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If you’ve ever attended any of my webinars you’ll know I’m a massive fan of email lists. I’m pretty sure I’ve had some sort of ‘you must have an email list’ rant in each of them. But a positive rant of course! Then, naturally, the question I get asked the most is often how to start an email list. Because when you’re just starting out it can be pretty daunting. I promise it’s not as scary as it seems, I’ve got you covered.
Step 1: Choose a Platform
There are so many email platforms out there to choose from and everyone you speak to will have an opinion on which is best and why. In my experience, from my research, and from talking to numerous bloggers and business owners, there are 3 standout performers.
MailChimp: Free (limited + up to 2000 subscribers) / $10mth (500 subscribers)
MailChimp is a great starting platform for a lot of bloggers and business owners. It integrates with just about every platform imaginable and has pretty good reporting and analytics features.
While it’s easy to get excited about the whole ‘free for 2000 subscribers’ pull, it is also important to note that the free plan doesn’t allow for automation – a feature that will help you grow and nurture your email list. If you’re going to go with MailChimp I highly recommend paying the small monthly fee to unlock some of its stronger features.
MailChimp’s biggest downfall is it’s inability (or incredible difficulty) to segment and tag subscribers. This makes it frustrating when trying to target your email list with specific information.
Read More: Why I Switched From MailChimp to ConvertKit.
ActiveCampaign: $9mth (500 subscribers)
ActiveCampaign is relatively new on my radar but is seriously setting off some sirens. Absolutely jam packed with features out of the box, ActiveCampaign is a tool I’ve now started to use myself!
Those who do use it rave about its automation and sales funnel features. The ability to quickly drag and drop to create email marketing funnels is incredible. It has fantastic reporting and ability to segment and tag your subscribers which is a BIG deal.
The pricing structure can be a little daunting to start off with however most bloggers and small businesses will be very well catered for on the ‘Lite’ plan. If you’re after more CRM and specific customer profiling and management, the Small Business plan may be the way to go.
ConvertKit: $29mth (1000 subscribers)
I really love ConvertKit. I love their simple structure and their incredible brand. And out of all of the companies I have ever worked with, their customer service is second to none! For bloggers, ConvertKit is the real deal. They have some pretty darn awesome tagging and segmenting abilities and their funnels are really simple to set up.
One of my favourite things about ConvertKit is the ability to set up opt-in forms at the bottom of each of your posts with just a simple click of a drop down menu. You can have 10 different posts with 10 different opt-ins and it is so easy to do. You can also create popups and landing pages (albeit quite simple but still effective…).
Where ConvertKit falls down is their reporting. While I know the guys are working on it behind the scenes, at present there isn’t a fantastic reporting system in place and you only receive the basics of stats for your email broadcasts. But do bear in mind these guys are pretty new to the scene and have had massive growth over the last 12 months. These features are all on the ‘requested’ list and are being worked on… they’re just not there yet.
Step 2: Create an Opt-In
An opt-in (also known as a bribe or ‘freebie’) is what you give your readers in exchange for an email address. There are so many different opt-ins you can create for your readers and some will be more specific to certain brands than others. These are some of my favourites:
While free eBooks aren’t as appealing as they once were, in my experience they still convert really well. The reason why eBooks are my number one favourite opt-in to create is because you can literally put one together in under an hour.
All you need to do is grab 5 – 10 blog posts you’ve already written on a specific topic and then put them all together and make them look pretty using a tool like Canva or even Apple Pages. So easy!
This sounds super complicated but I promise it’s not. Do you have a blog posts you’ve created that has a heap of steps to it? You could totally turn that into an eCourse!
By sending out a series of emails over a set period of time you can turn your simple blog post into a list building machine! Start by looking at your most popular posts and see what ‘eCourse material’ you can find in there.
This is exactly what I did for my 11 Habits of Successful Women post and the course has been my highest converting and most popular course to date!
Love to talk? Have a ton of information to share? Why not run a webinar? You can require your followers to subscribe to jump in live on the webinar while you deliver a ton of valuable content.
Then (and this is the best part) you can set up a page with your webinar replay on it and require your followers to subscribe to get access to the replay! The perfect way to reuse and repurpose your content!
Just about anything can be used as a content upgrade, which is both exciting and daunting. All of the opt-ins above can be content upgrades or you can create something specific to a post, such as a worksheet or a checklist. You then add an opt-in form to this upgrade at the bottom of the relevant post and you’ve just put your list building strategy on auto-pilot!
Step 3: Start Promoting
Once you have your email provider set up and you’ve created your opt-in, it’s time to start promoting! There are heaps of different ways you can promote your opt-in and these are some that I use:
Bottom of Posts
At the bottom of every one of my posts I have an opt-in to my list. In some cases it’s post specific (for a particular content upgrade) and in other cases it’s a general opt-in to my Entrepreneurial Lady Boss Library (like at the bottom of this post) or another opt-in I have. Readers who reach the bottom of your posts are usually the most engaged and the most likely to subscribe. You can use ConvertKit to do this or if you use a different email provider, OptinMonster is my go to tool to use.
There’s a bit of debate over whether or not you should have popups on your site, and even Google has said that they will be penalising sites (on mobile) as of January 2017 however there’s no denying it… they work. So until January 2017 I’ll be using them and you can too! I use OptinMonster to create mine and absolutely love them!
Ditch the badges in your sidebar and advertising that isn’t earning you a ton of money and upgrade to a beautiful opt-in form that will help grow your email list! Sidebars traditionally don’t convert overly well so be sure to have your BEST offer featured there.
This is a nifty little bar that sits at the top of your site and promotes your opt-in! And it’s free! Super simple to use and easy to set up, this can help increase your conversions and boost your email list!
Remember to keep promoting your opt-ins on social media too! If you can set up a dedicated landing page for your opt-in you can use social media to drive traffic to your opt-in page and grow that list!!! You can even create a beautiful pin and share on Pinterest to accelerate your list growth too!
Once you’ve walked through the steps of how to start an email list you’ll find that growing your email list can be so much fun. Once you get started your mind will be flooded with ideas to create new opt-ins for your readers.