How to create an irresistible list building opt-in offer

Sweet temptation

While brands and businesses are all but racing to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, SnapChat and Instagram, they still are only reaching a small amount of the market. The irresistible email opt-in offer can change that.

The cornerstone of any successful business, online or offline, is its coveted marketing list — the list of customers, clients, prospects and other interested folks who have given you permission to market to them.

Email lists are critical to the success of your business because while not everyone uses social media (it’s crazy, but true), everyone has an email address.

  • Want to sign up for a social media site? Go ahead. They’ll require and email address.
  • Want to buy a product? Sure. They’ll need your email address.
  • Want to subscribe to a publication? No problem. Give them your email address.
  • Want to become a member? Great. They’ll also ask for your email.

People read their email. Most check email every day, if not multiple times a day. Heck! many people even read parts of their spam. Unlike social media, email doesn’t disappear in a crowded, bloated news stream of friends, acquaintances and strangers — it just sits in your inbox until you acknowledge it.

Opt-In Offer Inbox

With email taking over as a primary means of business communication and the rise of email marketing for business, came an intense focus on the growth of email marketing lists. At first it was purely a numbers game: get as many people on your email marketing list as possible, because more people upped the odds of conversion. Email marketing was a novelty and simply offering an email newsletter was enough to get website visitors to sign up and join your mailing list.

But with the proliferation of email marketing across the online business and internet marketing worlds, email opt-in and sign up boxes started showing up on every website you visited.

As business owners, marketers and consumers grew more savvy, the focus shifted from quantity to quality, bringing with it a focus on growing your email list with the right people who want to hear from you and want to learn about your new offers, sales and news.

Combine the dramatic increase in competition for email addresses with the ever-growing glut of spam in everyone’s inboxes, and persuading visitors to join your email list became much harder.

Pink spoon free sample

We’re a society used to free trials, freebies, free samples and bonuses, and when you apply the same “free sample” strategy offline businesses like Baskin Robbins have been using for years to grow your email marketing list, magic happens.

In email marketing, the free sample strategy is applied by offering an ethical bribe — an irresistible free offer that website visitors can take advantage of by simply trading their email address for the free gift.

 

The approach seems simple, yet business owners around the world struggle with creating a free email opt-in offer that their audience actually wants. The result is a glut of websites with giant email opt-ins that aren’t producing results, email lists that are stagnant, and business owners who are frustrated. They wonder:

  • How do you know what to create for your irresistible free offer?
  • How do you know what needs to be included and what information you should share?
  • How do you know if it is something your audience actually wants and needs?
  • How do you use it to upset your paid products or services?
Opt-In Offer Baskin Robbins
Photo: Nelo Hotsuma via Visual Hunt / CC BY

Planning an irresistible list building opt-in offer

Here’s the first thing you need to know about creating a free email marketing opt-in offer that people will actually sign up for: It needs to be incredible. It needs to be extraordinary. It needs to be valuable. It needs to be amazing. It needs to be so good that your first instinct is to charge money for it, and that it hurts a little bit at first to give it away for free.

Nothing like piling on a bit of pressure, right?

Look, your free offer isn’t really free. Payment is still being made, it’s just being paid with an email address instead of money, and for many people their email address is more valuable than money because it means more email in their already overloaded inbox to deal with.

It doesn’t matter what you’re offering them — a teleseminar, webinar, video series, checklist, tips sheet, eBook, special report, white paper, or resource list — saying “yes” means giving you the privilege of entering their inbox. In a world where inbox zero is a quest that is almost never achieved, this is a big deal.

You are competing against every other website your audience visits for their email address and their right to market to them, and every website they visit is making them at least one free offer. So making your offer absolutely, totally irresistible isn’t an option, it’s a requirement if you want your email opt-in to actually grow your email list.

Luckily, this isn’t as difficult as it seems. There are two things you must know before creating your free opt-in offer to ensure that it grows your email list successfully.

Step 1: Know your ideal client profile

The first step to creating a successful free opt-in offer is to make sure you know exactly who you want to attract with your offer and who you want visiting your site. You must know your ideal client profile inside and out.

Your ideal client is someone who:

  • Has problems you can easily fix and solve with your eyes closed.
  • Sees you as a valuable necessity they treasure, instead of a necessary evil.
  • Likes you, appreciates your hard work, and will tell their friends, peers, and contacts about you.
  • Pays you what you’re worth and is happy to do so.

By knowing who you want to attract with your opt-in offer, you can tailor the development of your offer (and the marketing for it) to speak right to them, making sure every bit of content is relevant, valuable and useful.

Step 2: Understand your ideal client’s problems

The No. 1 reason consumers search the web or perform a search with a search engine is to solve a problem or fulfill a need. That means visitors to your website have a problem, a need, or a worry, and they are looking for a solution. But here’s the thing: you can’t just guess or assume that what you think they want is what they actually want.

A clear understanding of your ideal client’s biggest problems, challenges, and struggles, what they fear, and what keeps them up at night, will guide you in the creation of an offer that helps move them toward solving their problem or eliminating their worry.

Notice that I said “move them toward” and not solve completely.

The most successful email marketing opt-in offers solve a critical piece of a problem, but not the entire problem.

 

You want to give them enough value to move them closer to their goal, help them achieve something, and make them happy they took advantage of your offer. With that said, you want to give them only enough to move them to the next logical step, then, as part of your offer, include information on how they can take another step, keep going, and achieve even more by buying your product or investing in your services that solve the entire problem.

Once you know who you want to target your email opt-in offer to and what problem it is going to solve, you can get started creating your free offer.

Creating an irresistible list building opt-in offer

The first step to creating your free list building opt-in offer is deciding what type of offer you’ll be making.

1. Choose your opt-in offer

Selecting the right type of list building offer or ethical bribe can mean the difference between opt-in success or opt-in failure. That means you must do some research before you decide what type of opt-in offer you want to use as part of your email marketing list building strategy.

When it comes to choosing the free gift you will offer in exchange for your visitors’ names and email addresses, you have a lot of different options:

  • eBook
  • Teleclass
  • Audio recording
  • Tips sheet
  • Templates
  • Special report
  • Teleseries
  • White paper
  • Workbook
  • Resources
  • Presentation notes
  • Webinar
  • Consultation
  • Transcripts
  • Quiz
  • Presentation slides
  • Video DVD
  • Video series
  • Worksheets
  • Tutorials
  • Guide or manual
  • Video
  • Email series
  • Article bundle
  • Livestream
  • Strategy session
  • Audio CD
  • Sample product
  • Extra savings
  • Deals
  • Free Trial
  • Training materials
  • Handbook
  • Music
  • Expert interview
  • Book chapter
  • Membership newsletter
  • Photos
  • Checklists
  • Assessment
  • Apps
  • eCourse
  • Printables

Choose the top three to five options that would be the best fit for your content and your audience.

2. Assess the “fit” of the options for your ideal clients.

For example, an eCourse might not be a great fit for a senior/elderly niche who isn’t on the computer much, and a long eBook might not be a great fit for a busy mom. You’ll need to:

  • Know if your ideal clients want and are attracted to that type of offer. If you’re not sure, ask what they want, how they prefer to learn, and maybe do a survey.
  • Know if the offer will be easy for them to use right away. Instant gratification means happier prospects, customers, and clients. Sending their freebie by mail? Give them a digital gift to hold them over until their actual freebie arrives.
  • Know if the potential free offer is already being offered by someone else. Are there others in your niche already offering a special report? Do most providers who do what you do offer an audio download? Look at what is already out there and either do something totally different or improve on what’s already out there and deliver something way better.
  • Know if your ideal clients have been disappointed in the past. Have your prospects downloaded eBooks in the past that promised big, but didn’t deliver? Did they download a workbook that just caused more frustration? Find out what hasn’t worked for your niche in the past (ask/survey) to make sure you offer something different.

3. Examine the “creatability” of each potential offer.

Once you know which new list building free offer ideas will be a perfect fit for your ideal clients, it’s time to see how viable each option is. You’ll need to look at:

  • How much effort will it take to create?
  • How much effort, time and money, will it take to deliver?
  • Who will create the offer? Can you do it yourself or do you need to hire others?
  • What will it cost in money, time and resources to create?
  • Where will the content come from? Are you creating it from scratch or repurposing existing materials?
  • When does your free offer need to be complete and ready to put on your website?
Ideally, you want to identify potential free offers that are simple to create, high-value, low cost, and easy to deliver.

 

Hint: Be prepared. The best offers take time, planning, and care to be truly great.

4. Produce your irresistible opt-in free offer.

Now that you know the type of offer your are going to create, you know that it is a great fit for your niche, and you know that it is doable, it’s time to produce the actual free offer. You’ll need to:

  • Develop an outline of the offer content and write/create the content.
  • Edit, revise, refine and proofread all of the content at least twice.
  • Produce the free offer — i.e. shoot the video, record the audio, design the eBook or report, etc.
  • Design the 3D product graphic for your website opt-in offer box and marketing materials and make sure it matches the look and feel of the actual offer.
  • Be sure to invest in high-quality design for your free offer.

If your offer is sloppy, looks homemade, contains typos or errors, is hard to hear, or is designed poorly, it will not only reflect poorly on you, but it will also take away from the perceived value of your offer. Your content may be amazing, but if it looks cheap and/or ugly, consumers will notice, and trust me, it’s what they will remember.

5. Put your new list building offer on your website and market it.

Promote Opt-In OfferAt this point you have created an irresistible, list building, email marketing opt-in offer that your ideal clients will love and it’s up to you to market it like crazy and get it in front of your ideal clients and prospects.

When creating your website opt-in box, remember to include:

  • An attention-getting, compelling headline.
  • Eye-catching photo or 3D graphic image.
  • Brief copy (text) about the offer benefits.
  • Use the word “free.”
  • Tell your audience what to do next.
  • Opt-in with name and email fields.
  • A clear call-to-action button.
  • A short privacy policy.

Once your opt-in box is added to your website, you need to get the word out and share your new irresistible free offer with your networks — No one will know it’s there if you don’t. Write articles and blog posts on the topic of your free offer and promote your offer in the articles and posts, post about it (and link to it) in your social networks, shoot a video for YouTube and other video sharing sites to send people to your site. Promote everywhere you can think of.

The bottom line

Remember, creating a successful opt-in offer that builds your list AND generates new hot prospects and new clients is an extraordinary, irresistible opt-in offer that is so good, it causes you to you second guess yourself and consider charging money for it. It needs to solve a critical problem your ideal prospects are having and deliver enough value that they wonder what the next step is.

While your free offer marketing efforts and website opt-in box will turn visitors into list members, it’s is up to you to make sure that the content in your free offer compels people to take action and transition from list member to hot prospect, paying customer, or new client.


Also published on Medium.

Jennifer Bourn
As founder and creative director of Bourn Creative, Jennifer is an award-winning designer with a penchant for writing, white space, chocolate and Legos. She has been in the design, web and digital strategy trenches since 1997, working with a variety of clients. Today she consults on brand, website and digital strategy, leads all design projects, and specializes in custom WordPress theme design. When not obsessing over pixels, margins and type, Jennifer manages the Bourn Creative brand, writes for multiple blogs, and manages the creation of all internal systems and processes. Connect with Jennifer on Twitter.