Is building your email list the main goal for your blog or business? It is for me too. In fact, it is always one of my main focuses.

In 2020, my highest converting opt-ins were two challenges I ran live:

The Dream it. Master it. Do it. Challenge and The Content Ecosystem Challenge (how to repurpose 1 blog post into 30+ pieces of content!).

The only other opt-in that outperforms these challenges is joining the Income Projection Calculator. People love free goodies 🙂

But this blog post is all about building your email list through setting up challenges.

Here's what you're going to learn in this post:

  • What is a challenge?
  • How to choose a challenge topic
  • How to set your challenge up
  • Plus much more…

Let's jump straight to it!

Building Your Email List: Challenges 101Looking to build your email list? Have you tried challenges yet? Click through to learn more and grab your FREE cheat sheet!

Before I get into the meat and potatoes of this blog post, it will help if you understand what a challenge is from the purpose of building your email list.

A challenge is where you take your subscriber through a sequence of steps that results in them taking massive action on an area that they are struggling with.

You will have heard of health and weight loss challenges; where for 30 days, you eat healthily, avoid bad foods, and follow an exercise regime.

That's a great example of a 30-day challenge.

But your's doesn't have to be this long. In fact, if you're selling services or online courses, or digital products, a shorter challenge time frame tends to work best.

Challenges are a great way to build engagement with your community, particularly when you use them in combination with a launch.

But I've also found huge success with having a ‘challenge' running live every few months. Ultimately, it's up to you how you want to manage your own challenge and whether you offer it live or “evergreen”.

For now, understand that a challenge is meant to help your reader overcome something they are struggling with.

Ok, now that you understand what a challenge is, it's time to figure out what challenge will work for you and your readers.

Building Your Email List: Choosing a Challenge Topic

Coming up with a challenge topic is a lot easier than you might think it is.

In fact, you might already have an idea or two about what your readers need help with the most, but if you don't, then guess what your next step is?

To find out…

If you've never surveyed your list, now would be a good time to do this.

You can do this in one of two ways (both are simple to set up).

#1: Ask questions via email

If you choose this option, you'll need to make sure that your email service provider gives you the option for one-click segmenting or tagging.

If you're using ConvertKit or Active Campaign, congratulations, you're in luck, as both of these providers do this for you.

If you're using Aweber or MailChimp, you'll need to dig around to find out if this is possible.

Either way, here are the steps you would do to set up this survey via email:

Step 1: Setup tags and automation rules.

In ConvertKit (or your preferred email provider), set up automation rules for the questions you're planning to ask.

In the example below, I've used three questions. For each question, I'll be linking to a specific resource on my blog that aligns with that question.

I'll be using the rule “when someone clicks a link, add them to this tag”.

The tags that I would use would be:

  1. Tag 1: Challenge Idea: List Building
  2. Tag 2: Challenge Idea: Blog Planning
  3. Tag 3: Challenge Idea: Scheduling

Set up your tags first, as this will make life a lot easier. In ConvertKit, you set up your tags under the subscriber tab, or you can create them on the fly when doing your automation rules below.

Step 2: Create your email. Keep it short and sweet.

Let your readers know that you're wanting to better serve them and need their help with identifying the areas they need the most help with.

Then you can provide them with blog posts, workshops, and video training on those topics (hint: these could be challenges and/or paid products!).

Ask 3-5 questions and for each question, choose the link trigger you set up in the previous step.

This will auto-magically add them to the tag when they click on the question. You'll have hyperlinked to a blog post or thank you page relevant to that question.

For example, here's what this might look like if I was sending out an email to my subscribers:

What is the #1 biggest challenge you're facing right now in your side hustle?

“Lise, I'm struggling with list building. I'm stuck.”
“Lise, I can't get any consistency in my blogging, help!”
“Lise, my to-do list is soooo loooong. I have no time!”

Go ahead and click the answer that best suits and you'll get access to more information that will help you right now.

As soon as one of my subscribers clicks one of those ‘links', ConvertKit will add them to the tag I set up and also send them to the link I specified in step 1.

This will take about an hour to set up from start to finish.

Or you could also do this using a survey platform like Survey Monkey or Typeform.

#2: Run a Facebook poll

Your other option is to run a Facebook poll on your business page or group. This allows you to reach people who might not be on your email list.

You can ask the same questions and then check the responses via the poll.

If you belong to some Facebook groups that are relevant to your niche, ask if you can post the poll inside there too.

Once you've got your survey results, it's time to figure out what your challenge topic will be.

The most obvious option would be to go with the question that gets the highest amount of clicks or responses.

This would be the challenge I'd recommend you choose to help you in building your list.

If there are a couple of questions that are close, then wahoo for you, you've got two challenges to create!

This is why I created two challenges because these were the questions that had the most responses from my survey.

Before we move on to the next phase, I'd recommend that you do this survey at least once a year or every 6 months, to make sure you're staying on top of what your audience wants.

Building Your Email List: Setting Up Your Challenge

Now that you've identified the topic for your challenge, you've got to decide a couple of things:

  • How long will your challenge run for?
  • How will you deliver your challenge?
  • Is your challenge ongoing or launch-related?
  • What do people do after they complete your challenge?

If your challenge is aligned with helping people with online stuff, then a challenge that is 5, 7 or 14 days will work best.

If you're taking people through a transition, such as weight loss, healthy eating habits, or teaching them something, then consider a 14 or 30-day challenge.

Or, you could ask your audience this as part of your survey in the previous section 🙂

Grab the challenge cheat sheet

Delivering your challenge

There are many options when it comes to delivering your challenge.

As with any freebie you offer, you could choose to have your challenge delivered via email only.

You could also create a video-based challenge where you host it on a platform like Teachable.

You could also choose to keep it inside a private Facebook group and provide videos and resources there or deliver FB live's throughout the challenge.

It's up to you and what you feel will best fit your audience.

For my older challenge, 7-Day Side Hustle Challenge, this is an email course that links to pages on the website.

For the two other challenges I did in 2020, these were video courses that I did inside a Facebook Group; drip-fed throughout the three-five days of the live challenge.

It's your choice. Choose whatever option is best for you and your readers.

At a minimum, you will have an email sequence component. This is the easiest way to notify your subscribers about the challenge and prompt them to access it each day of the challenge.

Is your challenge ongoing or launch-related

If you're looking to build your list, then setting up your challenge as ongoing is a great option.

But, if you've got something to launch and you want to ‘go big' then having your initial kick-off challenge as part of your launch strategy is a smart option too.

I've seen this work well for both.

As I mentioned, 2020 saw my two challenges responsible for bringing in a lot of subscribers to my list, and I know they are going to do the same in 2021 and beyond.

A challenge as part of a launch works really well. When I did the Content EcoSystem Challenge, I launched my 30 Days to $5K Program and had 5 people sign up just from that challenge. I made over $2,000 in 5 days by showing up and delivering content that my audience wanted…

Just a little something to consider when setting up your own challenge.

What do people do after finishing your challenge?

If your challenge isn't part of a launch, then what will your readers do after they complete the challenge?

What's their next step? Do you provide them with a soft-sell into a paid product? Provide them with more blog posts and video training?

This will depend on where you're at in your business. If you've got a paid product and it fits in with the next step after finishing the challenge, then it makes sense to soft pitch your product or service.

If you're not quite ready to do this, then provide them with more value, link to blog posts, video training, or a workshop you're doing online.

But provide them with something more! Otherwise, you could lose them as they lose interest in you and your brand because you're not appearing in their inbox anymore.

Next Steps

If building your email list is a major goal for your business (and let's be honest, it should be), then incorporating challenges as part of your email strategies is a great way to add subscribers to your list.

Bookmark this page to refer back to later and start with the survey of your list, so you've got a place to start in creating your own challenges.

Building your list doesn't have to be hard, not when you start incorporating challenges as part of the process.

Grab the challenge cheat sheet

Lise Cartwright
Lise Cartwright

Founder of Hustle & Groove and your creative business strategist. If you want to get notified of new posts just like the ones you see here, then make sure you join the awesome H & G community — Join Now!

    2 replies to "Building Your Email List With Challenges"

    • Elise Dopson

      This is such a handful guide! I just recently started building my emailing list but have no idea where to start with it, but actually asking your audience is such a great tip that I never thought of!

      • Lise Cartwright

        I’m glad you found this helpful Elise! I know, the simplest things are often what we overlook, but they also seem to have the biggest impact! Good luck!

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