Product Sellers: Start An Email List with or WITHOUT an “opt-in freebie”

Creative Entrepreneurship, DIY + Education, Empowerment

Product Sellers: Start Your Email List with or WITHOUT an "opt-in freebie" | the merriweather council blog

Whoa nelly there sure is a lot of info out there specifically for bloggers and content creators! And theoretically a lot of it can still apply to product sellers too with a little creative thinking (more on this next week!) because product sellers have different motives, offerings and strategies than content creators do. One of the most common suggestions on how to start an email list – regardless of business type – is to tempt subscribers in by offering an incentive of some kind, also known as an opt-in freebie.

The theory is valid: provide some piece of extra content or other incentive in exchange for someone giving your their email address. It makes sense. Popular opt-in freebie ideas GENERALLY favor content creators (free download, a worksheet to correspond with a blog post, a free guide or ebook…) and product sellers don’t see how this can apply to them so they default to the old standby: the discount. (“Subscribe today at save 20% on your first order!” type of thing.)

Problem A, leading with discounts is a bad idea for handmade businesses specifically, and I tend to think for most small businesses.

Problem B, it’s true that some those digital deliverable ideas are clearly related to service providers -BUT they can apply to product sellers. Mari Orr is a painter who offers a new free download each month. In April it was a photo of a portion of one of her paintings sized for iPhone lock screen or desktop wall paper. When I was selling my embroidered hoops, I created a few freebies with images of those pieces including perpetual calendars and notecards. Here is another example: if I sell bicycles, I could create a list of all my favorite gear and add ons for bikes and offer that to my customers as a pdf download in exchange for their email address. (More on this and the idea of “content upgrades” next week.)

So you CAN apply some of those service business ideas to your product based business. But you don’t have to.

Have you ever heard that saying: there is more than one way to slice an avocado? No? Probably because I just made it up but you get the idea: there is more than one path to success. Just because “no one else is doing it that way” does not mean it’s wrong.

Product sellers, hear me now: you DO NOT HAVE to offer anything tangible (or discounted) to build your list.

Especially in the case of brand new list builders who will often get intimidated and slowed down in their process by the thought that they NEED to create an opt-in freebie otherwise no one will subscribe to their list. The truth is that the most important part of this whole endeavor is that you BEGIN it – start getting people on your list – so eliminating the slow downs is hugely important. Which is why I want you to know that you don’t NEED an opt-in freebie and further, if you do want to create one, my free cheat sheet will help you reach what that should be, quicker!

My friend Abby has a thriving list that supports a product based business, her blog and her podcast (okay, she has an empire) that people freely subscribe to without tangible incentive. She simply tells them what they can expect from their subscription. And plainly, it is exclusivity. You opt in to her list, and every Wednesday she sends you additional commentary that corresponds with her blog posts from that week along with what she calls a link-pack. That’s what you are getting in exchange for your email: extra, exclusive content. She markets the newsletter itself as the “incentive.” And she can, because her newsletter is great.

You already provide value.

If people really like you, your product, your business (the exact sort of people you want on your list) they will see value in the promise of being first to know about new releases, getting notifications of promotions delivered directly to their inbox so they don’t have to worry about missing a social media update, possibly having an exclusive look behind the scenes or sneak peeks of new things before anyone else. People will feel special – like they are VIP. Figure out what kinds of content you will be delivering to the people who subscribe to your list and at what frequency. You don’t HAVE to offer MORE value to top it off. You CAN but you don’t have to.

Summary: if you can’t think up an opt-in freebie, it’s okay. Your business can still thrive. You just need to start – you can add something later if you’d like.

22 days ago I did a scope about how product sellers can use blogging and newsletters and gave a few opt-in freebie ideas. Actually they were ideas for content to send to newsletter subscribers but could be used as blog posts in support of a product based business OR opt-in freebies. That’s something no one seems to talk about: if you are going to blog, you may as well have a newsletter and vice versa. And you don’t have to self-identify as a “blogger” to have a blog that supports your product business. But this whole “blogging for product based businesses” thing is a much larger topic so we will revisit it again at another time.

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Oh, hi! Welcome to The Merriweather Council. I’m Danielle and I am a maker in business and mentor to other makers in business. I teach you how to turn your crafty tendencies into profits!

Oh, I’m also really into crafts, boy bands + iced coffee. Email me anytime to say hello or send cute Backstreet Boy videos or dog pictures .. or whatever! danielle (at) Thanks for stopping by.

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This is a for profit blog and includes a few affiliate links. This means that if you purchase something through one of these links, I may receive a small commission. I only bother suggesting products or services that I have used and loved because if you buy something on my suggestion and hate it that would suck. So I only suggest things i’m 99% sure you’ll love as much as I do.

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