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January 30, 2024
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February 13, 2024

February 6, 2024

Episode 130: The Best Opt-in Email Strategies for Small Businesses

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In today’s social media-driven world, you may be thinking, “Email marketing? Isn’t that outdated?”

The answer is a resounding no.

Email has again and again proven to be the best marketing channel in terms of ROI, generating an estimated $36 for every $1 spent. That’s a 3500% ROI—which far surpasses social media’s estimated return of $2.80 for every dollar spent. 

While organic social media has limited visibility, emails are a direct line of almost guaranteed communication between you and prospective customers who have already expressed interest in your products or services—making it a powerful tool in your marketing strategy.

In this episode of Priority Pursuit, we are sharing the best opt-in email strategies for small businesses so you can build your email list and take advantage of this crucial and effective marketing tactic. 

What is an “opt-in”?

Before we can get into the best opt-in email strategies for small businesses, we need to discuss what we mean by “opt-in,” which is also commonly referred to as a “lead magnet.” 

An opt-in is simply an incentive—such as a guide, video, discount, or something of worth—that you can offer a potential customer in exchange for their email address. The goals of an opt-in or lead magnet are to provide value to prospects so that you can build a relationship with them and get them into your sales funnel.  

What are the best opt-in email strategies for small businesses? 

Now that we know what an opt-in or lead magnet is, let’s break down the five best opt-in email strategies for small businesses. In other words, let’s talk about the kinds of opt-ins you or your marketing team can create that tend to deliver the best results for small businesses. 

1. PDF Lead Magnet

This might not seem super exciting, but one of the easiest and still highly effective opt-ins you can create is a PDF guide that helps prospects solve a problem of some kind or better understand a particular topic. 

For example, your PDF lead magnet could be a comprehensive guide that provides in-depth information on a specific topic your prospects want to know more about. Or, it could be a how-to guide that walks your audience through how to complete a task. It could be a template—such as an email template—that your audience can use to quickly complete a task. It could also be a case study, an industry report, or even simply a resource list. 

As a marketing agency for small businesses, we love PDF lead magnets. First of all, they are a great way to serve prospects. Second, they have a pretty high conversion rate of 3-10%. For the record, when we say “conversion rate,” we mean the percentage of people who see an opt-in and decide to share their email address to get the opt-in.

Now, 3-10% might not seem like a lot, but if 1000 people come into contact with your PDF lead magnet, that’s potentially 100 warm leads. 

We also recommend PDF lead magnets for small businesses because this kind of opt-in is also relatively easy and affordable to create. 

If you want a PDF opt-in, all you need to do is write amazing copy and design the PDF. Here at Treefrog, our content team writes the copy. Then, our design team designs the PDF to make sure it matches our clients’ visual brands. 

While we will always recommend working with professional copywriters and graphic designers for the sake of quality and so that you can focus on other important aspects of your business, the great thing about PDF lead magnets is that you can create them yourself, meaning if you don’t have the budget to work with a copywriter or graphic designer, you can write your own copy and then use a tool like Canva to design your PDF.

Between their simplicity and being able to provide valuable, helpful content to your audience at a high conversion rate, PDF downloads make great lead magnets for small businesses. 


2. Discounts & Promotions

Another kind of opt-in that your audience might love is a discount or promotion lead magnet. We’ve all been on websites where we’re asked to enter our email address to save 10% on our first order or to receive some kind of savings or access to a special promotion. 

Discount and promotion opt-ins like these are great because they give prospects an instant win—making your website visitors highly likely to take advantage or opt into giving you their email address.

The average conversion rate of discount and promotion lead magnets varies pretty vastly from industry to industry. However, retail businesses especially tend to have great success with this particular kind of opt-in with conversion rates anywhere between 20 and 50%

Imagine if half of the people who visited your website shared their email addresses with you. That’s so many new prospects being added to your email list!

That being said, discount lead magnets aren’t for everyone, and before you start running an opt-in like this, please make sure you know your cost of doing business. For some, giving a small discount absolutely makes sense. For others, especially those with high-ticket offers and for many service-based businesses, giving a discount of any kind isn’t necessarily a wise business move. 

Just to give a few examples, we’ve seen discount and promotion opt-ins work really well for retail and product-based small businesses and businesses that offer services that aren’t necessarily high-ticket offers—such as boutiques and even auto repair shops. 


3. Option to Subscribe at Checkout

Speaking of retailers, another kind of opt-in that tends to work well for them—or any business that makes direct sales through their websites for that matter—is simply adding an option to subscribe to special offers and updates at checkout. 

We’ve all seen this. We go to purchase something online and there’s a box that you can check to receive future promotional offers from the business. 

Looking at the data, the conversion rate for a subscribe-at-checkout opt-in varies pretty drastically from industry to industry, so we don’t want to give an exact conversion rate. However, if you sell products or services online and you aren’t currently giving customers this option, you’re likely missing out on business.

Think about it. Chances are, if you’ve already sold one product or service to a customer, they’ll probably be interested in purchasing from you again. As a result, they’ll likely happily share their email address with you at checkout, and they won’t forget you when they see emails from your small business on a regular basis. 


4. Quizzes

Another lead magnet small businesses can use is a quiz. Believe it or not, quizzes actually have a very high conversion rate of nearly 50%.

Compared to other kinds of lead magnets, quizzes can take a lot of work to create. After all, you have to develop questions and then personalize the potential results. However, with a 50% conversion rate, quizzes are worth the work. 

In case you’re having trouble thinking about a quiz that would work well for your audience, here are a few ideas:

      • Assessment Quiz - A quiz that evaluates or assesses the reader or something about them. For example, if you’re a financial advisor, you might have a quiz called “Evaluate Your Financial Fitness.” 
      • Product or Service Recommendation Quiz - A quiz that helps prospects decide which of your offers is right for them. 
      • Personality Quiz - A personality test that relates to your business. For example, if you’re an interior designer, you could have a quiz called “Unveil Your Design Aesthetic: Discover Your Design Preferences Based on Your Personality.” 

The possibilities are endless, and again, the conversion rates for this kind of opt-in are very high. 


If you’d like to learn more about quizzes and how to build them, listen to “Episode 067: How to Build Your Email List Using Quizzes with Josh Haynam of Interact.” 


5.  Webinars or Video Training

Last but not least, webinars or video training are another kind of opt-in that tends to work well for small businesses. On average, the conversion rate for webinars is about 30%. Now, this number varies pretty drastically from industry to industry. In fact, according to Livestorm, some industries see registration rates of up to 70%

Hosting live webinars certainly can be time-consuming, but because they are so effective, it’s often wise to include them in your marketing strategy before a big launch of some kind. Live webinars give prospects a sense of urgency to either attend your webinar live or watch the replay before it expires. 

If live webinars aren’t for you, you can also create pre-recorded video training pieces. Basically, you’ll record a video that covers a specific topic, and your audience can share their email address in exchange for the video, which they can watch at their convenience. 

Like with social media and web design, data certainly supports that video is an effective means of building your email list. 


Why do you need to know your audience before creating an opt-in? 

If you’ve listened to “Episode 114: How to Build a Sales Funnel as a Small Business,” you already know that you need an opt-in of some kind to have an effective sales funnel. 

That said, what kind of opt-in you choose should first and foremost depend on how your best customers want to consume information. Basically, if they like videos, go with the webinar or video training option. If they would rather have written instructions and checklists, go with a PDF download. 

Every piece of content you create should be for your ideal client, and this includes simply creating your opt-in in whatever format they’re most likely to prefer. 

That said, don’t be afraid to A/B test different options. If you can determine that your audience loves quizzes, for example, you can then create quizzes for your other products or services that will likely lead to big results. 


What should your opt-in be worth? 

Regardless of what format you choose, you want to make sure that your lead magnet is worth at least $10. We all have way too many emails in our inboxes these days, and as a result, most of us are pretty hesitant to share our email addresses. With this in mind, you need to make sure that your offer is worth it. 

This is also exactly why you need to have an opt-in as opposed to simply asking people to join your email list or subscribe to your newsletter. When you have something of value to offer—as opposed to simply taking up more inbox space—prospects are much more likely to share their email address with you. And, as we’ve already discussed, email marketing comes with big benefits. 


How can you help your audience find your opt-in?

If you want your audience to take advantage of your opt-in, you have to help them find it, and there are a few easy ways you can do that. 

1. Social Media Stories, Posts, & Ads

An easy place to start is social media. Create organic posts, stories, and other content that lead your audience to your opt-in. And don’t be afraid to share your opt-in again and again. This kind of content takes time and/or an investment to create. You want to get as much use out of it as possible. 

You can also run social media ads to your opt-ins. As we’ve discussed in past episodes of Priority Pursuit, organic social media just isn’t enough for most small businesses anymore. However, social media ads are a highly targeted and relatively cost-effective way for small businesses to promote their content, including their opt-ins.


If you’d like to learn more about social media ads, listen to “Episode 126: Why Small Businesses Should Invest in Social Media Ads.”


2. Blog CTAs

Another way to help prospects find your opt-in and to lead them through your sales funnel is to include calls to action in your blog posts that take prospects to your opt-in page—which is the landing page where they’ll share their email address with you so that they can access your opt-in. 

You can add CTAs to your blog posts or other content by including links throughout the blog post and by including a call to action at the very bottom of your blog post. Basically, you’ll want to create a graphic that tells readers what to do next. 

For example, if we go back to our interior designer quiz example, you might have a CTA at the bottom of your blog post that says something like, “Ready to create a space you love? Take our quiz to discover your design aesthetic based on your personality!” 

If this isn’t making sense, scroll down to the bottom of this blog post. You’ll see a CTA graphic that takes you to an opt-in page!


3. Website Popups 

Another way to help prospects find your opt-ins is by including popups on your website. 

Now, we know popups sound spammy, but when you’re legitimately offering value, your audience won’t mind. In fact, studies show that approximately 8% of your site visitors will happily take advantage of a lead magnet displayed in a popup. 

This might seem like a low number, but considering most of your website visitors will visit your site and not make an immediate purchase, popups are a great way to serve these prospects with great content and collect their email addresses to keep the conversation going. 


4. Podcast Episodes 

Last but not least—and probably not surprising—if you have a podcast or any other regular form of content for that matter—like a YouTube Channel—this is a great place to mention and lead your audience to your opt-ins.

After all, those who are consuming your content are clearly already interested in what you have to share, making them very likely to want your opt-in. 


How does an opt-in fit into the flywheel marketing strategy? 

Having a strong opt-in is only one aspect of the flywheel marketing strategy—which is the marketing strategy we’ve found to be the most effective for small businesses. And, if you want your opt-in to deliver results, your prospects need to hear from you after opting in for your lead magnet.

With this in mind, we want to encourage you to check out our new guide: ”The Most Effective Marketing Strategy for Small Businesses: The Flywheel Marketing Method.” This free guide walks you through every step of the exact marketing strategy we use to help our agency clients grow. And, it includes examples of the six emails you should be sending after a prospect receives your opt-in. 

If you want a full breakdown of the flywheel marketing strategy and to dive deeper into creating effective opt-ins that help your small business grow, be sure to check out our free guide!


Links & Resources Mentioned in This Episode


On “Priority Pursuit,” we are diving into the different marketing metrics every small business should be tracking to ensure business growth.



The Priority Pursuit Podcast is a podcast dedicated to helping small business owners define, maintain, and pursue both their personal and business priorities so they can build lives and businesses they love.

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In this episode of “Priority Pursuit,” we are sharing the best opt-in email strategies for small businesses so you can build your email list.



Leverage Kelly’s marketing experience, insights, and leadership to grow your business.

As the founder and chief marketing strategist at Treefrog Marketing, a co-host of the Priority Pursuit Podcast, a StoryBrand Certified Guide, and fractional chief marketing officer, Kelly Rice has spent more than two decades helping small businesses take their companies to the next level by providing trustworthy leadership and building effective marketing strategies and systems.

She has dedicated her career to helping small businesses succeed because she knows, firsthand, how hard they work to make their communities a better place. 

Still, many people undervalue the strength and ingenuity of small businesses, but not Kelly. She believes they deserve to have a marketing partner and strategy that works as hard as they do.

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