9 Irresistible Incentives That’ll Grow Your Email List Like Crazy

by Stef Gonzaga


Subscriber numbers.

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, successful writers and 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:

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.

Carol Tice’s 20-Week E-course for Freelance Writers and Leonie Dawson‘s series of quick tips to help new customers blaze through her Create Your Own Amazing Life workbooks are great examples.

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.

Jon’s very own Headline Hacks report and MakeUseOf’s gallery of shortcut cheat sheets are great models you can emulate.

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.

A great example is Anne Samoilov’s Launch Essentials Toolkit, which gives new subscribers the basic tools they need to plan an online launch for their upcoming offering.

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.

Learn More: To learn more about Elementor, check out Smart Blogger’s in-depth Elementor review.

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 affiliate offers you promote on your site, or to hire you for design services.

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.

About the Author: Stef Gonzaga is a poet, creative writer and blogger with a mission: to create, publish, and spread great content for a better web.
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Stef Gonzaga


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Written by Stef Gonzaga

78 thoughts on “9 Irresistible Incentives That’ll Grow Your Email List Like Crazy”

  1. Those are some nice tips on boosting you email list. Especially the video course part. Since so many people prefer videos to text it’s only logical to implement videos at your blog, you know just in case.

    • Thanks Stan! Video is definitely a medium you’d want to utilize, especially if you have a great idea or solution you want to present and share the best way possible. It’s also a great way to “humanize” your blog now that people can actually see and hear you. 😉

  2. What about custom 1 on 1 help for people that don’t have many subscribers? Probably the fastest way for noobs to get their first followers. Then again your blog isn’t really targeting noobs. Love your content!

      • I’m taking it. What I will be doing is, re-launching my blog. But before I do that, I will put up a page offering free 1-on-1 consulting. And once I hit the 1000 subscribers mark, I will stop it and start charging for the same service.

        Does it sounds good? Or is it foolish?

  3. Wow, some nice tips out there. Well, can you give some tips for my blog? Like basically my blog is a “How To” niche blog. So, what do I offer them. Like, if it was monetization focused then I would have told that “Take My Secret Method That Made Me Millions” but it’s not like that. All “How To” niche bloggers give nothing but regular updates. For eg: Hongkiat, Labnol, etc. Those are some popular blogs but they don’t even utter a word that is off topic.

    Also, lately, one of my post was accepted to be featured on Hongkiat so I think it will help me with traffic, right? Any tips for my blog optimization?

    Sorry if I am asking questions that are off topic to this article but you look like an expert so I would like to here from you. Hope you will reply.

    – Vikas Kumar

    • Hi Vikas,

      I’m sure not all “how-to” niche bloggers focus on just publishing regular updates on their blog. The fact alone that you’re knowledgeable about a particular process gives you plenty to work with. You don’t even have to go off-topic just to be able to create an incentive for your subscribers.

      The post offers lots of blog bribe formats that you can experiment with. Since you mentioned how-to’s, a cheat sheet or a toolkit packed with resources on how to achieve a particular goal or result should get you started.

  4. Ah – Stef! I was just going to suggest that for artists, it would be a sample of your work – free downloads of music, screen savers, a calendar, a journal e-book (like from a trip, tour, or other experience) – Stuff fans regularly go crazy over and eat up – and here you are offering a selection of your peotry.

    BRAVO! You go girl!

    Signing up now! 🙂

  5. To be true Stef Gonzaga, people just aren’t encouraged to give in their email id just to anyone. The days have gone where a webmaster asks for a users email id and he easily submits.

    These days a reader really needs something useful and precious in return before he drops in his email id.

    Your article here really hits the sweet spot of bribing our modern reader to drop in his email id so he gets what he wants and we webmaster get what we desperately need.

    I really believe “His Royal Awesomeness” Jon Morrow’s Headline Hack and MUO’s cheatsheets are a brilliant way to bribe readers to submit that precious email id.

    Will definitely book mark this for future reference and share it on SU and Kingged.com

  6. Yes, the ‘ethical bribe’ is a must for anyone who wants to build a list. Ours has grown from zero to nearly five figures – but it took five years of experiment. I found you have to test every premium – and test it again. It has be so irresistible that folk would cheerfully pay for it. When I offered a premium for my commercial fiction-writing program How To Win Writing Contests For Profit it did only reasonably well. Not every writer wants to enter a contest! But my signups increased massively when I added a further premium: 17 Wicked Ways To Write Better Stories. Often, providing two or more premiums is the answer to the dilemma: which offer should I promote? Give folk a choice! Or even offer a bundle of titles. There’s bound to be something there they’d like…

    • Terrific points, John. Your initial blog incentive doesn’t have to be set in stone. Continue to experiment and test which offer converts well, all while focusing on what delights your readers the most.

  7. Excellent post with lots of great ideas. I particularly liked the fact that you yourself are a writer Stef, (as opposed to a social media guru per se), as well as including the Rebel Artists Manifesto Link. The same principles apply for writers and artists as to any other blog or business, but it’s refreshing to hear invaluable advice from someone who is coming from a place of creativity. I’ve subscribed to your email list and feel like you’ve given me a wonderful nudge to actually produce the short story giveaway I’ve been promising myself I’ll do. Thank you

    • Hi A. K.! I’m so happy to hear that! Please let me know if your short story is ready. I’d love to get a copy for myself. You can also try compiling maybe three short stories so the reader can enjoy just as much.

  8. I’ve been having success using a tool, in my case a marketing campaign ROI calculator. I think tools have a high perceived value. In my case it’s a spreadsheet, but it can be a very simple piece of software as well.

    • Great idea. I’ve seen similar tools for different niches. On Productivity Flourishing, they give out monthly planner sheets for each month designed to plan out your monthly blogging and business activities.

  9. Hey Stef, Great post. Good to see that you have mentioned leadpages. I was recently listening to a leadpages podcast where clay collins spoke about how they more than doubled their opt in rates by using a bribe. I use leadpages myself but haven’t gotten around to making the bribe yet! Your post has certainly given me a few ideas. Thanks!

    • Awesome. Thanks Arijit! Good luck with creating your blog incentive. It’s true that the challenging part of the process is actually creating the bribe you intend to share with your subscribers. I was stuck with this step for a long time before I actually kicked myself and started working. 😉

  10. This has given me some good ideas Stef.

    I have an eBook as an incentive but it’s maybe not enough. Or at least, I need to make more of it in some way.

    I like the idea of the welcome email series though. That sounds like something I could get to grips with.

  11. People are having to put more work into building their email lists and these “give-away” ideas are excellent list builders.

    But unless your “give-away” actually gives people what they really want it will still be frustrating building your list.

    It goes hand-in-hand with picking a topic for your blog that will attract enough readers to make it profitable.

    You need to know what it is your readers want to be, do and have in order to create a “give-away” that really makes readers want to exchange their precious email address for it.

    It’s no good guessing or thinking you know what your readers want. You have to get out there and find out first:

    #1. What their real-life problem is.

    #2. Are they prepared to pay top-whack to solve it?


    #3. How you can solve it for them.

    #4. Do you care enough about solving it for them that you’ll make a successful business out of it.

    Only after finding these facts out will you be able to create a “give-away” that builds your list of engaged readers ready to buy.

    • Good points Tom. These would definitely be top-of-mind for bloggers who’re especially building a business around their blogs. You gotta step up and learn what exactly your readers need to know or learn in order to convince them to sign up for your list.

  12. Awesome Post. I was just looking for a summary just like this. Useful and complete.

    I am on a mission to help witness and inspire personal evolution and am a student of Jon’s as well.

    I’m in the final process of creating my bribes. It has taken awhile to get it right and your list helps me narrow down some final ideas.

    One thing that slowed me down was tone and voice. Many bribes, as outlined, just weren’t for me, or at least not just yet. Not because they don’t work or aren’t useful, but because my content and my style was going in a different direction. Also, I needed to keep an eye out on efficiency and speed to produce them.

    Some came off ‘too salesy’, not as value driven as I liked, and frankly boring. So I modified, took time to develop my authentic and unique position.

    For me cutting through the noise was to avoid sounding too much like everyone else and making sure I was brave enough to put the good stuff out there fully and as with as much quality as you have done here in this blog post.

    You inspire, I can’t wait to read your poetry and sign up for your blog.


    • Thank you Joseph! Love your insights on tone and voice. I agree that even the copy of your landing page can have an effect on your intended readers. The best thing to do is to test and experiment, launch a couple and see which ones get the most responses—all while keeping the focus on how you intend to position yourself and your blog.

      Thank you as well for reading my poetry. It means a lot! 🙂

  13. Hi Stef ,

    These ideas are awesome. I particularly like the “Cheat Sheet” idea. Racking my brains trying to see how to come up with a few for my giveaway incentive.

    • Hi Coleta and thank you! Creating the incentive can be the most challenging part of the process.

      I dropped by your website and saw that your blog has content on food processors. One suggestion I can give is a cheat sheet on how a person can choose the right food processor for their home and needs, X steps on how to find great deals, etc.

      Hope this helps!

  14. Hi Stef,

    Absolutely fantastic post. Great ideas here that really got me thinking.
    I have one question and it would be fantastic if you could answer.

    I run a Sports blog. The majority of the sports blogs I see are full of 100 word posts on ‘transfers’ and ‘rumours’. I wanted to try and offer something different.
    Instead of your typical rumour mill I try and offer readers long form journalism. I analyse games and offer them insight.

    What really frustrates me is that people who publish ‘rumours’ with sensationalist headlines tend to get the majority of the views. Is there any way I can somehow make my blog stand out?

    For email subscribe I offer wallpapers because really that is the only initiate I can think of. My question is do you have any ideas on what initiatives I could offer my viewers that would entice them to subscribe?

    Thanks again Ste, your post was really useful and offered me some valuable information.



    • Hi Rafae,

      Don’t be disheartened! I for one believe that the blog that offers the most value and quality will stick around longer than those that simply churn out content for the sake of traffic. I think the first step would be to reach out to your existing audience and find out what it is they want to learn from you; what would make them do a double-take and pay attention to you?

      Off the top of my head, you can do a case study incentive where you’d pool together stories of inspiring athletes and provide analysis on what made them succeed. Come up with an enticing headline (the word “secrets” come to mind) and create copy that would really compel sports fans to check it out.

      Hope this helps!

      • Thanks for the tips. I really like your idea of an inspirational athlete and reaching our to my current audience.

        It really helps and thanks for replying 🙂

  15. Hi Stef,
    Thanks for the many fantastic ideas here. I’m a figurative painter, and I already have 3 ideas to adopt your “bribe” ideas for my blog. Thank you.

  16. Hey Stef

    I really like your point about a sexy video course. I agree that ebooks are really passé these days. Every blog seems to have an ebook.

    I can’t start to tell you how many blogs I’ve signed for, with noble intentions of reading their ebook, only to have it collecting virtual dust in some dim and dark folder on my hard drive.

    I believe that people want multi media content (preferably video) which is more entertaining and easy to consume.

    Thanks for a great post. I enjoyed reading it. 🙂

    By the way I write poems too. Just head over to the “Poet’s corner” on my site – do leave a comment – in poetry or prose – both are welcome!


    • Hi Ash, thanks for reading! I’m guilty of the same predicament, so what I’d do is save the ebooks to my desktop, so that I’d see them and be reminded to at least read a couple of pages when possible.

      I’ll definitely stop by. It’s nice to see fellow poets sharing their work with the world.

      You know, this actually gave me an idea that poets can do. Aside from a written version of their collection, they can include audio readings or a full video of them performing the poems. I always feel more connected whenever I watch poets perform. The genre’s oral nature remains to be noticed and appreciated. 🙂

      • Hey Stef,

        Audio readings of the poems is a great idea. But you wouldn’t catch me dead reciting one of my poems (besides the fact that it would be impossible to catch me dead reciting anything).

        I have been asked to publish the poems but I never really followed the offers through. I’m hoping to get a friend to put some music to one of them and turn it into a song.

        But when it comes to reciting my own stuff … I think I’m not quite there yet. It took a lot of gumption just to put my poems up on the “poet’s corner” on my website. Maybe you can start the trend and I’ll be inspired to follow 🙂

        I just signed up to your site BTW. Look forward to checking it out soon.



  17. Hey Stef,

    I tip my hat off to you. I really like the tips you shared! One of the ideas that you mentioned that I like is the cheat sheet. A lot of people want something that’s just fast and easy to implement, so a cheat sheet would be perfect. I also like the Welcoming email series for those that just need to follow a routine and need a step by step process!

    Thanks for sharing these great tips and you have a great weekend!

  18. Simply brilliant. This is the post I’m going to share with all my blogger acquaintances who are delighted they have thousands of subscribers on Twitter but can’t seem to get people to sign up for their blog updates.

    You’re absolutely right that you need to give people something extraordinary now, something they’ll never find on another blog and would be more than willing to pay for.

    One thing I’d do to improve your chances of getting that tidal wave of new subscribers is directly ask your email subscribers to tell just one person they know about your freebie because it would also help them. You can do this at the end of your text, audio, or video, but it’s an easy call to action that excited email subscribers might actually do because your bribe was just that damn helpful to them. 🙂 This way, you have your own little “evangelists” spreading the word about your email subscription bribe for you.

    Wa-bam! More subscribers for almost no work on your part.

  19. Great post, Stef! I’m surprised how many different types of bribes you can use. From my experience, most people just go with the standard “How to” e-book, and well… when enough people do the same thing it will eventually get annoying for potential subscribers, IMO. ;-(

    Do you have any ideas for what kind of bribe would be fitting for a humor/entertainment blog (to be launched)? Main topic areas: sports, gaming, silly life stuff. Voice: Satirical. I’ve been bending my mind for ages now to figure it out!

    • Hi Tom,

      Thanks for reading! What does your blog offer exactly? Is it a curation of humor/entertainment posts published elsewhere?

      You could do something similar to DesignGood, like a graphic giveaway that you can give to new subscribers. Stickers, wallpapers, etc. You can also consider doing a video of some sort. Since you’re along the lines of performance, I think a visual giveaway could work for you.

  20. Great tips and really something I have to get started with my local SEO blog, which I thought getting inquiries from clients in enough. This article is spot on for building a list that can be used to monetize when things fluctuate with Google traffic. Thanks for the share.

  21. Great insight, Stef. Thanks for putting this post together! A huge aha moment for me was when I realized that people won’t necessarily assign value to the length or complexity of your giveaway. You might think a 100-page ebook is valuable because it took you forever to create it, but sorting through all those pages is probably the LAST thing busy readers want to think about.

    I think the key is to stick to actionable advice and solve one specific problem the best you can. Thanks, Corey

    • Yup! You need to think about how to get your BUSY readers to open and consume your incentive. Once you’ve achieved this, trust then begins to foster.

      Thanks for reading!

    • Great point Corey. I agree with you. I think people are more entertained by multimedia content than written content. Ideal to offer both I guess.

  22. Great post, Stef! I have a blueprint on my site detailing steps on how health entrepreneurs can write ebooks that generate leads, create income, and a host of other benefits. However I am having some trouble figuring out how to get people to sign up for it. I figured I can post it on forums on FB, Google+ and other spaces, however many of them don’t allow self promotional posts anymore. Do you or anyone else have any suggestions for getting around that?

    • Hi Halona,

      I checked out your subscribe page and there are a couple of tweaks you can do to promote it. You can revise the copy to flesh out the benefits more; you can reach out to your followers on social media and let them know about it; you can include it in a guest post (make sure the guest post is of great quality); or you can even reach out to influencers, build a relationship with them, and somehow let them know that you’ve got a resource that you believe can be useful for their audiences.

      There are many other ways you can promote your content, of course. Experiment and test to see which ones work the best.

  23. Hi Stef,

    Excellent advice, indeed. As you say, the usual approach of sign up and I’ll give you something, really is a little outdated and people can usually see through this.

    The approaches you have shared add real value for people and are worthwhile investing in.

    Thank you.

  24. I’m still struggling with a good give-away, I tried a cheat sheet, but it didn’t do much for my subscription, but I don’t think that’s what my reader’s wanted. I tried sample chapters from my upcoming novel, not stellar either. I’m close to self-publishing a collection of vintage romantic ghost stories and I may try giving away one of the stories. Maybe that would work?

    I’m still confused about how important it is to have an email list vs. blog subscribers, but I don’t have enough of either, yet, so I’ll keep trying. Thanks for these wonderful suggestions. I hope I can tweak one of them to work for my website 🙂

    ~ Tam Francis ~

    • Hi Tam!

      Your blog subscribers are members of your email list, so you’re on the right track. As for getting people to subscribe, perhaps you need to tweak certain things for people to take notice, such as the copy of your landing page or increasing your promotion efforts.

      With that said, here’s an article that caught my attention and may help you as well: http://goo.gl/yGNLtI 🙂

      • Thank you for the link. Cool article. I guess I am confused by the need for an email service like Mail Chimp and a subscriber service to my job. I cannot seem to keep up with blogging AND doing newsletter campaigns. Plus, I’m pre-published and don’t have a product to sell yet? Thanks for all your advice 🙂

  25. These are all great ideas! I sometimes get overwhelmed because I have so many things I’d like to share with my audience, it’s hard to decide on just one. My latest opt in offer (The 5 Most Critical Steps for Taking Your Business from Idea to Open) seems to be working quite well right now, as we look to attract more new entrepreneurs in retail/e-commerce and service-based businesses. But I’m sure I’ll find a reason to switch it up in the next few months again…:)

  26. Your list is terrific and I knew it would be because Jon only lets quality writing come to his people. Reading this was my personal reward for e-filing my federal return with the IRS and printing out my state return. Phewwww….

    I used to put all kinds of “ethical bribes” on my clients’ sites until I discovered that video is WAY more powerful and engaging. My marketing background had me creating content but my experience online has me creating the content as video.

    And I recently gave a talk about the 3 Simple Ways To Create A Video (and increased it to FIVE ways because the presentation had been delayed 2 months because of one of our east-coast snow storms in the winter that would never end!).

    The FIRST Way that MOST people over look when it comes to creating video: Get Someone Else To Do It For You!

    Why waste all your time becoming as proficient as “the pros” when you can concentrate on what YOU do best and get someone else to do it for you!

    Heck… if you WANT to learn how to create great videos, go ahead… but then what do you DO with them? Using them as an incentive to get people to sign in is but ONE way to use video. And letting great videos languish on your own website doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of their power.

    But make no mistake… video is THE best way to engage people. How many blog posts have gone viral vs how many videos?!! Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that videos is so powerful.

    So revisit #7 above and see that video is sexy for LOTS of reasons – and then use it to build your list and power your profits.

    Charlie Seymour Jr

    • Thanks for sharing your insights, Charlie! And on that note, it would be great if you could point us to people or services that would enable video making noobs to create eye-catching videos. 😉

  27. I started hitting my blog heavily and after about a month I was getting a steady stream of traffic but no subscribers. I couldn’t figure out why until I realized I had absolutely ZERO calls to action on my posts. But now i am also going to make long email list for my blog too 🙂 Thanks

  28. Excellent points about email signups and subscriptions, Stef. It’s tougher to come up with a “bribe” depending on the niche, especially if your niche is extremely saturated.

    Personally, my website caters primarily to writers and people who are passionate about freelancing. So what do I have? A nice, on-going, never-ending list of paid-per-article websites that every freelancer can use.

    Study your niche well, which subsequently leads to knowing your audience. Thanks for the awesome post!

    • Hi Writer Town and thanks for reading!

      Nice choice for an email incentive as well. Other bloggers of the same niche have crafted a similar resource. The only thing left to do is to keep the list updated. 🙂

  29. Hello Stef, you are a beautiful a poet and blogger. However, I have a question regarding to your post, that is, will bribing make subscribers not purchase products from my website? For instance, if I giveaway my product to subscribers, they may think that one day I will giveaway another product to them. So, is it proper to bribe them?

    • Hi Linda,

      Interesting question. One important lesson I learned is that high-quality free content is designed for two purposes: to give value to your readers from the get-go because you love and appreciate them, and to prime them for products and services you intend to sell as a business. It’s important therefore to make your readers/visitors aware that 1) you are a business, and 2) you above all want to build a relationship them, and so are giving them value they won’t find elsewhere…for free.

      I personally follow lots of entrepreneurs who offer different types of products for free, and not once did I feel the inclination to demand more free stuff from them.

      Hope this helps!

  30. Nice post!

    You mention a couple of times using a word processor to design a document. Cautionary note: you need to be fairly proficient at using WP software to do a good job at layout. If anyone wants to dip a toe into desktop publishing, probably the best low-cost software is Serif PagePlus. I’ve been a happy user for years.

    Personally, I’m grappling with where to pitch a sign-up freebie. The one I have now is a workbook for discovering foundation message elements. I think it’s an important and useful starting point for communication work, but I’m realising that it doesn’t get people enthusiastic because it’s not where they’re coming from – they haven’t done that thinking so it looks a bit abstract to them. So I’m thinking about something more rooted in people’s practical experience, like “How to build a website that communicates”.

    • Hey Tim and thanks for sharing your recommendations! Just to clarify, by “WP software” you’re referring to WordPress? I haven’t heard of Serif PagePlus, so I will check it out. Another desktop publishing tool people can opt to use is Lucidpress. I hope to find the time next week to test it out.

      Re: your opt-in offer, I agree that the words “discovering foundation message elements” is very abstract for a typical person like me and so I won’t be able to grasp the purpose of your freebie right away. Your second option is a lot more concrete and something I’d definitely want to sign up for and check out.

      • Oops, sorry for ambiguity! WP = word processing.

        Thanks for the feedback. The existing freebie title is actually ‘Your Message Profile’. It’s about the message behind the message… Lots of people focus on the words they write for a specific thing like a blog post and don’t realise that everything they put out gives messages about who they are, their values and approach, who they’re writing for, etc. If you work through what you want those to be, you can use design and style to get them across.

      • Hi Stef (and anyone else). The new ‘How to make a website that communicates’ free guide is now up on my website so you can check it out if interested.

  31. Wow, Stef! Great ideas and awesome engagement with your readers!
    I’m a Guest Blogging student and was referred to your post for more ideas/direction for an opt-in bribe. Right when I thought I had nailed an idea, “5 Must Do Bathroom Updates (or Top 5 Bathroom Updates) with a Bonus Return on Your Investment”, going off the 52 Headline Hacks, I feel back to square one and drawing board. I love the idea of a Manifesto and would love to offer it as a design to print as art for their bathroom; but, do not think my potential audience would find it irresistible.
    As painful as it feels right now, thank you for more to contemplate. 🙂


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