Most bloggers (and marketers with blogs) who use list building as a way to interact with their audience use the same approach.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before:
- Create an opt-in form;
- Give away a bonus (like a free e-book to show how crazy cool and knowledgeable you are);
- Place it somewhere on your website.
That is traditional email marketing 101 for bloggers.
Now there is nothing wrong with this strategy to list building.
The masses do it. It is the rudimentary approach to list building.
And if you haven’t built a list before, then you really should know the fundamentals of how to build an email list (as a music professor in college once told me, you have to know the rules before you start to break them).
That said, it’s “safe.”
It’s what everyone else does.
Are you feeling a little…..Dangerous?
What if I told you that you could build a more responsive list without having to give anything away at all?
This article is going to focus on a totally underused marketing concept that is usually reserved for ad copy, in which the majority of your subscribers will actually open up your emails, read them and even (*agast*) buy stuff from you from time to time.
The are 4 concepts that I use in tandem, but you can take what you like and use them separately.
- The leading and alluding strategy.
- Creating scarcity to influence sign-ups.
- Setting Expectations up in your welcome letter.
- Expanding your list through exclusivity.
There are a couple caveats to this approach though:
- You need to know what you are talking about.
- You need to already have an audience on your website.
Are you ready?
Why Traditional List Building Doesn’t Work
The problem with most opt-in forms on websites is that they don’t convert super well.
In fact, a lot of times, they just take up space.
We are talking single digit % low. In some cases, it could be less than 1%.
The reason for this is that traditional blogs have tons of link leakage on the page, so the visitor has a ton of choices to go somewhere else.
The problem with giving things away for free is that you wind up with a group of unqualified leads (because technically, that’s what a subscriber is) who are only signing up for the freebie.
This will ultimately lower your Email Open Rates.
A couple years ago, on my vanity website, leodimilo.com, I started experimenting with list building approaches.
The problem was I didn’t want to build a list by giving something away, so I used a very simple sign-up form inviting visitors to subscribe to my newsletter.
The sign-up rate was abysmal, although those who signed up were responsive (once again, because they actively chose to sign up without the proverbial carrot.)
So, my question was how do I get more sign-ups to my newsletter that are just as responsive as the ones who sign up for no other reason than because they want to get more information from me?
Make the opportunity to sign up SCARCE
Scarcity is a tactic that ad copy uses.
The idea is to limit the amount of things available to create a sensation that if you don’t move this very minute, you may lose the opportunity.
It is kind of like a push. A call-to-action.
Scarcity can be a form of a call-to-action like those late night infomercials you see on TV that tell you that there are only so many available.
First Step: Seeding the List by Leading and Alluding
Now, you can’t do this without having a plan in action to get it done.
There are elements of conditioning involved to get the most subscribers for your money.
The leading and alluding strategy can condition your visitors to start to think about what they are missing.
The first thing I did was create a series of posts, in which I summarized something and alluded to the fact that I went over it in a past newsletter.
Then I would place the form directly into the post right before the comments.
The purpose of the posts wasn’t necessarily to increase my list size (although it did).
It was to plant the seed (i.e. condition) that I was giving away better stuff in my newsletter (which I was).
While a sidebar opt-in form is okay, an opt-in form within a post combined with alluding that more could’ve been learned had the visitor been a subscriber is pretty powerful.
Next Step: Place your list on lockdown
So, after about a month, I was getting subscribers by leading my visitors, but it was at this point that I wanted to grab any of those fence sitters.
I put out a post that announced that I was going to close off the membership and anyone who was interested would need to go ahead and sign up.
There was no ad copy. No overt promotion. Just a sign up form and a paragraph that basically said sign up if you want…don’t do it if you don’t want.
In a period of 3 days, I signed up 174 more people. Then I locked down the membership.
Optional: Set Rules in Your Welcome Letter
Most list marketers are just tickled pink when someone new subscribes.
They are almost always willing to bend over backwards thanking the person for signing up.
I go the other way and put a couple rules in my welcome letter.
Call me old and crotchety. (I have been doing this for a little over a decade now)
In my welcome letter, I tell them what they can expect from me (which is a good practice, by the way).
I also put what I expect from them.
The rule is simple.
Open up my friggin’ emails occasionally or I will simply remove them from my list.
Sound drastic? Not really.
As an internet marketer, unopened emails are wasted chances of engagement. Besides, if I am going to spend hours crafting a newsletter, the least I could expect would be for my subscribers to occasionally show interest.
Final Step: Increase the size of your list by one of two ways
Now, I have mentioned that you need to know what you are talking about.
You also need to be somewhat entertaining as well.
If you don’t give good information, your responsive list will go away. I can’t reiterate that enough.
Exclusivity will only take you so far and I can only talk about these things as how they worked for me, personally.
So, I locked the newsletter down and started sending them emails once every other week.
I won’t go into marketing strategies as far as how I marketed to them, but let’s just say that from the view of open and click-through rates, people on my list were interested.
For the first year, once a month, I would send out an invitation to my subscribers.
The invitation would allow them to suggest my newsletter to people they trusted and thought would benefit from subscribing. As always, I gave a time frame in which this was valid.
…and although it wasn’t a windfall of subscribers, those who joined appreciated the fact that they were on the “list”.
The fact that their friends suggested it kept my newsletter open rates high.
Last year’s open rates for my newsletter (which had roughly 600 subscribers) hung in the 60 percentile. The click-through rates were a little better than 50%.
Anyone who has done email marketing knows that those numbers are incredible.
Now 600 may not sound like a lot of people, but consider this.
In the marketing niche, the average open rates hover at just under 20%.
Using that as a metric, it would take the average internet marketer to build a list 3 times as large to get the same open rates.
The lesson is that you can do more with less provided that the response rate is good.
Think about that.
Another option to build a subscriber base
If relying on your subscribers for new sign-ups makes you a bit nervous, another option is to open your list to new sign-ups once a month in a post. This will still build scarcity into your list building efforts.
Do it over a 3 day weekend or plan a link building campaign at the same time and watch your list grow very quickly.
I did this earlier this month (4th of July weekend) and experienced 200 new subscribers in a period of 3 days.
Then (of course), I closed it.
And there you have it.
A totally unconventional approach to building a responsive list without having to give anything away.
You may not build that 100,000 member list, but who needs that when those who are on your list actually look forward to your emails and are responsive?
Are you feeling a little dangerous?
Let me know in the comments!