If you’re any sort of geek, you know about Schrödinger’s Cat.

Is it alive? Or isn’t it? You won’t know until you open the dang box.

Which brings me to next point: Your eMail list is a lot like that cat. If you think you have one, but you never send out an email, it might as well not exist at all.

And if you’re not sure whether or not your content is poisoning people (tastes like SPAM) or making them hungry for more (tastes like BACN), then you need to knuckle down and find out.

And yes, we all know we’re supposed to build a list. In fact, it’s one of THE most important things you can do for your business — some would say even more important than building your website.

(Yes, I would say that, too. And I’ve written about the topic myself.)

Zeus has been tackling this issue for the last couple of weeks. And it’s opened my eyes to the technological challenges some of you might also be in the process of wrestling to the ground. (If, like Zeus, you’re using the Genesis Generate theme, here’s a quick guide on how to connect it to AWeber.)

But where’s the best place to start? (And what do you do with your list once you’ve got a teeny tiny glimmer of one sitting in an account somewhere?)

Here’s a checklist of things to gather so you’re ready for the journey, plus my top 25 best pieces of advice and resources for getting your list off the ground.

The Checklist (Before You Start)

I highly recommend you gather these items BEFORE you open an account somewhere like AWeber. See the list that follows this one for more details on how to best approach these.

  • An email address with your @domainname. When you register your domain, you will get a free email account with it. Use it. Better yet, run it through Google Apps so you can use all the power of Gmail (and the rest of the Google goodies) to build your business.
  • Text for your Welcome-to-My-List email. Think about how you’d like to begin the relationship with someone who’s just opted in to your list. How can you personalize that message and begin a conversation and get to know them beyond their email address?
  • An Enticement. What are you offering folks in exchange for their email address? Just saying “get our blog updates” is no longer enough.
  • A landing page that explains it all. Yes, you’ll want to sell folks on why they should subscribe. Here’s mine, if you’re curious.
  • Your existing contacts list in a .CSV file. If you’ve been gathering emails already (or even if you just want to contact your friends and family), you’ll need to have them all in a nice neat spreadsheet first. At a minimum, this should have two columns: First Name and Email Address.
  • Your logo and/or a graphic element you’ll use as an email header. Branding your messages helps reinforce your business name and identity in the minds of your readers.
  • A bit of a plan. Figure out ahead of time how often you plan to email your list and what information you’d like to share.

25 Best Resources and Advice on List Building and Writing Emails

  1. The Care and Feeding of Your Email List (a free WordCarnival eBook)
  2. Email Marketing Essentials via Copyblogger
  3. How to Handle Your Blog Updates like a Problogger (how to work around RSS feeds and Feedburner type stuff)
  4. $4000 Worth of Proof You Don’t Need a Huge List via Remarkablogger and Emilie Wapnick
  5. AWeber interviews Chris Guillebeau about Email Marketing (video series)
  6. Permission Marketing by Seth Godin
  7. MailChimp’s Library of How To Resources (good even if you don’t use MailChimp!)
  8. The Science of Email Marketing via Hubspot and Dan Zarella
  9. How to Email Your List via Naomi Dunford at IttyBiz
  10. How and Why to Use Autoresponders via Catherine Caine at BeAwesomeOnline
  11. 8 Free Gifts You Can Give Away to Build Your Email List via Denise Wakeman
  12. How I Accumulated 10,000 Subscribers in 13.5 Months via Pat at Smart Passive Income
  13. AWeber Live Tutorials
  14. How to Create a Custom Email Newsletter Template to Match Your Site via Traffic Generation Cafe
  15. Design & Build an Email Newsletter without Losing Your Mind via Smashing Magazine (a bit advanced for most folks, but hey — it’s good info!)
  16. Best Practices in Writing Email Subject Lines via Mailchimp
  17. 3 Key Elements of Irresistible Email Subject Lines via Copyblogger
  18. Tips for What to Include in Your Autoresponder Series via Smart Passive Income
  19. Showcase of 30 Sweet Email Newsletter Designs via SpyrStudios
  20. Design Tips to Keep Things Mobile-Friendly via Office Hero HQ
  21. The Best Time to Send Your Emails via Copyblogger
  22. 5 Tips to Improve Click-thru Rates via MarketingProfs
  23. 27 Ways to Slice & Dice Your List for Better Segmentation via HubSpot
  24. Infographic: How to Get People to Reply to Your Emails via Mashable (tip: apply some of these to your newsletter!)
  25. OptIn Skin a premium plugin I use on this site to boost opt-ins and make things pretty

Yes, that’s a lot of great information to consume and put into practice. My suggestion is don’t wait to start until you’ve read it all.

This is a journey, not a destination.

If baby-steps are all you have time for, then take a few of them — every single day. Before you know it, you’ll be humming along quite nicely.

Did I miss something? Please add your questions, comments and suggestions below so we can make this page that much better. I’m all ears!

Photocredit: icanhazcheezeburger