The Holy Grail of List-Building and The Ultimate Guide to Freebies

I'm the biggest proponent of giving stuff for free (I give more than half of what I know). This goes back to the first step in my organic marketing process: giving value

I really don't get people who are worried about it. Maybe you think people won't pay you when you give stuff for free? On the contrary, building trust first by giving things away makes it more likely for them to buy later. Worried that people will steal your stuff? Impossible. Nobody can do the things you do the way you do them. Or do you think that you mustn't waste time in producing quality things for free?

Wake up, the world doesn't owe you anything. You have to work hard for everything you get, and one of the steps you have to work hard on is giving stuff away so that people trust you enough before they decide to pay. 

This is why freebies are the Holy Grail of list-building (just like your mailing list is the Holy Grail of your business). Because they build trust. 

Nobody just signs up because they like you - well, some people do - but only sign up if there's something in it for them. And I'm not saying bribery should be your main marketing strategy or that you should give things away just to build your mailing list. In fact, the best thing you can do is: Give stuff away because you want to help people.

And then, you'll enjoy the fringe benefit - more people in your mailing list.

All the things you can give.

  1. Blog Posts: Your knowledge is valuable and the easiest way is to write it down and help people out. If you're not a fan of writing, you can do video or podcasting. Any knowledge you give away will be appreciated, but try to make it actionable. (Check out Erika's "heroic" blog posts. She really knows what she's doing.)
  2. Content Upgrades: Those nifty little things at the end of blog posts where you say "download the checklist" or "fill in the worksheet". If you're going to do this, make sure it's REALLY valuable, not some kind of trick to make me sign up.
  3. Access to Goodies: You can get all of those awesome guides and worksheets and checklists, and offer people free access if they sign up! Then guide them to a secret page on your website. Melyssa from The Nectar Collective has one of those.
  4. A Free Ebook: Word on the street is everybody's doing it, so it's not so valuable or unique these days. Nevertheless, if you believe you can really provide value in this format, just do it. Nobody's stopping you. And if you're going to do it, check out Hubspot's detailed guide and templates.
  5. A Free Email Course: This is an awesome thing you can give away because we are all course junkies these days. We all want to get better at something, and it can be as simple as a series of videos or breaking down your ebook into emails. Some people use Drip others simply set up an autoresponder sequence on Mailchimp.
  6. A Free Tool: If you can make tools or apps or anything that can benefit your tribe, you should seriously consider what they need. Some people even say that "side projects are the future of marketing", and I kind of agree. Plus, if you can make a free tool or anything digital that helps people, you can then put it up on Product Hunt!
  7. Community: Starting a community with the purpose of helping people cope or share information or just have fun together is a great way to give value. The world is full of people (especially us remote workers) who are seeking their tribe. For example, Pieter Levels grew his project Nomadlist by creating the #Nomads community.
  8. Newsletter: If you enjoy writing and sharing resources, a newsletter is a perfect way for you to give value for free. Provided you know what your target audience wants. It takes some trial and error, but eventually, you'll learn what that is. Usually, it has to do with your personality and transparency. Just ask Alisha Nicole.
  9. Curations & Roundups: There are so many ways you can curate. These days content is just all over the place, so your people need a reliable source of information. You can't write about everything, so tap into other genius people's content! You can do it in your newsletter, social media, blog or even create a website like this one.
  10. Swag or Something You've Made: Stickers, t-shirts, badges, crochet animals, charts, posters, scripts, templates, cute postcards in the mail. You can even make it a surprise - send it to your MOST ENGAGED fans. They'll love you even more.
  11. Behind the Scenes: Who doesn't want to know what happens behind the curtains?! I just love learning things and being involved in the process of building something or just be a spectator. For example, the guys at Crew send emails to involve us in the creation of the Unsplash book, not to mention their backstage blog posts.
  12. Finally, free trials - but no asking for credit cards, please.

Are you still with me? Did you like anything I listed? It doesn't have to be one of those things, If you have an original idea of something of value that you can give away for free, you should do it! Too many people do "what's done" and then complain that their freebies are not converting. Instead, listen to your gut. Do what feels right.

I'm actually writing this for some of my clients too, because a lot of them have been unsure of what they could give away for free. And the thing is, every service or product or brand is UNIQUE and thus your FREEBIE will be just as unique. So take a look at your business and think what you can give. AND think about what you already have because nobody wants you to spend months on a freebie. Just use what you have and give something that directly links to your business's message. In fact, the best thing to do is to:

Give away something that could set the scene for your paid products, or rather your main product.

For example, if you have a business that helps people start their own business, set the scene with a guide on how to get ready to do that. Or maybe you're selling marketing products but you want to help people understand what marketing is and isn't first. 

Busting myths is a great way to set the scene for the kind of services and products you offer, and it sets the right expectations for your future buyers. 

Make sense?

What I'm giving away.

Let me just share what I'm giving away and what I'm planning to give away so that you can understand WHY I do it and WHAT I've learned in the process.

  1. The Free Guide to Striking Out: It's a real pleasure to write and it's probably going to be out next week. Thing is, I didn't spend days to do research or ask people what they wanted. I just expanded on an article everybody related with.
  2. I'm also thinking about converting the free guide to a free email course because I heard from Mariah Coz at that those convert much better than free ebooks. But I will do it after November because it's gonna be a crazy month.
  3. I'm giving lots of free stuff - content, exercises, and resources in my weekly, which I LOVE writing but it's not the biggest draw for people - everybody has one. However, I have noticed it helps people, especially if there's a transparent side to it. 
  4. My facebook tribe is picking up and becoming one of my favorite parts. Just connecting with people who understand feels SO GOOD. But you can't just have a facebook group because you "have to". Have a goal in mind. For example, the goal of my tribe is to help one another, and one way we do it is through accountability.
  5. During November, I'm giving free access and chapters to the 3 ebooks I'm writing during November - I know, crazy. But I figured this is an excellent opportunity to flex my writing muscles, get some products in my shop, and connect to even more people. It's already inspired some people to try it themselves and gotten others excited to read what I come up with. (Gotta love behind-the-scenes stuff.)
  6. Finally, I'm making a collection of non-sucky stock photos. Little known fact about me: I have a HUGE collection on my laptop and I download new images every week. But I want to give you guys photos that are really engaging, so if you have an idea of how to group them, let me know. Could be by color, category, etc.

Phew, lots of free stuff on the horizon. And I LOVE it. I just love giving things for free because I know they will help people and make new connections. My favorite part of the day is when somebody tells me that my newsletter gave them a lot of value or that a blog post struck a chord and inspired them to act. THANK YOU.

Anyway, let's move onto the technical stuff...

The tools you'll need.

I've been researching tools you can use to grow your mailing list by giving away free things. Obviously, you don't have to collect emails when you give stuff for free, but after all, you put in so much effort and time in it, you deserve to get something out of it.

You know those opt-in windows that pop up and say "give us your name and email to get FREE access to..."? I'm not using them yet, but I am going to start very soon. Whether you need an entire lead page or just the box, here are the best options:

  • LeadBoxes from LeadPages: Everybody uses this one, but it's pricey. I'm probably going to start with something simpler and cheaper, then grow from there.
  • OptimizePress is one of the most popular alternatives, but it's for Wordpress users, so I'm yet again faced with the fact there are tons of awesome Wordpress plugins I'm missing out on, but it's OK because I'm kind of in love with Squarespace.
  • OptinMonster looks like the perfect way to start because it's cheap and simple. Also, it integrates with Squarespace. Finally, what a relief.
  • OptinLinks looks SO GOOD on paper, but some people complain that the Support is no good, and this is kind of a big deal for me.

There are lots of other options (like tools that take care of your entire marketing funnel or landing page software like Instapage and Unbounce) , but I just wanted to sum up the ones I'm considering or would consider if I were on WordPress. And if you want to check out some more list-building tools, Kissmetrics has got you covered with 67.

Now my question...

What are you giving for free and what tools are you using? 

Let me know in the comments! And feel free to link to your site. I'm always curious to see how people do things and what they offer. Thanks!


Violeta Nedkova

Violeta Nedkova is a multipassionate marketer who loves helping people. She talks and writes about marketing with purpose and personality because it's so much better than traditional marketing.