How I Collected 80 Emails for $170 (Before My Business Launched)

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My wife and I launched a new online business recently, selling cat products. Our goal with this business is to educate cat owners about the needs of their cats and share profits from our sales with animal shelters in the process so that they can provide better care for shelter animals.

I built the site by myself, using a template on Shopify, and it took me several weeks but was very cheap to do on my own (this “hack” is its own blog post for another day).

As we were lining up suppliers and building the site, I knew that I wanted to collect an email list ASAP. Why? Because email has the biggest payoff. And once we launched, I wanted to see results immediately.

But how do you collect emails when your website doesn’t even exist yet?

We came up with the idea of a pre-launch giveaway. We ordered custom branded shirts for our new business and decided to promote it as a giveaway item. People love t-shirts. Any t-shirt. If it’s free, they want it. This was an excellent giveaway item because it had mass appeal and a high likelihood of opt-ins.

Shopify allows you to have a password barrier on your website while you are creating it. I ended up customizing our password page to include information about our t-shirt giveaway along with a very simple email sign-up form.

Very simple. The form for a simple giveaway really shouldn’t be more involved than this:

giveaway form

Low Cost, Well Targeted Advertising

I posted a link to this giveaway on our company Facebook page and then boosted it. It is important to note that you must boost a post if you want to get much reach and engagement with the post.

A critical element to boosting the post was to make sure we reached the best possible audience. We didn’t want junk email opt-ins. We wanted qualified future customers.

This involved research. I researched which areas of the United States are most obsessed with cats. Unsurprisingly, there is actually data on this. This allowed me to narrow my audience down to 10 states. I overlapped this targeting with interest-based targeting. I chose every single Facebook interest option related to cats.

We ran this promotion for 2.5 weeks.

The Results

FCS pre launch results

We paid $2.12 per email capture. This means I paid about two bucks to make sure that I can send out emails to a potential future customer when they are most likely to engage with my content and buy after the site launched.

When taking my total costs and margins into account, I only need about 10 of these people to order in the future to get a return on my ad spend. Because we selected a very well targeted audience and we know email marketing has the highest return, it’s safe to say that this was money well spent before we even had a single product for sale.

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