more important than the #1 business-building activity!?

“Well, I can’t bid for the bigger jobs…”

laments my local landscape gardener

“… because I don’t have any employees!”fautz

And then he goes on to explain that he doesn’t have any employees because all the apprentices go to the big landscape gardening company-cum-gardening centre-cum-arboretum called “Fautz”…

… and they go there because Fautz have the latest machinery, interesting jobs, staff to help the apprentices, and even a career ladder…

And so it is no surprise, that all the lucrative and interesting jobs go, and will continue to go to Fautz, and that all the local one-man-band landscape gardeners will continue to struggle.

It’s almost like it’s law of nature!…

… Or so our local landscape gardener believes.

What he, and 99% of struggling one-man-band businesses fail to understand is this:

Fautz were not born with tons of cash.

They were not born with dozens of shiny lorries, tractors and diggers.

And they were not born with countless staff, tons of apprentices, and the career ladder.

No, instead – as you can read in their company history – they too struggled, and over time they built up the 800lb gorilla they are now in the local marketplace.

Now unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on which side of the fence you’re on) exactly the same mindset is prevalent when it comes to list building:

“Well, I can’t make more sales… because my list isn’t big enough. Look at those other guys, they have huge lists, so no wonder they make so many sales, attract those JV opportunities, are seen as experts in the market…”

Here’s a big secret:

NOONE is born with a big list!

We all started with ZERO subscribers.

And got really excited about the very first subscriber…

… And then the 10th, the hundredth, the first 1000 subscribers…

Now, whilst I hope you agree with me that building a highly responsive list is probably the #1 skill and activity EVERY business owner should focus on,…

… This blog post is NOT about list building and email marketing!??? (although I am dying to share with you probably THE finest example of an “open loop” I saw in an email the other day…)

Instead, it’s about something “one step beyond” list building.

You see, although Fautz did and still do focus on delivering outstanding quality, they devote a significant portion of their time on developing their business.

In other words: in addition to working IN their business, they also work ON their business.

Be honest (with yourself) for a moment:

How much of your time every week do you spend on business building activities?

Like doing market research so you can explore and exploit new opportunities, developing marketing systems so you can systematically and repeatedly monetise those opportunities, or simply identifying where you are doing low value jobs yourself, so you can systematise and outsource them!

“Yeah but…” I hear my local landscape gardener object “… I just don’t have the time for this kind of stuff”

And so he continues to complain that he can’t get the big juicy jobs…

… whilst truly believing that it is the only way, because Fautz have all that stuff, and he doesn’t.

So, if you agree with me that building a highly responsive list is an extremely high level which activity that (surprise, surprise) builds your business…

… Here’s a little “working ON” exercise:

Look at your business, and then answer this question:

“Why is list building and email marketing so important, quite possibly more important than anything else?”

“And why is it so important for YOUR business?”

Any insights?

Share them below!






  1. Because if someone has willingly opted in to your list, they’ve basically given you permission to ‘talk’ to them. This is then virtually guaranteed return traffic to anywhere you desire. Its bread and butter for any online biz, and both of them go together like tea and sugar.

    “The money is ALWAYS in the list…”

    • Okay, so having the permission to talk to someone obviously is a great starting point.
      (Except most marketers get this completely wrong and abuse that “permission”, but that’s a story for another day)

      We still need to dig one level deeper:

      My original question was: “WHY is building a list and email marketing important to YOUR business???”

      Or put another way: “why BOTHER with building a list and email marketing?”

      There’s quite a significant cost associated with building a list/email marketing, both in terms of money and time.

      And the question many people fail to ask is: “is building a list a good investment of my time and energy? (In this particular market/for this particular audience) ”

      And of course you can only answer that question, when you’ve answered the question “WHY would I want to build a list in this particular market/for this particular audience?”


  2. Veit, as always a very good post with a nice open loop. 🙂

    But I actually tend to disagree with “list building and email marketing is the most important business activity”.

    In my humble (but accurate) opinion the most important business activity is to understand what your target markets WANTS.

    And I have to admit that I am still confused on how to find out what they want (because I know what they need but do not want). 🙁

    So my biggest question is:

    How do I find out what my market wants and can test this before creating a product?


    • LOL, my wife and I usually both agree that our respective view of the world is ACCURATE…;-)

      So onto “market research versus this building/email marketing”:

      There’s a huge difference between what a market tells you, and what they end up doing in practice (a.k.a. when do they actually whip out their credit card)

      In my opinion (and this might be totally inaccurate;-) there is no better way of finding out what people DO, then having a response of list.

      The actions you are getting in response to your emails are far more informative than any survey could ever be.

      Also, if you have a good relationship with your list, they will reach out to you and give you honest feedback, without you having to bribe them

      And of course you are right, you need to have some understanding of what your market wants in order to be able to build a list and deliver content that is of “value”

      To answer your biggest question:

      TEST different offers by putting them in front of your market (in exchange for an email address), and simply observe which one gets the biggest response. (Obviously making sure not to confuse CTR with ROI…)



  3. Mike Stevens says:

    The reason List Building is so important to a business is because you don’t really have a business without a list of your customers and prospects that you can engage, inform, educate, and offer your products and services to on a regular basis. Having a Custoner List and a Prospect List allows you to keep in constant contact with the people who are your best customers and prospects for new business, and it allows you to be seen as the “Go-To” Guy/Gal/Expert/Company in their eyes, among all of your competitors, which is huge, because it means your name becomes “top-of-mind”, to them or the first one they think of, when they have a need you can help them with. Having a list also increases the value of your business significantly. Sadly, many small local companies only know how to contact their customers by snail mail, in order to send them an invoice or billing statement, and the neglect all of the other opportunities to provide value and promote their business. List Building is absolutely critical because new customers, new prospects, and new sales are the Lifeblood of any business, just like the air that we breathe. List building is important because it provides the best means of following up with your prospects and customers after their initial introduction or awareness of your products, services, or company. This is super important because when it comes to making sales, most prospects and customers will not buy from you on the first visit, or the first time they are made an offer and asked to buy. In fact, it is often said that most sales or purchases are made after the 7th or 8th attempt, probably because this gives the buyer more time to think about the offer and making the purchase, more time to consider all other options, and more time to build a learn more about the person or company they would be buying from. List Building allows a business the opportunity to build a significant relationship with their prospects and customers, so that they feel confident and comfortable in doing business with you when they are ready to buy. List Building gives you the ultimate edge over your competitors as well as over tough ecomic times, and it helps in building a positive reputation for your business in yor industry. Now go do the right thing, and Build a List!

    • Full points for Mike!

      Sounds like you’ve experienced exactly the same as me doing consulting with local businesses:

      99% of them are working IN their business, instead of ON.

      And yes, in most cases where we are talking about a high-value/high ticket transaction, you need multiple touch points before the purchase can happen.

      And right now, there is NOTHING as powerful as email for CONTROLLING that flow of communication.

      Just to clarify: I’m not saying you should use email and nothing else.

      On the contrary!

      In many markets it absolutely makes sense to use some form of social media.

      In others, you must use the phone!

      And so on…

      But the one thing that works so well for tying all these things together is email.



  4. I believe I saw the same cliffhanger Veit, but on to your question. The only thing that matters for humans is contact and communication. But for most it’s just a local activity. List building and email on the other hand give you the world. So here’s to the next 7 billion 🙂

    • LOL, let’s have a little “cliffhanger competition”

      Mine was in an email from P.M., and the open loop referred to a product creator in the Kindle space

      Same one?

      • Interesting, I looked up my P.M. archive and found a recent email regarding a product to write your own book – but that did not contain an open loop (at least not obvious to me after reading it three times).

        Care to share the open loop?

      • What a great email that is Veit. PM is a powerful writer. I loved his “Killer Content” pdf. In fact I’m going to reread it right now. I keep a swipe file of Great Emails. The only ones that go in there are those I took action on. It’s a useful way of understanding my belief system too!

  5. Gee I like all of this & I don’t have time to talk a lot… so here goes.

    I agree with both Alex & (without the need to say so) with Veit that we need a list, preferably of responsive buyers who have indicated what they want by completing our cleverly disguised surveys (eg To win a widget, tell us what you want us to sell to you). I promise I will try such a test one day & report back.

    Everyone tells me we want a responsive list. For me it is a prerequisite that I offer something worth responding to. My first point of contact is often an email. If that email has open loops, saucy subjects & tantalizing tit bits I guess I have the beginnings of attracting a responsive list… to my emails?!?… ;)) Cheers Phil Tozer

    • Phil,

      Let’s pretend for a second that you could not use any of those cool ninja tricks like “open loops”, “saucy subjects and tantalising titbits” etc.

      What are you left with?

      And how can use that to build a highly responsive list?

      In my opinion, and once again, I could be totally inaccurate, the reason why so many people struggle with this “online marketing thing” is that they focus too much on the cool ninja tricks, instead of the bigger picture, as in the WHY?

      Sadly, as Alex is too well aware of, it’s the cool ninja tricks that people WANT!

      … Well, the vast majority anyway.

      Which incidentally helps tremendously with finding your WHY:

      are you talking to them masses who want the cool ninja tricks, or the few who generally want to take it to the next level and WANT your help?



      • Hi Veit & others
        It is interesting how these blogs work. When I replied yesterday, there was only Alex’s comment at the very top.

        since reading ALL the additional comments below that, I must say, in reference to the saucy subjects I was trying to say something more like Quentin (” The only thing that matters for humans is contact and communication.”) & Gareth (“Because if someone has willingly opted in to your list, they’ve basically given you permission to ‘talk’ to them.”)

        The next part of that is to offer a conversation that they want to participate in… a little like this one… 😉 cheers Phil Tozer

  6. Sorry… I had to just add I think we all started with at least one avid subscriber… :)) cheers Phil Tozer


  1. […] the other day I mentioned that I’d found one of the greatest examples of “open loop” in an email I’d ever […]

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