How to Build a Content Plan to Support Your Product and Sales Funnels

reasons content sucks

reasons content sucks

If you’re anything like me, the first time you heard the term “sales funnels,” you envisioned a big Willy Wonka-esque contraption that takes random scrollers off the internet, works some magic as they move through the various whizzing parts of the machine, and churns out raving fans.

Although that idea is slightly valid because funnels are meant to work like a well-oiled machine, effective funnels are anything but random.

When you use sales funnels in your business, you’re sending your ideal audience on a journey through a series of carefully-curated pieces of content that eventually leads them to buy your product or service.

And since sales funnels are entirely dependent on content, you better believe you need to build a content plan with a solid framework if you want to see those dollars roll in.

Begin at the end and look at your goals

Like many things in life and business, starting at the end is the best way to plot out all the action steps you need to take to achieve your goal.

Here are a few questions to ask when beginning at the end as you build a content plan:

  • Am I selling a product or a service?
  • What is the price point of what I’m selling?
  • Is this something that will always be available for sale or will it be for a limited time only?

The answers to these questions will help you determine:

1. How many funnels you should create

If you answered the first question by listing multiple products or services that are not inextricably intertwined, you’ll need to create multiple funnels that lead your readers down the path to the offer that will be the best fit for them.

If you find that you have multiple funnels you need to create, start by focusing on one to test out what works and what you’ll need to change before creating all the content for your next funnel.

2. How much content you need

The higher the price point of your offer, the more content and lead time you’ll need in your funnel to communicate the value your offer holds in solving your audience’s problem or eliminating their frustrations. Being able to identify which stage of the buying cycle they’re at is helpful as you build a content plan -- both in determining the volume of content as well as the type of content you need.

3. How much lead time you should allow for creating, scheduling, and publishing content

Having products or services that are only available for a limited time or have a specific number of spots available is a popular way to create scarcity around what you’re selling. However, the doesn’t mean every offer should be structured this way.

If you choose to create a funnel that supports a product or service that’s always for sale, you’ll be creating an always existing or “evergreen” funnel, which naturally triggers an automated system whenever your reader enters the funnel.

While a limited-time offer can also have automated elements, such as pre-scheduled emails and social media posts, it takes careful calendar plotting to make sure you’re giving your potential buyers enough time to learn about your offer, why they need it, and to make a decision before the doors close. Again, this factor will also depend on your price point.

Decide how you’re going to get people into your funnel

The initial goal for the first piece(s) of content your readers encounter in your funnel is to capture their email address. (Already have a list of subscribers you’re working with? You’re off to a great start!)

The best way to achieve this goal is by creating an opt-in offer or a lead magnet such as:

  • An additional piece of valuable content that corresponds to a blog post such as an ebook, PDF, or email series (aka a content upgrade) that people can only get by signing up for your list
  • Creating a mini-course that ties into the topic of your offer
  • A quiz with the results delivered via email
  • A webinar, online workshop, or Q&A session where people have to sign up to attend

You might find that you already have content you've created and you can repurpose for your funnel, or that you need to create something new that's highly specific to the thing you’re offering.

If you’re stuck on the best opt-in to create, ask your people! They’ll be the best reference on what would be most valuable to them and which method they would prefer receiving your material.

Develop your framework

Before you start creating your content, it also helps to develop the framework surrounding how you’ll deliver your content or how your ideal customer or client will experience it.

Some of my favorite tools that make for fun and functioning funnels (say that five times fast) are:

  • WordPress or Squarespace - Your website and blog are arguably the best places to start with publishing the content that will get people into your funnel and to sign-up for your list
  • ConvertKit - ConvertKit’s “Sequences” feature is the ultimate tool to keep people moving through your funnel and on to the sale
  • Typeform - A clean and pretty interface that’s perfect for creating an opt-in quiz or for getting feedback from your audience on what content they would like from you
  • Teachable - If you’re creating a mini-course as your opt-in, Teachable offers the ability to create a free course on their platform, which is sleek and very user-friendly

Get creating

Alright, now that you know how to build a content plan to support your sales funnels, it’s time to start creating your content!

You’ve got your end goal in mind. You know your funnel’s “why.” You now know the time frame of your funnel and how in-depth it needs to go to adequately communicate your value to your ideal customer. Plus, you have some solid ideas for how to get the funnel party started, and all the tools ready to make it happen.

I’d say you’re ready to not only build a content plan, but to put your plan into motion and start selling. What do you say?

Get Your First (or Next!) 1,000 Email Subscribers (Free Webinar with ConvertKit TODAY!)

About a year ago now, we first learned about a new email marketing platform: ConvertKit.

In an effort to be an unbiased resource hub, we had a member write a review of the new software on our blog, but in an equal effort to curb shiny object syndrome, we didn't yet explore it ourselves -- because hey, if it ain't broken, don't fix it -- right? a certain extent. You see, as the months wore on, we saw even more and more reason to check out this not-just-shiny but incredibly logical solution to email marketing. One that would...

  • be subscriber-based instead of list-based so we weren't throwing money out the window
  • allow us to segment intuitively based on multiple criteria
  • make content upgrades a cinch as we produced more and more bonus resources

Fast forward to today, and we're sold. Not only do we love the simplicity of ConvertKit; we were able to fully leverage it during our 5-day Solopreneur Success Bundle launch to discover just how robust it can be.

Now, we want to share our love of the tool with you in a free webinar that'll teach you how to get your first (or next!) 1,000 subscribers, whether you use ConvertKit or not.

Email marketing isn't just a trend; it's a strategy. Yet there are so many pieces that make up "successful" email marketing, it's easy to end up overwhelmed.

That's why we're teaming up with ConvertKit's own Darrell Vesterfelt, who works day-in and day-out helping bloggers and entrepreneurs who are serious about making money online.

For one hour this afternoon, he's going to break advanced email marketing strategies down into actionable steps, just for the OWS community.

It's all happening today, October 25th at 3pm EST/12pm PST. Click here to register!

Here’s what Darrell is going to be teaching you in the webinar:

  • How to get your first 100 subscribers
  • One tactic that could get you your next 1,000 email subscribers in no time
  • How to automate your funnels to put your sales on autopilot

You’ll also see how easy all of this is with ConvertKit, and how fast you can get started. Oh -- and if you're on live, you'll also get access to some pretty spectacular bonuses (worth well over $200). Not too shabby!

Whether you are a ConvertKit user or not, this webinar's going to give you actionable advice + kickass bonuses for list-building that you can implement right away.

Can't make it live? Be sure to register, anyway. Darrell will be making a replay available for a limited time after the live party!

6 Email Marketing Mistakes That Scare Subscribers Into Unsubscribing

email marketing mistakes

email marketing mistakes

You work hard at growing your email list. You created an irresistible lead magnet and optimized your website to capture leads. But when did you last take a close look at the emails that you’ve been sending out?

While growing your list is important, it’s equally important to take care of your existing subscribers and provide them with a wonderful brand experience. The last thing you want to do is push your subscribers to unsubscribe from your mailing list.

Now, getting unsubscribes is a natural and healthy aspect of email marketing, but not if you are unknowingly making mistakes that leave subscribers with no choice but to unsubscribe.

Here are six email marketing mistakes that you should nip in the bud to build trust and nurture a lasting relationship with subscribers:

#1 - You make them ask “Wait, who are you again?”

Your subscribers do not have the faintest clue as to who you are.

If you have not been consistent in emailing them and have been missing from their inbox lately, you need to re-establish your relationship with them.

Your subscribers’ inboxes are crowded. If they see a name that they are not familiar with, they aren’t going to think twice about deleting your email or unsubscribing from it.

Drop a line in your email introduction or email footer telling them where and what they signed up for. This jogs their memory about you and your brand. Start to plan and schedule your emails so that you get into a routine and your name stays fresh in your subscribers’ minds.

#2 - You ask for the sale (too quickly)

It’s not wrong to put yourself out there and ask for a sale. Don’t get me wrong. But you have to ask yourself if the subscriber is ready to act on that call to action.

Your subscriber goes through several stages before she is ready for a sale. Here’s how a typical customer journey is like:

  • Unaware (don’t know who you are)
  • Read your blog post
  • Come across a compelling lead magnet or content upgrade and sign up
  • Start to get aware of your brand
  • Get value from you and your brand
  • They start to see you as an authority figure and trust what you have to say
  • You educate them on the problem they need to solve
  • You allay their fears by removing objections for using your product or service
  • You instill desire for your product or service and paint a vivid picture of how it could solve their problems
  • They purchase your product
  • They get results
  • They become fans and spread the word about your brand and products

The percentage of subscribers who are very engaged with you and your brand and may not require that many touch points before they are ready for a sale is small.

For the majority of subscribers, you need to gain their trust, educate them on the problem and remove any mental objections they have before you ask for a sale.

When you ask for repeated sales too early on in the process, your subscribers will lose trust in you quickly and even unsubscribe. Before you hit send on any email, ask if it is self serving or audience serving.

#3 - Your emails render weirdly on their devices

It’s becoming harder to determine exactly what devices your subscribers will use to access your emails. And when you use image-laden email templates, you cannot ensure that your emails will show up exactly as you would want them to on different devices.

Marketing Agency Brafton reported that “75% of Americans will simply delete an email before reading it if it is not optimized to be viewed on their screens.”

Plain text emails have the highest chances of rendering in the same way across different platforms. Strip your emails off unnecessary sidebars, and graphics. (Editor’s note: It’s one reason why ConvertKit emails have higher open rates than other providers’.)

Your subscribers will be more likely to perform that single call to action without all the unnecessary distractions. Your emails will also look a lot less commercial.

#4 - You use clickbait subject lines

We know the importance of a subject line to grab attention and instill curiosity to get your emails opened.

But when you over-sensationalize your subject lines and your email copy doesn’t live up to the buzz that your subject line has created (#clickbait), you are going to lose trust with your subscribers quickly. They are less likely to open up your future emails because of the previous letdown they had.

Here are some simple tips you can follow:

  • Use symbols: Symbols work because they jump out at you in the inbox. Start by including one at the start of the subject line to replace a word. Example: ⬆ your sales, with this one simple sales page hack
  • Add the recipient’s name in the subject line: Personalization in the subject line compels you to open up. Seeing your name in the subject line gives a sense of familiarity and makes you respond. Example: Have you written that ebook yet, Meera?
  • Show results: Add specific numbers and a promise to let the reader in on a strategy or tool or process. Example: The best $55.68 you will spend on your business

Remember to appeal to different sides of your subscribers rather than sticking to a single type of subject line just because it works.

#5 - You confuse them and provide little direction

Subscribers are not sure if you want them to comment on your post, click over to the sales page, share your post on social media or buy your ebook.

You pack several calls to action in your emails and give your subscribers too many decisions to choose from. And when you give people several choices, it overwhelms them and results in decision paralysis. They end up not acting on any of your suggested actions.

It’s best to keep to one call to action per email. But should the need rise for you to have a few, give clear instructions and the order of the actions you want them to take. Bold the most important action for emphasis. Number them or place them prominently in your emails.

#6 - You write mini-blog posts

Your emails are long with big paragraphs and rows and rows of text.

Keep in mind that more and more of your subscribers are accessing their emails from their mobile devices. According to a survey by Litmus, 33% of email opens occurred on an iPhone.

When readability becomes an issue, your subscribers aren’t going to scroll to the end of your email no matter how much value you provide.

Build a solid relationship through email marketing

The main purpose of email marketing is to build a relationship. While it takes time to experiment with and find out the types of emails your subscribers will engage with, you don’t want to sabotage your list building efforts by making any of these six email marketing mistakes.

How To Write Emails That Get Opened

writing emails that get opened

writing emails that get opened

I can’t wait to open your emails!
Your emails are my favorite ones to read...
Your emails make my inbox sing!

When the emails you write to your list are engaging, entertaining or instructional, it’s easy for the readers to love them.

When they ooze with personality and make a connection with your readers, they can’t help but reply to you.

But when the subject line or content encourages a whole world of snoozes, you get…crickets.

As a copywriter, the majority of my 1-1 client projects involve writing emails, whether it’s sales emails, autoresponder sequences, or email courses. Each one of these email types follows a formula that elicits a connection with the reader of the email.

In this post, I’ll talk through two key elements of writing emails that get opened, plus the formula I teach my clients to use. Let’s dig in.

Key element #1: Subject line

Your email subject line is typically the biggest influencer on whether your email is opened.

To up your odds, try writing subject lines that fall into one of two categories:

1. Subject lines that talk benefits

What’s in it for the reader? What result will they get from reading the email? How does it help them specifically?

If this article were to be sent in an email, the subject line could read:

How to increase your email open rate by 30%

It clearly explains the benefit to the audience if they want to increase their email open rate.

2. Subject lines that create curiosity

The brain is wired to close the loop on any story. We can’t help but want to know the answer.

It’s why movie trailers work to promote films, and sadly, why clickbait headlines (like: ‘Banker buys his mother a dog – you won’t believe what happened next!’) are so good at getting us to click.

We can’t help but want the answer to close the curiosity loop. (Why a banker? What kind of dog? What happened next?!)

Using words like secret, hidden, and little known in a subject line will create curiosity. Who doesn’t want to know a secret?

Again, if this post was sent via email, a curiosity-filled subject line might read:

The hidden strategy standing between your audience and your email being read

The same works if you ask a question. Our brains want to know the answer, pronto. For example:

What’s the one thing standing between your audience and your email being read?

Writing subject lines gets easier with practice, and it’s always helpful to write at least 10 different versions of the subject line to find the best one.

So, why not start practicing?

Here are some templates to get you started:

Template: At last, you will find out how to [goal]
Example: At last, you will find out how to effortlessly create Facebook ads that convert

Template: Are you protecting yourself from [problem]?
Example: Are you protecting yourself from your website being hacked?

Template: The [time] guide to [action]
Example: The 10-minute guide to meditating every morning

Template: The only way to [thing they want to achieve] without [thing they don’t want to do]
Example: The only way to find a boyfriend without dating online

Template: Never worry about [thing they want to avoid] with [what you’re offering]
Example: Never worry about emails being opened again with these 15 subject line templates

Key element #2: Storytelling

The second key element of emails that get opened is stories. Just as curiosity creates action, stories create connection.

Think about a book you read that you didn’t want to end, or a movie you watched that made you cry. Why did this happen?

When we experience a story, we see a part of ourselves in it. It brings us closer to the characters in the story.

This is why stories in emails encourage positive responses from your readers – they connect with you because you’ve given an insight into your life, and they see parts of themselves in your story.

Using stories in your emails can be as simple as explaining how you started your business, a problem you overcame, or something you’ve experienced in your daily life that your audience will relate to.

What do you do when you don’t have any stories to tell? Or when you’re struggling to find a story that connects with the message of your email?

Give some of these a try:

  • A testimonial or case study from a client
  • Make references to movies, music or literature
  • Use a parable to explain your point
  • A story from a friend or relative (with their permission)

How to focus on your reader in storytelling

The first way to focus on your reader in storytelling is to change all the ‘I’ or ‘we’ statements into ‘you’ statements.

For example:

‘What do most people think is the best way to grow an email list?’‘What do you think is the best way to grow an email list?’

Or ‘Here’s how I used Facebook ads to get my first 100 subscribers’ becomes ‘Here’s how you can use Facebook ads to get your first 100 subscribers’

The second way is to actively encourage the reader to see themselves in your stories or statements.

For example, drop in phrase and questions that encourage a pause:

Can you relate?
Tell me if you see yourself in this …
Are you nodding your head while reading this?

How to structure emails that get opened

Most successful emails follow a simple structure that’s easy to replicate.

(Keep in mind that “successful” is relative. It could mean the email gets opened, sells a product or service, garners comments on a blog post, elicits responses to a survey or encourages replies, or more.)

Here’s the structure to apply to emails that leads your reader down the page and onto the call to action (the instruction that tells them what to do next):

  • Subject line: A compelling subject line that encourages the reader to open the email
  • Intro: The opening sentence that sets the scene. This could be a question, statement, reminder, or quote -- anything that peaks the interest of the reader
  • Context: More detail on what’s to come next. Here, you can appeal to the hopes, fears, or dreams of the reader (choose one, not all three)
  • Story: A story that’s related to the context will help make your concept a
    reality in the mind of the reader
  • Close: A friendly close that includes your name
  • Call to action: An ask for the reader to take the next best step. The CTA
    must be related to the context and story

Finally, let’s see an example of this in action.

The following screen shots were taken from an email from Adam Gilbert from His audience includes people that want to lose weight and are tired of fad diets. Let’s see how Adam applied this formula:

Email marketing: How to write emails that get opened
Email marketing: How to write emails that get opened
Email marketing: How to write emails that get opened

Over to you: What will be the subject of your next email that gets opened?

Is ConvertKit right for your business?

Is ConvertKit right for your business?

Yet another email provider to choose from? Before you get overwhelmed, let me start this post by sharing where I was at when I switched to ConvertKit for my business. I am a one woman shop (hello, fellow ladies!) and was spending more time prepping weekly emails and automation than I really had time for.

Each week, after writing a blog post, I had a series of things to do in order to prep that blog post for a pretty email for my subscribers in MailChimp. I had to take the image I created for my blog, upload it to MailChimp, sometimes resize the image, copy and paste the content into MailChimp, format it, add additional styling (headers, subheaders), and a few other steps that are too boring to mention. And setting up automated email sequences -- a huge part of my marketing plan -- was a time suck, as well.

I wanted something simple that could grow with me as I grow my business. I started hearing a lot about ConvertKit, and decided to make the switch because my number of subscribers had not yet reached a point where it would be a big headache to move to a new platform.

Having used ConvertKit for a while now, here’s the lowdown on why I think it’s great, reasons why it might be a good email service provider for your business, and ways it can be improved.

If this is you, it might be a good idea to switch to ConvertKit...

If your list is on the smaller side now, but you have lofty goals for growing your list. I have big plans for my lists. I’m talking sales funnels, email courses, Twitter ads to bring people in, opt-in forms and landing pages – the works. Each platform may have a different opt-in incentive, meaning that in MailChimp, I would need to make a different list with a different “Welcome email” for each incentive. A few months down the line, list building could get very messy and complicated, especially if I want to merge lists and do some clean up.

ConvertKit has proved to be a stellar option for that, because rather than individual lists, I can tag email addresses for certain categories.

Say a subscriber signs up via an opt-in incentive regarding WordPress design. I can set it up in ConvertKit so that they’re added under the tags “wordpress” and “design” and then when I want to send an email regarding either of those topics, I can pull all subscribers with those tags and send to them, rather than having to send to separate lists (and possibly send duplicate emails).

No more trying to merge lists together or keep track of them – there’s no need. Here’s how I would set that up in ConvertKit:

ConvertKit Triggers

If you crave automation with your email lists. The gist of ConvertKit is that automated email is way better than individual email “broadcasts.”

Example: You create killer content in June, but Mary doesn’t sign up until August. Instead of missing out on the June content, Mary gets it right from the beginning.

With ConvertKit, if you create an email sequence (aka a funnel), it doesn’t matter when a person signs up - they’ll get emails from months prior, and going forward. No need to set up a specific series, just add in emails as you please, and new subscribers will get all of them in a drip sequence that you determine.

I realize this sounds a lot like Automation in MailChimp, and they are fairly similar, except the set up is much easier in ConvertKit. You stay on the same screen for every email in the sequence, rather than having to click in and out of emails, which can be time-consuming and confusing (“did I include that link in Email 1 or Email 3? I have to click in and out on multiple screens to find out”).

In ConvertKit, it’s all in one place, so you seamlessly move from one email to the next, AND you can rearrange an email sequence via drag and drop -- so easy! Here’s what one of my sequences looks like:

Course_sales funnel in ConvertKit

If you plan to create email courses/sales funnels. This is essentially ConvertKit’s bread and butter. In ConvertKit, courses and funnels each fall under the umbrella of "Sequences." Personally, I have a few email courses going -- set up as a Sequence -- and the main purpose of most of these courses is to get people to purchase a product.

In MailChimp, I had something similar, but had to manually remove a person if they bought the product I was promoting. In ConvertKit, if Lisa is in Course A, and she buys the product I’m promoting, the instant she purchases the product, she’ll be switched to Course B, which no longer pushes her to buy the thing she just bought. It makes for a much better user experience, and less work for you.

If you want a very simple opt-in form plugin for your WordPress page. Various email platforms have opt-in forms that you can customize and put on your site, but ConvertKit makes it so dang easy. (And I’m a developer, friends.)

If you have WordPress, they have a plugin where you can insert individual forms at the bottom of blog posts or pages. All of the customization is done in ConvertKit, so there isn’t any need for CSS tweaking on your actual WordPress site to make things look the way you want. (Editor's note: View an example of a form at the bottom of this blog post.)

If you want a nice landing page for sign ups/want to avoid paying for Leadpages. ConvertKit has a few modern and clean landing page designs for opt-in forms. If you want a landing page to entice people to sign up for your email list, ConvertKit makes it really easy to do so. Here’s an example of a landing page for one of my email courses.

Also, prior to switching over to ConvertKit, I purchased Leadpages because I loved the way their forms looked and worked. ConvertKit does integrate with Leadpages, but their landing pages and opt-in forms are so simple and sleek that you can skip Leadpages, and save a hefty buck as well. I think the only thing one would miss from Leadpages is their cool opt-in forms, but it’s worth saving a few hundred buckaroos.

If you’re paying extra money for duplicate subscribers.
Since ConvertKit lets users tag subscribers, rather than place them in lists, it’s impossible to pay for one email address that may be in multiple lists. This happens a lot with Mailchimp, and it can get expensive paying for one person to exist in multiple lists. Here’s a great graphic of how it works, and how it saves you money:

ConvertKit counts as one subscriber


Where ConvertKit excels

Integrates with WordPress, Leadpages, Gumroad (digital product seller), Teachable (online course provider), and so much more. These integrations are what will make your business as seamless as possible for your buyers and clients. And will save you a ton of time because it’s all automated.

Sequences are easy to set up. ConvertKit has a very simple email template -- there isn’t any drag and drop; there’s click and type, and insert an image if you’d like. Because of this, setting up a sequence is pretty dang easy. Bottom line is, if you can use a Word document, you can set up an email in ConvertKit.

Automation rules. You can set up all kinds of rules that work like magic without you doing a thing. Just set it up once, and it’s done. For example, you can set it up so that when someone clicks a specific link, they get subscribed to a sequence, then when they purchase a digital product from that sequence, they’re taken off the list and moved to a different one.

Blog posts to broadcasts. If your WordPress blog is integrated with your ConvertKit account, it automatically creates an email template when you publish a post, and sends you an email notification so you can edit and send. Now, when I want to email a blog post to my list, it’s a two-step process, rather than seven steps (detailed somewhat painfully above!).

Where ConvertKit needs improvement

Clicked links are not tracked in emails individually. I’ve been told this will be changed eventually. At the moment, I can see that people clicked a link in an email, but not specifically which link they clicked on. That’s a bit annoying, but I have faith they’ll change that soon, because they are constantly working to build up their platform integrations and make it more business-friendly.

Sometimes the WYSIWYG editor is buggy. HTML editors can be annoying as it is, but when little bugs pop up while you’re editing an email, it can be even more frustrating. An example would be that recently, the Subscriber Name field that I entered into an email course kept getting wiped out every time I saved.

So instead of “Hi, Stephanie!” at the beginning of an email, if it went out, it would say, “Hi, !” When I get an email with that totally obvious gap between the comma and the exclamation point, it’s like a mini slap in the face. We don’t want that for our subscribers.

ConvertKit is good for your business if:

You’re limited on time. Like anything worthwhile, there is work to be done in the beginning. But once you’ve got your sequences set up, your automation rules in place, and your subscribers tagged, it really is pretty passive and time saving.

You want a very simple email format. The simple format initially made me feel limited, but I like that the focus is on the content of the email, and it looks much more personalized than mass produced, which I’m sure subscribers appreciate as well.

Email is a big part of your marketing plan. Because of the automation and integration, ConvertKit is a huge help in growing a list without a huge headache.

ConvertKit is not good for your business if:

Email is not a big part of your marketing plan. If you’re more into social media or local networking, or really don’t have a marketing plan yet, ConvertKit isn’t for you. It’s $29/month at a minimum (for 1,000 subscribers) and the next level hops to $49/month, so it needs to be a business investment that will be properly utilized.

You like sending emails with a pre-made template or lots of images. Because of the simple WYSIWYG editor, this is not the kind of email provider where you can pick a template and drag and drop images. ConvertKit’s platform is set up to create emails that consist mostly of text, so if your emails tend to be image heavy, this might not be a good fit for you (at least for now). You can create templates that include your logo at the top, and other graphics or design elements, but that requires coding work, so beware.

Easy-to-manage email marketing: Ready to make the switch?

The biggest selling point for ConvertKit is how easy it makes managing email marketing. As business owners, there are a million ways we could spend our time every day.

Switching to ConvertKit has allowed me to spend less time setting up emails and automation, and more time actually working on projects for clients and beefing up other aspects of my business. It keeps things simple and automated, just like our businesses should be!

We are affiliates of and may receive commission from sales of ConvertKit. As always, we only promote products and services that we love and/or think you might benefit from!

How to Create an Opt-In Offer Your Audience Can’t Resist

Create an irresistible opt-in offer

If you’re focused on building your email list, you probably have at least one opt-in offer already. But how well is your offer converting? If the results haven’t been quite as good as you imagined they might be, it could be time to look at your opt-in with fresh eyes.

The mistakes we make with our opt-in offers range far and wide, from offering something your audience doesn’t want or need to being a ‘nice-to-have’ rather than a ‘must-have.’ And in truth, given the sheer number of people offering an opt-in gift in exchange for an email address these days, there’s a lot of clutter to cut through to convince your target audience that what you’re offering is worth their time.

Luckily, there’s a few simple guidelines you can follow to make sure the next opt-in offer you create is one that your audience can’t resist.

1. It solves a problem they’re experiencing right now.

A good opt-in offer identifies an existing problem and offers to (at least partially) solve it right now. The key is to make sure the problem you’re solving is specific and something that requires a solution. This is ultimately what makes your offer valuable.

Once you’ve created an offer that solves a real problem, you need to convince people that your opt-in offer is the real deal (aka it works!). In other words, even though your offer is free, you still need to sell it to your audience. Your audience isn’t giving you money for your opt-in offer but they are giving you perhaps the next best things – their time and space in their inbox. Write your squeeze page copy to position your opt-in offer as the solution to their biggest problem and you’ll be absolutely irresistible.

2. It is highly actionable.

Your opt-in offer should be something your audience can act on. Many people make the mistake of offering something like the first chapter of an eBook without realising it contains little actionable content. Don’t just give your audience something to think about, give them something to do. Great opt-in offers inspire and educate your audience to take action in their life or business. Think about what you could offer that would have your audience scrambling for a pen and paper to take notes and write a to do list! Can’t think of anything actionable you could offer? Try a simple one-page checklist or a two-page workbook to guide them through a difficult task within your expertise.

3. It is consumable within 15 minutes or less.

A short opt-in offer is a good opt-in offer! Most people are time poor and have a relatively short attention span, particularly when they’re online. Make your offer consumable within 15 minutes to ensure it is completed and used. Opt-in offers that are used are going to produce much bigger results for your audience than those that sit unread in an inbox. And results mean they’re much more likely to come back to you for more. Good examples are a five-page eBook or a 10-minute video workshop.

4. It aligns closely with the products and services you offer.

Though it might seem obvious that your opt-in offer should align closely with your product and service offering, this is one that many new business owners get wrong. Your free offer should align closely with your paid offerings, meaning it appeals to the same target market and falls into the same broad topic area. This will ensure that the people you are attracting to your email list are the kind of people who will move on to buy your paid products. (Once you’ve impressed them with what you’re giving away, that is!)

Your next step

By following these four guidelines, you’ll ensure you create an opt-in offer that is enticing, actionable, highly valuable and leads people to your paid products. If you have an opt-in offer already, consider whether it meets these four criteria. If you don’t have one yet, it’s time to get to work.

Need a nudge to get your opt-in going and strengthen your community? The One Woman Shop Building Your Online Community e-course is here! Click on the image below to learn more.

Building Your Online Community

Guest Post: 4 Tools to Help Grow Your Community

As a solo business owner, you’re probably looking to grow your community of collaborators, fellow business owners, mentors, clients, and customers, right? If you’re impatient like me, the “build it and they will come” mentality just isn’t cutting it for you. You know that with a little bit of resourcefulness and a touch of proactivity, you can grow your community much quicker than if you post and pray (okay, enough with the business catchphrases, I promise).

Click to Tweet

Click to Tweet is a free tool that lets you create pre-drafted messages for Twitter that others can send out. Top startups have incorporated viral sharing into their business models (think: Groupon and Instagram.) Consider Click to Tweet to be your own little exercise in viral sharing growth hacking.

You may already include Click to Tweets in your blog posts and on Facebook groups, but have you thought to incorporate them on your slides when doing a speaking gig, in your email signature, and in your emails to your list?

Read the rest of the post over on Freelance to Freedom Project!

How to Apply the Concept of Growth Hacking in Your Solo Business

We first heard about growth hacking on this pretty awesome episode of MarieTV, which features special guest Todd Herman. When Todd briefly mentioned the concept of growth hacking, we were instantly intrigued.

What's a resourceful One Woman Shop to do when they want to learn more? Head to Google of course!

Apparently, Sean Ellis coined the term "growth hacker" and defined it as "a person whose true north is growth." In other words, "Growth hacking is a marketing technique developed by technology startups which uses creativity, analytical thinking, and social metrics to sell products and gain exposure" (Wikipedia).

On the MarieTV episode, Todd Herman describes it as "all about finding little micro-changes in the conversion on your page." Basically, he's saying that a 1% increase in conversion on 10 different page adds up to a 10% increase in conversion overall.

Honestly, it's a pretty vague and kind of confusing concept, but we'll try to distill it a bit and make it actionable (because actionable is what we do here at One Woman Shop).

Some real-world examples of growth hacking:

    • Groupon requiring that their Daily Deals reach a tipping point (a certain number sold) to encourage customers to share the deals, thus expanding their customer base
    • YouTube creating an an "Embed" feature so that uploaded videos spread more quickly through exposure on outside sites
    • Airbnb allowing users to cross-post on Craigslist, creating hundreds of backlinks back to the Airbnb site and improving their SEO
    • Hotmail including the message “P.S. I love you. Get your free email at Hotmail" at the bottom of every single email sent by their existing customers

Some ways that you can apply growth hacking in your solo business:

Arguably, the examples above are just smart marketing, not growth hacking per se. We say call it what you will, but just go do it now!

And if you're interested in a few more resources on growth hacking:

Getting Started with Email Marketing: A Primer

If you have been anywhere near online marketing trends lately you will know there are just two words on everyone’s lips: email marketing. And business owners are talking about it for good reason. Email marketing has one of the highest rates of return over any other inbound marketing channel. They say that for every $1 dollar invested in email marketing, you could see a 40% ROI. For online shop owners and small businesses, this is great news.

I see it daily with my clients. Email is the single best tool for getting in front of your prospects and customers, for building a relationship with them, and for triggering sales. At the heart of it, email marketing is about having a conversation with people who are interested in what you do or sell. What better audience to have then an engaged and targeted group of individuals who have invited you into their inbox? You can easily see why email marketing has the potential to become the single biggest source of traffic and revenue for your site (tweet this!).

The only thing standing between you and this great influx of massive results is getting started with email marketing. If you have some hesitation or are unsure where to start or what to do, I’ve broken it down for you with these 4 steps that outline how to get started. Let’s dive in.

Start a list

Choose an email service provider software such as MailChimp- one of my favorites! Set up a list in your email program of your choosing.

When it comes to creating your list you might be wondering if you need several or one will do. I recommend starting with one master list. Sticking to one list, as opposed to managing several lists in your account, will help keep confusion at bay and save you from making errors down the line. This will be the list that your signup forms and opt-ins will feed into.

After you have your list set up, create a signup form for your master list. Then place the signup form in various spots around your website. The goal is to create as many opportunities to capture individuals' email addresses as possible. Getting the email address of a site visitor is the best way to ensure the potential for an ongoing relationship; otherwise, that visitor can just come and go on your site and possibly vanish forever.

A great tool for capturing signups on your site is the use of a pop-up. While some feel that this approach is slightly too aggressive, I think that as long as you create a compelling offer and word it well then it’s a great way to go. Just be sure that the pop-up has a quick and easy way to X out of it.

Rookie Mistake Alert: When naming the master list within your email program, be aware that the list name can be seen by your contacts. So avoid giving an internal name to your list and choose one you are fine with your prospects and customers seeing.

Create an incentive

List growth is a vital element of your email marketing plan- you always want to be growing your list. One of the best methods for doing so is to set up an incentive to offer when your prospects or customers join your list. We all love getting free things and feeling special, so when you create that experience around your email opt-in, more of your site visitors will sign up. Come up with creative offers that fit with your brand, are appealing to your target customer, and relate to the products or services that you sell.

Service based businesses can offer up exclusive content in the forms of special reports, e-books and downloadable lists (like One Woman Shop's 28 Secrets to Growing Your Community slideshow!). Popular incentives for product based business are offering some form of discount. Test between offering a dollar amount vs. a percentage to see what yields the best results for your business.

Set up a welcome email

This next step is a crucial one. A welcome email is the first piece of communication you have with your new contact; it is the email that gets sent out immediately after they've opted in.

The bond between your business and your new contact is at its strongest in the moments just after they’ve opted in. A welcome email is there to acknowledge your new contact and let them know what to expect from you in the future. Setting the stage for your future communications will go a long way in the effectiveness of your email marketing. Welcome emails typically have very high open rates so really prioritize what you put inside the email and what the main point you want to get across is.

Some things to consider including in your welcome email:

  • A branded experience- this email should show off your brand and creating a lasting memory of it for the reader
  • The incentive you offered as an opt-in bonus
  • Introduce yourself or point them to your About page. Give them a chance to get to know you a little better
  • Highlight or feature the top benefits of your services or products you sell
  • A next step. Do you want them to make a purchase, contact you or follow you on social media? Give them clear direction of what to do next

Rookie Mistake Alert: Keep the focus on just a few top points and don’t over-stuff the welcome email.  Include what you think is the most important and be confident you will have more opportunities to expand on your brand in future emails.

Get regular

After a prospect or customer has joined your list, the worst thing you can do is to never email them again. They’ve shown an interest in hearing from you so be in touch with them frequently. Start by committing to how often you will be sending emails to your list. Decide if you will be sending your emails weekly, bi-weekly, at a different regular interval, or just when you feel you have something important to say.

Schedule those dates into a calendar and get started on content creation. Develop a theme or topic for each email while ensuring that every email has a goal and objective. Don’t send emails just for the sake of sending them; rather use them as powerful tools in your business and make each email count.

Before sending an email make sure you have answered these 4 questions.

  1. Why are you sending this email? Assign an outcome you want the email to have
  2. Who are you sending this email to? Be clear on who will be reading it
  3. When are you sending this email? Know when it’s being sent and how it fits into your broader editorial calendar strategy
  4. What are you including? Based on the above answers, be sure you know how the content and design of the email will achieve your goals and objectives

Try these steps out in your business and see how straightforward it can be to get started with email marketing. Feel confident that you are investing your time and resources into an area of the business that will come back ten-fold!

grow your community online

Email Marketing Tips from Creative Female Entrepreneurs

We recently spoke to several creative female entrepreneurs with growing or established email lists and chatted with them about their best practices for email marketing. The girls we spoke to have email lists that range from under 100 to over 4,000 recipients.

A big thanks to Katie of Balanced Beings, Alexis Grant of Socialexis, Marisa of Creative Thursday, Sara DiMantova of Sara Does, Ann Harris of Southern Social Marketing, and Ashley Wilhite of Your Super Awesome Life for answering our questions and thank you so much to Gina Spencer of Source Sleuth for putting us in touch with several great sources!

First of all, let’s chat about some of the biggest reasons to start an email list. There are tons, including increased engagement (people sending in questions, giving positive feedback via email, etc), increase in blog traffic, having a targeted list to email about opportunities (like freelance opportunities or a call for contributors), as a bonus for potential blog sponsors and partners, having the ability toreach readers and customers where they are every day, and more.

Ann shared another unexpected bonus: “Forcing myself to be witty and informative every week has been a huge confidence booster. After the first couple of newsletters, you start to feel pretty brilliant by how many ideas you can come up with!” Several of the girls we spoke to said email marketing gave them tremendous bang for their buck (read: the biggest return on investment for the least amount of time and money spent) of any of their channels of communication to their customers and readers.

Now here are some fun tips from fellow career women who are making the most of email marketing!

Where to collect email addresses

  • Through downloads and freebies (like this career decision worksheet!)
  • On the sidebar of your website or blog
  • At the bottom of each blog post (like Alexis does)
  • At speaking engagements (hint: design a sign up sheet that you can print before each event!)
  • On your Facebook page (create a tab just for email sign ups)
  • Through business cards you collect (be sure to ask permission since technically, they haven’t opted in!)
  • In your email signature

Pro tip: Services like MailChimp provide you with a link where your sign up form is hosted. Instead, grab the HTML code and embed the form in your website or blog (for example, ours is embedded at This encourages people to stay on your site and increases your site traffic (if only nominally). Thanks to Alexis for this tip!

When to send emails

Several of the girls we spoke to send their emails on Sunday, because it tends to be a less email heavy day (and more laid-back for a lot of people!)- it seems like they’re on to something, since Pinterest’s highest traffic day is also Sunday. Several of the girls send their emails in the early morning (around 7am) between Tuesday and Thursday. The general consensus was to avoid sending email on Mondays and Fridays, since people are either overwhelmed with email from the weekend or busy looking forward to the weekend!

How often to send emails

Most of the girls send their emails once a week or once a month but many advocated for occasional “bonus emails” to announce sales, webinars, or other valuable information.

What to include in emails

  • Links to your own blog posts (with an attention-grabbing teaser + a photo)
  • Links to other useful resources
  • “Pretty pictures” (inspirational quotes, etc)
  • A preview of upcoming projects
  • A sign up form or waiting list sign up for upcoming courses, webinars, etc
  • Free printables
  • Discount codes
  • A personal note
  • A link to social media profiles
  • A link to information on your paid services (consulting, coaching, etc)
  • A reminder of how you got the recipient’s email address
  • Click to Tweet links so recipients can easily share your content

Open rates and what affects them

According to a MailChimp study, the industry open rates for e-commerce and creative services are 22.2% and 41.9%, respectively, but the girls we spoke to had open rates of 50-70%! They told us that their open rates were affected mostly by subject lines and mentions of freebies.

Our hypothesis for the incredibly high open rates among the people we spoke to is two-fold: 1) people must opt in directly to these newsletters- they are not merely signed up through purchasing an item, for example and 2) most of the girls we spoke to have very strong brands built around their businesses, which we think probably increases open rates.

As a side note: interestingly, one girl told us that when she tested two different subject lines, the ”boring” subject lines (like using the word “newsletter”) got a better response, strangely enough.

Final words of wisdom

Many of the girls we spoke to mentioned that they wished they had begun collecting email addresses and sending emails earlier than they did. Learn from their mistakes- set up a free email marketing account and start collecting those emails now! Alexis passed on a very simple message to us that she had heard: “just say something!” It doesn’t matter if you’re writing all new content for your newsletter or just putting teasers of your latest blog posts into an email with a picture or two- just say something to start engaging your subscribers!

Do you have an email list? We would love to hear your feedback and tips!

grow your community online