Are you working your butt off to run your business?
But feeling you’re not making enough progress?
You’re building a social following, slaving over weekly blog posts, and managing a heavy client load. Perhaps you’d also love to develop digital products or write a book. But it’s difficult to find the time when you juggle so many demands, right?
Building a thriving online business may often feel like an insurmountable task.
But when you learn the right way to apply the addictive power of email, you’ll possess a dynamite business tool.
A laser-sharp focus on growing and engaging your email list will help you turn casual blog readers into repeat visitors. Sound good?
Here are four steps to make email an integral part of your online business.
Step 1: Hook readers with your voice
You know the concept of a “bribe,” don’t you?
A “bribe” is an incentive for subscribers to join your list.
A report or ebook is the most commonly used incentive, but how many free ebooks have you downloaded that you still haven’t read?
Ebooks are now so common that their value has rapidly diminished. Have you seen how many Kindle books can be bought for the price of a Starbucks coffee?
What’s more, an ebook isn’t addictive. An ebook won’t build long-term connections with readers because it doesn’t invite them to come back. One ebook rarely gets readers hooked on your voice.
So, how do you hook readers instead?
Your first option is to build a content library. Once you have a content library, you can give readers the option of registering to join your library, rather than subscribing to your newsletter.
To create your library, consider sprucing up a series of blog posts and turning them into ebooks or an exclusive series of video tutorials. When you use the Rainmaker Platform to set up your library, the registration process for visitors is simple.
To see how this works, you can register for Copyblogger’s free ebook library, which includes ebooks on copywriting, content marketing, landing pages, and more.
Your second option for an addictive bribe is a short e-course. In its simplest form, an e-course drip-feeds tips by email to your subscribers.
Rather than “hearing” your voice only once a week when you send your blog update, your e-course allows you to email new subscribers frequently, so you can turn cold connections into warm friends.
Creating an e-course is not as difficult as you might think:
- Brainstorm at least 30 simple tips around a problem your readers struggle with
- Pick your favorite 10 to 20 tips — the best tips are easy to implement and solve common problems
- Write a short email for each tip
- Consider increasing the appeal of your e-course by including one or two free downloadable guides (you can re-use an old ebook!)
- Create an enticing name for your e-course
Don’t be afraid to schedule your emails frequently. When readers join your course, they’re eager to learn from you. New voices are exciting, so this is your chance to get readers hooked.
For example, if you join my 16-part snackable writing course for busy people, you’ll receive ultra-short emails with writing tips you can implement instantly.
What value can you give your readers so they look forward to your emails? And so they actually email you if they happen to miss one or two installments?
Step 2: Invite blog readers to become fans
How do you get more casual blog readers to join your list so you gain opportunities to pitch and sell your services or products?
Before polishing your sign-up forms, consider these two traffic sources:
- Traffic you control: This is traffic from, for instance, a link in an author bio of a guest post or from a SlideShare presentation you’ve made; you can control where web page readers land. Rather than sending them to your home page, create a dedicated landing page to increase your conversion rates.
- Other traffic: You can’t always control where readers land — search or social traffic can arrive anywhere on your site. You can add prominent sign-up forms on your home and about pages, at the top of your blog posts and archive pages, and in your sidebar. For example, Buffer recently doubled their email signups by offering more options to join their newsletter (without popups!).
A common mistake when enticing readers to join your list is to promote it solely with features like a free ebook or e-course. Readers are more interested in the benefits of your information.
The titles of Copyblogger’s ebooks, for instance, highlight benefits like:
- Landing Pages: How to Turn Traffic into Money
- Content Marketing: How to Build an Audience that Builds Your Business
- How to Create Content That Converts
And the landing page for my 16-part snackable e-course promises you these benefits:
- Learn simple persuasion tricks — such as the power of the subtle nod
- Discover how to cure sentence bloat and avoid irritating your readers
- Write more seductive content and win more business
Readers will join your list and become fans when you demonstrate how you will make their lives better.
Step 3: Review your traffic sources
Website traffic doesn’t fuel your business. Most traffic bounces off your website without ever returning.
As you review your list-building activities, you must understand which traffic turns into email subscribers.
If you haven’t done so already, set up a goal in Google Analytics so you can see which traffic converts best. This is how:
- Go to “Admin” at the top of your Google Analytics dashboard
- Under the “View” section, select “Goals”
- Click the red “New goal” button
- Select “Custom,” click “Next step,” give your goal a name (e.g., “course” or “library registration”), and select your type of goal — in most cases this is a destination
- Click “Next step” and enter the URL people reach once they’ve completed the conversion — it’s usually a “thank you” page that appears after they’ve signed up for your newsletter or free trial, or after they’ve purchased your product
- Click “Create goal”
Once you’ve set up your goals, you can start evaluating your traffic sources:
- Which guest posts generate the most subscribers?
- How do conversions from social media traffic compare to conversions from guest posts?
- Which social media activity generates the most subscribers?
- How well does search engine traffic convert?
- Which landing page converts the best?
To strengthen your ability to grow your list, you must understand which of your activities work and which don’t.
Step 4: Hook readers on you
Inboxes are bursting under the weight of too many emails. Nobody wants yet another email, another newsletter, another update.
How can you stand out so readers look forward to your emails? Follow these essential email writing tips:
- Write in a conversational tone, so readers feel your email is personal
- Consider adding tidbits about yourself, so readers get to know you
- Be concise; poorly edited emails waste readers’ time
- Always add value and be helpful
Stop thinking about readers as subscribers, and write as if you’re emailing one friend.
Here’s what to do next
Ready to seriously grow your email list?
Block 45 minutes in your writing journal this week to:
- Spend 15 minutes generating ideas to grow your list
- Spend 15 minutes brainstorming ideas to engage your list
- Make two or three top ideas your first priorities
- Block time on your calendar to execute these tasks
A responsive audience is the foundation of a successful business, so the best way to build this asset is to grow your email list and engage your subscribers.
The truth about building a thriving business
The size of your list is not as important as the enthusiasm and engagement levels of your readers.
Do they know you? Do they trust you? Do they look out for your next email? Do they miss you when you’re on vacation?
When you treat your email subscribers like good friends, you can build your own tribe and community with those special relationships.
How do you develop relationships with your readers?
What’s the most addictive offer you present to your audience?
Let me know over on Google+ …
Flickr Creative Commons Image via Paul Townsend.