Email lists are one of the most popular topics in which I get questions about. And for good reason, building an email list and creating a healthy system to manage that list is one of the best things you can do for your business. Don't just take my word for it. Think about some of your favorite brands; Gap, United by Blue, Magnolia, Letterfolk, West Elm, Anthropology. They work hard to build their email lists and they want you on their list too. They ask for your email almost every time you go through the register. Anytime you stop by their website they give you an opportunity to sign up too. And they do a great job at it. In trade for your email, they offer 10% off your first order or they offer you free shipping. If you give them your birth date they'll even offer you something special on your birthday, like a free drink.
An email list is a direct link between you and your customers. Between you and your audience. Whether you are a small business, a lifestyle blogger, or a service provider, you can grow your brand and create a lasting connection with your email list. Every time a brand shows up in your inbox, even if you don't open it, you are reminded of them. I get plenty of emails from West Elm and Anthropology that I don't open, but I never unsubscribe, because one-day they might send me the exact deal that I need. They know it and I know it.
I know, the idea of emails and list building may be overwhelming, but they don't have to be. List building is all about creating a system and this type of system can be created in steps. And these steps can be built over time. Try not to get ahead of yourself. It's easy to get excited and want to do everything all at once. But if you do the work ahead of time and set up your system first, you will be in amazing shape, your list will be growing, you'll be connecting with your audience, and your system will be doing the work for you.
MAKE LIST BUILDING EASY WITH THIS LIST BUILDING CHEAT SHEET
STEP ONE : CHOOSE HOW YOU'LL MANAGE YOUR LIST
Choose a provider to manage and build your list. There are plenty to choose from; MailChimp, Convertkit, Mad Mimi, Infusionsoft, and many more. When making your decision choose the one that is best for you and your current situation. I use MailChimp, which has been perfect for me and I can't recommend it enough, especially if you are just starting out. You can sign up for free and your account remains free up to 2,000 subscribers. I've also heard good things about Convertkit and I've heard a lot of businesses switch over once their managing multiple lists and revenue streams.
STEP TWO : SET UP YOUR LIST
This is super easy. If your using MailChimp this is as easy as a few clicks. You'll name your list, set up your email, etc. MailChimp is extremely user-friendly and if you run into anything you're not sure about they almost always have an example or guide to get you through it.
STEP THREE : CREATE YOUR WELCOME SEQUENCE
Create a welcome sequence or onboarding system. In MailChimp, this is an automated sequence of emails welcoming new subscribers. This is going to take the most legwork, but it's also going to do all of the work for you. A welcome sequence can be a single email to a sequence of emails. The first welcome email often introduces you to your audience and also includes the download/freebie that they signed up for. If you want to create a sequence of emails, which I highly recommend, you'll want to set up a sequence of nurturing emails, followed by an offer email. Nurturing emails are meant to serve your audience, before selling anything to them.
Let's use my on-boarding sequence as an example. I have 6 emails in my welcome sequence. The first 3 emails are all nurturing and the final 3 include an offer. My first welcome email introduces me to my new subscriber, includes a link to their free downloads and talks a little bit about the benefit of using styled stock photos. The second email is what I would consider a resource email. It outlines a variety of resources they can utilize on our website to help them do business better. The third email includes a link to a special download and includes a survey (which helps me serve them better.) My forth email includes a special offer only available to subscribers. My fifth email answers any questions they may have about the offer. And the sixth email lets them know that their offer is about to expire.
MAKE LIST BUILDING EASY WITH THIS LIST BUILDING CHEAT SHEET
I'm going to be honest, it took me a long time to create my system and I continue to tweak it as I continue to learn. Your welcome sequence does not have to be as long as mine. You can start small, with a single email and add to it as you go. The important thing is to really think about how you will serve and communicate with your subscribers. They're on your list because you have something they need or want. If they unsubscribe, that's no reflection on you. That simply means your not a good fit for each other. They may come back later and that's cool. Don't sweat the unsubscribes, focus on those who really want what you have to offer.
This step of setting up your welcome sequence does take a significant amount of work, but this is the part that will keep working for you as your list grows. Once you set up your welcome sequence, these emails will be taking care of your subscribers 24/7.
You might be thinking, "how am I supposed to make an email sequence about my freebie when I haven't even made one yet?" We're almost there, trust me. And I get it, it might seem odd to set up a welcome sequence without having created your freebie yet. But your welcome sequence sets the tone for your relationship, so while your freebie hooks new subscribers, your welcome sequence is more important. Creating your welcome sequence first forces you to think about how you plan to communicate with your subscribers and how you'll bridge the gap between your subscribers and your product. While you work through this step you'll be brainstorming the perfect freebie to bridge that gap. Create your emails and remember to go back to update them with the freebies you create.
STEP FOUR : OUTLINE YOUR CONTENT
I think one of the most overwhelming things about having an email list is figuring out how to serve them. Especially when you're just getting started. So the next step in your list building blueprint is to outline your content calendar to serve your subscribers. Outlining your content will give you confidence once your email list starts to grow and you'll be all set to serve them right off the bat. Now, let's brainstorm some content that you can serve up to your subscribers.
A blog post round-up
Monthly freebies (example: I send out FREE stock photos every month)
A resource guide
Your favorite business apps
You favorite tips and tricks
Think about your business specifically. You want to bridge the gap between your customer and your product. Think of ways you can serve them that also brings them closer to making a purchase. Even if you're a lifestyle blogger, your email subscribers will drive traffic and sales to any affiliate links or sponsored posts your working on. Teach your subscribers creative ways to use your product. Teach them something and emphasize how using your product would make what you're teaching even easier. (example: building an email list is hard work, but promoting it can be made easy with styled stock photos. See what I did there. ;)
Once you've brainstormed your content add it to a calendar. I use Google calendar for all my content and once a month I review upcoming content to make any changes. Because my content is outlined I'm never scrambling or feel rushed to wing-it. Do the work, plan ahead, and you'll be in great shape.
MAKE LIST BUILDING EASY WITH THIS LIST BUILDING CHEAT SHEET
STEP FIVE : CREATE YOUR FREEBIE
Okay, friend, this is where you create the freebie or download to hook new subscribers. We've already done a lot of work before even getting to this part. But that's okay, because the magic is in the prep work. The most important thing to remember when creating your freebie or download is to make sure it aligns your audience with your product or offering. You don't want to offer a freebie that doesn't connect your subscribers to your product. Otherwise, neither them or you will be a good fit. You want to do the work of creating something that is a perfect fit, that way your subscribers will be head-over-heels for your offer.
Let's work through some examples. One of the main freebies I offer is FREE styled stock photos, which is perfectly in-line with my product and customer needs. It gives customers an opportunity to test out the styled stock images and also gives me an opportunity to share how stock images can really make a difference in their business.
Let's say you sell a physical product, you could offer a discount on their first purchase or free shipping. You could even create a downloadable freebie that pairs with your products. Remember when Magnolia offered free decorative prints, which were perfectly aligned with their design style. I didn't think twice about downloading them.
Another example, I create a variety of downloads specific to business, like this Instagram calendar (which could be used with styled stock photos), or this Instagram Toolkit. Because I know my target audience is also feeling overwhelmed I created freebies to help with that exact thing, like this maintenance day checklist.
This step might be easy to overthink, but just think about some of your favorite brands and think about what freebies they are offering. If your selling physical products think about what larger brands are doing, like Anthropologie and West Elm. At the top of the Anthropologie website, you can sign up for free shipping. At West Elm, you can save 15% off your entire order. Do you offer digital products? Is there anything that you can create to offer for free? Can you create an e-course? You can do this!
STEP SIX : BUILD YOUR OPT-IN
Now that you've created your freebie, a freebie that aligns perfectly with your customer, it's time to create a way to offer that freebie and collect emails. You can do this a few different ways, but in short, you want to create an opt-in. Most websites have opt-ins in multiple places, giving new visitors plenty of ways to subscribe to your list.
There are lots of different ways to add opt-ins to your site and Squarespace makes it so easy. You can use their announcement bar feature to direct subscribers to an opt-in page. You can use the promotion pop-up to offer your freebie and collect emails. You can create a blog post promoting your freebie and collect emails through an embedded form. You can create a separate opt-in page, like this too. If you're not sure how to create an opt-in page, check out this how-to. You can add forms at the bottom of each blog post (scroll down and you'll see mine.) You can also add opt-in forms to your blog sidebar. There are multiple ways to collect emails, the great thing about that, is you can utilize almost all of them.
OFFER ABOVE THE FOLD + ANNOUNCEMENT BAR
SEPERATE OPT-IN PAGE
Creating your opt-in forms can be even easier with stock photos too. You can use stock photos to create an opt-in page. And you can use stock photos to customize any promotional pop-ups you create.
STEP SEVEN : PROMOTE YOUR FREEBIE
We're on to the fun part, woot! We're about to the cross the finish line! It's time to throw some confetti for all the work you've done! You've determined how to manage your list, you've set up your list to collect emails, you've created a welcome email sequence, you've outlined your content calendar, you've created your freebie, you've added all your opt-in forms, now it's time to promote your freebie!
The easiest ways to promote your freebie is through a blog post and you can use Pinterest, Instagram (plus Instagram stories,) and Facebook to funnel people to that blog post. Did that just sound like a lot? With a little bit of planning, it doesn't have to be a lot. You can create images and posts that all work together. Your focus during this promotion is to use all the platforms I mentioned to funnel new visitors to your opt-in forms. You definitely don't want to have done all that work to set up your list and then not be able to promote it well.