When building your list, the most important thing to have is a truly compelling free offer. What are you giving people in exchange for their information?

People will no longer sign up for a list without getting something in return. They are really signing up to get something that they will benefit from. This item - your Free Opt-in Offer - has to have certain characteristics to really entice people to sign up and then turn them into loyal followers.

A free offer can take many forms: a video series, an audio training, and a downloadable document are common ones. What must your Free Opt-in Offer have? I call them the 4 Cs: Content, creativity, connection, a catchy title.


Let's start with the last one. The only part of your Free offer that prospects will see before they sign up is the title. You can also provide a description or an image of the item. But the title is what will make or break their decision to sign up.

It is important to have a title that describes what they are getting, but that also draws them in and creates curiosity. One technique is to quantify the information in the report (5 Steps..., 10 Tips for...., 3 things to avoid...). 

But, the most important thing the title must do is address the primary struggle your clients have. What do they come to you for? What problem do you solve? Your title will be most effective if it highlights a solution your prospects are looking for.

The next component is content. The content of your piece has to deliver on the promise made in your title. Once they have signed up, you have achieved the goal of capturing their information. So the goal of the piece itself is to begin building trust and a relationship with those who read, watch, or listen to it.

Provide them with information they can use, showcase your solution and your expertise. Many people get concerned that they are giving too much away. But the more you are able to give away, the more trust you will build. If you deliver too little, your prospects will be disappointed and are likely to walk away.

Of course, you can't give away everything you know. So, to add to the content that you are providing, use creativity to further engage people. 

Don't be boring! Creative comparisons or metaphors, imagery, and humor can draw people into the piece as much as the content itself. Creativity allows you to show more of your personality in addition to just your expertise. And that leads to the last "C" -- Connection.

To build a connection to your prospects, you have to include information about yourself. Many people are hesitant to talk about themselves in their marketing, but it is a critical part of the process. I'm not talking about a whole page about you, or "your story." But finding ways to talk about yourself or your experiences in the content of the piece, including a picture of you, will really help people to build trust. They feel like they are "getting to know you."

That connection is what will keep an individual on your list and bring them closer to becoming a loyal paying client.

Creating a good Free Opt-in Offer is worth taking some time to get it right. It is something I love doing with my clients. 

If you haven't seen my own Opt-in Offer, check it out here.

All the best!
-Sarah
 
 
I'd like to ask you a couple of questions about your website.... What value does it provide to your prospective customers? How often does it change? What can visiters do on your site?

I see so many small business websites that are designed with the same formula that was created sometime in the late 90s, and somehow has persisted.

A well-meaning web developer and a small business owner, neither of whom have a lot of marketing training, get together and say, "What should we put on your website?"

And typically they fall back on this formula, saying "Well, we should probably have an 'About' page, and some samples of our work, and our contact information so people can get in touch with us."

This formula is easy, and good for web developers. The problem is that it is completely ineffective at actually engaging customers.

The formula for websites has to be flipped upside down. This may seem odd, but your website shouldn't be about you. It should be about them.

Let's look at that a little more closely. Here are four things that the most engaging websites do in the new millennium:

#1 - The best websites are customer-driven. When people visit a website, believe it or not, they don't actually want to read about you. They want to recognize themselves in what they see. Your website copy should talk to your customers. Show that you understand who they are and what they are looking for. Ask them questions to which they can answer "Yes! That's me!"

#2 - Provide value. Your website must offer something of value to your visitors, and information about you and your business doesn't count! Provide them with information or tips they can use right now. Do some of their research for them. Share pieces of your expertise. By providing value to your visitors, they learn more about you and build more trust in you than they could by reading a paragraph about your schooling or your work process.

#3 - Be interactive. There should be something for your website visitors to do besides just read. My recommendation is that there be an opt-in with a free gift that they can download, allowing them to show interest and share their contact information with you. There are other forms of interactivity as well. The more a visitor is able to click on, or respond to, the longer they will stay on your site and the better they will get to know you.

#4 - Change often. If your website doesn't change regularly, it's basically an online flyer. Once you've read it, there's no need to keep it any longer. In order to continue to attract visitors and build relationships with them, you must provide them with new information and ways to interact with you. (It's great for your search engine position as well.) A blog it a popular way to accomplish this.

By flipping the website formula on its head, we prioritize functionality over design. Many people spend a lot of money on website design, but these days, it doesn’t have to be flashy or be professionally designed. Make sure that the money you invest in your website improves it's ability to engage your customers.

Check out my report that describes the system I use to improve the effectiveness of your website.

-Sarah