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.
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 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:
- A mini-master class called "How To Create Blog Posts That Convert" teaching people how to turn scrollers into subscribers. Sign up for that here.
- An Instagram Quote Library where I share various custom made quotes every month with my library subscribers. Sign up for that here.
- A free resource library that I update a few times a month featuring tutorials, pdfs, and more to help people become better bloggers. Sign up for that here.
- A quiz on "What Lead Magnet You Should Create": Last week I discussed the tool Interact which has helped me grow both of my email lists and I know that it will help you grow yours too. Take that quiz here.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.