You’ve probably heard, “The money is in the list.”
People don’t buy from a brand they don’t know, like and trust. And the best way to build that type of relationship is to get them on your list.
People visiting your site are familiar with you, but they aren’t necessarily interested in opening a two-way conversation. Once they decide they what more, they subscribe—making the opt-in your first conversation with that person.
At this point, they’ve given you permission to talk to them directly, giving you the chance to turn a relative stranger into a fan. You do that through email marketing: nurturing the relationship, giving them the inside scoop on what you do and your best deals.
The people on your list are your most engaged followers. They’re also the ones most likely to buy from you.
Jon Morrow once told me to expect $1 per subscriber per month. If you’re really good, you can raise that value, but $1 is probably where it will start.
That means a list of 1,000 people is worth about $1,000 per month, and a list of 10,000 is worth $10,000 per month.
Clearly, if you want to earn more, you need to start with your list.
If you’ve been relying on a PDF download, you’re not thinking big enough. There are lots of ways to build your list, but 5 stand out as insanely simple tactics that most people aren’t aware of or aren’t willing to do.
Be honest. When I mention list building, the first thing that comes to mind is a cheesy PDF promising ## ways to choose the best [whatever product or service you sell].
That won’t cut it. And that’s not what we’re talking about here. You can’t be lazy or boring when it comes to list building.
You need to think outside the box because your audience won’t download a special report just because you offer one. They don’t want to subscribe. They only want to solve whatever problem they’re experiencing.
That’s not the only reason. Your visitors know how digital marketing works. They know that giving away their email (no matter how good the offer) could result in a flood of spammy emails.
So you have to avoid anything that creates distrust or, for that matter, any friction at all.
How do you build a list of raving fans? Let’s look beyond flashy ideas that could lose their effectiveness once people get used to them. Let’s look at 5 tactics that are working today on the social web—and are likely to keep working for years to come.
You can’t be lazy or boring when it comes to list building. Be original to stand out. #biztipClick to tweet
1. Social Media
According to Pew Research, nearly 2/3 of American adults use social media.
Actually, I’m surprised it’s that low. From what I see, even the people who have been most resistant to social media are realizing they need to get involved. I’m not just talking about 60- or 70-year-olds. I’m talking about CEOs and entrepreneurs who used to think they were too busy to be active on social media.
Today, everyone can benefit from social networking.
Depending on the age of your market, you’ll likely find them somewhere in social media: 90% of 18- to 29-year-olds and 77% of 30- to 49-year-olds are active in social media.
You just need to figure out where they’re hanging out so you can engage with them.
These days, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter rise to the top for most marketers. Facebook works well for consumer brands. LinkedIn for B2B. And for general promotion or networking, Twitter works well.
That’s why and where, now let’s talk about how…
How to use social media for list building
According to SocialSprout, most brands aren’t actually engaging with followers. They found that only 1 in 6 brands answer a message that needs a response.
Clearly, there’s an opportunity here.
If you want to use social media for list building, you need to engage with your followers.
To start, avoid over-automating your social media marketing. Automation can dehumanize your brand, which is a huge turn-off.
Besides, the more you talk to people, the more they’re going to like you. You can chat with them, listen to their challenge, and recommend a solution. If it happens to be one of your products, more power to you.
But being present alone isn’t going to magically turn followers into subscribers. For that, you need to:
Optimize your social profiles. Take the time to optimize your profile with details about your business. Who are you? What do you do? For whom? You need to clearly explain what you can do for your followers—and include links back to your site.
Create a landing page for social visitors. You can create a landing page for each social channel or you can create a single page that helps people learn more about you and encourages them to subscribe.
This isn’t a new idea, but it’s not something very many brands do. So again, it’s easy to stand out.
For Mirasee, I created the Learn More page, which summarized everything you might want to know about them—including several opportunities to subscribe. My tip: use UTM parameters on your inbound links, and you can easily track where visitors are coming from.
Tell your followers to subscribe. This tip comes from Noah Kagan of Sumo, and it’s so brain-dead simple, I’m surprised I haven’t seen it done. Ready? Once a week, tell your followers to subscribe.
Seriously, that’s it. Send them to a subscription page, and you’ll likely get a few extra subscribers from each post.
No one gives away their email address for free. They want something in return—something valuable enough that they’re willing to let you send them more emails.
That’s why funnels are so effective for list building. In order to work, they have to make an irresistible offer.
This is an infographic by Jo Barnes that illustrates my point. Scroll down to the 3 list-building funnels.
All 3 funnels start with a squeeze page, which is where the exchange is made: You present your super-amazing offer, and people give you their email to get it.
If it’s valuable enough, people will not only happily share their email address, they’ll even share the page with their friends, which can add huge numbers to your list in a very short time.
The key is to make the best offer you can—specific, highly targeted and valuable. Otherwise, no one will click on it, much less give you their email.
Here are 12 simple ideas that can work well in a funnel offer (often called a lead magnet):
- Report or guide
- Book or ebook
- Free sample
- $1 trial membership
- Free consultation
- Flash sale
- Loss leader offer
- Life event
To be honest, the format of your lead magnet is less important than the topic. You need to solve a problem or scratch an itch. That’s what makes people click.
Lead magnet: format is less important than topic. You need to solve a problem or scratch an itch. #biztipClick to tweet
How do you get started?
Create high-value content that your audience wants. A lead magnet doesn’t have to be long, but it does need to answer a question or help your target audience solve a problem. Use the list above to help you decide what it should be. In most cases, it will be free, followed by an upsell.
Come up with your upsell. Ideally, the upsell offer is low-cost and high-value. You aren’t trying to make any money here. You’re trying to convert subscribers to customers. Use the list above to guide your thinking, but your offer needs to promise in-depth information at a ridiculously good price.
Build it. You need a landing page to make your offer, a form for people to request the offer, and a thank-you page that thanks people for their download and makes the upsell. You’ll need all of this integrated with your email service so you can deliver the product and follow-up emails to build relationship and make future offers.
Funnels can be as fancy or simple as you like. I use Infusionsoft for my forms and email, but you can easily use AWeber. LeadPages is a popular choice for making landing pages, but I tend to host mine on my own website. If you have specific questions, let me know in the comments.
3. Guest Posting
To get subscribers from an opt-in offer on your own site, you need a lot of traffic. So unless you have 50,000+ visitors a month, you don’t have a list-building problem, you have a traffic problem.
To solve that problem, you need to get your content on high-traffic sites so people know you exist. Hopefully, they’ll like what they see and want to learn more about you. They’ll click whatever link you give them and, if the offer is good, they’ll subscribe before they leave.
Here’s how you make that happen.
First, pick the right sites to guest post on.
Your guest posts need to attract your best customers, so it’s important to approach sites that have your same target audience. Only write guest posts related to your core topic. Otherwise, you’ll attract people who aren’t good prospects.
Second, create great content.
Your content has to be good to make people want to learn more about you. Avoid average, run-of-the-mill content. It’s worth taking the time to write over-the-top-impressive content.
That means great ideas and quality writing. If you can include a backlink or two to your site, great! But don’t overdo it. Traffic isn’t your goal. Subscribers are.
Which brings us to step 3.
Third, make an offer in your bio.
In your author bio, tell who you are and what you do, then make an offer. This needs to be done in a sentence or two, so you need to be really focused.
Here’s an example from Jeremy Reeves on the Crazy Egg blog.
He states what he does and adds two sentences to prove his success. I’d prefer just one proof sentence, but overall it’s not too long.
What I like about his offer is that he calls it a “FREE gift” and then names his target audience. That’s smart because he can easily change the gift without having to update the bio.
Finally, send them to a landing page with an irresistible opt-in offer.
It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. You just need to present your offer and get people to sign up. Here’s Jeremy’s landing page.
On your landing page, you want to increase desire and reduce distractions and friction. That’s why a simple page usually works best.
Notice that there are no sidebar or social share buttons on this page. Those are distractions, so they don’t belong.
And Jeremy uses curiosity and exclusivity to increase desire.
- “Shocking ‘tell all’ expose” suggests that you’ll get information that you wouldn’t find anywhere else.
- “The #1 Hands-Free Tweak” suggests that it’s the piece of the puzzle that you’ve been missing, that this report will finally give you the success you’ve been looking for.
- “Dream clients” and “on demand” are emotional words that tap into visitor’s deepest desires. They’re looking for dream clients, so this offer is likely to convert.
I like the simplicity of this page. You don’t need fancy templates or design. You need a powerful offer. Period.
Keep in mind, for guest blogging to work as a list building tactic, your offer needs to relate to the blog post you wrote. This offer wouldn’t work if Jeremy had been writing about productivity. Instead, he wrote about a successful launch (resulting in dream clients), so his offer is relevant and feels like the logical next step for his readers.
That’s the best way to think about your offer: make it the next step to achieve success with your help.
4. Opt-in Offers on Your Site
This is where most people start when they’re focusing on list building, but as I mentioned above, it won’t give you much traction unless you have enough traffic.
That said, even if your site is new with no more than a trickle of traffic, you need to have some opt-in offers to turn visitors into subscribers. Here are a few ideas.
Most sites offer a valuable download at the top of the site or in the sidebar. This one on Jon Morrow’s SmartBlogger is a good example.
This works well if your download is relevant to every topic you cover. Jon talks about blogging and nothing else, so his offer will appeal to every visitor, no matter what post they’re reading.
But most sites have more than one core topic. My site, for example, covers content and conversion. If I could create a download that’s relevant to both topics, that could work. But to do that, I’d have to broaden the topic so much, it wouldn’t offer any real value. Conversions would drop, guaranteed.
The solution is something I call “category opt-ins.”
In addition to your main opt-in offer, you need to have at least one opt-in offer specific to each category or topic you write about. That way, every post you publish will have an offer closely related to the topic of that post.
Here’s an example from Digital Marketer, on a post in the “increase engagement” category.
Again, the key is to keep the opt-in offer closely related to the topic you’re writing about. Category opt-ins are, by default, related, so you can have a handful of opt-in offers without having to create a new download for each blog post.
As a bonus, I also believe this approach could impact your bounce rate. In March I implemented bottom-of-post adverts on Mirasee’s blog, and one month later, I noticed the bounce rate had dropped like a rock—from 70% to just 8%.
I’m all about streamlining your efforts, and this one wins 10 points for that!
Lots and lots of free resources
If it’s opt-ins you want, it’s free resources you need.
Somewhere on your site – preferably somewhere very visible – you need to offer free resources to your visitors. #biztipClick to tweet
Here’s an example from Jon Loomer.
Jon listed his free downloads under a “Free Stuff” tab. Notice the quality of the offers: ebooks and a workshop as well as a PDF download.
He offers an ebook again in an exit-intent popup.
In this case, quantity wins. Instead of just one free offer, there are multiple offers, and he gives us lots of opportunities to get them. It’s not pushy, so it feels generous, making me more likely to opt in for at least one of them.
Qualaroo is a survey app that lets you survey your visitors while they’re on your site. As a visitor scrolls down the page, the survey pops up, like this:
But you aren’t limited to surveys. Here’s how Neil Patel is using Qualaroo on QuickSprout.
That’s a lead generation offer: a free analysis that puts you on his list. You could do something similar, offering your free report instead.
The key is to have it pop up after a reader has scrolled about 50% into the article, so you’re targeting people who actually read your content.
This is behavior-based targeting, and it works.
Here’s how to implement it: Time the popup to only pop up for your best prospects, say, after they’ve read half the post. Then get your headline right.
You need to make an offer that will appeal to your readers: subscribe because you obviously like the information shared here (I wouldn’t say it like that!) or download this ebook because it gives you more information on the topic, etc.
Be aware, you may have to test several timings and headlines before you find what works.
5. Channel Promotion
Up to now, we’ve talked about targeting people who are using social media or reading blogs similar to yours. But there are people outside of those circles who ought to be on your list as well.
To extend your reach and get in front of new audiences, your best tactic is channel promotion.
What is channel promotion?
Channel promotion is a strategy for using off-site channels to publish valuable content that people are searching for. Most of these channels have a search engine built in, so when people search for a topic or solution, your content will show up.
Here are some ideas to get you started.
Book Stores (including Amazon)
A physical book can be sold at a brick-and-mortar bookstore or online. It can get you noticed, establish your reputation, and create a loyal fan club.
But don’t throw something together just to say you wrote a book. You need to have a message, and it needs to be a big-enough message to require 30,000+ words to say it.
Having said that, I know shorter “books” are being published today with a lot of success. I’m all for that, and I’ll likely write a shorty myself someday.
But don’t call a 20-page report a book. Publish it on Kindle and call it an ebook. Or use it on your site as an opt-in offer. Otherwise, you risk losing the credibility you’re working so hard to build.
How do you use a book for list building? On your website, create a page of bonus resources: worksheets, lists, case studies, etc. Include the URL in your book, and ask people to opt in to access it.
If you publish a list post or give a presentation, you can easily use SlideShare for channel promotion.
Create a slide deck in your brand’s style, and include a special offer on your last slide—similar to the offer in your guest author bio.
Here’s an example from Goboforce.
And here’s one I did for Crazy Egg.
YouTube is almost a no-brainer, because you can easily recycle content to create a lot of impact for yourself.
Consider syncing your YouTube and blog publishing to get high-quality content in two channels. You can start with the video and have the audio transcribed for your blog, or you can write your content first and use it as a script for your video.
If you’re using SlideShare, why not use Camtasia to add a voiceover to your presentation?
If you’re doing a presentation, have someone record it, and upload it to YouTube.
If you have a random thought as you go through your day, channel Gary Vee and pull out your smart phone recorder to capture the moment.
Seriously, video is easy these days. If you haven’t tried it yet, you need to. The Introvert’s Guide to Video Content will show you how.
Like physical books, ebooks can build your credibility and establish you as a respected thought leader. They can also be easy to produce since length is less of an issue.
Best of all, it doesn’t have to be entirely new content. Sure, you can write your ebook the old-fashioned way, starting with a thesis and an outline, but you can also recycle and refresh existing content to save time.
Here are a few ideas:
Compile your best blog posts. Pick a topic and collect your best blog posts in that category. You’ll need to add an introduction, conclusion and transitions, and you may need to refresh the posts, but this is a good way to produce a book while still keeping up with your regular content.
Ask experts to help you write the book. You pick the topic and the question or issue your book will cover. Then ask experts to write an essay, which will be a chapter in the book. You’ll need to write an intro and conclusion, then edit and arrange the essays in a logical order. The good news is your contributors will likely help you promote the book.
Find a coauthor. If you aren’t a writer or aren’t comfortable with writing the entire book yourself, consider finding a coauthor. You can divide up the writing any way you like, and working together, it will be easier to stay on schedule and actually get the book done.
Keep in mind, publishing on Kindle won’t directly build your list any more than a physical book will. To get readers on your site, you need to offer bonus content, a gift or a special discount that readers can access for free by opting in.
Like Kindle publishing, publishing courses on Udemy can build your authority and get your name in front of people who wouldn’t otherwise know you.
Also like Kindle, Udemy won’t directly build your list, so you need to find a reason for people to visit your site and opt in. You can use the same approach, offering a gift or bonus material on your site, but don’t be afraid to try something new.
If you’re thinking about promoting your services in the course, tread lightly. One of the biggest complaints I’ve seen relates to heavy-handed selling at the end of a course.
Your course can be anywhere from 2 to 6 hours and sell from $20 to $50 dollars. You can also offer it for free—a good option if your only goal is lead generation.
Think short courses that offer quick success. Give people everything they need to achieve whatever it is you’re teaching. That will help you get good reviews, which means you’re more likely to be promoted by Udemy.
Tip from my friend, Cody Ray Miller: Don’t be boring. There are going to be a lot of other courses on the topic you teach, so you need to make yours more fun and energetic. Give people a preview of a few of your best lectures so they can see your personality.
The Bottom Line
The truth is no business can succeed without a large list of people who love you and your work.
The minimum you need for email marketing success is 1,000, but the golden rule is this: A bigger list yields higher sales.
If your business is growing, your list should be too.
What works for you? Share your best list-building idea in the comments.