how to create a free email challenge to explode your email list

I don’t know about you, but it took me a LONG time to figure out how to build my email list.

How To Grow Your Email List

I listened to podcast after podcast about how to build my list.

I wrote great blog posts and then created content upgrades for them.

I put a feature box on my blog where people could sign up to get a free guide.

And, as of May 2015, my email list was growing. I was getting about 3 sign ups a day, which felt pretty good. I had 350 people on my email list, which was an accomplishment. After all, I had started from zero, so it was a 350% increase.

I also had a Facebook group with about 300 members in it. I loved the people in it, but it wasn’t growing all that quickly.

When I first started my blog, I noticed a lot of challenges that invited bloggers to blog everyday for a month.

It seemed like a great way to get motivated to blog, and to get some comments.

I decided to do a free challenge of my own. I had no idea that it would catapult my email list from 350 to over 2,000 people, or that it would build momentum in my Facebook group so much that it now has almost 2,500 members and is growing by 20 to 40 people a day.

Have you ever thought of doing a free challenge?

If so, here are all the details for how I planned, promoted, and did mine. It’s a great way to not only build your email list, but to fill it with people who are really excited to learn from and connect with you.

How To Grow Your Email Subscribers With Free Email Challenge

1. Know your audience

The first step to building your email list in any way – not just by creating a challenge – is to know who you are trying to attract.

Before I created my challenge, which was called the 10 Day Blog Makeover Challenge, I did a lot of work to get to know my audience, and to really understand what they wanted help with.

I did many things to learn as much as I could about my audience, including:

  • Reading what they were writing about and engaging with them in Facebook groups.
  • Doing surveys to better understand their struggles and feelings about their blogs.
  • Getting on the phone with them and asking them probing questions about their blogging experiences.
  • Coaching them one on one.

By the time I created the challenge, I knew my readers better than I know some of my friends. And that really helped me make something that they would want.

2. Offer a unique opportunity that isn’t available elsewhere

As I mentioned before, I had participated in other blogging challenges before. I knew what was already out there, and I wanted to create a new experience for my audience.

I decided that I would help my participants improve the design and content of their blogs. This was very different from the challenges that were already being put on by other bloggers.

Because I chose a different angle, I wasn’t competing with many of the existing challenges. My challenge also offered benefits that bloggers couldn’t get from many of the other challenges.

If you are thinking of creating a free challenge to build your email list and engage your readers, do some research. See what else is out there already. And then, using your knowledge of your audience, provide a different learning opportunity for your readers.

3. Be specific about the benefits you offer

When you think about creating a challenge, start with the end benefits your audience will get if they participate, and then work backwards.

With my challenge, I wanted my participants to come away with a blog that was more beautiful and easier for readers to enjoy than what they started with.

I took that end point, and worked backward to create each of my daily challenges.

What is the final outcome you want for your participants? Make sure that it’s something that they really want, and that you can easily state in a sentence or two.

For example, my challenge’s slogan was “Transform your blog from blah to beautiful.” It tapped into my readers’ feelings about their blogs being inadequate, and offered a clear benefit – that their blogs would be beautiful in the end.

4. Make it doable

Part of my promise for my challenge was that it would take 15 minutes or less per day.

Your audience members have a lot going on in their worlds. They have kids to pick up from school, groceries to buy, and emails to respond to.

Even though you want to pack tons of value into your challenge, your audience will be happier (and more likely to actually do the challenge) if it’s quick and easy for them to complete.

So instead of trying to load it up with tons of content, focus on the most impactful actions your participants can do in a short period of time.

5. Experiment with different slogans and headlines to see what catches on

As I mentioned above, with the 10 Day Blog Makeover Challenge, I chose the slogan “Transform your blog from blah to beautiful.” Instead of using the name of the challenge as my headline, I wrote something that was catchy and memorable.

But I didn’t come up with it out of thin air. It took brainstorming and experimentation to settle on that headline.

I wrote down many slogans for my challenge. These included:

“Your blog deserves to be beautiful.”

“Your blog could use a little TLC.”

“Does your blog need a makeover?”

When I ran Facebook ads (which I’ll get to in the next section), I found that “Transform your blog from blah to beautiful” was by far the most successful ad, so I stopped running the other ads and stuck with that one.

When you are marketing your challenge, try out different headlines and slogans. You never know which one will bring in more people.

6. Promote it everywhere

The main reason my challenge brought in so many new subscribers was because I used Facebook and Pinterest ads.

On my Facebook ad, I specifically targeted a lookalike audience to my current list. If you want more details about how I promoted the challenge, check out this post.

I also promoted it on Twitter, told my existing list about it, wrote a blog post about it, and posted it in Facebook groups on promotion threads.

If you’re taking the time to create a challenge for your readers, you might as well go all out in promoting it.

7. Decide how you will share the content

There are a number of ways to share your content for your challenge:

  • Emails
  • Hosting it in a website
  • Social media posts

The first time I did the challenge, I did it through emails and Facebook, and the other times, I hosted it in my membership site.

Because I had a Facebook group sharing component in my challenge, my Facebook group grew along with my list. Now it’s a valuable list-building asset on its own.

When you think through how you will share the content, pay attention to:

  • The type of experience you want for your participants. Do you want it to be more of a learning experience, community building, or some of both?
  • Your goal, beyond just growing your list. Are you trying to get your participants interested in a paid program? Do you want to grow your following on social media?

I suggest sending emails everyday of the challenge to remind people it’s happening, and adding in a social component as well.

8. Make it social and interact

The best way to increase engagement in your challenge is to include some type of social component. That can be sharing in a Facebook group, posting photos on Instagram, or doing Twitter chats.

By making your challenge social, you encourage people to keep showing up, because there’s just a tiny bit of social pressure to keep doing the challenge. Making it social also gives people the opportunity to learn from each other. You end up creating a community instead of just adding names to your email list.

Also, make sure that you take time to interact with your participants and help them through the challenge. One of the main purposes of the challenge is to build relationships, so go ahead and build them!

9. Have a follow-up plan

What is your plan to keep your participants involved after the challenge is over? At the very least, plan some emails to send them. It’s even better if you have a plan for how to convert them into customers by selling a similar paid course.

You might also want to end your challenge with a live webinar where you sell your course. Since your participants are already engaged with you, it’s a perfect time to make a sale.

10. See what worked and repeat

Once your challenge is over, take stock of how it went and then decide how you’re going to reuse the content you created.

I’ve done my challenge 4 times so far. Each time, I’ve been able to tweak it and improve it in some way. And each time, I’ve grown my email list by hundreds of people, and more importantly, built valuable relationships.

Doing the 10 Day Blog Makeover Challenge completely transformed my blog and business. It is a powerful way to engage with my community and show them what I have to offer.

Free challenges can build your email list, help you forge valuable relationships, and show your readers what you have to offer. And you don’t have to have a huge list to put on your first challenge. All you need is a little creativity and forethought.

Are you planning a challenge for your community? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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