by Nina Amir
In the early days of the Internet, people signed up for newsletters and mailing lists eagerly just to stay in touch. Today, no one signs up for anything unless they believe they will receive great value for doing so. That benefit usually comes in the form of a gift of some sort.
A strong “call-to-action” for an “irresistible offer,” will build your email list quickly if targeted to your market. But what should you give away to get visitors to provide you with their email addresses?
Most online marketers, as well as authors and bloggers, use such things as short e-books, videos, white papers, or manifestos as their giveaways. However, one of the most powerful tools you can use to build your mailing list is a free e-course.
Offer a Course
If you have written a book, or if you plan to write a book, you are in the perfect position to create an online course. Repurpose your book content into modules and deliver it on a schedule via your email marketing system. Or create the course and use it as the foundation of your book.
Online courses are a phenomenal way to build a mailing list and a business around your book. They are easy to produce and to deliver 24/7 using the same system you use to capture email addresses—your email marketing system, like Aweber or MailChimp. Additionally, these courses have a powerful impact when done well.
Each time you communicate with your students (subscribers), you provide them with a deeper level of access to you and to the information in your book. This increases the know-like-trust factor, which means these subscribers are more likely to purchase something from you, such as your book.
Create a Free E-Course
Delivering a course via an email marketing system is simple and low tech. It works well for written content, such as modules that only include text, but you can include links to videos or audio, too. To produce an “e-course,” you need an email marketing system with a robust autoresponder system, which automatically sends emails to subscribers on a schedule. (I use Aweber.)
Each module of your free course equates to one email in an autoresponder series. Basically, you create a number of related emails that comprise your course and are sent out at specific intervals and in a specific order.
You place all the material—the text and/or teleseminar or webinar links—in separate emails (one for each lesson). Also create sales and “Thank You” pages that reside on your blog or website. Each email gets sent automatically on a schedule using the autoresponder function of your email provider.
These are saved in that system for continuous use. Anytime someone subscribes, they begin receiving the sequence of emails that constitute your course.
How to Deliver Your Course
The process for delivering a course via an email marketing system differs from one email marketing system to another.
If you are using Aweber, here are the basic steps:
1. Create a landing page or sales page on your website or blog, or use a system that offer templates, such as LeadPages.
2. Create a “Thank You” page on your website or blog. Place your email list sign-up form (once you have it) there along with a brief note telling registrants that they need to fill it out to receive their first lesson and information about the course. If you use a system that provides templates, registrants may automatically be signed up for the list.
3. Create a list. You want a specific list for your free item unless it feeds into your primary list. Each list requires a sign-up form as well as a confirmation note; all subscribers must confirm that they want to be on a list (even the list for the product they purchased).
4. Create a sign-up form. Do this in your email marketing system. (You can use this form as your call-to-action, placing it on the sales page or just on your website or blog. You then can skip step #2.)
5. Create your first follow-up email. This is your “Thank You” note. It can have all your logistical information as well as a formal welcome to the course. It should contain information about how often modules will be “dripped out” to students. Deliver this email immediately upon confirmation.
6. Write your lessons in Word or a text program. Then copy and paste the content into Aweber. Format and add links to your audio, video, art, etc.
7. Add the lesson, or module, to your email marketing system autoresponder program (for the list you created). Each follow up needs an email subject line consistent for the whole course and numbered by module. You also can add “personalization,” which means the system adds the student’s name to the email subject line or to the email.
8. Schedule your subsequent follow-up emails. The first one should go out immediately.
9. Create additional follow-ups in the series. Repeat the process above using the template you created. Save each one, and schedule it for whatever interval you feel best—one per day, per week, or per month.
Aweber doesn’t allow you to add videos or audio directly to an email unless you do so with a hyperlink (at least not at the time of this writing). For this reason, you need to host these somewhere else and then provide a link in your follow-up email.
You can host your videos on YouTube as private videos or on Vimeo as private videos with a password. This allows you to keep the general public from seeing them. Audio can be hosted very inexpensively in a variety of places, such as Soundcloud, Libsyn, or even AmazonS3.
Tips for a Successful E-Course
Here are some tips to help you make your email course, whether it is text, audio, or video based, more successful and help you build your email list quicker:
• Don’t use more than two or three links in each email. This helps to keep your lessons from ending up in students’ spam folders. Or run your email through a spam filter; your email provider should have one.
• Use an email address from your domain rather than Gmail, Outlook, or Yahoo. This avoids the spam filters and helps strengthen your branding.
• Provide great content! Don’t skimp. Over-perform.
Offer Your First Course Free
Offer your first course for free rather than for a fee. Make it a short course if you’d like, perhaps only three to five modules. The course allows you to create a call to action—“add your name and email address to this form to receive your free 5-day course on how to __(do whatever your target market needs or wants).”
By providing a targeted benefit, you will get subscribers 24/7 without much effort. Just be sure the call to action is easily seen on your site.
If you want to gain even more subscribers—or registrants to your free course, encourage more signs ups with:
• A Facebook ad
• A call to action on your Facebook page
• A banner on your blog or website containing a call to action
• Including the call to action in your email signature
• Including the call to action in your marketing materials (business cards, postcards, presentations, etc.)
• A splash page or LeadPage that functions independently
You can create short “e-courses” for any segment of your target market, effectively segmenting your list-building activities. For example, if you are a life coach, you could target people with money issues, relationships issues, and leadership issues. You later can market books (and other products and services) to each of these segments.
It’s possible to have those lists also feed into your primary list. This strategy allows you to ensure those same subscribers receive the emails, or broadcasts, you want to send to everyone. Or you can send to just one segment of your list.
Be sure to add more content to your lists! Don’t get subscribers on one or more of your lists with a free e-course and then forget to continue providing valuable content. That mistake is the fastest way to lose those hard-earned subscribers.
This article was originally published on The Future of Ink and is reprinted here in its entirety for our Magnolia Media Network readers.