The new way to build lists in 2020

Odior C Yole
3 min readNov 17, 2020

Maybe we are doing it wrong. Africa is so different from Europe and the U.S.

A lot of the methodologies we adopt here are all stuff proposed and pushed by the West and maybe that’s why we are not seeing a lot of success.

Building an email list sounds glamorous and perhaps, a number of companies have been able to make it work — but the majority won’t find success building email lists. While email drives a higher number of conversions for companies in the West, phone numbers get the job done for Africans and a lot more other countries.

Instead of building email lists, build Whatsapp lists cos Telegram is even far fetched, get people together in a Whatsapp group. It might not be very professional but it is effective. To test out this feature, I am launching a car dealership service entirely on Whatsapp.

It’s not going to be anything big. We’ll have a basic website showing our services and the call to action would be a button connecting people to our Whatsapp group. I understand the limits of 256 members could be a factor and thats why people opt for Telegram groups or Facebook groups. The single reason I am ignoring the limit is that Whatsapp does not limit the number of groups you can create. If a group gets full, thats a good problem to have but it also has a very easy solution: build another one!

The benefits are quite high:

  1. Direct access to their phones — as opposed to email which is quite far and has low open rates
  2. No need for an app. Whatsapp itself is the push notification service you’ve always wanted to build
  3. Build a more personal relationship with users: one on one support, viewing status updates…engage better and put a face behind the brand; something email isn’t very good at.
  4. Build a community: interactions leads to more interactions and these can lead to action; perhaps someone asks a question and the discussion pushes an observer to request a service or deal.
  5. Build trust: d business in public. If you close a deal, mention it on the group and let other see evidence that this is a business that actually works. Trust is still a major issue when doing business online. Get the trust by doing business in public: on the group chat. Everyone can see it.

Maintaining 10 Whatsapp groups is far easier than managing an email list — you have to design campaigns, build lists, set up automations, drip campaigns, lead people through a funnel, export qualified leads to another software, referrals is not that straightforward as people have to double opt in, you face issues from mail servers, likelihood of landing in spam or promotions folder, if you have a large list you’ll even have to pay…

Whatsapp groups obviously is way easier and far more engaging. You also have control to restrict times when people can post.

Many small and micro businesses have discovered this and have been using it for years but the ‘packaged’ startup entrepreneur is usually too corporate to embrace it. The best move startups have pulled towards integrating Whatsapp is by providing support via chat.

But from here onwards, chat is so 2015, the future is groups and Whatsapp offers the best of it.



Odior C Yole

Startup founder. I’ll share my journey, processes, tactics, challenges and victories till we hit 3 billion customers worldwide.