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18 Jun 14

Why Your Free Tips Aren’t Enough

Patrick DonohoeI recently received this great question from Patrick, a member of our community who runs a business offering professional picture and mirror hanging.

Do you have any suggestions for getting people to sign up to your list? What kind of thing is compelling enough to offer? I’m offering free tips at the moment, but it doesn’t seem to be getting much interest at all.

If you’ve been baffled by how to get more people onto your email list, this one’s for you.

1. Who is the one person you want to sign up?

Yes, I know you want hundreds – even thousands! – of people giving you their email address, but ironically, the most effective way to achieve that result is to focus on just one human being. Your ideal client. The one you’d love to work with. The one who’d be excited to see your name in their inbox.

Let’s say Patrick’s ideal client is called Vanessa; she’s a 45-year old academic who’s two weeks away from moving into her new home in Lewes. She’s thoroughly stressed out by the move and one of her concerns is that her art collection, part of her inheritance from her beloved grandmother, will take a battering. She’s keen to get her new home ship-shape as soon as possible so she can focus on settling into her new university lectureship and inviting her colleagues over for cups of tea.

Who’s your one person? Go into this kind of detail – and more.

2. What does that one person want?

You want to grow your email list.

This one person isn’t the slightest bit interested in your “email list”. In fact, the key to inspiring people to sign up to your email list is to stop thinking about your email list.

Useful free tips on hanging pictures - but will that grow your list?Your ideal client isn’t walking around thinking, “Gosh, I’d love to join another email list. That would really make my day.”

They are thinking about their challenges, needs, desires and yearnings. They’re thinking about themselves.

So, what could you offer – for free – that would help them a little bit towards resolving their challenges and attaining their desires?

Vanessa might well want tips on how to hang her pictures and mirrors. Let’s imagine her spotting this on Patrick’s website:

FREE GUIDE: Top 10 tips for hanging your precious artwork and mirrors

The specificity makes the content feel valuable and actionable. Can you picture Vanessa entering her name and email? Can you see her receiving the download on her iPad, opening up the PDF and skimming the tips? (And realising it’d be far more sensible to hire Patrick to take care of the hanging for her…!)

If you’re not sure what free content might appeal to your community, here are some examples of what I currently offer, in addition to these weekly blogs. (Feel free to scoop up any you don’t already have.)

FREE: Where To Start With Getting Clients – 8-page guide.

FREE: What I Wish For Us In Self-Employment – 3 minute animated video plus free colour printable.

FREE: 3 Marketing Mistakes to Avoid in 2014 – 60 minute training webinar.

FREE: Business Tools We Use – 7-page behind-the-scenes guide.

All this content is free, high quality and specific in that it meets a particular pain-point or desire-point in one of my ideal clients. When you create free guides and trainings, they’re easily shareable on social media. (Please feel free to do so if you think your friends and colleagues will benefit from any of these.)

What kind of free content does your one person want?

3. What are they giving you permission to do?

So, let’s say Vanessa gives Patrick her name and email so he can send her the free guide. Has he got her permission to do anything further? Was there any reference to how frequently, if at all, he’d show up in her inbox after this point?

Free tips - like where to hang artwork - not enough on their own to grow your listFor content marketing to work, it’s about building relationships over time, so ideally Patrick would make it clear he’d be back in Vanessa’s inbox every week or two, sharing other useful information.

Think laterally for this; in Patrick’s case, perhaps he regularly shares case studies of furniture placement in beautiful grand homes, or shares tips on various aspects of the moving or renovation process.

How regularly will you stay in touch with your person, after they’ve signed up to your list? What valuable content will you continue to share with them?

4. Is it clear how they sign up?

Often, sign-up forms are hidden away on a sidebar. Instead, make it super-easy for your person to leave their name and email.

For example, on this site, you’ll see a sign-up form prominent at the top and bottom of every page, plus it’s there at the foot of each blog post.

Where can you place your sign-up form?

(And if you’re not sure how to set up an email list in the first place, here’s a free step-by-step guide for you).

So, to grow your email list, as with all things marketing, the key is to consider the experience from your ideal client’s perspective. Give them what they want, be generous, and once they’ve come to know you and trust you, your paid-for service will be their next logical step.

Over to you

Do you have an email list? How do you grow it? What action step will you take now to ramp up your list-building efforts? Leave a comment below, let us know.

Want more?

There’s a whole module in the Turn Your Passion to Profit course dedicated to how to build your email list. Click here to get front of the queue.


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© Corrina Gordon-Barnes 2014

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  1. Kathryn Hall

    Great post. I recently launched a free audio series that people could get access to when they signed up. I’ve also made the sign up boxes on my website far more obvious and it’s done wonders for my sign-up rates. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  2. Lisa McLoughlin

    Golly gosh, yes I have been meaning to change my opt-in for a while, as it is not really relevant to my clients needs and desires.

    It is more just an interesting piece of random information…indirectly related to my business.

    Must get onto this soon. Lisa xx

  3. Devi

    I was once told that a box in the top right hand corner tended to get about 1/2 a percent of visitors sign up (I checked, and this is what I was getting!), a banner tended to get 5-10% and an opt-in page 50-70%! The downside of the optin page is that people can see it as a barrier to viewing the main site, and some with bounce without ever looking at your content. On the other hand, most of the ones that do look without signing up are unlikely to return in any case, and so you don’t get the chance to build a relationship with them and share that top quality content.

    Would love to hear your opinion, Corinna.

  4. Stella Tomlinson

    Thanks Corrina, you’ve helped me to another lightbulb moment!

    I was thinking yesterday about how to word the promotion of my free guided relaxation I’m going to give away to encourage opt-in to my mailing list.

    And I was still thinking about how to word this so it mentions my mailing list from the initial promo on my home page.

    So the lightbulb moment for me is totally – stop thinking about the blimmin’ mailing list!

    Instead, focus on the wonderful relaxation experience my community member will experience from my free gift 🙂

    (But of course, I will then be clear that they will receive regular inspirations and practical tips for relaxing and letting go of tension during the sign up process to receive the gift…)

    Thanks again!! What with your blog and the Blog For Clients course I’ve got light bulbs going off all over the place 😉

    Feeling v inspired and excited about the future of my yoga business! xx

  5. Tim Gray

    Opt-in placement: people scan web pages from (in western culture) the top left, in an F shape, so the closer you get to that position the more likely it is that they’ll notice the free offer in the few seconds while they’re deciding whether to read on or leave. So on a page where signing up is a primary goal, it’s good to put the box across the top.

    I’m thinking about freebie content at the moment. I currently have a workbook to draw out the foundation elements of your message. To me, that’s the foundation to working out how you get your message across through various communication channels. But I’m wondering whether most visitors see it as too abstract or advanced. I may replace it with a general intro with principles and practical tips for changemakers who find themselves having to do communication.

    1. Suzy Ashworth

      I have had lots of failed attempts at building my list over the last 6 months. The best advice I received, a month ago was make sure you’re given your ideal clients value, value, value! Ideally something that they can’t believe you’re giving away for free, as well as being very specific in the language that I’m using to communicate my message, so that it sounds as though I was talking directly to them. This was amazing advice, as I’m finally getting subscribers which is great. Now it’s all about promoting my offer regularly. 🙂

      1. Naomi

        Hi Suzy,
        Great website just signed up – love the question and at the top, excellent way to get people to sign up. I definitely want to do hypno-birthing when the time comes.
        My June blog will be on how to cope with miscarriage, I had a session with Rosalind Bubb (miscarriage support) yesterday and will be writing about her and our session.

  6. Nela

    I have an opt in freebie that seems to be converting quite well, but I haven’t gotten any feedback on it so I’m not sure how many people actually read it through. It’s pretty long, maybe I should have done something with 10 or less pages.

    Also I’m not sure if it’s relevant enough for my tribe of people so I’ll need to brainstorm more on that.

    I love Mailchimp, but unlike Aweber you can’t join the same list more than once – if you try, you get an error. So offering more freebies at once like you are is a hassle if you’re on Mailchimp.

  7. Leda Sammarco

    Great post, Corrina. I love the way you bring Patrick’s ideal client to life by telling a story. I definitely need to do this, as it will make creating an appropriate freebie more tangible. I’ve always found part of the challenge is believing someone will want it, as there are so many freebies/newsletters out there. I’ve also found that it helps to look at what you subscribe to, and think about why. For example, I subscribe to Wisdom News – a daily quotation with a few lines of comment. It’s short and is perfect for me as I’m an avid quote collector, so I always make time to read it, and it often brightens my day.

  8. Patrick Donohoe

    So pleased you answered my question with a whole blog post! I can see where I need to focus now for sure. And you pretty much nailed my ideal client in one. Mad skillz Corrina!

  9. Tara

    Since I changed my thank you gift to a series of three short videos {from downloadable things to read} it’s been converting better for sure. For me too as someone signing up, I’m more likely to be interested if it’s something actionable vs a lot of reading.

    I’ve also been working on building my Pinterest boards and following and that has made a huge difference recently. It only takes one ‘power pinner’ as they’re called {ie someone with a huge following} to pin one of your images and it can bring a lot of people to your site very quickly.

    I love your reminder to focus on what the person sign up will receive, rather than what you’re hoping to achieve {which is interesting to you of course but not to the potential client!}.

  10. Helen

    Thank you Corrina for yet another inspirational and generous post, which has come at the perfect time, as I am feeling a little ‘bored’ with my free offering right now and think it is time for a change 🙂 You have given me the kick up the proverbial butt I needed!

    I’ve been using video a lot more lately, but only for those that have subscribed to the 21 day course I’m offering – the feedback has been really positive, so I think it is time I offered some free video content and updated the other video on my site (which I did when I was still new to video and I say far too much on there!!!)

    I love the reminder of where my focus should lie too – thank you!

  11. Lisa Barber

    Thank you Corrina for the reminder. It can be incredibly disheartening to throw all your energy and efforts into free content – only for it to fall on deaf ears. Understanding your niche and their desires is critical groundwork yet again. Your teachings on the importance of research (informal chats!) also sprung to mind for me when reading this blog. Thank you.

  12. Janet Winter

    Another really strong post Corrina. This would have me signing up for sure! Identifying my tribe (people with ME/CFS/fibromyalgia) has been important for my business (thanks to you and P2P), now I will have to single one of them out for my attention! Thank you.

  13. Ann Brown

    Masses of great tips as ever Corrina thank you ! I know I need to change my opt-in from a side bar to something at the top and bottom – that’s on my To Do List.
    Also, in terms of give-away – I’m noticing the big difference between what “I’ want them to have, and what would they would actually want and find valuable…..
    Big re-think needed here – and to imagine one person in front of me when I’m preparing this giveaway – so that one person will be delighted, (and that will bring more people, just like that ‘one’ person)
    Thanks for the inspiration Corrina! 🙂

  14. Kirstie

    Thanks so much for your sound advice, once again!

  15. Emma Swan

    Good advice and lovely to see my dear friend Pat and his wonderful picture-hanging business featured here.
    I’m going to improve my sign up box – making it more visible and eye-catching. Thanks 🙂

  16. Kamini

    Another very helpful post Corrina, thanks!

    Also so many of the comments here are really useful food for thought and I am already getting ideas for adding value to my opt in.

    List building feels like such a steep mountain to climb when you are starting at zero! Now I am already tuning into welcoming my one, lonesome, lost tribe member home…

    Kamini Ashborn Grace’s recent blog post

  17. Kamini

    Another very helpful post Corrina, thanks!
    Also so many of the comments here are really useful food for thought and I am already getting ideas for adding value to my opt in.
    List building feels like such a steep mountain to climb when you are starting at zero! Now I am already tuning into welcoming my one, lonesome, lost tribe member home…
    Kamini Ashborn Grace’s recent blog post


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