It's always eye-catching to see case studies about businesses who improved their revenue by 10,270%, sold 6-figures worth of product in one launch, etc.

But, it can be incredibly disheartening when you compare the results from these success stories to your own business results.

Especially when you might be operating with a small team and limited resources to power your efforts.

However, this quote is always a good one to keep in mind when getting caught in that comparison trap…

“Never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.”

I refer to this quote often when speaking with business owners who are just starting out, and might not be gaining traction as quickly as they hoped.

All this being said, today I wanted to share with you a case study, that is, the story of a small but mighty team of 2, that achieved big growth in their email list.

But what's so different about this success story? The success was a direct result of a number of small changes implemented over 11 months. It was not a success that occurred overnight.

The key takeaway? A number of small changes implemented over time can have a large compounded impact.

And, I'm going to share with you exactly what you can do to implement the same changes in your own business.

A quick introduction to Something New For Dinner (SNFD)

Something New For Dinner, a food blog, referred to internally as SNFD, just so happens to be a pet project, that is a joint effort between my mother and I, along with other family members.

Working in a kitchen (literally) on a September Thanksgiving to be ahead of the game for SNFD's highest traffic holiday.

My mom creates all the site content (which in my unbiased opinion is fabulous). If you are looking to cook more often and need (1) some recipe inspiration and (2) want to better understand culinary concepts so you can break free of recipes, somethingnewfordinner.com is the place to go.

I, on the other hand, am in charge of all things marketing and tech.

Likewise, because SNFD is not a client project, it serves as my digital marketing playground.

What do I mean?

Well, essentially, I have the freedom to experiment with new (and old) marketing techniques without having to answer to a client. Let's just say, it's a ton of fun.

However, due to an incredibly busy work schedule focused on Bixa clients, I work on Something New For Dinner only a few hours every week, on Sunday evenings. Therefore, I'm VERY motivated to prioritize high-impact, low effort marketing tactics for SNFD.

If this sounds like tactics you are also interested in prioritizing (and let's be honest, who isn't?), read on.

It's simpler to turn your website into a list-building machine than you think. Download our list of 5 Tools Anyone Can Use To Grow Their Email List & Generate More Leads With Their WordPress Site. Click here to request your copy now.

Crunching The Numbers

Let me share some interesting stats with you about Something New For Dinner.

  1. This food blog was started in November 2013, as a fun family project. My mother has always been an amazing cook, and as her friends and family asked her for her recipes. SNFD became a way to share these digitally.
  2. The blog started off small, with less than 100 visits per day to the site. Now, in it's 3rd year, SNFD averages around 45,000 visits per month. It hit an all-time high on Thanksgiving, with over 15,000 visits in one day!
  3. While traffic has been steadily growing, what has been most amazing about the site is that readers actually MAKE the recipes on the site.
  4. Since the site inception, my mother has sent out an email every Monday to subscribers, highlighting new recipes on the site.

Ok, so this is all good, right?

But here's the thing. We didn't focus on actively collecting email addresses (converting web traffic into email subscribers) until last July…in 2015.

Dumb, I know. This is what happens when you have a side project. Or when you're running a busy business. Obvious things slip through the cracks.

So why is it important to convert web traffic into email subscribers? Because you then have a list of (1) people interested in hearing from you and (2) leads to whom you can sell your products or services.

Do you see where I'm going with this? As many other marketers like to say, the money is in the email list.

Now, there's an art and a science to building a relationship with your email list…which is key to generating money via your list. And this post is not going to be dedicated to that topic (although a future one may be).

Instead, I'm going to share with you the number of small tweaks we made to the SNFD website, that allowed us to improve email list growth by 3,316.67%.

Let me get you drooling by sharing this small graphic with you.

What SNFD's email list growth has looked like over the past 11 months...

What SNFD's email list growth has looked like over the past 11 months…

The summary?

  • As of June 2015, SNFD was averaging a dismal 6 subscribers per month.
  • Starting in July 2015, after one small change, the average number of monthly subscribers shot to 44 per month.
  • In May 2016 (this month), after another small change, we collected over 212 subscribers in one month.

Ready to learn how we did it?

The Small Tweaks We Made to the SNFD Website

Small Tweak #1 – Set Up A Website Popup

The first small tweak we made? We added a popup to the website, designed to convert website traffic into email subscribers.

Popups, albeit sometimes annoying, when presented in the right way, force website traffic to make a choice: Do they want to hear from you again?

Because if you never ask, or your ask is hard to find, you'll never get a yes or no answer.

And the truth is, you ABSOLUTELY want a yes or no answer.

A “Yes” tells you who is really interested in what you have to say. We can all agree this is important.

Equally as important is getting a “No”. Why? Because this tells you who does not want to hear from you again. And likewise, you can stop putting wasting energy on an uninterested party.

Let me say that one more time in a different way, because it's a crucial piece of the marketing puzzle. An uninterested “No” allows you to focus your effort on the interested “Yes”, thereby prioritizing the individual that is more likely to result in a conversion.

Do you see how that distinction could propel your marketing to the next level? Because you are only focused on those who are most likely to do business with you?

Ok good. Before we move on to Tweak #2, let me show you what SNFD's popup looked like.

Tweak #1: The popup used on SNFD's website

Tweak #1: The popup used on SNFD's website

It's not super pretty, but the copy is compelling, and the popup formats properly on mobile devices.

Favorite technologies you can use to power your own website popup include SumoMe, Popup Domination, LeadPages, Drip, ConvertKit and Bloom.

Small Tweak #2 – Implemented An Automated Welcome Series To Nurture Leads

The next tweak was focused on nurturing new subscribers that joined Something New For Dinner's email list.

The goal was to introduce onboard new prospects by:

  • introducing them to the SNFD brand and making them feel a part of the family,
  • answering one or some of their frequently asked questions,
  • giving them a list of actionable tips,
  • telling them a success story about one of the SNFD readers, and
  • setting expectations about future emails.

This type of email series, which runs on autopilot, serves as the first impression for new subscribers.

A good welcome series permits them to know, like and trust you! By the time these subscribers are ready to buy, they are more likely to purchase from you instead of from your competitors.

A preview of one of SNFD's automated emails, as previewed on a mobile device.

Adding this to SNFD's email marketing program substantially increased the level of engagement among new email subscribers. Additionally, it has improved the open and clickthrough rate across the entire email list, which is over double the average in its industry.

It's simpler to turn your website into a list-building machine than you think. Download our list of 5 Tools Anyone Can Use To Grow Their Email List & Generate More Leads With Their WordPress Site. Click here to request your copy now.

Small Tweak #3 – Created A Lead Magnet

Now this tweak was perhaps the most involved out of all the efforts described in this blog post. Why? Because we created a digital cookbook, which meant a fair amount of time dedicated to writing and designing this lead magnet.

However, we were able to repurpose old content and just put it into a different format, which saved a lot of time. I highly recommend going this route, especially if it's your first time creating a lead magnet.

So what is a lead magnet? I'm glad you asked!

According to The Digital Marketer, a lead magnet is “an irresistible bribe offering a specific chunk of value to a prospect in exchange for their contact information.”

The cover of SNFD's lead magnet

The cover of SNFD's lead magnet

In a nutshell, in order to receive SNFD's lead magnet (15 Recipes To Make You Look Like A Star), website visitors had to give their email address.

The lead magnet download link was then added to the first email in the automated welcome series. New subscribers receive access by opening up their first email from SNFD.

Now, a mistake I see many businesses make when using lead magnets on their website, is they don't deliver the lead magnet in a follow-up email. Instead, they give the download link on the thank you page after subscription.

Don't do this!

Why?

The new subscriber then has no incentive to open your first email, which means a lost opportunity to communicate other valuable information. Also, an opened email boosts your overall email marketing performance, reducing your likelihood to get put in spam. And, equally as important, it trains your new subscriber to associate your emails with valuable information.

Do note, lead magnets don't always have to be ebooks. Other forms of lead magnets include:

  • Discounts & coupons
  • Resource lists
  • Videos
  • Educational courses delivered over email
  • Infographics
  • Checklists
  • Free consultations
  • Free samples
  • Free trials
  • Webinars
  • Swipe files

Small Tweak #4 – Added A Content Upgrade To All Recipes

The evening of April 25, 2016, we added the same lead magnet, 15 Recipes To Make You Look Like A Star, to all recipe pages, as a content upgrade.

The next day, we received 2 new email subscribers. 35 days later, and this content upgrade has generated 65 new email subscribers.

Now, what the heck is a content upgrade?

Great question.

According to Pat Flynn of SmartPassiveIncome.com, “a content upgrade is simply bonus content that people can get access to in exchange for their email address. Unlike traditional “site-wide” lead magnets, however, content upgrades are unique to the specific content that people are already reading or listening to on your site.”

In short, people who were reading (and making) recipes on SomethingNewForDinner.com, would also likely be interested in a free e-cookbook that showcased SNFD's best recipes.

So we embedded some technology on all recipes pages that allowed us to collect email subscribers and deliver the free content to all interested parties.

The content upgrade technology embedded in an SNFD recipe

The content upgrade technology embedded in an SNFD recipe

The popup linked to the content upgrade, that collects contact information.

The popup linked to the content upgrade, that collects contact information

Now, there is definitely some room to further expand upon the existing SNFD content upgrades, and I have some (potentially) brilliant ideas up my sleeve. I'll keep you posted on how these pan out.

How can you add content upgrades to your own site?

  • Step #1: Create a lead magnet that is related to your most popular site content. Look to your Google Analytics data to decide what you are going to write about.
  • Step #2: Embed a technology on your most popular (and relevant) web pages, designed to collect email subscribers, deliver the free content upgrade, and add them to your email marketing service. Tools I like for this purpose include SumoMe, LeadPages, Drip, Content Upgrades, ConvertKit and Bloom.

Small Tweak #5 – Added A Welcome Mat To The Website

Last but not least, this small tweak is what took the email list monthly growth average from 44 subscribers to 212 subscribers.

However, I caution you not to jump straight to this tweak without going through the other tweaks first.

Why?

SNFD's Welcome Mat would not be as successful without the linked lead magnet and automated lead-nurturing welcome series.

So what is a Welcome Mat?

It's a large, full-screen page that takes over your website (it's even more in your face than a website popup), encouraging email subscriptions.

In Something New For Dinner's case, their Welcome Mat promotes their free e-cookbook, giving extra incentive for website visitors to subscribe.

SNFD's Welcome Mat

The Welcome Mat can be closed by anyone who does not want to subscribe, allowing them to see the desired website content.

SNFD's Welcome Mat far outperformed their website popup, DOUBLING their opt-in conversion rate.

Of course, that meant we paused the popup from Tweak #1 and replaced it entirely with the Welcome Mat from Tweak #5.

If you're looking to add a Welcome Mat to your own website, I recommend SumoMe, PopupDomination or LeadPages.

It's simpler to turn your website into a list-building machine than you think. Download our list of 5 Tools Anyone Can Use To Grow Their Email List & Generate More Leads With Their WordPress Site. Click here to request your copy now.

Key Learning Lessons To Apply To Your Own Business Website

While this is certainly a success for Something New For Dinner, I want you to leave this article with a list of learning lessons and action items you can apply to your own website.

(And that being said, SNFD's conversion rate is still not as high as I would like it to be, so there are a number of initiatives I'm working on to improve it. But that's neither here nor there. So let's get on to how this applies to you.)

Here are my personal recommendations:

  1. Commit to making small, but high-impact tweaks to your website on an ongoing basis. These will help your growth exponentially over time.
  2. If you don't already have a popup on your website, commit to getting one up now. If you need help setting one up, we're more than happy to teach you how to do so using Bloom or to take care of the entire setup process so you don't have to worry about all the technology.
  3. Consider creating a lead magnet that you can use to further incentivize website visitors to become email subscribers. A word of caution…creating an effective lead magnet is key. So take some extra time when planning and researching. This way, when you unveil your lead magnet, it doesn't result in digital crickets.

It is my hope that at the end of this article, you're motivated to take action. Because let's think about it, what would 212 new email subscribers generated every month mean for your company? Would that materially increase the number of people interested in doing business with you?