Free Downloadables: Quality Versus Quantity

One of the most common tips for growing an email list is to dangle a carrot in front of your audience. Something that they cannot access unless they sign up for your email list. The age old question is what should you create? Should you create more than one freebie? What does it really take to get that coveted email address for your list?

It’s Not the Size – It’s How You Use It That Counts!

Okay, so I have to say that Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood: Men in Tights is probably my most favorite movie of all times. I can recite close to the whole thing. It came out when I was a teenager and now I’m 40. I own it. I watch it anytime it’s on television. Good stuff – toward the end, The Sheriff of Rottingham proclaims, “It’s not the size – it’s how you use it!”

Sheriff of Rottingham

And…it’s the same with free stuff you offer your readers in exchange for their precious email address.


Why spend your time creating dozens, hundreds, or thousands of ebooks, guides, webinars, and such that you’ll give away for free when you could just focus on quality? If you really want people to sign up to be on your email list, make sure that whatever carrot you’re dangling in front of them is more than enticing…make sure that it’s worth something to them.

So, that’s what we’re going to talk about in this post…what you can do to create something of a quality nature.

Know Your Audience

First think about why people visit your site. This is about more than just looking at your demographics. It’s about really knowing your audience. Why are they coming to your site? Make sure that you have Google Analytics or a nifty way to see where your traffic comes from, how they’re finding you, and which pages garner the most interest. It’s equally important to know which pages they’re bouncing away from…because that’s what they don’t want.

Why is this so important? Well, because it would really suck for you (and your readers) if you decided to create a free download or a free webinar or a free ______________ based on a page you thought was amazing that your audience really doesn’t give a flying pig about.

One thing I like to do is conduct “Facebook focus groups.” I use Facebook because I’ve learned that followers / friends (official page / personal page) are far more responsive to questions than on Twitter or Instagram. I’ll be honest – I haven’t tried this on LinkedIn. You’ll want to do this on whichever platform you have the best engagement. I ask questions that start with the words “Focus group.” Last week, I asked two questions:

  1. Why do you want to be self-employed / work from home?
  2. What stops you from self-employment / working from home?

The answers were national treasures. I gained a lot of insight that I’ll be able to use for free guides, rev-up tools (free stuff I give out to get people interested in buying books or paying for webinars), and I get the insight to what drives my target market. And I did it for free. I took the information and sorted it. Then, I determined the three biggest pain points for each. Freaking gold. It cost them nothing but their time. I have their names, of course, and as I develop free stuff, I’ll give them a copy as my way of saying thank you. I’ll point them to my email list, but they’ve helped me so much that I just want to give back to them. Learn. Your. Market. I cannot emphasize that enough.

Make Sure Your Locked Content Is Different from What’s Out There

Most people do not want to give you their email address to get something they’ve already read a million times on other websites. It’s likely that if they get duplicate content from you that they will unsubscribe from your list. I know that there’s a lot of the same information floating around because, you know, that’s the actual basics for doing X. But…what’s your spin? What did you add to the basics to really make it work for you? What are you saying that’s innovative that makes you a thought leader and someone that they’ll look forward to hearing from?

Pro tip: If people in your space are providing a “free workbook” or “free guide,” consider doing a pre-recorded webinar where you cover the basics and talk about some of the biggest barriers you faced (and the solutions to those barriers).

Also, be YOU. People read my content here and on Confessions from the Couch not because I’m some sort of genius. It’s because they like my “sparkling” personality. I’m real. I’m honest about my struggles, my wins, and the overall experiences of being a mom who works from home. They also read because I freely contribute expert advice to help them. But I don’t sugarcoat it. I’m a big believer in positive thinking and self-love, but I’m also a “good things happen to people who fucking buckle down and work” type of person. I don’t deal with excuses. I don’t deal with whiners. Find your voice. Embrace it. Talk about what your readers want to know

Make the Sign Up Process Easy

I play with my email lists from time to time. I really don’t even use them all that much, to be honest. I have one where I offer free e-books. It will eventually get used once I have more ebooks to offer. The purpose is sort of a combination book club / review station. To sign up, all people have to do is scroll to the bottom and enter their email address. That’s it.

I have one for my digital products. I use it to make announcements about new digital products. I also have one, obviously, for the Patreon account.

Yet, I rarely use these lists except to gather statistical data on what people buy and what they download from me. All of these lists have a commonality: easy sign up. I don’t ask for much info. Generally, just an email address. Sometimes a name. Of course, any time your email address is tied to a sales site like Patreon or Sellfy, they’re going to ask for specific data and you won’t have a lot of control over that.

For your own website or blog, make the sign up process easy. Here on Digital Workflow, there’s a red button that says GIMMEE. Right above it is a box for an email address. The reader gets all posts by email as they’re published. We do nothing else with that data (except sometimes look at it for statistical reasons). Same with Confessions from the Couch (except the sign up button is a bit different).

Don’t make it hard on people to join.

Your Downloadables Should Grab Attention

What do you think will get more clicks:

  • 4 Ways to Use a Landing Page to Convert Readers Into Buyers
  • Smash Your Sales Goals! 4 Powerhouse Phrases You Can Use to Make More Money!

Interesting words catch attention. And, yes, I know it’s a little click-baitish….but ads have always been that way. We used to prescribe heroin for medicinal purposes…and there used to be real cocaine in Coca-Cola. And both of those were oh so good for you! So let’s stop thinking that drawing people in with eye-catching phrases (or even lies) is untrue. But…here’s the deal – I do NOT want you to lie. Things can be smashing. Things can be “powerful.” They can be “secrets.” Just don’t actually lie. And, yes, I know that lies get clicks. Don’t do it.

dont be that guy

One and Done Doesn’t Exist

So, I have a bit of a shocker for you…and some of you aren’t gonna like it. There is no such thing as one and done when it comes to growing an email list through free stuff. Sending out your link one time through social media is very rarely enough. If you’re paying for any sort of sponsored posts or whatever, one may not be enough (especially if you don’t know how to target – remember the section on knowing your audience?).

You need a plan to consistently promote your free stuff (including more than an annoying pop-up for every page. Seriously, just use one on your front page if you’re going to use them at all. I prefer OptIn Cat when I use them). And some social media outlets will suspend your account if you spam people with the exact same thing over and over and over. So, you need to change up the words you’re using. You can create a document or spreadsheet to hold ideas for content.

Pro tip: Your content should act as a teaser for your what you’re trying to get people to sign up to receive through your email list.

I hope this little primer on creating quality content as a lead magnet has helped you. What’s your favorite tip to share? Let me know in the comments!



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