You’ve heard it a thousand times: the money’s in the list. If you’re serious about your digital business, you need to build a list of people who are paying attention to you, typically an email list.
So, how do you get people to sign up for your email newsletter?
You probably already know the answer to this one: Reward them. Give subscribers something great as a “thank you” for signing up. This is usually some form of content — a useful video, a killer ebook, or an exclusive podcast.
Sure, everyone else does that. Because it works.
It works … if you do it the right way.
Giving away something good will get people to sign up for your email list, no question.
The problem is, what email address will they sign up with?
It’s not like it’s hard to find an email address. Gmail is just one of the many excellent services that will give you one (or a bunch) for free.
Double opt-in forces your reader to give you a real email address. But real addresses are cheap. Readers have dozens of ways to capture your valuable free reward, then ditch the rest of your email once they’ve got their prize.
- They might unsubscribe (best case scenario).
- They might quit checking the email address.
- They might set up a filter that automatically pours your messages right into their Delete folder.
- If they’re jerks, they may just mark you as spam so they don’t have to see you again, rather than take the “trouble” of unsubscribing. It happens.
(That last one, incidentally, is why you must make it stupidly easy to unsubscribe from your stuff. If it’s more than a click or two, you’ll regret it.)
You can’t make anyone pay attention to you in the virtual world. You can’t trick them into it either, at least not for more than a few seconds.
Some of the smartest traditional advertising writers figured this out a long time ago. They created advertising that didn’t look like advertising … advertising that was inherently useful.
Make your advertising too valuable to throw away
It’s funny how many of our moms’ and grandmas’ most-treasured recipes came from the back of product boxes.
Food packagers know that recipes are irresistible. Human beings are naturally curious creatures. We enjoy novelty. We benefit from eating a variety of foods.
Put simply, we want something new for dinner.
Recipes teach readers how to use more of the product being sold. And recipes feel inherently valuable. They promise a fantastic collection of benefits: Exciting new tastes, happy family members, harmony at dinner time, and kids who will actually eat their green beans.
Recipes, including back-of-the-box recipes, get clipped, passed along, and carefully preserved. A good-sounding recipe is reason enough to try that pancake mix or new pasta shape.
The recipe on the back of the peanut butter jar is advertising, yes. But it’s advertising that actually gets your attention. It’s too valuable to throw away.
Your topic has a recipe
Some topics have literal recipes. (Weight loss being the most obvious one.) The act of nourishing ourselves has spawned hundreds of sub-niches, from slow food to raw food to grab-some-calories-on-the-run food.
For most topics, the “recipes” are metaphorical.
You might teach a recipe for financial independence. A recipe for a fulfilling retirement. A recipe for getting a better job. A recipe for a happy marriage.
Some recipes are complex, and some are simple. Some readers want Gourmet and some want White Trash Cooking. You’re the one who decides how easy you’ll make the recipes you offer.
You can use a recipe anywhere
Thriving digital businesses usually produce lots of good recipes. An ebook can be a single, very strong recipe. And a great minimum viable product or membership site are often collections of recipes that work together.
But one of my very favorite versions of a recipe is the email newsletter. More specifically, it’s the email autoresponder, a tool that I now consider essential for every marketing project I work on.
Email newsletters (what’s new in your business, what’s the latest promotion, what fresh and exciting offers can you make to your customer) are an excellent tool. But they’re 1,000 times better when they kick off with a terrific autoresponder.
Maybe it’s “8 Tips for Being a Better Dad,” or “7 Ways to Know if Stock Trading is Right for You.”
There are always a number of steps. (In fact, they look a lot like our friend the numbered list post, don’t they?) They always build on one another. And they’re always a recipe for some result the reader wants to have.
A sequence of steps trains your reader
Do you see why this works better than a single-shot video, ebook, or podcast as your sign-up incentive?
When you create an email sequence that forms a killer recipe, the reader develops the habit of opening each message. It’s got a critical step, after all, to the recipe he’s trying to cook up.
Sure, he can still ditch you when he’s finally captured the final sequence. But by that time, if you’ve given a recipe worth having, you’ve created some trust. Your reader has started to know and like you. You’ve built a little sense of reciprocity.
You’ve emailed him nine times in a row, and you haven’t sent him any crap. Just valuable, good stuff that gets him a result he wants.
Think he’s likely to open that 10th email?
The recipe for a great email autoresponder
- Create a “recipe” that delivers a solution your reader really wants.
- Structure your recipe into a sequence of seven to 10 steps. (You can do more if you’re ambitious.) It’s best if each step delivers a positive result and stands on its own.
- Deliver your recipe via the autoresponder function of your email marketing program. If your program doesn’t let you put together a robust autoresponder, find a new program.
- Write the best content you can for your autoresponder. The time you put in now can continue to work hard for your business for years to come.
Rather than selling your products or services, start to “sell” your terrific, free email autoresponder.
It will build trust and rapport so that down the line you can fully explain all the benefits of what you do.
Do you want to build a better email list?
Truly effective digital marketing starts with building a responsive email list. It’s still the ultimate online sales channel.
Join Brian Clark and Jerod Morris for a free webinar on Thursday, July 23, 2015 that will cover the why and how of building a robust email list.
They’ll share impressive research about the importance of email, Brian will walk you through a smart email strategy that builds your list fast, and then Jerod will give you a detailed demonstration of how you can use the Rainmaker Platform to do it.
Space is limited, so grab your spot for tomorrow’s free webinar:
Editor’s note: The original version of this post was published on March 19, 2010.