Here’s the question that’s on everyone’s mind when they start thinking about lists:

“Which service should I use?”

You’ve probably wondered yourself, and maybe even spent a few hour (or days, or weeks) researching your options.

This is not the question you should be asking (yet). And it’s exactly why so many entrepreneurs get stuck in the planning stage of list building.

The First Step In List Building

Before you need to think about tools, you must ask yourself this:

“How can I best serve my market?”

Whether you’re coaching business owners, new moms, bloggers, or youth pastors, they have a need that only you can fulfill. And when you discover what that need is, you’ll have two valuable pieces of information:

  1. What incentive will be a true-no-brainer for your ideal client to opt-in to your list?
  2. How can you use your mailing list to provide the best value for those who join your list?

Don’t over-think these questions, though. Your opt-in incentive can be as simple as a resource guide or a short how-to-video that answers a common question. You don’t have to go overboard with dozens of downloads and a 100-page eBook. Rather than providing value, these massive downloads are more likely to overwhelm your reader than encourage her to learn more.

And when it comes to providing value to your list members, keep three things in mind:

  1. Regular communication is  a must (consider an an autoresponder series if you’re not good with scheduling email updates)
  2. Marketing is second to information – too much selling cause your opt-out rates to soar.
  3. It’s your responsibility as a thought leader in your market to distil and provide the information, tools, and products your audience needs.

“What is my list building goal?”

How will you be using your list? Will you:

  • Send a weekly or monthly newsletter?
  • Create an autoresponder series that delivers content on a pre-determined schedule?
  • Use affiliate links as an income generator?
  • Promote your own services and products?

The answers to these questions will help you determine not only the right tool for your list-building needs, but will also determine the path for your ongoing mailing list content, promotions, and growth.