Yesterday, The Religion Teacher email list passed the 40,000 subscriber mark. It is hard to believe that many people sign up to get emails from me or that there have been almost 60,000 people total who have signed up if you count those that unsubscribed.
Here are a few of the things that helped the most in building such a large list:
- Start early: Everyone says this but it’s true. I wish I had started an email list during those first two years when I was blogging at The Religion Teacher. The list has been the best way to help achieve my mission of getting people in touch with resources to help them teach young people about the Catholic faith.
- The Flywheel Effect: While the list growth might have started out slowly with just a few subscribers a week, then a few a day, and so on, it gained momentum over time. I now get dozens of subscribers every day because of the hard work I put in years ago.
- Clear Content Types: I was all over the place with the kinds of things I posted to the blog early on. In time, though, I settled on just a handful of content types that people expected to find at the website: activities, lesson plans, prayers, and teaching strategies. This helped with search engine rankings and it clearly showed what people would find if they came back to the site and signed up for the email newsletter.
- Lead Magnets: You need to give someone something for free to motivate them to sign up for your email list. It is really hard to convince someone to want to be bothered by email without a clear value exchange up front.
- Spend Less Time on Lead Magnets: I spent more than sixty hours working on an eBook as my first lead magnet. I’m only now updating it and it took me a long time to do so. It is a great resource, but small lead magnets can be even more immediately useful. Which brings me to . . .
- Content Upgrades: This is the single best thing I did from a tactical perspective. I created a valuable, free resource in a blog post then added the opportunity to download additional worksheets or other tools to help make it easier to implement a strategy or lesson plan. Rather than just one main lead magnet to get people to sign up for the email list, there are dozens of smaller lead magnets attached to specific, popular blog posts that motivate someone to sign up for the email list. Special thanks to Bryan Harris (Videofruit) and Leadpages for this approach.
- Prime Time Newsletters (read more): I only recently gave this newsletter a clear purpose. I used to email the list whenever I had something new or interesting to share. Now I have a regular email that goes out on Sundays to help people plan their lessons for the week. It is “prime time” because I send the email at the most useful time for them to use the resources in the email and on my website. Think about the context your subscribers are in when they use the content in your emails or on your website. That helps determine when the email newsletter should go out.
- Just-in-Time Content: Sending emails with resources that align with the time of year (in my case Lent, Advent, new school year, etc.) made the resources in the email even more valuable. Having that evergreen yet timely content already available on the website makes it easier to have content to share in the emails.
- Marketing = Mission (read more): People come up to me at conferences and say to me “I get your emails.” I used to think this was because I was so practical with helpful resources. I realize now that this is only partially true. People who really love the emails, love the mission. They are on board because we are traveling together towards a common goal and they are excited to have someone leading the way. I’m pretty passionate about our mission and that comes through in the emails. That’s how I’ve built a large fanbase along the way.