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Why You Must Give Things Away for Free to Grow Your Email List


If you are new to email list building, you may not understand why you should give something away for free in exchange for someone’s email address or opt-in. You may be concerned that growing an email list of “freebie seekers” will lead to poor sales and profits. That is a valid concern.

After all, if you spend a lot of time and effort creating a great piece of content, why would you give it away? Why not use it yourself or sell it? The answer lies in how our brains work when we receive a gift.

The Law of Reciprocity

If you’ve ever received something unexpectedly from someone, even a stranger, you probably felt a sense of gratitude. You’re thankful for what that person did. Studies show that this also engenders a feeling of respect and admiration for the person.

Your brain is hardwired to respond in a favorable way. Subconsciously, without even knowing it, your brain looks for opportunities to repay that gift giver. This is known as the Law of Reciprocity. When you receive something, either virtual or physical, from someone, without having to pay for it in some way, you automatically feel like you “owe” that person something.

Start New Relationships by Solving a Big Problem

This is why you absolutely must give away valuable content, or physical products, to build your email list. You are starting off the relationship by giving away something for free, without asking for a sale or a commitment. This is why people are more than happy to opt-in to your email list in return for something they see as more valuable than their email address.

It’s up to you to make sure that your giveaway resource, e-book, checklist or physical product is extremely valuable. Make sure it solves a big problem in your prospect’s life. Your new list member will feel a sense of gratitude and respect for you, and will be more likely to reciprocate with a purchase in the future.

Best Options for Opt-in Giveaways

Valuable free resources and pieces of content are easy to develop. Remember, you are viewed as the expert. You probably know more about your market than 99% of your prospects and clients.

In a text editor such as MS Word or OpenOffice, create one of the following for a high-impact giveaway:

  • a checklist
  • a free chapter from your published book
  • a short “behind the scenes look at ________” or “a day in the life of _______”
  • beginners guide
  • problem-solving short report
  • 2-3 minute video
  • series of short email action steps

Make the new content piece relevant to your area of expertise, and save it as a PDF file. Include your contact information and a call to action. Integrate the PDF file download or video with your email autoresponder, opt-in form, and other web properties, and you have a free resource that builds your email list on autopilot.

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