How I collected 10k emails subscribers in two years

And you can too

A friend of mine asked me why I’m such an advocate for email marketing. I told him that I think it is probably the most under and poorly utilized mediums for marketers.

80% of retailers indicate that emails are the greatest driver of customer retention. Social media? Just 44% of retailers felt like socials kept people around.

While 26% of businesses use email as a marketing platform, only 7% use it as a brand building tool.

Email subscribers are three times more likely to share social media content than non subscribers.

73% of millennials say that email is their preferred method of professional communication, and, on average millennials will spend 150% more per purchase if done so through an email campaign than through other avenues.

Why email matters

In the convoluted world of digital marketing it is becoming increasing difficult to rise above the swarm of online messaging. Kylie Jenner is getting one million dollars to post a single product photo on her instagram page. Meme accounts like The Fat Jewish and Fuck Jerry are being actively sought out by major reputable brands to pimp out their products online. It’s the wild west again, and to the middle of the road small business owner or marketer it can feel a lot more like drowning, and less like swimming. 

When I started my business I was fresh out of college with almost no knowledge of any form of marketing. The internet was changing everything. It was early on that I discovered my own personal life raft in the storm. It felt like an emancipation from the flurry of online messaging. I’d discovered that if I could collect email addresses I could communicate directly with people instead of tossing a line blindly into the dark waters of online messaging. I had discovered the email campaign.

Email marketing guru Jeff Walker has famously stated that he would rather have one active email address in his mailing list than ten thousand followers on any social media platform. His logic is simple. An email is personal. It’s direct. It’s not being scrolled past. People’s minds are engaged. Perhaps most importantly of all, once an email is open, it isn’t being competed with.

It’s a romantic notion, having a database of hungry and engaged users interacting with your content through the direct connection of an email campaign, but for most people it’s also an impossible one. I’m here to tell you that it isn’t. I know, because I did it from the absolute ground level, going from zero subscribers to over ten thousand in only two years. Here are three simple methods to grow your email database.

1. Give people content, not ads

This one may seem obvious, but it’s one of the cardinal sins of email marketing. People can smell an advertisement from a mile away. There’s no quicker offramp from an inbox to a trashcan than an email that smells like an ad. Patagonia, for example, is brilliant at this. The subject will be something like “Poachers want to turn Yosemite into the Elephant Graveyard.” Patagonia knows that most of their subscribers are passionate about the outdoors. They don’t want Yosemite to turn into a blackened ruin that looks like it belongs in a Mad Max film. They sign the petition, and then, they buy a seven hundred dollar sweater.

Every month I send out an email to my subscriber list called “Tyson’s marketing emails that don’t market.” I have a banner and an edition number. It looks like an old newspaper. I write about things like the cultural relativity of tiki bars, the reason why I think the Hobbit is a more successful piece of literature than the Lord of the Rings. I write about small details of modern life and their broader implications into a modern existence. At the bottom of the email I have a simple call to action. Here’s a new product. Here are some live events you might be interested in. It’s become a thing people look forward to every month. I get responses to every email I send now, sometimes hundreds of them. 

You may be wondering how this gathers new subscribers. Remember when you were a kid and you got those weird racist forwards from your uncle? Forwarding still happens. It doesn’t look like it used to, but people are far more inclined to share content they enjoy than we think. They talk about it when they’re at dinner with their friends. They post quotes and excerpts in their social medias. The bottom line is that an advertisement is a moment, but good content is an organism that can grow and change and infect.

2. Use live events

This one can be more or less effective, depending on your field. I work in live events and production, so this was an absolute goldmine for me. Using campaigns like Simpletexting, and built in software in host sites like Squarespace or Mailchimp I was able to collect hundreds of emails at a time. Simpletexting, for intense, allows users to directly subscribe via one text message. You’re on stage at an event, or in front of an audience at a conference or whatever it may be and you offer a giveaway for a text message. Obviously you need to be clear about what is happening with the text message. I would usually tell them I was going to send them a lot of cat videos and spam. It always went over well.

You may be catching a thread here. It’s the idea of giving vs. taking. If you are going to be asking anything of anyone, in this case be the time and attention to open an email, or the rights and privileges of writing them one, you need to be offering something in return. In live settings, sweepstakes, giveaways or any kind of free token of your gratitude can go a very long way.

3. Just ask for it

The ancient proverb “You have not because you ask not” is eternally applicable in business. If emails are, indeed as powerful as I have proposed they are, gathering them should be a priority in everything you do. If you go to my website you will find a popup window with a signup form for my email list. If you check my social medias, I mention the monthly emails, you guessed it, monthly. I have a link to the signup form in the signature of my personal emails. I post clips of my email content on facebook and youtube in other content that I know people are enjoying. Run a brick and mortar? A lot of the most successful physical retailers I know have an email subscription as part of the receipt process. You get the idea.

The point? A lot of people do email marketing, but not a lot of them do it very well. If you do it well, the results can be very, very rewarding. 


Tyson Motsenbocker

Is a musician and songwriter from Southern California. He makes records and tours the country playing the songs he puts on his records. He makes music for television and film and advertising, including brands like Apple, Google, Nike and Ford, and writes editorially for various online and print publications.

Tyson likes surfing and thinks dogs are great but don’t belong in restaurants, which he would never claim publicly.