How to Create a Challenge to Grow Your Email List

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From fitness to using up craft supplies, there are dozens of challenges out there that help followers build a new habit and, depending on how you’ve set up the challenge, get to know you better. 

The most common challenges out there are fitness challenges – like the Squat challenge where you build up from 50 squats in a day to 250. Another common challenge is a gratitude journal challenge, where you document 3 new things each day that you’re grateful for. 

From Idea to Execution: How to Build a Challenge for Your Business

These kinds of challenges are nice, but you can grab them on any quick Google or Pinterest search. 

We’re going to create the kind of challenge that gives your audience a significant and lasting change while building your credibility (and your email list!)

We will use professional educators’ scope and sequence techniques to develop lesson plans beyond just their primary curriculum to create the challenge. It sounds pretty advanced, right? The cool thing is – it’s not. Scope and sequence are just how we will document what is covered in the challenge (or course) and which order. It gives the user an idea of what they’ll be able to do at the end. 

Here’s how to apply scope and sequence to a challenge. 

  1. Understand the problem that your audience is facing. What new habit do they want to create or challenge do they need to overcome in their personal or professional life? 
  2. What’s a realistic, achievable outcome that you can deliver? The result should give them a taste of success, build your know-like-trust factors, and lead to other solutions that you provide. This is the scope of your challenge.
  3. Identify the steps they need to take to accomplish the outcome. This is the sequencing. Break the work into relatively small steps that they can do independently with your guidelines. In most cases, your actions should take between 15-30 minutes per day. Remember, it’s a challenge, not marathon training. 
  4. Determine a timeline for them to accomplish the goal. Your timeline should be based on how big the outcome is, how many steps there are, and how long each step will take. The most common challenges are 5-7 days up to 30 days. The longer your challenge is, the fewer people will make it all the way to the end. 
  5. Decide how you’ll deliver and support your challenge. This is where your email list and other technology comes into play. Since the reason we’re developing this challenge is to grow your email list, you’ll want to deliver each day’s challenge piece via email – to get and keep them opening your emails. Many challenges also add a social media component (for accountability). 
  6. Develop the instructions. How do your customers know what to do each day? It may be as simple as a few sentences, but you may need to create videos, worksheets, or printable materials. If you’re building your challenge from 1:1 work or pre-work for one of your courses, then you may have success stories to share from your customers. Sprinkle those throughout each day’s instructions to help encourage your subscribers to keep going.
  7. Set up your challenge.  After you’ve got everything created, it’s time to set up your challenge in your email and delivery system to deliver everything automatically. 
  8. Promote! Finally – start promoting! Let’s get those changes going!

Should Your Challenge Be Evergreen or Timed?

An evergreen challenge lets someone hop in any time that they run across it and work through it at their own pace. A timed challenge has a set start and end date. 

There are benefits to either delivery method – as well as challenges.

Timed Challenges:

  • Greater sense of camaraderie
  • Greater urgency to sign up and complete
  • You’re “On” for the full week/month – can be very intense
  • May be a lot of work for just a short burst of activity. Timed challenges can always be re-opened at another time or turned into an evergreen challenge.

Evergreen Challenges: 

  • Meet followers where they are – no FOMO for them
  • No real sense of urgency, since they can sign up any time
  • You don’t have to be “on” all week, although you may be supporting people at all different points of the challenge
  • Strong on-going list builder

How to Deliver Your Challenge

The goal of your challenge is to build your email list, so you’ll want to deliver each day’s lesson in email. Here’s how your workflow should look: 
  1. Create a Challenge to Grow Your Email ListA new challenger signs up on a dedicated landing page. Some email systems, like ActiveCampaign, Ontraport, and ConvertKit have built in landing page builders. You can also build the page on your own website and use an embedded form for subscribers.
  2. Tag the challenger with a specific tag in your email system or put them on a separate list.
  3. Create an automation that delivers your email content ONLY to the people with the tag or on the dedicated email list. For a timed challenge, you’ll want each email to be sent at a specific time of day and date (like Monday, September 7 at 10:00 am EST). For an evergreen challenge, you’ll send each email 24 hours after the one prior. 
  4. If you use a learning management system or membership program (like MemberVault) you can also host all your challenge materials inside your LMS. Just link to each lesson inside your email system. MemberVault even lets you open up modules on a time-based system so challengers can’t skip ahead. I love their quiz features as well to get and keep people engaged, especially if you’re not using a social platform for engagement. 
  5. If you are using a social media platform for engagement, schedule your posts either to your page or your community. Remember, you’ll just want to do a short prompt for responses – not post the whole activity. This helps build curiosity in the people who *didn’t* sign up the first time. 

How to promote your challenge

You’ve decided what you’re going to help your followers do. You’ve got everything created and written and set up… but… you still need people to sign up! Here are 10 ways to promote your challenge: 

  1. Promote on your social media channels. Challenges are a great way to get your social media followers off your social challenges and into your email list. Post it on your Facebook business page, Twitter, Instagram – anywhere you are engaging on social media.
  2. Update social media graphics. Beyond just sharing a post or 5 about your challenge, update your header images to promote your challenge. Just remember to change it back when your challenge is over!
  3. Ask business associated to share with their followers. For example, if you’re a business coach, you may work with a mindset coach or marketing consultant who could share the free challenge with their followers. 
  4. Share with your email list. Yes, even though they’re already on your list, you don’t want to skip inviting your email subscribers to join in your challenge. They’re already engaging with you – so reward them with some of your great content. 
  5. Ask subscribers to invite a friend. We all do a better job at starting something new when we bring a friend along. In your welcome email to new challengers, ask them to invite a friend to the challenge. 
  6. Add a pop-up or welcome mat to your website. As you’re driving traffic to your website, capitalize on it by getting more people onto your email list. 
  7. Run Ads. You can grow your challenge quickly with an ad campaign. With a time-based challenge, your ads only need to run for a short time.
  8. Post in groups & communities. With permission or on promo days, you can post about your challenge in other people’s Facebook groups and online communities where your ideal participants hang out.
  9. On Your Podcast. If you have a podcast, talk about your challenge on your podcast. You can either do it as part of an intro or in a special episode. 
  10. Pin it. If you’re using Pinterest as part of your amplification strategy (and if your challenge is evergreen, or you’re doing a wait-list for the next time you host it live), then make sure you share it on Pinterest as well. 

More Ideas: 70+ Ways to Promote Your Email Opt-In

Challenge Ideas

Want to run a challenge but you’re stuck for an idea? Here are some great challenge ideas that I’ve seen around the web: 

And of course, you can always create your own.

  • The 14-Day Unschooling Challenge
  • The 7-Day Vegetarian Challenge
  • The 7-Day Social Media Detox
  • The 3-Day Plan Your Vacation Challenge
  • The 21-Day Healthy Eating Challenge
  • The 10-Day Better Dog Challenge
  • The 30-Day Personal Growth Challenge
  • The 14-Days to Start Trading Challenge
  • 14-Day Bodyweight Workout Challenge

The possibilities are endless! Remember – the keys to running a successful challenge will be to provide your followers with a tangible outcome. The taste of success you give them with your short challenge gives them the confidence to invest in your bigger programs – and themselves!

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