When I launched JasonGracia.com in November of 2012, I had a smattering of subscribers. A few months later I had over 4,000. In this three-part blog series, I’m going to show you exactly how I did it and how you can do it too.
Email is Still King
The business world is whizzing and whirling with online platforms to reach your audience. Vine, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, iTunes, YouTube, and the like are without question powerful tools; anything that allows such instant and personal contact with your fans is invaluable.
Still, the connection point that matters most doesn’t spring from a twittering bird or photo filter. It’s email.
Unlike these other platforms, email gives you control. The expert who builds his fan base using an outside platform has no say over how his content is distributed, no say over privacy issues, design changes, or popularity. It’s a dangerous place to build your home.
Email is also a direct link to a specific human being. It’s not a general update, digitally shouted to the masses. It’s not a generic one-liner squeezed into a never-ending stream of information.
It’s a letter between two people.
Toss in the results that caring, astute email marketers generate from those letters as opposed to requests and promotions made on outside platforms and there’s no question: Email is still king.
The Key to My Strategy
Along with gaining 4,000 wonderful subscribers at JasonGracia.com, I also grew a list of 135,000 with my first online business, and I did it all by avoiding the mistake made by millions today.
Subscribe to Updates.
You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a site that offers this “enticing” deal to new visitors…visitors who already receive mountains of “updates” they’ll never read. When a typical visitor lands on your site and sees an invitation to sign up for more of the same, they’ll click away, never to return again.
I converted 4% of visitors to my first site with an offer of email updates. A single change bumped that number to 46%.
I offered something they actually wanted. I offered them a lead magnet.
Lead Magnets 101
Lead magnets are known by many names…cookies, ethical bribes (not my favorite), giveaways, etc. In essence, they are pieces of high-quality content offered in exchange for a visitor’s name and email address.
In my online travels I’ve seen PDFs, videos, audios, product samples, email series, webinars or teleseminars, tools, software, quizzes, CDs, DVDs, and more offered as a lead magnet. At JasonGracia.com, I give away a 30-page handbook for experts on the rise.
Unlike your average blog post or podcast, the content you pack into your lead magnet must be above-and-beyond valuable to your market. It should offer the solution to the most pressing and painful problems they’re facing.
(It should also do a few other things, which we’ll cover below.)
They visited your site for a reason—they want something. That something, as we’ve learned, isn’t another email cluttering a crowded inbox. It’s a solution to their problem, so if they discover a free gift waiting for them that promises the result they’ve been looking for, they’ll pay attention.
And they’ll sign up.
What Problem Should I Solve?
When it comes to the particular problem you should solve for your subscriber-to-be, you have countless options. Three of my favorite approaches, which have each worked wonders for me, are outlined below.
- The Overview: When you create an Overview Magnet, you are giving your audience a bird’s eye view of your particular field, sharing core concepts as well as actionable steps along the way. My lead magnet, The Six-Figure Formula, is an example. I walk subscribers through the main stages to becoming a highly-paid expert. They not only learn the overall process but also tips and tactics to help them carry out each phase. Other examples include an overview of how to buy a franchise, how to ace the interview process, or how to train a show dog.
- The First Phase: You can also focus on one particular step in the process, taking your reader from start to finish and actually giving them the result. Acing the interview process is a great example. Let’s say crafting an effective resume is the first step along the path to getting a job. A First Phase lead magnet would teach you everything you needed to know to actually carry out that first phase. More than an overview, it’s a complete lesson with a tangible result. By giving away your best material in the first stages of the process, your visitors will be eager to take the next step with you, whether that’s another piece of content or a paid product or service.
- The Problem/Solution: Everything we do is about solving problems for our audience, of course, but this lead magnet is about highlighting a specific problem your market is facing and offering them proven remedies; it doesn’t offer an overview of your field nor does it take readers from start to finish within a particular stage. It simply tackles an issue that lives within your area of expertise and solves it, such as 21 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Franchise, The Best—And Worst—Type of Resume Paper to Use, 7 Tips to House Train Your Puppy.
The key with Problem/Solution magnets (and the others to a lesser degree) is pinpointing the most pressing issues your audience is facing; if they’re in the desert, you want to be the water. This only makes sense. If you want people to pay attention—a Herculean feat in itself—and then take action, you have to give them exactly what they’re actively searching for.
So how do you uncover the biggest challenges, frustrations, worries, needs, wants, fears, dreams, and hopes of your market?
- Popular Posts: Which of your posts get the most traction? Which have the most comments? Shares? How about industry blogs—which are the most popular? There’s no need to guess when it comes to discovering the inner desires of your audience. The evidence is already waiting patiently on your blog.
- Blog Comments: What do your visitors ask about most often in the comments? Which problems or frustrations do they share? Are there recurring themes week to week? Are particular questions seconded by others? Take your search beyond your site and study the comments of outside blogs in your field. What do they keep asking? What do they continue to need?
- Social Media Platforms: Tune into your social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to see what your fans and followers chat about, ask for, seek out, and focus on. You can learn so much from listening to the voices that surround you. This goes for your personal fans and followers as well as those of your peers.
- Forums & Groups: Much like blogs, online forums and groups offer invaluable insight in your market’s needs and wants. No matter the area of your expertise, you’ll find Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, bustling forums, and passionate tribes that cater to your field. Join, listen, and learn.
- Twitter: Enter your keywords into Twitter’s search tool and you’ll instantly be connected to thousands of people throughout the world who need what you have. You can passively listen in, of course, but engaging and offering advice will allow you to dig beneath the surface and tap into their core pleasures and pains.
- Keyword Searches: Which particular topics do people search for most often? The answer is just a few clicks away. Tools such as Google’s Keyword Tool place gems of market research at your feet. What took thousands of hours and dollars to discover years ago can be gathered in seconds, free of charge.
- Outside Marketing: As we talked about in an earlier post, the sales letters of your peers and colleagues who serve the same market are packed with eye-opening information. In one place you can discover their biggest problems and the solutions they’re looking for. Through their testimonials you can find out what they struggled with most before making the purchase as well as what they loved most about the answers they received. Sales letters are only the beginning. For instance, you can unravel the same clues by studying their promotions on social media or making note of what they use as lead magnets.
- Visitor Polls: The first website I started offered a monthly poll asking visitors which topics they most wanted to learn about. It was quick and easy and effective. Each month I got a better and better idea of what they wanted and how I could best serve them. You can do the same with website polls, subscriber surveys, etc.
- Welcome Email: Derek Halpern’s Social Triggers website is a goldmine of actionable information. He possesses an uncommonly sharp marketing mind and has the results to prove it. He also uses a simple research technique you can copy right now: Every new subscriber is asked to reply to their welcome email with their number one problem or frustration. It’s a simple question that offers business-changing results.
- Amazon.com: I love Amazon.com, not only for their wickedly sweet deals and awe-inspiring inventory but also for their glimpse into my market’s mind. By searching for the bestsellers in your field, you’ll instantly know the most pressing problems facing your audience. You can take it a step farther and click to look inside, revealing the table of contents—a deeper look into what they need and want. Finally, you can scroll down to the reviews. Here you’ll get opinions and feedback directly from the mouths of your market…what they loved, hated, and wish they had.
- Direct Contact: Nothing beats actually talking to the people you want to help. Nothing. Business can explode with growth after a single chat with a single visitor. I’ve seen it happen, time and again, so I want you to speak with your audience, digitally or in person, about their problems and frustrations as well as their hopes and dreams as it pertains to your subject. You can start with hosting a live-stream Q&A, a Google Hangout, or simply offering a private number to a select group to talk on the phone.
What to Include in Your Magnet
The best lead magnets do more than just deliver a result. As the first in-depth connection point with your audience, it’s important to make the most of the opportunity and turn a one-time visitor into a long-time fan and customer. To make that happen, be sure to include the following elements.
- Connection: They key in any business relationship is to help your audience know, like, and trust you, and the key to achieving this almighty trifecta is to share your story. Tell them where you started and how you, too, struggled with the very problems they’re now facing. Be human, be real. This is essential. If you appear flawless, your audience can’t relate to you. “I’m nothing like him, so chances are I’ll never be able to get the same results.” Your goal is to help them realize that you were in their shoes, you know how it feels, you’ve been there. But you also found a way out, and you can show them the way.
- Authority: Your lead magnet is the perfect place to begin establishing your authority in the field. As part of your story, let them also know what you did to gain your experience and expertise. Why should they listen to you? What do you have that sets you apart from the rest? Why are you credible? What results have you personally experienced? What results have you helped others achieve?
- Value: Over deliver. Always. When I first started, many moons ago, I heard the upper echelon of entrepreneurs say it time and again: Give away amazing content and people will pay for the next step. It’s true. When asked why they joined my programs, many of my clients express the same sentiment: Your free stuff was so good that I knew your paid material would be more than worth the price. This is your chance to wow your readers—so take it.
- Spread: Make it easy for your reader to share your magnet. As you saw in my lead magnet, I provide links throughout for quick and easy sharing on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and email. I also created a Share Page on my site that readers can use to spread the word.
- Momentum: Keep the relationship going strong. Your visitor is at her peak of interest after signing up for your lead magnet. To let that excitement die would be a digital tragedy. Instead, offer the next step. Whether that’s a free coaching session, a free webinar, or a special offer on one of your products or services, always provide a clear and present next step for them to take with you.
- Professional Design: Looks matter. We are visual creatures and therefore judge the quality of content first and foremost by what we see. This is why even the stingiest of marketing consultants will tell you to invest in great design—it pays for itself. To get started, you can hire a professional design firm, (tip: look in the footer of sites you love to see who crafted their look), an independent designer on Elance or oDesk, or purchase design templates for PowerPoint or Keynote online (if creating a PDF).
Coming Up Next…
Stage one is done. You now know that email is the key to building your business. (Already knew that? Fantastic!) You know that creating a valuable lead magnet that speaks directly to your market’s strongest needs and wants is the key to building your email list. And you know the main pieces to include in your magnet puzzle.
Next week we’ll dive into the second stage, the subscriber sequence. We’ll take a look at the best possible vehicle for getting subscribers along with the steps you should take from first visit to welcome email and everything in between.
Until then, here are a few of my favorite lead magnets to study. I’m sure you’ll find more than a few gems you can include in your own.
Example of a Free eBook: Pat Flynn’s Ebooks The Smart Way
Example of a Free Chapter: Carrie Wilkerson’s The Barefoot Executive
Example of a Free Report: James Wedmore’s YouTube Traffic Report
Example of a Free Assessment: Nathalie Lussier’s Website Guide
Example of a Free CD: Ali Brown’s Top 10 Success Secrets
Question of the Day!
In the comments below, tell us about your current lead magnet or the one you’re going to create. One lucky commenter will win a copy of Barrie Davenport’s new book, The 52-Week Life Passion Project!