How to Build Your Email List Opt Ins

If you haven’t hopped on board the email marketing train, it’s time to catch up! You might be thinking, “Another strategy to add to my plate? No thanks!” But, here’s the thing: an entrepreneur’s potential growth directly links to their email marketing strategy.

Why is that? Simple: the larger your email list, the further your reach.

You might be thinking, “I have all of these social media followers! I don’t need an email list.”

Think again. While it’s great to have a large social media following, you do not own those contacts. So if Instagram shuts down out of nowhere, what would those thousands of followers mean to you? 

With email marketing, on the other hand, your lists belong to you! No matter what else changes in your business. You can switch email providers and easily take your lists with you. That’s because your subscribers have given you explicit permission to contact them! Showing up in someone’s inbox is a far more intimate relationship than simply showing up for someone as they scroll through their feed. The main difference: your subscribers have asked you to be there.

Simply put, your email list is a warmed-up audience of people who have already made it to the middle of your marketing funnel(if not the bottom). The top of your funnel has already done the work to attract leads and arouse their interest. When they land on your email list, they already know they want what you have to offer. Instead of building new relationships, you can focus on nurturing existing relationships and that’s where the magic happens.

You might be thinking, “That’s all well and good, but my email list is next to non-existent. How do I actually fill it with qualified leads?”

 The short answer: lead magnets.

Lead magnets, opt-ins or freebies serve to entice your ideal clients to share their email address in exchange for a valuable piece of content. Free quizzes, PDF guides, templates and webinars are all great examples of lead magnets. So, how do you create a compelling lead magnet that effectively attracts your ideal client in a sustainable manner? 

Follow these tips as you put together your first freebie and watch your email list grow:

Provide Exclusive Value

People are protective of their inboxes and hesitate to give their email addresses away. “Free” is not enough,  they need to feel like your opt-in provides them valuable information they can’t get anywhere else. Think about your ideal client’s most significant pain points and how you can help them in a way no one else can.

If you’re an illustrator that sells drawing classes, you might offer a free guide to the must-have tools for a beginner artist or a free training video that teaches them how to draw one specific element. A stationer might share a free template for addressing envelopes or a guide to selecting the right type of paper for their next project. Choose a title that will capture your ideal client’s attention and make them think, “THIS is what I need at this moment!”

Give Them A Piece Of The Pie

Think of your lead magnet as a bite-sized sample in the grocery store. You get a taste of the product and, after trying it out, decide whether to buy the item to enjoy at home. In the same way, your opt-in is a free sample (sans toothpick!) for your audience to get to know what you have to offer. Will they choose to take the next step? It all depends on how much they enjoyed the sample.

Your freebie should give away the “why” and the “what” of your products and services, but it should tease the “how.” You can’t give away the secret to your success; you want to give them just enough to recognize your expertise and realize how much they need you. For example, a photographer’s style guide for family shoots might tell them everything they need to select their wardrobe, but they still need the photographer to make it happen!

Don’t Spend a Fortune On It

No, seriously. Lead magnets are certain investments, but you should not spend an arm and a leg to put yours together! If you’re the DIY type, make use of free and low-cost programs to whip your freebie up easily and efficiently. A few I love: Canva for PDF guides, Loom for training videos and webinars and Interact for quizzes. If you choose to hire a designer, make sure it’s a template that you’ll be able to use for multiple lead magnets down the line.

If you’re thinking of offering a free service to attract leads, be mindful of how much time and energy it will take for you. Remember: Time is money! If you offer a free website audit or a design consult, will you be able to dedicate time to that if you get to 20 inquiries in one week? Try to keep your service freebies to 30 minutes or less to protect your schedule.

Plan Out Your Promotional Strategy

Once you have your lead magnet ready to go out the door, you need to put it out in the world! It won’t draw new business sitting on your desktop or even on a page of your website. Instead, use other marketing tactics to draw traffic to your opt-in landing page, like blog posts, guest articles, social media content and digital ads. Advertising your lead magnet is generally the quickest and most effective way to build your list. You don’t need to spend a ton, but a few dedicated ads can go a long way. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Online Advertising to get started or improve your ad strategy.

In all of your promotional content, be sure to highlight that your lead magnet is free and show a visual of your resource if possible. For example, a picture of your guide’s cover or a screengrab of your webinar works well. Both of these techniques reduce risk perception. People will know that they don’t have to pay a cent and they get visual proof of what they’ll receive.

Pro Tip: Email marketing is one of the most effective strategies to grow your reach and book more clients, but it all starts with your opt-in. 

Once you’ve built your list up, you’ll have a captive audience that wants and expects to actively engage with your brand and its offerings. From there, you can focus on nurturing those relationships and selling the benefits of your products and services. 

Aleya Harris

Aleya Harris, CPCE is an award-winning marketer and former chef and catering company owner. She is the owner of Flourish Marketing, an agency that provides marketing education, strategy and tools to help wedding and creative professionals get and keep a consistent stream of clients. Aleya is a StoryBrand Certified Guide. She uses that narrative-based framework to develop clear, engaging and highly converting marketing assets, like email sales funnels and social media solutions. Aleya is the current Marketing Committee Chair and Black Caucus Chair for NACE and a top speaker at conferences like Catersource and The Special Event.