 

    1. I don’t agree with the interruption marketing thing. That would only be true if something reaches out and brings them into your FB page and they weren’t looking for it at all. But, in reality, there’s no way for them to end up on your FB page unless they willingly clicked into it. And, it is an obvious assumption that they’re interested in your topic, otherwise they probably wouldn’t have clicked. So, it is natural to try to get them to connect at that point.

  9. Ebooks as a freebie still work. The only problem is that if a new visitor comes into your site and find another ebook (he may have already downloaded quite a few…), he may not subscribe.

    It all comes down to your niche. In some niches, giving an ebook away is huge… Though in it’s “deja vu!” IM, membership sites and softwares have a high perceived value.


  10. David,
    thank you for posting this. with so many “experts” saying you should give away something it’s hard to ignore but then i look around and it as if everyone is giving away an ebook, ebook ebook.

    A lot of them seem to be thrown up just for the sake of having a giveaway. Or they look really cheezy, salesy or spammy. I wonder how many people actually read the free ebook giveaways. I’ve actually gone to sign up for on an email list and than chosen NOT to sign up because i wasn’t interested in the free giveaway.

    About a month ago, i was looking for alternative give aways. Here is some of what i came across.
    1- free inspirational screensavers with photos and life quotes ( seen on personal development sites)
    2- Manifesto slogan posters
    3- JV giveaway. – This did not seem appealing.
    4- give away something on the honour system. ask people to sign up but don’t require it to get the free give away.
    5- A multi part giveaway- a person signs up and an auto responder sends them a mini course about some topic they are interested in. One site was giving away some interesting facts about 5 famous people in history.
    6-An interview with someone famous or substantial.
    7-A free chapter or free part of some paid product to intice people
    8- free webinar
    9- my least favorite is people giving away PLR content.

    The hardest part has been trying to figure out what my readers would find most valuable and interesting.

    1. Awesome post, Annie. 🙂 Absolutely, there are a lot of other ideas besides the ones I included.

      I think your #4 is especially something to consider. There’s a debate in many circles about the benefits of giving away something like an ebook with no opt-in at all, then hitting them up for the opt-in after they’ve (hopefully) consumed your thing, like it, and want to connect for more.

      There’s a good argument for that, too. Because you’d probably get a LOT more distribution. Plus, the people who DO subscribe are going to be more willing to hear from you.

  11. Thanks David. I’ve had a huge premium content archive that isn’t doing anything for us. I know exactly what I’m going to do with it now. 


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  13. Good advice Dave,
    I’ve been trying to think of something other than an ebook to offer. Do you know any good custom form designers? I want to move away from the standard aweber ones.

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