Okay, so everyone keeps saying you need a “list.” You know, like… an email newsletter. And they’re totally right! Email marketing is rad–you get direct access to your audience’s inboxes, where you can educate them, entertain them, and entice them to buy your stuff. (Over 90% of my sales are a result of email marketing! Wowza!) But where do you even start?! How do you create a newsletter list? What software should you use? What’s an opt in? What’s a double opt-in? How do you get people to sign up for it? And wtf are you going to say to them once they’re on it?!
Deep breath, sister. Contrary to popular belief, email marketing is not actually rocket science. (It just seems like it is when you’re down here staring up at the people with a bajillion subscribers.) Here’s an easy roadmap to get you started!
Step 1 – Decide what you’re going to write about.
Let’s fast forward to a dreamy day in the future when you have a whole bunch of subscribers and you’re writing them a super engaging email. What’s it about? Tell me everything!
“I’ll figure that out when I get to that point,” is not an answer, young lady! The better idea you have of what you’ll say when you have subscribers, the better you’ll do getting the right subscribers to join your list! So grab a notebook and start brainstorming!
Maybe you’ll share your top homesteading tips weekly. Perhaps you’ll send out a monthly digest with your best blog posts and a free download. Or you could share customer success stories, ideas for projects that feature your products, and seasonal specials.
What do your ideal customers and clients want to know about? What are they always asking you? If you perk up your ears and listen a little, you’ll find a wealth of topic ideas!
Step 2 – Figure out your frequency
While we’re brainstorming ideas, it’s a good idea to get a sense of how often you’ll write to your list. Monthly? Weekly? Every time you publish a new blog post? Every time Mercury is in retrograde? Decide what you can manage somewhat consistently and go with that! You can always up your frequency if you have more to say or ease off a little if it feels unmanageable.
Is there a formula for the perfect frequency? Nope. Someone will always think you’re emailing too much and some people (cough… me) get so many emails they wouldn’t even notice if you emailed daily. I know you don’t want to be annoying and send too many emails! But trust me–if you’re sending out valuable content, you’re not annoying your biggest fans. They want to hear from you! Most of you will choose to send newsletters weekly or monthly, depending on the type of content you share and how much time and energy to have to write emails. But I’ve seen awesome marketers that send several emails a week, and I’ve seen very effective quarterly newsletters. Do what feels right to you!
Step 3 – Create an irresistible free offer.
This is also called an opt-in offer, a freebie, a lead magnet, an ethical bribe, a content upgrade, or as my girl Racheal Cook calls it… a pink spoon. (Because of those little pink spoons they give you to sample ice cream! You get a taster to see if you want to buy. Cute, right?) All of these terms mean the same thing: A free something that people can receive in exchange for their email address.
There are so so so so so so many options for cool freebies to create. Which can be kind of paralyzing, I know. A few things to keep in mind when you decide what your irresistible free offer is going to be:
- It should be closely related to what you sell. You want people on your list who will eventually pay you in cash money for the product or service you sell. So the more closely related your free offer is to your paid offer, the better. If someone likes your 5 free cocktail recipes, they’d probably like to buy your encyclopedia of cocktails book. If someone likes your free beauty tips, they’ll probably be interested in your home grown, organic makeup. If someone likes your email marketing roadmap, they’re a great candidate for your full email marketing course.
- It should also be closely related to the type of content you’re going to send in your newsletters. If you own a hair salon and you’re going to send out monthly hairstyle ideas and haircare tips, a PDF of 5 easy updos for unwashed hair is a great opt in that relates to your newsletter content AND your paid offering.
- It should be super valuable. Everyone and their dog has an enticing offer to get people on their email list. (Okay, my dog is 100 years old and his offer is that he will sit on you while you try to do yoga. It’s actually not that enticing. But you get what I’m saying.) And people are getting more and more concerned about privacy these days, so your offer has to be something people really want. If they looooove your free offer, they’re going to love and pay for your paid offer!
- It should be easy for you to create. Especially when you’re starting out! Do not let this step hold you up for months. You want to get out there and start building your list asap! So make something that’s easy for you to make. You can create a “Top 10 Resources for [whomever your ideal client is]” in google docs and download it as a PDF. You can always tweak it or try something bigger down the road.
- It should leave people wanting more. I used to say, “There’s no such thing as giving away too much!” But that’s not 100% true. Usually people don’t give away too much. I’m a big big fan of highly valuable free offers. I think about my own purchase behavior and whenever I plop down a big chunk of change, it’s after I’ve watched a webinar or participated in a free challenge that was so mind-blowingly valuable, I think “I should have paid for that!” I know if the free thing is that good, the paid thing is going to be worth the money. But if people are achieving their ultimate desired result from your free offer and they don’t need your paid offer, then try scaling back to just a taste. Create something that gives them an awesome result, but not the full result they’d get if they purchased your product or service.
- It should be scaleable. And by that I mean, you need to be able to deliver it to thousands of people. I know that seems outrageous when you’re starting out and the only people on your list is your mom and you and then you again with a backup email address. But someday you’re going to get new subscribers everyday and your list will grow while you sleep! So your opt-in offer has to be something that’s easy to automate and deliver. Meaning, it shouldn’t involve face time with you, making something by hand, or sending something in the mail. (Side note: you can totally use free, in-person workshops as a list builder. You can do free discovery calls for prospective clients. You can offer to mail free samples of shampoo, vitamins, or nail polish strips. And you can do a giveaway campaign for something awesome and handmade. But these are things you’ll do on occasion, not your main offer that lives permanently on your website.)
I’m going to have to write a whole separate blog post with ideas for freebies to create! But to get you started, how about… a list of tips and tricks, a checklist, a video, a free challenge, a quiz, a mini-course, or a printable?
Step 4 – Choose your email marketing software.
Is it software? I still think of “software” as coming on a floppy disk. Is it a program? A platform? A tool? Ok, it doesn’t matter what we call it! Choose how you’re going to get those emails to people! You are not sending them a mass email from your gmail by entering their addresses in the BCC line. That breaks like allllll the spam laws, hinders your chances that your email is even delivered, and is totes unprofesh. It’s also completely unmanageable once your list is bigger than 10 people. You need a real program that’s designed for email marketing so people can easily sign up, you can easily send emails, you can access stats, (open rates and click rates and conversions! Oh my!) and people have a way of unsubscribing (so you’re following the laws!)
There are only TWO email marketing platforms I recommend. (Don’t hate me if I don’t name your personal favorite! These are the two that my students have the easiest time with and I believe they offer the best value.) MailChimp* and ConvertKit (now called Seva)*
Later this month, I’ll be going into the nitty gritty details about which one is better for your unique business! In the meantime, it boils down to this:
• If you have absolutely zero budget and your list needs are simple (you’re going to have one main opt-in offer and you’re going to send everyone on your list the same emails), go with MailChimp.
• If you have a little bit of a budget and you want to get a little bit fancy with your list, like offer a few different freebies and send different emails to different people, based on their behavior or interests, then ConvertKit/Seva is for you! (The first month is free when you use this link, and then it’s $29/month after that. Totally worth it.)
*I love ConvertKit/Seva so much, I became an affiliate. Which means if you sign up through my link, you get an extra long free trial, and you pay nothing extra, but I may get a small kickback if you like them too and you stick around. It basically buys me a cup of coffee, which fuels me to write awesome blog posts like this one! I also used and loved MailChimp for years when I was starting out and it’s a great option for beginners. If you sign up through my link and upgrade from a free account to a paid account, you get $30 in monkey rewards and so do I. Who doesn’t like monkeys or rewards?
Step 5 – Create your opt-in form
You know those boxes you see on blogs where you enter your name and email to join someone’s list? That’s the opt-in form! People are “opting in,” they’re choosing to be on your list. You’ve probably seen tons of fancy ways to deliver these forms. Flashy pop ups, slick sidebars, and full-blown landing pages with videos and confetti cannons. And you can have all those if you want! But first, you need to create the form in your email provider.
In ConvertKit/Seva, you do this in the “forms” section. Click “create form” to start a new form. Choose the style, edit the content, and you’re on your way! You can create full landing pages or super slim one-line forms that go in a blog post.
In MailChimp, you do this in the “lists” section. Create your list, or choose a list you’ve already created, then click on “sign up forms” and build your form. (Start with the “Form Builder” option–you need to do this part first, even if you’re going to use a pop up or embeddable form later!)
Commercial Break! If you’d like step-by-step video tutorials on exactly how to set up ConvertKit/Seva or Mailchimp from start to finish, I have full courses on both! You can access those and a whole bunch of other courses in the Biz BFF Hive!
Step 6 – Deliver your freebie
You don’t need any extra fancy software to do this, and you don’t have to sit by your email waiting for people to sign up and then sending them the freebie manually. It’s super easy to automate this right within ConverKit/Seva or Mailchimp (or whatever email marketing program you use!)
In ConvertKit/Seva, you have a couple options. You can deliver it in the “incentive email.” (Click that little email icon you see to the right of the form!) This is the perfect option if you’re delivering a single PDF like a cute printable, a checklist, an ebook, or a list of tips/resources.
See where it says “After confirming redirect to:” at the bottom? That’s where you deliver your freebie! Just click “choose file” and upload your PDF! Then Click “Edit Email Contents” to craft your welcome email! It includes a button for people to download the freebie!
If your opt-in offer is a little more involved, like a 5-day challenge, a 3-part video series, or if your offer is something you need to link to and not a file to upload, then you can set up a sequence to be delivered right after people sign up. If it’s just one welcome email, it can be a one day sequence! Or if it’s a whole mini course, you can set up with multiple emails that go out every day or every week, or on whatever schedule you need.
First, head over to the “sequences” section of ConvertKit/Seva. Create a new sequence and give it a name. (I just name it after whatever the free offer is!) Then craft your welcome email and link up your freebie! Set the “when to send” as 0 days, so it goes out immediately after people sign up. If you have more emails to include in this sequence (if it’s a multi-day freebie or if you just want to write a welcome sequence to people after they join your list), you can add more emails on the left!
If you’re using MailChimp, you set up your welcome email and freebie delivery in the “Forms” section. (Hey! We were just there setting up our form!) In the form builder, there’s a sneaky dropdown menu to choose what form you’re building. The default is the signup form. But if you click that, you can find a whole bunch of other forms and emails. Choose the final welcome email.
You’ll see that the standard template is suuuuuper boring. But you can edit it! Click “edit content” and compose your email! If you’re delivering a download or sending people to a link to watch a video, highlight some text (it can say something like “click here to download” and then click the link button. You can enter a regular ol’ link or you can even upload a file for your subscribers to download! Fancy!
Step 7 – Start spreading the news
Whew! You did it! You created an amazing free offer, you chose an email marketing platform, you set up your signup form, and you’re delivering your freebie in your welcome email! Now all you need is people to sign up! Sooooo how do you do that part? This isn’t one of those Field of Dreams “If you build it, they will come” scenarios. Just because you made a signup form, doesn’t mean anyone knows it’s there. You have to spread the word.
There are tons of ways to get the word out about your free offer. I recommend you have at least these two things set up:
- A standalone form or landing page that you can send people to directly. You can use the form that you created right in Mailchimp or ConvertKit/Seva for this (just look for the little share link!), you can create a page on your website that explains more about your free offer and includes a form to sign up, or you can use a landing page builder like Unbounce, LeadPages, or Instapage. (I’ve tried them all and Unbounce is my fave!) You just want something you can send people directly to, so you’re not saying “Ok so to get my free workbook, head over to my website, scroll down to the bottom, look for the little form in the footer…”
- A form embedded on your website. You can put it in your blog’s sidebar, you can include it at the bottom of every post, you can install a pop up that prompts people to sign up when they visit your website. (Or you can do all of the above!) Wherever you choose to put it, you want something that’s easy for people to find when they’re on your site. If people are already visiting your website, they care about what you do and what you have to offer. They want to sign up for your free thing, and they’re the most likely to buy your paid thing! So grab them while they’re there, don’t just hope that they see your random post on Facebook about it.
After you have these in place, it’s time to share, share, share! Post on Facebook and Instagram, pin your landing page to Pinterest, mention your free offer in blog posts (where you can embed your form or put a link to your landing page). Change the call-to-action button on your Facebook page to point to your signup form. Mention your free offer when you’re networking (online or in person!) If you have the budget for it (even just a few dollars a day for a week or two), create a Facebook ad, Instagram ad, or promoted pin for your freebie. Have fun with this! It’s so easy to promote a free offer because it’s FREE. “Oh hey, I made a free thing! You can get it here!” It’s exciting. You’re providing value. People want it! Spread the word, and they will sign up!
Step 8 – Write your heart out
Remember how we planned out our newsletter topics first? That’s because now you’re going to start writing! You’re not going to wait until you have 100 subscribers or 1000 or even 10. you’re going to write your newsletter even if you only have 1 person reading. That person signed up and they want to hear from you. And pretty soon, that person will turn into 10 people, and as long as you keep spreading the word, you’ll have 100 people before you know it. So start now. Start sharing valuable content with your list from day 1. You already did the hard work of figuring out what to say, now it’s time to say it!
Want more help?
This might be the longest post I’ve ever written! So you have a complete roadmap to get you started! But if your head is swimming a bit and you’d like more hand holding, I’ve got you, girl! In my membership community & library, the Biz BFF Hive, I have a variety of courses to walk you through the nitty gritty details of email marketing from beginning to end. We’re focusing on email marketing all quarter in our community (plus the courses stay in the library forever, so you can watch them whenever you like!) So you can get help with everything! Choosing a free offer, creating a PDF download in Canva, setting up your opt-in form (and all the other parts of MailChimp or ConvertKit/Seva), putting your form on your site, designing a landing page that converts, brainstorming what to write about… ev-er-y-thing! This is all happening in the Hive, so come on over and check it out!