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Why you need a lead magnet and content upgrades to build your email list

Updated: Dec 20, 2019

Three questions might pop up when you read this title.

“What is a lead magnet?”

“What are content upgrades?”

“Why do I need an email list?”

I will answer all these 3 questions, in reverse order. And you will also get a free download that will guide you through 4 easy steps to create Content Upgrades and Lead Magnets. But first, the answers to the questions. Let’s start with the why.

An email list in its simplest form is a list of email addresses. Nowadays, there are programmes you can use to:

1) capture email addresses

2) organise email addresses

3) design and automate emails being sent to your email list.

These are definitely preferable to just keeping your emails as contacts in your email account.

Why you need to grow your email list

Because it’s the best and most reliable way to connect and communicate with people who have had lessons with you or who are interested in having lessons with you. You may already have a Facebook page or other social media accounts, but to be honest – they can be unstable.

What I mean is that they are companies with their own agendas and they might suddenly decide to change their algorithms or starting to charge for parts of their service. So if you have 1000 followers on Instagram, but no email list, what will you do if Instagram goes bust? Or becomes less popular?

Email lists are more secure, and most of what you do marketing-wise should be aimed at list building. Do not build your house on someone else's land.

I have to be honest with you, I ignored this for a long time. I was actually quite blessed; I had a steady stream of students who found my website on Google, so I never had to think too much about building an email list. But it is one of the things I regret I didn’t do earlier.

So if you are at the beginning of your online teaching career, you will by the end of this blog post know LOADS more about this than I did only a few years ago. You will be at such an advantage.

Us language teachers tend to focus a lot of our time, energy and passion on what we do. In other words, teaching. We think about teaching methods, lesson plans, course books, language tests, homework, student encouragement and so on. This is what we do, this is what we love and what we are good at.

We may not feel capable at thinking in terms of marketing, social media and sales. That is a whole different profession, if not several different professions. Right?

Do we really have to learn all that too? Isn’t it enough just being a good teacher?

Well, if you work for a language school and you are employed, then yes. If you work for someone who takes care of all of that, and just pass students into your classroom, then yes. That is enough.

But if you want to work for yourself, find your own students, being able to work from anywhere, have the freedom to set your own hours and make both creative and strategic decisions, then no. If you want to be a Language Teacher Rebel, then you need some more strings to your bow.

Luckily, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. I have explored this area for more than 10 years. I have tried, failed, and tried again. And I can share what I know with you, so you don’t have to make the same mistakes as I did. And you can use some of the things I use that are tried and tested.

Back to the email list. You need to build one, if you don’t already have one. And if you have one, you can grow it and sell to it.

But how do we build an email list? With the new EU GDPR-rules, we can no longer buy lists with emails where people have not opted in. This is great, actually. This means less people will be spammed, and the people on your list will be truly interested in what you do and so more likely to respond and buy from you.

So how to we get them onto the email list? How do we get them to opt-in?

We do this by offering something that is so seductive and valuable, that they can’t help but signing up. There are different routes we can use, and in this blog post I discuss Lead Magnets and Content Upgrades.

Lead Magnet

A lead magnet is something that you offer for free in exchange for an email address. A lead magnet should be related to the purpose of your website or whatever you do, so for you – something related to learning the language that you teach. It could be an e-book, or a free email course or something like that, and it must be valuable to your potential students. Basically, it’s something that should ‘lead’ your students to your paid services/courses.

Content Upgrade

A content upgrade is a free download that you attach/link to from a blog post. Content upgrades should be something that is super useful and help people to save time, to organise themselves, or give more detailed information about the blog topic.

If you already have some blog posts, you can edit them and add content upgrades to them afterwards. If you know what blog posts are most popular (for ex through Google Analytics), you can target them to add your content upgrade to get as many people as possible onto your email list.

For a content upgrade to work, you need:

1. The item people can download

2. A landing page in an email programme (mailchimp is free up to 2000 subscribers, so it can be good to start with if you don't have loads of cash splashing around)

3. A welcome letter that automatically goes out from for ex. Mailchimp with a link to the download, or a second landing page with a link to the download (that directs to Google docs or Dropbox, for example)

You do NOT want to put a direct link in your blog post, so people can download automatically.


Because then you can’t get their email address. And the whole point of this is to get more people onto your email list. Do not give out anything without taking people’s email addresses. I repeat. Do not give out anything without taking people’s email addresses.

If you have many different content upgrades, you will have many different landing pages and welcome letters in Mailchimp. That’s fine. You will have a separate set of landing page + welcome email/second landing page for each content upgrade.

And remember, if you already have some blog posts, you should definitely have a content upgrade on your most popular blog post (preferable your top 5 most popular ones, if you can muster it). This is a email list building technique that works well, as those blog posts are already receiving traffic.

So, what’s the difference between a Lead Magnet and a Content Upgrade? Are they not just the same thing?

Well, they can be (content-wise). But a Lead Magnet is something generic and should appeal to any and everyone who arrives on your website. Content upgrades on the other hand can be found within a blog post and are specific to that post. Because a content is post-specific, it is usually much more relevant to a student than a generic lead magnet. And of course, like I mentioned above, you will have different content upgrades for each blog post. Whereas a lead magnet is just the same thing, and it’s somewhere on your website (ideally on your homepage so as many people as possible can see it).

Are you already thinking of ideas for your lead magnets and content upgrades? Or would you like some guidance on what steps to take when you are choosing yours, and some specific suggestions?

Click here to download an easy 4 step guide for how to choose them, and an ideas list (yep - this is my content upgrade for this blog post ;) )

Magnetic fields in action

#contentupgrade #leadmagnet #languageteacherrebel

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