5 Things You Should Have Before You Send Your First Email

Starting an email list can be very stressful but creating a list can make your business successful and connect you with people that you never thought you would connect with. I have learned a lot growing my list for this blog as well as The Happy Arkansan and I wanted to share a couple of things I think you should have before you send your first email to your list.

5 Things You Should Have Before You Send Your First Email | Growing your email list is very important so that you can connect with your readers outside of social media accounts. Today I am teaching you the five things I believe you should have before you send your first email to your list.

1. A Post Office Box

Having a post office box is really important if you intend to grow your list. I didn't invest in this soon enough and I really wish I would have invested a million times sooner. Getting a P.O. Box seems hard to do, but it's actually not hard at all.

I recently got a P.O. Box while I was home for Spring Break. It only took a few minutes to fill out the form and get approved for a box. Why do you need a P.O. Box? Well, because the FTC requires that anyone who intends to communicate via email needs an address somewhere in their email (it's usually placed in the footer of the email.) This is in accordance with the CAN-SPAM Act. This address can't be the address to the White House. It has to be a physical address that you can receive mail at if necessary. You don't have to give this address out as your business address to businesses or people who want to mail you things, but it needs to be a place where people can send mail if necessary.

Having a P.O. Box allows you to feel much safer because you don't have to put your physical address down while also complying with the FTC stipulations. Compliance is very important because if you are caught not following their rules you can get a hefty fine, per email! In fact, according to the FTC, "each separate email in violation of the law is subject to penalties of up to $40,654." 😱 So, if you aren't willing to give out your physical address, get a post office box instead.

Comparison Shop

Comparison shopping is SO important when it comes to getting a post office box. In my hometown of Forrest City, AR getting a P.O. Box for 12 months cost me $58 (including my key deposit.) If I had opted to get my P.O. Box in Jonesboro, AR where I attend university I would have paid $76 before my key deposit. Chances are there are plenty of towns around your town that have a cheaper P.O. Box rate, especially if you never intend to actually get mail at that address. Obviously, if you intend to pick up mail at your post office box you want to go with the Post Office that is closest to you. Click here to check out the tool that USPS offers for checking out the P.O. Boxes in your area.

2. An Email Service Provider

I have discussed the importance of finding the best email service provider on the blog before, and I still think this is a very important topic for anyone who is interested in sending out emails to their list. You need to think about a number of important variables in order to find a good email service provider and I talk about all of this in that post on the blog.

Having a good email service provider can really make or break your experience sending emails to your subscribers. When I was on Mailchimp for The Happy Arkansan my open rate was consistently low and that is because a lot of my mail was getting stuck in promotions folders and in spam folders. When I switched to ConvertKit for The Happy Arkansan I was able to get a considerably higher open rate for my emails and I was able to connect with more of my email list because of that. You are always going to have some people who don't open your emails, but the email service provider that you use can really impact how many opens you get.

For Amanda Cross Blog I use MailerLite, which I adore because it can do a ton of amazing things and it's open rate is pretty amazing too. If you are looking for a free service that can do a lot of amazing things like automation and even exit intent pop-ups then MailerLite is your platform. For this blog it's not quite worth it yet to use ConvertKit as an email service provider but I am hoping that in the future it will become easier to consider.

3. A Lead Magnet

It's really hard to send an email to absolutely no one so I really encourage you to think about your lead magnet and how you will in turn share that lead magnet to get more people on your list.

If you are starting your list I don't encourage you to spend a ton of time making individual content upgrades for each and every post in your arsenal. I want you to be more strategic about how you spend your time growing your list. 

What can you create that will be a great overall lead magnet and then how can you leverage your most popular posts (or the posts that you think will become popular) to create a slew of content upgrades that work across your site?

Your Main lead magnet

You should have one good lead magnet that helps draw people in to your site across the board. For this I encourage one thing: a toolkit. A toolkit is seen as extremely valuable and it can be quite easy to make. I have a number of toolkits on my other blog The Happy Arkansan that consistently bring in new subscribers to my site. For this blog I put my toolkit in a free resource library but that's is because I had a number of resources ready to rock. If you do not have that, I would encourage you to just make a toolkit. Below I will link my step-by-step instructions to make a toolkit for your blog

After you make your first toolkit I would share the lead magnet sign up on every post that's relevant, make a pin just for that lead magnet and share it across various group boards (making sure that you are following the rules), and seeing if there are places you can share your lead magnet in Facebook groups.

As far as main lead magnets go I have also created:

You can do all sorts of things as you main opt-in freebie. The possibilities are endless but you want to make sure that you can share your main freebie in a variety of places. When making your main lead magnet you want to think:

How can I create a freebie that will connect with as many of my blog posts as possible?

This shouldn't be difficult if you have a niched down blog, but it may take some careful consideration if you blog about a number of topics. You can have a couple of main lead magnets if you have a more diverse blog, but you don't want to lead magnet yourself into a hole because you cover SO MANY topics on your blog.

Blog Specific Lead Magnets

I personally don't create a lot of blog specific lead magnets because I find that it's not a great way to grow my list. I find that I grow my list more when I focus on creating great overarching lead magnets that really get at the heart of my blog instead of focusing on small tiny pieces. 

In fact, I personally look at my popular posts and then I base overarching lead magnets around those posts. For example, on The Happy Arkansan I had a popular post that was doing good on Google and Pinterest all about creating irresistible sorority social media profiles, so I created my sorority toolkit to go along with that post. I would like to experiment in the future with creating a very specific sorority social media freebie though.

But, how can you create blog specific lead magnets that convert? Well, there are a number of things you can do to create the best lead magnets.

  1. See what your most popular pages where for the last 30, 60, or 90 Days: To do this, go to Google Analytics and change the date range in the calendar then go to Behavior-->Site Content-->All Pages.
  2. Think about the average time spent on page: This will help you decide where to best place your first opt-in. If the time on the page is quite low you may want to consider moving your first opt-in location further up the page. If it's quite high you may not have to worry about the first placement as much. Always have multiple opt-in locations on your site.
  3. Check out the blog post: Do you have an opt-in on the blog already? Do you think it seems to match the blog post as much as it could? If not, this may be a good candidate to add an opt-in upgrade to.
  4. Read the comments for the blog post: What are people commenting on or gravitating toward? Are there any comments of what people wish you would have included? This will help you best think about what opt-in to create.
  5. See how people are reacting to the blog on social media: Particularly on Pinterest, how are they interacting with the post? Are they sharing it to specific Pinterest boards over and over? This might let you know how people are reacting to or categorizing the post.
  6. Make Your Content Upgrade: With all this investigation in mind, create your perfect opt-in freebie. Check out this awesome blog from Opt-In Monster featuring 30 Content Upgrade Ideas To Grow Your List.
  7. Publicize It: Of course, now that you have created this awesome opt-in freebie find ways to republicize these posts through things like social media, link-ups, and more.

4. A Blogging Email Address

A blogging email address is crucial and quite easy to obtain. I talked about this process at length in a recent post all about getting your blogging email address. If you aren't sure how to go about the process of buying a blog email address I really encourage that you check out that post.

So, where does one get a blogging email address?

There are many places to get an email address that features your blog URL.

  1. Your host or domain provider: Some hosts provide either full fledged email services or a look-a-like that sends any emails that go to that address to an email address that you set up.
  2. G Suite: This is what I use and it's perfect! For just $5 a month you can get a branded email address that has access to the Google suite of software. It is absolutely perfect in my opinion and a necessary expense for my two blogs. Yes, it takes some money, but it's also amazing and gives you access to the whole suite of Google products branded with your URL along with your shiny and amazing blog email address.

Why do you need a blogging email address anyway?

So many people send emails with a gmail.com address and that's fine when you are just starting but it is SO EASY to get a blogging email address now as long as you have a domain name that you should consider making the leap.

I discuss this in my blog all about blogging email addresses, but I want you to consider the following vignette.

You log into your email and a headline catches your eye. It says in bright bold letters, YOU JUST WON A $200 SHOPPING SPREE FOR BEING A VALUED CUSTOMER OF (Insert Your Favorite Store). You know that occasionally they give out free gift cards to people on their email list, and you are on their email list, of course. Then something catches your eye, you see the address that sent you this email, but something is not quite right. It's sent from an @gmail.com account and you can't help but feel defeated. This company would NEVER send a prize email from an @gmail.com account. That just doesn't make any sense.

As you can see by the vignette above, it's really hard to be taken seriously when you are conducting business from an @gmail.com. Is it impossible? No, but it's harder to be taken seriously when you don't take the time to purchase a blogging email address. If you are just starting it may not be a 100% necessity, but I would make the investment as soon as it makes financial sense for your brand.

5. Something To Send Your List

Last, but certainly not least, you need something to send to your email list. 

Remember, your audience wants to hear from you. That is why they signed up for your email list to begin with.

No one gives out their email address freely anymore. If your readers signed up for your mailing list, they did it because they want to hear what you have to say. So many people get so fearful that they just sit on a bunch of email addresses before they send their first email to their list. When you sit on your email list and watch it grow, you are removing yourself further and further from your email list. This does not help you when it comes to creating a list of raving fans of your brand.

Don't become forgettable just because you have a fear that you will bother your list. Seriously, as long as you are not sending them a million email messages a day, you are probably not bothering your list.

But, Amanda, what if i have a small list?

You are the only person who knows how many people you are sending an email to. Write your first email with gusto and write your email like you are writing to a million people instead of just a handful of people. Then, recycle that ish! You know what the great thing about having only one or two people see your banging first email is? You can then turn that email into a blog post or even the first part of a welcome sequence for future email subscribers.

Nurture the people on your small list like no tomorrow and see what you can accomplish. Make it a game and test out different things on your subscribers as you grow your list. I promise, your subscribers are not judging your list on how big or small it is.

Final Thoughts

That's it for my list of the 5 Things You Should Have Before You Send Your First Email. I hope that this list has helped you as you think about the things you want to send to your email list.

Did you have any of these items before you sent your first email? What do you think is crucial to have before you send an email to your list?

How To Use Interact To Quickly Grow Your List

Note: I want to thank Interact for providing this platform for me to use and write a review on. All opinions are my own.

Today on the blog we are talking about quizzes, but not just any type of quiz (sorry if you thought we were going back to the Quizilla days!) Today we are talking about quizzes that will rapidly grow your email list. Crazy right, I thought so too, but the lovely people at Interact recently reached out to my blog and gave me access to their platform so I knew I had to review this process for y'all.

How To Grow Your Email List With Quizzes | Interact has SO MANY amazing tools to help you connect with your audience and grow your email list. Click through for my post all about how to use Interact  quizzes, giveaways, and more to quickly grow your email list.

Have you ever taken one of those awesome Buzzfeed quizzes? You know, the one that tells you what song from the mid-2000s you are or what vacation spot you should travel to next? You can create those for your brand, but not only that, you can grow your email list with it! Buzzfeed doesn't usually go this route, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't.

I have slowly been implementing this on my two blogs for the last few weeks and I have been amazed by what Interact has done for my blog. In fact, within the first day of having an Interact quiz on my blog The Happy Arkansan I was able to capture 11 leads. That's eleven new emails that I didn't have on my blog before. Crazy, right?

So, how does it all work?

  1. You create a quiz of 6-12 questions (you can create quizzes that are longer, but you don't want your quiz to take a long time, because the longer it takes, the harder it will be to keep people interested.)
  2. You promote the quiz and let people know what's happening and how the quiz works.
  3. They take the quiz, and right before the results get shown, there is a place for them to enter their information. The Interact platform has space for people to enter their email (required), first name, last name, company name, zip code, and phone number. You should only ask for what you actually use though so I only ask for their first name and email address.
  4. You get the lead, they get their results, access to the call to action you set, and they are automatically hooked up to whatever email sequence you set for them.

Pretty simple right? It does take some time because you have to think about the quiz that you want to create. Interact makes it easy though with tons of awesome resources on the site that we will discuss later.

Types of quizzes

Interact is a really amazing platform because they have tons of different quiz options that allow you to create beautiful quizzes easily. Here are the different types of quizzes you can make with Interact:

The Three Different Types Of Quizzes You Can Make With Interact

The Three Different Types Of Quizzes You Can Make With Interact

Assessment Quizzes

Assessment quizzes are great for testing your readers knowledge on a topic. Interact gives the example of "How much do you actually know about the world cup?" I could see this being great for your blog posts as well to determine if your readers have actually been reading what you are saying on the blog and to make sure they are taking away the main points you are trying to make.

For my other blog The Happy Arkansan I recently made an assessment quiz called "How Much Do You Know About Sorority Recruitment?" I got a quiz completion within an hour of putting this quiz on Pinterest. People want to test their knowledge of different topics, y'all.

An example of an assessment quiz I used for The Happy Arkansan.

An example of an assessment quiz I used for The Happy Arkansan.

Personality Quizzes

Personality quizzes are great and they are the type of quiz I have used most as I was testing out this awesome platform. I have created three different personality quizzes for The Happy Arkansan and Amanda Cross Blog combined:

  • How Should You Get Your Organization's Name Out There? On The Happy Arkansan
  • What Quote Do You Need In Your Life Right Now? On The Happy Arkansan
  • What Lead Magnet Should You Create? On Amanda Cross Blog

You can take the What Lead Magnet Should You Create quiz here.

An example of a personality quiz

An example of a personality quiz

Scored (Tallied) Quizzes

This is similar to the assessment quiz, but it puts you into a category of sorts. They give an example of "What is your marketing IQ?" So a Scored quiz differs from an assessment quiz because in a scored quiz each answer is associated with a number that you set. These numbers can be positive or negative whole numbers.

So for instance, if you have a 10 question quiz and a participant can score at most 100 points on each question and at least 0 points on each question then you have a score range of 0-700 that you need to divide among how many ever results that you want. So if you have 4 results then it would be good for you to to set up your results in this way:

  • 0-175
  • 176-351
  • 352-527
  • 528-700

Or something similar to that so your answers are somewhat even across the four categories.

I was listening to a podcast that Josh one of the founders of Interact was on the other day and he mentioned that these quizzes are great for segmenting your audience and I agree. For example if you want to write more posts about email marketing in the future you can create a quiz titled, "What is your email marketing IQ?" and then get people on your list by promoting the lead magnet. Then once you have enough data you can start tailoring your email marketing posts (or even content you send quiz takers automatically) by what their email marketing score was.

How to Place & Promote your quiz

I have produced a couple of different quizzes and I put them in a variety of places. You can create quizzes in a couple of different ways.

As a stand alone lead magnet

You can easily create stand alone lead magnets with a quiz. I have a couple of those going on. For Amanda Cross Blog I created a quiz titled, "What Lead Magnet Should You Create" which I linked earlier in this blog post. For The Happy Arkansan I created a quiz titled "What Quote Do You Need In Your Life Right Now?" as a lead magnet to attract college students who are stressed out from midterms exams and just general college life.

These two quizzes are hosted on a separate page that I have on Amanda Cross Blog and The Happy Arkansan. I can then make Pinterest images for those pages and link directly to the page where I give some brief instructions about how the quiz works and what to expect from it. I feel the need to let readers know that it will ask them for their email address beforehand, mainly because I don't want them to be upset with me that it asks, because I warned them beforehand.

As a part of any blog posts you have on your site

An Interact Quiz Within A Blog Post

As you can see on the image here I have a blog post on The Happy Arkansan where I talked about how to get your organization's name out in the public. As a part of that blog post I made a quiz titled "How Should You Get Your Organization's Name Out There" that could be taken in order to get a PDF featuring 10 Extra Ways To Get Your Organization Noticed. If you liked the post where I discussed the five ways, you would obviously be excited to take the quiz so you could get the extra ways that I had to offer my readers. Each result in the quiz was an item that we talked about in the blog that day.

This is a personality type quiz, but it could also be a cool way to test your readers knowledge of what you shared in the blog post, think of it like a pop quiz. You could also test their general knowledge of the topic, not just stuff that you talked about in the post. If you had a post about Pinterest marketing you could also include a quiz to see how much your readers know about Pinterest.

Other awesome Interact tools

Interact has a lot of other great features that are great for content creators. Check out these other awesome tools they have on the site:

list building giveaways

With Interact you can create quick and easy list building giveaways where the focus of the giveaway is on collecting email addresses. They have easy to use forms that you can embed on different pages in your site. Then once they are live you can collect all those great emails. Plus they have a social media component after they have entered their email address that allows you to get access to your subscribers audience through social sharing.

I really adore how the giveaways feature is set up on Interact and I think that you will too!

facebook live polls

Interact also has a great tool that helps you set up Facebook Live Polls. You know those reaction polls where the likes mean one thing and hearts mean another. They create beautiful live polls that can be added to your Facebook Live Stream as either the full stream or part of the screen. I haven't played around with this feature yet but it's something I definitely want to use in the future.

Videos About Interact

I made a TON of videos about Interact for y'all. Some of the content overlaps a little bit, but for the most part they cover various parts of the quiz building, giveaway making, and live polling process as well as covering questions about things like pricing and seeing some other live examples that they have up.

An Overview Of Interact's Features

In this video I take you through the quizzes, giveaways, and live poll sections for an overview of some of the amazing list building and community building features that Interact has on their site so you can see them up close and personal.

A Look At My Interact Quizzes

In this video I take you behind the scenes of my actual quizzes so that you can see how they look when they are made and some of the cool things you can do with the platform.

Interact Pricing And Resources

In this video I walk you through Interact's pricing plans, Interact's Live Examples section, Interact's Customer Successes section, and Interact's blog. Learning more about these resources and digging through them will really help you determine if Interact is the right investment for you.

I sincerely hope that y'all found ALL of these awesome tutorials helpful. I worked hard to cover the various elements of their platform with you in these videos and I hope that you loved getting to see some behind the scenes of Interact because I know that I love interacting (see what I did there? 😉) with a platform before I commit to a free trial or the program itself so I am so excited to share how easy it is to work with Interact with y'all today!

Final Thoughts

Overall I am in love with Interact as a platform and I think that you will be too. It's easy to use and it creates amazing and interactive quizzes. Again I want to thank Interact for being so gracious and letting me use their platform. It's a wonderful tool to have on my side as I build my little corner of the internet.

How To Increase Shares on Your Blog Posts

It's really hard to justify having a blog if no one is reading it. A huge reason that certain blog posts go viral is because people are easily able to tell their friends and family about the awesome new blog they just read. Think of your readers as potential microinfluencers. Your readers each have an audience that only they can tap into. Readers will not automatically share your content or seek out ways to do so. Today on the blog I am going to talk about how to get more shares on your blog content.

How To Increase Shares On Your Blog Posts | Creating shareable content is important for all bloggers, especially newbie bloggers. We are told "if we build it, they will come," but that is not always the case. Click through for five tips to increase shares on your blog content today.

I. Add A Share Bar On Your Blog

Let's be honest, the share buttons that come with most blogging platforms are teeny tiny and easy to miss. There are SO many great sites out there that allow you to add share buttons quickly and easily. My favorite are:

I am sure there are other share bars out there, but those sites make the prettiest share buttons in my opinion. I really enjoy Shareaholic because you can really brand your share buttons because you can color the background and logo of the buttons. I chose this specific red color because it was one of my brand colors and I chose white because it went well with it. You can't choose as many colors on Sumo unfortunately (at least not on the free version).

Decrease The Number Of Share Options To Your top 4-5

As you can see over to the side, I only have 4 options. I specifically chose Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and StumbleUpon because those platforms are where I want my blog shared the most. Most share buttons that you can get have the option to limit what share buttons you have on your sidebar, and I really encourage you to do this.

Yes, some people share more when they know all the options, but for most people they get overwhelmed. Make the choice for them, and there is usually a button they can press if they want to choose something else.

If you don't want to make your share bar smaller, at least take the time to pull certain networks to the top. The top of your share bar should always be the networks you want people to consider the most. Be strategic about how you set up your share bar, because that can really change how often someone shares your content.

2. Always Include An Image On your Posts

When I first started blogging in 2011 I never shared an image on my posts--like ever. I would always just share text, obviously broken up into paragraphs, but walls of text nonetheless. People cannot share your content if you give them nothing to share. Words alone don't translate well on social media, and even if they did, you wouldn't want them to. When you share content that is just words it is really easy to skip over and ignore. You don't want to create forgettable content.


This is where my FAVE site ever Canva comes in. Canva makes it excruciatingly easy to create cute graphics for your brand. They have 100s of pre-made templates and dozens of image sizes already pulled for you so your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc images are always on fleek. You really don't even have to think when creating work on Canva. I really suggest going up to Canva For Work, for a few main reasons:

  • Unlimited storage and folders for your images: if you are a stock photo hoarder like me, this is a godsend because I can always quickly find the right image when it's all stored online.
  • Uploading your own fonts: If your font of choice isn't on Canva already, you can upload a ton of awesome fonts to Canva by having Canva for Work.
  • Color palettes: No more searching for color codes when designing, because you can store tons of color palettes on Canva with Canva for Work.

Those reasons on top of all the awesome templates you get just by being a Canva for Work member is amazing. It's a bit pricy at $120/year, but I think it's well worth it because it makes creating images a breeze.

3. Join Reciprocation Groups

Reciprocation groups are a great way to "fake it until you make it." As long as you are joining reciprocation groups where the people actually understand who you are and create content that is similar to you, these groups can be an amazing asset for you. 

One of my favorite reciprocation based Facebook groups is Show Your Blog Love. If you don't want to join a large reciprocation group consider getting together a small group of individuals who post around the same amount of content as you to comment on each others work each week.

Tailwind Tribes

Tailwind has become a huge part of my Pinterest arsenal lately, particularly because of Tailwind Tribes. These tribes make it SO EASY to collaborate with your fellow creators to share content and grow together. Because of Tailwind and their Tribes feature I was able to get some awesome content to 100+ pins, even as a fairly new Pinterest account which is amazing in my opinion. It's not easy to get a Pinterest pin to so many repins and I really thank Tailwind for allowing my content to reach the heights that it has.

Are you unsure where to start with Tribes? I really love this post by Singing Through The Rain called 75 Tailwind Tribes You Need To Join Today. It has SO MANY amazing Tailwind Tribes listed that you can join right now.

4. Share Other People's Content & Tag Them

Even if you don't want to join any reciprocation groups, make a habit of sharing other people's content and tagging them if you can. By sharing other peoples content freely and giving their account credit they may return the favor. Even if they don't return the favor by giving you a share they may decide to reply to your content or give your share a reshare or RT. This will really help you grow your audience because it gets your account in front of their audience whether it's a share of your own content or just a RT. 

People love when others value their work so much that they share it. Shares and comments don't happen as often as you would think, so when you share someone's work be sure to let them know that you are doing it by tagging them.

You can do a lot of your share work on autopilot by using sites like SmarterQueue to automate your sharing process. Sharing can really help you because it increases the content you put out on social media, it helps you collaborate with people in your niche, and it can also lead to people sharing your work. It's a win all around in my opinion.

5. Flat out tell your readers what you want them to do

I know, it sounds crazy, but asking for shares, comments, likes, etc is one of the easiest things you can do to get more shares, comments, and likes. Why? Your readers might not think like bloggers think, depending on your niche. On this blog I am talking to other bloggers so they know the power of a blog share. On my other blog The Happy Arkansan, I am not speaking specifically to bloggers, I am speaking to people who are in college (while there is a bit of overlap because some of my readers are college bloggers.) They wouldn't necessarily think to share a post after they read it, but if they see the share buttons and see me asking them to share the content--they will be more likely to share the content.

So if you want your readers to share your post, let them know that. If you want them to comment on your post, ask them a specific question to get them to comment. Be specific in your ask, but don't ask too many things. At the end of every post give your readers a specific set of marching orders.

Final Thoughts

We all want to create more content that people want to share, but you cannot expect that shares will come. It is important to do the work that getting blog shares requires, at least until you have made a name for yourself and blog shares come naturally.

What will you start implementing on your blog so that you can get more shares of your own content?