High-Converting Freebie Ideas To Grow Your E-mail List
You know you need to start an e-mail list.
It’s what alllll of the insta-famous marketers and blogging experts are telling you.
And guess what? They’re totally right. You DO need to start an e-mail list. But first, you need something that you can offer to people in exchange for their e-mail address – known as a content upgrade, lead magnet, or opt-in.
Depending on your niche and target audience, certain freebies are more likely to convert (lead to more e-mail subscribers) than others. In this blog post, I'm showcasing a few types of freebies that are guaranteed to work for any audience, regardless of your niche.
But first... what's an opt-in?
An opt-in is absolutely anything that requires the exchange of an e-mail address. To “opt in” is to grant permission to receive an e-mail from you. When people in the blogging/online business space refer to an opt-in, they might also refer to it as a content upgrade or a lead magnet.
A content upgrade is...
… a piece of content specifically created and offered in addition to a particular blog post or podcast. The thing that distinguishes a content upgrade from a lead magnet is that it is directly linked to the core topic of the post, and it’s called an “upgrade” because it contains value in addition to what the audience is already reading or listening to.
This strategy performs best when you predict or fulfill next steps for your audience in a thoughtful, methodical way – for example, pairing a checklist with a blog about your morning routine, or a time tracker with a blog post about productivity.
Already panicking at the thought of creating an opt-in freebie from scratch? Check out my customizable content marketing templates on Creative Market:
A lead magnet is...
… usually a little more in-depth than a content upgrade, and is offered anywhere else on your website to attract leads that aren’t connected to a specific piece of content. The reason a site-wide lead magnate needs to be more in depth or offer more value is because you’re eliminating the step where people get warmed up to an idea or a process through a blog post.
A lead magnet is important to have installed on your website because it ensures that the users who land on pages outside of your blog posts or podcast announcements are still being offered a value exchange and the opportunity to give you their e-mail address before they disappear.
This strategy performs best when your lead magnet is based on a topic that is general enough to cover a wide range of readers, but not specific enough for require the support of a blog post for added context – for example, offering a roadmap with a high-level overview of your strategy.
The key to a high conversion rate
A conversion rate is the percentage of people who take a desired action. In the case of opt-in freebies, you'll want to keep track of the percentage of people who sign up for your e-mail list by opting in, versus the number of people who took no action at all after reading a blog post or browsing your website.
The goal is to achieve the highest conversion rate you possibly can, so you can collect more e-mail addresses and grow your e-mail list much faster with the same amount of traffic flowing to your website.
Now, here’s the thing with list building: In order to persuade people to fork over their e-mail addresses, you HAVE to offer something that is seriously valuable.
Most people are uber protective over their e-mail addresses. If you’re offering something that isn’t a) directly related to your niche, b) going to help your audience achieve a desired outcome or goal, or c) thoughtfully designed and created (read: not totally ugly), you are going to have a hard time growing your list with that thing – even if it is free.
High-converting freebie ideas
You can offer value to your audience in SO many different ways. Here are a few ideas for freebies that I've seen convert really well with an audience online:
Workbooks and worksheets
A workbook or worksheet offers your audience the opportunity to see what it would be like to work with you by walking through one of your core processes. If your workbook helps someone get to the core of a problem, or experience a business breakthrough, you can bet they’ll be interested to hear about the products and services that you offer to help take them a step further.
Checklists or processes
Checklists are awesome to provide alongside a post about some sort of process that you would recommend going through. Checklists are also super easy to create on the fly – do you have a go-to process for something in your life or business that makes things quicker, easier or better? If so, your audience might be interested to hear about it… and then swipe it from you in checklist, timeline or process document format.
Courses or course modules
Course platforms like Teachable or Thinkific allow you to organize content into a step-by-step format that students can follow along with. You can sell the courses, or offer them for free and have e-mail addresses from sign-ups get automatically added to your list by connecting your e-mail marketing account.
Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to offer up and entire course in order to get people to sign up. In cases where you’re trying to lead people into buying a course with a steep price tag, you could unlock one module and exchange that for an e-mail address to give people a taste of what you’re offering.
You can also deliver an e-mail course using an automated sequence in ConvertKit that will deliver information over the course of several days after the initial sign-up. This is a great way to get a brand new subscriber accustomed to opening e-mails from you.
By offering a roadmap, you can map out your entire strategy, or just the first few steps, depending on where you want it to fit into your marketing funnel. Either way, it's the perfect way to tease a process without giving the whole thing away for free.
Roadmaps also allow your audience to identify which step they're on in your process, so they can dig further into your content to learn more, or reach out with questions that are specific to the problem you've helped them identify.
Last but not least, they're really visual, making them the ideal opt-in to promote on social media and on Pinterest specifically.
A swipe file is a document containing a copy-and-paste solution for something. For example, if you wrote a blog post about the benefit of using canned e-mail responses, you could offer a swipe file with a handful of your own canned e-mail templates that readers could copy and paste to use in their own business.
I’m on several e-mail lists to receive free stock photos, and let me tell you, I look forward to those e-mails every single month. They also remind me at least once every thirty days how awesome and talented those particular photographers are, and as a result, they’re the first ones I think of whenever I’m looking to pay for the perfect stock photo.
This option could apply to you if you create any kind of digital asset, whether it be stock photos, illustrations, templates, icons… Make a promise to offer a handful of freebies each month and your open rates (and your rate of recognition) will skyrocket.
I’ll be the first to admit that when someone places monetary value on a Facebook group, I’m suuuper skeptical. But Facebook groups are in many ways very valuable. By making your group private, you can ask for someone’s e-mail address or request that they download a free resource from your website before you accept them into the group.
Calendars or planners
If productivity and time management are your jam, offering a calendar, planner or agenda that totally jives with your philosophy on productivity might work for you. Maybe you find it beneficial to have a habit tracker included in your daily agenda, or maybe you find monthly calendars to be way too cumbersome. Why not design a custom alternative for your audience?
Once you get to a place where you’re offering several different content upgrades or lead magnets throughout your website, you could compile them into one resource library, password protect it, and offer the password itself as a lead magnet. The benefit is that your resource library appears to be a bigger offer than a single freebie, so you've instantly increased the value without actually doing more work.
If you’ve hosted a webinar at any point in your business, it’s likely that the replay was sent out to the original mailing list and has since been collecting dust on your computer. Assuming the content is still relevant, why not try offering it to new leads?
You may need to crop out your pitch, or any mention of the product you were likely promoting at the time of hosting. Otherwise, this opt-in idea should take virtually no time or effort on your part, but it’s an incredibly high-value item to offer your audience.
Podcast episode or transcript
For podcast with regular listeners, a bonus episode that's exclusive to people on your e-mail list would be a great incentive, and something you could promote on the podcast itself as on social media.
If you have a particular podcast episode or video interview that you find people going back to again and again for reference, try offering a transcript. That way, people can search and find keywords within the document rather that skimming through the video trying to find that one tool you briefly recommended, or remind themselves of that strategy that you outlined over the course of a few minutes.
It’s no secret that templates are time-savers, and in the landscape of online entrepreneurship, the minute you start talking about time-savings, peoples’ ears tend to perk up. If you have a template for anything, whether it’s an e-mail template, a social media template, or maybe even a slide deck, consider offering a pared-down version that will help save your audience a few minutes of precious time.
Printables are an especially good opt-in option for blogs and businesses that cater to DIY crafters or homemakers. You could offer printable artwork, a printable pattern, printable kids’ colouring pages… the options are endless.
Looking to create something else? Send me a DM on Instagram – I'm always looking for new product suggestions!