10 “Content Upgrade” Ideas to Get More Subscribers, Leads, and Sales

Content upgrades are the hot new item when it comes to building your email list. They’ve been around for a while, but they are catching on now and in order to grow your email list the fastest with highly targeted leads, you need to take advantage of content upgrades. In this post, I share 10…

The new hot trend in email marketing for growing your email list is the idea of using a content upgrade.

A content upgrade is simply bonus content that people can get access to in exchange for their email address. Unlike traditional “site-wide” lead magnets, however, content upgrades are unique to the specific content that people are already reading or listening to on your site.

Site-wide lead magnets work—I’ve used the same one here on SPI for over 5 years (Ebooks the Smart Way, no longer available on the site). I’ve promoted this free ebook in the sidebar of my website and at the bottom of every single blog post since January of 2010.

It’s done really well for me, helping to collect over 120,000 emails since then.

But, when you think about it, this particular guide doesn’t always relate to the content people are reading or listening to. As a result, sometimes people aren’t so inclined to download it. Often times, it means absolutely nothing to those who are reading or listening to my content, and imagine how many more subscribers I might have if I used upgraded content more often.

What’s working even better today are smaller, unique, bite-sized lead magnets that directly relate to what people are already consuming.

I’ve experimented with this in both a podcast episode and a blog post in the past, and it really does work. On each of those specific pages, I saw roughly a 500% increase in email opt-ins.

The idea of upgraded content isn’t new. Clay Collins, co-founder of LeadPages (and featured guest in SPI Podcast Session #78 and #119) had mentioned that promoting upgraded content at the end of blog posts on LeadPages was the number one factor in growing their email list, and one of the main reasons their company has grown so fast. [Full Disclosure: I’m a compensated advisor and an affiliate for LeadPages.]

Brian Dean from Backlinko has also mentioned this here on the site before too. In fact, he has the #1 step-by-step article on exactly how to maximize conversions using content upgrades. His post is required reading for anyone who is thinking of creating content upgrades for their site.

Additionally, bigtime marketers like Amy Porterfield are now using content upgrades in nearly every single post!

Although upgraded content works like a charm, the big struggle most people have, and the reason most are not doing it, is the fact that it requires additional work. We spend all this time creating a unique, valuable post, podcast episode or video, and then we have to do even more work after that?

You should know this by now, but results down the road don’t come without some hard work up front, and if building your email list is a major goal for you (which it should be), upgraded content will work.

Upgraded content doesn’t have to be scary, and it doesn’t even require too much additional work!

To help you out, below you’ll find a list of 10 ideas for various types of upgraded content you can create, followed by some additional tips to help you get the most out of them and build your email list even faster.

1. A List of Tools and Resources

A PDF file that lists tools and resources related to your topic can go a long way. People LOVE their tools and resources, and a simple curation of the top tools for your audience is worth exchanging an email address for.

In SPI Podcast Session #115, which was an interview with Jessica, my executive assistant, about how she was able to take on and tackle my email inbox for me, I offer a PDF file as a bonus that is made up of the top 5 tools that I use to clean up my inbox.

It’s 2 pages long, and it’s extremely valuable. That’s all you need.

2. Additional Related Content

In Episode #55 of Amy Porterfield’s podcast, she discusses how to create a survey to find a target market. A very important topic.

Within her show notes, she offers a content upgrade to get a PDF guide that is titled: The Product Maximizer: 4 Smart Ways to Sell Products Online

This bonus isn’t directly related to surveys, but it is directly related to selling, which is what anyone who finds a target market using a survey would want to do.

I haven’t verified this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Amy had previously mentioned the content within the guide somewhere else on her site before. Recycling old content as a lead magnet for content upgrades is a smart way to make use of that evergreen content you spent so much time on long ago that got buried in your archives.

3. Transcripts

If you have a podcast or video show and you produce a transcript, you can do what James Schramko from Super Fast Business does and have people subscribe first before getting access to them.

I personally have them free to download without requiring an email, but you have to realize that transcripts aren’t normally produced for most podcasts, so it’s a highly valuable item that can definitely command an email address and help grow your list much faster.

4. A Quick Start Guide

Have you ever bought something new, opened up the box and seen a small pamphlet with the words quick start guide on it? That little piece of paper is likely the most used instructional item inside that box, because people want to get up and running fast.

If you’re teaching how to do something that is fairly complicated, or you’re publishing content about a topic that’s quite heavy in nature, a quick start guide can be a quick and easy way to get people to subscribe to your list.

A few pictures or even a video is all you might need to provide this highly valuable bonus that is definitely worth an email address.

5. A Checklist

Similar to a quick start guide, a checklist is an amazing resource you can give away that allows people to follow along and make sure they’re doing things right.

In this post from Brian Dean from Backlinko, he offers a bonus checklist several times throughout the post. The longer the post, the more likely someone will be inclined to grab a checklist to make sure they follow along correctly.

6. A Downloadable Asset

This is how LeadPages grew so big, so fast. [Full Disclosure: I’m a compensated advisor and an affiliate for LeadPages.]

Leadpages sells access to a huge library of super easy to use and customizable landing pages (among several other helpful email list building tools), but when they introduce a new template for a landing page, they often include a free download to the HTML version of that template.

Of course, this requires an email address, but when people get access to actual website code they could use on their own without LeadPages—it’s pretty much a no-brainer. Then, when people see how much easier it is to use a tool like LeadPages, the sales funnels work their magic.

If you’re a web designer looking to build your email list, for example, maybe you write a post about the various optimized image sizes for different social media platforms, and your upgraded content becomes access to a free library with PSD (photoshop) templates included so that subscribers can easily create those images you mentioned in that post.

7. A Multimedia Summary

I haven’t seen anyone do this before, but it would be fun to experiment with!

After a post, you promote a content upgrade that is essentially a video (or audio file) of you talking about the content in more detail. People get the real you and hear more about a topic they are obviously already interested in. This gives you a great platform to include a call to action related to your content as well.

This could be the easiest and quickest way to create upgraded content if you’re struggling for time.

8. A Printable

Let’s say you write a list post titled 10 Stretches You Can Do While Sitting Down at Your Computer.

Awesome! Here’s what you can do:

Create a handy 1-sheet PDF file that people can easily print and place next to their computer. Perhaps it’s just a list of the ten stretches, or you could even include images that you included in your post as well. Require an email address to get access to this and BAM—everyone is happy!

9. Access to a Recorded Webinar

Instead of giving away a bonus lead magnet like a PDF, instead you could entice people to subscribe by offering a bonus webinar related to the content! Conduct the webinar live the first time, and then use the recording of that as the content upgrade later on.

Super high-value, and you might even generate some sales coming off of the webinar as well in an evergreen-like fashion.

10. An Additional Item

Have a list post coming up, or maybe one you’ve done already? Extend that list post by adding a few more items and package them into in a content upgrade.

Perhaps you are going to publish a round-up post with answers to a question that you’ve asked several people in your niche. Package a few of them into a content upgrade for people who want them all.

Maybe you share an amazing strategy to help your audience and several case studies of people using that same strategy. Put a few more examples into a content upgrade to get people to subscribe.

And there you go!

Rules for a Successful Content Upgrade

Here are a few final thoughts on content upgrades because you go buck wild with them:

  1. They don’t have to be long, and actually I encourage you to keep them short and sweet. Valuable, yes! Lengthy? No need.
  2. They should look decent. They don’t have to be the best-designed items in the world, but a quick thought on the design of the lead magnet can go a long way. I’d recommend finding a designer on Elance or Odesk, or even 99Designs or Fiverr to create a template for you that you like that you can then use over and over again, making changes simply to the text, and maybe a cover image if there is one for each new content upgrade. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through these links.]
  3. On the content upgrade itself, add the ability to share it, if possible. You want these to go around! Using a tool like Click to Tweet can go a long way in helping to create a viral effect with your upgraded content, especially if you can have the links point back to your original piece of content.
  4. So your audience downloads the extra content…then what? You want to be able to answer that question and make it really easy for people to do whatever it is you want them to do. In other words—add in a call to action!

Now, one of the main questions that come up when it comes to content upgrades is the delivery mechanism.

If you’re asking people to enter their name and email each time, what happens to people who are already subscribed to your list?

Well, if you have LeadPages , you can use their asset delivery system to automatically send an email to people who enter their email address, whether or not they are already on your list. [Full Disclosure: I’m a compensated advisor and an affiliate for LeadPages.]

Leadpages knows if someone is already on your list and there’s no need to send them through your email sequences again. They simply send the deliverable.

If people are not already on your list—well—now they are, and they go through the onboarding process as normal.

If you do not have LeadPages, you can do a few things:

If you have advanced email software working your emails for you, some of them allow you to track who is on your page—if it’s a person who is already subscribed or not—and based off of that serve a different form.

One may show a download link for those who are already subscribed, and others would show a sign-up form to be able to “unlock” those download links across the entire site.

Most people who are starting out don’t have software that can do this, so the best option would be to create a page that has all of your content upgrades on them that you can add to over time as you create more. Talk about a great resource library for subscribers!

Then, those who are subscribed get access to this page. You can set most email service providers to send people who are already subscribed to any specific page you wish, like this content upgrade resource page.In

In Aweber, the option shows up for each specific email form that you create:

Aweber basic settings has an Already Subscribed Page option at the bottom

Then, if people use their name and email to subscribe and they are already subscribed, they go to this custom page of yours, instead of getting a generic message that says: “Sorry, you’re already subscribed to this list.”

21 Small Things for You (and Your Audience)

What would a post about content upgrades be without a content upgrade of its own?

Content upgrades are not only are a great way to make a huge impact on the growth of your email list, but because you’re providing extra helpful content, it’s a great way to have a big impact on the results of your audience as well!

I’d like to share with you the first ever infographic created for the SPI audience, available as a—you guessed it—content upgrade!

These are 21 small things you can do for your audience that can lead to big time results, much like the content upgrade itself.

I’m excited because I’ve never published an infographic before here on this blog, but now you can get access to it by clicking on the link in the bonus box below to download it.

Check out this infographic containing 21 small things you can do for your audience that can lead to BIGTIME results! It’s totally free. Download it now!

21 Small Things You Can Do for Your Audience

Sign up for the Unstuck Newsletter and get access to this and a dozen other downloads (find this one on the bottom of the downloads page).

Cheers, and thanks again for your support!

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  • Pat Flynn

    Hi, I’m Pat, founder of SPI and host of the Smart Passive Income Podcast. Let’s continue the conversation over in our communities.

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