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How to Create Email List Growth Fast with Content Upgrades

a pair of hands offering a small gift box

Wondering how to create email list growth fast?

Content upgrades are the answer.

Content upgrades are the perfect example of the 80/20 Rule in action.

The 80/20 rule, or Pareto Principle, states:

“Roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.”

When it comes to how content upgrades can help you profit from your email list, I think it’s closer to 90/10.

Content upgrades are effective because they’re:

  • Easy to create
  • Irresistible to your audience
  • Build highly targeted prospect lists
  • Allow you to make offers that you know people want

Let’s get down to defining content upgrades before we proceed.

Content Upgrade Idea Generator graphic

What are content upgrades?

Content upgrades is a small-but-valuable bit of information that you offer inside a larger piece of content.

The best content upgrades:

  • Are easy to consume (and create)
  • Offer tips, resources, or information that can be put to use immediately
  • Complement and expand on the content where they’re featured
  • Create email list growth consistently over time

If that’s still not clear, later in this article you’ll find lots of examples of content upgrades you can try for yourself.

Why should I create content upgrades?

There’s no doubt that content upgrades add to your workload as a content creator. So what’s the purpose of content upgrades? Why should you bother to create them?

If you’ve ever been confused about how to build an email list that directly contributes to profits, content upgrades may be the missing link.

The magic of content upgrades? They're a way to gather a group of people who you know for sure are interested in a specific topic you create content around.Click To Tweet

If you’re doing content marketing right, you’re creating content around topics that directly relate to products and services your business offers.

For just a little extra work, content upgrades allow you to gauge interest, gather names, and come away with a targeted list of prospects that you can then make offers to in the future.

It’s email marketing the way it’s supposed to be: targeted, relevant, effective.

This, my friend, is how to create email list growth that directly builds your profits.

Content Upgrade Idea Generator graphic

How can I create content upgrades quickly?

First off, think small.

Fruit on top of a wooden cutting board

Content upgrade are a snack. They’re meant to supplement your main information, not take the place of it.

Content upgrades that are too overwhelming to create won’t get done. And I want to see you use this technique! So let’s keep our goals small and manageable.

Remember, your audience will thank you for not giving them something that takes hours to read, listen to, or watch. We’re all pressed for time, so keep your content upgrade compact.

Content upgrade examples

Let’s look at content upgrade ideas that will grow your email list without adding too much to your todo list.

  • A step-by-step checklist so they can implement a tricky task
  • A short tutorial video that explains something in detail
  • A swipe file that shares copy/paste text they can use
  • A supplemental audio — think “behind-the-scenes” or in-depth content for those who want more
  • A resource guide with your favorite vendors, websites, or books
  • A series of quotes or cards they can print and cut out
  • A spreadsheet created in Google docs they copy and use to mark progress, keep track, or tally up results
  • A quiz or self testing guide they can use to analyze and understand themselves or their business
  • A handful of “recipes” — these can be for food, for headline writing, for mixing colors, for creating product ideas … use your imagination!

Remember, the goal here is to create an email list of targeted prospects. Start by thinking about your reader.

Imagine that some of them (not all) are hungry to understand everything they can about the topic you’re creating a piece of content around.

What extra bit of information can you create for these hungry audience members? Use the content upgrade ideas above as inspiration.

Related: Email Marketing Best Practices: How to Connect, Deliver, and Profit in the Inbox

Related: How to Build an Email Marketing Program You Can Be Proud Of

Related: Stop Begging and Start Giving: Why Perks Work to Build Your Email List

How to set up your content upgrades in your email marketing software

To create an email list of interested prospects, there are a few things you’ll need to set up on your website and in your email marketing software.

Your software will be something like ConvertKit, MailChimp, Infusionsoft, AWeber — or any of the other options and it’s important to “go pro” with one of these services when you’re serious about building an email list! You’ll see why below.

Your email marketing software gives you a way to group together people by interest. The best software uses tagging which simply adds information to the entry in their database that tells you, as the email list owner, what that person has expressed interest in.

When you set up your content upgrade, you’ll also create a tag or separate list you’ll use to identify the people who sign up to get it.

You’ll know what they’re interested in by what they sign up for!

Read on to see how this works …

A content upgrade example

Meet Mary Pérez.

A woman wearing glasses and smiling at the camera, illustrating a content upgrade example

Let’s say you write about nutrition.

  • Mary Pérez signs up for your newsletter where you promise to send a new recipe every week.
  • Two weeks later, Mary signs up for your content upgrade about eating more vegetables.
  • A week after that, Mary signs up for your content upgrade about changing your diet so you can keep your body at a healthy weight.

Three weeks from now, when you’re about to launch your new “Healthy Weight at Any Age” online course, guess who you’re going to email?


She’s shown you that she’ll be interested in your new course by what she’s signed up for on your website.

6 steps to add a content upgrade to your website content

  1. Create a content upgrade that delivers helpful information in a compact format that your most interested readers, viewers, or listeners will want
  2. Create a tag inside your email marketing software that you’ll add whenever someone signs up for that upgrade. (My tags all start with CU for Content Upgrade, and then the topic of the upgrade.)
  3. Upload the content upgrade to your email software or host it on your site and send the link in the first email.
  4. Create a form in your email software and grab the form code.
  5. Paste the form code onto the web page where your piece of content will live.
  6. Write a welcome email that shares other information you offer: a list of links, free courses, or other free content

The post wouldn’t be complete without a content upgrade, right?

I can’t publish an article like this without creating an amazing content upgrade for you, so here it is!

This quick resource will help you find a winning content upgrade idea fast.

It features information, thought-provoking questions, and an Idea Bank you can use for inspiration.

You’ll have everything you need to create content upgrades that create email list growth fast — and consistently.

And it’s free! Register below and I’ll send it to you.

Content Upgrade Idea Generator graphic
How to Create Email List Growth Fast with Content UpgradesHow to Create Email List Growth Fast with Content Upgrades

Pamela Wilson

Pamela Wilson is the Chief Marketing Officer at DCS. She’s the creator of the Offer Accelerator Program. Learn more about Pamela’s content marketing books, and read reviews of the tools used to run this site.
Pamela Wilson coaches people in midlife to build profitable online businesses
I’m Pamela Wilson

In 2010, at the age of 45, I started this site and grew it into a business that offers freedom, flexibility — and consistent revenue.


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