Do Giveaways Just Pack Your Email List with Freebie Seekers?

Several times a month, I get a skeptical email that goes something like this one from a guy named Carl:

Hey Josh, quick question.

Why did you stop the sublime text tips site if you got so many email subscribers from the giveaway?

Did they not convert to become buyers so you pivoted to your main site –

(If you don’t know what Carl is talking about, the details are here.)

Well I didn’t exactly “stop” the site.

It’s still up and running—and in fact I’ve recently recruited a partner named Dan to keep it going.

I did stop working on the site personally though.

The short version of the story is:

I realized that I was way more interested in *marketing* than I was in writing code and creating more products about Sublime Text.

That’s not what I want to talk about today though.

The “question behind the question” that Carl’s asking is:

Do giveaways just attract a bunch of freebie seekers who aren’t willing to pay for products?

The answer isn’t a clear-cut “yes” or “no.”

When it comes to adding email subscribers to your list, quality is a sliding scale.

And the more “scaleable” a list-building strategy is, the lower the quality of the subscribers you’ll attract.

Let’s look at the extremes:

Just about the highest quality email subscribers you can get are referrals.

These are people who heard your name from a friend, *remembered it* long enough to Google you, and then opted into your list.

They took several intentional steps to seek you out.

Let’s call these people a 10.

On the other extreme, you have something like buying a list of email addresses from InfoUSA.

These people have made no effort to seek you out.

They’re a 0 on the quality scale.

Every method you can use to grow your list fits somewhere on this scale.

The optins you collect on your blog probably rate a 7 or an 8.

Which is great—except that in most cases, it’s a tough slog to grow your blog traffic to get more of those high-quality optins.

So you have to look for more scalable approaches.

At Simple Programmer right now, I’m wrestling with “paid traffic”—Google AdWords, to be specific.

I’d rate the quality of subscribers I get from AdWords at a 6.

Definitely lower than the blog, but it’s something I can scale just by dumping more money into the engine.

Giveaway subscribers are a notch lower than paid traffic, maybe a 4 or a 5.

Definitely not up to the “gold standard” of subscribers from organic traffic—

But since giveaways are so cheap to run, the return on investment is huge.

Case in point:

The Sublime Text giveaways I’ve done cost me something like $500 to run.

And that email list has since generated at least $42,000 in revenue (and that’s just the sales I can recall, the actual number is higher).

In fact we just wrapped up a promotion to a subset of the list that threw off $6,500 in sales.


Giveaways are *not* the be-all and end-all to grow your email list.

They *are* a valuable tool to have in your tool belt.

And I will continue to use them.

JoAnne Henein - January 20, 2017

Love the breakdown, @joshearl. Quality over quantity!

Comments are closed