“I need a larger list!” goes the lament of business owners the world over. While social media are the cool kids in town, savvy operators know that email is the best platform for increasing sales.

In the ever-shifting world of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and the rest, where hierarchies reshuffle every week, sites rise and fall, are bought out, merged, or die a lonely death, an email list is virtually bankable.

Of course, your email subscribers are free to leave via unsubscribing but, so long as you consistently send useful, valuable and relevant information, you have a group of clients and leads that are waiting to hear from you. So how do you get more of them?

Keep your email opt-in as specific as possible

Your email opt-in – the free gift people receive in exchange for their email address – is your first opportunity to grow your list by narrowing your focus to the specific people you want to attract. Your email opt-in should be specific for the same reason that your marketing should be specific – because when you attempt to appeal to all people, you become beige and invisible.

Start by defining the exact type of person you are seeking to attract to your business. Try to get inside their heads and anticipate what would make their lives easier. Think about what would be useful for them to know, particularly in relation to engaging your services. Now make something which is relevant to them and their needs.

Position your business

Think of your email opt-in as a yoghurt sample at the supermarket. If someone tries the yoghurt and doesn’t like it, do you think they’re going to buy it? Your email opt-in is your opportunity to showcase your expertise, reveal your unique take on things, and give away something of real value to the recipient. Because your opt-in gift is knowledge-based, you won’t run out by giving it away, plus it can be accessed, and used, by people all over the world.

Don’t scrimp on free

If your opt-in gift falls short, then it won’t work to attract people to your business. If your opt-in gift is too general, or not relevant, useful or valuable to your ideal client, they won’t subscribe. It should excite people enough to refer others to your opt-in, in effect, growing your list for you.

Finding the best format

Before you get too excited about the various formats you could use, think first about the information you want to deliver, and then choose a format suitable. You also need to consider how your intended audience prefers to consume content.
Some people prefer to print out and read things, others like the interaction and personal nature of video, and yet others love listening to things while on the go through their car stereo, MP3 player or iPod.

1. PDF download

PDF download is the simplest format to implement. Many people prefer reading over other formats and like things quick-and-easy – this is a great format for cheat-sheets and check-lists in particular.

2. Email series

An email series can be set up through your professional email tool as an automated campaign to deliver a message over a period. This is a great method for delivering progressive information designed to build on each lesson, such as an exercise regime. You can include links to PDF downloads, audios or videos within your email series. Although it may sound complicated, all you need is a professional email tool which has auto-responders. An email series is particularly good for coaching people to expect your emails and to open and read them, as the opt-in gift is delivered over time.

3. Video

Video is a fantastic format if interpersonal relationships are important to your business, such as in therapy. A video helps build rapport far more quickly than copy writing, and many people prefer this format for being human, fast, and easily understood. Make sure your videos aren’t too long as people will be put off and less likely to watch them.

4. Audio

Audio is also good for developing rapport with the listener and it tends to attract more consistent attention than video. You’ll need to have a pleasant-sounding voice and be in command of its many nuances.

5. Live webinars

Live webinars are very effective for growing your list while igniting interest and building momentum for events such as conferences or trainings. Making webinars it live also gives your participants anticipation and excitement, although webinars can be recorded and sent to opt-in subscribers later. Webinars may include “screen-casting” PowerPoint presentations or filming yourself talking to camera. They should include some interaction with your listeners in the form of live (at the time of the webinar) social media engagement, comments or question-and-answers.

The missing puzzle piece

So you have a fantastically useful and valuable opt-in gift designed to appeal to the needs and wants of your specific target audience. You’ve picked your format and spent money and effort creating it. Then you’ve published your opt-in on your website – in your sidebar, your footer and a ‘landing page’ which contains only your opt-in form.

The missing piece of the puzzle is driving people to your opt-in offer.

If your website is busy, with large numbers of new web visitors every month, you’re likely to see an immediate increase in email subscribers so long as you’ve fulfilled the above criteria.

If your site is quiet or your business new, you’ll need to promote your opt-in offer. I’m a huge fan of advertising your opt-in gift rather than your services, particularly online. An ad without an opt-in drive as simply eyeballs, whereas an ad which compels people to give their email address becomes a viable lead generator for your business and measurable. For example, an advertisement for relationship therapy will likely appeal to people who are actively seeking to engage this shortly. An advertisement for a free guide to bringing the romance and spark back into your relationship will appeal to a far broader audience who are your target market, while also growing your list in the process.

A list of people who have opted-in to receiving your marketing is a privilege that needs to be valued. Treat these people properly by delivering timely, relevant, valuable and useful information on your area of expertise as it relates to their needs. This cultivates strangers into leads, leads into clients and clients into repeat clientele (who bring friends).

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Figure out your email opt-in gift and email marketing in our upcoming Hustle & Heart program.

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