Build Your Email List with Freebies

It’s no surprise to marketing professionals in the publishing world that a growing list of email subscribers is essential.  You’re likely already doing what you can to help that process along.  What surprises me, though, is how seldom I see this strategy employed using a book’s contents in the introduction or chapter conclusions.  Here’s a case study of what I mean and how it’s worked well for us.

Working with author Robert J. Morgan, we wanted to build his email list.  His (previously) upcoming release: Mastering Life Before It’s Too Late gave me an idea.  I was listening to an audiobook entitled Book Yourself Solid, which immediately offered a free downloadable e-book, with an easy-to-remember URL.  When I visited, I was required to input my email address to receive the e-book.  I decided we would write an excellent companion workbook to supplement Mastering Life as a completely free download, delivering the free PDF via email.

The key components to this strategy were:

  1. Write, edit, and format an excellent workbook.  If the resource was a cheap attempt to just make something without it being a quality product, this would hurt the author’s reputation.
  2. Create an easy-to-remember URL (in our case, robertjmorgan.com/MasteringLifeWorkbook) linked to a dedicated, simple page.  This to-the-point page simply explains the requirement for an email address to send the e-book, and this will subscribe the user to periodic updates.
  3. Set up an auto-response email.  We used MailChimp for this, but when someone fills out the form, MailChimp sends them a pre-formatted email with a link to download the resource.
  4. Be prepared with an email to those having technical issues.  We created a draft email to reply to anyone experiencing difficulty.  Whether due to spam filters or just impatience with the automated system, we don’t want unhappy customers.  When anyone complained (maybe 1 out of every 100 subscribers) about the process, we were ready with an email and the PDF link.
  5. Publish the URL in the actual book.  At the end of each chapter of Mastering Life Before It’s Too Late, study questions were listed along with a link to our free e-book.

No one can foretell whether a book will sell a thousand or a hundred thousand copies.  But I figured Mastering Life might sell 15-30k copies.  My personal goal was to get at least 500 new quality email addresses.  Instead, we got 2,000.  The best I can tell, this means about 10% of readers followed through to get the free e-book.  New addresses still come in every day through this system, and the email has a 91.5% open rate, giving us good clean addresses.

A few other benefits resulting from this campaign:

  • According to our analytic data, (in a sampling of 1,700 sessions) of the visitors who went to the workbook download page directly, 48% continued to view other site content.  Of these:
    • 42% went to the site’s home page
    • 29% went to the site’s e-commerce section
    • 8% went to the blog’s “devotional” category
    • 4% viewed other Mastering Life products
    • 17% viewed other random pages

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  • Our “subscribe to Robert J. Morgan’s blog posts” email list also increased by about 10% after the release of this book and the influx of visitors
  • We printed a physical copy of the workbook and have sold 1,300 copies
  • Churches, nonprofits, and other small businesses have engaged in group studies

We have several other ideas, and this could be executed better than in this test case, but the key seems to be this: offer readers something free but valuable, and promote the email-signup to receive the freebie within the contents of the book itself.

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