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If you’re reading this, then that means we both agree opt-in and freebies are the best way to grow your email list and scale business online.
You offer your visitors something of value for free, essentially giving them a subtle taste of what it feels like to be a part of your community.
However the biggest issues a lot of people struggle with are:
- What kind of opt-in should I create?
- How do I find amazing opt-in ideas?
The truth is – it depends.
I know you’re probably not a huge fan of technical answers but it really comes down to 3 things:
- The nature of your audience
- The type of content you create
- What you feel comfortable doing (Also read as what you’re great at)
Let’s start with the basics.
What is an Opt-in?
Lead magnet, Freebie, Opt-in, etc… there are a ton of different names to call it but they’re all essentially the same thing.
But no matter what you call them, they’re vital to growing your mailing list and online business as a whole.
An opt-in is any piece of content that you give away in exchange for an email address.
It could be a PDF, an e-book, a mini course, or any other digital product you see fit.
In most cases. your opt-in is typically the first part of your sales funnel.
You give your audience something for free, nurture any subscribers, then present them with any paid products or services at the appropriate moment.
That’s all it is.
I understand as a blogger or digital marketer it’s easy to dwell so much on what’s ideal and what the intended purpose of your opt-in is but there’s really no reason to make it any more complicated than that.
Your site exists because you want to serve a particular audience, your opt-in helps you get more of those people to sign up and engage with you.
So with that in mind, I’m going to give you a rundown of some of the best opt-in examples you can use for your website and the different ways you can go about finding amazing opt-in ideas your audience will love.
10 Excellent Opt-in Examples to Grow Your Mailing List
1 – E-mail courses (mini-courses)
Mini email courses are by far one of the best options for list building.
They essentially allow you to break down an otherwise relatively long solution into a series of smaller steps spread out across several emails.
The beauty of that is when done effectively, it really helps boost your engagement.
Dripping out content over time builds anticipation and it also gets your subscribers into the habit of opening your emails.
And your mini course doesn’t have to be complicated at all.
It really comes down to a simple step-by-step format to get someone to a specific outcome within a given time period.
For example, you can sign up for the FREE 5 Day Email Course below and learn how to create your own blog that brings in $1400/month.
2 – E-books
Chances are you’ve already come across different versions of e-books before.
These are by far one of the most popular opt-in methods.
And they’re great for 2 reasons:
- They convert really well (if you have the right offer)
- They’re a lot easier to create than a mini-course.
That doesn’t mean you need to skimp out on information when you’re creating your ebook.
You should always make sure you’re giving your subscribers a ton of value that way they’re hungry for more.
Example – How to Hire A Freelance Designer by Upwork
3 – PDF files and Checklists
PDFs and checklists are also very common because they’re easy to set up and easy to consume.
People love checklists.
They really help provide a sense of completeness.
The concept is really no different from a grocery list – which coincidentally could be a great opt-in if you’re in a food, fitness, or healthy diet niche.
You check things off as you shop and you feel satisfied once you’re done.
That’s the same feeling you want to give your subscribers.
They’re appealing because it means they don’t have to think or work hard. They can literally just check things off the list.
PDFs and checklists also make for excellent content upgrades.
Sometimes a lengthy blog post can be converted into a checklist for someone to follow or maybe even just as a companion to the post itself.
Example – On-Page SEO Checklist by Optin Monster
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4 – Templates
Think: graphics, google documents, spreadsheets, PowerPoint, and so on.
The purpose of this type of lead magnet is to give your readers different models they can use to achieve a particular result.
I like to think of these as done-for-you content.
It’s a piece of content that sort of fills in the blanks.
Example – Free Financial Planning Templates by Smartsheet
5 – Webinars / video
These obviously will require a little bit more work upfront but can be well worth it to grow your list and maximize conversions.
In fact of all the opt-ins we’ve just taken a look at, webinars and free videos tend to have the most authority.
People like to see who they’re interacting with.
It makes it more personable and relatable.
You can choose to go live or sometimes it can be a previous recording which you end up using as part of your evergreen funnel.
So make use of video if you can.
Example – How Your Startup Can Win at SEO by Hubspot
6 – Quizzes
Quizzes can be great list builders because they are really interactive and fun.
The format is pretty simple.
Ask your readers to take a quiz and then have them sign up to your email list to get results.
Now you have to be careful because we’re all inclined to want instant results especially if you have to go through all of the trouble to complete a quiz.
So you want to make sure you’re not frustrating your visitors instead.
And one great way to do this is to provide an additional resource that helps explain their results.
That way they’re even more inclined to sign up.
Example – The Primary Archetype Test by Cerries Mooney
7 – Case studies
Case studies are great opt-ins because they’re usually backed up by lots of research people are looking for.
For example, a good case study will be “How 30 stay at home moms lost 20 lbs in 1 month with busy schedules.”
That would be something any stay at home mom looking to lose weight would likely be interested in.
Now if your free case study is backed by a product you offer or recommend, they’re more likely to purchase from you.
So this really is one of the best ways to grow your email list when people want to research and read about different successful businesses or people around them.
As always, make sure you’re giving them relevant and authentic information and the results should be something they can see themselves achieving.
Example – Fit4Life Gym Case Study by Vendasta
8 – Worksheets & Workbooks
As the names suggest, you’re basically giving your audience something to work on.
It’s a good way to teach your audience while they work through something on their own.
These work well because in many cases, not everyone might be going down the same path.
So you give them a worksheet or a workbook and you have them create their own personalized path.
Example – Defining Your ICA by Amy Porterfield
9 – Members only access
The concept here is part of your content is hidden behind a gated wall.
You limit access only to the people who sign up to your list.
This basically is another type of content upgrade.
You provide some information about a particular topic then offer additional information or special access to your subscribers.
If you’re going to create gated content, you have to make sure you deliver on the promise.
It’s never a good feeling for someone to sign up then end up finding out it wasn’t worth it.
Example – Brian Dean uses these quite effectively on his blog Backlinko.
10 – Tutorials, Guides and Trainings
You could argue that these could take the form of any of the previous opt-ins we just took a look at.
And you’d be absolutely correct.
The reason I’m including these here is because tutorials are actionable and in most cases that is what people are looking for.
Irrespective of the format you use, tutorials and guides tell people if you sign up to my list I’ll get you from point A to point B in X amount of time or steps.
You are virtually holding their hands throughout the entire process and people appreciate that.
Example – 8 Steps To Turning What You Know Into A Successful Online Course by David Garland
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How To Find Interesting Opt-in Ideas
Now that you understand what an opt-in is and some of the best formats you can use, the next question is how do you come up with interesting opt-in ideas?
This can be a bit of a nuance especially if you’re just getting started with your blog or online business.
I’m going to give you some of the best ways to find interesting topics your audience will gladly sign up for but at the end of the day, it all boils down to 1 single point:
Find what people want and give it to them.
The concept is as simple as that.
Your opt-in is not a place for you to experiment with ideas no one has heard about before.
So the steps I’m going to give you right now essentially show you some of the different ways and places where you can find content that’s attractive to your niche.
Here we go:
6 best ways to find out great opt-in ideas for free
1 – Popular trends in your niche (Google trends, Pinterest, YouTube, etc)
Social media is an amazing resource for any business.
There’s so much insight you can get if you take the time to understand some of the social media analytics.
Well, the one thing we know is they all have massive audiences interested in specific topics.
That’s where you come in.
Pay attention to the popular trends in your niche because popularity often leads to questions and you can position yourself as someone who has the answers.
Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube, etc, allow you to search for trending topics or videos and you can easily find some interesting opt-in ideas for your site.
Google trends is also another great way for you to see what’s trending and you can use those ideas for lead generation.
2 – Competitor analysis
I’ve always said sometimes there’s beauty in being a beginner because you can learn from those who’ve already gone before you and are getting excellent results.
Competitor analysis is a great way for you to figure out what kinds of opt-ins and topics are converting well for other marketers.
That said, NEVER flat out copy or steal someone else’s work.
It’s unethical and would only end up hurting you in the long run.
The whole point is to do research so you can see what’s working.
My advice to you is you sign up for some of those mailing lists yourself.
That’s valuable information given to you for free.
Not only do you learn from whatever it is they’re teaching or offering but you can also begin to see how they craft their messages and how they engage with their audience.
That’s something you definitely want to take advantage of.
The comments section(s) of other blogs can also be a hidden gem for opt-in ideas.
3 – Survey Your Target Audience
This basically is an extension of the previous point.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the phrase ask and you shall receive, right?
Well, that certainly applies here as well.
If you’re on social media, you should be engaging with people as much as you can.
Facebook groups are one excellent example that comes to mind in terms of opt-in ideas.
There’s no better validation than when it’s coming from the people who actually want it.
As your list and audience grow over time, you can continue to ask your subscribers as well.
That gives you the perfect opportunity to come up with a few more interesting opt-ins.
4 – Online Forums (Quora, Reddit, etc)
Online forums are a goldmine for content in general.
Reddit is useful for finding out the trending topics people are searching for and Quora is where people ask questions so that the community can further assist them.
Either way, they provide lots of insight.
The beauty about all of it is these questions are often broken down into different sub-categories so you can get really specific with your opt-in if you’re trying to target a specific audience.
5 – Use Keyword Research tools
Keyword tools are great for content research and SEO but in so many ways that can also be applied to your opt-ins.
If you’re not familiar with what a Keyword tool is, they’re essentially tools you use to find specific topics you can target and rank for online.
The insight you get from a keyword tool tells you how many people are searching for specific keywords and how well they’re performing online.
That tells you what you should create and optimize your content around but also gives you the perfect opportunity to create those content upgrades we spoke about earlier.
6 – Use Your Most Popular Content
If you have any piece of content that’s doing particularly well, you need to make sure you capitalize on it.
If people are reading a specific blog post or watching a particular video you created then that’s a great opportunity to hook them when they’re really interested.
If you need help, see 7 Things You Must Do When A Blog Post Goes Viral.
This list is by no means the end all be all.
There are different ways you can go about finding out interesting topics but there’s no need to be all over the place.
These 6 steps will do just fine and will give you lots of ideas you can use for your freebies.
The point is don’t make things any more complicated than they should be.
Figure out what your target audience wants and give it to them.
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6 Things To Keep In Mind When Creating Your Opt-ins
If you want to grow your mailing list quickly, successfully, and get lots of positive feedback then these are things you must make sure you’re doing consistently:
1 – Value
This is an overused term but the concept remains the same.
Give your subscribers something they will appreciate.
You know best what will work for your audience. At least we’ve seen some of the different ways you can find valuable content.
If I’m trying to lose weight, give me legitimate tools and resources to do so.
If I’m trying to meal prep on a budget, give me a shopping list that fits my budget.
Value is in the eyes of the beholder.
It can be extensive or it can be little. Either way, it should deliver on the promise.
Never forget that.
2 – Simplicity
The goal of your opt-in isn’t to overwhelm your subscriber.
Actually quite the contrary.
It should be simple and lead to a quick win.
Nobody wants to read a 300 page e-book or have to go through 50 videos just to get to the final outcome.
I’m not saying there isn’t a time or place for those things but in many cases, people want results upfront.
You should find a good balance between value and simplicity.
And guess what?
Quick wins keep people wanting more.
3 – Efficiency
This is definitely related to simplicity but allow me to explain what I mean here.
Let’s stick with our weight loss example.
I’ll give you 2 options and you tell me which one is easier to create:
- I’ll teach you how to lose weight by changing your diet, doing cardio, lifting weights, and meal prepping.
- I’ll show you how to lose 20lbs with cardio.
Even as you read it, I know the 2nd option sounded more appealing to you.
The big mistake many people make is they try to cover everything under the sun.
It’s tedious for you and oftentimes only ends up confusing your audience.
Specific pain point, specific outcomes to a specific audience.
Solve one problem!
That’s what efficiency is.
5 – Consistency
Your opt-in needs to be consistent with the piece of content they interacted with or the overall theme of your site.
If someone commits to something, then lead them on to something that’s relatable.
If someone comes to your blog and reads “10 different ways to lose weight”, they’re not interested in a “Free Financial Planner” even if it happens to be the best in the world.
Okay maybe not something that outrageous but the point is there needs to be some continuity.
Avoid doing things that will cause confusion.
You’d be surprised at how well some of the easiest things convert when they’re consistent with the overall message.
If you’re going to disrupt someone’s attention with a pop-up or an opt-in, you need to make sure it’s worth it.
6 – Build
Your opt-ins should always be building upon the next step in your marketing funnel.
Like I’ve mentioned before, you want to give enough value to satisfy their immediate needs but there should be room for more.
This is probably going to sound harsh but it needs to be said nonetheless.
If you’re hesitant to make a sale, you won’t make any sales.
And the way I see it, if you’re building a business to make money online or because you eventually want to quit your 9-5, then you need to learn how to sell effectively.
That’s the whole point of having your opt-ins in place.
Not because it’s just another sales tool, but because it’s an excellent opportunity for you to present your subscribers with more offers that can help further their journey.
And if your content is valuable, is helpful and really gets them to the desired outcome then there’s nothing wrong with that.
We all spend money on things that improve our lives in one way or another.
So don’t create your opt-ins just because everyone has one or because someone told you to.
Find something you know you can build upon.
You’re in this to create a legitimate business.
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Final Thoughts On How to Come Up with Amazing Opt-In Ideas
Take this information and put it to good use.
You now understand what an opt-in is, some of the opt-ins that convert really well and the different places you can find interesting opt-in ideas.
Use all of that to come up with high-converting freebies that will grow your mailing list.
I also want to let you know there’s no such thing as the “perfect” opt-in.
At least not when you first create one.
You have to test and experiment continuously till you figure out which one leads to the most subscribers and eventually more sales.
That’s what good business people do and I’m sure you are.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out.
Author Bio: Terence is a blogger who teaches about blogging and how to build passive income with a full-time job. On his blog Is Blogging Easy, you can learn more about how to start a profitable side hustle.