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Advanced List Buiding: The Cake Construction And How To Use It

A while ago I wrote an introductory post to List Building, list building 101 if you will. This week I’m doing a follow-up on that post, in the form of Advanced List Building, essentially list building 202 – an advanced post about how to use Email List Building for marketing. I’ll be explaining my own signature method of using blogging to build your list. It’s called The Cake Construction, and was mentioned briefly in How to Grow Your Tribe and Market Like A Ninja. I’m going to go into it in more detail for you know, as this is a core concept I use in my content marketing strategy, and in planning blog schedules, both for myself and my clients.

Imagine for a moment a giant cake. Like a wedding cake, with four big fat tiers of cakey goodness. The bottom tier is very large, the next one up is smaller, but still quite large, the third tier is a medium size, and the top most tier is small. Each tier of The Cake represents a form of content in your business. When combined to form The Cake Construction, this content is a marketing machine that will grow your list at a phenomenal rate.

If for some reason you don’t like cake, you can think of it as a pyramid, but I like cake, so…

Advanced List Buiding: The Cake Construction And How To Use It

Tier Four: Free Content

The lowest tier in your cake is tier four, and it consists entirely of FREE CONTENT. Free content can be just about anything but the main forms you should definitely be using are:

  • Blog posts
  • Guest Posts (blog posts on other people’s sites)
  • Interviews
  • Newsletters
  • Social Media Posts – tweets, status updates, memes, videos etc.
  • SWAG – bookmarks, pens, postcards and other very cheap marketing materials featuring your business name, logo, website, and/or quotes and images by you.
  • Tasters & Testers – a mini version of one of your products or services
  • Tutorials (short and sweet)
  • Vlogs
  • Webinars

The reason this tier is so big is because you need to produce free content in swathes. It must be high quality, despite the fact its free. It must showcase your Zone of Genius and just how awesome you are. It must tease all your knowledge, but not give away the farm – keep the best bits back. It needs to be SERIOUSLY TASTY free content – entertaining, helping, informing, or a combination of the three. It has to make your ideal clients fill their bellies and purr like a kitten. Then it has to make them rub up against your legs begging for more. You need a LOT of free content so you can keep that kitty happy and get it used to eating your delicious cake.

Tier Three: Freebies & Upgrades

The content in this tier is still 100% free, but they do come with a very small, non monetary ‘price tag’, in the form of an email address. This is where your list building starts, but don’t be fooled – you can’t have this tier without the tier below it. Tier four is your base, it’s the foundation of the construction, without it everything else falls down. Your free content is what shores up everything else and makes the whole magical machine possible…

But how does it work?

Freebies

Freebies should only be available for download in exchange for an email address and the agreement that it will be added to your list. It should be abundantly clear that people can unsubscribe from this list at will, and yes, you WILL get people signing up, nabbing your free stuff, and immediately unsubscribing, just like you will have an unsubscribe rate of about 1% every time you send out a newsletter.

Them’s the breaks, kid, suck it up.

Some great ideas for freebies:

  • Cheat sheets
  • Worksheets
  • Guides
  • Short eBooks
  • Desktop backgrounds
  • Planners

Content Upgrades

Any piece of 100% free content from tier four has the potential to be UPGRADED. For example, you have a totally free post (just like this one) that provides oddles of quality content, and then you add something to it. Something extra. You UPGRADE the blog post, or the vlog, or the guest post, or the interview, or the webinar, so that there is an extra awesome thing, directly related to the piece of content, that will either help readers action what they have been reading, further their understanding of the subject, or simply provide them with something pleasant but useful. You will very soon be able to download a nice poster version of The Cake Construction, as a content upgrade for this post (it was supposed to be available today, but the site is glitching so you’ll have to bear with me!).

You will notice I refer to this tier as the ‘low price’ tier. This is not because people are paying you MONEY. They’re not. But they are still GIVING YOU SOMETHING. They’re giving you an email address, which is worth a lot more than you think. Because once you have their email, once they’re on your newsletter list, once they’re on this level, getting them to graduate to the next level up, and the one after, gets a LOT easier!

Content upgrades are the very essence of The Cake Construction. You start by getting people hooked on something totally free of charge, you then offer them something BETTER, that requires a tiny bit more of a commitment – an email address. This steps them up a notch on your client ladder. They’re on your list. The next step after this is to get them to pay you cashy money for something…

Tier Two: Medium Priced Products & Services

Your next tier up is tier two, and it’s a reasonably large wedge of cake, but nowhere near as big as tiers three and four. Tier two products and services don’t have to be related to what was on offer in your third and fourth tier, but it really helps if they are. It’s a lot easier to convince the cat it’s worth paying for a larger slice of a cake they already love, than it is to convince them to buy a cake they haven’t tasted yet. Linking your content across tiers relies on the established relationship and experience the cat has had with you, the other requires them to take a leap of faith and trust everything you do is as good as the cake they’ve already eaten. Once your cat has been chowing down on your free content for a while, they will be addicted to the yummy cakey goodness of you and gladly hand over their email for more cake, taking them up to your third tier. Once they’re there, you can offer that happy little cat something EVEN BETTER in exchange for a SMALL amount of money. The cake on this tier is far superior to the free content, freebies, and upgrades. Your kitty cat will happily hand over a bit of cash to try it.

Here are some good second tier cakes:

  • Full Length Book (eBook and/or print), rather than a free guide or short eBook (< £15)
  • Full Versions of Your Tasters & Testers (<£15)
  • Masterclasses – in-depth tutorials that last c. 1 hour (Membership Club Content @ c. £10/Month)
  • Low Price Products/Services (<£30)
  • Short Courses (£20-£30)

You’ll notice I’ve assigned a numerical value to each suggestion. These are rough guides, and the exact price you charge will depend on your overall prices, but you should think of these items as The Cheap Seats. They’re introductory level products and services and you should have a range of them – different items, for different prices, from about £5 up to around £30. Books are great at this level, especially if you can link them to a high-priced product or service (see below). Short courses are also brilliant, especially if they follow on from free and full tasters and testers.

The idea is really very simple: create content that can incrementally increase in value and skill level. You can do the same thing with blog posts. Just as I did a basic ‘list building 101’ blog before I wrote this one, and will go on to blog about list building in more detail in the future. You build a catalogue of posts on a single subject that get progressively more and more advanced. If they become advanced enough you can make them exclusive newsletter content, only available to people on your list. The next step after that is setting up a paid membership club with a monthly fee, which gives members access to your best blog posts and some really high quality exclusive content, like master classes and webinars.

Tier One: High Priced Products & Services

Here we are at the top of your cake, and despite the fact this is the elite tier, the crème de la crème of your cake, it functions in much the same way the previous tiers did. This level of products and services is better than the last – more valuable, more advanced, more highly priced (and prized!). You can actually have five versions of one eCourse if you’re smart about it: an elite bells and whistles edition that’s top-tier, a full but not elite edition that’s tier two, an advanced edition and a full but basic edition for tier three, and an introductory and totally free edition for tier four. For example, you will soon be seeing this develop on The Write Copy Girl, as I will soon be launching The Divine Blogging Challenge, a free course to help you plan your blog schedule using my signature method. Some time after that I’ll be launching a low price (c.£15) Tool Kit to walk you through building a 12 month blog schedule, and a an advanced version of the Tool Kit including additional guidance on how to monetise your blog. The next step after that will be a full-blown eCourse, followed (at some point) by a live version. The trick is to ensure that each version has a lot more value than the last, while simultaneously covering what was included in the less advanced versions for anyone who’s not done them.

Designing Your Cake

You will notice I’ve described each tier in terms of price but that I’ve also marked tiers one to three with ‘Master’, ‘Journeyman’, and ‘Apprentice’. This is because there are two ways to ensure your offerings are more valuable the higher up the cake they go: one is to do it by price, from free to high, the other is to do it by skill level. When you’re first learning a new trade you are an apprentice. Once you’ve been at it for a while you become a journeyman, and when you really know your stuff you take the title of master.

Your paid-for content should be divided according to price or skillset. Many products don’t require different levels of skill to use, so you must divide them by price. Supermarkets are brilliant at this – they have a cheap Value range, the everyday brand range, and a Premium range. Tesco, for example, have Tesco Value, Tesco, and Tesco Finest. Sainsbury’s has Sainsbury’s Basics, Sainsbury’s, and Taste the Difference.

Think of your first tier as the free tasters you get at the supermarket. As you’re walking around doing your weekly shop you can sample cheeses, breads, crisps, all sorts of yummy treats. If you like them, you’ll find the product right next to the sample stand, ready to be picked up and put in your trolley. It doesn’t matter which range the sample is from – value, normal, or finest – if you like it you’re likely to buy it. If you’re using the low, medium, and high price model, determining what goes in each tier is simple, you just need to decide a price bracket for each and ensure you have SOMETHING in every tier.

For other products and services, you need to consider things from the point of view of the client and their skill set or current level of need.

Skill

Are they totally new to the concept, craft, or subject you’re selling? If so, they’re an apprentice, and need easing in. They will have to start on tier three because they don’t yet know enough to handle the higher tiers. Once they have some experience and are more of a journeyman, they can try the next level up. Once they’ve got a lot more experience and are getting really good, they’re a master, ready for the top-level you offer. Your free content is there to get them hooked to begin with, to convince them that, yes, they really are interested in learning about this.

Need

Dividing based on level of need is similar to skill, in that a person doesn’t need the tools of a master while still an apprentice. It goes beyond this, however, as you can have clients who are at master level in terms of knowledge, but don’t currently require the top-level materials or services. A good example of this is when you’re just setting up a new StartUp. You can have extensive knowledge when it comes to business etc. but because your business is brand spanking new, you don’t yet have an email list. You still need the software though, so you choose a provider and signup for a plan. You will select the lowest tier plan on offer, because you don’t currently have a lot of subscribers on your list. As your list grows, your need grows, and you will have to upgrade to higher priced packages to accommodate your growing list and business. Here, the level you are at is determined by need, not skill. In all other respects, however, the manner in which you allocate products and services to tiers is the same as that used for skill sets, so I include them in the same model to save confusion.

If you’re dividing your products and services using the apprentice, journeyman, and master model, price isn’t the point, skill level is. You might charge more for your apprentice course, products, or services, because they need to be broad in range, time consuming, and/or high in volume to get people started. You might charge more for your master course than anything else because once people reach that level, courses that can teach them new information are scarce. Price, in this instance, is irrelevant to determining what goes in each tier. Base it on skill level and/or need, not pricing. As with the price-based model you MUST have SOMETHING in each tier, but beyond that which tier things fall into is determined entirely by the skill level, or requirement of the client.

One final thing: free content (level one) should vary so that all your clients get good value free content, regardless of their level of experience, needs, or whether they’re already paying clients or not.

List Building 101: How to Grow Your Tribe & Market Like A Ninja

As business owners in the online world we’re well aware of the need for list building. It’s the key to tribe growth. It ensures your tribe is composed of ideal clients – people you love to work with, who value you. We understand the power of an Email List. We know that having direct access to our ideal clients’ inboxes will sell our products and services. But knowing what steps to take for effective list building is tricky. List building allows you to market like a Ninja.

It’s also a constant effort.

And what exactly is an email list? How exactly do you go about building one?

Here are some FAQs and three key things to remember about list building.

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO MY THREE KEY PIECES OF ADVICE ON LIST BUILDING.

What is an Email List?

An email list is exactly what it sounds like – a list of email addresses. They aren’t any old email addresses though. They’re special. These are email addresses for your ideal clients, your tribe. This is crucial to list building: your list MUST be made up of people who LOVE YOU and VALUE YOUR WORK. People who need what you have to offer. Who value your skills. People willing to give you something in exchange for what you’re offering. Initially, this will be their email address in exchange for a regular delivery of quality content direct to their inbox. You give them this for free. An email address for awesome content. That’s the deal.

Once they know, like, and trust you, they will happily give you more. A small sum of money in exchange for a low-level product or service. Follow this up with a higher sum of money for a mid level product or service. Finally they hand over a big bucket full of cash for a tip-top products or services. Generally the last goal is selling one very high ticket item. It can also mean taking a client on retainer. A small to medium fee, paid frequently, is often worth more than a one-off high price sale. For product-based services, these are your repeat clients. They buy multiple products and come back time and again. They’re first in line when you release something new. They rave about you to anyone who will listen.

Do I really have to make List Building part of my business?

No. You don’t HAVE to do anything. Your business, your rules. If you don’t want an email list, you don’t have to have one. I’ll be honest, building one is hard work. It takes a consistent effort. It’s often extremely frustrating, at least initially. But…

It makes everything so much easier.

What software do I need for List Building?

You can build an email list using basic software, or you can go all out. It’s really up to you. You cannot use your normal email account for a list. It MUST be a proper structure in place to manage your list. You MUST allow people to easily subscribe and unsubscribe at will. Which means at a MINIMUM you will need to use Email Marketing Software.

Email Marketing Software.

There are a lot of options for good Email Marketing Software, such as Mailchimp, Mad Mimi, or Active Campaign. I started with Mailchimp and now use Active Campaign. This is not JUST to make your life a lot easier (it will!) it’s a legal and moral issue. You can’t arbitrarily put people on mailing list, they must OPT IN. They must be able to OPT OUT at any time.

It boils down to data protection, common decency, and common sense. You want the people on your list to LOVE YOU AND WHAT YOU DO. If they don’t want to be on your list, you don’t want them there anyway! Uninterested and inactive members of your list will skew your data. You don’t want that. You’re trying to use this list to build your business. You’re ultimately looking to sell people things. Which means you really don’t want to piss them off.

Set up an account with an Email Marketing Software provider. Use it to to manage your list (or lists) and send email campaigns. You can hire email marketing experts and campaign managers if you don’t know what you’re doing, or haven’t the time or inclination to do it all yourself.

Optin Forms and Popups

Aside from this, people need a way to get on your email list, so make sure there are plenty of opportunities on your website and social media. You can install a range of plugins on your website that create Opt In Forms and pop ups in various places and formats. I use PopupAlly Pro, which is a premium plugin, but there are plenty of excellent free options, such as Magic Action Box (which is what I used before I upgraded). You want to make your optin forms as unobtrusive and polite as possible, so that they don’t get in the way of people reading your website, but are also obvious enough that people sign up.

Landing Pages and Sales Pages

In addition, you might also want to get something to help you create beautiful and highly converting landing pages. Some popular choices are Leadpages, Profit Builder, and Unbounce (I use Profit Builder).

Do I need freebies to make people sign up to my email list?

The short answer is yes. It’s worth having a form or two on your website that encourages people to sign up so they don’t miss a post. But, realistically, most people on your list are going to end up there because of a freebie. Think of it as a transaction, You aren’t giving something away for free. Potential clients are buying something for the price of their email address. Yes, some people will signup, get the freebie, and immediately unsubscribe. Most people won’t. Most people will stay on your list for at least a little while. This gives you chance to build a relationship with them. Which makes it more likely they will buy something in the future, for cash. You need to get people on your list before you can sell to them.

If your blog posts are truly spectacular you will find people sign up to ensure they don’t accidentally miss your posts. In most cases, however, you need more than the promise of never missing a blog post to get people to sign up.

Can I buy email lists?

Again, the short answer is yes. It’s possible to buy lists of hundreds and even thousands of email addresses. You should never, EVER, do it however. For one thing, it’s unethical – the people on the list have no idea who you are, and didn’t agree to be on your list. For another, these are RANDOM PEOPLE and very few of them will have any interest in what you’re offering. Finally, any emails you send to a bought list are spam.

Your email might be wonderful and packed with great content, but if the person you’re sending it to didn’t agree to being on your list, it’s spam.

Nobody responds well to spam

So yes, you can buy email lists, but you shouldn’t – it’s unethical, ineffective, and a total waste of money.

Three Key Pieces Of Advice On List Building

Key #1: Content is Queen

Before you can really start building an email list you need to make sure your content is seriously high quality. There are two reasons for this:

  1. Your content is the incentive that gets people to sign up to your email list.
  2. Your content is what KEEPS people on your email list, engaging with you, and buying your products and services.

You need quality content, and lots of it. Ask yourself: who is going to decide what content you need and when? Who is going to write/design/create it? what about uploading, formatting, and scheduling it all? Who’s going to write and schedule your newsletter? Who will design and run advertising campaigns? How is going to network and promote your content in groups and forums? Who is going to promote your content on social media?

These are all essential tasks. Many of us never really get anywhere because we’re overwhelmed by the sheer number of things to do. We procrastinate. We want everything to be perfect, so we never begin.

Don’t do that.

You can absolutely do every single content-related task yourself, but you don’t have to. Outsource tasks you’re unfamiliar with, uncomfortable doing, dislike, or just don’t have time for. Whether you manage all content alone, outsource it, or settle on a mixture of outsourcing and doing things yourself, just remember that CONTENT IS QUEEN. Your content is the most important element of list building. Without quality content, you will never build a good list. If by some fluke you do, you will never keep your subscribers. And even if by some miracle you do, they will never convert into paying clients.

Key #2: Plan For Growth

If you’re using email marketing in your business, you need to PLAN. More than that, you need to PLAN FOR GROWTH. As mentioned, Key #1 is CONTENT IS QUEEN. But using any old content as and when you feel like it isn’t going to cut it.

Your blog schedule needs to be carefully planned to make sure it drives signups and sales. This means:

  1. Posting regularly and consistently.
  2. Always writing for your ideal client.
  3. Only covering topics your ideal client will love, relating directly to your products and/or services.
  4. Providing variety and value in every post.

If your posts are up to snuff, people will sign up to make sure they never miss posts. But if you’re really smart, you’ll plan more than blog content list building in mind. Plan your optin freebies to make sure they relate to your main topics. Ensure at least one thing in every blog post is an incentive to join your list. It might be a freebie that relates to the post. It might be the chance to enter a competition and win a free product or service. When you get really good at this, you will start upgrading your blog content. Content upgrades make sure your most popular posts come with free content. This means creating worksheets, cheat sheets, guides, and other downloadable content. These items accessible while reading and allow people to ACTION what you’re talking about.

You short, your blog schedule should be carefully planned to ensure and sustain the growth of your email list, sales, and business.

CHECK OUT: HOW TO PLAN A KILLER BLOG SCHEDULE THAT DRIVES SIGNUPS AND SALES

Key #3: Let Them Eat Cake

Yep, you need to go all Marie-Antoinette for this one…

In order for an email list work, you need a business that’s structured to take advantage of email marketing. This means you need at least four tiers in your business in terms of products, services, and available content. I like to call this THE CAKE CONSTRUCTION.

The Cake Construction

In a nutshell, The Cake Construction is a business model that relies on attracting clients to you with tasty treats, i.e. CONTENT. You’re going to divide your content into four tiers, which in my world form a CAKE. A four tiered CONTENT CAKE

Tier Four

The lowest tier of your cake is how most of your tribe will get on your list. Tier four is FREE CONTENT. It needs to be SERIOUSLY TASTY free content – providing entertaining, helping, informing, or a combination of the three. It has to make your ideal clients fill their bellies and purr like a kitten. Then it has to make them rub up against your legs begging for more. You need a LOT of free content so you can keep that kitty happy and get it used to eating your delicious cake.

Tier Three

Your cat is now addicted to your yummy cakey content. Which means you can offer that happy little cat something from the next tier up. This is in exchange for a SMALL amount of money. The cake on this tier is even better than the free cake. Your kitty cat will happily had over a bit of cash to try it.

They LOVE your free cake. It’s unbelievable you have BETTER cake. They simply MUST try it! And it’s such a low price it’s DEFINITELY GOING TO BE WORTH IT.

Cake on this tier can be similar to your free content but must be even more valuable. Full versions of your tasters and testers work well. For example, I offer a free blog post to all potential clients to give them a taste of my services. The next step up is to buy a full length post with all the bells and whistles.

Tiers One and Two

Now your cat happily pays for your cake, you can start tempting her with more decadent offerings. The exact products and services you offer on each tier will depend on your business, your clients, how you price things, and whether you divide your offerings by price, skill, or need.

THE CAKE CONSTRUCTION - LIST BUILDING 101 - HOW TO BUILD AN EMAIL LIST - EMAIL MARKETING - HOW DO YOU GET PEOPLE ON YOUR EMAIL LIST - MARKETING

By Price

If you’re dividing by price the price range for each tier will be relative to your business. You may not have anything on offer above £50. You might not have anything on offer less than £500. Businesses vary widely when it comes to pricing, which is why I don’t include price guidance on the three paid-for tiers. Look at your offerings and divide them into low-, medium-, and high-priced products and services.

By Skill

When it comes to skill, look at it in terms of the knowledge level of the client. Are they an apprentice (a newbie)? A journeyman (someone with some experience who is still learning)? Or are they a master (someone who knows the subject well and is looking for specialist knowledge)?

By Need

If you’re dividing by need, consider your clients’ various levels of need. Think about how each of your products caters to them. For example, I offer single blog posts for people who only need a one-off post. I offer twelve post bundles for clients who only need one professionally written post per month. These also cater to clients who don’t need posts regularly enough to have me on retainer. My top-tier service, The Divine Blogging Design, is for clients who need their blog written week in, week out.

Whichever method you use, make sure you have at least one thing on every tier. Make sure your free content caters to all levels of skill and need. That way, your list building efforts will work for all potential clients, regardless of skill or need.

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