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How to monetize an email list without Facebook

You don’t need Facebook ads to earn more from your email list. Don’t miss these 5 beginner-friendly email monetization tactics -- check out the guide today.

March 13, 2020 by Taylor Barbieri

The writing is on the wall.

Facebook may be great for many things, but your bottom line isn’t one of them.

Neither ads, paid subscriptions, nor groups are pulling in the revenue you want.

But you’ve got a great email list -- engaged, reactive, and responsive -- and that means you’ve still got options.

Monetizing an email list definitely doesn’t require buying Facebook ads to put your products in front of your subscribers. 

In fact, today, we have 5 easy-to-use monetization strategies for making money off of your email list with nary a Facebook ad in sight -- just pure, unleaded email marketing goodness that’ll convert subscribers to paying customers.

First up, let’s talk about paid subscriptions. They’re not just for memberships.

Tactic #1: Create a paid email newsletter

You may have heard creators raving about their earnings from paid subscription groups on Facebook

These subscription groups provide members with exclusive content and give makers a passive income stream. 

But guess what? You can create -- and charge for -- exclusive content through an email newsletter, too.  

72% of consumers want content from their favorite brands or leading content providers. 

Your curated or exclusive, high-quality email newsletter may just be what your subscribers are looking for and willing to pay for. 

Like other digital products, email newsletters give creators flexibility in terms of what they charge for their newsletter, the types of content they share, and how often they publish.

Consider The Browser as an example. The Browser charges only $48 per year or $5 per month but provides subscribers with five article recommendations and a daily video and podcast. 

The Daily Line charges $395 per year or $39 per month for its weekday emails. Their newsletter covers government reporting for Springfield and Chicago, Illinois, as well as the state of Illinois. 

Your email newsletters don’t always have to be text-based content, either. 

You could also share short videos, infographics, or even a podcast for subscribers to enjoy. 

Though, you may want to keep your content on the shorter end of things unless your customer research has shown that your subscribers love long reads. 

49.1% of emails worldwide are read on mobile devices. Mobile devices aren’t necessarily the most convenient for reading long articles or watching longer videos. 

Besides, most people only spend an average of 1 minute and 15 seconds on their phones when they pick them up. That’s not a lot of time to get absorbed into long content. 

To remedy that problem, consider including short summaries in your newsletter. You can then include links to the longer form content on an exclusive members-only blog or website. 

You could also divide your emails into discrete sections so your subscribers can easily digest each one if they read your email in stages. 

Of course, that begs the question of where should you host your email newsletter?

You could just create a simple sales page on your website and use any of the top email marketing platforms. This approach can become tedious to manage as your list grows, however. 

Besides that, you’ll probably need to cobble together multiple services -- a payment manager, website host, landing page builder, and more -- to offer your newsletter for a fee. 

That’s the approach this journalist took for his paid newsletter. Although this approach worked for him, he felt that a comprehensive service might have been more convenient. 

If sewing together multiple services isn’t up your alley, you could also host your newsletter on Podia, alongside all of your other products like online courses, digital downloads, memberships, and more. 

Sign up for a 14-day free trial today to see how easy it is to create, publish, manage, and grow an exclusive newsletter for paying subscribers.

And, while you’re at it, get ready to expand on your content, because the next step up from a paid newsletter for your subscribers is, of course, an email course.

Tactic #2: Create an email course

Maybe you want to cater to the Americans who feel they only have 26 minutes of free time per week and who don’t have the time for a typical course. 

Either way, you don’t want to offer an hours-long online course hosted on your website. Does that mean you can’t sell online courses?

Not quite -- you could produce an email course, instead.

Email courses could be text-only or feature a mix of text, videos, graphics, and digital downloads. 

As an example, AWeber offers Everyday Email, a 30-day email course about email marketing. The course provides text-based emails, but also offers a digital download of the 30 email tips at the end of the course. 

Your email courses don’t have to feature original content. You could distill your most popular blogs or videos into an email course, as well. 

And, as with online courses, you can charge whatever you like for your course, and deliver content as frequently as you prefer. 

The Publication Coach’s Extreme Writing Makeover email course takes place over 52 weeks and sells for between $239 to $259.

Conversely, Highbrow delivers five-minute lessons each day until a course is complete.

So, love the idea of running your own email course?

Then, check out these guides to coming up with course ideas and planning your course content for some extra guidance. 

Otherwise, let’s turn our attention to the most obvious way to monetize an email list -- with some not obvious pointers.

Tactic #3: Promote your own products 

Okay, okay -- promoting your own products via email isn’t a new concept. 

But hear me out: One reason why creators love Facebook is that it allows you to send hyper-targeted ads. 

But ads aren’t always the most effective or customer-appreciated marketing tactic. 

Recent research found that Facebook users clicked on only an average of eight ads in the past thirty days. 

That means there’s a slim chance of your ad being picked, especially if your followers aren’t frequent Facebook users. 

Besides that, 51% of consumers dislike ads because they’re uninformative, and a close 48% felt they were unrelatable. 

With email, on the other hand, your messages are delivered straight to each subscriber’s inbox. Chances are high that your audience checks their inbox more than their Facebook account. 

Email’s variable length also gives you more chances to educate, entertain, and connect with subscribers. Ads, conversely, come with specific requirements and limitations, which can put a damper on your creativity. 

Plus, email analytics, along with list segmentation, can help you send targeted offers based on your subscribers’ past purchases, pain points, and et cetera. 

That said, segmenting your list isn’t enough to get your audience to open and act on your emails. 

56% of people feel that they receive too many marketing emails. 55% of consumers ignore emails from businesses because they feel they receive too many of them. 

Therefore, use your customer knowledge to send relevant content and product recommendations to each segment. 

Wondering what you should say when you send promotional emails? You definitely don’t want subscribers to think your emails are too promotional, or even worse, unremarkable. 

Listing your product’s features is a tried and true method. 

However, you could easily do that in a short Facebook ad. 

Instead, play around with the limitless blank canvas email gives you. Tinker with your sales copy, email length, graphics, and more until your email stands out for the better. 

Experimentation can really pay off here. 42% of people will usually visit a brand’s website after reading an interesting marketing email. Another 18% are likely to make an online purchase once they do land on your website. 

Besides experimenting with your email’s layout and formatting, also use your email to evoke emotions in your readers (positive or negative). Then, talk about how your product can address those emotions. 

Let's look at an example. 

This email from HotelTonight evokes aversion, curiosity, and the indirect promise of a solution with a simple headline, “Don’t be disgusted,” alongside a picture of a man drinking mustard. 

They played on their emotions further by making readers scroll down to understand why they shouldn't be disgusted. 

The next line, “by how much you paid,” encourages subscribers to continue interacting with the email. It’s only by scrolling down that readers will discover what they overpaid for and how they could avoid doing so in the future. 

Lastly, the email wraps up by explaining what they overpaid for (hotels) and how they can avoid overpaying again (by using the Daily Drop tool from HotelTonight). 

Of course, you could take a simpler approach to jazz up your emails.  

Hotel Chocolat promoted their personalized chocolate boxes by pairing visually pleasing images with simple directions and a relevant CTA.

This is in contrast to many other product promotion emails and ads, which simply list a product’s features instead of telling their customers how to use or take advantage of them. 

Similarly, Lumi’s email turned their holiday gift guide into an easily scannable visual email. 

It would be difficult to present all of these images in a Facebook ad. But with email, subscribers can take in all of the products and determine if they’re interested within a few seconds. 

So, though Facebook ads do offer business owners design versatility, it’s difficult to match the design and emotional potential emails offer.  

In essence:

Email is a fabulous platform for both promoting new products and customer favorites. 

When you use data from your email analytics, segment your list, and give your emails creative flair, there’s no limit to what your promotional emails could achieve. 

Of course, all of this isn’t to say there’s no place for ads in your email monetization. Far from it. A well-placed ad can do wonders for your bottom line, and some of the biggest names in the industry do it.

Tactic #4: Include ads and sponsorships in your emails

Creators can include in-stream ads in their videos on Facebook or be “discovered” by businesses through the platform. 

While this setup can be helpful, it also diminishes your creative control and potential earnings. 

Instead, consider in-email ads and sponsored emails.

In-email ads can take on whatever form you wish. It could simply be a link, graphic, blurb, or short video a brand asks you to include in your email, or one you create on their behalf. 

Let’s look at an example. Remotive allows sponsors to include a sponsored link in their newsletter, such as these in-email links for Atoms. 

Selfish Giving gives sponsors multiple advertising options, from an in-newsletter sponsored link to two types of sponsored advertisements (such as the example below).

Sponsored emails are similarly versatile. 

A business could sponsor an email or email series based on a topic relevant to their industry, and have you link back to their website or product. 

You could also dedicate an entire email to talking about how beneficial another business’ product is or how it’s improved your life. 

Consider this email from Whole30 as an example. Whole30’s email was dedicated to talking about how convenient Thrive Market makes it for Whole30 followers to buy diet-compliant groceries. 

You’ve probably noticed that advertising and sponsorship rates vary as widely as the number of formats out there. 

The Podcast Host charges £500 for a mention in their newsletter, for instance. The Seattle Globalist, on the other hand, charges $300 for a newsletter ad in their weekly newsletter. 

So how much should you charge for email advertisements and sponsorships?

As with many things, it depends. Specifically, it depends on the size of your audience, what your sponsors are willing to pay, and, most importantly, what you think your time and influence are worth. 

It’s probably more than you think.

61% of consumers said that getting information from “a person like [myself]” could be very or extremely reliable when forming an opinion of a company. 

This can give a company’s bottom line a significant boost, especially those trying to break into new or competitive niches.

Nevertheless, you don’t want to lose your subscribers’ trust by promoting other businesses too frequently. 

Though 22.9% of people said an influencer’s paid recommendation had the same weight as an unpaid one, 44.2% said their trust in their recommendation depended on how much they trusted the influencer already. 

Therefore, you may want to only send sponsored emails to certain segments of your audience, or after you’ve established a solid reputation as a trustworthy creator. 

OK. Our final tactic doesn’t involve you talking up your own products or anyone else’s. But boy-oh-boy, it can be a fabulous way to drive more sales. 

Tactic #5: Promote your affiliate or referral program

You could ask for referrals on Facebook. 

But chances are your request would soon be buried in your followers’ news feeds by hundreds of other posts. 

You could also ask members of your affiliate or referral program to share their affiliate links on Facebook, but those would probably soon be buried as well. 

By using email, your customers can send their affiliate links directly to their friends’ inboxes. Even better, your subscribers can share links directly with a friend who may be more likely to convert instead of their general online following. 

Affiliate-friendly emails help creators monetize your list (albeit indirectly) by having email subscribers drive sales to your business. 

59.3% of brand-loyal customers will refer their friends and family to businesses they’re loyal to, and a well-designed email may increase that rate. 

To that end, you could follow Maude’s example and use your CTA to generate an invite link that can be shared on social media. 

To make things easier, you may also include a personalized referral link within the email itself, as Equal Parts did. 

To encourage more referrals, remind your subscribers how much they can stand to earn from sending new customers your way. 

For instance, Printful displays their highest monthly earners in their newsletter round-ups, giving new affiliates a goal to strive toward.

Also, use your emails to emphasize how much your customer, and subsequently, their endorsement, mean to you. 

Consumers who feel emotionally connected to a business tend to remain a customer for longer -- 5.1 years, according to a recent study.  

They also tend to have a 306% higher lifetime value (LTV) and recommend brands at a rate of 71%. For reference, those who consider themselves to be satisfied with a brand recommended at a rate of 45%. 

Look, there’s so much to gain and little to lose by making it easy for your email subscribers to recommend you. 

Encouraging and incentivizing referrals can not only drive more sales, but it can also reward happy customers for their recommendations. 

For more information on using affiliate marketing to boost sales, check out this guide affiliate marketing.

Ditch the Facebook ads for good and monetize your email list on your own

It may feel strange to say, but you don’t need Facebook ads to earn more from your business or your email list.

Whether you don’t use Facebook or haven’t seen high returns from using it, there are ways you can monetize your email list without using Facebook ads to funnel products back to your subscribers. 

Five ways creators can start earning more from their lists include:

  1. Publishing a paid email newsletter
  2. Releasing an email course
  3. Using email to promote your products
  4. Accepting in-email ads and sponsorships 
  5. Encouraging affiliates to share their links or refer customers

Will it take time to see some traction from these tactics? Yes. But unlike Facebook ads, you don’t have to put any money down to get started, and it’s all profit once you get rolling.

So, get to rolling, and remember, if you’re ever in the market for a platform to sell your email newsletters, email courses, and manage your affiliate program, Podia is here for you.

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