Two weeks ago, I launched my 21 Day Blogging Challenge and within about 7 days I had tripled my list of email subscribers.
I was a bit shocked because I didn’t start out with that intention; I just did my own personal 21 day challenge and I loved it so much I wanted to get other people to try it too. Maybe I was hoping it would generate a little buzz, or at least inspire my blogger friends…but triple my email list in just a few days? No way.
Over the course of setting up my blogging challenge, I had to learn how to use email automation so I could send new subscribers a new blog post writing prompt every day for 21 days.
Figuring out email automation was one of the best things I have done in months, because all that research and trial and error showed me something major: email courses are the next big thing in content marketing.
Many popular and successful bloggers are already using email courses, and many companies send you a series of educational emails when you first purchase a product or service, so I wasn’t a complete stranger to email courses.
But what I didn’t realize was 1) They are SO easy for the average small business owner to set up; and 2) They are SO valuable to your audience.
If you have been looking for the perfect incentive to offer new subscribers to your email list – drafting checklists, ebooks, videos, printables, and more – let me tell you to PLEASE stop right there and consider offering an email course instead.
You will have to sign up for a premium plan in order to do automatic emails, but it will be worth it! And not too expensive (I’m now paying $29 a month for ConvertKit; Mailchimp starts at $10 a month).
Here’s how you can quickly and easily grow your email list, even if there’s no one on it yet:
Write your course content
What can you teach your audience that takes some time to learn? What does your audience really want to know more about? My first course challenged people to blog every single day for 3 weeks, and I’m planning my next course to teach business owners how to create their own content marketing plan. The days of sleazy internet marketing and useless PDF downloads are over. Come up with something truly valuable to offer in this course.
Here are some ideas for getting started:
- Pick one of your most popular blog posts; could you add more to that post and teach people something deeper with that subject?
- What is a new thing that your target audience could learn from you? For example, how to use a WordPress blog, or how to set up advertisements on your blog, or how to ____…anything that you know how to do from personal experience that your audience wants to learn. Break it down into a series of “classes” that you could send via email.
- What is something that your target audience needs to do or a change they need to make? You could create an email course that encourages them to make that change gradually, walking them through the process with each email.
Set up an email marketing account with automation
There are a ton of options out there for you. I’m not going to give them to you because you can just Google “email marketing automation” and find a bunch of options. But I will tell you the two that I’ve tried (and the one that I picked): Mailchimp and ConvertKit, respectively. Mailchimp automation starts at $10 per month (for up to 2,000 subscribers); ConvertKit starts at $29 per month (for up to 1,000 subscribers). ConvertKit is more expensive but I believe the course interface is more user friendly, and they only count subscribers once no matter how many times they’ve subscribed to a list, so in the long run it will probably be cheaper than Mailchimp. I ended up switching to ConvertKit for those reasons, but Mailchimp is great though and has very good customer service.
Create the emails for your course
Copy in your course content from step 1 for each email. Don’t forget a welcome email to start off, and a follow up email after your course ends to point subscribers in the direction of any next steps or additional resources you offer.
Don’t worry too much about making those emails pretty. Emails are notoriously difficult to format consistently given the many different email clients out there that your audience will be using, and the fact that images don’t always load automatically. Just focus on writing really great content – high quality, clear, organized, very helpful – and forget about pretty designs. IF you really want pretty, you can make some great PDF downloads to go with each email. But your top priority should be truly excellent email text.
Create an opt-in form and put it on a new page on your website
Use your email marketing service to create a subscription form for your course. Tweak the language on the form and make sure that the colors match the colors on your website. Once you’re done with your form, you should see an option to “embed” where you can copy code for your form and paste it on to a page on your website. Create a new page for your email course. Write a good, compelling, detailed description of your course, and use descriptive headings and subheadings so search engines know what your page and course are about.
Promote your course on social media
If you are starting without much of an email list, this is the best way to make things happen quickly. Share the link to your landing page on your business Facebook page and then “boost” the post for at least $20. Expect to pay around $0.01 per impression, so plan your budget accordingly.
This is a very quick and easy way to grow your email list when you are starting from scratch, but it will require you to offer something of genuine value to your audience with this course. Don’t be afraid to “give away too much”. This is all about demonstrating your true expertise in your field and showing that you care about the well-being of your audience.
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