Red mailbox on brown door

It’s amazing how times have changed. I recently participated in a Facebook Group discussion about how different an experience it is starting a business today than when I started mine almost ten years ago.

You guys have it easy.  Just kidding.

But, you do have a different playing field.  There’s a lot more information out there about digital marketing strategies and website plug-ins that make running your creative business empires a lot easier.

What hasn’t changed that much is the mailing list.  It’s still just as important today to collect email addresses as it was when I started.  Actually more important.

You have the benefit of learning from us “old folks” what happens when you don’t collect emails for your business.  When I started my business, most of us relied heavily on Facebook traffic and other social media platforms for sales.

And then, over time, the algorithm game changed for each of the social media platforms.  Suddenly, the traffic that we relied on to grow our businesses tanked.  Somewhere in there Google Search also changed.  Some of us were left with only our mailing list to depend on.

Back then, it also didn’t take a lot to get someone to join your mailing list.  No opt-in freebie was necessary.  You could offer a potential customer a discount savings code to your shop or even just a request to sign up.  Voila!  Instant email subscriber.

Until recently.

A few months ago I realized that no one was signing up for my discount code savings.  It was like customers were suddenly not that interested in saving any money.  Their email address was too valuable to be exchanged for a few dollars.

Interesting new perspective.

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So, now I needed to provide them with something different.  An opt-in freebie that seemed worthwhile for joining my email list.

Since I’m in the party printables business, I created a HUGE printable kids birthday package so you can create any celebration within minutes. 

And you know what, it worked.  Our email sign ups grew 10 fold overnight.  My readers just needed something to interest them again.  And the savings code wasn’t doing it.

Creating an opt-in freebie for your business can be difficult.  You need to find something that’s easy to make (or you can hire out) and interesting enough to your readers to want.  There’s a fine line there.

Why the Savings Code doesn’t Work as Well Any More

Opt-in freebies take time to make.  You need to choose one that will convince your traffic to join your mailing list.  This is what made the savings code so appealing.  It was easy to make and had value to potential shoppers.

I’ve noticed, though, that buyers aren’t clicking the Buy Now button as easily any more.  It’s taking more time to warm them up and turn them into customers.  More on that here.

Your mailing list is an opportunity for your buyers to get to know you more.  You can communicate with them about your business, products and other digital content.

I think the reason the savings code is not as popular a opt-in freebie any more is because it’s only valuable to a customer who is ready to buy.  Right then.

Many customers need more time to get to know you.  They don’t care as much about the savings coupon.  You need to create an alternative opt-in freebie that they do consider valuable so they sign up.

What Makes a Good Opt-In Freebie for your Business

An opt-in freebie that makes potential customers sign up for your mailing list has three elements.

  • It is valuable to the person – something they can use and learn from
  • It’s memorable and something people talk about
  • It’s related to your business and helps you grow

Value is important because people don’t just hand over their email addresses any more.  They exchange them when they see value in something.

Think back to the last time you went to an artist market or Christmas bazaar.  Strategically, most sellers have a clipboard to collect emails for their mailing list.

Now, think about which vendors you signed up for.

Who were you willing to give over your coveted email address too?

For me, it’s always the artists and makers that I get into a conversation with.  If I can discuss your work and vision with you, there’s a connection made.  I want to continue our conversation, so I give you my email address in hopes that you’ll contact me again in some way.

A good opt-in freebie does the same thing.  It is something that you give your potential customers to continue the relationship.  A welcome gift in a way.

But if this gift doesn’t have any value, then your customer probably won’t be interested.  So, you want to create an opt-in freebie that has meaning and purpose to the recipient.

Next, your opt-in freebie needs to be memorable.  Whatever you decide to give away must remind the person signing up about your business and the products you sell.

So when my potential customers look at their free printables as they decorate for their next celebration, they can think about Katarina’s Paperie and all the other wonderful designs that we sell.

You want your opt-in freebie to be something that people will tell others about.  It needs to be exciting enough that it spreads the word about your amazing business.  This organic marketing can assist in your business growth over night.

Your opt-in freebie also needs to be related to your business and help you grow.  Although the savings code helps your sales grow, it’s not very effective if people aren’t ready to use it yet. 

Instead of focusing on just increasing sales, create an opt-in freebie that helps your business bloom in other ways.  New mailing list sign ups can grow a bigger audience, showcase your expertise and connect with future customers.  You want to create an opt-in freebie that does all of these things.

It should also be something that’s related to your business niche so you attract an audience that is interested in what you sell.  If you make jewelry, but your opt-in freebie is about dogs, you will be growing the wrong audience for your business.  

Here are some of my favorite opt-in freebie ideas.  All of them work, but their success rate is based on your readers.  So be sure to survey them first before jumping into production.

Printables

As you already know, I LOVE printables.  They are my favorite thing to design, which is why I’ve built my business around them.

Printables also make a great opt-in freebie because most audiences seem to enjoy them too.  A printable is a digital design that you can send directly to the sign-up’s inbox.  It can include anything from a wall print to a sewing pattern.

When choosing the printable to design, select something related to your business niche.  A knitter might give away a free pattern.  An art print designer might give a free printable art piece.

Last summer, we attended an art market and met an amazing artist who creates these beautiful pattern designs based on nature.  He handed my kids free bandanas to wear with his art on them.

I didn’t actually remember his name before writing this post.  But I did remember his art and the joy my kids got from wearing their bandanas around the house.

Create a printable that your audience can use and enjoy and they are sure to sign up for your mailing list.

E-books

My first opt-in freebie was an e-book showcasing all of the wonderful things you can make with party circles.  I realized one day that I create a lot of different party crafts using this one design.  So, I wrote an e-book sharing these craft ideas and it was wonderfully popular.

According to Amazon, e-books can range from 10 to 950 pages in length.  So, don’t think that you have to write a long e-book for it to be an attractive opt-in.

And keep in mind, short books are popular.  People love when they can learn something through a book without a ton of reading.

Choose a topic for your e-book that’s in your niche.  It could be a how-to, collection of recipes, craft ideas that use your shop’s products or further information about your expertise.

Not a writer?  No worries.  Not everyone loves writing.  If you want to write an e-book, but don’t want to be responsible for crafting it, find a ghost writer.  Somebody you hire to write the material for you.  It’s a great way to create a resource for your audience without the stress.

Cheat Sheet

A cheat sheet is a one page summary about a topic or skill.  Many times cheat sheets take the form of infographics.

Cheat sheets are a great opt-in freebie if you want to share your expertise with your customers quickly.  You provide them with a resource that they can easily glance over and not have to read too intensely (like an e-book).

To find a topic for your cheat sheet, think about questions that your customers ask frequently.  You can create a infographic focused on answering one of these inquiries.

Creating your cheat sheet also doesn’t need to be hard.  You can find free infographic templates here.

Also, check out Canva.  They have many fun pre-made infographic designs that you can fill in with your information.  Change a couple of the graphics around to fit your theme and your cheat sheet is complete.

Challenge

If you want your audience to try and accomplish something, set up a challenge for them.  A challenge is like a course, but it’s guided and has a specific result at the end.

Choose a challenge topic that connects with your business’ niche and purpose.  Once you’ve created the challenge content, you will also need to figure out where you can plug your products and services.

Check out this great article for more ideas about how to set up your own challenge for your business.

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Video Series

Do you like to be on camera instead of writing?  Then, creating a video series opt-in freebie might be for you.

Your video series can be about anything related to your niche, but it must bring value to your customers.

One idea would be to take a skill you’d like to teach and create a series of step-by-step videos about it.  Or you could showcase alternative ways to use your products.  For example, if you are a jewelry designer you could share tips for styling your wardrobe (with your jewelry designs as accessories).

Or if you create wall art prints, you could provide tips on decorating a room featuring your art prints as the final touch.

Potential customers want to learn about you, your niche and products.  That information doesn’t always have to be presented in the written word. Some might want to watch it instead.

Email Course

If being on video isn’t your thing, you could create a email course to teach something about your niche.  Find a topic that potential customers might be interested in and solves a problem.  Layout the information in a series of emails.  Then, send each email over the course of a few days.

The main benefit of an email course is that it builds trust between you and your audience over a series of interactions.

Your mailing list sign ups will be vested in your business and products.  You can even integrate videos into the emails if desired and combine the two mediums.

If you plan on teaching courses later on, you could create an email course that’s a tease for an upcoming product.  It’s a great way to judge the topic’s popularity and if you think someone would pay for the information.

Find out how to create your own email course here.

Free Consultation

Everyone likes something for free.  You could offer sign-ups a chance to have a free consultation with you.  And most people LOVE that personal touch.

During the consultation, you can discuss any issues they might be having related to your niche.  Talk about the ways your products might solve these problems.

This marketing tool is used a lot in MLM – multi-level marketing – businesses.  You invite people into your home to “try” the product in hopes to convince them to purchase it.

The negative side to this type of opt-in freebie is that it can be very time consuming.  If you have to give free consultations weekly, they will eat into the time you have to grow your product lines and other marketing tasks.

One option is to offer this opt-in only for a limited time.  This would encourage sign-ups and limit the amount of time you need to commit.

Also, remember, that even if someone signs up for a free consultation it doesn’t mean they will follow through.  You might end up with a number of sign-ups that don’t actually take you up on the meeting.

Product Trial

Just like a free consultation, a product trial gives your mailing list sign-ups a chance to try your product without any financial commitment.  It’s a great way to build trust with potential customers.

The easiest product trials to offer are digital ones since there’s no shipping involved.  If you want to provide a physical product for customers to try, you could have them pay the shipping and handling fees.  That way the promotion is only costing you the cost of the product.

Facebook Group Invite

One little perk you could add when people sign up for your mailing list is sending them an invitation to your private Facebook Group.

Although running a Facebook Group isn’t always the easiest task, it is a great way to share your products, build trust with your audience and establish your expertise in your niche.  You can also create wonderful relationships with your customers.

It’s a win-win for everyone if run correctly.

If you keep your group private, you make it very exclusive.  Your potential customers will want to join it and participate because it isn’t open for the entire world to see.

You can find more information for setting up your own Facebook group here.

Quiz

I’ve recently heard that the quiz might be back.

Do you remember getting your favorite teen magazine in the mail?  The first thing I always did was find the monthly quiz and take it.  I learned lots of fascinating things such as my boyfriend wasn’t a great match (even though I wasn’t dating any one at the time), what my prom dress style was and if my crush secretly loved me.

I guess my generation finally grew up and we are back in love with quizzes.  Although not as many people might take your quiz, it can provide you with invaluable insight on your potential customers wants and needs.

You can create a quiz on any number of topics from how confident are you in designing your own home to asking about your party style.

There are also a lot of great plug-ins on WordPress to create your quiz. You can check them out here.

Final Thoughts…

The opt-in freebie that you choose can make or break your mailing list.  Potential customers will either clamor to sign up or just click close on your offer.

To be successful at email marketing, you need to create an opt-in freebie that your potential customers actually want.

But how do I figure out which opt-in freebie to create?

If you don’t have an audience yet, this might take some trial and error.  Select an easy to create freebie and test it out.

If you do have even a small audience, though, creating an opt-in freebie can be easier.  Ask them what type of opt-in would interest them enough to sign up for your mailing list.  You can survey your audience through Facebook, Instagram, your newsletter or even write a blog post.

And remember, when designing your opt-in freebie you need to create something that’s valuable, memorable and will help your business grow.

Need help figuring out the best opt-in freebie to create and making one?  Check out our shop and see if I can help you develop the right freebie for your business.

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