Is the money in the list?

Within the Internet marketing industry, there's a popular saying:

“The money’s in the list.”

This means the people who are making “the big bucks” are making it from their email list, not from their product launches.

Is it true?

If we only look at the math, it would seem to indicate it might be true.

In the marketing circles where I hang out, a marketer can typically make between $2 and $3 a month for every person on their email list.

As an example, let's say they sell a product for $27 and give a 75% commission to the affiliates. They are making, on sales from affiliates, a gross profit of $6.75 per sale. Of course, they have payment processor fees, etc. to also take from that, but we’ll use the $6.75 figure for our purposes here.

The buyer gets put on an email list, if the launch is set up properly. The product creator earned $6.75 for the initial purchase. If the marketer is of average ability, the marketer will make between $2 and $3 a month from that customer from that point on, as long as they stay on the marketer's email list.

It will only take 3 - 4 months before the profit from the email list surpasses the profit from the initial sale.

Even if a customer stays on their list for only 12 months, the total earnings for the marketer will be $6.75 from the initial sale, and an additional $24 to $36 from email marketing.

So, it would seem the math supports the statement, “The money’s in the list.”

Is it really true?

I was taught the "money's in the list" mantra many years ago, and had no reason to doubt it. As we’ve seen, the math works, so it must be true, right?

No, it’s not true. Not entirely.

At the very least, it’s an incomplete truth.

A question was asked recently in a Facebook Group I belong to. The members are all product creators.

One member asked, “What’s the number one reason we collect leads and build a mailing list?”

The most complete and accurate answer came from Gordon Russell, who runs the JVFocus forum with William Murray.

Gordon answered, “I would say to develop a relationship with a group of people interested in the value you have to offer them and I don't mean the products you have to pimp. Despite what many people say, the real money is not in the list, but the relationship you have with your list, which can multiply the value of money made many fold.”

Let’s highlight part of that:

“Despite what many people say, the real money is not in the list, but the relationship you have with your list, which can multiply the value of money made many fold”

This is the key.

The money is not in the list itself, but rather in the relationship you develop with the people on that list.

Even though we are marketing online, our business is people relating with other people.

If we keep that in mind, we’ll not only have a more successful marketing business, but we’ll have more fun doing it.

A closer look

When I started creating my own products online and developing an email list, I was taught to sell, sell, sell. The focus was on getting as many sales from your list before they unsubscribed.

Did it work?

Sure, for a while.

There’s a better way, though, and that’s to develop a relationship with them.

I am still guilty of occasionally pitching a bit too much to my list, however, even when I do, my list knows some things about me.

They know I don’t pitch any products that I haven’t personally looked at.

The only thing many marketers have ever seen of the products they pitch is the sales letter, which they then cut and paste and email to their list. They've never actually seen the product itself.

From my perspective, that’s bad marketing. It’s also unethical.

My list also knows I never pitch a product that I don’t or wouldn’t use.

After I have looked through the product, if it's not something I would feel comfortable using in my business, or if it teaches a strategy I don’t believe in or wouldn’t use, I don’t mention it to my list.

If it’s really bad, I have been known to put out a bad review on it, warning my list to stay away from it.

It’s okay to market to your list. We’re marketers after all, and that’s how we make our living.

However, if we focus first on the relationship with the people on our list, then the marketing will happen on it’s own. When it does, it will be a natural part of the relationship.

Your customers will have greater trust in what you offer, and they’ll stay on your list longer.

The math for this is interesting, too.

The $2 to $3 a month figure I used earlier works even with different marketing styles.

If you pitch something to your list every day, those figures hold true.

If instead you send your list tips, techniques, and helpful info most of the time, and only pitch a product once or twice a week, or even less, the numbers still hold up.


Because more people will buy from you.

Not only that, but your list will grow larger because people will stay on it longer.

One of the true masters of email marketing is Paul Myers. Paul runs an email newsletter called TalkBiz News.

He has been sending TalkBiz News out for 17 years. He has subscribers that are still with him from the beginning. 17 years! In this modern online marketing world, that is unheard of.

How does Paul do it?

He provides value. He has built a relationship with the people on his list, and they trust him to provide solid, usable information.

Sure, he pitches products from time to time, but the people stay on his list for the value he provides and the relationship he has built with them. When he occasionally recommends a product, they know he actually likes it.

I highly recommend getting on Paul’s list for TalkBiz News. In exchange for signing up, you will get a free copy of his 112 page book Need To Know, which reveals what you need to know to succeed online. How’s that for providing value?!

The bottom line

Is the money in the list?

The definitive answer is, “not entirely”.

It is in the relationship you have with the people on your list.

Take Gordon’s advice and use Paul’s example, and develop a relationship with your list.

They’ll love you for it, and in the end, you’ll also make more money from it.

It’s a true win/win scenario.

Leave any comments or questions below. Let us know what you do to build value with your email list and what questions you have about how to do it.

Please share this if you found it helpful (or click the like button on the left floating bar):​​​​​


  1. How do you have a relationship with thousands of people on a list? This would be a good topic for a new book!

    How often should someone send an email to their list?

    Can a person tell how many people open the email?

    How long does it take to create a high-quality list? What is the best way to do so?

    What is the conversion rate? I know this varies on topic, but it would be good information to have. Do you use something like bitly to track click through rate?

    Bottom line: Does a list really make a profit for most people, or is it the exception when someone makes a profit from their list.

    I’m interested in learning more!!



  2. Thank you for your kind words Ed.

    At most times I have an idealistic vision for wanting to serve people first and expect blessings will follow without a lot of effort and although I think it’s a good vision, it’s not something I learned alone.

    It’s still only early in 2015, but I’ve quoted Zig Ziglar more times than I can remember already, because when he said “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” I believe he was right on the money.

    • My pleasure, Gordon. You are a true inspiration.

      I love that quote from Zig Ziglar!

      It’s very true. If we focus on helping people, we get taken care in the process. I’ve seen it over and over again.

  3. Gary, great questions!

    I’ll answer one or two briefly here, but yes, this would be a good topic for a book, or a training, or a series of posts.

    Yes, you can have a relationship with a thousand people on a list. Subscribe to Paul’s newsletter and watch what he does – he is brilliant.

    As to tracking, I use GetResponse, and it tracks opens, clicks, everything. Great system. I’ll be doing a write up on it in about 2 weeks.

    Whether a list is profitable depends on many factors, including the list owner, the niche, and the relationship that exists. If run right, it will be profitable every time, and will average between $2 and $3 for every person on the list. As part of my 10 week product creation course, I go through creating a product, launching it, and getting a start on the list marketing. By the time the course is over, all the students have a product running and are monetizing a list. I’ll be starting another session in about 4 weeks. Enrollment will be open in about 2 weeks.

    Again, those are great questions, and I’ll address them in more depth in some future posts over the next few weeks.


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