Finding Hidden Profit In Your Email Newsletter — Lesson Six

Tobin Slaven
Apr 29, 2017 · 7 min read

Building Your List of Subscribers — Part II

This is part SIX of TWELVE lessons in the Finding Hidden Profit course on Skillshare. You will also find links to each of the 12 lessons in the video notes.

Please note: If you are NOT currently a Skillshare member, here is my link [I am an affiliate partner] for a free 30-day trial (more than enough to take the full FHP course and any of the other 15,000+ courses available) on

The Common Advice On Growing Your List

In Lesson Six (Part II) we are going to talk about taking your list from 100 subscribers to 1000, 5000, or even 50,000.

Think it can’t happen? Google the story behind some of the most popular “newsletter first” businesses (like the ones profiled here) and you will see that many of them started as side hustles that went from passion projects to big time media companies.

First getting 10,000 then 50,000 then 500,000 or more subscribers is what powered those trajectories.

There are tons of great resources out there about how to grow your list. Just Google it and you will tons of training programs and expert advice. And the number one strategy you will see is called the “creation of a lead magnet.”

What is a lead magnet?

A lead magnet is usually a downloadable something (free report, white paper, cheatsheet, coupon, checklist, or ebook) that is offered in exchange for a person’s email.

I have created a ton of these, for myself and for clients and I can tell you they can be a ton of work, to do the research and actually create something that people actually want.

And to be honest, I have seen a change in user behavior in the last year or so where people are just getting tired of this bait and switch game of lead magnets. Maybe they will give you an email address — but it is one of their throw away addresses that they never check except to collect their freebies.

I have been much more impressed with the people who create awesome content (including the free reports, ebooks, etc) and they just give it away for free (which reminds me, I need to change my own homepage) with no opt-in required. But then at the end of the good stuff, they invite you to stay in touch so you get their next dose of good stuff when they put it out.

This “give value first” approach is very similar to what we are doing with the newsletters. With each new edition that we send, we are making deposits in the relationship bank with our readers.

But to grow the list, we need something that will get people’s attention.

That is why I love giveaway contests…

A Strategy That Is Working Better

For several years now I have been testing and using different strategies for lead generation and audience building online. It is my full-time job between my own projects and work for my clients.

Nothing… repeat, nothing is working better to grow your list quickly and in a big way — than giveaway contests.

And I am not talking about big prizes like winning a free car. Most giveaway contests are smaller — between $100 and $500 in value. In fact, I know one online marketer who gave away $2 bundles of rope (he is in the survival niche) and ended up building a list of over 30,000 names. Watch the video here with Matthew Longley.

The point is — if the prize is viewed as valuable by your audience, they are going to sign up for a chance to win and that gives you a chance to make an impression on them so they stick around as a subscriber to your newsletter.

But there is one more reason why these giveaway contests are kicking butt. When you add contest mechanics to a valuable prize, then those who enter the contest can increase their chances of winning by sharing the contest with friends.

Key point here: If all you do is award extra chances to win by spamming their friends, that kind of contest only attracts spammers. But you can set the contest mechanics so that they sharer (the first person who enters) actually helps their friends chances of winning too — which means they are getting social currency (they look good) for helping their friends. That is how you create a giveaway contest that goes viral.

Audience/Prize Matching

There is an art and science to running a successful giveaway contest. Fortunately there are a ton of great resources online. One of my favorites is the blog over at — which is the tool I use to run my contests.

Note: Btw — I am an UpViral affiliate. So if you think you are going to buy this software to run contests, hit my up with an email (Tobin [at] and I will make sure you get some bonuses in exchange for allowing me to collect the commission.

There are a number of different software platforms you can use to run contests. So read below for more links…

How to get the most entries…

Far and away the most important thing in running a successful contest is matching the right prize with the right audience. This not only matters in getting a lot of entries/subscribers, but more importantly getting a list of people who you will want to keep as subscribers after the contest.

The last thing you want is for a bunch of people to enter the contest, and then immediately unsubscribe the first time you send your newsletter.

For a long time — it seemed like everyone was doing a random drawing to win an iPad (the sexy tech device at the time). But what did that actually do? It just attracted a bunch of people who wanted an iPad but no connection to the people running the contest.

Here’s what it looks like when you do it right…

Let me give you an example from one of my friends, Christopher Kerry of

Christopher is a talented and classically trained artist, who uses markers for his illustrations. And he teaches others how to do the same with his online courses.

For his giveaway contest, Christopher offered a set of Copic Markers — not just any set, but the $500 set that an artist would kill for kind of set of markers. In fact — the first contest he ran went so well he ran a second one later in the year and between the two he added over 90,000 emails to his list!

90,000 contest entrants!

Christopher found the perfect match between what his audience (amateur artists who want to improve their skills) desired (professional tools) AND it also started a great conversation because after the winner was chosen, Christopher could then explain how aspiring artists could combine the right tools with his tutorials to create amazing illustrations.

And now Christopher and his partner run a full-time business teaching others how to create art — a passion that is near and dear to their hearts.

List of Tools and Resources

So I mentioned above that my preferred tool for running contests is Upviral. Note that none of these links are affiliate links, because my goal here is to inform you about your options, not sell you on something you may or may not need.

If you do decide to buy — reach out to me and I will see what best deals I can help hook you up with…

Other giveaway contest platforms that I have used are KingSumo, LeadPages, RaffleCopter, Gleam, and Heyo. I am sure there are more out there, but these are the ones I have used directly, and I am not sure a comprehensive list is what we need right now.

A simple tool can be very powerful when combined with the right plan of action and that is what really makes the giveaway contests go viral.

One More Advanced Strategy

One last thought — and this one is an advanced strategy that best applies if you already have 1000+ subscribers. But I am seeing more and more joint venture giveaway contests showing up on the scene.

In fact — this is a strategy that I will be focusing my efforts on for myself and the other MustTryIt! Media partners because it is a great way of working together to achieve bigger results.

In a nutshell, a joint venture giveaway contest (see the video in Lesson Six for an example) is when several newsletters join together to co-promote a contest. They share the cost of the prize and promotion.

After the contest, each of the partners follows up with the entrants and individually builds their own relationship with them. This kind of idea works great when there is a common theme or interest amongst the joint venture partners — for example folks related to the wedding industry. Because there are so many needs to plan a wedding — it makes sense for the promotion to include different providers who want to build a relationship with the engaged couples.


Your homework for Lesson Six is to make a list of 10 things that would be AWESOME prizes (less than $500) that your audience would stoked to win.

Why a list of 10?

There is something that happens when we stretch our imaginations — the same way we exercise our body and build muscles. I first got this idea when I read this blog post (and also a great book) by James Altucher on how to become an idea machine.

The basic idea is that the first 5 ideas will be easy. If you are struggling to get 10 ideas, then set a goal to do 20 because it is not that the ideas are not there, you just have to get them flowing. Maybe only one of the ideas will be good, but that one could be a game-changer that sets your life on a whole new trajectory!

So grab a pen and paper and make your list of ten. Then tomorrow, do a new list of ten and exercise that idea muscle!

This was part SIX of TWELVE lessons in the Finding Hidden Profit course on Skillshare. You will also find links to each of the 12 lessons in the video notes.

Please note: If you are not currently a Skillshare member, here is my link [I am an affiliate partner] for a free 30-day trial (more than enough to take the full Finding Hidden Profit course and any of the other 15,000+ courses available) on

And if you would like to see an example of my own, personal-branded newsletter called [Tobin Today] you can subscribe here (sent each Thursday morning):

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store