The famous quote tells us that “the money’s in the list.” As in, your email list. But for many people, this is still somewhat of a mystery. Marketers and entrepreneurs have this DOWN, but for writers and bloggers, monetizing your email list is often a foreign concept. I’m going to break down a few main ways that you can monetize your list and some best practices to sell to your list without being smarmy.
For more on email lists, you can check out my Free Email Course or snag my book (which is currently 99 cent!), Email Lists Made Easy for Writers & Bloggers.
Listen to Episode 72 – Monetizing Your Email List
**This post contains affiliate links!**
Monetizing Your Email List
There are a few main ways that you can monetize your email list as a writer or blogger. You may choose one main way or a combination of a few.
Affiliate sales are when you promote products for other people and earn a commission when people buy through your link. There are a number of great affiliate opportunities for email, but be sure you check the Terms of Service for your email service provider and also for the company you are an affiliate for. Amazon does NOT allow for affiliate links in email, PDFs, or ebooks.
Be sure that you ALWAYS disclose affiliate links. You should be disclosing BEFORE the first outbound link and in a way that is clear to someone who isn’t marketing savvy. (Don’t use aff or spon. Those words are not easily understood by a general audience.) Even if the gateway to a paid product is through a free product, DISCLOSE. If there is a cookie involved, you should disclose. (More on the FTC guidelines or check out my post & episode on disclosure!)
Here are some other sources for affiliate programs:
- Ultimate Bundles – A few times a year there are some high value, great cost bundles of digital books and courses. The Genius Blogger’s Toolkit launches this week! Want to be notified when it launches? Click HERE to sign up and hear all about it!
- Grove Collaborative – This is a great affiliate program if you have an audience that deals with the home. Whether that’s moms or simply people who want more sustainable and green products, Grove Collaborative has great products & deals.
- Share a Sale – You’ll find a number of companies in different niches from parenting and kids to computers and business.
- Commission Junction – This site also has a number of advertisers you can apply to promote as an affiliate.
- Affiliate Window – Another program with a lot of brands including Etsy, Fiverr, & EZPrints! You can also use tools like Convert-a-Link, which will automatically change any links in posts going to an affiliate program with AW into affiliate links.
Tools & Tech
- ConvertKit – This is my top affiliate program. It’s my favorite email service provider—not just because of the affiliate program, which pays out 30% every month of what people who sign up under you pay. (Read my post about why I love ConvertKit!)
- Genesis – The Genesis framework is really popular with WordPress users and has a great affiliate program.
- Your Web Host – I used to recommend BlueHost because I used them and they had a great program. But I had to leave because of service issues. I’m now with SiteGround, but not an affiliate yet. Check out your web host to see if they have a program!
- Tailwind – This Pinterest scheduler is fantastic and also offers $15 or sometimes $30 for anyone who signs up under you.
- Board Booster – This is another Pinterest scheduler that has a $5 referral fee when someone signs up under you.
- AppSumo – I love the deals they offer and you get credit when people buy in with your link. This has enabled me to get a ton of great tools and resources for free.
- Courses, Summits, eBooks & Programs – Many marketers have affiliate programs that they open up. If you hear about a course that suits your audience or really love a particular content creator, contact them to see if you can sign up for their affiliate program. These often pay 30-50% of each sale of several hundred to a thousand dollars.
Do you create online courses or write ebooks? Many people say you SHOULD, but I want to argue that you COULD. This may not be for you if you don’t like creating and teaching. (In which case you could be an affiliate for products that relate to your audience.) Some people are afraid to teach or create courses or digital products because they don’t feel like enough of an expert. Don’t sell yourself short, but don’t do it because everyone else is.
If you aren’t sure where to start, consider your most popular posts, the questions people always ask you, or what you’re really passionate about. You can also check out the market. Finding other courses or ebooks on the same topic doesn’t mean you shouldn’t create your own. It’s a good validation that there is a market for it. And YOUR people on YOUR list who love YOUR style are more likely to buy YOUR course or product.
You may be a coach or virtual assistant or help people with the backend of their WordPress site (like Merri Dennis of WPTech Cafe, my go to when I break things!) As with courses, your people who know you are more likely to hire you for their needs.
Your email subscribers are like validated customers in that they have already taken the time and effort to sign up for your list. They are your BEST chance at making sales. Unlike a follow on Twitter or a like on Facebook, people don’t let EVERYONE into the sacred space of the inbox. So if you land a spot there, you are already a step closer to having someone be a customer. (But stay tuned for best practices on how to treat your email subscribers!)
Ads & Sponsored Content
I don’t have a LOT to say here because I’ve found a few ad networks that do email, but haven’t vetted them and can’t recommend them. I DO think that sponsored content and ads are going to continue moving into the email space since blogger and writers are way more savvy now than they have been in the past about growing an email list.
If you already work with brands, your email list is something that you could leverage, either on its own or as part of a package deal with a blog post and other social media shares. Consider reaching out to a brand you’ve got a relationship with and ask if they’d like to sponsor an email or a month’s worth of emails. I do foresee this being a direction that email moves into as more and more bloggers take their lists more seriously.
Best Practices for Monetizing Your Email List
The thing about monetizing your email list is that you can’t JUST sell. If you’ve ever been on a list like that, you know how impersonal and how smarmy it feels. You don’t feel like a person. You feel like a number or a customer. Here are a few tips to treat your people well. This will establish a better relationship with your people which should naturally result in more sales.
Treat Your List Like VIPs
Always treat your email subscribers like your inner circle. They really have jumped through all the hoops to let you in their inbox, so they should receive great treatment from you. I often give out exclusive content or let them know what I’m up to first. I speak to them more intimately and personally and I encourage replies to email so that I can actually have a RELATIONSHIP with them. Most of the other best practices fall under this umbrella.
Don’t Get Stuck on Numbers
I heard someone once say that if you don’t know how to treat a list of 200, you won’t know how to treat a list of 2000. No matter what the size of your list, connect. Don’t focus on growth alone, but quality growth and actual relationship with those people. If you can effectively reach your small list, you’ll learn to scale as you go.
Give Value Before You Sell
Make sure your list is valuable. Offer great content that’s free before you ever try to sell things to your people. There should be a nice balance when it comes to the proportion of value offered and sales presented to your list.
A lot of this (to me) hinges on disclosure. I’ve gotten so many promotions for so-and-so’s free webinar/book/video series. No disclosure. But having been on the back end of these same programs, what I know is that there are cash prizes (SIGNIFICANT cash) for those who get the most signups. And that those free things attach a cookie that result in a commission if there is a sale down the line, even months later.
This feels like a breach of trust when there is no disclosure. Because it DOES affect how I feel if someone promotes simply because they support the product OR because they get a commission. It doesn’t mean the product is any less good, just that we should KNOW about that relationship. The FTC agrees, so remember to disclose clearly.
Finding Your Selling Voice
I think a lot of bloggers and writers struggle with selling if they haven’t been trained in business or sales copy. This means that often when we try to sell, it feels stiff and awkward and it’s overall ineffective. What you need is to find your selling “voice.”
I’ve talked about finding your writing voice before and your selling voice is similar. It’s the way that you sell that feels and sounds natural to you and to your readers. It should feel familiar and authentic. It should be confident. It should be clear.
If you are struggling with confidence, you should ask yourself these two questions:
- Am I not confident because sales makes me uncomfortable?
- Am I not confident because I’m selling something I feel uncomfortable about?
If you fall into the first camp, then you simply need to sell more. Get more comfortable and confident in your sales. If it’s the second, then you need to consider NOT selling that product or being an affiliate for that product. There is nothing worse than promoting something you really aren’t sure of just for the money. Ew! Don’t do that.
I don’t think that you have to have tried or currently use every product you promote. But be sure you can stand behind it (because you trust the creator or have seen the back end or used it in the past when it was a better fit for you) and that it’s a good fit for your people.
Monetizing your list can result in more income than monetizing your blog or other social media. It can be more enjoyable too, because you are providing for a need that your audience has through a personal relationship.
Do you struggle with this? Or have you found your groove monetizing your email list?
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