How To Build Relationships Via Email: We Talk To Chris Guillebeau

As you probably know, too few businesses use email marketing to build relationships with subscribers. Instead, they focus on getting as many sales as they can before recipients scramble to the unsubscribe link.

While that model might work for a few businesses, it’s certainly not for everyone (nor is it in line with most of the email marketing tips you’ll find on this and other blogs).

Of course, it’s all well and good to talk about the theoretical value of building relationships via email… but is anyone doing it? And if so, how?

Recently, I talked with AWeber customer Chris Guillebeau, who uses email to connect with subscribers, build relationships – and, oh yeah, grow his business while traveling the world.

Watch These Videos From Our Interview

Chris and I talked for a while about:

  • How he “does” email.
  • What he’s learned about email marketing.
  • What mistakes he’s made (and how he recovered from them).
  • How much (if at all) other businesses “get” relationship building.
  • How he sells products without making subscribers feel he’s being “pushy.”

… and a number of other topics.

We talked for about an hour, but that would be one loooong video… so we broke our discussion up into a handful of shorter videos. You can watch them here:

What About You?

How do you build relationships via email? What have you learned along the way?

Share your thoughts below!


  1. Steinar

    12/1/2009 11:11 am

    Great videos – these real life stories are always helpful.

  2. George T

    12/1/2009 11:44 pm

    Can these videos be embedded in my website page?. looking for more content for my articles.

  3. Sean Breslin

    12/2/2009 1:11 pm

    Thank you Justin, Useful videos I like the anti marketing approach! That book sounds worth reading.

    The second video rattled a few brain cells! Then the 3rd one, etc…

  4. Yee Shun Jian

    12/2/2009 1:31 pm

    I build relationships with my email subscribers by offering them unannounced bonuses & tons of great content and freebies.

    They always say… the money is in the list… the money is in the list… I learned that you need to WORK AT IT to make email marketing work for you…

  5. Susan

    12/2/2009 1:34 pm

    Great videos! Thanks Chris and Aweber for sharing. I got some really great ideas.

  6. bob

    12/2/2009 1:43 pm

    Hi Justin,

    This says "videos" but I’ve only been able to find the one video. Are there more and if so where? Probably I’m just lost but nothing new there!!!(:)

  7. Timothy

    12/2/2009 3:18 pm

    I enjoyed Chris. Some good ideas there. I’m encouraged to do less automation, and more person-to-person as a result. Of course, I still need to build my list.

    However, I could have used a little more info about the process: i.e., "if you want to watch the next video – or all the videos – simply wait. It’ll load and play itself, in sequence." That would have saved me some confusion and clicking on things I didn’t need to.

    Also, I found the switching to b & w strange and not needed during the interview. I mean, that was an MTV technique 30 years ago. Does nothing for me today.

    But overall, good job. Interesting. Thanks.

  8. Justin Premick

    12/2/2009 4:07 pm

    Thanks everyone for your comments!


    Absolutely – click the icon in the lower right corner of the video player to get the embed code.


    You should be able to browse the videos using the arrows along the left and right edges of the video. If not, head to our YouTube channel to watch them all:


    Thanks for the feedback! Good to have as we haven’t embedded a playlist like this one before.

  9. Dean Soto

    12/2/2009 8:23 pm

    Really good video, and really good way to utilizing email marketing without being intrusive and pushy. However, I can’t shake the feeling that email marketing is on its way out. Social media marketing, in my humble opinion, much more engaging and more effective. Here are my reasons:

    1. You have more of an opportunity to build a relationship with your customers through contextual dialogue. Freshbooks and the Dipping Dots owner do this perfectly, and reap the benefits in long lasting customer loyalty.

    2. Your customers are able to forward and share your message with other potential customers – increasing your company’s voice tremendously.

    3. Customers are more apt to share discounts and deals on social networks, which means more customers (isn’t that the goal?). Yes, special deals through emails make your customers feel important, but caring about your customer (point #1) makes them feel ten times more important.

    As I said, great ideas, but I don’t think email campaigns will give you the most bang for your buck. Love the blog, your business is fantastic, and I am glad to be a part of your community!

  10. Mark Foo

    12/3/2009 1:22 pm

    I build relationship with my subscribers by offering them a great eBook that they subscribe to get. And I follow up with once-a-week newsletters that’s full of useful and solid content. Every now and then, I’d also send them freebies such as a free report or free eBook. And I don’t bombard them with pitch after pitch just to make money off them. I’d only recommend resources that are really helpful.

  11. Terry Leigh Britton

    12/4/2009 5:27 am

    This interview was very good, and it lead me to follow Chris on Twitter and take in his website, which is pretty wonderful!

    Though I agree with some of the points made by Dean Soto above, I do not think that email marketing is on its way out. Everyone checks their email, and finding gold in there is always a rush and a pleasure! Combined with social networking techniques it is invaluable.

    However, a definite improvement to emails would be the inclusion of at least a few “Share this using” links, perhaps to Twitter and Facebook at the very least. I wonder if such code can be included in an HTML version of the emails? I think I will look into that!

  12. Max Miller

    12/4/2009 8:09 pm

    Excellent series. Thanks for waking me up.

    I did an email newsletter for about a year. Due to health issues, I dropped it. I thought email was on the way out and did not renew my efforts. The more I look at it, the more I see that email is as good as ever.

    Many of our online customers have been with us for several years. I was surprised when I began receiving inquiries regarding the old newsletter. Time to get in gear.

  13. Aliciaf

    12/5/2009 9:46 am

    Espero recibir otros para ponerlos en practica. Gracias!!

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    12/7/2009 5:12 pm

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  15. Rob Lawson

    12/9/2009 11:22 am

    Hi, Justin,

    Great videos. Thank you for posting.

    I have a couple of technical questions.

    it appears you had 2 (or maybe 3?) cameras set up? I notice it goes instantly from close-ups of either you or Chris speaking to a broader view of both of you. Is that because you had a more than one camera?

    Secondly, what camera(s) and software did you use to record?

    Any recommendations on the best way to record such a conversation?


  16. Zachary Reese

    12/9/2009 3:14 pm

    We actually only used one camera; the switches were the same footage scaled up a bit for visual variety. We used a Panasonic AVCHD camera with two lavalier microphones. If you’re going to try recording a similar conversation, my advice is: capture everything! Use as many mics and camera angles as you can, even when it seems redundant. You’re never going to know what you need until you sit down to edit it, and for interviews there are no reshoots.

  17. Carlos Montalvo

    12/10/2009 2:55 pm

    Excelente entrevista, crear relaciones con tus clientes no solo mercadeo,mercadeo. Great interview! Build relationships not advertising, advertising!

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    12/18/2009 5:32 am

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  20. davidbaer

    1/4/2010 9:13 am

    Here is an old rule! If you want to be really successful in affiliate marketing, you ought to drive traffic to your website. The more visitors to the website, the higher the probability of click through. Many affiliate guides forget to mention that it is always prudent to build traffic first and then consider affiliate marketing. There is no magic potion. If there is no traffic, there are no profits. Don’t worry, if you haven’t got hordes of visitors, even a few visitors will do initially. Once these visitors start trickling down the web drain, you can place banners and advertising in appropriate places to get the results. A good affiliate marketer doesn’t care about the number of clicks but on the average number of clicks per visitor.
    Such techniques, slowly but surely brings success. And with it comes a potential for much higher rewards

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  22. Lalitha Brahma

    1/22/2010 2:24 pm

    I just saw one Video and fully agree with building relationship. My primary way to keep in touch is thru’ Ezine. Now I have started sending solo emails about products that my target market may be interested and I believe in.

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  24. Lani

    5/26/2010 11:33 am

    Awesome video, I like the analogy chris uses with Twitter and how it relates to a business man with his pies. I wish the analogy would have been direct to A Weber to hear how Chris uses it to his advantage and why he does so and how it affects his business. This is a valuable tool that need more specific information directing only to a weber tools. thanks for sharing.

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  26. Don

    9/11/2010 6:50 pm

    This is a great post guys, people need to focus on the helping and building of bonds versus the paycheck they hope to gain at the end. In the end both goals will be about the same however one will get you there faster WITH better residual and passive income.

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  29. Jonas Peterson

    9/17/2013 6:47 pm

    I actually know Chris Guillebeau. I’ve been mailing with him several times. He has a great little business going on there.

  30. Carey

    3/27/2014 1:56 pm

    Are these videos still available? For some reason I didn’t see them on the page, and I wasn’t sure if they were taken down.


  31. Brandon Olson

    3/31/2014 7:27 am

    Hi Carey. Yes, they are still available. You can find them here: