How NOT to Build Your List

How not to build your listHow NOT to Build Your List

This post contains old information, but it’s certainly not outdated. The same ways of how not to build your list hold true today…


I was recently in receipt of an email from a list to which I belong. The list owner took part in an Ad Swap with another list owner. What then happened was a primary example of how not to build your list and hope to build awesome, trusting relationships that will bring long-term benefits to both you and your list.

What Is a List and an Ad Swap?

For those of you who aren’t sure about what a list or an Ad Swap is, I’ll give you a few details.

A list is something that’s like gold to all internet marketers. As a rule, the marketer will create a product of value that he/she is willing to give away in exchange for a person’s name and email address. I’m sure you’ve signed up to an opt-in box or page a time or two. Once you sign up to receive the free product, you are then on this person’s list and that person has the right/permission to contact you in the future with other offers, be they free or paid.

An Ad Swap is where a list owner agrees to promote another list owner’s product to his/her list in exchange for the other list owner doing the same.

How NOT to Build Your List

Now, back to my story… I signed up for the offer that was sent to me on February 26, 2012, wanting access to the product that was being offered for free. On that date, I received the confirmation email as well as 4 other emails from the list owner. On the following day, February 27, I received 6 – YES 6 – emails from that list owner. Needless to say, I promptly unsubscribed. I don’t need that kind of junk bombarding my inbox on a daily basis. Even though the list owner had been given permission to email me, I consider the number of emails he was sending to be akin to spam.

Another problem soon came to light. The product that was given away had no product key given, which was needed to activate the particular software. So, some of us that had received the original email went back to the owner of the list we were on and explained the issue. This person then had to find out what they could do for us. We eventually received our product keys.

I belonged to a training group on Skype, the majority of whose members were on the same list as I. There were many complaints about the same person sending copious emails and how disgruntled everyone was at the numbers of emails they were receiving.

So… the owner of the list I was on contacted the owner of the list with which the swap occurred. Here’s the copy of that correspondence (with names removed to protect identity):

OK, so you guys remember that Ad Swap I did with xxxxxxx. Well here is the correspondence between us.


From: xxxxx

01 Mar 12: Hey xxxxx

First off I gave you a good review thinking you would hit your list again to match my clicks but not even a response from you.

I have had several complaints from my subscribers that they are getting spammed to death by you and can’t get access to there registration key.

I personally received 6 emails from you since I signed up on your list. Others have said they have received a lot more and are unsubscribing.

Not sure why you’re sending so many emails, but just some advice. It’s hard building relationships with your list if you’re sending out 10 emails a day.

Also, please send me access so people can get their registration. I have a lot of not so happy people.


Response from the other list owner:

01 Mar 12:

First off just because you rated me good doesn’t mean I have to respond to you. I am not a mind reader not everyone expects a second send when clicks don’t match.

I do send many emails a day, but that works for me. If they opted in to my list it’s not considered spam. I do have a high unsubscribe rate but my earnings make up for that. Thanks for your unsolicited advice though.


Reply from the owner of the list I was on:

02 Mar 12:

It’s no biggie. I am just trying to help you out. Shouldn’t have to be a mind reader though to know if you give someone 15 clicks and they gave you 78 like I did it’s just common courtesy to send again. Shouldn’t have to ask when your numbers are that low.

Hey, no sweat though. This type of garbage is why most people don’t use safe-swaps for ad swapping.


Now I ask you this… If this person has so many unsubscribing yet still makes good money, wouldn’t their time be better spent in building a quality list with which they can have long-term, trusting relationships rather than having to repeatedly keep adding more and more people to their list and bombarding them with emails in the hope of making some money before they unsubscribe?

In my humble opinion, this is a prime example of how NOT to build your list and how, if you have a great relationship with your list (as is evidenced by the owner of the list to which I belonged), you’ll go to bat for your subscribers and treat them with respect.


Wow that’s crazy…I feel sometimes feel bad if I send more than one email a WEEK to my list. I guess i shouldn’t uh? Thanks for this cautionary tale. The world of internet marketing can be a crazy disconnected place. I usually unsubscribe from people who send more than 3 emails a week unless they’re launching something. Have a great day!


Glad to make the acquaintance of someone with a good head on her shoulders. You know how to do it.


Regulations or not, it’s a shame if someone chooses to spam their list incessantly. Customer service and retention is so valuable. More people need to learn the lesson.


They say ‘the money is in the list’. And it’s true. Having a list of loyal subscribers to which you provide valuable content and information will get you places.

Paul B. Taubman, II

It is always tough to promote someone right off the bat without knowing them and being on their list first. I have been in the same spot as you found yourself being in. UGH!

There are folks that just like to “churn and burn” through a list. I guess that is one tactic to building a business, albeit, not one that I particularly care for.

Thanks for sharing!


Thanks for stopping by, Paul The churners and burners must spend most of their time rebuilding what they’re slowly destroying.


Yes, Roy. And I chuckled to myself when I read your previous comment. I knew these last 2 posts were coming up…

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