When it comes to incentives for email sign up forms, ebooks are the go-to bait. They provide a great way to educate customers, and people love valuable freebies.

But if you’re not an experienced writer or don’t have an archive of blog posts to repurpose, the thought of writing 15 pages single-spaced as a means to grow your email list might leave you feeling a little queasy.

Fortunately, there are other content incentives you can give away to your email subscribers that won’t give you palpitations.

Just take a look at Henneke Duistermaat, a professional writer and freelancer who offers an educational email course to new subscribers who sign up to her email list:

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The course includes quick-read emails that are sent once a day that focus on ways for subscribers to improve their writing skills. Most emails also link back to one of her blog articles that explores the topic in greater depth. This course ultimately allows Henneke to 1) Establish her credibility as a writer, 2) Educate subscribers about grammar and writing, and 3) Give them a taste of her content so they’re inclined to come back for more.

And she didn’t have to write a 30-page ebook to make that happen.

Identifying a Topic for Your Incentive

Aside from your own goal of growing your subscriber list, it’s important to consider what you hope your audience will get out of the incentive, too.

Identifying their needs and attempting to solve their problems through content helps to ensure that anything you create will capture their attention – which is a key step to creating something that’ll help grow your email list. Then, you can decide on the best way to present the information to them.

To help you brainstorm a topic for your incentive, take some time to think about your audience and your business by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What problems/needs does your audience have that your business solves?
  • What are some questions that are frequently asked by new customers?
  • What are three topics you could focus on to introduce your customers to a resolution?

Once you’ve narrowed down a topic, choose the one that you think will resonate best with customers.

Pro Tip: Run a split test on two versions of your sign up form: one with the incentive and one without it. This will help you evaluate the impact of your incentive, and whether or not you should tweak it or change it to something more relevant to your subscribers.

Creating Your Incentive

Now that you’ve taken some time to think about a topic, it’s time to think about the way in which you present the information. Here are some of our favorites:


Checklists are great planning tools for anyone taking on a long-term or large project that involves many different elements. For example, a marketing consultant might create a checklist for creating an inbound marketing campaign. Or, a wedding planner might offer a wedding to-do checklist for those who sign up for updates from her email list. Realtors on the other hand might create a checklist for first-time homebuyers that covers all of the steps involved in purchasing a home.

The more thorough the checklist is, the greater the perceived value of your incentive.

Pro Tip: After you create your content, do a “self check” test to see if it’s something you would enjoy receiving in exchange for your email address. If your incentive isn’t something you’d find interesting or valuable, take another stab at creating one that is.


Plans are similar to checklists in that they help people get organized as they take on a new endeavor, except they tend to be more thorough and time-based.

A yoga instructor, for example, might offer a 30-day plan that helps beginners get started with yoga. She might even include a bonus checklist of items (e.g., recommended yoga mats, towels, blocks) that will be helpful as subscribers go through the plan.

Plans can even help inspire new ideas or fill creative gaps, like the educational lesson plan created by blogger Jocelyn Sams of Elementary Library:

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Pro Tip: Avoid time-sensitive content that will have to be updated frequently. Instead, create content that stands the test of time so you can let it build your list without worry.

Educational Courses

An educational course allows you to teach your new subscribers over a period of time. As a result, this can also help stretch out subscriber engagement as people look for their next lesson in future emails.

Henneke’s snackable writing course, which you read about earlier, is one example of an educational email course. Another comes from professional singer and tutor, Felicia Ricci. On her sign up form, she encourages sign ups by offering a free belting video course:

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The course, which consists of three emails that link to each video, allows Felicia to showcase her own talent and knowledge. It also gives her new audience a chance to experience singing lessons before committing to a paid course, which is then offered at the end of the free incentive.


If you’re in a business or have a hobby that involves graphic design or prints, offering free printables can be an effective way to encourage people to subscribe to your email list. Printables can be anything from patterned stationery to business cards to crochet patterns. While this incentive medium is a popular choice for crafters and designers, feel free to get creative!

You can even choose to create a print-friendly lesson plan or checklist if you think that’d be helpful for your audience.


Instead of simply telling someone what to do in an ebook or guide, you can take things one step further by doing things for them with a template. Templates allow you to help subscribers overcome the hurdle of getting started, which can be extremely valuable if you find many of your website visitors struggle with this.

Take a look at John Corcoran, an AWeber customer and entrepreneur who educates others about how to build business relationships and grow their networks. The incentive he offers new subscribers? Five email templates for contacting busy people.

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This helps his readers who struggle with creating content on their own, and displays his expertise.

Experience New Email Growth

Incentives can be extremely effective at encouraging people to sign up to your email list, but creating them shouldn’t be stressful! Just think about the best ways you can help your audience, and you’ll be golden.

Are you inspired to try one of these incentives to encourage new email sign ups? Tell us about it in the comments!