Want to create an irresistible opt-in offer that will grow your email list and your blogging profits? Convinced by the theory, but want a practical step-by-step guide as to how to actually make one? Here’s my step-by-step guide to creating an opt-in offer…
What is an opt-in offer?
Put simply, an opt-in offer (also sometimes known as a content upgrade or a lead magnet) is a free gift you give to your readers in exchange for their email address.
There are many different kinds of opt-in offers you can make. For example:
- Mini course
- Webinar (live or pre-recorded)
- Coupon / discount code
- Quiz results
Why do opt-in offers work so well?
The big reason why an opt-in offer will get you more subscribers than a simple ‘subscribe for free updates’ message is because an opt-in offer is so much more enticing. You are offering something of value that your subscriber really wants – and all they have to do is give you their email address.
But better than that, a well targeted opt-in offer will get you the right kind of subscribers. Subscribers who are genuinely interested in your emails, subscribers who will open your emails, click on your links, interact with you and, best of all… BUY FROM YOU!
People buy from people they trust, if you are regularly popping into your reader’s inboxes giving them genuine value every week, they will come to trust you and so, if you have a product or service to sell (or even an affiliate product to promote), they are much more likely to buy from you. In fact most bloggers and online entrepreneurs report that the majority of their sales come from their email list. There’s a reason why they say, ‘the money is in the list’!
What makes a good opt-in offer?
A good opt-in offer will be something that is relevant to your blog and your core audience. It should be something your audience want or need (enough to part with their email address!) Ideally it will solve a real problem for your readers. Your readers are much more likely to sign up if your opt-in offer offers them a solution to a problem or promises a transformation in their life.
A good opt-in offer should also be something that is relatively quick an easy to make. Partly because this will mean it will actually get made and you won’t procrastinate over it! But also because the opt-in offers that work best tend to be the kind that give your readers a ‘quick win’ – a quick cheat sheet or worksheet, for example, rather than a 50 page ebook!
Finally, a good opt-in offer should ideally lead your readers down a sales funnel. In other words, it should be related to something you have to sell (product / service / affiliate link). Even if you don’t have anything to sell right now, it’s worth thinking about what you might want to sell in the future, then design an opt-in offer that will appeal to the sort of person who might be interested in your paid product in the future.
Opt-in offer creation step-by-step
OK, so you are sold on the theory. Buy how do you actually make one? I am going to take you step by step through the exact process I use to create my opt-in offers (I have over 30!)
Step 1: Research
The first step in the opt-in offer creation process is one that is often missed out – research! Don’t miss this step out. It’s vitally important if you want to be sure that you are creating something your audience actually want!
For an opt-in offer to work, you have to figure out what your readers are having trouble with… what problem of theirs can you solve quickly and easily?
How do you do this?
Start by looking at what questions your readers ask you. Look at your blog comments, social media comments, the emails your readers send you and Facebook groups (your own, if you have one, and others in your niche)
You can also ask your audience. Try emailing your existing subscribers, asking your social media followers and asking in your Facebook group, if you have one. If you have a Facebook group, a great place to ask is in your membership questions!
I find it’s best not to ask directly e.g. NOT ‘I’m thinking of creating a free opt-in offer, what should I make?’, but rather get to the heart of the issue by asking something along the lines of ‘what is your greatest struggle with / biggest problem with [YOUR NICHE]?’
For example, when people ask to join my Facebook group, one of the membership questions is ‘What is your biggest struggle with blogging and/or productivity?’. This helps me develop opt-in offers (as well as blog posts and products) that will help my audience with their pain points.
Step 2: Creation
The next step is to create your thing! Unfortunately, this is where many bloggers get a bit unstuck… It’s important to bear in mind here that a) it doesn’t have to be perfect and b) your readers are far more interested in what you are teaching them, than how beautifully designed it is. Try and focus on the substance of your opt-in offer first BEFORE worrying about the design.
But of course, you do have to actually design your opt-in offer! My best advice here is, go with what you are comfortable using. You can design your opt-in using Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Canva, PicMonkey… and of course premium design packages such as Photoshop if you know how to use them!
I actually design all my opt-in offers using either Word or PowerPoint (and occasionally Excel if it makes sense to). Are they going to win me designer of the year? No! Are they effective in helping my readers and getting more subscribers? Absolutely!
When you’ve designed your freebie, the next step is to save it as a PDF and a JPG. (If you are not sure how to save as a JPG, try this nifty tool >>> pdftoimage.com)
You will use the PDF as the actual opt-in offer you send to your subscribers and you will use the JPG to promote your opt-in offer on your blog and on social media.
Step 3: The tech bit
This is the bit where you set things up so that, when your subscribers sign up for your free thing, they actually get it!
There are broadly two ways to do this. the MailChimp way and the ConvertKit way…
‘The Mailchimp Way’
I’ve called this ‘the MailChimp way’, but really this is the STANDARD way you have to do it with most email service providers.
With this way, you set up a welcome sequence and put your opt-in offer in the first email in that welcome sequence. You can do this by creating a link or a button for your readers to click on. But, in the settings, instead of putting in a URL, you upload your opt-in offer PDF.
Now when anyone signs up to your list, they will be sent an email with a link to click. When they click that link, your PDF will automatically be downloaded onto their computer. (To see an example of this head over to my food blog, Easy Peasy Foodie, and sign up to my mailing list – don’t worry you can easily unsubscribe after you’ve checked it out!)
This is great if you have a sitewide offer that will appeal to all your readers – like my Easy Dinners Meal Plans on Easy Peasy Foodie – but not so great if your offer will only appeal to a small subset of your readers and/or if you want to create multiple opt-in offers (AKA content upgrades).
If you want to take your email efforts to the next level, I really recommend getting ConvertKit*!
‘The ConvertKit Way’
The ConvertKit way is much EASIER than the MailChimp way… but it’s also WAY MORE EFFECTIVE!
The ConvertKit way allows you to create multiple sign-up forms and send unique welcome emails for each form, each with their own unique opt-in offer.
This means, for example, if you sign up for my Goal Setting Worksheets, you will get one welcome email that just has the download button for the Goal Setting Worksheets… whereas if you sign up for Keyword Research Calculator Spreadsheet you will get totally different welcome email that just has the download button for the Keyword Research Calculator Spreadsheet.
This allows me to create highly targeted opt-in offers which only appeal to one small subset of my readers… For example, I have one opt-in that is targeted at people who haven’t yet started a blog – the ConvertKit way allows me to send an opt-on offer teaching them how to start a blog… but without also sending it to new subscribers who already have a blog. (With the Mailchimp/standard way I’d have to send it to ALL my subscribers, whether or not they were already bloggers.)
But it gets better! Because with ConvertKit the download button is also the double opt-in button. This means that when a potential new subscriber enters their email address into one of my forms, they get an email with the download link INSTANTLY and, when they click on the download link, they are automatically added to my email list.
This results in higher conversions (more of the people who enter their email address actually become subscribers) AND happier readers, because they get their freebie quicker.
This is in contrast to the Mailchimp/standard way where each potential subscriber first has to click a ‘confirm your subscription’ link THEN they get a second email with their freebie and get added to your mailing list.
How to create a new opt-in offer with ConvertKit
The thing I really love about ConvertKit* is how quick it is to do the tech stuff. It literally takes me five minutes to set up a new opt-in offer… that means I can create multiple opt-in offers… I create on average one opt-in offer PER MONTH… and of course the more opt-in offers you have, the more subscribers you get!
First you click LANDING PAGES & FORMS at the top of the screen.
Then you click NEW FORM over on the left.
You select whether you want to create a FORM or a LANDING PAGE. Here I’ll choose FORM.
Then you select the type of form. Here I’ll choose INLINE.
Next you can choose your TEMPLATE. I’ll pick the one that’s bottom left.
Then you name your form and use the very easy to use tools to change the different design elements (text, colours, photos etc.) to your liking. You can upload the JPG image of your opt-in offer to your form here, so your readers can see exactly what they’ll be getting.
Then you select SETTINGS and write a bespoke success message that your readers will receive when they’ve entered their email address (or you can opt to redirect them to a page on your website… like my success page)
Then you select INCENTIVE EMAIL and tick SEND INCENTIVE EMAIL.
Next you click on EDIT EMAIL CONTENTS. Here you can change the text of the incentive/double opt-in email. You should write a compelling subject line e.g. ‘OPEN NOW for your free checklist’. Then in the main body of the text, tell your reader to click on the download link to get their free download
(But make sure too that you tell your prospective subscriber exactly what will happen when they click the link – so they know that they will be added to your list if they click the link – not only is this the law in many countries, but also you don’t want to trick people into subscribing. Ensure you also make it clear that they can unsubscribe at any time and how to do that.)
Exit the email editing screen and then click on the DOWNLOAD button and upload your opt-in offer in PDF format.
Finally click on the EMBED section at the top and copy the code. Paste this into a blog post and/or a html widget for your side bar / front page / landing page (or wherever you want your sign-up form to be shown) and you are good to go!
Now, any time someone enters their email address into that form, they will get that download/double opt-in email you wrote for that form and, when they click on the link, they will get the free opt-in offer and you will get a new subscriber!
And the best news? Once you’ve done this once, you can just duplicate the form you used last time and change the bits you need to and the process is EVEN FASTER!
Watch the video…
Watch how to create an opt-in offer and put it on your site in this video.
Step 4: Promoting your opt-in
But creating your opt-in offer and setting up the tech side is not the end. If you want to get the most out of your opt-in offer, you need to promote it!
You can promote your opt-in offer within blog posts (e.g. my free to do list printables).
You can also create pins for your opt-in offer and promote it on Pinterest. (Check out this board for lots of examples…)
And you should also promote your new opt-in offer on social media. You can do this in your social media posts, of course, but you can also do this in your social media profiles. See, for example, my Instagram profile.
READ MORE >>> How to use Pinterest to grow your email list
Step 5: What next?
Creating an opt-in offer is all well and good, but not if all you do is collect email addresses! To get the most out of your opt-in offer, you need to look after your new subscribers.
Set up a welcome sequence
Start by sending a series of emails which welcome your new subscribers to your list, tell them a little bit about yourself and what you do / what they can find on your blog.
Sending a welcome sequence will significantly increase your open and click rates – there’s a lot of truth in that old adage about striking while the iron is hot!
Send regular newsletters
Next make sure you are sending your new (and old) subscribers regular newsletters. Ideally make this more than just a notification that you have a new blog post. Include a personal update and provide extra value.
Sell to your subscribers
Once you have welcomed your new subscribers and built up that ‘know, like and trust’ factor with them through regular newsletters which deliver genuine value, you have earned the right to sell to your list. You can tell your subscribers about any products or services you have for sale, or share with them a product that you really love (and just happen to be an affiliate for!).
If you want to see what I mean, sign up to my email list and wait 10 days, until you get the email with the subject line ‘SEO LITERALLY changed my life!’
Over to you!
Do you already have an opt-in offer on your blog? If so, what is it and how is it going? Is it delivering lots of new subscribers to your list every day? Let me know in the comments below!
Alternatively, has this post inspired you to create an opt-in offer for your blog? What are you planning on creating?
Or do you have any questions about the opt-in offer creation? If so, let me know in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them!
- A beginner’s guide to ConvertKit
- ConvertKit vs MailChimp – which is best for your blog?
- How to create an automated welcome sequence for your email list
- What to put in your email newsletter – 11 ideas to really connect with your subscribers!
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*This blog post contains affiliate links, this means if you click on a link and go on to buy the product I recommend, I will get a small commission, but you will not be charged a penny more – thanks in advance!