A Newsletter Won't Grow Your Email List. Here's What To Do Instead.

A Newsletter Won't Grow Your Email List. Here's What To Do Instead.

You might have heard the buzz around the interwebz about the importance of growing an email list but just in case you haven’t, the general gist is this- your email list is gold.

That’s where the money comes from for many entrepreneurs.

It might appear that they’re building their business on Facebook or Instagram, but if you truly watch and pay attention, you’ll notice many of them eventually guide you to give up your email address.

However, the myth that no one reads their emails anymore has led people astray and believing that there’s no point in trying to build an email list, or it’s something that can be held off “for later”.

If you’re looking at your open rates and thinking “there’s no way I can make money if only X% of people are actually opening my emails”, I want you to know that numbers can be deceptive.

People are still buying from links in their email.

How to grow your email list using lead magnets and content upgrades

According to the from Adestra's 2016 Consumer Adoption & Usage, 73 percent of Millennials said they prefer to receive communication from a business via email. In addition, more than half rely on email to buy things online.

You can read this article by INC for more interesting finds from the study on email marketing.

If you want your business to grow, you’ll eventually need to get all up in your audiences inbox.

Email marketing NEEDS to be part of your content marketing strategy.

(Side note: Need help organizing the content? Grab your free content planner worksheet here.)

Besides, the quote “never build on borrowed land” couldn’t be any more relevant to growing a business only on social media.

You can have all the Facebook likes in the world, more Instagram followers then Kim Kardashian and Gary Vee combined, and a Pinterest account to die for- but if those platforms go down, so does your following.

And no matter how big a social network is, all it takes is another giant to shimmy its way into the short attention span of humans.

Ask Myspace.

Ask Periscope.

Snapchat is teetering on the edge and everyone freaking loves Snapchat...or so we thought.

But what can withstand the ebb and flow of social fascination is your email list. Although it can feel like an outdated way to grow your business email marketing still produces the highest ROI (return on investment) than any other marketing tactic.

People are still using their email and business owners should still be using it to grow their business.


That doesn’t mean pasting a sign up link on your website is going to open the flood gates of money and success.

Putting a “sign up for our newsletter” popup is rarely going to be enough incentive to get them to give up their email address.  Especially as people are becoming more and more cautious about spam and internet safety, they’re not letting you in their inbox for a newsletter.

They need an offer they can’t say no to, or at the very least say “why not?”.

A newsletter alone is not a powerful incentive.

So how do you actually collect those little snippets of gold?

You need to offer them something valuable.

You can do this by creating an opt-in (also known as a “lead-magnet”). These are freebies and resources your promise to give them in exchange for their email address.

For example: one of my lead magnets is this content planner I created in Canva to help entrepreneurs organize their content ideas. You can click here to get it.

Some common lead magnets are:

  • Checklists

  • eBooks

  • Workbooks

  • Webinar recordings

  • Audio training’s

  • Mini Course

  • Email course

  • Discounts/coupons

  • Access to an exclusive piece of content

  • A resource library

  • Resource lists

  • Tutorials

  • Waitlists

  • Free stock photos

  • Templates

Here are a few things to keep in mind when creating your opt-in:

Make sure you deliver on your promise and make it easy for them

It would be a bummer if your audience signed up only to receive nothing in their inbox or if your first email to them didn’t include the freebie they were promised.

Don’t betray their trust and make sure you actually give them their freebie and make it easy for them to access. You can have the download available on your thank you page after they sign up, as a link/download in the email, or both.

Many email services have the option to send a “test email” before making your email campaign live. Utilize it to make sure all your links are working and being directed to the right spot.

Take note about this part too: make it easy for them to access.

Don’t make your poor subscribers copy and paste secret links, enter 12 passwords, then perform the ancient ritual of their grandfathers in order to access the download.

You can share your opt in easily by uploading the content in Google Dropbox and sharing the link directly with them.

The easier you make it for them to access the lead magnet, the more likely they are to actually download and see it, and hopefully your opt-in gives them a great first impression and a peek at what they can expect from you in the future.

Make sure your opt-in is helpful.

As mentioned earlier, this is their first impression on how you can help them with whatever problem they’re trying to solve. You don’t have to drop all of your best work and give the secret sauce in your opt-in, but it should provide value to your subscribers.

Don’t just randomly throw together some vague tips in a word document and call it a day.

You can ask you audience straight up with a poll what they would find most valuable or what they need help with.

It doesn’t have to be a complex 30 question survey either. You can pop into your group, or borrow a group that has your target audience and ask literally “What would you want? X, Y, Z or something else?”.

You’d be surprised with how forthcoming people are.

You can also make a lead magnet based off of common questions you get asked repeatedly. For example, if your audience is constantly asking you “how do you take those beautiful flatlays with your phone?” then create a tutorial for them and deliver it as an opt-in.

A content upgrade is also a good way to create something your audience will find helpful. A content upgrade is an opt-in that’s directly related to the free content your audience was reading (or watching/listening to). -That Content Life

A content upgrade is also a good way to create something your audience will find helpful. A content upgrade is an opt-in that’s directly related to the free content your audience was reading (or watching/listening to). -That Content Life

*Tip: If you have a Facebook group, you can include the question “what is your biggest struggle?” or “What information would be most helpful to you?” as a question they have to answer before getting accepted into the group.

Collect those responses in a Google Excel sheet and refer back to it when you need some inspiration.

A content upgrade is also a good way to create something your audience will find helpful. A content upgrade is an opt-in that’s directly related to the free content your audience was reading (or watching/listening to).

For example if you’ve done some market research and your audience is wanting more information on using Linkedin, you can create a detailed blog post on how you’ve used Linkedin to grow your business and then offer a Linkedin profile checklist as a free download in exchange for their email.

Amy Porterfield has created some type of content upgrade for almost every podcast episode and puts them front and center for her audience to find. The topics are curated into collections with an accompanying lead magnet that’s relevant to it.

People have already shown interest in your topic because they’ve chosen to consume the piece of content you made available to them, a content upgrade that further helps them with that topic should be a no-brainer.

You could also:

  • Share a process or system you use regularly in your business

  • Repurpose a popular Facebook Live as a lead magnet

  • Share a collection of favorite and useful resources

Take advantage of their attention.

You might have heard of something called a “trip-wire”. This is a low cost, “easy-yes” sale that’s typically placed on the Thank You page. Usually it’s in direct relation to whatever the content and opt-in were since they’ve shown interest and are now a warmed up audience.

The purpose of a tripwire isn’t to rake in the cash (although it can be profitable). It’s to condition your audience to trust you and buy a higher priced item from you later.

If you think this feels sleezy, consider how restaurants use sampler plates. Often times people will taste something they purchased as an appetizer or on the sampler plate, love it, and decide to go back to that restaurant.

You’re not being some scheming sleaze ball, you’re giving them a reason to purchase from you later by proving that they’re not wasting their money.   

Most people don’t like to be bombarded with a sales pitch right out of the gate, but a tripwire isn’t meant to be a huge sales pitch.

It’s inviting them to a low cost offer during a time when they’ve already expressed interest and they’re more willing to say yes so be mindful of your price point if you choose to use this method.

Even if you decide not to sell something on your Thank You page, don’t leave that opportunity to get them to engage.

You should be utilizing your Thank You page.

You can:

  • Invite them to like or follow you on social media

  • Invite them to join your Facebook Group

  • Invite them to join your chat bot subscription (ManyChat is a great one)

  • Encourage them to share your content with others

  • Direct them to other content they may be interested in

Once you’ve got their email address, make sure you’re utilizing your list. Have a welcome series set up to automatically send once they subscribe and make email marketing a priority.

Don’t hide the sign up box at the bottom.

Fun fact: you only have about 10 seconds to grab the average person’s attention online and get them to read.

As a business owner you’ve probably come across that statistic multiple times but we still have a bad habit of taking forever to ask for the action (the sale, the registration, the email, etc).

If you only have 10 seconds to capture their attention enough to get them to consume your content, how much more longer do you think you have to keep them motivated enough to sign up for something?

There’s no time to waste here by being shy.

You can have the most amazing content, but don’t make the user experience a chore by playing hide-and-go-seek with your value.

If you’re hiding the opportunity for them to sign up for your lead magnet ALL the way at the bottom of a 2000+ blog post, you’re missing out on opportunities.

Even if they don’t read the whole blog post, there are people who might still be interested in the lead-magnet.

Say they’ve searched for a ways to use Youtube for marketing and came across your post.

They might not be too interested in reading all the details if you answered their question in the first 3 paragraphs or if they just happened to peek at your blog post, but they might see your content upgrade on using keywords to boost Youtube views and be interested in that.

Be bold and brave and slap that signup box up top. Even better? Weave it into your blog posts and give them multiple opportunities to grab your opt in.  

*I’ve already promoted mine 4 times in this blog post alone. ;-)

The truth can hurt but a newsletter rarely gets people jumping over the moon with excitement anymore. People do like staying up-to-date with their favorite brands and businesses, however even big brands like Walmart, Hobby Lobby, and Target use incentives like coupons or access to their app before sending their newsletters.

Give your potential customers and clients a reason to sign up for your email list and make an opt-in.

Worried that creating a lead magnet is too difficult? Here’s a quick peek at how easy it is to make one in Canva!

How to grow your business email list using lead magnets and content upgrades
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