...and, keep the newsletters simple.
A common marketing tactic — you may have experienced this — is when you’re forced to give your email address in order to access a freebie, like an e-book, webinar, video series, telesummit, email course, or “special report”.
Marketers call this a “lead magnet”, a term that disassociates marketing from relationship-building... and it doesn't even work that well.
I built a 10,000+ email list by using a lead magnet of “free” webinars (which I also recently wrote about: No More Free Webinars.)
I put “free” in quotes, because your attention is precious, not free and if I force you to exchange your email address for my webinar, then you “paid” for the webinar with your email address. The payment is steep: you had to contend with ongoing emails from me, that tried to sell you on various products & services.
Years later, as I transitioned towards authentic marketing, I deleted 90% of that email list, and only kept those who had recently engaged with my emails.
I noticed that the people who inadvertently “subscribed” to my email list — when they registered for my "free" webinars — were by and large not opening my ongoing emails.
Lead magnets, “ethical bribes” (as they’re also called) are often a bait-and-switch. The recipient thinks they’re only registering for the freebie, rather than the ongoing cluttering of their inbox.
Average email open rates are about 21%… and yet those of us using “lead magnets” were getting only 10–17% open rates. Dismal.
(Now that I've changed my strategy, my email open rates are 35-40%. More on this later.)
Realizing that the majority of my email “subscribers” (I put that in quotes because they didn’t intend to subscribe) did not look forward to my emails, no matter how well-written they were, was demoralizing.
It didn’t help my creativity or energy.
I made 2 dramatic shifts that benefitted my business:
I’ll explain each.
Distinct Email Lists for Content vs. Offers
I separated my Content email list from my Offers email list.
People can subscribe to get only my free articles and videos, without being bothered by emails promoting my product or service launches.
(My content emails do mention one of my upcoming offers, but it's located at the bottom of each email, after the reader has received what they expected -- the content itself. You can see samples of my content emails here.)
On the other hand, people can also join my Offers email list if they want to be sure not to miss the announcements about my upcoming workshops & openings for my coaching program.
I created a webpage to give visitors the two newsletter options:
After a year, I realized that some subscribers were a bit confused which one to sign up for, so usually I just mention my Content newsletter: www.GeorgeKao.com/email
…and after they sign-up, they receive a confirmation email that also mentions the option of joining my Offers email list: www.GeorgeKao.com/invitations
This separation into 2 email lists has worked well for me. My open rates are now 2x higher than my industry’s average, and my click rates (how many readers click on a link inside my emails) are 5x higher.
My unsubscription rate (how many readers unsubscribe) used to be higher than industry average. Now it’s lower, offering some evidence that my subscribers are liking the new format.
And that is one of the key principles of authentic marketing: it’s about building a friendship with one’s audience, not forcing things on them.
A More Intentional Sign-Up Process
When you visit a marketer's website, it’s very obvious where to sign-up for their email list. The opt-in box is “above the fold” (meaning, you don't have to scroll down to see it.)
You might even get a pop-up window asking you to sign-up.
You have to intentionally avoid signing up for their email list, if you’re not yet ready to. And why would you be ready to sign up, when you're just landing on their website? It feels pushy or needy.
I used these tactics in the past.
As I transitioned towards authentic marketing, I decided that I want my audience to want my emails, not forcing it on them. If they want it, they’ll look for it, and they’ll join.
So I took off the email opt-in box from my homepage.
Instead, I allow people a true choice. If people are interested enough, they can easily find a Newsletter link in the top navigation bar, and/or the newsletter link in the footer.
No more pop-up windows.
Also, once they start the sign-up process, I ask for email address, name, and how they discovered me, as well as what frequency of emails they prefer. This series of questions does get me fewer subscribers, yes, but much more intentional ones.
It’s interesting that the vast majority of my subscribers choose the more frequent pace ("once a week") to receive my emails (rather than "once a month")... further evidence that subscribers want to hear from me.
At the bottom of my Medium.com posts, I also include a subtle invitation to sign up for my email list.
Keep the Newsletters Simple...
...so that it’s easier for you, and less overwhelming for the reader.
I used to spend a lot more time creating my email newsletters.
Now I spend less time. They are more minimalistic. Readers give me positive feedback, and my email open rates are up.
You can see the change of format if you compare the newsletters of Feb 2018 (complex) versus April 2018 (simple).
What about all the work you put into your freebies?
The e-book that you painstakingly put together? Publish it on Amazon Kindle.
The video series? Turn it into an online course. Sell it at an entry-level price.
The webinar you put together? Put it as a video on Youtube and Facebook. People will be impressed at such high quality content that is “ungated” — not requiring an email address!
Be sought-after, rather than just tolerated.
That’s really the bottom line of this transition away from lead-magnets.
Let’s do marketing that is sought-after and enjoyed, rather than mildly-annoying and merely tolerated!
Build an audience of true fans, and a business you can really love.
George Kao is a Marketing Coach for small business owners, especially solopreneurs such as Coaches and Mentors. He focuses on ethical & effective ways to grow one's platform and build true livelihood.
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