by Jane Sorensen

How to market your new project: incorporate design, create a landing page, and “get” your users

Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

Hi there! ??

Let’s say that you and I are both new marketers. I’m going to assume two things that might help you better relate to the journey of marketing your work, and the importance of starting right now.

First, you’re learning new skills — you’re always learning!— in order to:

  • better relate to other people in your field and milieu
  • be more useful to employers and collaborators, and
  • build ideas of your own because, of course, they’re cool.

Second, you prefer being in the background and doing good work. You have your moments of brilliance and you love it when they’re noticed. But, for the most part, you prefer making the thing rather than going out of your way to show it off, and some of this stuff makes you uncomfortable. Sufficiently modest and ability to craft things are two qualities you’d prefer being noticed about you. But you have to get noticed, first…

So with that, my fellow producers, I’m going to tell you things I’ve learned about creating a product or service for people, the landing pages that will get their attention, basic content marketing, and the rudiments of having an email list. Here’s the TOC:

  1. Designing your product or service to serve your users
  2. Communicate what you’re offering while you develop it
  3. Why email marketing doesn’t always suck — it’s necessary
  4. Integrating the mailing list with your website
  5. Landing pages — what they’re about
  6. Let’s talk about rewriting…
  7. How many landing pages should you have? And analytics…
  8. Opting people in? Send them a “Thank You”
  9. When free is lacklustre for them and a liability for you (and what to do about it)
  10. Multiple offerings require different list groups
  11. What you’ll see in the accompanying video

Designing your product or service to serve your users (as well as your creativity)

You are likely designing an idea based on a need you identified and a fun thing you are able to do. Now you’re trying to make it fit for other people. That’s okay. Remember: whatever people will be attracted to, it’s going to fit at least one of these three criteria:

  1. The customer is experiencing pain in getting from state A to A’ or B. There is an obstruction or a gap that they are having trouble negotiating on their own.
  2. The customer is getting around the obstruction or gap in a universal, habitual, or work-around kind of a way. But there’s frustration there due to inefficiency, extra steps, aesthetics, approvals. This is some thing they wish was either not a part of it, or else a lot clearer, easier, and faster.
  3. The customer has a deep desire for something like identity, currency, security, love, beauty, status, harmony, self-expression, self-actualization, or the attainment of a dream.

Figure out what you’re trying to respond to with your idea, and go out and ask people questions about this exact thing. If you get out of your own head and go out to try to hear what’s in other people’s heads, you’ll come up with some a-ha moments that will help you in two ways:

  1. you can design it into your product or service to better respond to their actual needs, or
  2. you can communicate to this exact need and demonstrate how your product will help them.

The research, the design, and the communication you’re doing is your value proposition. Features of your product/project correspond to your value proposition, but as your work develops, your features will evolve.

Communicate what you’re offering while you develop it

Too many people wait until a product is done, or nearly-done, before they start talking about it. Why?

They don’t want to appear to be charlatans, or unreliable. They fear competitive slights (which, often enough, come from hecklers and not actual competitors). But as explained in Traction, there are many different ways of reaching your customers, and only some of those are online. You need to start developing your traction channels, your communications, at the same time as you develop the product. By the time your product is ready, your audience should be ready, too.

You’re likely offering an app, a piece of software, a code extension, or content that comes wrapped up in a nice code-based wrapper. This leads us to talk about landing pages and the dreaded — boy, did I ever — email marketing.

Why email marketing doesn’t always suck — it’s necessary

I spent years resisting marketing.

Even before social media (perhaps being Canadian) and coming from a primary producer background and not from anything to do with marketing, I felt like self-promotion and sales were unseemly. If marketing and sales were subtle, sexy, and effective, it was obviously megabucks intended for the talented and beautiful, and totally out of reach (“all or nothing” thinking).

I learned the hard way:

  1. Your friends and your network — even if they love you — are not a helpful channel to your customers. They might not even have your customers as part of their network or audience. Never mind the people you know. Go find the people you want to serve. (Fortunately or unfortunately, both are on social media — and if you are, too, you’re at risk of being distracted or misdirected.)
  2. The things that annoy you about others, or fear doing yourself, are probably things you should be doing. Do what others do, but do them in a way that would not annoy you if you were the target audience.
  3. If no one knows about your business, service, or product, you don’t have a business or profession, you have a hobby. So quit shrinking from it and start marketing.

Over the past year, I gradually retracted and then quit all social media that wasn’t serving my interests. If it’s not bringing you leads-for-better-living, it’s not working for you. If it’s costing you time, equanimity, or social capital, it’s working against you. The opened-up window in my daily habits brought me back to paying attention to my email box.

And, between the two, I started getting better at doing my work. Email is still a serious conduit to getting work done, and I’d been “phoning it in” on the email front for a long time.

In all honestly, abusive marketing tactics and email volume (hello, one good reason for GDPR!) were what made me so bad at handling email. Opening your email and finding nothing but information and notifications you don’t need, and you have to turn them off or unsubscribe, lowers the quality of the experience of using email.

This makes you lax about paying it attention. It also buries what’s actually needed in your inbox — I have a reputation of being late to the party as a result. Volume and quality of information and getting lost in threads and chains and forks is probably why many businesses switched over to Slack for communication.

Even with all that, there are some emails I LOVE to get. When I sit down on Sunday nights to read and “process” them, I share the crap out of the articles I read. (Likewise, if I like a tool I’ve tried because it helped me get something done, I tweet it out.)

Email marketing has an impressive ROI over other social channels. Unlike other social channels, you own the connection to them. Have you noticed Facebook and LinkedIn’s contacts list protect the contact so that communication takes place over that same platform? If that’s the only way you can get in touch with them, then that person isn’t really “in” your network. Instead, you’re only part of a network. When you have their email or phone number, they are.

Another advantage to getting to know your customer, and letting them get to know you, is that email is relatively private communication (barring any bcc: or privacy abuse). Email isn’t subject to the observation of friends on social media who might pay attention to upvotes, downvotes, and interactions. Email isn’t subject to the algorithms that bump your response and profile up or down in visibility and priority, depending on how many people outside the relationship say whether you’re important or not.

For that, email is refreshingly old-fashioned and well-behaved. The truth remains: the people you let into your email box, if they make themselves good guests, are welcome to continue to be your guests. They may even become “friends” you like, respect, share, and buy from.

Since learning a lot more about email marketing, and emboldened by CASL and GDPR, I now reply to emails that are enjoyable, helpful, or seriously annoying. So I’m figuring out how to use it to deliver goods to people who want to be my customers.

These are the best practices I’ve decided on for communicating with people on my list.

  1. Don’t post too often. Set an approximate schedule of monthly (my choice), bi-weekly, or weekly, and give them an anticipation of when the next one might be. If it’s more often than that, I’ll only do it for a special event or a fundraiser. Any marketers reading this: I hate your daily / 3x per week emails. I really do. You’re trying to attract lazy-email people, and you’re being a jerk to people who try to be conscientious.
  2. Write the highest-quality email I can write, with a reason for them to open it, and a personal point of view included. I give people a reason to enjoy my email, and to understand why it’s pertinent or important.
  3. Still, be succinct, and tease them a little — curiosity gets clicks — but not if I don’t need that click. People respect it when you’re complete and not trying to get something out of them. People respect it when you keep it brief — not too brief, more than a headline and image — but let them click through when they want more.
  4. Don’t make a large image in an email clickable. Different people’s computers have rendering time lags, and you can assume they’re multi-tasking. Accidental clicks are sneaky and annoying. Make every click obvious but intentional.
  5. Even if I do get big, to not ever “noreply” the email address I send from. I make it clear with my two lists that I’m a real person who’s happy to hear from them at any time. When I encounter a “noreply — go to knowledgebase/tech support,” I feel like they don’t have much concern for how my input can improve their output.

Integrating the mailing list with your website

(The only how-to technical detail you’ll see in this article!)

I’m using MailChimp and WordPress as examples. How to integrate these?

Easy. They have an API key, and a plugin. These are not specifically shown on the accompanying video, because of screen real estate and forgetfulness, so I’m bridging the gap.

Sign up for MailChimp (or one of the other list services I mention below) if you haven’t already, and grab your API key. Then download the MailChimp plugin, as shown here, and enter it. These are the only two screens you need. The “Store Settings” tab is for your name, address, time zone, and currency of choice:

The Mailchimp plugin to integrate with WordPress and WooCommerce. The “Mailchimp for WP” plugin helps you make prettier forms for your website, and update them globally by using a shortcode. You‘ll see this in action in the video.

By the way, this article is NOT going to discuss pop-up, slide-in, or lightbox email opt-ins. They are powerful for easily persuading people to subscribe and they also put people into groups on your list — but the learning curve for implementing pop-ups isn’t fast or easy. It depends on your WordPress theme, pop-up plugin, how it works in Bootstrap/other CMS, and which mail service provider you choose (MailChimp, ConvertKit, Ontraport, MadMimi, ConstantContact, AWeber, and others).

When it’s time for you to make a pop-up, dedicate time and money for learning, creation, and repeated testing. There’s a section on pop-ups that we mostly cut out of the accompanying video because plugin updates “busted the build” (as we used to say at one company I worked at). You can see what the pop-up looked like and a bit of the back-end nonetheless.

Landing pages — what they’re about

As you probably know, a landing page is a webpage that informs the user of your offering and forces them to do one thing: visit your website, download your app, subscribe to your email list, pre-register their interest in your course, event, book, product, or other development. But let’s take it back a notch.

The landing page is about removing as much friction as possible between the user and the a-ha! by contextualizing their pain, their frustration, or their desire, and how you’re solving it for them. Users’ patience, interest, and attention is short. Get out of their way. It’s the “main focus, call to action/sign up.” Landing pages are going to be useful to you, because they gauge people’s interest.

So you need to be clear about the idea, about what you’re doing, and you need to strip out any extraneous stuff, like your social links, “About”, or any other menu navigation. If they’re determined, they’ll truncate your URL back to your domain and poke around— which is why pro marketers buy a unique domain for every product or campaign. It’s not only an SEO strategy. With this in mind, I resisted putting any navigation on my WordPress site until I had to have it, and then I put it at the bottom of the page.

When you give people a path out of the action you want them to take, even “more information,” they take it, and almost always don’t convert. This is why there are landing page services out there that use that unique URL and use matching-headline ads and affiliation marketing to drive traffic to it.

Dear reader, all this sounds like a PITA to me, too, but you must eventually do this as part of developing your digital marketing channels. Just remember: there’re more ways than digital channels to market your landing pages and your product. They can be effective and, in person, more enjoyable.

Below is a checklist for what you need to do, and what your landing page needs to contain:

  1. Write out your value proposition in 250 words or less (more about writing, below.) Neither jargon nor high-level it (“There’s a block, and then there’s a chain!”). Think of one specific person you’d like to talk to, and write like you’re talking to them.
  2. Pull five of those sentences — the most powerful, clear ones that can make a semblance of a complete argument — and use those in your landing page.
  3. Now consider that your landing page, alone, is your value proposition. Whatever you are doing there will create and satisfy curiosity, or it won’t. Use that curiosity and place one call-to-action — generally, sign up to the email list (or “waitlist,” until you have something to announce) — “above the fold,” or within the first screen of the landing page.
  4. Then, use an explainer video, some storytelling, testimonial pull quotes, an image, and other persuasive writing. These ensure that the user understands the use case, a reason why you’re offering this thing now (if it’s not yet available), and how it can help them.
  5. Provide a final call to action and make it central, obvious, and compelling. In one talk I attended on this topic, they mentioned having a cartoon or an image of a person looking directly at the CTA, and how well it “converted” people. Conversion means people who believe your copy enough to want to provide some value — that is, their information — in exchange for learning or obtaining more. You’ll then be able, as you’ll soon see, to get a rough idea about who’s ready to support or adopt your idea.
  6. Take advantage of SEO on the chance someone does a search — put in keywords for either the most similar idea out there, or a three-word phrase based on the user’s likely search term for their need. Use short URLs that match your text. (Example in my video: “schedule better.”)
  7. Don’t get anxious or jealous about how slick bigger companies’ landing pages are. They may be using an agency to help them or a landing page provider. Once you’ve learned how to do this the from-scratch way, you’ll be better able to evaluate the many landing page solutions that’ll do the same for you. Though it’s not slick, MailChimp provides you the ability to make unique campaign landing pages on your account, and this is covered in the accompanying video.

Let’s talk about rewriting, because you’ll be doing it a lot

Don’t let anyone gaslight you that you can’t write, that you’re “confusing,” or any other critical comment that deflates you when you’re actually pouring your heart or anxiety into it. Hint: you should write from the heart. Anxiety keeps you sharp, and too many people have a 2¢ opinion. Just take the useful feedback and make a change. Here are a few tips that will make any writing better:

  1. Write in your own voice. Get out of your own way and write. Tell it like you would to someone you know and like. If you actually know a member of your “ideal customer” audience in real life, talk to that person.
  2. Pronoun use: If it’s you and someone else or a group, say we. If it’s just you, say I. Screw fake-it-till-I-make-it: honesty disarms and connects. Own your work!
  3. Make long sentences short.
  4. Chop long paragraphs into two or three.
  5. Paste it into the Hemingway app and make sure that it’s no higher than Grade 9. Grade 6 is even better.
  6. Read it aloud. Does it sound like you? If not, fix it.
  7. Bump up the good humour!
  8. Make a headline for the landing page — and a matching social media lede, and email subject line — that is clear, curious, and bold. Write about 20 different headlines. This is super important. I have a long history of writing things off the cuff. I never learned specifically how to write a good headline, yet I found I’ve got a good instinct for them. Reading resources on headline writing will always inspire me to come up with phrases I’d never have thought of on my own.

Then show it to someone else, or let it fly, and edit it (again) later. The days of frozen content are long gone, so don’t be perfectionistic.

After initial traction of your landing page and after you’ve ironed out any technological or copy glitches for conversions (people subscribing or downloading), and if you’ve got a product/service ready, start submitting your landing page and details to aggregators. This is a step I’m not even ready for yet, and it’s more PR-centric. That said, one that you probably should have top of mind, as a coder, is ProductHunt.co.

How many landing pages should you have? And analytics…

Landing pages

Are you just starting out? During your customer interviews, you should have a decent idea of your “Ideal Customer” (also called a persona). Then, you should also have a good idea where they might be on social media or which other businesses have them on their email lists. Talk to the business owner and ask them if they’ll give you a mention in exchange for writing them some content or some other thing you can do for their customers. This is intimidating, but it really can help your reach.

If you know your market well, you will have one primary “Ideal Customer” and up to two secondary. Determine their overlap, and determine any powerful difference. Also determine if you want to have different goals, for example: order the product, download the app, or hand over their email (also known as lead generation).

In my opinion, the overlap, the difference, and the goals you have for each is the number of landing pages you should have. So if you have two goals for your landing pages, and two segments with an overlap, then you have six landing pages to do. But start with the main segment and its goals. Once that “engine” is working for you and you want to broaden your reach, you can start creating the secondary landing pages.

There are different ways to get your “Ideal Customer” to click through your landing page.

You can put the link in an email footer, or mention it in a forum or in a Slack channel — but please make sure you do this in relevant conversations where you’ve hopefully had a prior presence.

You can share it over social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) — this is a well-known route, as are ads, but also try putting it on a flyer or a free handout/sample of your work.

Simply tailor the message for each type of share you do — and be savvy about matching the message headline or key point, so that the content of the landing page meets the expectations of the lead that brought them there.

Advanced readers who know this multi-channel approach: I haven’t even gotten that far with my own offering. I have two landing pages and a few channels, but insufficient differentiated targeting. Newbie readers: we all get there, and I recommend doing the messaging in batches, and scheduling them into the next week (you’ll see how in a moment). Always seek opportunities to casually share what you’re doing!

After setting up more than one landing page, and more than a couple of channels, it helps to create a unique URL for each landing page and the channel through which it gets seen. These are called campaign URLs, or UTMs.

It will help you, in these cases, to use a social media scheduling tool like HootSuite, Buffer, SproutSocial, or Edgar, which might do the UTMs for you. There is also a tool on Google Analytics for creating UTMs. (At WordCamp, Kissmetrics was mentioned for this purpose, but I haven’t checked out their suite yet. Comment if you know the deal!)

Analytics

But first, everybody! Make sure your Google Analytics is set up. As you’re probably new to it, you need to make sure Google Analytics and Search Console have your domain and XML maps of your domain. You’ll want to know what pages visitors come to and how, and how your traffic arrives. Search Console, not Google Analytics, tells you the search terms a visitor used to end up on your site.

When you set them up, create a “Behaviour Goal” for when they land on your “Thank You” page (next section). Basically all you need to do after inputting the XML map is that one Goal, and then let GA run.

I had a conversation before with a non-profit webmaster for whom everything was quite busy with daily blog posting. But “busy” is not an excuse here. Setting up your analytics requires a morning or an afternoon to get yourself in, oriented, and get the bits verified. After that, however, you can let it be.

It will give you a wealth of information over time, so don’t faff around and waste that opportunity, even if most of your traffic is driven by, for example, your site members (like the non-profit’s was). Members share links with friends. Everything is a learning process — set yourself up to learn. (I would have loved to have known what the non-profit webmaster’s demographics were, as we share a customer persona, but she couldn’t tell me.)

The campaign URLs (UTMs) I mentioned above help you see your best communication channels and your conversions. Do not get hung up on this when you’re just starting out. You can check conversions two ways:

  1. Look at each Landing-page-Channel UTM that registers a hit in your Google Analytics
  2. Look at how many made it through the landing page to hit your “Thank You” page.

Then you have an idea what channel, what copywriting, and even what persona resonates with your real users and customers.

While I’m happy to talk more about UTMs and Google Analytics another time as an incentive to learn and do more for my own products and services, let’s get back to email marketing.

Opting people in? Send them a “Thank You”

To sweeten the deal and entice someone to enter into this email/product/service relationship with you, you have to bring something extra to the relationship. You have to offer them something for free. And you have to make it a show of goodwill that they will either truly enjoy, or derive benefit from now or in the future.

One freebie is offering them an event. It could be a live event or a webinar. This is partly why webinars have exploded in the past few years — the webinar is the “product” when education is the service, and sometimes the webinar is a funnel to buy. If it’s a live event, event ticket providers like Eventbrite provide an integration with email services like MailChimp. Those who attend the event get subscribed to your list. Make sure it’s clear you’re opting them into future mailings.

So what does this have to do with the “Thank You” page?

One of my mailing lists offers a value-packed newsletter (DIY projects, Q&A, events, and resource links), but only after a certain threshold of subscribers have joined. On some of my pop-ups and blog posts, I mention in the bottom-of-the-post-CTA that there’s also a freebie. Once they subscribe, the form — more about this in a minute — redirects them to my “Thank You” page. Where they see a very large, cute picture of a red squirrel.

Here, this article is long! You deserve a break. Stop and gaze for a moment. I certainly do. Gaze, that is. I have a squirrel house on my property and a range of grey and black squirrels for endless entertainment. I’m also a member of a #squirrel fan club on Twitter. Join us for #SundaySquirrelShoutouts!

“Well… this is embarrassing. I don’t know quite how to thank you with a freebie yet for joining my mailing list…Oh, wait. Yes, I do.“ Photograph: Steward Ellet/Natural England/PA

OK, enough gazing. In the copy below the squirrel, I tell them “Reply to the confirmation email with your mailing address, and I’ll send you a packet of milkweed seeds.” My particular audience (inter-state regional, though world wide is welcome), will be delighted with either one, or both.

Opt-in form submission how-to

Go back to your list integration module or plugin on your WordPress. Each mailing list provider offers form code that you can enter into your Landing Page. That code interacts with the mailing list service.

You must set it up at your mailing service that a successful opt-in form submission redirects the user back to a page on your site that says Thank You.

Why? A few reasons. A “Thank You” page does the following:

  1. It politely thanks people right away, and it can be used to establish your standards for what to expect from the list: “I will send you an email once a month, somewhere in between two blog posts.” “You will hear from me again at this time: ____.”
  2. It communicates how they will receive your freebie such as “After you’ve clicked on the Confirmation email, you’ll receive a link with the download.” For your own sake, do not make it a downloadable from the Thank You page — that opens you up to diluting the value of your freebie. This means you must create a Welcome/Onboard automation at your mailing service that triggers when the subscriber confirms their opt-in. (You can send it without the confirmation step. However, savvy email users are aware that this eagerness to start marketing to people without a double-opt-in might be coming from a place where timeliness or ease-of-use isn’t the greatest concern.)
  3. It could inform them of an opportunity to answer a few more questions about themselves so you can better respond to their needs. Examples I’ve used:
    a. “I’m interested in what you’re interested in, so when you get the Welcome email, you can update your list profile with your hobbies, as well as your region. If you update your birthday, we’ll send you a birthday email!”
    b. “If you want some milkweed seeds, email me your address by replying to the Welcome email.”
    c. “We’re designing the software right now, and we have a few questions about where to focus our attention for the greatest initial impact. Would you kindly answer a short survey?”
  4. It informs Google Analytics that a conversion took place and helps you find which landing page URL they came through.

While you’re logged in at your mailing service, consider GDPR, too. If you’re marketing to the whole world, make sure your list opt-in is GDPR-compliant. If you’re using a plugin that integrates with the mail service, you might state “This list is GDPR-compliant,” under the opt-in button, as the mailing services’ legalese and check boxes may not appear in the code inserted by the plugin on your page. Otherwise, mention it in the confirmation email. The difference will be clearer if you watch the accompanying videos. The landing page done on Mailchimp has all the GDPR fields; the one on my website through a form plugin does not (but it’s prettier).

When free is lacklustre for them and a liability for you (and what to do about it)

Giving something away for free is still an issue for some of us who were raised with (or otherwise need) a somewhat more transactional and self-protective way of doing business.

People rightfully hestitate at these “free!” offers. They think “Yeah, you give me something for free, then you hit me with an email every day for the next two weeks, and then insinuate I’m holding myself back if I don’t buy from you by your deadline.” When you’re offering something of value, out of generosity and curiosity (design thinking) you don’t want to be lumped in with those people.

So I had an idea right out of e-commerce for a strategy: it might mean you have to develop an interim freebie for all, and promos for those who are engaged. If you’re uncomfortable with sharing something of value straight off, and you’ve found that others in your line of development haven’t already shared something like it, try the following.

First, to your fans and people who you know would appreciate it, communicate over other channels (including your email list) and offer the good stuff with a promo code. That way, the ones who open your emails get it for free or at a discount that makes them feel exclusive, and your other channels find out about it their preferred way.

Second, create a landing page for passive subscribers (the ones who don’t open their emails!) and new arrivals on your website offering it at the price that you think it’s worth. On that page, have a pop-up offering a slight discount, or offering “Want this at the Friends-and-Family rate? Join us. [Next spaghetti dinner at your house!]”

Also, when using free products as an incentive to join your alpha, beta, or general list, sometimes you have to not get it out there. There are bystanders who enjoy getting freebies or satisfying curiosity. They’re good-intentioned people, they value that you offer help, but they’re not always your market. At $5 of good value, you can afford the publicity and community goodwill, but with too many of those — or at $45 a pop! – you’ll need to learn Sales prevention.

Sales prevention

Imagine you threw a party, and someone strolled in and had zero interest in a conversation with you. They just wanted to head on over to the buffet and load up on the food. You have to expect that. Those people can be disasters for the conversation— and maybe for the next event, they invite their friends!

If this is how you give away product or content to get people to engage, you have to know that you’re serving the people who need your help (i.e. do customer interviews, and leave some room for surprises.) If you just give it away to everyone without vetting, you’ll get very little feedback. Pick your people. Fuzzy feedback will result in a product that doesn’t actually serve anyone, or a product they’ll play with, but not commit enough to buy.

My initial offering was a life planning workbook with 3 monthly agendas. I had a budget of $1000, so it was a limited print run (guess how much each unit-of-4 cost). People who don’t use agendas, who’ve tried but never stuck with one, ordered it anyway. Why? Curiosity. That was my fault for not filtering them out and providing them something else to reward their curiosity. I did an email series to walk people through the workbook, that journallers could also join in on. No matter how much I believe in the effectiveness of using workbooks and agendas, that was what those customers should have gotten instead.

So what’s a reasonable sales prevention technique? Simple. Copy that is written to tell the user they are not the intended customer, so they can self-select out. You can also use a survey for this purpose (where the end of the survey is the opt-in). You can send them a final step in their List Confirmation email that ascertains they’re ready for the two-way street of design communication (giving access to the project specifically so you can observe or solicit feedback). Build in surmountable obstacles. If they’re ordering a free product, then at least charge the shipping. If what you’re offering isn’t worth $5–$10 to get by mail, they’re not invested.

To defeat a bad habit — which is what life planning and agendas and courses and helpful apps (like yours!) are all about — it helps to pre-commit to a good habit. To form good relationships, both partners have to invest. And that investment will help get you feedback and testimonials— and future customers.

Finally: people buy and pay for things they don’t use all the time. So don’t feel some kind of guilt about building a revenue model for your product while you build your audience!

Multiple offerings require different list groups

I have two mailing lists for two different websites. One is simple. The other is segmented into groups. All subscribers get a slide deck with a set of heuristics on how to be productive. Some people then get onboarded into that life-planning course-by-email, and others get a monthly PDF agenda (this is the example I show in the videos). Still others go into a quiet zone where they’ll only hear from me when I have progress on, or intentions for, a separate project (hint: it’s micro-donations through gaming to support shelter pets).

Your Landing Page and your website have GOT to be simple, so don’t link the other things you’re offering, or talk about all the things you do. It confuses more than it helps.

Hopefully, your new product or project is a stand-alone. You don’t need to group people yet. Unless you’re using a more advanced plugin to capture people’s emails (plugins can be more powerful than a simple form), it can be difficult to assign new subscribers into the appropriate groups.

I’ve asked people to self-group by choosing the project they like, and very few of them do. However, with the landing page in the accompanying video, I use the shortcode of the MailChimp for WordPress plugin to create a simple form for a landing page.

This part you can see in the video

I then (off screen) updated that form to one that has the list groups by project, and I make it really obvious which one they need to join.

If the short code form is in multiple places in the website, they will all update to this when I save the design.

Explore your email provider to see how they recognize the source of the signup, and how you can automate to put that person into one of your groups. Then, if you have some time, explore plugins to make it as easy as possible for your user to sign up and get in the right group the first time. Test your form after every plugin or WordPress update. If your form doesn’t work, it’s disappointing for both sides.

What you’ll see in the accompanying videos

I accidentally pitched this article as “I’d love to have a tutorial on building effective landing pages that connect with Mailchimp and EventBrite, WordPress and Bootstrap; integrating these things and writing the right things, because it’s taking me FOREVER to figure this stuff out on my own.” So Quincy wrote back and said “If you’re looking for this information, chances are others are as well.” I hope that I’ve overdelivered in this article, and there are videos that help illustrate it.

The videos are walk-throughs for a creator who has created a list but done little with it yet. Someone who needs to set up a landing page, set up the welcome automations, and needs help with these:

  • how WooCommerce integrates with MailChimp (for ecommerce orders)
  • how to avoid using ecommerce integrations for downloads — email automation with a download link! (a popup … and about half a minute of the backend)
  • a discussion of the anatomy of the landing page and general writing tips and tricks
  • using a MailChimp form plugin to generate forms that use shortcodes (which can update changes across your site)
  • what MailChimp looks like when you’re using groups, or segmenting or automating messages and campaigns
  • MailChimp’s native landing page generator

If there’s enough interest, I can also create a bonus video, which presently needs a voiceover, walking through an email campaign to get feedback from alpha/beta test members.

For these users, a mailing list is necessary but not enough. Front-load their subscription with extra contact information (WooCommerce helped me) at the list subscription stage. Then, keep their details in a notebook or spreadsheet or an email folder so you can easily reach them. Keep in touch with them, invite them to your Slack, and set up phone, Skype, and Facetime conversations. Why go to this trouble? Because for real meaning that can affect your design, you have to interview them, sometimes more than once.

In conclusion, fellow web developers and new idea/product creators

This article was about getting to know your users and getting them onboard with your idea before it’s ready to be born — so that you know their needs better and have an idea how they need or want to be marketed to. Your communication is part of your Value Proposition as much as your product at this point. But, don’t worry, everything is iterative, and you’ll learn as you go.

Create a mailing list and help people get on it — unless it’s not for them. You can use other channels like web- and in-person events and other opportunities to ask them to subscribe.

Use different landing pages for different “Ideal Customer” personas and different goals (for example, download the app, or sign up to the list), and use different copywriting on different social media channels (and advertisements) to entice others to view and share it.

To get opt-ins, offer people something useful or delightful for free. Those bonuses or previews help create and build your relationship with them. In that light, make sure you are the reply-to address on the list.

Treat your users like clients and friends: be available to them, talk to them in a personal manner, and keep it concise, meaningful, helpful, and enjoyable.

Now it’s time for your feedback. If you’re working on a problem like this, work alongside the video and comment on how it works for you. For readers, some of you may be ahead of the curve and have some good points to adjust, correct, or advance, based on new information or your specific configuration. Some of you may have other contributions to make. I’m looking forward to reading them!

Jane Sorensen (@janerette on most platforms) is a multi-disciplinarian and always has been. If you want milkweed seeds and a regular dose of ecological gardening and wildlife enthusiasm, check out her blog. If you want to straighten out your life goals, align your stuff, and do it, download a Tactical Chronograph — the example shown in the videos— at Projectica. Finally, if you’re a developer and you want to work on a swipe game that sends micro-donations to shelter pets, this needs to happen.