How we started an email list from scratch and got 205 subscribers in 48 hours

Bryan Harris —  Bryan Harris - May 2nd, 2015

Is it possible to pick a topic, build an email list and launch a product in 48 hours?

On Thursday, I started the 48-Hour List-Building Challenge to show you there is no reason you can’t start a list and make money from it right now.

I challenged myself to start from scratch, not use my existing traffic, email list or social channels.

Just follow the blueprint in our new free training, the Advanced List Building Webinar, and see what happens.

Welp!

48 hours later…here are the results:

Final totals: 205 subscribers and $247 in sales.

All from scratch in 2 days.

You can do the exact same thing.

I’ll show you how.

How to start a list from scratch and get 205 subscribers in 48 hours

The first step was to pick a topic.

I brainstormed the three most random topics that I could think of.

Then I put it to a vote.

The winner?

Hammocking in Nashville.

Two reason I like this choice:

#1: It’s a local business. Which means it’s harder (smaller audience).

#2: It’s extremely niche. Hammocking? Is that even a thing?

Challenge accepted.

Here is what I did next…

Step 1: Manually reach out to 50 people and invite them to the list.

Most people make list building way too hard on themselves.

They start by writing content, creating lead magnets and trying to get complete strangers to join their list.

That’s silly.

Instead, what you should do (and what I teach in the course) is to start by getting Eager Sneezers on your list.

What’s an Eager Sneezer?

An Eager Sneezer is someone you ALREADY have a relationship with who knows people that fit your target demographic.

Your mom.
Your aunt.
Your best friend.

Then you ask them to invite someone they think might be interested in learning more about the topic you’re focused on.

Let me show you how it works…

One of the first people I invited to join my list was my friend Joel.

This is the email I sent him:

Joel is a Sneezer.

He doesn’t live in Nashville but he knows a bunch of people who do.

And since Joel is a Sneezer, he tends to tell other people about new stuff he finds.

This was Joel’s answer to my invitation:

Fast forward: By the end of the 48-hour challenge, Joel had referred 22 other people to join.

22!!

I rinsed and repeated this process for the first 12 hours of the challenge.

Church friends.
Neighbors.
Family members.
Old work friends.

I went through all of the contacts in my phone and email account, then sent all of them a personal invite.

The results: 46 subscribers in 12 hours.

How can you do the same thing?

Here are your action items:

Action Item #1: Make a list of 5 people you know well (family, friends and coworkers).

Action Item #2: Send each person a personalized invitation to join your list.

Action Item #3: Manually add their email addresses to your list (no landing pages needed).

Action Item #4: Rinse and repeat until you hit 50 subscribers.

Here is another example of a personal invite…

Course member Daniel used this strategy YESTERDAY.

He started with a list size of 0 and ended the day with a list of 48 new subscribers.

So, what happens next?

Step 2: Incentivize your Eager Sneezers to invite more people to your list.

The next stage was to get those first subscribers to INVITE ONE FRIEND to join my list.

Dream for a minute.

If all 50 of your subscribers got just one friend to join your list…it would double in size.

In the course we go through a methodical 3-day process for doing just this.

I didn’t have time for that.

So I jumped ahead to Module 3 where (among other things) we cover marketing giveaways.

I did a quick straw poll to my list to see what item would turn them on.

What product or service did they covet?

Answer = canoes and hammocks.

One hour later, I had this giveaway page up:

Then I announced the giveaway to my new list of 50 subscribers.

The goal was simple: get them to share it with everyone they knew so all of their friends would join.

Here is the email I sent:

The results?

179 people joined the giveaway!

BOOM!

After importing everyone into MailChimp and getting rid of the fake email addresses, I had 205 subscribers.

That ended the first 24 hours of the challenge.

*Note* If you are looking for an easy way to track your email list growth… check out our FREE tool List Goal. It’s super easy to set up and will also help you grow your email list.

FAQ: “But Bryan, you spent $800 on prizes. I don’t have that kind of money. So this method is stupid. I quit!”

First of all, quit whining.

Second, I didn’t spend a dime.

To build a giant email list, a giant business or anything worth your time and effort, there are tons of little obstacles that pop up.

Web hosting.
Web design.
What email provider to use.
How to pay for canoes you are giving away.

Lot’s of stupid stuff. And those things can easily trip you up in the beginning if you let them. Instead, what you should do is focus on your #1 objective. Then, when the time comes, figure out the rest.

Case in point: How am I going to actually give away a canoe and hammock when I don’t own either?

There are a few options…

Option #1: I could go buy them. (Not desirable.)

Option #2: I could use the proceeds I make from my product launch to buy them. (Risky. Don’t know how much I’ll make.)

Option #3: Call 25 local sporting goods store until I find one that will sponsor the give away in exchange for exposure to my list. (Less risky. Takes work. Cold calling sucks.)

I knew I had several solid options. But in the moment none of that mattered. What mattered was building the list and launching a product in 48 hours.

Everything else would be figured out later.

Next week I’ll handle getting sponsors for the canoe and hammock. I’ll make calls. Knock on doors.

And if need be, I’ll sell some of the junk in my garage to pay for it. Problem solved.

Be a problem-solver. Not a whiner.

You have to do the same thing when building your list. Get past the mental barrier of having to know the answer to every question. Instead, focus on execution.

Don’t screw your subscribers in the process. NEVER lie to people. ALWAYS fulfill your promises, no matter the cost.

But don’t get stuck either.

Hustle cures all.

Want 4 step-by-step techniques to get your first 1,000+ email subscribers? Click here to watch our new free training!

Step 3: Successfully launch a product to the list.

This part was tough.

Honestly?

I had no idea how I was going to pull this off when I started.

In fact, I actively tried to figure out a way to bail out of the challenge shortly after announcing I was doing it on Monday.

My normal method of product validation and launching takes 2 to 3 weeks. It also takes having an established relationship with my list.

I had neither.

I had a core group of 50-ish friends and acquaintances and 150 of their friends (who had no idea who I was).

How on earth can I get them to buy something from me?

So, I just talked to 3 people on the list.

I threw out a few ideas and asked which one they would buy.

Option #1: A nice hammock that costs less than $50
Option #2: A guide of all the coolest outdoor locations in Nashville

Option #2 was the winner.

I threw up a quick page so they could pre-order the guide.

Here is what that page looked like:

Then I sent all three of them a link to the page.

Only 1 bought.

Next, I sent an email to the entire list.

Here is the email I sent: 

And by the end of the 48-hour deadline, 13 people had purchased the book.

Total sales = $247.

Total subscribers = 205.

What happens next?

I’m going to take off 3 days in July to make the book.

Then deliver it to my 13 customers.

Here are a few ideas on how to grow this further:

• Do a giveaway for one hammock per month but confine the giveaway to the Facebook pages  for local neighborhoods (attentive, active and extremely targeted audience).

• Write an article in the Nashville Scene (local publication) once per month with a link back to a sign-up form for my list.

• Team up with local Instagram outdoor-focused celebrities (like this guy) and co-promote each other. (They feature pictures from the book, we feature them to our list.)

• Write at least 2 quality blog posts per month and email these to the list to build trust and grow our relationship.

What would it look like if I had 1,000 subscribers by launch date? 

2 months from now, after implementing the four strategies above, my goal is to have grown the list to 1,000 subscribers and substantially increase my list’s trust in me.

What would that look like?

Here is what I would estimate launch revenue to look like as my list grows.

There are several things (like multiple product packages with increased pricing) that can be done to increase these numbers even further.

I’ll be reporting back in the coming months as the project evolves.

Interesting Takeaways From This Challenge

Takeaway #1: Your friends want to help you.

I found it extremely hard to ask my friends and family to do something. It was much easier to ask complete strangers.

But what I found was the people that already knew and liked me were excited to help.

That’s a key insight to internalize. Use that goodwill to jump-start your list.

Takeaway #2: Stuff will go wrong. (My website crashed.)

Doing this challenge was dumb.

I’m in the middle of the busiest week of my life. I’m launching a brand-new product.

Stuff is crazy right now.

I found out 3 hours after I started the challenge that every sale of my course for the previous 48 hours had NOT actually been charged. My shopping cart had a bug. So I had to deal with that.

Then this morning I woke up to my entire website being down.

Here is the point…

Don’t make excuses. It would have been easy to quit. I probably should have.

DON’T!

Takeaway #3: Talk to as many people in person as possible.

Don’t hide behind email.

Instead, pick up the phone and call your friends. Text them. Skype chat them. Facebook Message them.

That was the most effective way to get people to subscribe and pay.

And always follow up.

Takeaway #4: The size of your list doesn’t matter.

I do not recommend selling to your list the day that they join. You wouldn’t do it in real life, so don’t do it online.

Focus on communicating to them regularly to build trust instead.

By skipping that step, my average subscriber produced just over $1 in revenue.

That’s opposed to $10+ per subscriber on my Videofruit list (in which I’ve focused on relationship first and sales second).

Takeaway #5: Do the right things in the right order.

You don’t have to spend years building a list. You can build a list, launch a product and make a profit in weeks.

Just do the right stuff in the right order and it works.

Takeaway #6: Your goal is to not be lazy.

Your job is simple. Execute. Don’t make excuses. Don’t get tripped up on the small stuff.

Stop running from your pain and make your pain your motivation.

If I would have done a better job of executing my plan, the list could have been at 500 subscribers.

The fact is I was lazy. You can outwork me.

What it comes down to is this…

If you really want it… If you really want more time, money and freedom…

To build a business that allows you to do what you want, when you want…

It’s all up to you.

In the Advanced List Building Webinar, you get a step-by-step blueprint. We’ll take you by the hand and show you exactly how to grow your email list and launch a product.

You’ll see exactly how we grew our email list to 120,000 subscribers. And you’ll get the exact same tools, scripts and strategies we used– so you can do it too.

Ready to start?

Watch the free training now.