Beef Up Your Email List Using Free Carrot Content

Keith Perhac
Founder @ SegMetrics

You’ve heard the story of the carrot and the stick, right? It goes something like this:

A boy hitches up his donkey to a cart, but the obstinate donkey won’t pull it down the road. Hitting the donkey with a stick doesn’t solve the problem (and it isn’t very nice, either). So, the boy ties a carrot to the stick and dangles it in front of the donkey’s nose, and – bingo. It’s happy to pull the cart all day in hopes of reaching that carrot.

How does this apply to your online course?

Your customers need something enticing – a carrot – before they’ll do what you want them to do.

What’s the carrot? Valuable content that you give them for free.

What do you want them to do in return? Provide their email address.

Let’s stop for a second. Why would you want their email address? Don’t you just want them to sign up for your course?

Well, yes, eventually. But you can’t expect a new prospect to purchase right away. Think of your first customer interaction as a first date: you have to woo them, not propose marriage!

And what’s the best, most effective way to woo your customer?


Software and marketing guru Patrick McKenzie puts it best: “Email is the best broadcast channel ever invented for business purposes.”

A strong email list is vital for the success of your course. It’s your way to directly communicate with potential customers.

Think about all the stimuli your customers are facing every day. Ads, apps, websites, mobile, social media, TV, and all the distractions of work, school, and home. It’s harder than ever to make an impact.

But what is your customer checking every day, multiple times a day (well, other than Facebook and Reddit)…

And where else can you market your course right next to messages from trusted friends, family, and co-workers?

Yup. Their email.

If email is so important, why on earth would a stranger give you their address? Email has value, just like any currency. People will not give you their email address for free, just like they won’t give you $20 because you asked nicely. (Click to read more about this phenomenon on our blog.)

You have to provide something of value in return.

That’s the carrot! It’s awesome content that, while technically free, is valuable.

Let’s talk about how to make a carrot that will entice people to give you their email address.

What are the components of a tasty carrot?

The content reinforces your course themes or ideas.

You’re not giving away your whole product, just a taste.

Easily digestible
Your customer can understand the content without much effort or expertise.

Widely appealing
It speaks to a broad range of potential customers and isn’t too narrowly focused.

High quality
It’s well designed and on brand, representing the best of what you have to offer.

Instantly actionable
Your customer can benefit from this information right here, right now.

Some examples of great carrots to get you thinking…

  1. You’re marketing a course about how to close sales. As a carrot, you offer a cold-call email script that customers can use verbatim.
  2. You’re marketing a course about becoming a more effective blogger. Your carrot is a 10 point checklist that helps you write better blog titles.
  3. You’re marketing a course about how to build the house of your dreams. You provide a worksheet with questions that you can use when interviewing potential contractors.

Makes sense, right? You get someone’s email address, they get some quality, helpful content. Everybody’s happy.

But don’t stop there!

Here are six additional ways you can put your carrot content to work for you.

These advanced carrot methods will provide data and insight you can use to better position your course and its content.

1. Make more carrots
If your customers can choose between multiple carrots, which will they pick? See what your customers are most interested in. It’s not always what you anticipate.

2. Request feedback
Email your customers and see what they thought about the carrot. Use their feedback to improve and optimize.

3. Reposition the same carrot
Do more customers opt in for your resume template carrot when you call it “5 Minutes to Your Perfect Resume” or when it’s called “The Ultimate Foolproof Resume Template”?

4. Explore new audiences
Entice different markets to sign up with targeted carrots. If your course teaches professional makeup skills, try branching out to a green, earth-friendly audience with a carrot checklist that outlines the best cruelty-free and organic cosmetic brands.

5. Advertise your carrots
Create an AdWords account and run 30-40 ads with different positioning. What performs best?

6. Make baby carrots
A baby carrot is like a regular carrot, but it’s even smaller and easier to create multiple versions.

An example: You’re marketing a course about how to utilize Twitter for your brand. Your carrot is a step-by-step worksheet that teaches how to set up your brand’s Twitter account. You also offer six baby carrots, each one a unique downloadable Twitter skin.

Keith Perhac

Founder @ SegMetrics

Keith is the Founder of SegMetrics, and has spent the last decade working on optimizing marketing funnels and nurture campaigns.

SegMetrics was born out of a frustration with how impossibly hard it is to pull trustworthy, complete and actionable data out of his client's marketing tools.

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