If you’re serious about making money from your blog, building and growing your email list is essential. However, this can also be intimidating. In this article, I discuss how to create an email challenge to help you grow your email list.
Building an email list has got to be the quickest, simplest, most cost-effective way to build your own community.
Hosting an email challenge is one of the ways to grow your email list. But what exactly is an email challenge?
An email challenge is a mini-course sent through email designed to help your readers achieve a specific goal. Each email gives a task or an action step for subscribers to work on that builds on the other emails. The period of time varies from as short as 5 to as long as 30 days.
In this blog post, I give you the steps on how to create an email challenge to grow your email list.
If you already have an email list, then you probably already have the opt-in forms to show for it, complete with a lead magnet.
But no matter how compelling your opt-in offer is, this is still a passive way to get more people to subscribe to your mailing list. It’s akin to displaying something shiny on your storefront and hoping that people will notice it and be tempted enough to come in and buy something.
By contrast, email challenges require more of your time and effort in both creating and promoting it, and involve the audience themselves, so they feel more involved and invested in it.
Here are some reasons why email challenges are effective in getting subscribers.
When you’re able to create content for a weekly or even daily challenge, this proves to your audience that you’re an expert in your niche. Whether or not your audience completes your challenge, their impression of you as an authority on the subject will remain.
In the future, when your audience needs help with anything in the niche, it’ll be you that they’ll remember and consult with first because they’ve witnessed your expertise on the subject firsthand.
Doing a challenge on their own is one thing, but doing it with a community inspires your audience to take action because of the feeling that they aren’t alone; other people are doing the same challenge.
The knowledge that other people are in the same boat and doing the same challenge with them inspires your audience to push through with the challenge and to not drop out.
Hosting a challenge helps you find audiences who are interested in your content AND likely to want to learn even more from you.
At the end of the challenge, you can group those who signed up into two segments: Those who completed the challenge versus those who didn’t. The ones who completed the challenge warrant more of your attention that those who didn’t.
Not to say that you’re going to ignore those who didn’t complete your challenge. Life gets in the way sometimes. It’s just that those who completed your challenge deserve some more attention when it comes to sending out marketing emails and newsletters.
As I’ve mentioned, following email challenges requires your followers to actively participate to get results. Done the right way, email challenges teach your followers to be patient and work hard on every single task so they can achieve the results that they want.
Not only do email challenges inspire action but they urge subscribers to share their results, and thus share your email challenge.
When word gets around that your email challenge works and then gets shared around social media, people will be curious and check out your blog.
And it’s not just any traffic; those who are visiting your blog after learning about your email challenge are people who are genuinely interested in what you have to offer.
The more interested visitors your blog gets, the more likely they are to sign up not only for your email challenge but also for your regular mailing list.
Admit it, you’re signed up for a newsletter once or twice and then never opened a single email from them ever again.
An email challenge makes it almost impossible to ignore the emails because recipients know that the best way to get maximum results is to open all the emails and do all the tasks.
When your subscribers are used to opening emails from you, it becomes a habit, because they know that an email from you means receiving something of value.
Now that you’re (hopefully) convinced that email challenges work, here’s how to create your own email challenge.
Before you settle on a topic for your email challenge, you need to have a solid vision of the results your target audience wants to have by the time they complete their challenge.
The best source for this is none other than your audience, so here are some ways to find out what they want to achieve.
It’s not just about what your subscribers will accomplish by finishing the email challenge (although obviously, this is important to them). You also need to know how they’ll benefit from the goal they accomplish through the email challenge.
For example, if you ran a “write 500 words every day for 30 days” email challenge, then those who finish your challenge will have written 15,000 words at the end of 30 days.
And so what if you’ve written 15,000 words?
Writers know that it’s not just the 15,000 words that are important. A month of writing develops your writing habit as well as your writing rituals. It fosters your self-motivation and the willpower to finish a huge writing assignment.
Plus, it helps you find a community of writers who are writing with you, and it makes you feel that whatever you’re struggling with isn’t yours alone; some writer out there is experiencing the same thing as you are.
If you focus on the “so what,” your audience sees your email challenge for what it is: not just another insignificant accomplishment, but as a means to becoming a better version of themselves.
Your focus should definitely be on creating an email challenge to provide results for your audience, but you also want to consider how hosting an email challenge will benefit you and your blog as well.
Obviously, if your email challenge is successful, your email list will ideally grow, but you also want to set goals that are specific to where you are currently and where you want to be after the email challenge.
For example, you decide that want to grow your email list by 100 people by the time you finish a seven-day email challenge. That’s a very clear goal, but why would you want to achieve this?
Have you just started your blog and want to grow your community? Or are you simply looking to get more traffic to your blog? Or are you blogging for years and looking to introduce a new product or service and would like to see through an email challenge whether or not your audience will go for it?
Your goals can shape the challenge in different ways. If you’re looking to grow your community, then you want your writing to be as engaging as it can be, and you want to give interactive tasks.
If you’re looking to get more traffic to your blog, you want to plan simple tasks that go toward a simple goal, so that more people get results. As I’ve mentioned above, people who experience results are more likely to share your email challenge with others.
Introducing a new product or service can be daunting if you don’t know what your audience wants, and hosting an email challenge around the same thing as that product or service can give you enough data to know if you should go forward with it or not.
After you’ve written down both your audience’s and your goals, the next thing to do is to map out your email challenge. Here are a few important things to remember when planning your email challenge.
Choose your topic carefully. Based on your research and insight into your audience’s goals, formulate the topic that you’re going to write a challenge around. Knowing what your audience wants to achieve and what they need to get it is extremely important at this point, so keep these in mind when deciding on your topic.
Draft the journey that you’re going to take your audience on. Assess first where your audience is, where they want to be after the challenge, and what you need to do to help them get there.
These will then determine the scope (i.e., how wide), the focus (i.e., how deep), and the duration (i.e., how long) of the challenge. Ensure that each lesson and task flows into the next one.
Decide how long the challenge will go for and how frequently you’ll email them. Make sure the end result you want your audience to achieve is attainable within the timeframe that you set. You usually see 7-day, 14-day, or 30-day challenges, which look nice because they’re rounded out (one week, two weeks, one month) but feel free to depart from this pattern if necessary.
The usual frequency of emails in a challenge is daily so that your subscribers maintain their momentum. So you want to make sure that the task you include in an email is doable before you send the next one. Typically, a task should take between 10 to 15 minutes.
You might have to make some adjustments while you’re outlining and writing your content, so be flexible enough to adapt to these changes.
Outline each day’s theme and task. Creating an outline before diving headfirst into creating the content helps you do it in a systematic way.
First, think of the general milestones that your subscribers need to meet along the way to their desired result. If you need to, place them on virtual or real sticky notes so you have a visual overview of your subscribers’ journey.
Then, figure out how many days you want to spend on each milestone, the tasks they need to accomplish for each milestone, and the theme for each day or set of days. The best way to do this is to use a spreadsheet so that you can see everything at a glance.
Now that you have a solid plan, it’s time to create the content for your email challenge. Here are some things to remember when creating your content.
Consider using different content types. Just because you’re making an email challenge doesn’t mean you only have to create text content.
Depending on the day’s lesson, don’t hesitate to use different types of content. You may need to have text content today and then images the next day. As long as it’s the best type of content to deliver a particular lesson, you shouldn’t worry about it.
Some of the content types you might find yourself using are text, audio, images, video, a slideshow, or even an interactive game.
Every email should be able to stand on its own. Ideally, your emails should be consumed in sequence and build on one another in a logical flow. But every one of your emails should also be able to stand on its own; that is, your subscribers can perform the task without having to consult previous emails.
Follow a format for consistency. Standardizing your emails allows your subscribers to focus on learning and doing the task at hand instead of trying to make sense of your emails.
Plus, writing your emails this way helps you know for sure that you’ve covered everything you needed to cover.
At the minimum, each of your emails should contain the following:
Do your research. One incorrect piece of information can break your subscribers’ trust, so make sure to fact-check everything and that your sources are reliable.
Come up with a compelling challenge title. Your email challenge will be known by this title, people will share your email challenge using this title, and you’ll promote this on social media with this title.
You want this title to be clear and specific about how your email challenge benefits your subscribers.
Examples of formats of catchy titles include:
Consider providing relevant bonus content. Offering bonus content to help subscribers to finish the challenge adds to the wow factor of your email challenge. Your subscribers will certainly appreciate your thoughtfulness.
Plus, sending bonus content at strategic time points can be great motivators, especially for longer email challenges. For instance, if you promise a certain number of bonuses, plus a special one with the last challenge, trying to complete them all might just be enough for them to stick with it.
Incorporate social elements in your tasks. Increase your subscribers’ engagement by including some tasks that require some sort of social element, like posting a status or a photo on their social media, or sharing their progress on an exclusive Facebook group solely for subscribers to the email challenge.
You also need to be ready to interact with your subscribers, not only when they have questions but to be proactive in asking how they’re finding your email challenge so far and if there’s anything you can do to help them.
Being engaged as well as encouraging your subscribers to be engaged inspires them to stay on and finish the challenge. Plus, this rapport is especially important if one of your goals is to grow your community.
Create a new email list exclusive for the email challenge. This is important because you don’t want to mix up emails meant for subscribers of your other mailing lists with those meant for subscribers of your email challenge.
Write the welcome email to be sent when people sign up for the challenge. Your welcome email is usually the first impression your subscribers get of you. Make sure you give a stellar impression by being friendly and by giving a realistic, positive picture of what to expect.
Write the wrap-up or final email to be sent on the last day of the challenge. Another opportunity to leave a terrific lasting impression is through the final email for your email challenge. You don’t want the email challenge to be your last contact with them.
Let subscribers know about your blog, invite them to follow you on social media, or entice them to subscribe to your general email list for more of your exceptional content.
Your email challenge is now ready! It’s time to get it in front of your target audience. Here are the steps to promote your email challenge.
Build your landing page and opt-in forms. A landing page is a standalone page designed to direct visitors to a single goal. In this case, we’re going to direct visitors to your landing page to subscribe to your email challenge.
A basic landing page contains a headline, subheadline, benefits of your email challenge, visuals, and a form to fill out (usually name and email address) with a call to action (CTA) button.
An opt-in form is like your landing page’s little sister, with barely anything else but a headline, brief description of your email challenge, and a form to till out (usually name and email address) with a CTA button.
These pages are important because all your promotional efforts are to direct visitors to this page. Plus, how you present the benefits of your email challenge in its landing page can determine whether or not your visitor subscribes to your email challenge.
Invite your existing email list. If you already have an email list that you regularly email, consider doing a soft launch exclusive to them.
After all, they subscribed to your mailing list expecting quality content, and with all the hard work you spent on your email challenge, they should be the first ones to benefit from it.
Plus, they’re a great source of early feedback and social proof. Use their feedback to improve your email challenge and ask them for permission to use their positive testimonials in future promotional materials for your email challenge, especially in your landing page.
Write about it on your blog. Once the soft launch period is over, you can then write an article about it on your blog. This is a good way to introduce the email challenge to regular readers of your blog who haven’t subscribed to your mailing list, as well as to those who aren’t regular readers but stumbled upon your blog.
A blog post gives you the opportunity to explain the email challenge more thoroughly. Plus, writing a meaty blog post increases its probability of being “found” and indexed by search engines. People who are searching for a solution to their problem that you so happen to discuss can then possibly find this blog post and your email challenge.
Place a link to the landing page on your navigation bar. This is another technique to showcase your email challenge to visitors of your blog. You can do this temporarily or until you have another product or service to promote.
Tell your social media followers. Your social media followers are likely to be fans of your content (which is probably why they’re following you). So if you tell them about an email challenge that will help them immensely, they’ll tend to pay attention.
Another advantage of posting on social media is that your followers can easily share your posts with their followers. Posting tweets, pins, and statuses on Facebook with a concise description of your email challenge plus a link can do a lot to increase traffic to your landing page.
If you’ve already written a blog post about the email challenge, you can also promote that so that people who haven’t heard of you before this email challenge have an idea of how you write and what to expect from your email challenge before signing up.
Run ads on social media or through Google Ads. If you have the budget, you can take out ads on Facebook and Instagram or even through Google Ads. This is one possible way you can widen your reach to your target audience who don’t already follow you on social media or have no idea your blog exists.
Share the link to your email challenge in your other content. If you post videos on YouTube or host a podcast on iTunes or Spotify, those are great opportunities for you to share a link to your email challenge.
On YouTube, you can place the link on your description box. When you do a podcast on iTunes, you can include a link on the episode summary. On Spotify, you can include a link on the episode description, but it’s not clickable; listeners will have to type it in manually. Consider using a URL shortener to make it easy on them.
You can also host periodic webinars to promote your email challenge where you explain its benefits and how to subscribe on video. A lot of people prefer video over blog posts, and being on video increases your credibility because they can see that you are a real person who wants to help them.
Mention your email challenge wherever you create content outside of your blog and social media posts. I say “mention” and not “link” because you need to be careful that you’re not violating spam rules of other sites, some of which are strict.
For example, when you do a guest post on another blog, you wouldn’t want to include a link that leads away from your host blog without their permission. A good compromise would be to ask them if you can include a link to your email challenge on your “About The Author” description box. Bottom line is, don’t do anything without their clear permission.
Another example of this is if you answer questions on Quora. Posting on Quora can bring traffic to your blog (and your email challenge) but you need to be careful when posting links. Quora is intended to provide immediate value and not to drive traffic to external sites, so they have a strict no-spam policy.
Answer relevant questions and talk about your email challenge, and then include a link to it on your profile instead. If they’re curious enough, they’ll find it. Quora is a great site to engage with your audience, so follow their rules and reap the benefits of using their platforms.
Who knew setting up an email challenge would be so much work?
Well, now you know.
But creating an immensely helpful email challenge is rewarding, as it helps you grow your traffic, audience, and your email list. Plus, you get to do all that with truly valuable content that you’d be proud to showcase.
Here’s a recap of the steps to create an email challenge.
And here are a few more reminders when creating your email challenge.
This seems so obvious, too obvious even. But creating an email challenge is so labor- and thought-intensive that the temptation to throw everything together haphazardly can be great.
Bear in mind that even though this email challenge is free, this is the first, and maybe only, impression you will leave to many of your target subscribers. So it’s important to present them with topnotch content.
A good target to keep in mind is to make your email challenge so effective and impressive that you could charge for it if you wanted to.
Every time you build an email challenge, you’ll want to know what works and what doesn’t. And the people who could tell you exactly that are the people who received the emails and did the challenges.
Were the emails sent at a convenient time for them? How easy or difficult were the challenges that you assigned them? Did they see the results you promised? What would they have done differently?
You also want to hear from those who unsubscribed. Did they find the tasks too daunting, or too redundant? Were they not getting results? Or did they just realize that the email challenge wasn’t for them? You can ask all these questions in an exit survey when they start the unsubscribe process.
Another group of people you want to hear from is those who didn’t unsubscribe but weren’t able to finish the challenge. What did they think of the tasks? Were they not getting the results they expected? Or did life just get in the way and they’d finish the task if it hadn’t?
Lastly, you want to hear from those who successfully completed the challenge and got the results they wanted. What made them stick with the challenge? Which tasks did they feel were the most difficult? The easiest? Which tasks did they feel were the most helpful to them?
Essentially, you’re making people do something that will benefit them, and even though it’s good for them, it can still feel like work.
Introduce some elements of fun that’ll break the monotony. For example, tap into your subscribers’ competitive sides and incorporate simple games, puzzles, or riddles, all in the name of fun.
You can also inject humor and anecdotes in your emails and content to make it easy for your subscribers to remember your lessons and make them more inspired to do the tasks.
Are you planning to host your own email challenge? How’s it going? Tell us all about it in the comments!
JoAnne is your average, everyday, sane stay-at-home mom who believes in the power of the internet to make dreams come true. She has an insatiable appetite for chocolate, as well as all things internet marketing. She keeps up with the latest trends in blogging, affiliate marketing, e-commerce, and more.