Email marketing is a wonderful thing for a small business – it’s an inexpensive way of marketing, it’s an easy way to stay in touch with your customers and prospects and you can do it while you are working on other aspects of your business or even asleep. But all of this assumes you have subscribers on your list! There are many ways of building your list, and how effective they are will depend on lots of factors including the type of business and where your potential subscribers hang out. So in this post I’m sharing just one: how to build your mailing list using online workshops.
Step one: You need a list and a landing page
You can’t build a mailing list unless you have somewhere to capture those email addresses. So you’ll need an account with and email service provider such as Aweber, MailChimp, MailerLite or Campaign Monitor. Create a mailing list then a page where people can enter their email to join your list. This is often called a landing page – click here to see mine. Some email marketing services include landing pages (eg MailChimp), if yours doesn’t it will give you some code to copy and paste into a page on your website.
You don’t have to set up a landing page for every online workshop you plan to do (although you could). If you’re just getting started I would re-use a single list and landing page as much as you can, then spend your time on building that list.
Step two: Find your audience
Now you need a source of people who will attend your workshop. My favourite place is to ‘borrow’ someone else’s audience, although I have set up a workshop then invited people I already knew to it, too. If your goal is to get seen by people who don’t already know you then someone else’s audience is best.
Where do you find someone else’s audience? Look around for a community that has a similar target audience to the one you want to build. In my case, I’m looking for very small and micro business owners who are aware of the benefits of email marketing but either aren’t doing it or aren’t doing it as well as they’d like to. So I’d look for business coaches, trainers or business communities. Then you need to offer the community leader (coach, trainer, website owner…) a workshop that would be valuable for their members. You offer this for free because your ‘payment’ is access to their community.
Other things to look for when choosing a community are the size and engagement of that community. Check out the social media pages – how many likes, follows, shares, comments and so on do they have? Is there an active and engaged community in the Facebook group? If you’re just getting started then size might not be such an issue because your focus will be building your reputation and becoming a little more visible. But if you’re a bigger name in your industry you might want the reach that a bigger, more engaged community can give you.
Also, look at how active the leader is at promoting events because you will want them to promote yours.
Step three: Approaching the community leader
The absolute best way of approaching the community ‘owner’ or leader is if you already know each other. So it’s a great idea to always be networking with people who share a similar community to the one you want to build. That way they know, like and trust you before you offer to run the workshop. But if you don’t know them, make sure you have a way of demonstrating your expertise such as a blog, YouTube channel (neither need to be huge), testimonials, being known within your wider community or having a mutual contact or colleague who can introduce you.
Always consider what’s in it for them – they’ll want around an hour of solid value for their community rather than a thinly-veiled sales pitch. It’s a good idea to offer some ideas of what you could speak about, then let the leader tell you exactly what they’d like you to cover in detail.
Find out if they expect the presentation to be free to all, only available to their paid members or something in between the two such as the live event is free but the recording is only available to paid members. There are pros and cons to both – a free event tends to give you a bigger reach, but a recording that’s only available to paid members means that videos should be available to paid members for months or years to come, which can give your content greater longevity than a freebie. Even if the event is 100% behind a paywall you can still mention it to your followers and subscribers to show that you’re considered expert enough to teach in that community.
Step four: Your lead magnet
You are likely to get more subscribers if you offer them a free gift when they join your list, known as a lead magnet. It’s not essential, but if you have the time I highly recommend creating one. There’s no need to spend weeks writing an e-book, it’s fine to create a quick downloadable planner in (say) Canva, as long as it’s tailored closely to the subscribers you want to tempt onto your list. Think about the type of people you want to subscribe, then decide what would be incredibly helpful to them. Is it a downloadable printable? A quick ‘how to’ video for something you’re asked about on a regular basis? Even a stress-busting guided meditation audio file might hit the spot.
Do your best to make sure people attending the online workshop are also the kind of people who would love your lead magnet. It’s not an exact science because you can never be 100% sure who will turn up. But the closer the fit, the better the chance of you getting subscribers.
Now, create the lead magnet and set up your mailing list so that it’s delivered automatically when the person subscribes to your list. All email service providers should have a tutorial on how to do this, but if you get stuck post me a comment below with the name of your service and I’ll reply with some pointers.
Remember to be transparent (on your landing page) about the fact you’ll be adding subscribers to your mailing list when they download the freebie.
You don’t need a different lead magnet for every workshop, you can use the same one over and over again if you want to. Eventually you’ll need to refresh it, but it could last you for months.
Step 5: Plan the online workshop
So you have the list, the lead magnet, the community and a brief for what you need to cover. Now you need to plan the workshop. The host/leader will usually have a preferred platform, which could be a webinar platform, YouTube Live, Facebook Live, a Zoom meeting or something else entirely! If you’ve never used that platform before don’t panic. Most are fairly simple now, the host will guide you through it and they’ll usually be present to help you out on the day as well as field any questions as you’re talking. Find out the style of the presentation – will it be a Q and A between you and the host or perhaps you and the participants? Or will it be a more traditional workshop style where you’ll teach in a more structured way? Will the platform allow you to share your screen? This gives you the ability to demonstrate software or do a PowerPoint or Google Slides presentation.
(Here’s an example of a Facebook Live where I was the guest.)
Now plan the content so that you deliver what you agreed with the group leader/host, while at the same time demonstrating your own expertise. Aim to mention the lead magnet in the ‘if you’d like to know more…’ section at the end of the workshop, or if you can squeeze it into the main content in a natural way that’s great too. For example, you could say ‘you can download a guide on how to do xyz at [give page] on my website’. Always check with the host that they are happy for you to do this.
If you can, practise using the platform so you feel confident on the day. I’d also show up 15 minutes early on the day so you can iron out any technical glitches ahead of the start time.
Step 6: promotion
In most cases the leader/host will expect you to promote the event, so remember to share it on social media and to your own mailing list if you already have one. This will both increase the number of people who attend and it’ll show that you’re considered expert enough to be invited to run a workshop even to those who don’t attend.
Why not give it a go? Post me a comment if you have any questions!
Need some ideas for what to put in your marketing emails? Download my fill-in-the-gaps templates here.