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9 List-Building Gifts You Can Make This Month

An orange gift bag with 3 smaller gift boxes

Mailing lists. You’ve heard you need one, but why?

Here’s why: email is one of the least expensive, most direct ways to communicate with your prospects. You can build a relationship with them by offering valuable information over time, and giving them a peek into your working process.

When they’re ready to make a purchase, your business will be the first one they think of.

But where do you get started? And how can you build your list?

It’s hard to feel enthusiastic about writing an email newsletter for 27 people, right?

Don’t worry. Anyone with a decent-sized list has started at “mailing list zero.” My first email newsletter went out to eight family members, including me!

Introducing two crucial list-building tools

To build your mailing list, you need to get two things right, and we’re going to cover them both in this post.

The first is to create a high-converting opt-in form, and the second is to make a gift you can give in exchange for an email address. It’s the holiday season, so it’s a perfect time to think about what you can give to your prospects, and I have nine ideas to share.

Your opt-in form: Don’t ask for too much information

The first thing you need if you don’t have a mailing list at all is an email marketing company. I use and recommend AWeber, but you can read my review of the three main email marketing companies here.

Once you’ve signed yourself up with a company, you’ll be able to create an opt-in form like the one you see in the upper right corner of this site. When you do, keep these two things in mind:

  • Ask for an email address only. Unless you have a very compelling reason to request a name, address, company name, etc., you should stick to requesting only the information absolutely necessary to deliver your gift: an email address. The less information you request, the more sign ups you’ll get.
  • Make it pop (but not pop over). Your email opt-in form is a conversion touch point on your site. It’s a place on your web page where you’re asking visitors to take an action. To make it stand out and not get lost among everything else on your page, use an accent color. Make it brighter and bolder than your two main colors so it stands out and draws people’s eyes to your opt-in form. Unless you want to really annoy some people, avoid those “pop over” sign up boxes.

Now, make an appealing gift

What can you do to entice people to share their email address? First, let me tell you what not to do.

Don’t just say “Sign up for our newsletter!”

This may have worked ten years ago when email newsletters were a novelty, but nowadays, no one thinks they need more email in their inbox. People are swimming in too much email, and reading, sorting and replying to it takes a big chunk of their day.

If you want them to share their email address with you, you’ve got to entice them with a gift they’ll find irresistible. And you should offer it using the language your market uses to describe their problem.

But what can you offer? This was one of the most popular questions on the now-famous “Hello” post.

Nine ways to entice your prospect to share an email address

Here are nine ideas for gifts you can make and offer on your opt-in form to get more subscribers to your email list. Make sure anything you create is branded with your business contact information so people know where to find you.

Pick one, work on it this month, and prepare to grow your mailing list in 2012.

  1. Buyer’s Guide: What information does a buyer need to know in order to make an informed buying choice of the service or product you offer? Create a report that details this basic information.
  2. Checklist: How will a prospect know they have everything needed to correctly use your product, or get the most out of your service? Give them a checklist so they can do a self test.
  3. Tips List: What inside information can you share that will make your prospect’s life easier?
  4. Excerpt from a longer piece: Do you have a comprehensive report or PDF Ebook — perhaps one you sell — that you can offer a popular chapter from? Pick a chapter with broad appeal, and be sure to include information on how they can order the full publication.
  5. Answers/solutions to tough problems: What sticky, bothersome problem does your prospect encounter every day? This should be related to the solution your business provides.
  6. Recipes (they’re not just for food): Concoct “success recipes” for the service you offer. Combine your product with others for a unique solution. Share these “recipes” in a report.
  7. Best of: Write a “best of” list for your industry. Devise the “ultimate” solution and share it.
  8. Resource Guide: Write a glossary of terms prospects should understand about your field of expertise, or share links or contact information for websites or companies that will help solve their challenges.
  9. Manifesto: Share a rant about the state of your industry. This idea works best if you’re already someone people are interested in listening to.

How to assemble your gift

When you’ve chosen your topic, you’ll need to assemble it into an Ebook, which should be a PDF document. Any word processing program will create PDFs.

How about you? Are you working on creating a “gift” for your prospects to get them on your mailing list? Let me know if you want brainstorming help: I’m happy to talk about it in the comments.

Do you know someone who’s working on building a mailing list? Click one of the share buttons and give them the gift of nine ideas for inspiration!

Thanks to Thomas Hawk on Flickr for the gift photo.

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.

12 thoughts on “9 List-Building Gifts You Can Make This Month”

  1. I really appreciate the rich content you provide on your site, it has been invaluable to me as I redesign my own site. I am a freelance translator and have been successful at attracting international clients. However, as I look ahead, I cannot imagine just keeping doing the same thing for years to come without engaging my creativity in the translation world and business. What I mean is, beyond the translation of the content on a page submitted by a client, what can a translator offer? I have a few ideas, but it seems hard to package “translation gifts” like other would for coaching, marketing, etc. I would really appreciate you thoughts on rethinking an intellectual pursuit. I am sure that a few pointers could help me think outside the box.

    • Hi Johanne: thanks for your comment!

      One way to think about this would be to focus on the benefits your customers receive when they use your service. How does their business change when their pages are translated accurately, and with deep understanding of the audience they’re trying to reach? Helping them to see the advantages of using a good translation service (and not one of the many automated ones that are out there) has potential.

      The other idea that comes to mind is a guide for choosing a translation service. One question in my mind, for example, is “how do I choose a good translation service for my target language when I don’t speak a word of their language? How will I be able to check the quality of the translation work?” If you create a guide or checklist of traits to look for in a translation service, I could see that being very valuable.

      Try going back to the list of nine items in the post and applying it to your business. Every business faces objections that must be overcome in order to make a sale, and anything you can create that will help answer those objections will help to build your prospects list.

      • Thank you Pamela for these ideas. Being bilingual, I sometimes forget that choosing a translation service may not be so easy. I appreciate your prompt response.

  2. Thanks Pamela,

    This actually gave me a great idea. I have been working on my opt in list and I have been trying to build my list. I think I have a great idea for a free-be. I think I tend to overcomplicate things but for some reason your post just make it sound like it could be something really simple.


  3. These are very useful and need to know tips for everyone who plans using Email marketing to promote his business.
    I and i say this from my own personal experience, think that email marketing is the marketing strategy that offers the biggest return for the initial investment. It is really easy to set up.
    All you need is a good email template to get your potential customers interested and an email database with opt-in email addresses that you can gather on your own or buy from one of the many email list providers on line.
    I’ve been buying my email databases from and so far it is as good as it gets.

  4. Thanks for all the excellent tips Pamela! I’m a creative biz coach & I’m working on a mega checklist for my email subscribers that will take them through several areas of growing a creative business. For example I want my list to have multiple checklists for things like blogging, using Twitter, using Facebook, sending out newsletters of their own, etc. I want my list to walk them through basic things they need to do in each area & to also include links to resources available to learn more about each area if they need it.

    My biggest struggle is going to be finding a great list of resources & links to add into the checklist. I know lists are time consuming. Oh well, off to get busy! I can’t wait to see it finished. Oh yeah, on more thing. I was thinking of just hosting it on my site as a PDF & providing new subscribers with the link. Do you think that’s a good idea, or should I offer it in a different way/format? Thanks again!

    • Sounds like a great idea, Meagan.

      Any time you can send people back to your site to pick something up, that’s smart. It’s another opportunity to get them clicking around on your information and seeing your brand and messaging. Good luck!

  5. Hello Pamela –

    Thank you for all of the great content on your blog and I have book-market the site as a favorite. I also want you to know that I have taken you up on your offer to receive your big brand system via email.

    I have always viewed list building as a core tenant for everyone wanting to achieve online success and I teach the skill-set regularly. I have picked up several tips and expert advice here and will check back often.

    Congratulations on the creation of an excellent and resource rich site!


    • Thanks for your comment, James. I apologize it took so long to appear: it was stuck in my spam folder for some reason.

      I’m glad you’ve found this site, and have already picked up some tips. It’s good to have you on board!

Comments are closed.


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