Increase the Size of Your Mailing List by Offering Free Downloads


Written By Anna Werner ON September 26, 2016

Newsletter mailings are the most effective online communication system to get customers on your site. And as Campaign Monitor Stats show: Email marketing drives more conversions than any other marketing channel, including search and social. There are (still) more email users then social media users online and it’s often seen as the channel, where business is conducted. Your message doesn’t need to compete with a friends vacation pictures and cute cat videos, the contents are read rather intimately instead. Therefore, click through rates are much higher than on social media, keyword ads or banner marketing.

But, you also lose about 20 – 25% of your subscribers every year. Email addresses get abandoned, users change their provider and subscribers opt out. Therefor you constantly need to find new interested readers.

The Correlation Between Free Downloads and Email Recipients

Content marketing is the best strategy to get readers on your website and to have them sign up to your newsletter. You place your email opt-in form at the right spot, assemble convincing hub pages and your readers are likely to subscribe. But let’s be honest, there is a content creation rat race in the web. Everybody tries to win with posts, videos, pictures and so on. New ways to make your website attractive are necessary.

So when building your email list, look at the process as an exchange. Your customers give you their email addresses. Therefore in return, you should deliver value to them. There are infinite ways to create value, but one of the favorite forms among marketers is a free downloadable product. If the giveaway interests the reader, you create a win-win situation. They will own something or increase the use of a product they already use and you get a qualified lead in return.

If you sell travel gear, you could give an ebook on how to organize the trip of a lifetime. If you produce a web series, give out special behind the scenes content. If you sell WordPress templates, offer a skin variation. If you sell tutorials, you could give private blog content. And so on. Get creative and find something, that particularly piques the interest of your (potential) customers.

Using Download Monitor to Sign up Customers

With Download Monitor you can not only see how many downloads a certain product already has. But you can also restrict the downloads to a certain group. For example only to customers, who sign up for your newsletter.

There are different extensions you can use. There is the Email Lock, so that the interested party has to hand in an email address before getting the download link. If you use MailChimp to organize your email campaigns, you can also integrate it directly to the system using the MailChimp Lock. In this post, we use the MailChimp Lock, but both follow a similar principle.

Setting up Download Monitor

Obviously, the first thing you need is a downloadable product. So after you had your inspiration on what your consumers want, and you created that product, it’s time to publish it on your site. After installing the Download Monitor, you will find a new menu item called “Downloads” in the main navigation. There, you want to start by creating a new download.

Most of it is just like filling out any other post. The most important parts though are the headline and the product file. For the file, you find the “Downloadable Files/Versions” box right underneath the main content. Click “Add file” and either browse through your server or upload the file into the media manager. If you have different versions, you can indicate them. It’s up to you and your business plan.

Integrating the downloadable file

Integrating the downloadable file

Restricting access and gathering email addresses

The next step is to make sure, that you actually receive those email addresses you created the product for. In the right sidebar, you can find a box for “Download Options”. When installing the extensions, make sure you have your MailChimp account connected to your WordPress installation with MailChimp for WordPress.

Subscribers Only to collect email addresses

Subscribers Only to collect email addresses

You activate the “Subscribers only” checkbox and can now choose the MailChimp list you want your customers added to. If you need to know more about setting up lists, you can read about it at the MailChimp documentation.

As we want to win new subscribers and not only give the file to existing ones, we need to have a form for them to fill out. These forms are created with the MailChimp for WordPress plugin. You might already have a form set up for your usual opt-in or you can create a new form. Find out how in the MailChimp for WordPress knowledge base. Then reload your download and select the created sign-up form.

Integrating the Download in Your Website

To display the download option for your consumers, you have to integrate it into a page, post or widget.

If you are integrating it into a page or post, you can find an “Insert Download” button above the content field. Clicking on it, you can choose the download you want on the page or post. Or you use the URL or shortcode you can find at the top of the sidebar in the download itself. Just copy which one you prefer and paste it where you want your download to appear.

Integrate the downloadable prodct

Integrate the downloadable product

After publishing, customers will find a link or button that leads them straight to the signup form.

As the sign-up page is also the no access page, you might not like the way it initially is presented. If you want to change the no access message, navigate to Downloads → Settings → Access. Here, you can find the No Access Message and change it to whatever you prefer to display (or leave it empty).

Change the No Access Page content

Change the No Access Page content

Start Growing Your Mailing List

Now that you’ve created a product your targeted customers would like to have, you can publish your download and start promoting the free product on your website. As interested parties get their copy of your product, the size of your mailing list increases. And as the mails sent to those customers are a highly effective click through instrument, these parties come back to your site, read through your content and hopefully soon leave some revenue as well.

Your customers come from the download promise ...

Your customers come from the download promise …

... to the signup form

… to the signup form

Products Used in This Post

  • MailChimp Lock

    The MailChimp Lock for Download Monitor allows you to require users to be subscribed to your MailChimp list before they gain access to a download.

  • Download Monitor

    Download Monitor is a plugin for uploading and managing downloads, tracking downloads, and displaying links. It provides an interface for uploading and managing downloadable files (including support for multiple versions), inserting download links into posts, and logging downloads.

6 thoughts on “Increase the Size of Your Mailing List by Offering Free Downloads

  1. Is there a way to get sign-up form on pop-up instead of new page ?

    • Hey RD,

      Currently there is no support to open popups/overlays that will only include the form or the content of the “no access” page. It is possible to open a popup which contains the complete page but this will also include elements like the menu and the footer of your website.

      Please do feel free to contact us if you would like to talk about your case in more detail. You can send us an email via

      Kind Regards,
      Barry Kooij

  2. This is a great tip: I have a food diet blog and have been looking for a way to increase my blog subscribers; This guide is quite useful, am writing a free ebook to be offered to my subscribers now.

  3. Hi! Download Monitor seems to be a nice plugin… Does he integrate with Aweber to or only with mailchimp?

  4. Keep this going please, great job!

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