How to develop your record (with good leads)

For startups and small companies that self-fund / bootstrap the whole lot. Not for big-budget companies.

❌ Do not give away an book.

❌ Do not spend cash on subscribers from Meta or LinkedIn.

✅ Borrow different folks’s lists.

✅ Use a sensible lead-gen software / pop-up in your website.

Circa Feb 2018, Copyhackers did a webinar with ConvertKit on how you can write emails that convert.

Copyhackers constructed / owned the webinar sign-up web page and built-in it with our electronic mail advertising and marketing platform so registrants went straight to our record. As a consequence, each one who signed up for the webinar was an individual we may:

  1. Add to our record (with double opt-in),
  2. Nurture so they really confirmed up for our webinar and
  3. Continue connecting with – or promoting to – after the webinar ended.

With that one accomplice webinar, we grew our record by greater than 2,300 subscribers in a few days.

No, sadly, I don’t have a screenshot of that as a result of we’ve since moved from ConvertKit to ActiveCampaign. I’m certain I fired a screenshot over to Ry Schwartz and my group when the numbers got here in for these tagged #convertkit. But that’s certainly one of 1,000,000 information named “screenshot” in my drive, so that you’ll simply should belief me on that one.

Less than a month later, we promoted Copy School to our record, together with these 2,300 new leads.

That was our first seven-figure Copy School promo / launch.

This is a weblog submit about how we’ve grown our record – which is at present at 85,450 “contacts” or electronic mail addresses, ~32,000 of which open our emails usually. Which, to me, means our record is ~32,000 folks. (We observe actually aggressive record hygiene, however even nonetheless some disengaged people stick round.)

Contacts in ActiveCampaign

More importantly this submit is about how we’ve did not develop our record.

After all, 12 years into this CH enterprise, I really feel like we must always possibly have greater than 32,000 engaged-ish subscribers.

So I made a decision to put in writing this submit to lead with the issues we’re not doing anymore as a result of they don’t work they usually’re costly. These are the issues Matt Lerner would name “sevens.”

And then I’ll share the issues that work nice, or what would earn a 9 or 10 (versus a 7).

Things that haven’t labored for us.

1. Facebook advertisements. LinkedIn leads. <– costly

They’re costly. They don’t truly double opt-in subscribers to your record. And your so-called leads don’t essentially know who you might be, what your model identify is, what you supply – any of it.

What freaks me out about lead-gen on social advert platforms is that this entire “one click” lead-gen thought.

Here’s how a one-click lead arrives in your record:

  1. An individual on X social community clicks a hyperlink / button on an advert – that’s, on a very totally different platform from yours – and
  2. through a collection of integrations,
  3. they present up on your contact record.

Magical, proper? One-click, friction-free lead-gen.


You then should get them to double opt-in. Which they not often do.

Which means they’re a foul lead.


You completely NEED to make use of double opt-in. That’s the act of getting subscribers to *verify* they wish to get emails from you. They can verify by:

  1. Clicking a hyperlink in your electronic mail, which immediately tells your CSM / advertising and marketing software that it’s now okay to ship them emails, or
  2. Replying to your welcome electronic mail, the place you’d then arrange guidelines to maneuver them onto a protected record or tag them as opted in.

Because there’s this further layer of friction in getting that lead, entrepreneurs HATE double choose in.

But it’s the layer of friction you want. It’s the affirmation that, sure, Jo, you’ll be able to electronic mail me.

Ensure you’ve obtained good electronic mail addresses, sans typos Cut your record measurement in half or extra as a result of new subscribers don’t verify
Ensure you’ve obtained an actual individual in your record, not simply no matter electronic mail handle
Ensure your new subscriber is definitely utilizing an electronic mail handle they examine, not some throwaway
Reduce probability of being referred to as spam
Improve your deliverability scores due to all the above
Good entrepreneurs love double choose in.


Bad leads usually tend to convey down your electronic mail sender popularity as a result of, by not confirming they wish to get emails from you, they have a tendency to, properly, not wish to get emails from you. And right here’s the factor: your sender popularity rating will get negatively impacted when:

  • Subscribers don’t open emails from you, which tells ISPs you’re a foul sender
  • Subscribers mark you as spam (which occurs in case you hold displaying up of their inbox uninvited)
  • They unsubscribe quick, which tells ISPs you’re a foul sender

And the extra this occurs, the more serious your popularity will get. Which makes it practically inconceivable to truly use your record. And you need to undergo this entire re-engagement, re-activation effort with new record hygiene guidelines in place. So yeah — simply do double opt-in out of the gate, and also you’re protected(r).

So if all that’s true…

Why do companies spend cash buying one-click leads on social platforms?

In my expertise: Facebook advert managers / coordinators, media consumers, businesses – they like to say it’s best to use Facebook (sorry Meta ugh) advertisements to construct your record.

It’s one click on. And voila! They’re in your record. Except, as we’ve already coated, they’re probably not.

Technically sure, you’ve added a brand new electronic mail handle to your record.

But this isn’t a superb lead. This is a step up from a chilly lead. Barely a step up.

The motive you’re being instructed it’s best to use this – no let me rephrase: the rationale you’re being PRESSURED to make use of social advertisements for one-click list-building is as a result of it’s simple for that coordinator, purchaser or company to measure and “prove” that the advertisements are working.

“See? We added 100 leads to your list last week.”

And then? Then it’s all in your EMAILS to transform them.

Which can be effective.

IF your emails have been being despatched to good leads.

Which they’re not. As we’ve already coated.

All you’ve achieved is pay (superb cash) to purchase leads that 1) don’t care (dangerous lead), 2) mentioned sure to one thing free on Instagram (dangerous lead), 3) haven’t actively opted in (dangerous lead) and 4) could have NO CLUE who your model is or what that sender is of their inbox – “looks like spam” *hits spam button* *loves hitting buttons, hates studying* – (BAD LEAD) solely to push that crappy-ass lead alongside to your Email Marketing Department… aka one individual with coordinator standing who’s like life is just too brief.

(BTW, that is why Boxcar exists and why our shoppers get hooked on it.)

Don’t. Give. Meta. Money. For. Shitty. Leads.

You’ll simply preserving giving them cash. And it’ll stress you out.

Instead, strive placing that advert price range into changing the leads in your record earlier than you throw more cash at Meta (an organization that’s actually dangerous with its personal cash so prolly doesn’t respect yours and that’s not so good to its folks yr after yr whilst you’re busy attempting to earn money so you’ll be able to deal with your folks even higher).

List measurement is just not the purpose. List high quality is. Yes you recognize this however you retain forgetting, so I highlighted it for you.

2. Free ebooks.

Basically free something is dangerous for high quality record development.

Now this level is just not universally true. We’ve labored with shoppers – like Launch Darkly – to provide away good lead magnets that usher in actually wholesome leads that convert into huge contracts. Giving away a Forrester report, for instance, is mostly going to be a protected wager in case you’re attempting to draw SVPs with price range.

(BUT promoting that very same Forrester report may usher in simply as many nice leads, simply as quick.)

What I’m speaking about right here is the overall suggestion shared in 99.9999% of “build your list” webinars, focused at small on-line companies and startups, that insist it’s best to:

Now these will not be universally horrible concepts. Not in any respect. They can work together with a wholesome Meta advert price range. Or they’ll work in case you’re sharing one thing brand-new with an viewers that’s completely completely primed for that new one thing.

But right here’s the factor:

If you’re not utilizing paid advertisements (see level 1 above), then you definitely’re possible relying on selling that lead magnet to guests to your web site and/or on social media (in your hyperlink in bio). And I hate to interrupt it to you, however except you’re mega huge – which you’re not ‘cos again we’re speaking about small on-line companies and startups – it’s okay we’re in the identical boat! – you don’t have a variety of site visitors coming to your website.

You’ve obtained drips of site visitors.

You put collectively an entire book… to provide away free… to drips of site visitors.


According to LeadPages, the typical conversion price for a lead magnet on a devoted electronic mail opt-in touchdown web page is between 5 and 15%. And once more:

  1. That’s on a devoted electronic mail opt-in touchdown web page (sometimes used for advertisements; not often a pure touchdown level on a web site; positively nowhere close to the site visitors a house web page or weblog submit will get in your SMB website), and
  2. It’s reported by LeadPages, an organization that’s hardly unbiased in its reporting on the effectiveness of lead magnets and lead pages. No shade to LeadPages! We use it and love the folks. But the bias is there.


If it takes you 100+ hours to put in writing an book…

and then you definitely give it away for $0…

to the 100 folks visiting your website on any given day (with a fraction of that on weekends)…

solely to have MAYBE 5 guests choose in for it a day…

then you definitely’re fortunate to be rising your record by 150 folks a month.

With an book.

Which you spent 100+ [billable] hours writing.

Let’s fake you’ll be able to abdomen that ridiculous use of a superb month of misplaced productiveness.

First drawback with the “just give away an ebook” technique is:

Getting new results in learn your book. Fun truth: I really like the Harry Potter collection. Fun truth: I haven’t completed studying it. Which means… I’ve books I’ve PAID for and know I’ll ENJOY that I haven’t prioritized studying within the final 20 years. That FREE book crammed with WORK I’ve to do? Ummmm positively not excessive on my nighttime studying record.

And in case you by no means supposed for subscribers to learn the book – if that doesn’t matter to you – then why did you write an book? You may’ve repurposed *something* you already had if all you have been in search of was a lead magnet. You may pop collectively an SOP primarily based on the way you get good work achieved and kill it.

And the second drawback is:

Converting these 150 subscribers in a month.

We’ve seen this gorgeous universally at our company: engagement drops off after Day 3 or Day 4 of a subscriber’s life. So it doesn’t matter how many individuals you add to your record in a month. The electronic mail calendar works on days, not weeks or months. Most / All leads gives you a max of 4 days earlier than they cool waaaay down.

Gif from Friends: "Chappy's heart rate has slowed way down."

And even if in case you have a brilliant lengthy gross sales cycle, the actual fact is that no one indicators up in your record hoping to unravel their drawback in 4, 6 or 18 months. Yes, you will have an extended gross sales cycle. But *some* folks might be engaged to the purpose of shopping for / reserving a demo / and so on a lot sooner, you need to admit.

So in these first days of grace, electronic mail new subscribers like so:

  • Day 0: Sign up day! An excellent lead is a scorching lead on this stage – open to persuasion. Send a minimum of one nice electronic mail. Ideally ship two.
  • Day 1: The lead remains to be heat, however distractions in life imply they might a) not care as a lot or b) be extra fatigued by their issues than they have been yesterday. Send a minimum of one nice electronic mail.
  • Day 2: Engagement is now half of what it was on Day 0. You are going to lose this lead quickly. Send a minimum of one nice electronic mail.
  • Day 3 and 4: Technically, that is the place your re-engagement marketing campaign ought to kick in, attempting to recreate a Day 0 engagement expertise (as coated in Copy School) by giving them a brand new supply they’ll simply say sure to, like a webinar or a really topical paid product (i.e., paid ebooks go right here).

Your book is meant to be sitting on their kindle (uncommon) or desktop (frequent), drawing their consideration. But if it has not… and if 4 days have handed since they downloaded it… properly, now the probabilities of partaking them are insanely low.

As in, these 5 individuals who obtain your free book TODAY…

however who don’t learn it…

are FOUR DAYS away from turning into chilly leads.

Now what if, as a substitute of freely giving that book, you bought it?

You would convert fewer folks. But those you transformed can be ACTUAL leads – people who find themselves now beginning to get within the behavior of providing you with cash in alternate for worth on a topic of your model’s experience. Actually scratch that – they aren’t simply leads now. They’re precise prospects.

*You can develop your record properly with precise paying prospects.*

A lead doesn’t all the time should be lured in with probably the most magical free bait.

And again to the principle level right here:

To get the amount of site visitors you’d want for a free book to be a superb lead magnet… you would need to use paid advertisements. Which brings us again to level #1 on this what-not-to-do record.

Now let’s transfer on to the what-to-do record. Because it’s not all dangerous information.

Things which have labored for us.

Dare I say the primary merchandise right here is THE factor that works for *everybody* who’s grown their record in any possible way:

1. Borrow another person’s record.

‘Member how we quickly grew our list by 2,300 new subscribers a couple years back?

We had partnered with ConvertKit. We’d created a suggestion that was an amazing match for his or her record… after which we’d despatched that provide, in an electronic mail, to their record. And then we’d filed these webinar registrants instantly onto our record at enroll, the place they needed to double opt-in to obtain the webinar particulars. That’s the way you do it.

And discover how summits all the time get their audio system to electronic mail their lists concerning the summit?

Or the podcast you’re on pings you when your episode goes reside, so that you’ll share it together with your record?

👉 If you need a seven-figure launch like Amy Porterfield’s Digital Course Academy has had… you accomplice with an enormous course platform like Kajabi in order that they’ll electronic mail their record about your course…

👉 If you need an eight-figure launch like Marie Forleo’s B School has had… you arrange a bunch of associates and reward them in order that they’ll electronic mail their record about your course…

👉 If you need freemium customers in your SaaS like Nathan Barry needed for ConvertKit in its early days… you accomplice with a super-affiliate like Pat Flynn in order that they’ll electronic mail their record about your SaaS…

To develop your record, borrow another person’s.

Borrow plenty of folks’s lists.

❌ Do not write an book and put it in your ghost-town web site behind a two-field kind.

❌ Do not spend your earnings earlier than you even make them so billionaires and a bunch of sh*tty media shopping for / advert businesses can fake to be busy doing something aside from plainly burning your cash.

✅ Make a listing of manufacturers which have the viewers you need, and as a substitute of spending 100+ hrs writing an book or $10,000+ on advertisements… create a high-value content material asset for them to share with their viewers, pitch them prefer it’s your freaking job (it’s)… after which make sure to drive folks from their record to YOUR lead-gen web page and onto YOUR record.

Note that we’ve additionally had success with borrowed record development with a free ecourse we did with HubSpot and a paid course we did with LinkedIn Learning. We additionally noticed lead-gen success with free ebooks we did with companions Unbounce, LeadPages and GetResponse. But the BEST end result has come from the method I laid out above:

  1. Set up registration web page
  2. Connect it to your electronic mail platform / CRM
  3. Have accomplice ship electronic mail to their record, linking to your registration web page
  4. Ensure new subscribers / registrants double opt-in

If the accomplice collects the e-mail addresses and sends you the CSV, that’s not so good as a result of:

  • Those subscribers have cooled for the reason that begin of the promo / once they first signed up,
  • Those subscribers have possible forgotten your identify since that preliminary enroll and
  • You should put them by the entire double opt-in course of now… which isn’t going to be nice given the earlier two bullets.

2. Put a intelligent exit-intent pop-up throughout the web site.

Remember when everybody used + hated pop-ups circa 2015?

That’s when Bounce Exchange – now referred to as i believe one thing like Wunderkind, after many rebrands – first entered ye olde scene with pop-ups that regarded like this:

A typical opt-out pop-up from BX.

Importantly, the Bounce Exchange pop-up launched one thing new to the pop-up world, and that one thing was *large* for conversions:

The choose OUT button.

I freaking beloved that button. We noticed such record development with it, we wrote this entire submit about it and I spoke on a bajillion (or like three) phases about it, at the same time as all of the entrepreneurs mentioned _stop doing this folks hate this_.

Here’s one of many many pop-ups that labored properly for our record development:

One of the pop-ups from Copyhackers in the past.

You’ll discover the lead magnet is… an book.

Ahem. That in spite of everything my insisting that you just not use an book.

We used an book for lead gen as a result of:

  1. We already had that book able to go, simply sitting on a digital shelf.
  2. The pop-up throughout the location meant we captured extra eyes throughout the location (vs what most small companies do when freely giving ebooks, which is add a tiny non-optimized lead-gen field to some rando web page on their website).

But again to the purpose:

Here’s how our record grew with that two-button pop-up throughout

Graph showing performance spike in list growth when BX added to Copyhackers. Starts in Oct 2014.
Note that we took this screenshot in mid-April 2015, which is why the bar top drops and the graph ends there.

I keep in mind that, after we printed the submit concerning the outcomes we have been seeing, I used to be on a name with Noah Kagan (as AppSumo was simply beginning to construct a few of its suite of instruments). He was doing viewers analysis and requested me what it could take for me to go away Bounce Exchange. And I confessed that the software was *so good* that 1) I couldn’t think about leaving and a couple of) I used to be truly somewhat suspicious concerning the variety of indicators ups — possibly BX was faking signal ups by loading our record with bots.

They weren’t. 🙂

But the outcomes have been that good.

So it’s not simply that it’s best to “put a pop-up on your site.”

It’s that it’s best to use sensible strategies to gather addresses from guests throughout your website.

3. Stop losing time on the issues that don’t work.

Inevitably, you’re going to be drawn again to the issues that don’t work. The Facebook advertisements with shit ROAS. The LinkedIn advertisements that value $100+ per lead. And you’ll return to these issues underneath the guise of, “Hey, it’s just an experiment.”

But small companies don’t have the posh of experimenting on issues that don’t work for different companies on the off probability they could give you the results you want. Far higher to recollect this music everytime you assume “it killed them but it might work for us – let’s try it”:

Never smile at a crocodile.
No you’ll be able to’t get pleasant with a crocodile.
Don’t be taken in by its welcome grin –
It’s imagining the best way you’d match inside its pores and skin…

I’m not kidding. That music retains me out of a lot bother.

If you spend money and time on issues that don’t work for different folks LIKE YOU, you are taking time away from engaged on issues that DO work for different folks such as you… and that feasibly STAND A CHANCE of working for your small business, too.

So except you might have lots of natural site visitors and/or a large advert price range to drive lead gen:

❌ Do not write an book and put it in your ghost-town web site behind a two-field kind. It won’t enable you develop your record.

✅ Do write an book and cost for it, then put new prospects into your electronic mail upgrader flows. It will enable you fill your record with paying prospects.

❌ Do not spend your earnings earlier than you even make them so billionaires and a bunch of sh*tty media shopping for / advert businesses can fake to be busy doing something aside from plainly burning your cash. It won’t enable you develop your record with precise leads who wish to hear from you.

✅ Make a listing of manufacturers which have the viewers you need, and as a substitute of spending 100+ hrs writing an book or $10,000+ on advertisements… create a high-value content material asset for them to share with their viewers, pitch them it’s your freaking job (it’s)… after which make sure to drive folks from their record to YOUR lead-gen web page and onto YOUR record (the place you might have double opt-in arrange). It would be the #1 driver, by a landslide, of record development for you.

❌ Do not put a crappy opt-in pop-up in your website. (Crappy is subjective. You might imagine the one on our website proper now could be crappy.) It won’t enable you develop your record considerably.

✅ Capture leads by blanketing your website with sensible pop ups (or overlays or slide ins or embeds). The smarter the lead-cap software, the extra it can assist develop your record.

And take into accout…

I say this all as somebody who has by no means had the sort of enterprise you elevate cash for and, as such, has scratched, pitched, wept, celebrated and scrimped to get each copper penny that’s run by QBO over the past 12 years. I hate losing sources. And I really like emailing to develop companies.

If you’ve raised some huge cash, ignore me.

If your response to listening to that CAC or CPA is $220 is NOT omg we may actually pay 2 salespeople to amass prospects extra affordably and reliably, ignore me.

If you assume losing sources is a pure motion on the trail to enterprise profitability, ignore me.

If you hate emailing to develop your small business, ignore me.

Otherwise, joyful record development.

~jo 🙂

PS: We’ve switched from Bounce Exchange (years in the past) to ConvertFlow. It’s self-serve and it integrates properly with ActiveCampaign, which we use and love.

PPS: More than something on the market, THE WAY TO GROW YOUR LIST is to borrow another person’s. And THE WAY to get somebody with a wholesome record to advertise you is to be publicly nice at what you do. You don’t should be a genius or uber-nerd (though that’s nice in case you can convey that, too). Just convey you into the world… and repeat.


Leave a Comment