This very blog you are reading right now did not exist in January 2015, today just 9 months later I have 5,700+ email subscribers. In this timespan I’ve made $100,000 in revenue off this blog alone. My email subscribers either bought my 1-1 coaching, my online course, or my products.
Bryan Harris (who used to coach me) also didn’t have a blog 18 months ago. He now has 10,000+ people subscribed to his blog. He recently launched an online course to his 10,000 subscribers, he made $220,750 in the following 10 days after the launch.
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Here is his income by comparison:
Now obviously he spent 500+ hours putting together the course, but what I’m saying is that he spent 0 hours on marketing the course. All he did is send an email to his own email list, these are people who already built some sort of relationships with Bryan through subscribing to his list.
Here’s a graph of which marketing channels drove the most sales for Bryan:
The blue email graph is like a skyscraper standing amidst rows of mud huts huh? Ramit Sethi over at I Will Teach You to be Rich regularly uses email sell $400K+ worth of courses.
Noah Kagan has used his own personal email list and giveaways (a method we’ll talk about later in this article) to get 528,238 emails which translated into $866,265.69 in revenue.
If you remember just one thing from this post, remember this: Email is the best way to sell stuff!
Ok, ok so hopefully I’ve made my point clear. Email is your most important sales and marketing tool. Email is money. But … how do you actually build an email list?
These days, we treat our inboxes like sacred spaces. And most of us are careful about who we invite to it. In this post I’ll share the 7 most effective and proven tactics to grow your email list by 3X month over month (these tactics helped me grow my list from 0 in January of this year to 5,500 now in September).
Ready? Let’s roll!
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1. Run a Giveaway
My very good friend Noah Kagan was #4 at Mint and #30 at Facebook and has failed a lot! He now runs two businesses that most people in startup world have heard about: Appsumo and SumoMe. His email list is close to 1 million email subscribers now and he does all his business through email.
I met him back in 2009 when he was just starting Appsumo, at the time he had a few hundred subscribers. Growing your audience in the early days is one of the hardest things in any startup.
Noah tried everything: buying ads to landing pages via Facebook or Google, content marketing a blog, getting covered in press but NOTHING compared to giveaways.
Hands down giveaways are the most cost-effective ways of getting new customers.
What is a giveaway?
Here is how Noah describes it:
A giveaway is giving away some physical, digital item or service to people in exchange for a visitor signing up for your newsletter. At AppSumo we further incentivized those customers with getting additional entries by referring friends via Facebook, Twitter or sharing an incentivized link however they please.
Here’s a recent giveaway we are running for AppSumo. The tool we are using is KingSumo Giveaways that we released to the public a month ago.
Here is how Noah runs his giveaway, he starts out with a giveaway which looks like this:
He’ll seed the initial users by tweeting and emailing a few people who he thinks would love the giveaway:
Some people see that and enter a giveaway, afterwards they’re incentivized to share:
The timer incentivizes urgency so people share.
Here are some stats from 25 giveaways Noah ran over last 4 years:
- 528,238 total new email subscribers
- $866,265.69 in revenue from those subscribers
- $442,802.72 in gross profit
It’s useful to know that the way Appsumo earns revenue is through selling bundles of awesome tools and software for startups. So all the new subscribers who signed up through a giveaway would end up converting into paying customers later down the line.
Now Noah is not the only one, tons of people have benefited from giveaways. Josh Earl gained 200K email addresses in less than 2 weeks by giving away Sublime a premium text editor:
There is one and only one tool I trust when I run giveways and that is KingSumo Giveaways. It does everything for you, you hardly have to lift a finger.
Remember the following when running giveaways (this advice is straight from Noah himself):
1. If you are going to buy FB traffic, make sure it’s targeted to the company/product you are sponsoring/giving away, you’ll get much better click rates.
2. Try to co-partner with a company you’re promoting so they can promote it on your behalf.
3. Giveaway a smaller and more related item to your audience vs a Kindle, laptops, Netflix, etc. It works much better since your audience has that tight connection with you already over a specific topic.
4. Do not worry about people unsubscribing from your existing email list when you promote your giveaway to them. You will get 25%-40% more subscribers so it all works out in the end.
5. There is a diminishing marginal return on giveaways so don’t run them weekly.
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2. Run a webinar with other influencers
Leadpages has grown from 0 to 15,000 paying customers in 12 months. This is how they did it:
1. Find an influencer who has an email list of 5K+ subscribers
2. Ask the influencers to do a webinar with them on a topic that is relevant to their own customers
3. Have the influencer promote the webinar so that a lot of new attendees come from their promotion (these are new potential customers for LeadPages)
4. Run the webinar, share some useful insights
5. At the very end of the webinar sell a crazy discounted bundle of LeadPages + bonuses + whatever product or service the influencer is selling.
6. Split the profits with the influencer
Leadpages wrote a great post about this titled: What Doing Over 200 Webinars in 2014 Taught Us About Marketing for 2015
That’s it, this the process! They went from 0 to 15K paying customers in 12 months!
Now taking the money out of the equation for a second, this very process helps build an INCREDIBLE email list, just think about it: if you had a webinar every two weeks how many new email subscribers you could get through this process…
I got 500+ new people who I did not have on my email list register to attend my webinar. Just a small scale event like this one, it’s just me talking about PR for 1 hour got me 500 new emails!
Joseph Michael Nicoletti at Product Creation Live collected more email addresses in 3 days than he did the whole year when he ran webinars:
Why are webinars such an audience magnet?
Because people love listening and watching experts talk. Most webinars also have an interactive component where the audience can ask questions so it makes people really feel apart of it. Instead of consuming walls of text content to digest a topic.
To create urgency and scarcity, make sure you limit the number of spots your webinar has. Here’s a killer webinar email:
I’ll go and step further and say that webinars are the best way I’ve found to make sales online.
Scott Britton of Life-Long Learner earned $11,286 from just one webinar he ran, here are the reasons he lists webinars are the best way to sell stuff:
- They generate qualified leads and sales.
- They help you connect with your audience.
- You can sell whatever you want with them.
- You don’t necessarily have to be technical or an amazing speaker to do them.
- They’re really cost effective (as you’ll see).
Here are the results of his webinar:
Now you might be thinking: He already had 16,000 email subscribers, of course this was a slam dunk for him.
Yes and no, Scott mentioned that if you do not have an email list already do one of the following:
- Partner with someone with a list to do a joint webinar
- Write a few guest blog posts
- Social media
- Facebook ads
Having an influencer on the webinar might be your secret sauce to get more email subscribers. The influencer will help you promote the webinar and get most of the registrants.
Here is promotion regiment Scott had:
Now since you don’t have 16,000 subscribers to promote to you need to find a good influencer to partner with to run the webinar (so they can promote the webinar to their list using this very schedule above).
If you can’t think of an influencer to invite to your webinar of the top off the your head, simply pop a topic of your webinar which you have expertise in into Google. The top results show content from people that have a lot of authority in the field.
Let’s say your topic is inbound marketing. Here are the top results I got:
If the top results are sites with multiple employees, simply see who is the author of the article in question if one is available:
Reach out to the author of the post, let them know what you’re doing and why.
If you’re feeling really bullish point them to Scott’s article on how he made $11,286 from one webinar, ask them if they’d be interested in partnering up to do something similar with you and a handful of other entrepreneurs in their field. Get two or three names committed to do a webinar and sell their books, courses, products at the end in one big bundle.
In case of Scott for his webinar, he sold his Udemy Fast Track course, but also bundled in 6 of his other courses and a friend’s course called Double Your Udemy Sales. That’s 8 courses all together in one bundle:
Here is Scott talking about it:
The idea here is to sweeten the deal so much so that buying is a no brainer. In this instance, for $297 people were getting $1430 value (1133+297) for $297.
For the actual webinar itself here is Scott’s recommended presentation flow:
1. Introduction of myself and background.
2. My personal story as it relates to this topic, during which you can establish relatability and empathy… “I’ve been where you might be right now”.
3. Establish 3-4 major teachings. This is your “content”.
4. Present your course offering or advanced training.
5. Question and Answers.
As always you’ll have to give this process a try and get your feet wet, but I can assure you webinars KICK SERIOUS ASS in terms of building an email list. Even if you don’t sell anything you’ll get a great email list out of running one!
3. Give away a valuable bonus in every post & on your home page
This was my website traffic for January 2015.
Despite the fact I was slaving away on writing killer content for my brand new blog I wasn’t getting much traction.
A month later this is how my traffic looked:
Did I run an ad? No.
Did I get featured on the front page of Reddit or Growthhackers? Nope again.
Instead, I offered a valuable download in exchange for an email signup with every article.
I first came across this tactic on Tim Paige (of Leadpages)’s webinar and got further confirmation it works like a charm when Bryan Harris said that’s where most of his revenue comes from:
Here is how it works:
1. Create a 2000+ word article on a juicy topic in your field (the most popular ones teach your readers how to achieve a highly desirable outcome)
2. Break down every step or angle related to achieving the outcome. Never assume your readers know how to do something so you skip that “small step”.
3. Now ask yourself: “After reading this article, what would help my readers achieve this goal easier and faster?” A summary checklist? Email templates? Best tools to use to accomplish the process you outlined? Create a downloadable asset out of this and offer it in exchange for an email signup.
Let me give you some examples of what a downloadable asset might be:
*a checklist of all the tactics you mention in the article so readers can review it to make sure they did everything
*case studies (with real numbers and screenshots) of influencers who used tactics in the article and got impressive results
*email scripts that show exactly you want to say to to achieve outcomes the article teaches
*Ebook – I was able to get 550 subscribers with just the first chapter of my eBook.
*Cheat sheet or checklist, here is an example one I give away in one of my posts.
*Video course discount code or free access, I do this with my Udemy course.
*Private blog content
*Early access to new features of an app
Once you have your downloadable asset ready to go, publish your article. Now comes the fun part of strategizing where to place your email signup forms.
Here is how you will ask your article reader to leave their email address to download your asset:
When the reader clicks on it, a popup will ask them to input their email in exchange for the goodies, once they enter their email they will see the following (I have these throughout this article so feel free to click on them and experiment with how it works):
Here are the highest converting spots within your article to put your call to action for them to enter their email address:
*1 signup box after the first paragraph
*1 signup box 25% through your article
*1 signup box 50% through your article
*A huge call to action at the bottom of your article
Look at this heatmap below, see how it goes from red hot to Arctic cool? That’s increasing rate of dropoffs as visitors scroll down a pages. It happens across most websites, so if you place your call to action for your readers to leave their email address further down the page, the majority of your 10-second wonder visitors won’t see it at all:
Another place to put a downloadable asset upgrade call to action on is your homepage. The homepage is probably one the top pages people view on your website, it’s a shame to have all that traffic simple leave your site.
Here is how my homepage looks:
This page converts at 17%! Meaning, 17% of people who come to the site leave their email address. I’ve gotten 3121 email addresses off this page!
Here is another example for another site I own called Growth Hacking in NYC.
So go and set a call to action to gather emails up right now, you already have traffic coming to your blog and your homepage, make sure you’re converting this traffic into email subscribers.
4. Record a video course and give it away
You probably get the idea by now… you need to offer something of value to your reader in return for their email address. A video course is something pretty special, it shows you went the extra mile to create something with TONS of value for your readers.
The strategy here is pretty simple:
- Record a video course
- Give it away for free in exchange for an email
The idea is to get as many people to give you their email address for free access to your video course. Here is how I did this:
- I recorded this video course which took me about 3 days:
- I priced the course at $19 which is pretty low since the course is barely 1 hour long
- I did not make the course free because I wanted to give it away to people in exchange for an email later
- I gave away free access to this very video course in my articles, here are two examples of this in action:
My article on Noah Kagan’s OKDork about doing your our press outreach had the following call to action:
My article on 10 Actionable Growth Hacks had this call to action:
These 1500 email subscribers have translated into $20K+ of consulting revenue for my business.
You might think: How can I just record a video course? I need a good camera, a studio, proper lighting and an expensive microphone right?
Take a look at this DIY: Home Studio Setup for Video Production my good friends over at Fedora recommend, the cost for this ranges from free to $56.
Following this examples I recorded my latest online course with the following setup:
- 11” MacBook Air
- Screenflow (use this tutorial)
- Yeti microphone (borrowed from a friend)
- Conference room or office with lots of natural light from the window on my face (asked a friend if I can use his office)
You are probably wondering: How do I actually record an online course? What would I teach? How would I promote it?
I recently ran a webinar with my good friend Conrad Wadowski where we show people step by step how to build your first online course, here is a replay of it.
Watch the replay, it should help you figure out what you can teach and how to put a course together within a week!
One thing you’ll find is that if you simply write out all the expertise and experience you want to share on a topic you know well you’ll have your first draft for your mini lessons which would make up your future online course.
The best approach is teaching one tactic per lesson that helps the viewer achieve a larger goal.
Here is how this looks like for my course:
Giving away your video course will convert your website visitors and readers into email subscribers.
One quick tip is to not forget and promote the article where you’re giving away your free video course in relevant online communities.
Just make sure you ask a question relevant to your course to start a conversation and offer to help anyone who comments with something. Online communities these days downvote or straight up delete blatant self-promotion.
Here’s how I promoted my course on Reddit:
You can also add some bonuses to your video course to incentivize social shares. Effective extras: a follow along worksheet students can fill out, a private community group on Slack/Facebook/Google+ where students can support each other and ask questions.
5. Strategic guest posting
As I said before this very page converts at 17%! That is 17% of all website visitors who come to this page give me their email addresses! That is pretty crazy! I can just drive traffic to this page and know that 17% of visitors will convert to email subscribers.
Now check this out, check out how shweeeeeeeeet this works! You can tell I get pumped talking about this stuff.
I published this guest article a few weeks ago on Forbes which has a link to my homepage:
People click to come over to my homepage and 17% of them convert into email subscribers. One article like this gave me 142 new email subscribers.
Now it gets MUCH sweeter. I published another guest article on TheNextWeb:
Now this guest article has two calls to action, it has my bio up top the same way the Forbes article did:
But it also has this call to action right at the very bottom within the text:
When the reader click this “nice PDF” link you get the usual ask for the email:
This call to action alone brought in 1278 email subscribers to my email list!
Now it gets even MORE SWEETER!
I published this article about my Top 10 Growth Hacks on my own blog.
Now after I published it I emailed TheNextWeb and asked for them to re-publish it on their blog using canonical tags so Google doesn’t punish me, take a look, they published the same article on their website:
Now this article has the same bio as all my other articles and guess what? This bio link over to my homepage where 17% of visitors give me their emails!
Now take a look at all the articles that have been re-published by me on TheNextWeb, every time I publish one of these babies I get a spike in email signups:
Ok, this gets even more sweeter! I published this article on How I Got 60 Leads in 24 Hours on KISSmetrics blog:
It did pretty well. Now when I submitted my guest article to KISSmetrics I knew that Entrepreneur magazine indexes a lot of their articles so I was betting if my article did well it will wind up on Entrepreneur magazine.
That is exactly what happened, this very same article did INSANELY well with over 5K shares (compared to 1K on the original on KISSmetrics blog):
My bio on Entrepreneur magazine of course linked to my homepage which converts at 17%:
Beauty! That’s all I have to say. I LOVE guest writing!
You can check out most of my guest articles on TheNextWeb here if you wish to see more examples.
Most websites are hungry for content and will give someone with no track record a shot if you have stellar ideas. Notice how I bolded “have stellar ideas”. This is a big factor here, you stuff has to be a must have!
Read this article titled How I Got 6.2 Million Pageviews and 144,920 followers, in this article Ali shows you the difference between a “nice to have” content and “must have”.
Once you have must have content in an article form find authoritative sites in your niche that accept guest posts, put them into a spreadsheet and use this email template below to reach out:
Hey First Name,
I’m an avid reader and a big fan of your blog. [Meaningful 1 sentence comment on their content.]
I wrote up a guest article which I think will do well on your blog and wanted to share it.[One sentence summary of the blog post with the title.]
Would it be OK to share it with you?
If you are asking them to re-publish your existing article please don’t send them this type of an email:
Hi, my name is bla,
I am bla bla bla,
I published an article…
Here is a typical email I send and usually receive an answer to:
Title: “My post has 42% share rate, screenshot attached, repost maybe?”
Email: “Hi, my article is performing really well, pls see analytics data attached. I want to repost it on your outlet. Please kindly get back if you are interested. Ali”
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6. Include a can’t-miss call-to-action: Popups, slideups, popovers
By this point in the article you probably understand that you need to treat your blog home page like an email capture form, you saw my homepage which converts 17% of my website visitors to email subscribers:
As I mentioned before chances are your homepage is your most trafficked website, it is for me and for tons of other blogs and websites. Take a look at buffer’s analytics, the “/” represents the homepage on their site:
That’s 35,000 visits per month that land on their homepage. It’s an ideal opportunity for a clear call-to-action for people to opt in to give their email address.
What we haven’t touched upon yet is extra popovers, slideups and popups. I know, these are a bit annoying, but the truth of the matter is that they work!
Here are just a few case studies of these of popovers, slideups and popups really helping build an email list :