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How to Use Big Business Finance Principles to Grow Your Email List

This guest post is by Josh Turner of

If you’re like me, you focus most of your attention on the growth of your site. You know that generating revenue is priority number one. Thinking about finance and accounting? That’s just a distraction.

While this is true to some extent, there is much more to the world of finance than just counting the beans.

Business finance is about using numbers to improve future business performance. In other words, accounting is about understanding the past and finance is about mapping out the future. No matter the size of your business, the same principles can be applied.

Within big corporations, finance departments provide data, tools and analysis to increase future sales, opportunities, and revenue. And you can do the same things.

One way they achieve this is through the use of dashboards or scorecards. These tools monitor the key metrics that their sales and marketing teams have to stay on top of. Not meeting these goals in the short term will cause them to falter down the road. So what does this mean for you?

Monitoring your metrics—and I’m not talking site traffic

Let’s use Gary as an example. Gary is working hard to grow his email list. He’s currently at 500 subscribers, and has a short-term goal of reaching 8,000. He knows that his growth is supported by two areas:

  1. organic traffic on his site, converting to email signups
  2. guest posts driving traffic to his site, which convert to email signups.

With his current posting schedule of two new articles per week, Gary expects to receive ten new email signups per week. He also knows that, on average, he receives 100 new email signups every time he writes a guest post.

Using your data to project growth

Based on this data, Gary can figure out exactly what it will take to reach his goals. Initially, he decides that it’s feasible to write a total of four articles per week: two for his site and two guest posts. Based on this level of activity, he can forecast approximately 210 new email signups per week. At this rate, it will take Gary 35.71 weeks to grow his list of 500 all the way to 8,000.

Gary has never looked at his email list growth this way. Not bad, he thinks, but he really had hoped to grow his list to 8,000 within 16 weeks. Based on the same metrics and assumptions, Gary can calculate that he needs to add 468.75 new subscribers every week to reach this goal.

Breaking it down from there, he knows that he will need to write 4.59 guest posts per week. That’s about 238 guest posts on an annual basis. Gary decides to step up his game, put in the hard work, and make it happen.

Looking at list growth in this manner provides clarity and clear goals. But you have to take it a step further to enforce accountability.

Create your own dashboard to improve performance

Big businesses use dashboards to keep owners and managers apprised of performance, and to keep their teams on track and accountable. Typically a graphical display, it shows them the key numbers that they have identified as critical to their business performance.

Doing the same thing for your site and email list will provide you with the same type of accountability. Build a simple Excel spreadsheet that tracks the numbers that you have identified as critical for the growth of your email list. It might contain the following data:

  • weekly guest posts
  • weekly posts on site
  • weekly new email subscribers
  • weekly sales/revenue

Set up the spreadsheet to include data for the prior week, prior month, and year-to-date. This will give you insight into your numbers and tell you if you are on track. Gary’s dashboard might look like this:

The spreadsheet

An example spreadhseet

Use conditional formatting in Excel to highlight good results in green and bad results in red, and set up a second sheet that includes the actual data for each week. With this, you can then create functions within the dashboard that automatically generate the dashboard results. Once this is completed, all you have to do is update the data sheet at the end of each week with the four numbers.

Why would you want to do this?

Spend 30 minutes setting up the Excel file. Following this initial setup, you will only need to spend one minute updating the data each week. Doing so will provide you with tangible benefits.

  1. You will stay on top of your metrics and not stray from your plan.
  2. You will be consistently reinforcing your goals.
  3. When things go astray, you will know where course correction is needed.
  4. You’ll be executing your business like a pro.
  5. You will be far more likely to meet your email list goals.

Yes, it’s an extra step in your blogging process. But with just a little time up front, you’ll be running your site and business much more like, well, a business.

Josh Turner is the founder of, where he helps small business owners realize their profit potential. He is currently giving away his how-to ebook “Cash Flow Clarity: Be Proactive, Make Life Easier, Make More Money.” Get your copy here.

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This post was written by a guest contributor. Please see their details in the post above.
  1. I also agree with you.I have found a website which gives me 100 emails in a day it is enough for my marketing.It helps me to get huge affiliate on my business.

  2. there is no doubt about that being planned always helps. if you are a data sheet freak and the numbers excite you, then you should use these sheets but for a normal user like me, it takes more time without much result

    • I think I identify with Tushar; I’m not much into data myself and Google analytics is as far as I’m willing to go most days. But I suppose if I want extraordinary growth I need to focus on extraordinary measures and getting organized can’t hurt.

      Thanks Josh for sharing these tips. They are definitely worth thinking about.

    • Thanks for the comment Tushar. I hear what you’re saying, but I’d argue that this is one of the best ways to hold yourself accountable for measuring and meeting your goals/metrics. It’s not about whether or not “the numbers excite you,” it’s about managing and running your business with clear metrics. Most people won’t do it, but those that do are consistently better performers.

      • Tan Tien (Mr.) says: 11/23/2011 at 4:38 pm

        Thanks for your essay. Its very useful for evrybody who is working in finance and anccounting.
        I want to own more information involve in it. you can send me full essay.
        I am working in Viet Nam. I am working at the investment banking division of securities company in Viet Nam. All topic involve in finance or accounting i usually read and like it.
        My email: [email protected].
        Look forward to hearing from you.

  3. Cool breakdown Josh. Keeping track of metrics is a fool-proof way to learn what works, and what doesn’t, so you can grow your list with greater ease.

    Thanks for sharing!


  4. Highly informative.

  5. This is such a great idea. It helps you keep yourself on task with solid numbers saying “if you stick to this, then this will happen.” Its really about keeping up the motivation and understanding what the goal is. I am going to have to implement this in my life. Thanks for the post.

    • Absolutely. So much of it is indeed about accountability. Great comment!

    • “This is such a great idea. It helps you keep yourself on task with solid numbers saying “if you stick to this, then this will happen.” ”

      Yup! You should end up knowing what works and what doesn’t work.

  6. This is powerful stuff Josh! I have never thought about taking ths analytical approach to list building!

  7. I love how you broke down list building into numbers like this. I have done that for financials but not for my list–what a smart tactic.

    I chuckle at the dashboard idea because back in my corporate days they were used more to please upper management into thinking the data was tracked, but not much was actually done with it. But given that I’m at the helm of my own business, I would actually use it and do something with the data. :-)

    A few useful metrics that could be added to the dashboard include
    – number of site visits from a given guest post
    – conversion rate of those visits into subscribers

    I track my guest post conversion rates to see what sites are worth guest posting for again. A little deeper dive into the data may provide even more insight on what’s working and what isn’t.

    Thanks again for such a practical, implementable idea.

    • Awesome comment Jenny. You’re right abut the corporate world, so many of these tools become part of “how things are done” but they aren’t actually used for much. I like those additional metrics you’ve provided. Sounds like a great way to make sure your efforts are being spent in the right place.

  8. I’m a big fan of spreadsheets, I can see the benefit in this. It’s always handy to know your position and to know what you need to do to get to where you want to go.

  9. Great info here, thanks for sharing!

  10. Creating your own dashboard is key! I like the idea of organizing progress in a spreadsheet where you can see whether or not you have met or exceeded your goals. Giving yourself a snapshot in time at that point is important, but keeping a running record can be even more beneficial. Great post!

  11. I struggle with whether or not to collect email addresses on my site. I wonder how many want to get regular emails from bankruptcy attorneys to remind them of their dismal financial condition.

    • Peter, I don’t think you can lose by collecting emails. If somebody signs up for your list, they’re telling you that they want updates and information from you. Pretty darn good chance that they will find what you have to say interesting. I bet you are in a position to offer a lot of guidance on how business owners (or individuals) can position themselves properly for the possibility of such dismal situations. That’s valuable stuff.

  12. I love the tip on creating your own dashboard. Also, one must not forget to view conversions when browsing analytics tools – as site traffic alone can lie; it’s important to have an eagle’s eye view on every detail of the traffic going to your site, where it came from, which keywords lead to most conversion… and many more.

  13. I bet you have doing homework so so diligent and conscientious. I hope I may do as you say here.

  14. What I really like about this is that your dashboard includes items that drive revenues and profits (such as subscribers), rather than simply measuring profits. There’s an academic background to this, called the “balanced scorecard,” developed by Robert Kaplan at Harvard. it measures how well you are implementing a strategy to meet goals.

    • Great stuff Mark. Yeah, I find that dashboards are most effective when they track metrics that impact your broader goals in the future. By measuring and managing the daily activities that drive profits, you can actually have an impact on profits. By measuring profits…well, then it’s already done. It’s like watching the score to try and impact the score, instead of focusing on how to score.

  15. Hey Josh:

    I love the idea of using a spreadsheet with conditional formatting. It gives a quick picture of what is working. I have been looking for an idea in using excel spreadsheets in my online venture and now you gave me a simple approach which I can build on.

    Looking forward to the results after I put forth the effort. Thanks for sharing.

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