In the wake of the GDPR tsunami I've been thinking a lot about the value of free opt-ins, or lead magnets. Because it was no longer allowed under GDPR to lure people onto your mailing list via a freebie business owners had to rethink their strategies or get creative. In my case I decided to make my Studio Notes newsletter the main attraction again and to offer optional freebies as part of the sign-up process. It worked, to a degree.
Many people selected their free resource and checked the respective GDPR field. However, I also noticed that a lot of people did *not* check either of the GDPR fields and that was totally legit as these fields can *not* be mandatory. But this caused a dilemma because now I was not sure, did they want to receive my Studio Notes or not? Was this form too confusing for them? Then there was the logistical effort of segmenting my list and deleting everyone who didn't explicitely agree to be on it so that I don't have pay for them. It all felt rather messy and clunky and just didn't sit right with me.
I am going to be really honest here: whenever someone took a freebie and checked "No Thank You" for the newsletter option I also felt a tad resentful. Don't get me wrong, I am a big believer in Community over Competition and I love being generous and happily share free advice and help people where I can. Alas, when it came to my freebies I suddenly worried that I was giving away too much for too little. Because no matter how altruistic we want to be:
We cannot run a business without paying customers and if I give you something of great value for free I want at least a chance to earn your trust and potential business in return.
As I was mulling all this over I suddenly remembered the bottom drawer in my desk. The one that is filled to the brim with freebies! Freebies from other entrepreneurs that I had printed out and - with only a few exceptions - skimmed over and then filed away to never look at again. Which, by the way, is not a reflection on their quality, some of them were awesome and the entrepeneur had clearly put in a lot of effort. All of these freebies required me to sign up to the person's newsletter and in many cases I started being bombarded with salesy emails and quickly unsubscribed again. I have not bought a single service from any of these freebie providers.
This really bothered me. What was happening here? I believe this is just one of the symptoms of the entrepreneurial culture we live in, the one that is shouty and in-your-face and all about the numbers: the 6-figure incomes, the 10K mailing lists, the thousands of Instragram followers. In our desperate effort to hit those numbers we drink the online marketing cool-aid and create lead magnets and sales funnels, and if we're crafty we even have some 'secrets' that we give away for 'free', all with the goal of luring in enough people to feed the bottom of our pyramid scheme. Anyone who's known me for a while knows how much I detest all of this.
I will let you in on one of my 'secrets': you don't need a huge mailing list or thousands of followers to build a successful and sustainable online business.
Here are my numbers as of today:
Studio Notes subscribers: 821*
Instagram Followers: 860
Facebook Page Followers: 413
Facebook Friends: 575
Gros Earnings Jan-Jul 2018: $67,000
* I lost 400 subscribers after GDPR and have since regained 200+ without freebies
I don't do income reports because I detest those as well. They are just humble-braggy sales tactics geared towards promoting the lure of the 6-figure income. The only reason I am sharing my numbers here today is to show you that there is another way and that you don't need a big social media following to build a profitable online business. How do you do this?
Put all your efforts and focus into creating high quality services and products. Know your worth and charge accordingly. Be generous, engaged and genuine.
That's how you build a values-based heart-centered business. And that's why I stopped offering freebies in exchange for email addresses. I want people to subscribe to my Studio Notes because they are genuinely interested in the information and products I share, and perhaps even my occasional deeper musings. I want to build a community around me that is engaged and that trusts me to always service them with integrity and value.
So does this mean that there will never be any free stuff anymore?
Of course not. I regularly run special offers and Studio Notes subscribers get an instant 20% discount code for my courses and AMA sessions. I also share tons of free advice in Squarespace Facebook groups, my Studio Notes and on my blog – like how to customise your cookie banner, or how to set up a bi-lingual structure, and much more – and every now and then I create free products such as the recent GDPR checklist. I still believe in being generous with my knowledge and sharing what I can when I can.
As always, feel free to leave a comment or to reach out to me if you have any questions!
P.S. And in case anyone is wondering, I also re-implemented the Squarespace forms for my Studio Notes subscriptions and turned off the GDPR fields in Mailchimp and turned the double opt-in back on, returning the subscriber process back to simple and effective.
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