In order to build your list, and entice people to give you their contact information, you must have a truly compelling free offer. What are you giving people in exchange for their information?

People will no longer sign up for a list without getting something in return. They are really signing up to get something that they will benefit from. This item - your Free Opt-in Offer - has to have certain characteristics to effectively draw people in and then turn them into loyal followers.

A free offer can take many forms: a video series, an audio training, and a downloadable document are common ones. What must your Free Opt-in Offer have? I call them the 5 Cs: Catchy Title, Cover, Content, Creativity, and Connection.

Cover and Catchy Title


The only parts of your free offer that prospects will see before they sign up are the title and the cover. You can also provide a description. But the title is key in your prospects' decision to sign up.

It is important to have a title that describes what they are getting, but that also draws them in and creates curiosity. One technique is to quantify the information in the report (5 Steps..., 10 Tips for...., 3 things to avoid...). 

But, the most important thing the title must do is address the primary struggle your clients have. What do they come to you for? What problem do you solve? Your title will be most effective if it highlights a solution your prospects are looking for.

In addition to an effective title, you need to have a "Cover" or a visual representation of your free offer. Even if it is a digital item, like an e-book or video, you can design an image to represent it. People are visual, and having an image increases your conversion rate significantly. It helps people to understand what they are receiving in a tangible way.

Content

The next component is content. The content of your piece has to deliver on the promise made in your title. Once they have signed up, you have achieved the goal of capturing their information. So the goal of the piece itself is to begin building trust and a relationship with those who read, watch, or listen to it.

Provide them with information they can use, showcase your solution and your expertise. Many people get concerned that they are giving too much away. But the more you are able to give away, the more trust you will build. If you deliver too little, your prospects will be disappointed and are likely to walk away.

Creativity

Of course, you can't give away everything you know. So, to add to the content that you are providing, use creativity to further engage people. 

Don't be boring! Creative comparisons or metaphors, imagery, and humor can draw people into the piece as much as the content itself. Creativity allows you to show more of your personality in addition to just your expertise. And that leads to the last "C"....

Connection

To build a connection to your prospects, you have to include information about yourself. Many people are hesitant to talk about themselves in their marketing, but it is a critical part of the process. I'm not necessarily talking about a whole page about you, or "your story." But finding ways to talk about yourself or your experiences in the content of the piece, including a picture of you, will really help people to build trust. They feel like they are "getting to know you."

That connection is what will keep an individual on your list and bring them closer to becoming a loyal paying client.

Creating a good Free Opt-in Offer is worth taking some time to get it right and is something I love doing with my clients. What will you create to offer to your prospects?
 
 
My husband is a home brewer, which means he brews beer at home for fun. He likes the chemistry of it, and all the fun gadgets and tools. Among all the tools he has collected for this hobby are a number of different funnels. He has to pour liquid of various kinds into flasks, fermenters and kegs. In order to do that, he has funnels of all different shapes and sizes -- big ones, little ones, metal ones, plastic ones.

In business, we talk about having a "sales funnel." And, as I was watching him brew, I started thinking about how important a funnel really is. Without it, he could pour a ton of liquid in the general direction of his container, but most of it would miss the mark and end up on the floor, lost forever. Not to mention, make a big mess!

This happens in business all the time. We may have some "top of the funnel" marketing activities to get our name out there and drive traffic to our business. But, unless we have a way to make sure people are entering a funnel, they will likely end up flowing right past us.

And here's the thing, it has to be a funnel. Not just a saucer, or pot, or straw. That may sound a little strange but stick with me. 

Some businesses think that having a call to action that leads directly to a sales call is their "funnel." It's not. It is a saucer that will still miss most people, and has a very small capacity to capture people. Some think that capturing people onto a list that is mostly dormant is their "funnel." It's not. That's like dumping people into a pot. You may catch more of them, but the movement stops. They just sit there and aren't moving forward, deepening their relationship, or heading toward a goal. Eventually they will get stale.

A funnel keeps people moving forward, engaging them more deeply with the business. When they come out the end, they will be much more likely to buy from you or hire you. If not, that's okay. You can let them flow into the pot for a while, but don't let them sit there for too long.

It's like the fermenting stage of beer brewing. You have to let it sit for a while, continuing to monitor it. Some might leave through the blow-off tube (I'm not kidding). But after a while, you have to pour it into another funnel.

That's right, one funnel isn't enough! Like my husband, you need to build a collection of funnels and connect them together.  It is the most effective way to make sure you are converting your watery prospects into engaged, delicious clients!

Thanks for sticking with this metaphor! Building sales funnels, especially automated ones using e-mail communications, is a big part of content marketing. Find out more about building funnels in the form of Opt-In Campaigns here.