I Figured Out How To Build a Mailing List So You Don’t Have To

So many people are obsessed with email lists. “How many people are on your email list?” they ask. “How engaged is your email list?” Email lists are not new. I had an email list back in 1998. I made a fake advice column, and people would email me questions, and I would make up silly answers in response. Here’s a sample:
“On a recent trip to Disney World with my family, I took my little brother to the best the theme park had to offer; Dumbo, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, the teacups, all the greats. But when we met Mickey and Minnie, I began to wonder, “Are Mickey and Minnie married?” Then my mind starting racing, as I thought about it. They share the same last name, and the fact that you always see Mickey in wedding attire…what if they’re not married? What does that say about them? What kind of loose morals do these “role model mice” have? What kind of example are they setting for our children and housepets??

Signed,
A concerned tourist”
I would call people I think might know the answer, then type up their response, add some comments I found funny, and send it out. Here’s a sample:
“We started by calling up Disney and having a word or two with the representative who answered the phone. All I have to say about his question answering abilities is that, when he laughs, it sounds like Goofy on a respirator.

He informed me that “No, Mickey and Minnie are not married.” In fact, they are not even engaged. They have been dating for over 70 years. Can you imagine?? Mickey clearly has some kind of issues with commitment. Mickey probably has a motto- “Why buy the mouse when I can already get into the Magic Kingdom for free?”

Then I’d send out the email to everyone in my address book. Back then, you could see when everyone who had an AOL address opened the email. I’d keep opening the status box, counting how many people read the email – and I was getting close to 100% open rates, because email was still new and exciting back then.

Fast-forward 15 years. Now, we’re bombarded with email. I have an email address from work, one for my personal email from friends, one for spam, and one for my congregation. My spam email address is the one I use for ordering things online, and since every time I order something from a new retailer, I get added to their mailing list. This  inbox has over 5,000 unread messages. I imagine you may have a similar situation.

I made a mailing list for visitors from my website to join. But very few people joined, and when I sent an email, the open rates were abysmally low. It made me wonder why I spent the effort crafting these emails if no one was going to read them. I am positive my emails were going to the “promotions” tab of Gmail, or maybe even the “junk” folder.  I gave up on email blasts.


One day in August 2016, I got an email from my friend Greg Pilla.Here’s what it said.
Dear Friends and Family,

This is a monthly email update on my life, sent to a small group of friends.

My hope is for this to be a simple, more intimate way to stay better connected. So reply and let me know what’s new with you!

Fun and Travel

Flyboarding in Montalk was one of my biggest highlights.

CLICK HERE To Watch My 22 Second Flyboarding Video

Work
My business and charity are growing thanks to so much support from many of you. As some of you know, I help people earn an additional passive income on top of their career or business. Since I help individuals and businesses reduce their costs and earn income on services that households and businesses pay for every month such as energy, credit card processing, and cell phone service; I am able to partner and do business with people from all walks of life. That variety keeps my work adventurous and fun.  

Health
I have had a lot of fun lately trying new things. In the last week alone, my good friend Ula dragged me to a Tai Chi class.  My girlfriend Degelis took me to soul cycle. Both were AMAZING. I feel great besides a lingering neck and upper back issue. If you have any recommendations to rehab those areas let me know.
Mostly I try to stay healthy by: (1) having a big smoothie for breakfast – kale, banana, dates, almond milk, and flax seed (2) exercise as much as possible – plyometrics, yoga, sprints, weights, biking (3) Eating a mammoth salad for lunch (4) Learning from my uncle’s books (5) Listening to Tara Brach’s podcast on mindfulness
Reading
After years of ignoring it, I finally started following one of the most popular blog’s on the internet – Seth Godin’s blog. I’m loving the daily tips from one of the most legendary thinkers in our time.
I’m re-reading Awareness by Anthony De Mello. This book changed my life. The audio version is even better, but hard to find. I have a copy in dropbox. Email me if you would like me to share it with you.

Movies
I have been obsessed with good Kung Fu movies lately. Many you have probably seen the actor Donnie Yen. He is unreal. I recommend checking out:

  • Ip Man 1, 2, and 3 (IP Man is loosely based on the story of Bruce Lee’s teacher, the 2nd movie is my favorite)
  • Kong fu Killer (the fight scenes in all of these movies​ are insane)

Donnie Yen is also in the next Star Wars movie, Rogue One. Here’s the TRAILER

 

Podcast
I listen to Tim Ferris’ podcast religiously. I was fascinated by the last two podcasts he did with Coach Sommer, the former national team coach of men’s gymnastics team. He talks a lot about the body’s connective tissue and mobility in eye-opening ways.

What I’m checking out next
After hearing his interview with Tim Ferris I feel compelled to buy Coach sommers gymnastics body video series: link here

After watching the Donnie Yen’s Kung Foo movies I want to take up Wing Chun

Looking for in September

  • Opportunities to catch up if we haven’t connected in a while!
  • Advice on improving sleep
  • My business life is only possible based on connections. I’d enjoy connecting you with some of my extraordinary friends and meeting someone you know, who you think I need to know.
  • Conversations that force me to think big. Elon Musk big.

A Quote I’ve Been Thinking About

“Kite’s rise highest against the wind, not with it.” ~ Winston Churchill

We can also stay in touch on facebook! I look forward to chatting more soon!

Cheers,
Greg


 
Now this was an email! It was personal and interesting, not spammy. It gave a great feel for what Greg was up to, and where we might be able to collaborate or meet up. It took me a few months, but eventually I stole his whole email. I opened a new email in Gmail, copied Greg’s headings and wrote my own updates. Then I went through my address book, one by one, and added people who I thought might find it interesting or valuable, and blind carbon copied them all.
Hi Friends and Family,

My friend Greg sends out an email once/month with what he’s up to, things he’s working on, and what he needs help with. I’m copying his idea.

This is a monthly email update sent to a small group of friends. Feel free to respond back for chats and to set up coffee/lunch/drinks. Also, I’d love to hear what you’re working on, ideas you have, and how I can help.

First :
I did get hit by a car walking home from the train a couple of weeks ago. I’m totally fine (well my hand still hurts when I do pushups), but thankfully, no broken bones. I woke up from a nap on the train and was walking right near my house when a car crossed the opposite side of the road to hit me. The EMTs said I was the most calm person they’d ever seen in an accident, and I told them I was asleep up until 8 minutes ago. Anyway, I’m totally fine, so that’s the important part!

Work I’m doing:
My standard is to give ideas away for free, but charge if you want me to implement them. My friend Andra asked for some suggestions to help her IndieGoGo campaign to make her cafe 100% employee owned, and I gave her an idea I’ve been sitting on for a while.  She took my idea, ran with it, and It came out AWESOME! I love when stuff like that happens! Read Andra’s story on her IndieGoGo here and support her if you can!

I’m doubling down on my Instagram Stories.  I have been getting a ton of feedback on my videos. More people respond about my stories than all the blog posts I’ve ever written, combined. Blog posts take me HOURS to write, but stories only take 10 seconds to film, so that’s an amazing ROI on time. Videos I’ve made: I dressed like Aladdin for the day. People seemed to really like this story so I put the best parts of the day together in a 60 second video. Lauren watched the Tony Awards, and I decided to sing all my favorite show tunes to amuse myself. I put the best ones into a 60 second video.

Blog Posts I’ve Written:

A lot of teenagers are home for the summer, and they’re too young to get jobs. I outlined the process for them to figure out how they can make money with all their free time. “Parents: How Your Teenager Can Make Money Over The Summer.”  Parents, print this out and tape it to the fridge. 

Home Life:

Our landlord is trying to evict us from our apartment so we decided it was time to find a new place to live. We’re working on finding a house in the area (Central NJ), which is a really long process involving lawyers and lots of other stuff.  I’ll let you know when that process is complete!

Books I’m reading (and just finished):

Captivate: The Science of Succeeding With People – Vanessa Edwards – Excellent insights into how people judge first impressions, the best way to meet new people in awkward situations (hint: talk to people after they get food/drinks and a seat), and how to read people based on split second facial expression.

Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What The Internet can tell us about Who We Really Are  – Seth Stephens-Davidowitz – Fascinating book about what we can learn about our society from Google searches. People type a lot of things into Google they’d never tell another human. Warning: People search a lot of inappropriate things.

I Am The Messenger – Mark Zusak – Author of The Book Thief.  Amazing story, read it over Independence Day. I read this on average once/year and it always makes me want to write my own novel. Language is PG-13.

What I am looking for in July:

If you’re watching my Instagram story (thank you for watching!!) or interested in experimenting with Instagram Stories, could you let me know if you’d be pay to watch a webinar where I teach how to use Stories effectively? Something like $20 for a 30 minute webinar.  

Thanks for reading! Please send me a reply and let me know what’s new with you! Would also love to grab coffee/drinks/lunch. (Then I included my contact info at the bottom.)


 
 

This was super fun to write. I haven’t had such a good time writing something in ages.


The response I got back was great! People seemed impressed with how much I had going on and accomplished, even though I don’t feel like I am moving toward my goals in life.
 

Disadvantages:

One downside of this email was the responses from people who work in marketing. Some of them emailed me to say that what I was doing was illegal, that I would get in trouble (maybe even go to jail), and how you can’t just send emails without using an email blast service. I politely said “thank you for taking the time to respond,” and removed those people, because no one goes to jail for sending emails to friends and colleagues. That’s ridiculous.

Advantages:

The key advantage to sending out an email directly from Gmail is that it goes directly to the inbox, not the “promotions” tab of Gmail or the junk folder, where it may not ever be seen. The disadvantage is that I cannot tell who opened and read my message unless they reply, but that makes every reply I receive extremely meaningful and important, and it’s on me to continue the conversation.

As a result of this email, I’ve rekindled some great relationships. For instance, whenever colleagues leave my job, they give me their email address, but I was never exactly sure what to do with it. Now, I email them once per month and keep that dialogue open. People I worked with on past projects, even briefly, now know what I’m doing and can consider me for future collaborations or introductions. It’s my way of staying “top of mind” without being annoying.

If you want to build an email list, why not start with this formula and some friends? What do you have to lose?

Thank you for reading this far! If you did, I super appreciate it. Since you read this far, I want to give you a little bonus. Here’s a secret – you have a large collection of email addresses at your disposal, it will just take some work to get them. You can export your contacts (with email addresses!) from both Facebook and LinkedIn. It might take a little hacking to massage the data, and you may get a couple of complaints, but the vast majority of your contacts would love to hear what you’re up to, trust me.