Is the money really in the list?

By Citizen Affiliate | Email Marketing

May 22
email internet marketing

A common phrase you will hear is “the money is in the list!”. And people are generally talking about an email list (there are actually other types of lists, but that’s a story for another day).

So is this true? Is the money really in the list? Or is this just a cliche? This article will explore this idea about the value of email marketing.

The power of an email list

Despite being a bit old and daggy, email is an enormously powerful tool in a digital marketer’s arsenal. If you a list of email subscribers, you can send them emails (through an auto-responder, don’t think you’d actually be writing and sending individual emails to thousands of people) whenever you want, for free.

This is basically a powerful free targeted advertising channel, which is any marketer’s wet dream. So many people will go to great lengths to build up a list of targeted subscribers.

In fact, many marketing offers are set up so that they lose money but collect emails, which you can use to make money from in the future.

For example, say you have a squeeze page or opt-in page that offers a free ebook in exchange for an email address. Half of the visitors do this. After people put in their email, they get the ebook and are shown a $10 offer on the thank you page. Let’s say 2% of people convert and buy the $10 offer – you are then making 20 cents per subscriber. If you’re paying 50 cents to send people to the squeeze page, half of them convert, which means you are effectively paying $1 to get someone to the thank you page.

So if you’re paying $1 to get someone to the thank you page, and are making 20 cents via that page, you’re losing money, right? Not really – you’re collecting emails. The $10 offer is really just reducing the purchase cost of your email subscribers from $1 to 80 cents. The real money you’re looking to make is in the future, off of those email subscribers.

So how much will you make off them? That’s the million dollar question! (for some marketers, literally the million dollar question).

How much is the list worth?

This is a question debated a lot by internet marketers. The bad news is, there is no simple answer.

email list money

Email lists can give you recurring monthly income

A common number you might hear is “$1 per person per month” (let’s call it $1 Monthly Recurring Revenue or $1 MRR).

So if you have a list of 1000 people, that list should be making you about $1000 per month. But is that really true?

There are a lot of stories about people who confirm these numbers. But I think we have to be very careful here.

Email marketing financials

Firstly, the people quoting those numbers are generally email marketers, and they put time and effort into their lists. They put time and effort into building their list, into building a relationship with their list, and into pruning their list. What does “pruning” mean here?

They will often kick people off their list, especially inactive subscribers who don’t open emails or click on links. That’s because you pay based on the size of the list and if people there aren’t opening your emails, you might as well get rid of them!

So let’s think about this $1MRR number. First, this recurring income won’t last forever. If it did, just one subscriber would be worth a fortune!

People will eventually get sick of you and unsubscribe. Or change emails, lose interest in a niche, or whatever.

Some people might unsubscribe after just a week! Some might stay with you for a couple of years. 

I’m not sure if there is much research here, and it probably varies a lot from list to list. But let’s say on average that someone lasts on your list for 6 months.

That means that one subscriber would be worth about $6 – i.e. $1 MRR for six months.

You might be thinking “that’s just printing money then! If I can pay $1 or $2 for an email, and get $6 from every email address, I’ll make a fortune! The money IS in the list!”.

That might sound tempting, but don’t go too fast.

The money isn’t really in the list

You see, the money isn’t actually in the list. I could have a list of 10,000 people that is worth nothing, and a list of 1000 people that is worth a fortune. The money is not in the list. The money is in the relationship you have with your list.

The earnings are not evenly distributed

is the money in the listThink about it for a moment. If you had a list of 100 people, and you made $100 per month from that list, are you making $1 from each person per month? Are each of them buying a pack of bubble gum from you? Of course not. You are probably selling things worth $50 or $100. So only a tiny fraction of our list is buying from you each month. Most people in your list are just tire kickers and freebie seekers. But a few of them are active buyers.

So most of your list will probably make not much for you – and a few of them might make a lot.

Or another way to think about it is like this. That average might not just be an average within your list, but an average across lists. If someone had a list which was all freebie seekers, then it might only be worth 50 cents (or less!) per person per month. And if someone had a list which had a lot of buyers, it might be worth $2 or more per person per month.

It’s about the sort of people you get on your list, and what sort of relationship you build with them. You have to put effort and time into writing good emails and sharing great content and adding lots of value to your list.

And if you do, you might find that it is worth a great deal of money.

What other kind of lists are there?

I mentioned earlier that an email list isn’t the only kind of list. There are definitely others that you might want to look into.

One is a Facebook Messenger list. Messenger bots are a hot topic at the moment in internet marketing, and for good reason. Open and click rates on emails have been declining for years, but they are sky-high on Facebook messenger. Subscribe rates are good too, since people don’t even need to type in an email address (which isn’t much fun on a mobile phone). If they’re logged into Facebook (which most people are), they just have to click a button!

So this could be something to look into.

Another type of list is a push notification list. Some websites ask you to subscribe to browser push notifications. If someone does, you can then send out push notifications that pop up on their desktop.

Some marketers have been doing very well of this type of list also.

What if I want to start building my own list?

There are lots of ways you can start building a list. If you want a proven shortcut method designed by two top internet marketers, I would check out the course Supersonic List Machine. It shows you from the ground up a newbie-friendly way to start building and profiting from an engaged email list.


I hope you found this article helpful! Do you have any thoughts on whether the money is in the list?

Let me know in the comments!