5 Steps to Start Converting Opt-In Email Lists to Customers

Chanelle Smith
Chanelle Smith

Last updated on

October 29, 2023

When it comes to generating revenue using email marketing, adding subscribers to your opt in email lists is just one piece of the puzzle. As we’ve discussed before, there’s no point in building an email list if you’re just going to let it gather dust -- you need to make it work for you.

It’s smartest to gather a solid number of subscribers before starting to use your email list for marketing, but you shouldn’t wait for your list to mature before you start working on your next steps. Start making money as soon as your email list hits your goal subscriber number by following these five steps “in the background”.

1. Set a goal number of subscribers

Make money from opt in email list step 2

Goal setting is important for your business because it gives you something concrete to spend your energy working toward.

In the instance of building an opt in email list, set a goal to reach a certain number of subscribers by a certain date. Like any goal you set, your subscriber number goal should be SMART; that is, specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-based.

Specific: Your goal could be to reach X email subscribers or to increase your current subscriber number by Y%. Either way works as long as you’re specific.

Measurable: Since we’re talking numbers here, measuring your goal is simple. (Less concrete goals like “reach financial freedom” are where this step is especially important to suss out.)

Actionable: Lay out concrete steps you will take to reach your goal. Will you add an opt-in popup to your website? Take out a Facebook ad? Spend one hour a day on advertising?

Realistic: Use current analytics from your website and social media to set your goal subscriber number. For example, if your web traffic is along the lines of 40K pageviews per month, a goal of 100K email subscribers isn’t very realistic.

Time-based: Whether it’s to add a specific number of subscribers per week for the next year, or to reach your big subscriber goal in six months, ensure your goal has a time frame associated with it.

To put it simply, visualize a specific future number of subscribers and decide how much time you’ll give yourself to reach that number. Then set smaller milestones along the way to your larger goal -- accomplishing small milestones will bring a sense of satisfaction and productivity that can propel you forward.

2. Prepare your lead magnet

Make money from opt in email list step 2

To get people to sign up for opt in email lists, a common (and proven) strategy is to offer them a free gift for doing so -- called a lead magnet. Before even placing an opt-in form on your site, you need to determine what that lead magnet will be. In most cases, a free PDF based on content you’ve already created will do the trick. Read more about creating a killer lead magnet in this post.

The first step in preparing your lead magnet is to identify a high value piece of content on your website that can be updated or revamped and offered as a PDF to new subscribers.

If you have some design savvy, you can use the content to create a professional-looking PDF yourself, but hiring someone to do it could save you time. The small amount of money you spend having your PDF prettied up will be a drop in the bucket in comparison with the returns you’ll eventually get from your email list. You can also provide the option to add a digital signature to PDF when it comes to business paperwork.

Natalie Sisson from Suitcase Entrepreneur gives several excellent examples of lead magnets in this post -- check them out if you need help getting your creative juices flowing. My favorite idea of hers is to offer a complimentary 20 minute consultation because it’s a great reminder that your freebie doesn’t need to be a PDF if that doesn’t fit your business model.

Once your lead magnet is ready, decide how you want to tie it to your opt-in form. There are plenty of services that can make this easy for you, LeadPages being a popular example, but it can be as simple as including a download link in the welcome email you send once someone has opted in. More on that below.

3. Craft an engaging welcome email

Make money from opt in email list step 3

Once a subscriber opts in to your email list, seal the deal with an automatic confirmation email to welcome them and show you appreciate that they took the time to join your list. As marketing pro Diana Urban lays out for us here, a successful welcome confirmation email should include these four things:


Even though it’s an automated email, make it feel like it isn’t. Include personalization tags to address subscribers by their first names.

The lead magnet

Don’t forget to include a link to the gift you promised to get them to join, even if you used a tool that allowed them to download the lead magnet right after opting in. Just a little insurance in case they signed up while at work or in a hurry and couldn’t download it right away.

A call to action

Don’t let your welcome email be a dead end -- you want your subscribers to continue to interact with you and your brand. Use a call to action to get them to do something, like share the email with friends or take advantage of a limited time offer.

Social sharing

Today, including social media icons for sharing is almost a given. Don’t miss out on free advertising -- include them in your welcome email (well actually, every email).

4. Plan and schedule a drip campaign

Make money from opt in email list step 4

A drip campaign is an incredible useful email marketing strategy that helps you send a series of emails to engage your audience.

Drip campaigns actually require very little effort on your part, because the only time you have to think about them is when you’re drafting the email series. Once the emails are written and the sending schedule is set, the rest of the process is completely automated.

Internet marketing guru Mike Gingerich recommends a drip campaign consisting of 4 to 6 emails sent out over 10 days so that new subscribers receive an email from you every 1 or 2 days.

Throughout the drip campaign, make sure you’re delivering free, high value content. At the end (once you’ve proven how valuable your content is) it’s time to sell, sell, sell. If your subscribers have stayed tuned throughout the series and want more from you, they’re in luck because you have just the product, an easy way to purchase it, and an exclusive deal on it -- just for subscribers.

5. Send newsletters

Make money from opt in email list step 5

So your new subscribers have been welcomed, given their free gift, and sold something at the end of your drip campaign. Great! But that’s not where it ends.

As long as a subscriber remains on your email list, consider that person an engaged audience member who you should continue to share information with and market to. However, while your newsletter strategy will likely result in increased sales, focus more on providing value to your subscribers than on selling. If you’re not careful, just like those ads we so often “click to skip” on YouTube, you’ll earn yourself a fast “click to unsubscribe”.

For the highest open rates, stick to a set schedule of two newsletters per month. Your newsletter strategy should be similar to your welcome email strategy, with social share buttons and a call to action, like a “click here” to read your latest blog post or watch your newest video.

Make your newsletter design clean and uncluttered, but with solid branding that ties to your website, and whatever you do, don’t forget to include a way to subscribe at the bottom, in case someone’s reading a forwarded copy but wants to get on board.

Check out this email newsletter checklist from Ramsay at Blog Tyrant for 16 more newsletter success strategies.

By following these five steps as you launch your opt in email list, you’ll be converting subscribers to customers in no time!

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