What is the Difference Between Downline Building and Building a List

Downline building is often confused with building a list.

Quite often when I ask people how many names they have on their list they answer by listing where they have referrals.

“I have 20 in this safelist, 5 in that mailer, and 31 in such and such a TE .” (Traffic Exchange.)

What they are talking about are downlines they have in various programs. This usually means they don’t own that list, the owner of the program owns the list.

When you are building a list, you own that list.

This is a critical distinction.

Downline Builder

A downline builder is often found inside a Mailer or safelist.

The example below is from a mailer.

Downline builder


How it works is that you join each of the programs in the downline builder. These are usually free to join but not always.

Then when someone joins the mailer from your referral link, they are encouraged to fill out the downline builder. When they join the programs listed they are joining using your referral link.

Thus you build a downline in this program.

The reason for doing this is that occasionally those referrals will upgrade in the program and you get a commission on their purchase.


Advantages and Disadvantages of Downline Building.

Let’s focus on the positives first.

Joining the programs in a downline builder gives you the opportunity of earning commissions ranging from 10% and up. Sometimes that income is residual in that people buy monthly subscriptions. This can add up to significant income over time.

Quite often having people in your downline in a program brings rewards in the way of extra credits to use to send out your own advertising, or cash rewards as well.

This is a way of building multiple streams of income.

This is especially beneficial when they are evergreen products. Those programs people need to use over and over again to build their business. Autoresponders, tracking programs, landing page builders, and hosting fit into this category.

Now the disadvantages.

Safelists and mailers come and go. Sometimes the owners give up because they aren’t making the return on their investment, or they run out of money to host the site and many other variables. When the owner closes a site you lose any tenuous link you had to those referrals and the income you receive from their activities.

Most safelist and mailers give you very limited access to the people you encouraged to join that program. In many cases, you can’t even contact the people who joined you in a program.

There are some Downline Builders that are programs in an of themselves.

The language can be quite confusing making it sound like you are building a list.   Always carefully check before committing any money whether they are truly putting your signups into your own autoresponder, or if you a simply building a list of referrals in the program itself.

If you spend time promoting a downline builder, that’s time you can’t spend on your number one priority, building your own list of responsive subscribers.



Rule of Thumb



Build your list first. Then as a secondary action use downline building to build extra streams of income.

Building Your List

When you are building your list this refers to a list of names and email address you capture into an autoresponder that manages your list. I Use Get Response.

You have exclusive access to this list. Depending on your strategy you can mail this list whenever you want with whatever offer you want.

You can also build a relationship of know like and trust, the formula for getting your subscribers to buy from you. This is usually not available to you in a downline builder.

Here is a screenshot of my dashboard in Get Response. An autoresponder gives you control that a downline builder doesn’t give.








When in doubt build your list first. 


Click here to hear what 7 Experts have to say about building a list. 


For more reasons why you should build your own list read this info graphic.


I build my list by using Dual Squeeze Funnels. You build your list and earn income.





Leave a comment
  • I guess when it comes down to it it striking that balance.

    List Building is and will continue to be the A #1 strategy to
    earning an online income. Establishing downlines is something
    that comes in on the back end, if used properly the
    downline builders can help create some income that a new list
    builder might not have allowing them to expand their budget.

    I like promoting and building downlines in my most useful
    and converting traffic sources. It allows me to earn so that I can
    work toward expanding my budget , upgrading in those good sources
    leading back to more advertising to promote MY LIST.

    Some of my best residual income comes from some of those platforms.
    Downline builders can also provided newer affiliate marketers with the
    opportunity to learn to leverage a funnel.

  • I tried years to build several downlines… without success. Then I found the Your Viral Group and I started, for the first time, building a list. The only problem is, despite the fact that I got almost “perfect” follow-up emails, I don’t have any engagements (except for my spare email I registered to see how the list works…). What can I do to engage my sleeping list?

  • Hi Tim,

    Thanks for dropping by. And thank you for your earlier input. I absolutely agree that it’s about finding that balance. I didn’t mention this in the article but by building that list it’s quite surprising where you start seeing signups in other programs. Everything that you do online, like it or not, leaves a trace. Others find you then discover a program you recommended and now they go an join that program.

    I love how you approach the whole concept.

    And I forgot to congratulate you on your transition to your second career in a location where you can enjoy the freedom you now have. All the best on that.


  • Duck great to hear from you.

    There are some strategies for waking a sleeping list. I can’t go into them here but I will follow up with you early in the week. I need to know a couple of things about your list to offer some suggestions. I think it’s a universal struggle these days to keep that list engaged.


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