Making money from your mailing list is one of the most sustainable income solutions for an online business. Why, then, are so many bloggers afraid of it?
When I talk to new bloggers I regularly hear complaints about how they don’t want to “sell out” by promoting something to their mailing list. They feel like it dirties the integrity of the blog.
Well, there are a few ways you can make ethical money from your mailing list, and I think it is something that all bloggers should look at doing more often.
Let’s take a look.
What is a mailing list and why is it important?
Every blog needs a basic mailing list that informs subscribers when you publish a new blog post.
It’s an extremely important part of online business because it allows you to grow a traffic promotional base that you can tap in to at any time, regardless of how well your Google rankings are performing, and so on.
This is absolutely vital, especially if you are trying to work from home by building an online career. But it’s also good to remember that you can use a mailing list for many other things, and one blog can have more than one mailing list.
This diversity and flexibility is what we’re going to take a look at today.
How to make money from your mailing list
Let’s dive in now and take a look at how you can actually use your blog’s mailing list to make some ethical income. As always, I’d love to know if I’ve missed anything in the comments below.
First, get lots and lots of email subscribers
The first thing we need to talk about is the fact that you want lots and lots of email subscribers on your mailing list. This might sound obvious, but many bloggers have the idea that it’s better to have a small list of highly engaged followers.
This is a bit of a mistake. While it is important to have an active list, it’s more important to try and set the goal of having LOTS of engaged email subscribers, not just a few.
This is because all subscribers go through a natural life-cycle of being excited and engaged and then fading away and eventually unsubscribing. The graph above, for example, show people unsubscribing as a natural part of the process of signing up to a list.
For this reason it’s vital that you keep adding more and more to prevent the list declining to zero.
So how do we get more email subscribers for our mailing lists?
The first thing is to make sure you are writing useful content that helps people solve a particular problem. That means knowing who you’re targeting and what they need help with. Make sure you regularly check to see if you’re hitting the right keywords.
The next step is to make sure you have a strategy to ensure that you are getting new visitors to your blog. This might be from Google or social or advertising, but it needs to be specific and, once again, regularly assessed to see if it’s working.
When that traffic starts to trickle in to your blog it’s important that they find a dedicated offer that encourages them to subscribe to your mailing list. This might be a free PDF eBook or a training course, but it should be centered very tightly around your blog’s main topic and helping those needs further.
When you have the offer all ready to go, it’s important to set up a specific landing page that promotes the offer and shows people why they might like to subscribe and the benefits that they will get. Don’t leave this just to a small little box in your sidebar but really put it out there.
The next thing you’ll want to do is talk about that landing page and offer in your blog posts and other promotions. If it is targeted correctly, you’ll start to get a nice trickle of people through to the page and signing up to your list.
We’ve talked about this little blogging strategy at length before so it might be a good idea to jump back in and refresh on some of the ways that you can develop this overall picture so as to maximize your chances of success.
Next, build on the strategy above by adding a paid upgrade
If we keep in mind the blogging philosophy that we are trying to help people to solve problems in our particular niche, we can generate income by expanding on the strategy above.
It works like this.
First, follow through the five steps above and then when you get to the end of the last one you add a sixth step that is a paid training course or product that expands on the free giveaway that you gave to people when they signed up.
For example, if you have a look at Digital Photography School you’ll see that there is the regular mailing list that covers blog updates and so on, but then they’ll also promote their paid courses to you over time.
They also have a Christmas special called 12 Days of Christmas that has a bunch of discounts and other offers that are only available for a limited time. This is a really natural and organic way to enhance the content that people are already seeing and seeking out on the mailing list.
One way you figure out what your subscribers might like to learn more about is by doing a simple blogging survey with Google Forms that offers some options and asks for feedback about enhancements or what might be lacking in the current information.
You can also use more robust services like Survey Monkey which have a lot more features if you want to build a survey that is a little more insightful. For most bloggers, however, a simple and well-planned Google Form should give you enough insights.
The kind boys over at the Filthy Casuals podcast did this recently and then talked about the survey on a later episode. It seems to have played into their decision to keep making premium episodes on Band Camp whereby listeners give them any amount over $1 to access a podcast on a special topic such as the Mario or Uncharted series evolution.
I’ve bought every single one and never feel like I’m paying for something that should be free, which is exactly how a paid product or upgrade should make you feel.
Then offer an affiliate product in conjunction with more free content
Another alternative way to expand on the above strategies (or replace section two) is to promote an affiliate offer in conjunction with more free information that helps your readers once they have subscribed.
It essentially works the same as way as everything above, but instead of the paid product that you build yourself, you are promoting someone else’s product.
For example, when you subscribe to the Blog Tyrant mailing list you get sent blog updates as well as an automatic Follow Up series which contains an email about getting your blog set up the right way the first time. This is a long-form article that covers a lot of information, but also has a transparent affiliate promotion using a slide out box (screenshot above) that recommends a host to new bloggers.
When you are promoting an affiliate program it’s important to have all the legal disclaimers, but also have a set of rules that you yourself follow as a blogger. For example, here on Blog Tyrant we never promote any affiliate product unless it meets three criteria:
If we don’t actually use the product ourselves then how can we recommend it to others.
It’s important that the product has support staff who are able to assist anyone with technical help.
Make sure there is a good refund policy so that if our recommendation was bad people can get their money back.
One of the really great things about online business is that by running a blog in a certain niche or writing about a certain topic, you inevitably come across products or services that are useful to you and will thus be useful to other people who want to learn from you.
We have a short post on how to make money from affiliate products that will give you an overview of where you can find the right items to promote and some different ways in which you can get the links in front of people without seeming pushy, and I wrote more extensively about it here.
Ideally, however, you just want the product to appear as a naturally occurring part of the content regardless of whether it is appearing in a mail out or a blog post that you have promoted to your mailing list.
Lastly, add a one-time promotion that goes directly to your mailing list
One-time promotions can be a valuable part of your online strategy, even if it doesn’t seem to directly fit into content plan that you built above.
For example, a few years ago here on Blog Tyrant we did a Private Coaching sale where we took just five bloggers and mentored them. It wasn’t cheap, but it sold out in a few minutes, and it was totally about the mailing list.
If you have a skill in a particular niche that might solve problems for people, you can always consider doing a promotion like this one where the offer is available only for the mailing list. This helps to create a sense of scarcity and exclusivity and, if it goes well, it can be something you repeat again and again.
Another similar method is to use this opportunity to invite people to join a paid section of your site where you are simply asking subscribers to contribute a small figure in order to access the site or a special section of the site where you give more one-on-one help.
I reference him all the time, but Steve Kamb from Nerd Fitness has, in my opinion, done this better than almost everyone else and is a great person to learn from. The entire site is so on-point, and the upgrades and community features that are available really make people feel like they’re part of a family, not a website.
If you want to study how to develop a “flow” on your blog that funnels people towards an organic outcome of products and paid upgrades then this site really is one you should pay attention to.
A final word on making money from mailing lists
The main point with all of this is that we want to be offering our mailing list something that is useful and perfectly on-brand with the rest of the blog. People are more than willing to pay good money for products or services that are going to save them time and provide solutions, and it’s okay to make money from helping them do that.
I’d love to know how you are (or aren’t!) making money with your mailing list and whether you have noticed any particular strategies work well on your site or other blogs that you follow.
Please leave a comment below and let us know.
Top photo © Daniel Villeneuve