Building a mailing list is a great way to get your content and offers out to your audience. First, though, you have to get people to register – and keep them interested enough to stay subscribed.

Russell James is otherwise known as The Raw Chef. His mission is to show the world that raw food isn’t boring or difficult, making it accessible to all through delicious recipes, and helping people live healthier lives. An impressive amount of people subscribe to his mailing list – over 80,000 in fact -  here are his tips for you can do the same.

Russell James, The Raw Chef - Virgin StartUp

There are very few businesses that I come across that wouldn’t benefit from having an email list. By “benefit”, I mean sell more stuff, become more visible, help more people, create more goodwill in the world and become more profitable.

Sound good?

It’s my intention in this post to get you fully committed to creating your email list, or to really transform the way you think about your email list if you already have one. We’re going to look at what an email list is, how you can grow it, and also what you should be sending to them and how often.

So what is an email list, really?

From this point forward, I want you to start thinking about your email list as a group of real people (not numbers) who were interested enough in what you are doing to say, “Yes, I want to hear more from you.”

I don’t care if you have 100 or 10,000 people on your list.  Bearing a few invalid email addresses, they’re all real people.

Imagine 100 people in a room with you, all giving you their attention.  That’s what your email list of 100 people is like.

Granted, you haven’t got quite as captive audience as if they were actually there with you, but if you get your email strategy right, they will absolutely be giving you a high level of attention.

How to build your email list

It’s not 1998 anymore.  Asking people to sign up for ‘updates’ or a ‘newsletter’ isn’t going to cut it.

Most people value their email address as a form of currency now.  The currency is time, and they want to know that if they give you their email address, they’re going to get value for their time. That means you’ll need to give them something juicy as a freebie for signing up.  You’ll also sometimes hear this called a Lead Magnet.

This might be a video, an audio or a PDF.  Or it could be a combination of those, put together as a free online course.

But those are just the methods of delivery.  What you’re really giving away here is a result.  That result must line up with a problem your potential customer is having.

I love the analogy of someone buying a drill.  They’re not buying a drill (the tool or method of delivery), they’re buying the hole (the resulting benefit) because they’ve got a shelf to put up (the problem).

And here’s the counterintuitive thing; it must be your best stuff.  Yes, I’m telling you to give away your best stuff (or a small piece of it) for free.  That’s because you’ve only got a finite amount of attention being given to you, to show that person you’re worthy of their time.

On my own site at I give away my 10 most popular recipes in the form of an eBook.  The reason I do that is because most people find me when they’re looking for raw food recipes.  There’s perfect alignment.

Russell James, The Raw Chef - Virgin StartUp 2

Let me give you a few other examples. Let’s say you don’t even sell information.  Maybe you sell the finest green tea from Japan. 

What’s a problem you hear people talking about when it comes to green tea?  Well, I happen to have some knowledge on this, and it’s the bitterness of the green tea.

So in that case, I’d either do a video, or even just a PDF showing people how to make green tea without the bitterness (it’s all in the brewing method and timing, apparently.)

I took another example I found on the Virgin Startup website.  Rose-May are a handmade soap specialist.  I took a look at Google Keywords and in May 2016 there were 602,380 worldwide searches that contained ‘how to make soap’.

So my advice for Rose-May is to create a video or eBook that shows how to make a basic soap, and perhaps how to make one of their most popular soaps too.  They would then offer a chance to sign up for this on every page of their site, with an email form.  My favourite tool for this is Lead Pages.

A combination of the following is probably going to happen by doing this:

  • People will make their own soap and be really grateful for the guidance.
  • Some of those people will also buy soaps from Rose-May.
  • Some of those people will buy soaps and other products from Rose-May.
  • Some people will find the guide interesting, but ultimately just buy the soaps from Rose-May, because it’s easier.  They will also be much more educated as to what goes into a great homemade soap, and so will appreciate the product more, enjoy using it and will come back for more.

If you’ve got people visiting your site, you’ll know you’re doing a good job if 5% to 10% of people visiting are signing up for your freebie.

OK, so you have an email list: now what?

I want you to read this next paragraph three times, until it’s ingrained into your psyche:
The only way you’ll grow your business is to have people know, like and trust you.  The only way to do that is to show up consistently and help them.

Let’s break this down.  We’ll assume people know you now, because they signed up for your list.  But the more points of contact people have with you, the more they’ll feel like they know you.

As for the like part, well, some people will like you and some won’t.  So we’re not running a popularity contest here, we’re just being our authentic selves.  If someone doesn’t like who I really am, I can handle that, but if I pretend to be sometime I’m not, and then people don’t like me, that hurts.  So just be authentic and share from your heart.

The last part is trust.  Trust comes from the other important word I said, which is consistency.

I’m a real fan of showing up with one main piece of valuable content at least once a week.  For me that’s a weekly recipe.

For you it could be a blog post, a video, an audio message, or a podcast.  But whatever the content is, your subscriber is going to get an email about it, ideally to somewhere they can click through to get that content.

Again, the delivery method isn’t as important as the value that your subscriber is getting from your weekly communication. Doing a solo email about that one piece of content is far more effective than a ‘newsletter’ with lots of different links to all sorts of things.  The good news is that it’s a lot easier to produce too.

Russell James, The Raw Chef - Virgin StartUp 3

If you’re going to commit to this, I want you to commit for a least 1 year.  That’s 52 weeks.  Without missing a single one. It really does take commitment, but it’s so worth it.

There are definitely times when I’m stuck for ideas and short of time, but I still manage to get my weekly recipe out, no matter what.  I see it as the oxygen my business runs on, along with cash.

You’ll then find that not only will people not mind you sending offers to buy stuff, they will actually want to hear about other ways to go deeper with your paid products and services.

After all, if your free stuff is that good, what’s your paid-for stuff going to be like?

Generally I’ll have one big offer per month that requires a solo email, and then maybe a couple of other smaller offers or reminders of the main offer that I’ll include as a ‘PS’ in the weekly emails.

Showing up like this for your customers will get you known, liked and trusted as the top person in your industry.  Don’t be surprised if you start seeing people moving from dipping their toes, to diving straight into your most expensive products and services.

Good luck!


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