Optimizing your entire email marketing process can take a ton of time. Since it’s rare to feel like you have a week to get everything perfect, I want to give you a list of changes that will result in quick wins, but not take more than about 30 minutes each. If you pick 3 of these and implement them over the next week you’ll have significantly improved your marketing processes.
Here’s a summary of what we’re talking about today:
- Use the 10 person rule to kickstart your blog
- Set up Twitter cards, pin a tweet to your profile
- Start conversations with readers, ask them to join your list
- Ask for replies
- Exit intent modal
- Content upgrades
- Track stats for each link
- Add an opt-in form to your home page
- Add an opt-in form at the top of your blog page
1. Use the 10 person rule to kickstart your blog
This tip is for people who have less than 100 email subscribers.
Early on when you’re growing your list it can be hard to know who to target and where to find them online. You usually start by writing blog posts to no one. And it sucks. It’s really weird to write posts for an audience of zero. I think you should start by writing to an audience of ten.
The 10 person rule is where you start by identifying 10 people you know personally who can benefit from your writing. When I started out I was teaching about designing iPhone apps. So I would think through my friends and co-workers and list out 10 names of people who want to learn to design better apps. Let’s see, 3 developer co-workers who build apps on the side, a designer friend who is great at web design, but doesn’t know anything about apps… And so on.
Don’t stop until you have ten actual names listed out. Here, I made some handy slots for you:
If you can’t get to ten people you know personally who would benefit from what you may want to teach, you may want to re-evaluate your audience choice. Or make some new friends.
Next you email each of them personally and ask them three questions:
- What’s your biggest frustration when learning about [topic]?
- What websites, blogs, or forums do you visit now to learn about [topic]?
- I’m starting a new site to teach [topic]. I’d love for you to be one of my beta readers. Interested?
You may have even better results if you split this into two separate emails. Questions 1 and 2 would go out in the first email to start a conversation, then if they’re interested you ask question 3.
If you do this right you’ll finish the exercise with 10 new email subscribers, a list of exactly where your target audience hangs out online, and material for your first 5 to 10 blog posts.
2. Set up Twitter cards, pin a tweet to your profile
Twitter lead cards allow one-click email subscriptions directly from a tweet. Here’s what it looks like for someone viewing your card:
Now when you tweet about your email newsletter you can attach this card and grow your list directly from Twitter.
After creating the card you should take it a step further and pin a tweet about your newsletter to the top of your Twitter profile. Now when someone clicks through from a retweet, or just from seeing your name around Twitter, they’ll see a great call to action to join your email list.
To learn more about how to setup Twitter lead cards read this article.
3. Start conversations with readers, ask them to join your list
Ryan Hoover wrote an interesting post on using Twitter to grow your email list. I think it’s especially valuable in the early days when each subscriber to your list is worth even more.
Ryan’s method is to search Twitter for the URL of any blog posts he’s published, then reply to anyone who tweets it out and say “Thanks!”
Then if they reply back he will follow-up again and ask if they want to join his list:
He’s using a Twitter card there (which ConvertKit supports), but you could just include a link to your newsletter page.
It takes time, but it could be a good way to grow your list by 20-30 people. Ryan says that he gets a 60-80% conversion rate on these personal tweets.
This obviously works best if people are sharing your content—social sharing makes growing a list is much easier. Want a quick way to increase social sharing? Write a guest post for a popular blog like The Next Web or Mashable.
These sites have a lot of traffic, but often won’t let you use a strong call to action (since they don’t want your newsletter signup interfering with their own). But many of these articles are shared on Twitter over 100 times, so that gives you plenty of people to reach out to.
Give it a try!
4. Ask for replies
After people join your list they should receive an automated series of your best content. This email course will introduce the new subscriber to you and your work, but you can also solicit great feedback if you ask for replies.
For his Freelancer’s Weekly newsletter, Brennan Dunn asks new subscribers to reply with their biggest pain right now as a freelancer. He then labels these responses in Gmail and has built a stockpile of future topic ideas for his blog. And when he needs to write a sales page, he has a goldmine of the exact language his audience uses to describe their pains.
Brian Casel asks in his welcome email for new subscribers to reply with what they’re working on, their top goal, and their biggest challenge. All so he can get a better idea of who is on his list and learn to serve them better.
Email providers like Gmail are now starting to factor replies into their quality scores for emails. If someone takes the time to reply to a marketing email, it probably wasn’t spam. So that’s just one more reason to use an automated email to start a conversation with your audience.
5. Exit intent modal
In my last few years of blogging I’ve seen dozens of people make a journey that starts with: “I hate pop-ups! I’d never use them.” to gradually being convinced to give them a try, and then keeping them around because they convert so well.
Whether you like it or not, modals or pop-ups convert very well. If you haven’t already, you should test them for yourself.
Also you can set them to display in a way that won’t drive your visitors crazy. I prefer to have them appear only on exit intent (so they won’t be in the middle of reading an article) and then not appear again for at least 30 days.
You could also set them to not appear on mobile since the “don’t show for x days” setting wouldn’t be respected on browsers inside apps like Twitter and Facebook.
These modals can also look really good. Here are a few that I think are well-designed and executed:
6. Content upgrades
There are three levels of effectiveness on calls-to-action for your email list:
- Basic: “Join my list”
This will work to get some subscribers, but it doesn’t clearly communicate what value the subscriber will get from signing up.
- Compelling: “Get my free guide on _______”
For this CTA you actually explain the value each new subscriber will get when they join your list. Usually it involves giving away a free guide or a small bundle of resources and training.
- Targeted “Download the worksheet for this article”
This is a giveaway that is specifically targeted to the content of the current post.
Number 3 is what we’re going to be talking about today. It’s typically known as a content upgrade.
Last year I wrote a very detailed post on designing graphics for your blog. Instead of having a default call to action like: “Join my newsletter” or “Learn design” I made a CTA that is very targeted:
To learn more about content upgrades, read Bryan Harris’ post.
7. Track stats for each link
The one thing everyone focuses on when growing their list is total subscriber growth. Even though prioritizing overall growth makes a lot of sense, if you just focus on total subscriber growth you’re missing out on a lot of useful data.
You should also know exactly where each subscriber is coming from. Referrer data will give you a rough idea, but many sites don’t pass it along and so it tends to only give you a partial picture.
With referrer data you’ll know you picked up 25 new subscribers from Twitter yesterday, but it won’t help you know whose tweet they came from.
That’s why you need campaign tracking as well. In ConvertKit you can add ?ref=campaignname to the end of any URL and you’ll receive visit and subscriber counts, as well as conversion rate, for each campaign.
So let’s say I’m working on a new course and I launch the coming soon page. When I do that I send personal emails to friends asking them to share the page.
In each email I quickly add a unique campaign code to the end of the URL:
Now I’ll get unique stats for each of these links inside ConvertKit.
Wes Wages did this recently when launching his email course. Here’s a screenshot from his ConvertKit account:
Here’s a quick explanation of a few of them:
- ph = Product Hunt
- wesfb = Wes’ Facebook Page
- nb = Nathan Barry (my tweets)
- r = Reddit
Looking at this you can see exactly where each subscriber came from and a conversion rate for each one.
In our example of asking friends to share, you would know exactly which friends sent you the most email subscribers. And you could tease Josh that his followers converted at a lower rate than Brennan’s.
This is built into ConvertKit by default, but you can hack it together in most other email providers. Here’s how to set it up in MailChimp.
8. Add an opt-in form to your home page
If you look in Google Analytics I bet your home page is the most visited page on your site. There are a few exceptions, but on 90% of sites I’ve looked at, that’s the case.
So why is that often the least optimized page for collecting email subscribers?
Chris Ducker recently redesigned his entire site and the home page is now all about gathering subscribers:
This is good, but the home page also has all the usual stuff on it: blog posts, navigation links, podcast episodes, and a lot more. Which makes sense. It’s the home page of a site and it’s supposed to serve as a jumping off point for all things Chris Ducker.
But anyone who knows conversion rate optimization will tell you that focusing exclusively on your call to action, and removing everything else, will significantly improve conversion rates.
The Welcome Gate
This idea is why the welcome gate is so popular. Here’s one in use by Andrew Warner from Mixergy:
On your first visit to Mixergy.com you’ll see a page optimized to collect email subscribers. On future visits it will take you to the actual home page which has more of a traditional blog layout.
A welcome gate may be too extreme for you, but at the very least you should add a prominent email opt-in form to your home page.
9. Add an opt-in form at the top of your blog page
When I asked my Twitter followers for suggestions on email marketing ‘quick wins’, Mike from Zapier responded with this:
Here's what happens when you add an obvious, straightforward call-to-subscribe to your blog. pic.twitter.com/BLYj8YiEuj
— Mike Knoop (@mikeknoop) January 6, 2015
That’s a pretty significant jump in subscribers per day. Here’s what he added:
At the top of every post on the Zapier blog there is now a clear opt-in form to join their email newsletter. That’s it. Simple, but effective.
Josh Pigford has something similar on the Baremetrics blog:
Pick 3 and get to work
None of these are huge changes, but each one will give you a noticeable lift in the value of your email list. So pick at least three of them and schedule out time to implement them in the next week.
Do you have your own tip? Drop it in the comments below.
A better email platform
If some of these sound too complicated to implement—or you don’t want to hack them together or write custom code—you should check out ConvertKit. If you’re a professional blogger, you’ll finally be able to use a tool tailor-made for you.
For the next week (until April 17th) we’re doing free migrations on any of our professional plans (starting at $49 per month for up to 3,000 subscribers). Normally that’s something only available to customers on our $249+/month plans.
If you’re interested, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to have you!