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How To Grow Your Email List From Scratch

March 4, 2020

I’m Kim.
I’m an M.D.-turned-coach and I’m dedicated to helping you build your dream career + lifestyle. Welcome to my blog, where I write (and podcast) about wellness, business + success!
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Is building an email list one of your business goals for 2020? Are you feeling a little sheepish because you haven’t started on this project yet?

Or, even if you have started … is your list stalled at exactly 2 people (one of whom is your mom)?

No worries! Let’s get you back on track, and get you started building your email list!

In this article (and corresponding blog post) I’m going to walk you through a simple 3-step process for building your email subscriber list from scratch. And if you already have a list…you could always use more subscribers, right?

Here are some of the things I’m going to cover today:

  • 3 simple steps for building your email list from scratch
  • how to create an irresistible opt-in
  • the secrets of a great landing page/opt-in page
  • how to promote your opt-in and get people signing up for your list (without spending any money on ads)

So let’s dive in!

If you’d rather listen than read, here’s where you can tune in to this episode:


You may have heard how critical it is to grow your email list, and you probably know that you really can’t start on this too soon. 

Now, as I’ve said many times before, I come from a professional background–I went to med school and did my training in family medicine — where they most decidedly did NOT teach us anything about business. So I really had to figure this all out from scratch when I began building my business as a coach. And basically, if I can do it, you can do it.

At the time of this recording I have over 4500 email subscribers and I have not gained any of them through paid advertising.

So this is definitely possible.

If you’re struggling to get your first email subscribers, your first 100 subscribers, your first 1000 subscribers…but you’re not ready to spend money on ads yet, these tips are for you. I’m going to give you a simple 3-step strategy for growing your list…for free.

Why an email list is so important

Before we get there, let’s talk about why an email list is important, so we can be on the same page.

Now, if you ask anyone who has built an online business what they wished they had started to do sooner, nearly everyone will say that they wished they paid closer attention to building their email list. 

An email list is a personal way to connect with people and remind them of who you are, why you’re awesome, and what products or services you offer. 

Now, of course you can’t just randomly add email addresses to your list without first obtaining their permission. As I’m sure you know, subscribers have to agree to receive your email first. Basically, your list should be made up of a bunch people who are interested in what you offer. If they’re granting their permission, they are interested. 

But perhaps the most important reason to grow your subscribers is that YOU own your email list. You’re not dependent on social media platforms or other third party sites to reach your clients. You can reach your list literally any time, or any day you want. If you rebrand your business, you can still contact your list. If you move to a different location, you still have your list. If you move a physical business to an online-only model, you still have your list. This list is your golden ticket to contacting your customers but also to making offers that they will snatch up because they’re a targeted audience.

So I”m hoping you’re on board, and that we can agree on how important an email list is.

And, the next most logical question is: “How do I get subscribers to my list?”

And I’m so glad you’re asking this!

How To Get Subscribers

It does take effort, and it does take strategy. But that’s what I’m here to teach you today, so stay tuned.

I’m going to break down the whole process and give you lots of tips that you can use immediately to attract more subscribers for free.

Because again, if I can do it, you can do it.

STEP ONE: COOK UP AN IRRESISTIBLE OPT-IN GIFT

You and I both know you’re awesome and have a lot to offer your followers, but they need a little more convincing. Potential clients want to know “what’s in it for me?”. It’s called the WIIFM principle: What’s In It For Me. So, offering them a reward for subscribing to your email list is extremely important. Some people call it a freebie or a lead magnet, and others call it a reward or a gift. The word itself doesn’t really matter because it’s used to describe the same thing: A free item in exchange for entering a valid email address. 

So here’s what I want you to do: Carefully plan your freebie. Don’t just take an old PDF that’s maybe not exactly designed with your ideal client in mind, but it happens to be sitting around, gathering dust on your hard drive and expect people to be excited about that. 

This gift needs to be valuable to your audience. It needs to be something they really want. Ideally, it’s the first step to solving their biggest problem or pain point. Your subscribers will happily join your list when they see the value and when they realize it will help them.

When it comes to format, choose something that’s simple and easy for you to create. Formats such as a worksheet, planner, audio, checklist, or video work very well. Or, one of my favorite opt-ins: a quiz. I love a good quiz — I mean, doesn’t everybody? This takes a little more effort to create, perhaps, but it can be a really compelling opt-in. 

Be careful, with your freebie, of making it TOO big. For example, don’t give away a full eBook. While it certainly offers value to your audience, it’s too big and requires a commitment from the subscriber to actually read it. That’s a lot to ask a brand new subscriber, somebody who doesn’t know you at all. Keep that kind of thing in your paid product library. 

Something small, easily digestible, and QUICK will way outperform a free ebook. People will sign up for a checklist way before they sign up for a free ebook. It’s just the way we are now–getting an ebook is going to represent hours of effort, instead of just that quick win. Go for the quick win!

When it comes to content, focus on a pain point. A pain point is simply the hurdle or problem that plagues your audience. Your opt-in freebie should offer a super-simple solution, or at least the first step toward a solution. Provide your audience with a few answers, or tips that they can put into action immediately. Once they see your freebie and implement your advice, they will start to follow you on social media or look specifically for your emails to learn more. They will realize that you really are an expert and will want more from you.

If you’re clear on your business mission and how you want to help your audience, then you should know from simple research what’s troubling them. When your audience sees that you have an answer, then your list will start to grow.

Finally, make the content evergreen. Evergreen content addresses a consistent problem that isn’t likely to go away. By making your freebie evergreen, you potentially can use this for years down the road, making your life easier by not having to create multiple opt-in freebies every year. Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income says he’s used the same opt-in lead magnet for over 5 years because it’s evergreen and still works at attracting people to his list…to the tune of 120,000 subscribers!

STEP #2: CREATE A LANDING PAGE

Once you create your opt-in, you’ll need to create a landing page for your opt-in. Ideally you want to make this nice and simple, and the best practice is to use a “squeeze page” format, where there are no other options. No distracting sidebars, and definitely no links that take your reader elsewhere. One of my private clients, she put together the first iteration of her landing page for her opt-in, and sent it to me for feedback, and she had all kinds of distracting things in there, hyperlinks to other articles, a sidebar with lots of other interesting things in it…she had crafted it like she would a blog post. And that’s because she had been a blogger for a while, and that’s a good practice for a blog post, because you want to keep people circling on your site, and consuming all kinds of content, but it’s the opposite of what you want for a landing page, or a squeeze page. You want to trim away all other options except doing the ONE thing you want them to do, which is to opt in. 

Now, the tool I absolutely love for this is leadpages.

Leadpages is the best and easiest way I’ve found to create high-converting opt-in and landing pages. They’ve got all the functions you need, it’s really easy to use, and creates beautiful-looking landing pages and popups, you get tons of stats and analytics, and it also integrates seamlessly with your email marketing system — for me, that’s ConvertKit, which is the other tool I could not live without when it comes to email marketing.

With a landing page, you typically want to keep it simple and short; no long sales pages where they have to keep scrolling to get to your opt-in box. That’s not what you want for an opt-in page. Make it quick and easy and visually attractive so they will take that action of signing up for your list. 

STEP #3: PROMOTE YOUR OPT-IN EVERYWHERE! 

Once your freebie is produced and the opt-in link is on your website, start telling people about it. Don’t sit back and wait for the search engines to bring you traffic; shout it from the mountaintops that you have the answer to a problem. 

It’s easy to promote good-quality work so add it to your social media posts and profile, livestream videos, and mention it on any podcasts or interviews you conduct. 

Of course, also add it to your email signature. Don’t forget this last step because I’m guessing you communicate every day with people who are NOT on your list, right? You just never know when or where you’ll find people who need what you’re offering. 

When you’re cross promoting your opt-in on other platforms, it’s also easier to include a simple link to just this opt-in gift instead of telling people to go to your website and scroll for the opt-in box. Be very clear with your followers and make it as easy as possible for them to redeem their freebie. 

Simply tell people to go to your specific URL to claim their gift. They also won’t get distracted with other details of your site; they can sign up right away and then choose to explore your blog or other service pages. You always want to make it as easy as possible for prospects to redeem their opt-in freebie. Complicated processes will frustrate them and they’ll click away from your site forever. 

If you want them to come back to your site to explore further, simply send them an email after they have opted in, and direct them where to go.

Become a guest blogger. 

Build relationships with other people in your niche (but not direct competitors) and offer to write some content for them as a guest blogger. You simply write a post on a subject that would appeal to the host blogger’s audience but also one that showcases your specialty. Your host publishes your blog post – along with a link to your opt-in gift – and you immediately have access to your host’s audience.

This situation is a win-win because you are reaching a new audience and they have free content and can take the day off from writing. 

Use your Facebook cover photo to promote your opt-in gift and sign-up.

Your cover photo is the very first thing your followers will see when they land on your page, so use this online real estate wisely. Creating a custom-designed cover photo that features your opt-in gift is an ideal way to grow your list.

All cover photos are clickable, so be sure to add a description of your offer and link to your opt-in landing page in the description. 

Use this description space wisely! So often people make the mistake of forgetting the link or don’t go into more details about what they’re offering. Speak to your audience and remind them of what you have to offer.

Mention your opt-in on your Facebook livestreams. 

Mention your opt-in a couple of times throughout the Facebook Live and give your people an easy way to sign up for your list to get it. This is where having a dedicated landing page and memorable URL is helpful. 

After the Live is complete, edit your description notes to include the URL where your viewers can subscribe. 

You can also promote your opt-in on Instagram, although Instagram makes it difficult to do. You can only use the link in your bio, so you’ll have to write a lot of captions that say “link in bio”. But still, it’s good to sprinkle your opt-in around, basically everywhere you are hanging out. 

Use YouTube to grow your list

If you have a YouTube channel, this is definitely a great way to get people to opt in. Unlike Instagram, YouTube makes it very easy to include a hyperlink in the description box that goes straight over to your landing page.

Now if you’re not using YouTube, or you’re not convinced about how useful it might be…I just want to mention that it’s been a BIG source of email subscribers for me.

In fact, a single YouTube video I posted a while ago gave me 45 new subscribers in a single day. And that video has gone on to continue to give me subscribers regularly, pretty much daily…even though the video itself is more than a year old at this point.

Finally, Pinterest is a great way to drive traffic to your opt-in. I did a podcast episode about Pinterest strategies a few weeks ago–I’ll link that in the show notes, but suffice it to say that Pinterest has been a great way for me, personally, to grow my email list, and you should definitely consider adding Pinterest to your strategy.

Okay, so there you have it. 3 steps to help you grow your email list! 

  1. Cook up an irresistible opt-in
  2. Create an optimized landing page
  3. Promote your opt-in everywhere!

Resources & Links:

LET’S HOP ON A CONSULTATION CALL! LEARN MORE HERE: https://drkimfoster.com/consultation

N.B. some links are affiliate links.


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