Make Money From Your Mailing List (and why it is important)

“The money is in the list”. I am sure you have heard it before. And I believe it can be true. But it is not an absolute truth. Here we will look at 10 ways you can make money from your mailing list.

But first we will look at how you need to approach your mailing list for it to be an important part of your online business.

Are all mailing lists automatically money makers?

I wish it was so. But there are unfortunately an abundance of mismanaged mailing lists out there.

For your mailing list to be valuable it needs to be managed properly. 

You must respect and over deliver on the contract you have entered with your mailing list members.

I have no contract you may think. Well, you probably do. 

When you initially asked for the mail address you made certain promises to entice the member to join. 

These are the promises you need to over-deliver on.

But I never made any promises or guarantees

That is possible but not necessarily a good thing.

There are many mailing lists where members join for a freebie or the chance to win something.

The challenge with these types of mailing lists are that they are not segmented and we literally know nothing about the members’ needs, wants and desires. 

And we actually want our mailing list members to have expectations we can exceed!

Why would I want mailing list members to have expectations?

People do not buy from strangers. 

To make money from our mailing list members we need to establish trust. 

An easy way to earn trust is to over-deliver on the expectations we allow our mailing list members to have on us.

After all, we decide what the expectations are when we try to entice members to join in the first place. 

So how great it all works out! The expectations we have created helps segment the list members and at the same time we have a mechanism to build trust.

So why is a mailing list so important anyway?

When you run an online business you are always trying to find new and more visitors to your website.

Needless to say you want the visitors to be relevant and targeted.

You may work with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to rank in the search engines. You may be active in the social media networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest to mention a few of the bigger ones. And then you have your mailing list.

Many website owners actually look at it like that. The mailing list is almost an afterthought.

But truth to be told all those sources of traffic could be taken away. And there would be nothing you could do. 

The traffic you get from search engines is not owned by you. The social media networks allow you to use their network but there is no promise that they will deliver visitors to your website.

So how would your visitors find you if you were not ranking in the search engines and had no presence in the social media networks?

Exactly, you would still have your mailing list.

You own your mailing list and your website. Everything else could be taken away.

And that is why your mailing list is important.

10 Ways to Make Money From Your Mailing List

Before we look at ways you can make money from your mailing list we need to set 3 core principles.

  1. Never spam: Never send mailings to non-members. Only send what you have permission to send.
  2. Always stay relevant: Only write about and promote relevant products and services. Do not anger your members by just selling anything to make a buck. 
  3. Create value: Always make sure that you can answer the question: what is in it for them?

1. Promote other companies products and service

As affiliate marketers we represent other companies and make a commission on sales generated.

Affiliate marketing can be extremely lucrative. We simply include information about a product or service in our mailing. We then add a link to the merchant directly or back to our website.

But to be successful you need to remember to create value for mailing list members.

One rule of thumb is to be informative 5 times for every time you try to sell something.

Some merchants like Amazon do not allow affiliate links in maillings. Here you instead need to first link to your website.

It is always good to link to your website but sometimes it makes more sense to link directly to strong merchants to avoid selling the product twice.  

2. Find sponsor to pay for your mailings

I used to do this alot in the travel industry. Suppliers like cruise companies and airlines did not like to support with cash. They much preferred to buy a mailing or newsletter where they could pitch their product, service or even a new location. 

Before you accept a sponsor you should make sure that they will offer a complementary product or service that creates value to your list members.

For credibility reasons (and by law in some countries) you should clearly state that it is a sponsored post in your mailing.

3. Create and sell your own digital products

Use your knowledge, experience and expertise to create an online course to promote on your website and in your mailings. 

Creating online courses and programs is very popular among internet professionals. And if it is done correctly it can be very lucrative. 

Use your mailing list to create interest and then use a series of emails to qualify and lead the prospect all the way to purchase.

As you have already established trust you will need to focus on how to solve problems and remove pain points for your mailing list members.

4. Paid membership based mailing lists

Subscription based mailing lists can be a great business model if you work in a field where information changes often and needs to be up-to-date.

One effective model is to offer a free and a paid membership based list.

Needless to say the free list will serve a larger audience and act as an effective recruitment tool for the paid list.

You can choose to charge on a weekly, monthly or yearly basis. 

The model is very lucrative and you will find that membership retention in combination with recurring billing are key factors for success.

To offer a free introductory period is also a very effective way to recruit new members. 

5. Sell advertising space

Selling advertising space in your mailings gives a source of revenue as well as leads to new potential partners.

The trick is to offer smaller advertising packages where you can over-deliver. This is a great low-maintenance way to try to create new advertising partners. 

Ideally you charge a nominal fee as an introductory offer and then the key is of course to over-deliver and exceed expectations.

And needless to say, stay relevant.

6. Sell on your “Thank you” page 

When new members sign up to your mailing list you send them to your “Thank you” page.

This is an ideal time to offer an introductory, once in a lifetime type of deal. 

Stay relevant and do not sell too hard. As long as you offer a deal with great value you may be surprised at how well it works.

7. Offer lead-in product to start buyer-seller relationship

All relationships are built on a level of trust.

I belong to groups and mailing lists where I make purchases online based on recommendations. 

But to be honest, I am a passive member in most groups and mailing lists. 

Why?

There has simply never been an offer to make me a buyer. And I know how I am usually won over.

Curious?

I find it hard to refuse a trial for a low nominal fee with clear and easy rules and terms for cancellation.

And I hate signing up for free offers where I all of a sudden need to enter my credit card number.

I have used this knowledge and I dare say that I am not unique.

A great way to make money from your mailing list is to offer a smaller lead in product or service to establish a buyer-seller relationship.

When the relationship is created it will be much easier to sell higher ticket items.

8. Upsell from freebie

We often have to offer something for free – a freebie – to get new members to our mailing list.

But all freebies are not created equal.

When you choose your freebie you need to make sure that it is relevant to your audience and that it has value.

If you for example offer 3 free recipes with sign up you could offer 10 more for just $3.

To get that first buyer-seller transaction under your belt early on will help as you move along.

9. Cross- & up-sell complementary products & services

I used to cross-sell and up-sell with great success in the travel industry. 

I had the most success when I offered complementary products and service throughout the shopping experience.

I always stayed relevant and went to great length to match and offer a relevant product and service.

I would for example offer priority boarding and seating. Now priority boarding is a great offer for the single traveler who does not want to board last. Seating is a harder sell as they will find a seat that works especially if they pay for priority boarding.

Seating is on the other hand a great offer for a family travelling with children. But they will never pay for pre-boarding as they will get it for free.

Now, you may not have this level of detailed information on your members but you need to think along the same way. 

Match your offers based on all the information you do have. Should it be the members purchase history or simply the time of year.

10. Do not make your list for everyone

Do not be fooled to think that mailing lists need to have thousands of members to be valuable.

This is not true.

Focus on building a segmented mailing list where you know your members needs, wants and desires.

This is more important than just large numbers of random members.

Dare to have a defined audience and then solve their problems.


Having tons of mailing list members is of course great but it is more  important that they share common attributes, desires and goals.

Summary and conclusion

It is true that the money is in the list if we build the list the right way. 

We need to focus on offering value and respecting the contract we enter with the members of our mailing list. 

And when you have a focused segmented mailing list it can make you good money when you offer value and respect the relationship.

Respecting the relationship means that you will never

  • sell your list
  • promote unrelated products
  • only sell,sell, sell (it is not about you)

Now, working with a mailing list takes patience. And remember that even if you members do not buy something today it may change tomorrow. Stay relevant, respect the relationship and remember that “persistence beats resistance”.

Bonustip: here is one of my most successful methods for reaching more members with mailings.

We build a great newsletter with an amazing value proposition. We send it. Looking at the reports we can see that a whopping 60% of the members did not even open the newsletter.

Now 40% open-rate is not bad but with a targeted list we want to do better.

Here’s my tip. Run a report of all the members that did not open the newsletter. Wait for at least 5 days including a weekend. 

Now resend the same newsletter but re-write the subject line or heading.

This gives you a second go at a large number of the members without agitating the members who already opened your newsletter.

Meet the author: Serial entrepreneur and travel industry expert with more than 20 years working experience from web development, Wordpress and the travel industry. Mattias is a big fan of Open Source and will show you how to build and manage a website using Wordpress and a bit of optional PHP for the true enthusiast. Mattias identifies with self-starters and entrepreneurs and also shares ideas on how to monetize a website.