By Stef Gonzaga (courtesy of Smart Blogger)
Frustrating, aren’t they?
As you started blogging, everyone tells you how important building a list is, but yours is so tiny it would fit on the back of your hand.
And on the other side of the fence, popular bloggers can’t wait to brag about how many people are on their email lists.
“Join over 5,000 readers by subscribing today.”
“Join more than 10,000 people who’ve already signed up.”
“100,000 subscribers and counting!”
But how exactly do they do it?
And why are people so eager to sign up for their lists and apparently so reluctant to sign up for yours?
The Simple Reason People Aren’t Signing Up to Your Blog
The truth, my friend, is that your average reader won’t give their email address to just anyone.
After all, if it gets into the wrong hands, they could be opening the door to spam emails, phishing attempts, and other vulgar assaults on their inbox.
But it’s not just about privacy and security. Your readers have too much on their plates to add yet another regular email to their growing to-read lists.
It’s an inescapable truth that “everyone you want to reach has 1,440 minutes in their day; not a minute more.” Unless they see the value of joining your list, they simply won’t invest any of those valuable minutes in you and your blog.
Do you now understand why people aren’t falling over themselves to “sign up for blog updates”?
The solution – give them a strong reason to sign up.
A reason so powerful, so valuable, that it easily outweighs all their reasons not to.
Put another way, bribe them.
The Hallmarks of an Irresistible Sign-up Bribe
You’ll have seen similar promises a hundred times before:
“Sign-up for blog updates and receive my free ebook X Ways to Do Y (Even If You’re Z).”
And while it does look like a selfless offer of more free content, this is a bribe. Plain and simple.
Do something for me and I’ll do something for you.
In this case, the bribe is “give me your email address and I’ll give you something that isn’t freely available on my blog.”
However, creating an effective bribe isn’t as simple as it sounds.
To break through your reader’s defenses, you must offer something genuinely tempting. Something of real value. Something they would even pay for – if you weren’t so generously giving it away in exchange for their email address.
Your incentive can be:
- The source of much needed inspiration when stuck at a roadblock
- The promise to solve an urgent problem or soothe a nagging pain
- The chance to rapidly expand existing knowledge on a topic of strong interest and relevance
- The direction needed to achieve a much-desired goal
If your average reader thinks your bribe is something they simply must have, you’re on the right track.
But where most bloggers get stuck is deciding exactly what form their bribe should take.
They don’t want to create a lame “me too” ebook that looks just like a blog post wrapped up as a PDF; they want to offer something more distinctive.
But they don’t know where to start.
9 Sign-Up Bribes That’ll Create a Tidal Wave of New Subscribers
The sign-up bribe is such a common sight nowadays that the smart blogger must be a little more creative to stand out from the crowd.
Fortunately, a number of different bribe formats are available that are much more valuable and enticing than your average “free report.”
The following nine blog bribes will get your creative juices flowing and get your readers drooling to sign up.
1. The Welcoming Email Series
The email series is the friendly usher that welcomes newly opted-in subscribers to their seats and prepares them for what your blog has to offer.
This bribe explores some important aspect of your blog topic in bite-sized pieces. It’s delivered over several days or even weeks and is far more manageable for the reader than a content-heavy white paper or blueprint.
The goal is to keep a new reader engaged the moment she receives the first email in the series and to lead her though the key principles – instead of leaving her waiting for your next post or hoping she’ll explore your blog under her own steam.
Delivered on autopilot, the reader is automatically sent an email based on a given frequency, with each email building on the one before.
Minimum requirements: Useful and engaging content, whether unique to the bribe or already published on your blog, that you can easily break into pieces. On the technical side, you’ll need an email newsletter service, e.g. Mailchimp and AWeber (affiliate link), with an autoresponder feature ($10-20/month).
2. The Time-Saving Cheat Sheet
If your goal is to share inside information about your topic that can easily be overlooked or missed, create a cheat sheet.
Think of it as the key to a box of secrets that make your reader instantly more productive or rapidly improve her skills.
A cheat sheet is a highly practical reference guide that outlines and shares valuable data and shortcuts, often in a visual format that makes the retrieval of key information as efficient as possible.
This bribe is attractive to the reader because it delivers a lot of information in a very concentrated form and can quickly prove its worth, perhaps saving them hours of effort.
But sometimes, something simple can be just as useful. Take a look at Brown Eyed Baker’s simple cheat sheet on how to measure butter in cups, a technique that has always been a mystery to the average baker.
Minimum requirements: A word processor like Microsoft Word, Apple Pages or OpenOffice Writer is sufficient for creating a simple cheat sheet, but for a more sophisticated end product, you might require a desktop publishing package such as Adobe InDesign, Microsoft Publisher, or QuarkXPress. Alternatively, you can use a cheat sheet tool like Cheatography to generate cheat sheets based on a default template.
3. The Handy Template
Defined by the Oxford Dictionary of English as “something that serves as a model for others to copy,” a template is a framework for success based on what has already been effective for others.
This bribe is enticing because it’s easy to use (just fill in the blanks) and can help the reader quickly solve a problem or achieve a goal.
For instance, if you run a career blog that encourages readers to create a cover letter that’ll blow HR managers away, you can offer a cover letter template that readers can use or model to create their own.
A great example of a template is Bidsketch’s sample proposal, which you can download after submitting your email address. Their core service is removing the guesswork and cutting down the time required to create effective proposals that win clients. It’s effective because it helps customers master a skill while encouraging them to try the service.
Minimum requirements: Your chosen word processor is enough to create a basic template, but to make it even more visually appealing, consider using some simple design elements such as colors, backgrounds and borders. If the template is meant to be printed, you can convert your .docx or .pages file into a downloadable PDF for your readers’ convenience.
4. The All-in-One Toolkit
A toolkit is a great bribe if you already have some useful resources in your content bank – videos, interactive checklists, and worksheets – and would like to package them all together into a single resource.
This bribe is exciting because it gives your subscribers the opportunity to tackle a bigger problem by giving them all the tools they require in a single download. In doing so, they’re seeing the depth and breadth of your knowledge and they’re experiencing first-hand the power of your approach.
It’s also packed with a lot more value than the lighter email series or the single template.
You can have your readers download everything in a .zip file, but because of the heavy file size, you’re better off using landing page software like Elementor (affiliate link), OptimizePress (affiliate link), Unbounce, or Hubspot to direct your readers to a single page where they can access your material more easily.
Minimum requirements: You’ll need a variety of tools to create the video, audio, worksheets, and the like that make up your toolkit. You’ll then need to package it all in a .zip file, though both Windows and Mac OS X have this feature natively. If you intend to give subscribers access to individual elements, you’ll need landing page software to create a page where your materials are uploaded and embedded.
5. The Persuasive Blueprint
A blueprint is a concrete plan that breaks down a major process into small and digestible chunks.
Usually in PDF or ebook format, this bribe is a framework the reader can follow to achieve a specific result. Each chapter or module tackles a step or subtopic by exploring the underlying concepts or revealing the tasks that need completing before moving to the next stage.
Depending on the depth of the topic, a blueprint’s length may range from 10-20 pages. Try to have a clear outline upfront to help you structure your blueprint.
As a bribe, it’s a lot more intensive than an email series or a cheat sheet, but less bulky than a toolkit. If you want to showcase your expertise in a self-contained, easily downloadable bribe, this is a great option.
Hubspot’s The Definitive Blueprint for Lead Management is an ebook that teaches beginning marketers how to manage and nurture leads in two parts – what makes an effective lead management program, and how to actually set up and launch a successful lead nurturing campaign with this program in mind.
Minimum requirements: A word processor or ebook-friendly editor such as Scrivener to write your draft, structure your content, and convert the final output into a PDF or .epub file. To incorporate design elements and improve your content’s layout, consider one of the desktop publishing tools mentioned earlier.
6. The Fascinating Case Study
Case studies are, in essence, success stories about the people or brands in your niche. They are a great blog incentive if you enjoy storytelling and like to engage your readers through characters, narrative, and power words instead of facts and explanations.
With case studies, you can dive into the lives of significant figures in your niche who you believe are great models or sources of inspiration for your readers. You learn how they began, what makes them tick, how they failed and got up on their feet again, and what they did to become successful.
You can also showcase readers or customers who’ve experienced success using the methods you teach on your blog.
Case studies are fantastic because they create a sense of community and they are grounded in reality. You’re showing your reader that other people are just like them and they have done extraordinary things to get where they are today.
So, how do you turn a case study into an enticing blog bribe? You have several options:
- Compile it into an ebook and tell the story in words.
- Conduct interviews and package up the audio files as a simple download.
- Create videos profiling the people or brands you want to feature and make them available on a hidden or subscriber-only page on your blog.
The exact medium will depend on your blog, the availability of the people involved in your case study, and your audience’s preferred content format.
For example, oDesk has published an ebook entitled Make It Work: Smart Advice from Real-Life Clients Who Found Success Using Online Work, which compiles case studies of clients who have used oDesk to hire talent and successfully build their businesses.
Minimum requirements: As before, you can use your word processor or desktop publishing software to create an ebook. For audio interviews, use Skype and some recording software – with Audacity for final editing. For simple videos, you can get good results even with your smartphone these days and use a tool such as iMovie or Microsoft Movie Maker for editing.
7. The Sexy Video Course
Fortunately, for people who prefer talking to writing, blog incentives don’t always have to be in written form.
If you’re more of a visual person and thrive on interaction, the video tutorial may just be the perk to get your groove on.
A video bribe can be a single video that covers a topic in depth, or a series of videos tackling different subtopics. They can be a live recording of you presenting the information to camera, or a slideshow presentation with you providing the voiceover.
Whatever your approach, video courses have a different set of practical requirements, so make sure you’re ready to invest your time, effort, and even moolah on equipment, recording and editing.
The following is an example:
In preparation for B-school’s enrollment, Marie Forleo launched a video series for a limited time that teaches potential students about the fundamentals of online marketing and building a business out of their passions and interests. And how do you get access to all of this valuable content? By giving your email address.
Minimum requirements: High-quality video and audio equipment, a well-lit room or other venue for your shooting sessions, a script for your video series, and your best performance. For editing, you can use the basic software mentioned earlier or go more professional with Adobe Premiere Pro on the PC or Final Cut Pro X on the Mac. Of course, you can hire a professional video editor to do it all for you.
8. The Bold Manifesto
A manifesto is a written public declaration of your principles and beliefs. It’s inspirational in nature and a persuasive way to establish the tone and point of view of your blog from the beginning.
This bribe can be a written statement published as a short PDF or ebook. But if you prefer a more visual presentation, you can design your manifesto using striking typography and distinctive graphics. You can then publish it as a PDF or a high-quality image your readers can download and even print to keep as a regular source of inspiration.
Many different ways are available to convey your ideals, beliefs, and arguments, so be prepared to use your imagination. You can pick up some helpful tips from Alexandra Franzen’s post, 5 Ways to Write a Blow-Your-Mind Manifesto.
Leanne Regalla’s The Rebel Artist’s Manifesto is a great example of how she uses the manifesto to gather like-minded individuals and build a community of creatives who want to create a thriving business out of their art. She takes it a step further by including the link to the manifesto in several guest posts she’s done on prominent blogs like Firepole Marketing, Lifehacker, and our very own Smart Blogger.
Minimum requirements: A strong sense of what you stand for, a persuasive voice that inspires action, and a word processor (or design tool) to create your manifesto and publish it as a PDF.
9. The Graphical Giveaway
If you’re a blogger who specializes in graphic or web design, your bribe should relate to design too.
Your readers are fans of your creative ideas, aesthetic, and style. So what better way to get them excited about your work than a gorgeous freebie they can put straight to use in exchange for their email addresses?
A business card template, website stickers, social icons for a WordPress theme, or desktop wallpapers of various sizes are all great options for your blog subscribers. You can use these to entice your audience to check out other bigger products or affiliateoffers you promote on your site, or to hire you for design services.
DesignGood is an inspirational blog for designers and creatives around the world. To encourage subscriptions, new visitors get free stickers to go with their weekly serving of design inspiration.
Minimum requirements: Your current design tools are all you need to create your blog bribe. The most important requirement is your skill and expertise to create a high-quality creative graphic that wows your readers and convinces them to subscribe to your blog.
Make Your Readers an Offer They Can’t Refuse
It might sound like a lot of hard work, but building a successful email list means giving big before you receive much of anything in return.
Today’s readers are cautious and overloaded with information. You need to bribe them to open the door to their inboxes and then use that permission to quickly earn their time, attention and trust.
Show them that you value the relationship by sharing your best ideas for making their lives better and more meaningful. Help them solve the problems they struggle with and reach the goals they aspire to.
If you’re committed to your readers’ success, they will take notice. They’ll see the value and will want to stick around for more of the same. And if they think their friends and followers can also benefit from your work, they’ll send them your way too.
All that’s left for you to do is get to work.
So pick one of the juicy bribes mentioned and set aside an hour or two every day to research, write, design, or record. Spend another two to three hours polishing and refining it until your irresistible incentive is ready to go live.
With a mouth-watering freebie proudly displayed on your sign-up box, you’re a big step closer to building lasting relationships with your readers, build a thriving community, and even monetizing your blog.
And before you know it, you’ll be the one bragging about your subscriber numbers on the front page of your blog.