My Niche is B-O-R-I-N-G, but I still continue to grow an engaged email list
I write about personal finance primarily. For most people, that is super boring! Regardless, my email open rate is about 25-30%, my click rate is 3-7%, and my reply rate can be anywhere from 2-10%! (UPDATE: AS OF FEBRUARY 2018, MY MONTHLY OPEN RATE IS 50.33% AND MY CLICK RATE IS 22.87%). If you’re wondering, the personal finance industry standard is an open rate of 20.97%, click rate of 2.73%, and there isn’t a stat that I can find to represent the reply rate for the personal finance niche.
In the past 90 days alone, my email list (that I’ve had for two years, and have been having freebies for since the beginning) has had a growth rate of 193%!! I send one newsletter every Friday morning between 5am and 9am, and by noon on Saturday, I’ve usually gained between 1 and 10 new subscribers, almost all of which come through my sidebar opt in, and not my freebie opt in.
Why You Need an Email List
If you are an influencer, blogger, website owner, or business owner, you need an email list! What if social media ended? How would you reach ‘your people’? I know that sounds like a silly what-if, but vine did. And Instagram keeps changing their algorithm, which is certainly making reaching out more difficult. Email is the one platform you own!
Beyond simply being a way to reach your audience, your email list is a great way to deeply connect with your absolute best people. Depending on who you are and what you do, “your best people” can vary. Usually though, they’re people who do one or two of these things-
- Care about what you have to say
- Care about what you have to sell (or giveaway)
These people are so crucial to you, they’re your tribe, your family, your best friends, or your trusting, happy clients. Not only should you be reaching out to them because they’re important to you and your brand, you should be reaching out to them because they’ve trusted you enough to give you their email address, and you should regularly be thanking them for that in the form of gifts, no matter how big or small, and no matter how expensive or free.
How to Gain Subscribers
I prefer to gain subscribers one of two ways, by subscribing for my newsletter directly (check out my sidebar), or by giving them a very niched down, super useful freebie (check out the big box at the bottom of this post). That’s it. I don’t do freebies that will get everyone’s attention (such as subscribe here to learn how to make $5000 in two weeks), I do freebies that only people who care about what I specifically write about, will care about. I strongly advise against doing giveaways that require entries to input email addresses, that is too wide. If you want to grow an engaged email list, you need to be interesting, intimate, and cater to your reader’s wants and needs. The key isn’t to have a BIG list, but rather an ENGAGED list. You want the equivalent of a few best friends, not a whole lotta’ acquaintances.
For your direct subscribers
You need to make your intentions very clear. Describe exactly what they’ll be getting, and how often they’ll be getting it. Mine for example says that “Don’t miss out on the uber personal newsletter, complete with posts from the week, insider deals, tips, and special updates. Delivered every Friday Morning!”
When you get the first email from me, you won’t be surprised to see that the top of the email has three links to three posts from Diamonds N’ Denim. You also won’t be thinking “what the heck is this?!” when I tell you a little bit about what’s going on in my life, my finances, and experiments I’m running. You won’t be shocked when I add in links to other people who blog similarly to me, links to good deals I found, links to videos and podcasts from people smarter than me, as well as updates that tell you when changes are on the way.
You have to be a trustworthy and honest person when it comes to your subscribers, so never ever lie to them to get them on your list- chances are, they’ll unsubscribe just as quickly as they subscribed.
For your freebie subscribers
I’d say that over 85% of your freebie subscribers will stick around once getting their freebie and receiving their first newsletter from you. For that 15% though, don’t be the least bit discouraged! You helped that person, and they helped you by leaving. If they aren’t interested in what you have to say, you definitely don’t want them sticking around.
For all your subscribers
Make darn sure that you have a welcome email set up that sends as soon as they subscribe to your list. Again remind them of who you are, what you’re about, what they can expect from your emails, and how often they can expect your emails. If you have a website, drop some important links, such as your ‘About’, ‘Contact’, and ‘Start Here’ pages. If you have a newsletter, make sure you set up a password protected archive page on your website as well (come back this coming Wednesday to see how to do that). Bloggers, if you have top posts, share the links to maybe 3-10 of those.
Some people suggest having “social proof” in the opt in forms such as “Over 50,000 people have subscribed, join them!”. I don’t like social proof for two reasons:
- If you have a ‘low number’ of subscribers (that number is obviously very different for everyone), people will think your newsletter is unworthy of following.
- If you have a ‘high number’ of subscribers (again, no one can pinpoint exactly what that is), people will think that they’re just a number, and not feel like replying to your emails.
You need a newsletter, not RSS
This applies especially to bloggers. If you post consistently and more than once a week, please do not send your subscribers and email every single time you post! They are busy, and their inbox is probably a full mess anyways. If your subscribers want a post every single time you post, they can manually subscribe via on their desktop, or do so through WordPress, or even do so with BlogLovin’.
Beyond cluttering inboxes, as I said before, you need to give your subscribers gifts as often as you can to thank them for their loyalty, trust, and support. These can be little insights into your life (so long as it applies to your blogging niche), deals you find, amazing people you find, other blogs (and videos, and podcasts, and websites and stores, etc), or even gifts you make for them such as printables, eBooks, coupon codes, or discounts. You need to use your newsletter to showcase you, your brand, and your knowledge, as well as your ability to connect.
Quick Tips for an Email that People WANT to Open
- Have a catchy subject line, but not spammy nor ‘clickbaity’. What’s the difference between clickbait and catchy? Catchy follows through and fully covers everything that the headline said it would.
- Talk to your subscribers differently than you do your normal blog readers. Get more personal, and pretend that you are talking to only one person over a more intimate coffee date. Be more casual, more personable, and more fun. You can show more emotions through your words, punctuation (I love being able to do this!!!!!!!!!!!!!), and even emojis.
- Only send newsletters when you have something good to say. If you don’t have anything good to talk about, simply skip that newsletter, or simply add in your most recent posts and call it a day. We can all tell when you don’t actually care about something, and it’s a real turn off.
- Brand that newsletter! Set it up almost exactly the same every single time. For me I put a short little ‘Happy Friday, this is what I’m going to talk about today’ type thing at the top. Then I put in my two posts from the week, as well as one post from the past (because many subscribers haven’t read all of the hundreds of posts I’ve been putting out over the years). Below that I add in the content of the message, maybe a photo or two, or a video, if that’s relevant, and then I sign off with a thank you for subscribing some questions/discussions I have, and the reminder that my email is not ran by anyone else, just me, and all replies get answered to by me and I’d love to chat. Below that in the footer is a way to unsubscribe, my contact info, the password to get into the newsletter archives, and a new selfie every week that is captioned by my mission statement. I do this so that my subscribers get to see ‘the real me’ and feel like they know me and would easily recognize me should they ever see me out and about.
- Brand that newsletter some more! My website has a bright white and wine red (with the occasional grey) color theme to it, so I use those colors in my emails. I also use the same fonts and photo styles that I use here on my blog. When it comes to branding, you want it to be almost boring for you because you use it so much! That means that your readers will easily recognize your posts instantly, often before even reading a word. When my readers see white, wine red and grey together, I want to be the first person they think of. Branding like this is the online equivalent of my voice, and my handwriting.
- Don’t sell to your subscribers. If you want to grow an engaged email list, this may be the most important point you’ll see today! Yes, you hear it all the time as a blogger “the money is in the list!”. The people in your email list are your nearest and dearest people, don’t ruin that amazing friendship over money! Personally, I think selling to your list is a bit tacky, so I have yet to do that and that’s why I believe my stats are so good. BUT! If monetizing is really important to you, do it sparingly, and do it with some integrity. Don’t sell an item unless it is amazing, you’ve tested it yourself AND you wholly believe that it is good for your subscribers. For every 15 emails you send, 14 of those should be ‘sale free’. That includes sneaky affiliate links!
- End every newsletter with a question, a thought, or some sort of discussion piece, and then reply back to every single email, every single time, as quickly as you possibly can. Ask questions about the person who is replying if that’s applicable, and let them know you truly care about them as a person.
- Don’t have more than 1 point to an email. Blog posts can have several differing points and lessons (like this one) but emails should not.
- At the end of every newsletter, try to give your subscribers a reason to open next week’s email when applicable. If for example today you talked about the trend of early retirement, hint to your subscribers that next week’s email will include ways that THEY can retire early.
12 Great Newsletter Content Ideas to Grow an Engaged email list
The question that can stump even the best of us “what do I say?”. Here are a few ideas and examples to help you get started:
- Something personal to you that relates to your niche, perhaps a goal, a past mistake, or an observation. “How I plan to Retire by 31”, “My budgeting Fail”, or “The older I get, the more I notice this about Money”
- Elaborate on a post you’ve already written. For example, when I wrote the post “I only have 16 pieces of clothes” I wrote in that week’s newsletter of *why* I decided to downsize so drastically, and the backstory to that.
- Facts that Relate. “89% of Americans don’t have a savings account, here’s why that is”.
- A freebie. If your subscriber subscribes because of a freebie, make sure that is automatically sent to their inbox the second they subscribe! Beyond that though, continue showing the love, even after the person is a longtime subscriber. “My free budget tracker”, or “The Get Rich in 5 Years Printable Workbook”.
- A tool or resource email. What do you use that would be helpful for your readers to know? “The Apps that I Use to Budget”, or “41 books and blogs that made me Financially Savvy”.
- A quick tip or life hack. “I found this really cool website called ___, that pays you double the minimum wage and lets you work from home”.
- Feature other bloggers or people in your industry. “This money guru is who I want to be when I grow up”, or “”this couple paid off $40k in debt in 20 months”.
- Industry news. “FinCon is next week, who is going?”
- Discounts. “This person released her first book, and this week only, it’s 50% off”.
- Book reviews that relate to your niche. If you’re a blogger, you read lots of books pertaining to your niche to grow your understanding (if not, you probably shouldn’t be a blogger!). You can just explain why you do or don’t recommend the book, or you can give a full rundown over what it’s about and key points you took from it.
- Progress for your self or your blog. Traffic and income reports are always useful and interesting for readers.
- Reader Stories, take your subscribers stories that relate to your niche and occasionally feature them in your emails.
- Do you have an email list, and are you happy with your stats?
- What are your tips high engagement? How do you like to grow an engaged email list?
- If you’re not on my email list (which you should be!), is there any room for improvement?
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