At the beginning of this year, I finally decided to bite the bullet and put more time into building my mailing list (for all the reasons I explained in this post a couple weeks ago).
I knew I needed to place opt-ins in prominent places. I had heard content upgrades were a great way to encourage people to subscribe to my list. But I needed an outside expert to hold me accountable and craft a game plan specifically for my business.
So I brought on the help of business coach and list-building pro, Bryan Harris.
With his help, I’ve been able to grow my list from 4,500 subscribers to over 11,000 subscribers in a little over 3 months.
Those numbers make it seem like the process was involved and complicated. But the truth is that I only made 4 simple changes, and they took less than 4 hours to implement.
I’m certain that you can make these 4 changes and see success with them, too. Here’s how.
1 | Place opt-ins in prominent places
If you want people to subscribe to your list, you need to make your opt-ins easily accessible.
Before I started focusing on building my list, I had one opt-in form in my blog sidebar, one opt-in on an unlinked newsletter landing page, and I occasionally added an opt-in at the end of a blog post. You would have thought I didn’t want people to subscribe to my list; I hid the sign-up forms in obscure places that were hard to find, even if you were looking for them.
So to make sure that every visitor would see my opt-ins, I reconsidered their location.
First, instead of placing them in discrete locations on my website, I redesigned my homepage to showcase my opt-ins front and center.
I implemented what Bryan calls an upside-down landing page (although I didn’t follow it to a T).
The design of an upside-down landing page is backward from a traditional landing page. It strips away the distractions of your navigation menu and leads your viewer’s eye down the page, calling attention to the things you want them to see first (like your opt-ins).
You can read all about how Bryan’s strategy for creating an upside-down landing page here, but the biggest, most important feature is placing your opt-in above the fold (the portion of your homepage that’s seen before having to scroll). This makes them unavoidable; they’re the first thing people see when they land on your site.
And for that reason, upside down landing pages have proven to be more effective in increasing conversions.
I made the switch to an upside-down landing page mid-February, and I was stunned by the results:
For 6 months prior to the change, I was averaging around 300 new subscribers each month (10 new subscribers each day).
In February, I picked up 931 new subscribers (30 new subscribers each day) and in March I picked up 1,572 (50 new subscribers each day), and I credit a large majority of that growth to placing opt-ins front and center on my site.
I also created a landing page for my newsletter and placed it in the main navigation.
Having a landing page for my newsletter not only gives Elle & Company visitors a more detailed look at what they’re signing up for, but it also gives me a page to link to on social media when I mention my newsletter each week.
On that landing page, I made sure the opt-in was above the fold, addressed any hesitations my audience might have, and placed a couple testimonials on there, too.
This was a recent change that I made within the last month, so I don’t have as much data. But here’s a look at how this page has worked out for me so far:
More than anything, I’ve seen the huge opportunity I was missing out on by not placing my opt-ins in more obvious places on my website. By placing them front and center, I’ve been able to capitalize on my site traffic and capture more emails of potential clients and customers.
Take action: Where are you currently placing your opt-ins? Are you making it easy for people to sign up for your list? Consider implementing an upside-down homepage and creating a landing page for your newsletter that can be linked to on social media and other pages of your site.
2 | Create multiple content upgrades
Content upgrades provide an incentive for a visitor to subscribe to your list.
They could be anything from a simple checklist to a mini-course, and they’re usually automated to land in a subscriber’s inbox as soon as they subscribe.
Before working with Bryan, I considered the exclusive, helpful content I shared in my weekly newsletters to be enough of an incentive for people to sign up for my list. I underestimated just how powerful a simple “extra” could be in nudging new visitors to subscribe.
So I created 4 different content upgrades to share on my website, using previous content that I had already shared in blog posts and newsletters.
The content upgrades themselves were helpful incentives, but including multiple separate content upgrades on my homepage was the key to seeing more conversions and growing my list.
Because multiple content upgrades give you the opportunity appeal to a greater percentage of your audience.
For example, many people come to my site from a Squarespace search on Google. They may not be interested in my Visual Marketing mini-course, but they’ll probably be interested in my Website Starter Kit.
If I had only 1 content upgrade on my homepage, I would be running the risk of losing the interest of a large majority of my audience. But offering 4 different choices increases the likelihood that they’ll find something they’re interested in and opt-in.
Multiple content upgrades are also helpful for seeing what the Elle & Company audience is most interested in.
From the data below, it appears that my audience is most interested in receiving my Branding Field Guide because the majority of them have opted in to Design Your Brand option:
I haven’t played around with the order of the opt-ins - which probably plays a significant role in conversions - but it seems that most of my visitors are interested in brand design. That’s helpful for me to know as I create new content, develop new courses, and create new products.
Take action: Instead of limiting your visitors to 1 content-upgrade, give them a couple different options. Use content you’ve already created in blog posts, newsletters, webinars, etc. to develop multiple content upgrades. You’ll see an increase in conversions and gain a better idea of the content people are most interested in when they come to your site.
3 | Collect email addresses from webinars
Each week I host a free webinar for creative entrepreneurs, and I call these hour-long broadcasts Ellechats.
I use Crowdcast to host them, and the platform requires registrants to enter their email address to receive confirmation and reminders.
Hundreds of people sign up to attend these Ellechats each week, and hundreds end up registering to watch the replay in the weeks and months after the live webinar takes place. All of these email addresses give me a great opportunity to reach out to people and ask them to join my list.
Now, I don’t automatically add new Ellechat registrants to my list.
But by using Zapier and ConvertKit, I set up an automated email that goes out to each new registrant, telling them that if they enjoy the helpful insights I share in my Ellechats each week, they would probably enjoy receiving my weekly newsletters, too.
I include an opt-in button in each email to make it as easy as possible for people to subscribe, and I’ve seen a lot of conversions as a result. Take a look at the number of new subscribers we’ve seen as a result this month:
The best part of this simple update? I didn’t have to change anything I was already doing. It took me less than 30 minutes to write the email and set up a zap in Zapier connecting Crowdcast and ConvertKit, and it requires no extra effort. Now that it’s set up, I don’t have to do anything else.
Take action: Think of all the ways you might already be receiving emails for your business, whether it’s through shop purchases, webinars, podcasts, etc. Take 30 minutes to set up an automated email and invite those people to subscribe to your list.
4 | I asked for email addresses on Instagram
It’s easy to get wrapped up in strategies for list building. But sometimes the easiest way to get more subscribers is to simply ask your audience to subscribe.
A few months ago I launched my Adobe Illustrator Basics course for the 4th time. On a whim, I decided to post about the course on Instagram and invite people to leave their email address in the comments to get on the waiting list and receive more details when it launched.
It seems so simple, but I ended up receiving over 120 new email addresses as a result.
Take action: You’d be surprised at how many people are interested in signing up for your list if you would just ask more often. It might take a little bit of time to manually add each person to your list (and you might consider sending them a confirmation email like I did for Crowdcast above, just to be sure they’re okay with it), but you’ll have the opportunity to turn followers into subscribers (and hopefully paying clients and customers!).
It’s important to note that all of these results wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t focused on growing my blog audience and site traffic first.
Although I’ve been able to see more of the benefits of growing a list, I still stand behind what I said in this previous post: 3 Reasons Why We Focus More on Site Traffic Than Our Email List
I’m still working on a few more strategies for growing my list and retaining new subscribers. Among them are creating content upgrades for old blog posts, setting up exit-intents and welcome gates, and setting up automated email sequences.
And as always, I’ll continue to keep you posted on my progress and the strategies I’ve found the most successful.
Until then, I would love to hear the results of some strategies you’ve implemented for gaining new subscribers! How have you grown your list?