Don't Build a List, Build a Community

by MaryEllen Tribby | Aug. 14, 2011

"Mom, Mikaela has Bieber Fever!" Connor yelled across the family room.

Without thinking I asked, "Is it contagious?"

Without missing a beat he said, "Not for me - but I think Delanie has caught it as well. Look in Mikaela's room and see for yourself."

As soon as I entered the hallway and heard the angelic sounds of teen pop sensation Justin Bieber pleading with me to "never say never," I knew exactly what Connor was talking about.

I opened the door to Mikaela's bedroom and peered in. My beautiful five-year-old Delanie was dancing on her sister's bed, a brush "microphone" in hand, singing every syllable along with Justin. And Mikaela -- my soon-to-be 12-year-old -- gazed into the mirror with a smile so big you could practically see her dreaming of becoming Mrs. Bieber.

I stood there watching my girls and counted no fewer than 57 pictures of JB around Mikalea's room. She is not just on the list of Justin's fans. She is part of the "I love Justin Bieber" community!

Later, reflecting on the experience, I could not help but note the direct correlation to business. In fact, Mikaela's "Bieber Fever" reminded me of one of the biggest mistakes online businesses make.

Bigger Isn't ALWAYS Better

You hear these terms and read these subject lines all the time in the Internet marketing industry:

  • List Building on Steroids
  • Massive List Growth
  • Mega List Building
  • Build a List of 100,000 Names While You Sleep

But what the "IM" rock star guru often forgets to tell you is that the number of names you have shouldn't be your top priority.

The fact is, you can have a list of ten million names... But if they aren't responding to your offers, they are worth nothing to you.

You see, a name on your list only counts if it is responsive.

So how do you get the people on your list to be responsive?

First of all, you need to stop seeing your list members as e-mail addresses... and realize that behind each name is a real live person.

Then you must make sure that you engage, enlighten, entertain, and educate your list.

When you manage to achieve all four, you'll have the makings of a community. A group of like-minded people with similar challenges, wants, needs, likes, and dislikes.

Until you understand this, all the PPC ads, joint ventures, search engine marketing, media buys, direct mail messages, banner ads, and dedicated e-mails in the world will not do you one bit of good.

First Things First!

Before you go out and spend two grand on the latest "killer" CPA course, you need to master...

The 10 Core Principles of Building a Community

  • Decide on your distribution channel(s): Before people join your community, they need to hear from you. You can create a blog, a newsletter, videos, webinars, teleconferences, membership websites, and/or a magazine to get your message out to the people you are trying to connect with.
  • Give Value: Too many entrepreneurs are afraid to give away valuable information. Instead they give away useless fluff. Then they don't understand why "their community" will not buy their products! Show that you are a "giver" first and the sales will follow.
  • Say It Loud/Say It Proud: Always take a stand. Don't vacillate on issues. Make your heroes and enemies well-known. And, of course, make sure you can state your mission in your sleep.
  • Be Authentic: I know "authenticity" seems like such a buzzword lately... but you have to be true to who you are. Don't try to be your competitor, your best friend, or the person your mother wants you to be. Be you. If your message is not coming from your heart, your community will sense that you're being insincere. And your message will not be effective.
  • Create Disciples: A little TLC goes a long way. When you see someone in your community who needs special attention, give it to her. Over-deliver on EVERY promise you make. And always be willing to refund someone's money - even if he asks for it once the refund period has ended.
  • R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Do not send promotions or content to your community unless you believe in what you're sending. Make sure you have checked out every product and person BEFORE you introduce them to your community.
  • Repetition: Speaking with your community once every four months just doesn't cut it. I'm not saying you have to send out an e-newsletter every day. But keep in mind that the more value you give your community, the more committed to you they will be.
  • Walk the Walk: Your commitment to your community and cause should show with every step you take. Don't say one thing and do another.
  • Perfection Is Overrated (and in most cases unobtainable): Don't be afraid to show your flaws. We are all human. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. Sometimes things don't get done. Sometimes things fall through. Sometimes we make mistakes. When those things happen, don't try to hide the fact. Explain it and move on.
  • Connect Others Freely: Two heads are better than one and three are better than two. If you realize that one of your connections will make a huge difference in someone else's life, make the introduction without expecting anything in return.

Adhere to these principles and you won't just have a list of "names" to market to. You'll have hoards of fans screaming to get their hands on everything you have to offer.

Seth Godin calls it a "tribe." Dan Kennedy calls it a "herd." I like the good old-fashioned term "community." Whatever you chose to call it, realize how powerful it is to have this collective of like-minded people all devoted to YOU and YOUR message. Never forget that your group invests their time, money, and faith in you. A "list" of "e-mail addresses" can't do that. But real live people can.

You can get more tips and tools on building a successful and profitable business by downloading my free report available at:

This report is the transcript of an interview I did with Joe Polish last year. It includes my 10-step test to creating great offers, the top habits I've seen that create successful entrepreneurs, tips for pushing through procrastination and staying focused on new projects, and many more of my personal secrets to success.

Go here to access the transcript:

MaryEllen Tribby is the CEO of Idea Incubator, LP and proud Founder of, the world's leading newsletter and website for the empowerment of the working mom. Prior to founding WMO, MaryEllen was Publisher & CEO of Early to Rise where she was responsible for growing the business from $8 million in sales to $26 million in just 15 months. Before that, she served as President of Weiss Research where she led the company to $67 million in sales from $11 million in just 12 months. MaryEllen is a highly sought- after business consultant, speaker, and author. Her first book - which she co-authored with Michael Masterson is, Changing the Channel: 12 Easy Ways to Make Millions For Your Business. It hit #1 on within just 10 hours of its release. To learn more about MaryEllen Tribby visit her site at

Glazer-Kennedy Insider's Circle, owned and operated by internationally known marketing personalities Dan Kennedy and Bill Glazer, is THE place where truly smart, progressive, aggressive entrepreneurs with a love of marketing, a sincere desire to get rich and richer (with no apologies for doing so), and an optimistic, forward-looking attitude, gather to exchange and share timely information and "what's working today" strategies and examples. Get Bill Glazer's #1 Bestselling Book, "Outrageous Advertising" for FREE. Click here.

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