Have you ever heard that you need an email list? Maybe you’ve seen marketers or other creators sharing this mind-boggling statistic: For every $1 spent on email, you get $38 back.
Many people talk about email marketing as if it’s the secret to success as a creative business owner. That’s not entirely wrong. Email can do amazing things for your business, like sell online courses, book your freelance services, and drive hordes of traffic to your store.
But the biggest challenge most creators face with email marketing isn't copywriting or automation, as you might expect. It's actually getting enough people to subscribe to their email lists in the first place.
No matter how awesome email marketing is, if you have only 12 people on your list, you won’t be seeing significant results.
That’s why it’s crucial to focus on growing your email list in 2021. Fortunately, you can do it for free. In this article, we’re showing you how.
Why focus on growing your email list in 2021?
Growing a social media following can feel like a bigger “win” for creators than amassing email subscribers because social media is so visible. No one knows if you have five people or 5000 people on your email list!
But in 2021, growing your email list is what will give your business the strongest boost. Here’s why.
You can nurture leads into paying customers
Not everyone who visits your website or social media profile is immediately ready to buy. But that doesn’t mean they won’t eventually be ready!
Without an email list, you might lose out on potential clients or customers just because they found you at the wrong time. But when you collect their email address, you get to show up in their inbox at regular intervals to strategically educate them until they are ready to buy.
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You can control communication 100% with your audience
Unlike, well, every other type of marketing (except possibly SMS), email marketing is direct…and there are no gatekeepers or algorithms to contend with.
You send an email. It lands in your subscriber’s inbox. They read it. You send another email, continuing the conversation. They read it. (And if they don’t read it? You can see that and send a different email they might open instead!)
In this way, email allows you to control the order of information you send to your audience, monitor who actually sees it, and then adjust communication with specific subscribers or groups of subscribers accordingly. This allows you to create strategic journeys that guide subscribers into taking an action, like buying a product, signing up for a live session, etc.
Compare this to other forms of marketing, such as social media marketing. On Instagram, for example, you might plan a series of educational posts, but you have only a limited idea who is seeing those posts, in what order they are seeing them, and whether they are seeing all of them. This makes it challenging to rely on your marketing for consistent sales.
Finally, your email list is forever yours. Email service providers don’t block or delete entire accounts as social media companies do. Even if Facebook, Inc. suddenly dissolved, you wouldn’t lose any of your audience.
Email feels intimate and natural
Email is modeled after the old-fashioned letter. Remember letters? Letters feel inherently special and deliberate because it’s one person taking the time to write something well-thought-out to another person.
Checking your inbox may not feel as special as checking your mailbox, but there is a whisper of the intimacy of old-fashioned correspondence within today’s email marketing.
Email is still a 1:1 conversation (even if you’re sending your email to hundreds). No one can pop in to leave a hasty comment, “like” the email, or quickly scroll down to the next thing.
Just like a letter, the only response possible is to reply directly to the email. (Or maybe, forward it on to someone else.) Emails even read like letters! You can include personalized salutations and closings, and you can ask for a response.
Ultimately, the efficacy of email marketing is owed in part to how emails build relationships.
You can personalize everything
Because email is direct to one person, you can make your emails stand out with personalization.
Instinctually, personalization makes us feel special, with 90% of consumers saying they find personalization appealing. This, in turn, makes us more interested and invested in the content and more likely to become a paying customer.
Email personalization options include everything from using the recipient’s name in the email to sending out specific content to each type of subscriber.
Email marketing is easier for busy creators to manage
Running a business as a creator often means making decisions on what is worth your time. So when it comes to marketing, you ideally want to find a marketing groove that requires the least amount of time and effort for the most results.
Email is the answer. Here’s why:
- You never have to keep up with ever-changing social media algorithms
- You can write emails as long or as short as you like
- You can create emails in batches and schedule them in advance
Finally, email can be 100% text-based (with no visual elements) and still be effective, so you don’t have to spend time creating graphics unless you want to.
On the flip side, using email marketing software like ConvertKit makes designing beautiful emails easy and fast with drag-and-drop templates, even if you have zero design skills.
Email marketing has a proven high ROI
Speaking of results, email marketing has proven time and again to deliver. For example, did you know that customers who purchase through email spend 138% more?
And the ROI of email is four times higher than any other marketing channel!
For time-strapped creators, email marketing will give you the return on investment you need to keep your marketing efforts sustainable.
There are little to no startup costs
To start growing your email list, all you need is an email marketing software and a way to capture email addresses, like a landing page. You don’t need marketing collateral, a team, or an expert to get started.
ConvertKit even has a free option to dip your toe into email marketing.
3 steps to growing your list for free
Once you have decided to start an email list, your focus should be on growing your list immediately. Here are the three steps to growing your list for free.
Step 1: Offer an irresistible incentive for signing up
People will need a reason to sign up for your email list, so give them one!
Here are some ideas:
Create a lead magnet
A lead magnet is free information that you package into a downloadable format. The goal of a lead magnet is to get people to hand over their email address in exchange for your free information.
Common examples of lead magnets include the following:
- Video trainings
- Worksheets or tools
For example, illustrator The Curly Creative offers free journal prompts as a lead magnet:
Offer a content upgrade
A content upgrade is content that’s only available to email subscribers. For instance, you might write a simple blog post on a topic and then offer an upgrade to a more in-depth guide on the same topic.
Another example is what Backlinko does. Backlinko creates two types of free content: Open and “locked.” The open content is available to anyone on the internet. But the locked content is only available to subscribers.
Provide an email course
Delivering a course via email is a no-brainer way to get more subscribers because it’s obvious why they need to provide an email address to get your incentive.
ConvertKit contributor Nathan Barry revealed that after creating an email course for a friend of his, Wes Wages, Wes gained 428 subscribers in just three days.
Nathan explains how repackaging your existing content as an email course can add value for subscribers:
How you package your content heavily affects perceived value. A short PDF ebook is perceived to be worth more than the same content in a blog post. The same way a video course delivered over email is perceived to be worth more than the same videos on a blog. By packaging up Wes' videos as an email course we could increase the perceived value and make it more likely to be shared.
Offer a discount
If you’ve ever been online shopping and been served a popup offering you 15% off your first order, then you’ve seen the power of this incentive.
Offering a discount works well for product-based businesses that want to both encourage new visitors to make their first purchase and build their email list at the same time.
For example, Kieonie Gift Company offers a $10 discount for new email subscribers:
Host a webinar, workshop, or masterclass
A webinar, like an email course, requires an email address to share the incentive. Webinars are also often perceived as high value and high-touch. As a creator, you can host a webinar to share your expertise and collect email addresses.
And don’t forget that, after the live webinar is over, you can still use the recorded webinar as an email capture (similar to how a lead magnet works).
For example, take a look at Mariah Coz and her free masterclass:
Create a quiz
Quizzes are a fun and entertaining way to collect email addresses and get to know your subscriber base from the beginning.
Plus, quizzes are known for having high conversion rates, with some creators reporting average conversion rates of 50%!
Done well, a quiz can help you create customer avatars and segment your email list for targeted messaging.
For inspiration, check out the quiz Jackie Simek created, “Find the Block to Your Success”:
Step 2: Get eyeballs on your incentive offer
Once you’ve created an awesome incentive, it’s time to share it with as many people as possible. Your goal should be to get it seen as much as you can. Visibility not only helps you get more people to take the offer, but it also helps you recognize quickly if your incentive is compelling or not.
And if it’s not converting like you’d hope, you can just create something else (maybe choose another option from the list above).
Rinse and repeat until your offer is gaining you tons of new email subscribers!
In fact, this is how ConvertKit contributor Molly Marshall increased her email opt-ins by 247%:
In addition to putting the focus of my website on list building, I also changed the call to action on each of my social media platforms. I put the Instagram Strategy Guide in: my bio link on Instagram, my video descriptions on YouTube, in my About sections on Twitter and Facebook. Every time someone found me online, I wanted them to know that this guide was available to them. All of this was great! Six months after I implemented these changes on my website, my email opt-ins increased by 274%!
Here are some ideas to get that crucial visibility:
Use opt-in forms to capitalize on your website traffic
Everyone who visits any page on your website, be it your homepage or a blog post you wrote six months ago, should see your incentive offer and opt-in form. We’ve gathered some examples of how to set up your incentive:
A pop-up on your website, like Bernadette Marciniak:
A banner on your website, like Sol Studio:
A feature box on your home page, like Atwater Designs:
In your website footer or top navigation, like Pai Skincare:
On a sidebar on your blog pages, like Ayalie Marketing:
Set up a landing page to easily share your ideas
A landing page is the fastest way to get your ideas out into the world. If you're looking to grow your audience outside of your website, creating a landing page is your best bet. You can share your landing page link in an email, in a text, in your social media bio and more.
A landing page, like Swell and Rosie:
Promote your incentive to reach a wider audience
Aside from your website, aim to attract attention from the broader world. The best way to do this? Promote, promote, promote.
Here are common places to promote your incentive:
- Sidebar opt-in
- Paid ad
- YouTube card at the end of videos
- Link to incentive in video descriptions
Talk about your incentive
Word of mouth is powerful! Take advantage of opportunities where you’re in front of someone else’s audience to talk about your incentive.
For example, if you get an opportunity to…
… Make sure to mention your free incentive.
Step 3: Maintain and engage subscribers long term
After working hard to grow your list, you must keep the majority of your subscribers. If your subscribers leave soon after joining or never read your emails, then all your hard work will be lost.
Here’s how to keep your subscribers engaged and happy long term:
Create a welcome sequence
A welcome sequence is a set of automated emails that deliver to subscribers right after they join your list. Welcome emails are important for setting the tone of the relationship right from the beginning, establishing expectations, creating a welcoming atmosphere, building trust, and reducing unsubscribes.
In fact, subscribers who read one welcome email go on to read 40% more content from the sender than those who don’t!
Send consistent, valuable content
Why would someone remain on your email list if you weren’t providing value?
Your goal should be to always share something that will make your subscribers’ days better, whether it’s a story, lesson, or something else.
Here are some quick tips for ensuring value with every email:
- Write content with a narrow focus instead of jumping from topic to topic
- Be original instead of rehashing others’ content
- Pay attention to what your audience wants by tracking open rates and clicks
- Don’t just be promotional, give value more than you sell
For more ideas on providing value, check out this article by email marketing expert and ConvertKit contributor, Val Geisler: “How to Grow Your Email List Like a SaaS Company.”
Clean your list
Cleaning your list means getting rid of subscribers who are no longer opening your emails. Cleaning your list periodically is important because it ensures that your data about what your subscribers want is accurate and because it keeps open rates high.
Before you remove inactive subscribers, you can always send them an email asking if they’d like to stay on your list. If they don’t respond, it’s pretty clear that for some reason, they have disengaged completely and can be removed.
Segment your audience
Segmentation means dividing your subscribers into different groups based on behavior, type, or how they joined. For example, you might segment your audience by customer avatar, or by who joined from a webinar you did vs. those that joined from an opt-in form.
Segmenting your list helps you retain subscribers because it allows you to send highly relevant emails to each type of subscriber group. And the more relevant the content is for someone, the less likely they will be to unsubscribe.
Need proof? Segmented emails have a 14.32% higher open rate!
Track what’s working
A surefire way to keep subscribers engaged is to pay attention to what types of emails are being opened and responded to the most–and then do more of that.
Aja Mclanahan, a ConvertKit contributor, writes,
Tracking what’s performing and what’s not is key. This is why I suggest you invest your time and money in tools with prominent reporting features. Both ConvertKit and SumoMe have list growth and conversion rates displayed in a conspicuous manner allowing you to see your daily and weekly goals being realized in real-time.
Ready to start growing your email list in 2021?
Email is full of opportunities for creators. Hopefully, this article has given you a great starting place for creating and growing your email list.
To get started, the first thing you need is an effective email service provider built just for creators like you.
Grow your email list—and your online business—in 2021 with a free ConvertKit account.
The biggest problem founders and small business owners have is that they’re experts in their field and novices in what it really takes to effectively run a business. That’s what usually trips them up, sooner or later.
Don’t let that happen to you. Admit that you don’t know what you don’t know about , starting with these 15 tips guaranteed to help keep you and your company out of hot water. Some are straightforward, others are counterintuitive, but they’re all true. And some day they’ll save your butt.
Always make sure there is and will be enough cash in the bank. Period. The most common business-failure mode, hands down, is course out of cash. If you know you’ve got a cash flow or liquidity problem coming up, fix it now. You can’t fire bad employees fast enough. You just can’t. Just make sure you know they’re the problem, not you ( see next tip ).
The problem is probably you. When I was a young manager, my company sent us all to a week of quality training where the most important concept we learned was that percent of all problems are management problems. When things aren’t going well, the first place to look for answers is in the mirror.
Take care of your stars. This goes for every company, big and small. The cost of losing a vedette employee is enormous, yet leaders rarely take the time to ensure their top performers are properly motivated, challenged, and compensated. Your people are not your kids, your personal assistants, or your shrink. If you use and abuse them that way, you will come to regret it. Capiche ?
Learn to say ' yes ' and ' no ' a lot. The two most important words business owners and founders have at their disposal are “yes” and “no. ” Learn to say them a lot. And that means being decisive. The most important reason to focus – to be clear on what your company does – is to be clear on all the things it doesn’t do.
It boggles my mind how little most fondateurs value their customers when, not only are their feedback and input among the most critical information they will ever learn, but their repeat is the easiest to get. Learn two words : meritocracy and nepotism. The first is how you run an organization – by recognizing, rewarding, and compensating based solely on ability and achievement. The deuxième is how you don’t run an organization – by playing préférés and being biased.
Know when and when not to be transparent. Transparency is as detrimental at some times as it is beneficial at others. There are times to share openly and times to zip it. You need to know when and with whom to do one versus the other. It comes with experience.
Trust your gut. This phrase is often repeated but rarely understood. It means that your own instincts are an extremely valuable decision-making tool. Too often we end up saying in retrospect and with regret, “Damn, I knew that was a bad idea. ” But the key is to know how to access your instincts. Just sit, be quiet, and listen to yourself.
Protect and defend your intellectual property. Most of you don’t know the difference between a copyright, trademark, trade secret, and patent. That’s not acceptable. If you don’t protect and defend your IP, you will lose your only competitive advantage.
Learn to read and write effective agreements. You know the expression “good fences make good neighbors ? ” It’s the same in business. The more effective your agreements are, the better your business relationships will be.
Far too many fondateurs run their business like an extension of their personal finances. Bad idea. Very bad idea. Construct the right entity and keep it separate from your personal life. Know your finances inside and out. If you don’t know your revenues, expenses, capital requirements, profits ( gross and net ), debt, cash flow, and effective tax rate – among other things – you’re asking for trouble. Big dysfonctionnement.
You don’t know what you don’t know. Humility is a powerful trait for leaders, and that goes for new business owners, veteran CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and everyone in between. More times than not, you will come to regret thinking you knew all the answers. Behind every failed company are dysfunctional, delusional, or incompetent leaders. The irony is, none of them had the slightest idea that was true at the time. Even sadder, most of them still don’t. Don’t end up like one of them.
For every success you have in growing your market share, another business or other businesses will inevitably lose ground. Here are 11 quick and easy business tips to gain a competitive advantage over your rivals and insulate yourself from the threat of new entrants in the market.
Of course, we all want to spark growth and increase revenue. But the way you do this in a sustainable way is to focus instead on the building of a loyal database of avid fans. Content digital, paired with optimized website forms and éclairé courier automation follow-up is critical to success. This approach builds trust by giving away free value before asking for someone’s hard-earned money. Not an professionnel in creating optimized lead generation pages on a website ? No worries, use a trusted tool like Leadpages to make it happen.
Like it or not, folks out there aren’t searching for your brand, they’re just looking to solve a problem or find a particular type of product ( unless you run Starbucks or Adidas ! ) Don’t list all the benefits your product brings. Focus on the solutions. Explain to the customer in simple, straightforward terms how or why your product can help them or assist in the attainment of their goals. Consider FedEx’s iconic slogan : When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight. This was a clear example of addressing widely-spread anxiety about the reliability of delivery services. Run through some market research to profile your target customer. How does your product or service – and your delivery and and price point – solve other people’s problems and make their lives easier or more pleasurable ?
Dropping prices doesn’t necessarily raise sales, for instance ( though it will definitely squeeze margins ). If you position yourself as a premium brand, then your customers aren’t necessarily value-driven in the first place, and cutting prices could even tarnish your brand. Consider this case study from Robert Cialdini’s seminal book ‘Influence : The Psychology of Persuasion’ : a jeweller sold out of turquoise jewelry after accidentally doubling, instead of halving, the price. The inflated price tag lent the product an unwarranted cachet ! If you are a premium brand, there are ways to optimize your pricing without lowering prices. For example, offer the quality-conscious customer an ‘exclusive’ benefit that your rivals do not or cannot provide. If you are at the value-driven end of the market, on the other hand, don’t assume slashing prices means incurring a loss. Low pricing can help you rapidly onboard a heap of new customers who may also buy other items in your shop and return again. Context also counts for a lot with pricing. The best way to sell a $5, 000 watch, for instance, could be by putting it next to a $10, 000 watch. Think strategically when it comes to deciding any price point.
Yes, it sounds obvious, but it’s so very important ! Whether consciously or not, people are more likely to buy a product if they like the sales assistant who’s attending to them. While the employee’s personality obviously has no bearing on the price or your product’s ability to serve their needs is irrelevant. Friendly customer-facing équipe will always attract more sales. Be rigorous in hiring people who are genuinely cheerful, friendly and outgoing. Make sure your training program teaches them to adopt a consistently friendly approach that puts customers at ease and feel like a priority.
Say you’re a bricks-and-mortar store and you’re getting a rush of customers as closing time approaches… why not close up an hour later ? While this may cause disgruntlement among équipe, solve this issue by getting creative with rosters. Monitor customer footfall throughout the day and week to identify your busiest periods, and staff people accordingly. You can also reduce headcount during quieter periods to offset the higher costs and longer working hours created by your extended opening hours. It’s a win-win !
Even in the web age, some customers will always prefer to contact you by phone rather than courier or Facebook. While many online companies with tight margins eschew manned phone lines altogether, it’s worth giving customers the option of having a voice-to-voice conversation with your brand. By all means, slash the time and cost spent responding to queries by funnelling customers to standardized, pre-existing responses on your webpage ( i. e., FAQs ). But if their query isn’t listed in the drop-down menu of FAQs, then don’t make them click more than once more to find your phone number. Put it front and center on your digitale page, particularly if you’re a retail offering. ‘Live chat’ bots are an inexpensive way of offering real-time communication, too.
Why not give your happy customers a voucher with their purchase to redeem on your products and services ? If they love what you do already, they’re only going to love you more for this. It’s good for you because : It guarantees they will return to your store again. People hate to waste freebies ! When they return to your store to redeem their voucher, they may buy other items, too. If your operates online, then the freebie could be strategically timed to coincide with a special sale. Oh, and guess what ? Chances are customers who have received vouchers or freebies won’t stay quiet about it either, so you could enjoy some positive buzz on social media.
Local businesses can arguably connect with their unique communities with much greater authority than any global chain. A local retailer, hair salon or gardening company can sponsor a kid’s sports team and offer deep discounts for OAPs at the same time. Some cinemas feature special ‘sensory’ screenings where parents can bring kids with autism ( who would normally be overwhelmed by busy, noisy environments ) to enjoy a movie in a relaxed, stress-free atmosphere. This reflects well on them and also guarantees them a loyal customer niche. Whatever you choose to do to support your community, make sure it authentically fits with your brand offering and business journey to date.
Social media is a great medium through which to build a solid relationship with customers – just don’t forget what ‘social’ actually means ! Soul-less corporate shop-talk won’t work on Twitter. Try to give your brand some ‘personality’ when you write updates or posts. This can bring its own risks, of course. But if you get it right, the benefits can be très grande. Develop a tone of voice that aligns well with your brand identity. Seek to inform, help, entertain or amuse. And most importantly – given the dire PR consequences – don’t patronize, try too hard to be funny, or tweet after a few alcoholic drinks !
Sometimes it’s better to be a master of one discipline than a jack of all trades. Admittedly, multiple revenue streams do spread your risk : if one falters, others can take up the slack. Nevertheless, consumers often associate ‘specialists’ with higher quality products or services than generalists. And with good reason, too : specialists typically invest all their resources into perfecting a single product or service. So what should you specialize in ? tera state the obvious, it should be something in which you excel. You could also pick something with rising or recession-proof demand which is resilient to technological change in which you possess a competitive advantage over your rivals or where there’s an obvious gap in your local market. Own it, whatever you do.
Don’t ever get too satisfied with your . You can always improve – and improve you must ! Don’t get me wrong : without the odd moment of smug satisfaction, what’s the point ? Do relish in the successful launch of a game-changing product or take pleasure in positive customer feedback. But don’t let your customers hear you banging on about it time after time ! Be alert to the common element that has led to the downfall of countless hitherto thriving brands : complacency. Imaginative, nimble and innovative start-ups often do better than big market leaders that just got lazy. You may be the disruptive innovator today, but tomorrow you could be the complacent market leader with a tired business model. So try to be humble and always strive to improve. Seek inspiration from other entrepreneurs, from books and from seminars. The moment you think ‘mission accomplished’ is the same moment you become vulnerable to being usurped.
There are lots of ways in which you can improve your , and not all of them are complicated ! Try out the above tips or integrate them with your existing strategies, and let me know how you go in the comments below. Guest Author : Faye Ferris is responsible for the day-to-day management of the Dynamis APAC Pty Ltd offices in Sydney. She develops the DYNAMIS stable of brands and their expansion into the Asia Pacific region as well as BusinessesForSale. com, FranchiseSales. com and PropertySales. com. If you have an interest in partnering up with Faye or advertising on any of these websites in the APAC territories, please do not hesitate to contact her on faye@businessesforsale. com.