Hi everyone! I wanted to share my thoughts on a hot topic right now in a slightly different, more relaxed way than I have been doing as of late. I hope you still get some nutritious goodness out of this post, as this is a topic I have been thinking a lot about lately— I know I'm not the only one.
So I'm sure you've heard all about how you absolutely have to be building up your newsletter in order to build up your community, and let's be honest, generate sales. For the most part, I agree with this. Your newsletter is an incredibly valuable direct line to the people who value you the most— to the people who have already put up their hand and said "YES. I want to hear from you." It's a fabulous way to get a little bit more personal with your readers than most folks would typically do with their blog.
Now while there are myriad different ways that you can entice your reader to sign up for your newsletter/email communication, I've been noticing that the broad strategies seem to fall mostly into two camps; these two different approaches are what I'd like to talk about here, and the pros and cons of each. To keep things simple, I'm going to call them the 'Content Upgrade' and the 'Newsletter Value', which describe, basically, what I'm banging on about here (and why you should care).
The 'Content Upgrade'
The 'Content Upgrade' is the type of newsletter carrot which you have been seeing for quite some time now. Most of the popular bloggers in the lands of business and blogging use this method in order to wrangle subscribers. And there's a reason for that: it works, and it works quickly. If you're getting enough traffic to your blog, attracting the right kind of people, and putting out the right kind of offer, there is really no way that you won't start acquiring newsletter signups.
In my terribly humble opinion, this is both great, and awful. Can a large newsletter list be useful? Incredibly. Can you show those people that it is worth it to stick around because your newsletter has value as well? Absolutely. But the tiny danger is this: they're signing up for the free thing. They're not signing up for your newsletter. They're not signing up for your epic emails. They're not signing up to be pitched to. They're signing up for the content upgrade, and they are tolerating your emails until you prove to them that your emails are worth opening (I can hear controversy bubbling away already). You've piqued their interested with the upgrade, and let's face it: humans be a curious type of creature. We like to see what's out there, especially if it's free.
Is it still possible to build a valuable, engaged newsletter following with this method? Absofreakinglutely you can— but you have to be intentional with what you're doing. You have to know who you want to attract, and who you are attracting intimately, and you have to know what they want. Offering your audience a decluttering guide when you are about to try and sell them a business book is not going to get you where you want to go (it sure sounds like I'm speaking from experience here, or something).
One of the best examples of this method is By Regina.
The 'Newsletter Value'
This method is definitely the siberian tiger of the bunch. It's not something I see very often, but it would seem to be incredibly effective when it is used right.
This method doesn't rely on a content upgrade to generate newsletter sign ups. It doesn't rely on any kind of instant bonus that a reader gets upon subscribing— at least, not one that you tell them about.
So... how do you get people to sign up?
You position the newsletter itself as the item of value. Does this mean that you can just slap a 'sign up for my newsletter' area somewhere on your website and hope folks fill out the form?
No. No. No. Definitely, no. What it does mean is that you have to sell your audience on your newsletter. Seriously: what kind of content are they getting? How often? How is your newsletter actually adding legitimate value to their life? Why do they want to hear from you? Where is your experience?
While it would be hard to cram all of this into a side bar subscription area, it is important that your audience is able to gather much of this information as they are reading through your blog or website (a Start Here page, for example, would be a great place to include this info). You have to demonstrate your value through your content and your experience, and show your readers that it is through your newsletter that they can experience your best content, first-offer promotions and newest products. It's how they build a closer relationship with you, and really get the best value.
Can you still offer little content extras? Absolutely, and I definitely would (in fact, this is the method I'm moving towards personally), however the content freebies are not the immediate reward or incentive for signing up. Instead, they're the things you pass out to your VIP readers when you create them, almost like thank yous for staying subscribed.
Is this method harder? I think so. It's certainly slower, at first. But I think that the quality of subscribers you get this way is much higher. These are people who signed up because they want to hear from you, so chances are, they're opening those emails, reading those emails, and hopefully, buying your products and services.
One of the best examples of this method is from Paul Jarvis.
Do I think either is the perfect solution for every single business and blog out there? Definitely not. Do I think you should dabble a bit with each or a combination to find exactly what is right for you? As always, yes. Personally, however, I want to blog dangerously, and I plan on moving away from the 'Content Upgrade' and toward the 'Newsletter Value'. In fact, I want to be a business and a newsletter with a blog, not a blog with a business and a newsletter.
Does this mean that I'm going to stop blogging? Definitely not! I love this outlet, and building community here has been amazing. Does it mean that I'm going to throw my absolute best content, worksheets, and templates at those folks who sign up for Muses' Mail? Hell yes, and that should include you.