Building a business is hardly anything without people. We can craft an online presence that looks exactly like us, put our blood, sweat and tears into it, but if you don’t have followers that want to buy from you, you just have a hobby. What’s the best way to do this? Have an email list.
I know, I know. You’re SO. BUSY. with your creative business, you can’t possibly think of writing consistent emails to a list of followers, much less find these people to follow you in the first place. The honest truth about this is, your mailing list is gold in today’s economy. You can have 1,000 or more followers on social media, but you can’t talk to those people directly in their inbox. Everyone checks their email on a daily basis, but they can skip out on social media for days at a time, missing your important message or promotions.
But what do I share with them? Nobody cares about what I’m doing on a daily basis.
Yes, they do. Well, not everybody, and that’s the point. You do have an audience out there that is waiting to be born. You just have to do a little work to attract them to your magical self.
This is how you gather your people
You get started by sharing your expertise. This is usually done with your blog , but it can be done in a variety of ways, and as long as you are being genuine in the way you are sharing (i.e. not just doing what everyone else on the internet is doing) you will resonate with the people who would deeply benefit from knowing you and your work. When they are super stoked about how helpful and open you are, they won’t want to miss a single thing you put out, and that is when they sign up for your email list.
You can also offer up your expertise in exchange for them signing up to your list. In the online marketing world this is called an “opt-in offer,” but if that kind of jargon makes you squeamish, I understand. Just think of it as an honest exchange of value for value. A win-win. Start by brainstorming ideas for how you can introduce newcomers to what you do, and make sure it is always genuinely valuable. Give, give, and give some more should be one of your mantras. When you set up your email list (we’re getting there), you will give this piece of genius to them in the form of a PDF guide, a guided course, or whatever makes the most sense for your business and brand after they sign up.
Now that you have these lovely people on your list, what do you send them? This is a conundrum many online bosses run into, and it took me a while to figure this out as well. What you choose to share with people “off the blog” will vary for everyone. Most bosses (myself included) send a copy of their latest blog post to their list at the same time it is published, but then there are other ways of engaging with your audience on top of this.
Here are some suggestions to get you started:
Behind the scenes glimpses into your business and why you do it. This will deepen their understanding of why you are doing what you are doing, and it will make you more valuable than the other person that doesn’t share anything about themselves. People want to do business with people, period. Share your values as they pertain to the way you earn an income, and you will deepen the connection with other people that share those same values.
Special content that is super helpful. Think of short email courses or content that they can’t get anywhere else. I call this “exclusive content.” Be helpful in ways that go deeper than you do on your website or blog. Also get a little more vulnerable than you would on your front-facing web presence.
Special promotions that only they have access to. This works well if you sell products whether digital or physical. Give your list a coupon code for your launch, or have a special pre-sale on your website that only they have access to. When you are selling anything, the first people you want to take care of are the ones that have given you their email address.
Lookbooks or editorials. This one would work well for photographers and artisans. Send your list a beautiful PDF of next season’s collection or your latest client work you’re proud of. Showing what you do with your business goes a long way to describing visually what you do without you having to explain it. This could lead to people on your list hiring you!
That sounds like too much work, I’m so not technologically inclined.
For fear of alienating you, you’re wrong, my friend.
Setup your list
Getting set up and sending email campaigns is super easy. There are plenty of tutorials out there for how to set up Mailchimp (and frankly, I don’t like doing tutorial-style posts) so instead of writing yet another one, I’m going to send you over to one of these fantastic resources:
How the Heck Do You Use MailChimp? A Full Tutorial (With Video!) For Sending Your First Newsletter from The Nectar Collective
The Ins, Outs, and Advantages of Using Mailchimp from Elle & Company
Put signup forms on your website
After you set up your mailing list, you’ll want to put signup forms on your website to gather email addresses from your people. You want to put these in more than one place, usually in the sidebar of your blog if you have one, after each blog post, your home page and maybe your about page as well. To do this on your WordPress site, here are a couple plugins:
If you have a SquareSpace site, here is a video tutorial on how to create this kind of form.
Now what? Show up and engage
It would be remiss of me to not point out this important aspect of building an audience for your creative business: Be Consistent. That means have a content schedule that you can stick to and show up regularly for your people. This builds trust like nothing else, and will ensure that your audience will hire you when you ask. You have to give, give, give first, remember? Be aware of this above all else when sending a campaign to your people. Don’t clog up their inbox with nothing but promotional material, or try to sell to them only.
Be as realistic as you can with your own consistency and what works for you. If you know there’s no way you can produce a high-quality blog post every week, do it every other week or even once a month. If you know you won’t be sending an email a week to your list, don’t promise this, and instead see how it goes. There’s nothing worse than a blog that hasn’t been updated for weeks or even months.
You can also use your list to get to know more about your ideal clients/customers which is, hopefully, who you are working so hard to attract! The best way to do this is to ask them to share their story or struggles with you in the final welcome email you send them. People like to talk about themselves, so this can be relatively easy! Besides the obvious benefits of connection and getting to know awesome people, you will get loads of ideas for new ways to help them when you write your content or create a product for them.
Now get out there, share your expertise, and gather your people!
This post is a sample from my free email course, Your Creative Business, Up & Running. If you are an entrepreneur that needs to go from creative idea to online presence in a calm and focused way, this is for you.