This post is a part of a 4-week series to get your email marketing up and going. Here are the other posts in this series:
- Want to grow your list from your website? Your first step starts here.
- 8 Reasons why I chose ConvertKit
- How to strategically place your opt-in forms on your website & quickly grow your email list
- Behind-the-Scenes of my first email challenge & how to use challenges to grow your list
For five years I’ve been fortunate as a business owner.
Most of my business has come from word-of-mouth from my own friends and family. In the beginning, I felt like I didn’t need to build an email list to make money because I made money from services that resulted from those existing connections.
A friend from high school would introduce me to a local coffee shop owner; my cousin would then introduce me to two photographers who needed websites, and my dad would introduce me to other local business owners he knew through his own business contacts.
It was great! And easy.
For the first 3 years, list building wasn’t a priority. I was doing okay without it, for a beginner…so I thought. I didn’t even write it down in my polka-dotted daily planner.
Looking back, I sometimes regret not taking action on it sooner, but looking forward is all that really matters. I can’t change the past.
Maybe I would have a gazillion subscribers by now if I had started sooner, but that’s not my journey.
I went to San Francisco three years ago to be a part of the CreativeLive audience for April Bowles Olin’s course on making and selling digital products. I decided that I needed a way for new people to hear from me because there would be a bunch of them.
Cut to two weeks before my trip: I’m frantically redesigning my website. I finally set up a quick list in MailChimp (after testing out Constant Contact, Aweber, and Get Response), and stuck a basic opt-in box on my home page.
My list grew SLOWLY over that first year.
I still didn’t really understand why I needed a list (no matter how many times I was told that I needed one and why). It took me a while to understand how a list would impact my income today.
Now I’ve finally hit that place where I realize that there’s only one me. Yep! A place where I can’t depend on my services to be my only source of income.
There truly is only so much time in a day, and I can’t keep borrowing from my sleeping time (or so my biz partner tells me).
So in order to keep my business growing, I’ve started to think (and take action) on adding other streams of revenue through courses and guides (coming soon!!!), and in order to actually sell my courses and guides, I need an email list! It’s just how it goes.
Over the past 6 months, I’ve been much more focused on what I can do to actively grow my list.
Now, I’m just trying to spend a concentrated effort to make this email marketing thing work, and I believe it all starts with a solid foundation. That foundation involves the tools and things that you need to actually make the email process work.
Need ideas for opt-in incentives to grow your own list? Pop your name and email into the form below and you’ll get 25 opt-in ideas delivered straight to your mailbox!
You can’t just collect people’s emails and personally email them; you have to go about it in a legal and responsible way. Luckily, there are all kinds of tools you can use to make sure you do that!
There are many tools you’ll need on your way to growing your own list. Here are a few of my favorites:
In order to have a list, you’ll need a way to collect the information to put on that list. The best way to do that is by using opt-in forms or popups that connect directly to your email provider (more on that in a moment).
My favorite choice for creating opt-in forms and popups for any WordPress website is Popup Ally Pro by Nathalie Lussier. There are several things that I LOVE about this WordPress plugin, but overall I love how easy it is to create really beautiful opt-in forms.
Here is an example that I recently created for Trish of Jewels By Trish:
By using Popup Ally, I was able to create this form from scratch in under an hour, including the time it took to hook it up to her email provider. Easy peasy.
Okay! Now that you have a way to collect email addresses and names from the lovely people who want to hear from you, you need a place to store that information safely and then send emails from legally.
ConvertKit is easy to use and it even has some of the more advanced features that are offered in more robust email systems (that cost a ton of dollars), but it is a fraction of the cost. I also find it more user-friendly than any other email systems that I’ve tried and used. And I’ve tried many. The cost is a little higher than MailChimp or Mad Mimi, but if you’re going to spend any money when you’re first starting out, I believe it should be on your email marketing.
Full disclosure: If you use this link, and decide to purchase anything from them, I may receive a small affiliate commission, but I would NEVER tell you to try something unless I had used it and loved it.
In order to make lovely forms, you’ll need Branded photographs. They can be headshots or photos that include branded props. Whatever you choose should speak to your customers and show them a bit of your Brand Personality.
You need a free gift to draw your favorite people to your email list. People are giving you their valuable attention to see what you send out each week and to see what you have to offer.
Giving them something of worth is what will convince them whether or not they should give that time to you. Start off with a really strong freebie that will help your reader to become a buyer. After that, you can offer smaller freebies on your best blog posts, called Content Upgrades. They take the awesomeness that you offer in your blog post and upgrade it.
+A little knowledge/know how
You’ll need to know how to put it all together and make the whole system work. If you’re using WordPress, you’ll need to know how to use a plugin like Popup Ally or Magic Action Box, plus you’ll need to know how to connect that opt-in form to your email provider.
Essentially, you want the form to send the information you’ve captured in the form to your email provider. Then, you’ll want that email provider to send the freebie to your subscriber.
If you’re not sure how to make all of this work in WordPress, or how to make it pretty, be on the lookout for a new course that I’m creating called MAKE PRETTY OPT-IN FORMS WITH POPUP ALLY.
You can signup below to be the first to find out when the course will be released!
+Responder sequence (aka sales funnel)
Having a series of emails to follow up with your subscribers after they’ve downloaded your freebie will make life easier for you in the future. One of the big mistakes that I’ve made with my own email list is not emailing consistently.
If you have an automated responder set up, you’re eliminating the possibility that your subscribers will never hear from you ever again. No matter what you’re doing, your new subscribers will hear from you – because it’s all set up already and automated.
The technical side of setting this up really depends on your email provider, so you may need to look at the documentation they provide or find some tutorials on YouTube, to figure out how to do it. But it is definitely worth it.
Marketing your freebie is much easier when you have a landing page, because your followers won’t get distracted by all the other lovely things on your website, when you send them to the page. A good landing page should only have the specific information on it that you want your reader to take action on. No distractions. No squirrels.
When you specifically mention your freebie on social media, you can share the URL to your landing page, and those who decide to click will be much more likely to opt-in, because there won’t be any distractions.
+Thank You pages
I like to follow up after my readers have opted-in with a unique thank you page that has social share buttons. This increases the chance that your subscribers will actually share the freebie with their friends. That will add more people to your list without you having to do any more work!
I like to use the social media link generator to make my share button links.
Having only one freebie on your site is not enough. You need to have more than one freebie, and you need to mention each of them over and over again. By writing content centered around each unique freebie, you are increasing the chances of it being seen. That will increase the chances of people actually opting in to it. At the time of writing this, I have 4 free PDFs and a 7-day challenge for people to opt-in to….and I’m always brainstorming more!
+Social Media Marketing Plan
Once you’ve written your posts that include links or forms to access your freebie, you need to promote those posts anywhere and everywhere. The posts need to be shared more than once over several different channels.
The same people don’t follow me on every single social media outlet. Sometimes people follow me on Instagram only. Sometimes they follow me only on Facebook. If I want more people to see my posts, I need to share them in multiple places. And even if you share the post only one time on each social media channel, chances are not everyone will see them. You have to share multiple times.
I’ve taken the advice of a lovely mentor and friend and started sharing my stuff to a point where it feels like I’m annoying people. And I’m told that I’m still not sharing enough.
Point is…share your posts and your freebies as much as you can! And then some more. You’re not annoying!
Now that you have the components to put the system in place, you need to actually do the thing.
It takes time to do these things, and those of us who are in business know that time is in short demand. Email marketing is often neglected – or one of these important elements falls off the list.
But here’s the thing: It’s a machine! You need all the parts.
If you don’t have all of the parts in your machine, it won’t work! My dad’s a mechanic…I know these things.
So how do we make our tiny amount of time stretch out to cover all of these things?
Create a system for yourself and make a plan for how much time you can devote to email marketing each week.
Here’s a quick snapshot of how I’m trying to make it work in my schedule:
- Developing a new freebie: 2 hours total (developing one freebie a month)
- Making new forms/setting up everything in WordPress & ConvertKit: 1-2 hours per week
- Taking photos that can go in my freebies, can be used for the forms, and can be used in my blog posts: 1-2 hours per week
- Setting up things like landing pages & sales pages: 1-2 hours per week
- Blogging something specifically related to my freebie that also leads to the direct promotion that I’m wanting to highlight that month: 3 hours per week
- Scheduling things out on social media: 30 minutes per day
Several years ago I didn’t see the need to have an email list, so I slacked with it majorly.
Today, I really need my list to be able to tell all my people about the various things that I offer.
When I first started my business, I survived without a list because of good connections. Since I’ve moved past just selling my services and into selling courses and guides, I have needed to grow past those connections in order to grow my business – so I need to grow that list.
A major goal of mine is to increase the revenue in my other income streams, aside from services, so I’m challenging myself to work on my email marketing a little bit each day, each week, and each month by using the schedule I posted above.
A great example of this is when I had my first Black Friday sale at the end of last year. If I had not used my email list as a means to tell people about the sale, I wouldn’t have had as many sales. And I probably wouldn’t have sold any of the spots to the course, because people wouldn’t have known that the course existed.
How are you going to increase your list? What is one tool from this list you will try this week to grow your own list?
Struggling to come up with your own freebies/content upgrades? Get the 25 Opt-in Ideas For Creative Entrepreneurs delivered straight to your mailbox.