People often ask, “What’s the most important thing I need to do in building my platform?” My answer? ‟Develop a robust email list.” It may just be easier than you think.
When I first started blogging, I thought traffic was everything. Same with social media—the more followers the better, right?
When it comes to leveraging the power of a personal platform, those metrics only form part of the picture. In fact, they can be little more than vanity metrics. Here’s why.
The Power of Email
Following a blog or Twitter feed is a low-threshold transaction. It doesn’t cost the reader anything, and the lower the investment, the easier it is to lose interest. Easy come, easy go.
But once someone gives you their email address, they’re upping their investment in you and your message. They’re willing to listen on a level others may not be.
They are also giving you something incredibly valuable: permission to communicate with them at a deeper, more intimate level.
That means the most important metric when you’re building a personal platform is your number of email subscribers. Everything else is secondary.
My own numbers started out small. In 2011, when I decided to ‟go pro,” I had just 2,771 email subscribers. Given the fact that I had over 150,000 unique visitors a month, that number was pathetically low.
But I took that number to almost 120,000 in just three years. How? By creating a compelling email incentive, sometimes called an ‟opt-in magnet.”
Sure, you can grow your list modestly by posting regular content and inviting your readers to subscribe. But the right incentive can accelerate your growth dramatically.
The question to ask yourself is this: What are you willing to offer in exchange for someone’s email address? How can you add something of sufficient value to get someone to give you permission to contact them on a regular basis.
My Six-Step Process
Here is the six-step process I followed (and still follow) to develop compelling opt-in magnets:
- I mined my existing content. My primary opt-in for a long time was an ebook called Creating Your Personal Life Plan. It started as a series of blog posts. I pulled those posts together, edited them, and packaged them as a single product.
This tactic can work for you, too. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel and create fresh content. You’ve already done the heavy lifting. All you need to do is re-purpose it with a little editing and some nice packaging.
You may be tempted to think, But why would anyone want a resource that is already available on my blog?” In a word, convenience. Most people won’t go to the hassle of digging through your archives. They want it all in one place.
I chose the right format. Once I had my content, I decided on packaging it as an ebook. At the time that was all I knew. Ebooks were the hot thing.
But since my initial offering, I’ve discovered several different formats for opt-in content. It doesn’t always have to be an ebook. It could be a:
- Resource list
- Cheat sheet
- Mini course
- Audio series
- Continuity series (like a challenge or devotional series delivered over a set period of days)
For my next opt-in, Inside My Toolbox, the one I’m using now, I chose a resource list. I’ll explain why in a moment, but the important thing to keep in mind is that you’re looking for the best possible package for your particular audience. That very well may not be an ebook.
I made it a quick win. The reason I chose the resource-list format is that the payoff for subscribers is immediate. This is not always true for ebooks.
Not only did it take me a considerable amount of time to create the ebook, it also took my readers a long time to digest it—not a quick win.
That’s the value in a resource list. A new subscriber could start benefiting from my Toolbox resource within minutes of downloading it.
The same is true for other quick-digest formats like cheat sheets.
I crafted a compelling headline. I cannot overstate the importance of enticing headlines. A juicy headline is almost more important than the content itself. Why? Because its the ‟sales hook” for the content.
Here’s the headline I used for Inside My Toolbox: “99 Resources to Make Your Personal and Business Life Hum.”
The right headline can build anticipation, create a sense of promise, and leave readers feeling like they can’t go on without getting their hands on what you’re offering.
If you need help crafting compelling headlines, pick up a copy of Advertising Headlines That Make You Rich by David Garfinkel. I refer to it almost daily.
I got outside help. I’m not a professional designer, so I usually seek outside help for book layout, cover design, and other services. I’ve done it for practically every opt-in or product I’ve offered.
Excellence reflects quality, and it’s essential that readers appreciate what we’re offering them. The good news is that excellence outside our personal areas of expertise is easier to access than ever before.
I chose the right offer location. Finally, I strategically used the real estate on my page to leverage my offer. I wanted to make sure prospective subscribers couldn’t miss it.
The most readily seen area on any blog is the upper right-hand corner. You’ll notice that’s exactly where I’ve placed my email subscription offer.
I have also used a banner strip at the top of the blog and an after-post box in my posts. I’m also now using a pop-up from OptinMonster. (I know everyone supposedly hates pop-ups. But they’re effective. Mine doubled the rate at which my readers were subscribing.)
Beyond these locations for your opt-in incentive, you might also consider your About page. It is typically one of the most trafficked pages on any blog, second only to your home page.
Permission to Influence
Before I grew my email list, I generated just a few thousand dollars a month from my platform. It was something exciting to do on the side.
But since building my list, it has become the single most valuable asset I possess in my business. Now my platform is the main thing, not just a hobby.
And it’s about more than business. It’s about influence. Once we have permission to speak directly to our readers, we have a relationship and the opportunity to speak into their lives and deliver value to them.
The good news is that gaining that permission by growing your email list is entirely within your control.