If you’ve been following along this month, you know that we are looking at the results from the Christian Bloggers Survey and the top four struggles you identified in the survey. So far, we have looked at:
In this post, we’ll look at # 4 Building an Email List. I know. I’m going out of order, which is very unusual for me! I’m trying to step out of my comfort zone. 😉
As bloggers, we spend a lot of time building audiences in lots of places, but no portion of your audience is more important than your email list subscribers. Some Christian bloggers are reluctant to build an email list because it can feel pushy, self-promotional …. more like marketing and less like ministry. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s look at the Who, What, When, Where and How of authentically building your email list. (Also out of order!)
WHY do you need to build an email list?
Your list is the only thing that truly belongs to you and that you can communicate with directly. Not your Twitter, Facebook or Instagram followers.
People don’t give their email address to just anybody, so if someone is on your list, they have already demonstrated that they know, like and trust you at some level. And if they know, like and trust you, they are way more likely to share your content or buy your products than your average social media followers.
How about if you don’t plan to sell anything from your blog? Do you need an email list? I say yes. An email list is powerful social proof of your connection with your audience. An engaged list can help you open doors to collaborations with influencers, publishers, advertisers and others who can help you reach your blogging and ministry goals.
WHO do you want on your list?
You want people who value what you offer. Your biggest fans. People who have a need that you can meet. That’s why everything you do towards building your list should be based on your core content and clearly tied to your message. Random people who sign up because you are participating in a cash giveaway or taking part in a one-time event not associated with your message will not be engaged members of your tribe. It may make your numbers look good, but I’d rather have a small list of people who are truly helped by what I do than a big list of people who never open my emails. Authentic list-building means knowing the needs of your audience and meeting them there.
WHEN do you build your list?
Now. That is all.
HOW do you build your list?
Well, it starts with creating an account with a list management service. MailChimp is the most used service for people just starting out because it is free for up to your first 2000 subscribers, but MailerLite is also becoming a popular option.
Once you have a list and have your signup form prominently displayed on your website (sidebar, at the end of each post, possibly a pop-up), how do you encourage people to sign up without feeling like a sideshow barker?
Know your audience.
Like we said before, you want to attract people who are interested in your core message. People who will be helped, encouraged, motivated or entertained by the content you create. Begin with a clear picture of their struggles, pain points and deepest desires so you can authentically offer something that solves a problem for them.
Create an opt-in freebie.
Some experts out there call the opt-in freebie an “ethical bribe” but I prefer to think of it as a way to connect with new members of my audience. Providing a free resource that solves a problem for them is the first step towards gaining their trust. It shows I care about their struggles and want to help.
An opt-in freebie can be almost anything:
- a checklist to complete a task
- a list of verses that deal with a specific problem
- a discount on products or services
- a mini ebook
- a “favorites” list of resources
- a how-to guide
- access to a members-only library
When creating your opt-in freebie, keep these best practices in mind:
- Keep it simple. How many long ebooks have you downloaded and never read? Lots, I bet. Keep your opt-in simple and easily consumable.
- Make it valuable. You want the reader to see your opt-in and say, “WOW! I can’t believe she is giving THAT away! I would pay to have that!”
- Make it useful. The more often the reader needs to use your opt-in freebie, the more often she will think of you and wander over to check out your site.
Sponsor a challenge or mini e-course
While the opt-in freebie is the most basic way to encourage subscribers, it is not the only way. Another way is to create a challenge or mini e-course. A challenge may have 3 – 7 parts that you send to your list in set intervals. It is a more intense version of the opt-in freebie, but it builds a deeper connection to your new reader as they interact with your content frequently over a period of time. I do this with my Pinpoint Your Purpose mini e-course.
Do a survey
A survey is an especially useful tool for capturing people who may have been reading your content for some time, but have never subscribed. You can ask questions that will help you provide just the right content they need, offer a freebie to everyone who completes the survey or a bigger giveaway for a random winner. If you use this option to also build your list, be sure you make it clear in your survey that you will be adding them to your list. Something like “Enter your email address so I can send you a free gift for completing my survey, and to receive weekly encouragement and resources.” That will keep you out of spammer jail with your email service provider.
Write guest posts
Some people say guest posting is dead as a way to build your audience because people rarely click through. But that’s not true, if you give them a good reason to click through. When you write your bio to go with your guest post, instead of just saying “Connect with Mary at her blog blah blah blah”, say “Visit Mary at her blog to download her super amazing opt-in freebie”. Then link to a special page for readers of the guest post that introduces your site to them and gives them an opportunity to download your opt-in freebie. Here is a the page I linked to when I did a recent guest post for Next Step Speaker Services: Welcome, Next Step Readers!
What do you do with your list?
Congratulations! You have an email list! Now what?? Well, you should EMAIL them! Keep in touch with your audience weekly or so. Continue to provide extra value to your subscribers by doing more than just sending them a link to your latest blog post. Here are some ways to engage with them:
- a welcome sequence with your most popular posts
- an exclusive blog post or series just for your subscribers
- a free download not available on your blog
- a behind the scenes look at your ministry, blog or writing process
- a fun video
- take a small piece of an old blog post and expand on it
- links to recent blog posts they may have missed
- the best most helpful things you saw on social media this week
WHERE do you build your email list?
Of course, you build your list on your website, but that’s not the only place you can build it. Your opt-in freebie is super valuable, so take advantage of opportunities to promote it. Remember, you aren’t promoting your own list or website. You are promoting something that is going to solve a problem. So share about it on your social media … maybe even create a Facebook ad.
The email inbox is the most personal and sacred space on the internet. If we treat our readers with respect and continuously give them content that meets their deepest needs, they’ll be glad when they see your email hit their inbox.
So now tell me … what is your biggest issue with building your email list? What part are you stuck on? Or what has worked really well for you??