Your mailing list is all that you own when it comes to connecting with your followers; with social media algorithm changes, there’s no guarantee your fans see your content when you share on different platforms. Developing, growing, and nurturing your mailing list is an important task for bloggers.
Starting your mailing list
Before you jump into growing your mailing list, you probably want to have an email marketing provider- you can start with something like MailerLite or MailChimp – two faves of bloggers that are free up to 1000 or 2000 subscribers, respectfully. Each will have features that allow you to collect email addresses and then deliver information to the people who subscribe. Two other email marketing providers that you hear about in blogging circles are ConvertKit (recently rebranded to Seva) and ActiveCampaign.
Each email provider will have pros and cons, so take a look at their sites, but also ask other bloggers you know for their experiences. Then, join mailing lists of those people so you can experience signing up and receiving information from different providers.
Mailing list best practices
Once you have a mailing list, you need to be sure to follow some guidelines:
- You need to have your physical address, or somewhere that you can receive physical mail (you can choose to do a P.O. Box or look into other options if you don’t want to provide your home address). This is to keep you compliant with the CAN-SPAM act which has HEFTY fines if you don’t follow the rules.
- More recently, the EU came out with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Guidelines. Even if you’re not based in the EU, your readers might be, so when they sign up to receive a freebie or join your mailing list, it needs to be very clear what they’re signing up for and how their information will be used (among other details, so be sure to read up).
How do you get people on your list?
People are very protective of their email addresses, but they’re often willing to give it to you in exchange for something of value. This is where the “opt-in freebie” comes in. These are typically add-ons to your blog post (you can use the same one for more than one post) and are exclusive content that someone would only get if they sign up.
Remember that you can have more than one opt-in; some bloggers have dozens (or more!). You can also have a larger “lead magnet” which may not tie to a specific post but is something a bit more general that connects with your niche and is something your followers would be interested in, such as a 7-day challenge, or a larger recipe book. (Check out our 5-day branding design challenge as an example of a lead magnet; yep- you’ll also be on our mailing list once you sign up).
Once you have people on your list, you want to make sure to grow and nurture those relationships. Continue to provide value and exclusive content; you can even ask your newsletter readers for their input on ideas you have for posts, content, and even paid products. When social media is ever-changing, it’s worth it to put the time and energy into growing and developing your email list.
Transcription of This Episode
Welcome to Feast Food Blog Talk, where we share how to take your food blogging to the next level and inspire you to do more with your blog and business.
Today on Feast Food Blog Talk, we are covering newsletters and how to get people on your mailing list. Now you might be thinking, “I’ve got my blog. I’m on social media, My S.E.O. is pretty good. I don’t really need one more thing. Do I really need a newsletter? Do I need to be collecting email addresses?” Yes. Yes, you do. We’re gonna talk about why. Why is it so important to develop your email list? And just as importantly, how do you get people on it?
So it’s not as easy as you might think. There’s some ways that you can tackle that. So we’re gonna talk about all the different ways that you can get someone on your email list, and how to nurture and grow and develop that so that it helps you grow your business.
As a blogger, you’re trying to reach people. You want to get your content out to them. You want to connect. You want them to know about you and the information that you’re sharing. An done the best ways to do that is through your mailing list, because at the end of the day, your mailing list is all that you own. Social media algorithms are going to change, there’s no guarantee that your fans are going to see your content through social media, so you want to have a direct line. When you have their email, you can reach out to them.
So first, let’s talk mailing lists. There are lots of email marketing providers, who can essentially help you market yourself through email. You basically sign up … some are free … and through these platforms you can create forms, you can create landing pages, which allow people to sign up and get on your mailing list. Sometimes by signing up they’ll get something extra, like a freebie, which we’ll get into in a little bit. Sometimes they just give you their email and then they start receiving information from you.
So you want to make sure that you have a professional way to collect people’s email addresses. There are a few great options. A couple of the free options that people tend to love are MailChimp and MailerLite. MailChimp is free up to 2000 subscribers. I hear that they’re segmenting isn’t great. Segmenting is basically where you can say, “I have certain people who are interested in paleo, certain people who are interested in vegetarian. I have certain users who want all meat all the time.” So that’s segmenting your list, and you can segment your list in different ways. Some email providers help you do that a little more easily than others, and from what I’ve heard, with MailChimp, anytime someone signs up for something to be on your mailing list, they’re counted as a subscriber. So one person could be on three different lists, which means they’re counted three times.So you might get to that 2000 subscribers really quickly.
MailerLite is free up to 1000 people. So those can be really great ways to go, just to get started. But it’s also important to think about starting the way you want to end. So if you try MailChimp or MailerLite out, and you feel it’s kind of clunky … or maybe you’re on someone’s mailing list, and you see, “Oh it’s powered by MailChimp,” but you don’t really love the look of it, maybe you don’t start with that. Now I’m not knocking MailChimp specifically, but I’m just saying, don’t necessarily start with something simply because it’s free. Because if you do this well, you might get to your paid point pretty quickly, and then if you don’t love the service, you’re gonna have to switch over. So do your research to see which … which options there are and which ones you might like best.
A couple paid options that bloggers tend to love, one is Seva, which used to be ConvertKit. And they’ve just recently changed their name. This is my fave. As a blogger, this is what I use. You can do forms, landing pages, you can segment really easily. You do start off paying typically, but every now and then they have a free month to get you started which is really nice. And then ActiveCampaign is another option that a lot of bloggers use and find really great, and they also allow you to try it for free. So lots of different options for the email marketing service that you use, but you do want to pick one.
And like I said, see if you can find people in your circle who already use these, ask them what they think … Bloggers typically have lots of opinions about the different options that there are for everything. And if you’re in blogging circles, you can ask them, “Who do you use for your email provider? Which service do you like best?” And then they can tell you and sign up for their newsletter. See what they look like when they’re sent to you. See what the process is for getting on the mailing list. And if it’s kind of clunky or strange or the confirmation email didn’t come through, that’s all good information for you to have before you ultimately commit.
So decide what works best for you and your needs as a blogger. So once you’ve gotten started with your email marketing provider, there’s a few best practices to keep in mind before you ever send your first email. First and foremost, you need to have your physical address or an address where you can receive mail at the bottom of all of your emails. This is serious. This is to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act. Now, I’ve been in a lot of blogging circles, and people think, “Oh, you can just cut off your street number.” I’ve literally seen people say this in groups. “I just take my street number off, and I have the street name there,” or, “You can just make something up,” or “You can delete it.” No, you can’t. I repeat … Okay, yeah, you can do that. You can delete it. Your provider doesn’t know if you’ve put a false address. But here’s the thing: It is highly illegal to do that.
Each separate email violation of the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties of up to $41,484, and I’m quoting this, so non-compliance can be costly. Did you hear that? It’s not the email that you sent, it’s the separate emails that you sent. So if you send an email out to 100 people, well $41,484 times 100. Okay, I don’t want to scare anyone, but this is serious. You do need to have a physical address. If you don’t want to put your address on it, which I totally get, then think about getting a P.O. Box. Your email provider may allow you to use their physical address. Maybe you have access to someone’s business location, or you use a co-working space where you can use the physical address. It just needs to be that if something were sent to that address, you can get it. Okay, so you definitely need to make sure that you are following those guidelines and have an address that you can be reached at. So that’s one sort of best practice that you need to be making to make sure that you’re protecting yourself and other people.
If you’ve been blogging for a little while, you probably saw all of this buzz about GDPR. That’s the General Data Protection Regulation that was sort of happening with … Not sort of, but it was happening within the EU and basically said that people need to know what they’re signing up for, and how their information will be used, and they really need to be aware of that and agree to it. So if they sign up for an opt-in, which we will talk about next, and you intend them to add … you intend to add them to your mailing list, you need to get their confirmation of this. And remember that this is for users in the EU, the European Union, not if you are in the EU. So don’t think, oh I’m in the US, it doesn’t matter. No, it does because you might have readers and followers in the European Union, okay? Now this is all very new, and hopefully your email provider has taken then steps to allow you to be GDPR compliant. But if you have been with your provider for a little while, and you don’t recall seeing anything about that, definitely look into that.
So that’s kind of those best practices that you want to be following to make sure that you’re compliant. In terms of the content that you are going to ultimately send from your now set up mailing list, you can send weekly newsletters, you can send updates, you can send recipes, but when you send these emails, remember that you’re emailing one person at a time. Make your emails sound personal and engaging. You know, use your email providers options to send the emails specifically to that person’s name. So send content that feels really personable.
Also think about providing content that people can’t get from your blog. Make them want to be on your list and find value in it. Because if they get on your list, and they feel like, “Oh they’re sending me things that feel spammy, or that I’m not really interested in,” they’re going to unsubscribe. And you need to make sure you always have an unsubscribe button as well. So one of the ways that you can ultimately get people on your list is to let them know you’ll get exclusive content emailed to you. When it comes to your list, it’s also a great way to get people excited about what’s to come. For example, if you’re developing products or courses, not only can you get input from your list to help you develop these ideas, but you can get them excited. And if you’re trying to sell something eventually, it kind of builds that buzz.
They’re on your list for a reason. They like your content. So hopefully these are the people who are going to be purchasing the things that you’re going to sell. But don’t be too salesy. Your email list is really an opportunity to nurture your relationship and provide value with the people on your list. Whether that’s 10 people, 100 people, 1000 or even 10,000 people, think about nurturing your relationship. And when it comes to how often you want to email them, there’s not really any right or wrong, but don’t stretch your emails out too far because people will forget about you, and if all of sudden they get an email, and they go, “Why am I on this list? Who is this?” Chances are, they’ll unsubscribe.
So we kind of started with a little bit of the first piece of you gotta have an email provider. And we’ve talked about what you might be sending to them eventually, but how do you get people on your mailing list? Since your email list is such a strong asset, you really need to have plans for how you get people on it.
So here’s the thing: you can definitely have … on your site, and you should have on your site, a spot or multiple spots where people can directly sign up for your newsletter. Right? You’ve got some sort of call to action, maybe at the end of each email. “If you want more tips and recipes, join my newsletter. Sign up here.” But here’s the thing, a lot of people are not just going to sign up. Especially if they’ve come to you through Pinterest or a Google search and this is their first time on your site … They might not be willing just to sign up for your newsletter because people are very protective of email addresses now. And they don’t necessarily just want to give it out to anybody, unless they really love your content and are finding value in it.
So the way that you can kind of work within this reality is to provide value. You want to offer people something. This is what is often referred to as an opt-in freebie. This is a way to get someone on your list. Sometimes these are called “content upgrades,” okay? But the freebie is ultimately something that is sent to the person in exchange for signing up. It’s typically a digital product, okay? So this could be … and it needs to be something that’s enticing, and it has value. For example, sending something like, “Sign up for my email, and I’ll send you a list of the top ten superfoods,” probably isn’t going to do it. Because guess what? They can Google that info and find out. But, if your opt in freebie is five super simple super food recipes, that might get them to sign up. Especially if they’ve come to your site and they’re on a blog that’s about health benefits of superfoods, okay?
So you can create opt-ins that link to the content that is on your blog. And think about this: you can have more than one opt-in. You can have lots of opt-ins. This is part of why you really wanna consider what your goals are with your email marketing before you pick your email provider because some providers can do a better job at managing lots of opt-ins, and others don’t necessarily do that as well. Some blogger create opt-ins for every single post that they write. I’m always amazing by this. For example, for each recipe, they might have an opt-in. On one recipe, it’s a variation. Maybe it’s “Here’s how to make this a vegetarian dish. Join my mailing list, and I send you the variation.” Maybe on the next recipe it’s “Join my mailing list, and you get three ways to use these leftovers.” Right?
So you are enticing someone to get on your mailing list so that you now have direct contact with them. And you’re using a digital product, a one page, a planner, some sort of freebie that they get automatically when they sign up for your newsletter, okay? So as you start to do this more and more often, you want to pay attention to the types of opt-ins that are working best. So you want to see which ones see to be getting people to sign up. Is it when you say, “Here’s an extra recipe?” Is it when you provide more tips or kitchen hacks? Is it when you provide the printable shopping list or organizational tools? Now don’t overdo it. Don’t have too many types of things that you’re trying to send to them, but definitely learn from your audience.
You can even do things like a week long challenge for them. And when you do these different types of freebies and opt-ins, it also helps you test the waters for paid printables or things you might turn into courses later on. So like I said, be sure that your email system can really accommodate automatically sending these freebies out once someone has signed up. Okay? You don’t want to be manually trying to send or track these sorts of things. That’s just not a great use of your time. Okay?
So these opt-ins, these content upgrades, typically are specific to a post. Now you can certainly promote those in other places. You could, you know if you’ve got … recipes, again, for super foods. Super simple recipes for five top superfoods … that’s promoted within maybe a couple different articles, but maybe you also promote that on social media. You tweet out, “Hey, have you gotten your hands on this free super food super simple recipes? Join the newsletter and get this emailed directly to you.” So your opt-in does not only need to be promoted as part of a blog post.
Another way related to this to get people onto your mailing list is to create what is typically called a lead magnet, which is usually larger in scope and possibly more general. So it might not tie to one specific post but would be something that your audience would find very appealing. So this is where maybe a 7 day challenge, a 30 day challenge, or a larger more general tool … like a meal planning system can work really well. Again, the idea is that you want people on your mailing list, but chances are they’re not just going to hand over their email. So it’s an exchange. It’s an exchange of value. Their email address holds value to you, you want to give something to them so that they hand that email address over to you. And then once you have, you want to make sure you’re treating it well and you’re sending them good content again and again and continuing to nurture that relationship.
So a couple more things to keep in mind, as you’re creating these opt-ins or your lead magnets, you want to think about your branding. And you really want to make sure that this is high quality content. Make sure that whatever you’re creating … If it’s a lot of written content that it’s written well, it’s edited, and that it looks like your content. Maybe you’ve got your logo, you always use your brand colors, maybe you come up with certain fonts that you use on these different sorts of opt-ins. You can use a program like Pages on Mac or Canva to help you create these freebies to make them look really good. You can also then use Pinterest to help you promote. You can, within Canva, you can even make sort of mini-images of your lead magnets or your opt-ins, so that when you create the Pinterest pin, they know what they’re getting.
So if you’ve created this really beautiful meal planning system, take small images of those and show the person what it is that they’re actually getting. Don’t just tell them your 30 day meal planning system, show them what that ultimately looks like. That’s going to make something more appealing that someone wants to ultimately sign up for. And when you do create these, once you’ve used either Pages or Canva, PDF is usually the best option for what you’re saving them as so that when they’re delivered to the person, you’re not worried about formatting changing or things getting a little strange because everyone’s programming is a little bit different. And so a PDF is really the best way to save that, but if you need it be filled in, make sure that you … that you look at those options. And PDF is also great because your links will still work in those as well.
So again, it’s not just, “I need any sort of opt-in freebie,” it’s really being thoughtful about what your readers, your potential fans want to have, and then making sure that that looks good and provides value. Now as I already said, when you create these freebies, these opt-ins, don’t just promote them on the blog. You can definitely still share and promote that on your social media channels. You can promote certain opt-ins within your newsletter mailing list. So for example, if you created a new opt-in, you can let your existing newsletter members know. Obviously they’re already on your list, you’re not getting the email address again, but you’re helping them see that you’re continuing to give content. So you don’t necessarily ask them to sign up again, but you could include that PDF … or if it’s a link to PDF, you can give that to them so that they now have access to it.
And what some bloggers end up doing is they end up creating a resource library. So once they’ve created a lot of different opt-ins, they then house those on their blog in typically a password protected area. And then that becomes a lead magnet. So, “If you sign up for my mailing list, you get free access to my healthy food recipe resource library where you’ll find 30 recipes and growing that will help you maintain your overall health.” And you can get very niche about this, right? These could be paleo recipes. It could be vegetarian. It could be kid friendly recipes. It doesn’t even have to always be recipes. It could be ways to get your kitchen and your shopping in order.
So as you have more and more of these opt-ins, you have more options for how to promote them on their own or packing them as a free resource library. They could even become part of a paid option. Now you just want to be careful if you’re going to somehow turn your freebies into something paid that you don’t, basically, give something away for free, and then in the exact same form for paid. So maybe the free version is three recipes, the paid version is ten recipes. So that can then be an upsell, possibly, from your opt-in freebie.
So there’s so many many options for what you can do with these. But again, the idea is that you are finding ways to get people on your mailing list so that you can stay connected with them. So that you can nurture those relationships. This is your direct line of communication with your people. You can ask them questions, they can give you insight into the topics that you should be writing about. If you’re thinking about paid products or courses or content, you can get their feedback, their input. You can get them excited, and then hopefully that turns into helping grow your business in any number of ways.
So if you have not yet taken the time to really research and start your mailing list, you need to do it. It can’t be something that’s overlooked because it really is the one piece of information for each of your readers and followers that you own. Unless the email address gets deleted or they unsubscribe, you have direct access to those people. So take the time, do some research, even start with one of those free options. Start developing your mailing list, nurture it, and watch it grow.
Regardless of where you are in your email marketing journey, hopefully you’ve got some new ideas for how to take a few steps forward. Whether that’s researching the email marketing system that’s right for you, maybe it’s now developing some opt-in freebies, or you’ve got a list of 10,000 people that you’ve been ignoring and now you have ideas for how to nurture it. Remember, your newsletter is such an important asset, so do not overlook it. And guess what? We have a mailing list. We have a newsletter. So you can sign up for that, but guess what? We also have a free five day branding design challenge. So if that sounds exciting for you, head over to our website, check it out, sign up for that. And then you’ll continue to get more great information from us.