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So, you've done all the right things in your business. You picked a niche, branded your business, built a kick-ass website, started your email list, are blogging on the regular, and sharing your value-packed content on social media (oh, you haven't done all this yet? I don't blame you! Click here to get started when you don't know where to start). You already know that list building is the top thing you need to be doing to have regular new clients or to get ready to launch your next (maybe even your first!) online course.
You're so proud of yourself for sticking to a plan and doing all. the. things that you see other successful online peeps doing!
But when you log into your email software, your list isn't growing very fast. All you hear is proverbial crickets. What a huge letdown! So what are you doing wrong? Turns out, nothing, it's just that people need a little more incentive nowadays to opt into your email list.
The world of email marketing has totally changed in the past 2 years. Using an email list to help grow your sales isn't a secret anymore of the most elite online people or those who have invested the $2,000 to attend B-School. I even get asked at pretty much every single store I shop at if I want to give them my email address so that they can send me specials. Uh, no thanks. I don't need your salesy email added to the other 50 salesy emails I get in a day. #sendtotrash
If you're annoyed by the barrage of email marketing going on in the world today, then everyone is. It's no wonder that people are more and more reluctant to give you their email addresses and join your list.
It's not enough to have sign-up boxes plastered all over your website, and it's definitely not enough for that sign-up box to say "Just give me your name and email and you'll be on the list".
Le sigh, right? Like, what else do you need to give away to these people?!
Answer: content upgrades.
What is a content upgrade?
I've alluded to content upgrades before and how they've supercharged my list building. Basically, you can think of a content upgrade as a initial free gift (otherwise known as an initial free offer, aka IFO, or a lead magnet) for just one specific blog post.
This content upgrade is directly related to the blog post topic, and offers a little bit more value over and above what you've already provided for free in the post.
For instance, if you wrote a blog post about the 5 steps to meal planning and how it'll save your ideal clients a ton of time each week, a fantastic content upgrade could be a 1 week meal plan that's already done for them, or a blank meal planning guide with a video of you showing them how to fill it in with healthy recipes in less than 15 minutes.
Another idea is if you wrote a blog post about 3 yoga poses that will get you through your afternoon slump and your blog post included pictures, a great content upgrade could be a video showing them how to do those 3 yoga poses.
Content upgrades could be as small as a one page checklist or Excel spreadsheet, or as a big as a 20 page ebook, it's totally up to you and, more importantly, what you think your ideal clients would see the most value in.
List Building Overview
I'm not shy about sharing numbers from my own business. I really dove deep into the numbers a few weeks ago, and I want to share them with you to show you what's possible.
Let's first take a look at my email list numbers over the last 30 days:
I'll admit, this isn't overly impressive. I've only added 57 people to my email list in the past 30 days ... however, I WASN'T EVEN BLOGGING that whole time!
Yes, I broke my own cardinal rule of blogging regularly (my goal is once a week) because I was finishing up the content for my online course (Brand, Build, Blog, in case you were wondering).
Out of the 57 people who signed up, 44 were for content upgrades on various blog posts. I'm sure that only a super small number of those 44 people would have given me their emails for my regular call-outs (like at the end of my blog post). While 57 people isn't super impressive like 1,000 new people a month would be, it's a hell of a lot bigger than the 13 people who signed up the regular way.
Also, since I haven't put out a webinar or published a blog post with a content upgrade in almost 2 months, where I normally see a big in flux of people sign up all at once, this tells me that all of these people are finding me in two main ways: 1) Facebook (mostly Facebook groups), and 2) Pinterest.
What does that mean? Most of my list building is happening in a more passive manner, and it's sustainable growth. I don't even have to be stressing myself out trying to put out blog posts when I'm doing other important things requiring focused attention, like completing my online course.
Now that you know that content upgrades are awesome, let's look at 3 case studies showing you different ways you can use them for you business other than for just list building.
Case Study #1: Failed Potential Course Topic
I used to develop online courses based on what I thought my ideal clients wanted. That resulted in me spending about $10,000 on a custom membership website, 5 months of pretty much full-time work, and hiring an assistant that wiped out all the profits that I would have made on the course. My sales weren't as high as I expected, and all because I didn't test out my course topic before I made all of those investments.
Don't do what I did and end up spending hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars just to break even at the end of the day.
You can totally use your content upgrades to test if your ideal clients would be interested in your course. All that you do is write a blog post on your potential course topic, offer a content upgrade in it, and see how many people opt-in for it.
For example, I have people all the time tell me that they love my social media presence. In the back of my mind I filed that away as a potential course topic. But when I came up with a social media tracker to help others determine what exactly is a waste of time or not when it comes to their own businesses on social media, the result from that content upgrade wasn't fantastic, with only about 7% of people who visit that blog post opting in for it.
I won't be wasting my time on creating an online course for social media anytime soon.
Are you thinking of putting out a paid ebook about using essential oils to replace toxic household cleaners? Put out a small version first as a free content upgrade to see if your audience even wants it. If they don't want it for free, they definitely won't pay for it.
Case Study #2: Confirmed Course Topics
Following the same steps as above, in terms of coming up with a potential course topic, writing a blog post related to it, offering a content upgrade in it, and seeing what the reaction to it was, I had a few other blog posts that I offered content upgrades for that had amazing results.
These are two possible course topics that have been confirmed by my ideal client audience as something that they're definitely interested in.
The first content upgrade is a money tracker spreadsheet that I shared after I wrote a blog post on how to keep track of your money as a holistic practitioner. In private Facebook groups in various niches, I kept seeing people ask about write-offs, how to organize everything, and how to give it to their accountants or bookkeepers at the end of the year.
Since I already had a spreadsheet that I was using, it took me no time at all to get it into a shareable format (i.e. a Google Sheet).
With 25% of people who visit that blog post opting in for the content upgrade, that tells me that there's a need for systems like that for holistic practitioners. Note to self for a future online course.
The second content upgrade is a blog editorial planner (i.e. organize your blog posting schedule!) that I offered after writing a post about how important blogging and list building is to growing your business. A whopping 1/3 of people who have visited that blog post have opted in for the planner.
I'll give you one guess to what my newest course is about ....
I didn't start creating that course, even though the beginning of it was already forming in my brain, until I got feedback from my audience that it was the way to go. And how have sales gone so far?
Well, I haven't done anything but one little webinar before I even started making the content, and so far have sold $3,190.60. I haven't sent any sales emails, no launch funnels, no joint webinars, and no social media marketing yet. In fact, $2,429.60 of those sales was before I even had the course made, just the sales page. I'm not kidding, it took me a month after people first started signing up before the first 2 modules went out!
I finally cracked the code to developing and building an online course for what my people actually want and need with the sales to back it up, and it all started with one little content upgrade on a blog post.
FYI: it's much more motivating to build and finish your course when you know you've already pre-sold it.
Using Content Upgrades to Launch
After you've created a few blog posts with potential course topics or even one-on-one programs, you've got a perfect email list to launch to. Those people who wanted the content upgrade have already raised their hands that they're interested in what it's about, so if your new course, program, or one-on-one service is related to any of your content upgrades, send them extra emails over and above what you're sending your regular list.
For instance, if you're launching an online program and have 5 sales emails that you're sending out to your regular email list, send 2 extra ones to the content upgrade list that relates to your new programs. Those people are probably much more interested in your program, will see the value of your programs since they already have that problem (or they wouldn't have wanted the content upgrade in the first place), and be less annoyed if you send them lots of emails about it.
How to Set Up Content Upgrades
By now, if you're reading this far, you're probably sold on the idea of using content upgrades for fast list building, but you might not know the how part. It's amazing how that can get in the way of implementing something new!
Surprise, surprise ... I have a content upgrade about content upgrades!
In the following video, if you choose to accept it, I'll show you exactly how I set up content upgrades using several different kinds of software.
Before I started using content upgrades, I mainly used webinars and regular blog post traffic to grow my email list. My sidebar conversion rate is 0.1%, and my “join my newsletter list” conversion rate is 12.3%. That tells you that a lot of the people coming to my blog (and seeing the sidebar) weren’t opting into my email list.
By offering them many reasons to join, the chance of them opting in went way, WAY up, and without having to pay for ads on social media. Before I started using content upgrades, I think my business list (not my health list, that’s separate) was at about 100 people in December 2015. I wasn’t keeping track, so I’m not totally sure. Today, 6 months later, that list is at 393 subscribers. That’s about 40 people a month that I’m adding to my list, more than 1 a day, and I don’t even work full time on this part of my business!
Plus, for the last 4 months I’ve been participating in a travelling program for my essential oils business AND building an online course, so I definitely wasn't focusing on list building and I haven’t been blogging once a week … it’s been more like once a month. Do you want to add at least one subscriber to your list each day when you’re only blogging once a month? Start doing content upgrades!
I wanna know: have you opted in to other people's content upgrades? Have you used them on your own website, or PLAN on using them?
Leave your plans in the comments below!