List Building 101: Push vs Pull Marketing

Do you look at your web presence as a business or a hobby? Chances are you are somewhere in between, but that doesn’t mean you won’t want to make money some day.

The first thing every would-be “guru” and Internet marketer will tell you is “the money is in the list.”

Since there seems to be a ton of confusion about how to start building an email list, today we will walk through the details of how to get started building your own list.

What is List Building?

You are probably familiar with what list building entails but in essence it is an unsexy way of saying:

Let’s gather client information so we can stay in contact with them.

Most list building refers to gathering name and email addresses so you can send them more information or special offers, hopefully in a non-spammy way.

From a traditional marketing sense, list building is outstandingly effective because it moves your customers from a traditional Pull Marketing Strategy to effectively a Push Marketing Strategy.

Push vs. Pull Marketing

For those of you familiar with Push/Pull marketing theory, it is pretty straightforward, but let’s now takes a look at how this theory applies directly to Email Marketing:

Push – One-Time Visitors

Most traditional web strategies entice the visitor to their website with outstanding information or a special offer. Once the potential customer gets the information they were looking for they are off to solve their next problem. Essentially this strategy pushes information out there hoping the readers are finding it.

Pull– Relationship Building

List building is different because customers request information from you. By building a list and maintaining a relationship with a customer, you have a huge competitive advantage.

By subscribing to your list, your customers are requesting information from you. This is where the “pull” part of the relationship comes in.

The customers on your list actually WANT the information you are going to be sending them. This is not only good for your bottom line but you can now effectively reach out to potential customers whenever you need to or have something they will want to see.

As you can see, this is a defensible long-term strategy when compared to Search Engine Optimization, Pay Per Click advertising, or even CPM advertising because your list allows you to contact your audience without relying on external factors.

The Tools – Picking an Email Service Provider

Now that you know why you should be building a list, let’s look at the tools.

First you will need an Email Service Provider (ESP). I recommend Aweber over MailChimp because they are more forward thinking. While Mailchimp may have a Free account to get you started they aren’t friendly for affiliate marketing so just be aware of what you are agreeing to.

Without jumping into all the boring details of the Can-Spam Act, MailChimp and other email service providers, such as Constant Contact, Aweber, and Vertical Response have put safe guards in place to keep you legal.

Form Integration

Once you are setup with MailChimp and have your first list set up, it is time to add the sign up form to your website.

I traditionally use Gravity Forms with MailChimp integration, however Gravity Forms can be overkill. Luckily Adam Baird is writing a tutorial that will walk you through styling your MailChimp sign up form using the code Mailchimp provides, look for that shortly!



Written by Nick Reese

Nick Reese is a multi-passionate entrepreneur who believes anyone can transform their business and life they they've got guts and hustle. He's also the co-founder of Broadband Now which aims to simplify the broadband shopping process.



  • Avi D says:

    I have an exam the day after tomorrow but I’m so amped to read about the upcoming MailChimp tut… :-)

    Very neat explanation of push/pull list building btw…

  • […] week, Nick Reese wrote an article detailing the ins and outs of list building. Its an excellent article, and I’d highly recommend you read it. I’d also highly […]

  • This is a great article. I’ve been building a blog and online presence now for about eight months and one of the concepts I’ve been struggling with is the whole push vs pull marketing. It is important to be to build relationships – preferably inspiring supportive relationships. Therefore, the pull strategy is one I am currently cultivating. It’s never sat well with me to use newsletters, tweets, even free ebooks, downloads etc to gain readership. It’s been my experience that anyone wants free stuff – even dead fish! I mean, if there is a buzz and crowd, you could had out dead fish and people would line up for miles making sure they “got theirs.” So have seen this. It’s a mass crowd mentality and easily affects well, everyone in a crowd. I’ve noticed spikes in my readership and traffic that have increased at times 1000% due to the freebies or from a topblog pointing their finger to me and their mass crowd hurries over to my site in a frenzy soaking up what they can. Then after a period of time visits level off again. After witnessing this a few times, I decided I was in it for the long haul. I decided I was to be the tortoise (instead of the hare). I decided I needed to seek a way to cultivate connection and relationships with my readers – even though we are online. I desire to build a community and have my blog be that meeting point. So I started to plan more time throughout the week to cultivate relationships, email, visits on other blogs, commenting, responding, inviting guests post etc. My so called stats, have leveled and are steadily increasing, slowly increasing but they are increasing and as a result so are my connections and the sense of fulfillment in interacting and sharing content. To share content and stimulate discussion with “friends” is inspiring and yields me wanting to share more and therefore serve my clients and readers with more value related content specific to them. Choosing to implement this strategy has called for me to practice patience! It ain’t happening over night and sometimes the slow build frustrates me as a creative entrepreneur but then I remind myself, the service I am offering (building) is one of support, inspiration and community for artists to move from the starving artist archetype to THRIVING – like any relationship it takes time to develop trust and authenticity. For those of us who are wanting to build connection and readership at the same time – I’m curious if your advice and tips would be a little different – What would you add? Thank you so much for this post – it inspired the above thoughts. nice.

    Have a great day. All My Best, Stephey

  • Crystal Ayers says:

    Thanks for the great insight Nick! Did you know that a great way to build a highly responsive opt-in email marketing lists is to participate in joint venture giveaways? I contribute in many JV giveaways & on a bad day I get 5 new sign ups but I often get over 20 in just 1 day plus I make money from home selling discounted packages & referring others to participate too! Great for niche marketing as well.

  • I have not come this far as my blogging is concerned. I initially blog out of boredom but when I learned that I can make money by blogging, I tried some link building not list building because I cannot blog to market my blog. :D I thought at first this does not apply to blogging but realized later on that it can. Now, I will be making an email list, starting with my friends – in case they don’t know yet that I have a blog.