How to Use Tripwires and Freebies to Grow Your Mailing List and Income

Bloggers get this advice all the time. BUILD AN EMAIL LIST. 

While it’s considered a pillar to building an online following, most people struggle with attracting new followers and what to do once people sign up on your email list. It’s not an easy task for anyone to undertake. Imagine building an email list of 32,000+ people and turning it into a six-figure business in less than three years, all while managing a household with her husband and four kids? 

That’s precisely what Caroline Vencil has done. Caroline is a full-time blogger at, wife, and mother to four amazing kids. She’s passionate about helping women make money by following their passions. 

Caroline recently shared how she was able to grow her email list, the types of products she creates and sells, and her advice to other bloggers looking to grow their mailing list and blogging business. 

Caroline Vencil

How Caroline Got Her Start

Caroline came up with the idea of blogging about six weeks after the birth of her third son. She was surrounded by kids and feeling a bit lonely and bored. It was time for her to find something just for her. 

She found it on Pinterest. We’ve all seen those pins with the outrageous headlines like “How I made $20,000 in my first-month blogging!” 

Caroline was hooked. She went to college for marketing (she dropped out) but knew if this person could make this kind of money, she could too. Caroline bought a domain, published her first post, and waited for the money to roll in. She recalls spending what seemed like hours clicking refresh on her computer so she could watch the funds arrive in her bank account.

What really happened? Crickets. 

One issue she dealt with was not knowing exactly what to write about or who was her ideal audience. Caroline wanted to share the journey of her motherhood, but she wasn’t a good cook, didn’t like to clean, and had no patience for homemaking in general. She quickly realized:

“What business did I have trying to make this blog about homemaking?” 

Instead of forcing herself to create content that wasn’t true to who she was, Caroline asked herself two questions: 

  • What was she good at?
  • What could she share with others? 

Caroline discovered that she was good at teaching people how to budget, find deals, and save money, which led her to the frugality and money-saving niche.  

Caroline says, “I know what I am good at. My people know what I’m good at, and they know what I can help them with.” 

Once Caroline realized she could be herself online, and people would still like her, she felt the freedom to move forward, sharing what she loved. 

How She Started Making Money 

Still waiting for her bank account to overflow with cash, Caroline decided to research. She quickly found out that monetizing your blog was hard work. 

Like many bloggers, she started by adding affiliates, which, along with ads, is one of the quickest and easiest ways to monetize when starting. Caroline’s 100 pageviews a month wasn’t getting the job done, though. She added Amazon to her affiliates, which helped out. She tried sponsored posts but quickly realized that it wasn’t for her. 

Caroline decided to create her own products to sell, which has become the cornerstone of her blogging business. 

Click here to learn more about Affiliate Marketing for Beginners

How She Started to Grow Her Mailing List

An email list was the furthest thing from Caroline’s mind when she launched her blog. Her email list consisted of her mom and her other email address. 

Nobody likes to write marketing emails when you have no following. 

At some point early on, another blogger mentioned that you could send out affiliate links in emails. The lightbulb came on. 

Caroline realized that if she could get affiliate sales through her email list, she could also sell products that way. The opportunities seemed endless. 

Through her email list, Caroline gets directly in front of people without relying on them randomly stumbling across her site through a google search. Caroline’s email list are people that know her, have a relationship with her, and know her products are good. 

Tactics for Mailing List Growth

Email marketing has one major advantage over other methods, like Facebook and Pinterest. 

When you rely solely on other platforms, you aren’t in control. If Pinterest decides to make major changes to who sees your posts, your traffic disappears. 

You are in control of your email list and the messages you communicate to your audience. Caroline says there’s nothing wrong with using social platforms to grow your following or get people to your website. But if that’s the only marketing you’re doing, it’s not going to be as effective. 

Using Tripwires 

Tripwires are the backend website magic that gets Caroline excited. A tripwire is an automated process you can add to your website. Any time someone visits Caroline’s website and uses an opt-in form to sign up for her email list, they are redirected to a special webpage with a deal on one of her products, a budget binder. Caroline sells her budget binder for $7, a 70% discount from its regular cost. 

A tripwire is a way of saying thanks for joining my email list. Oh, by the way, while you’re here, I am offering you an exclusive discount before you even check your inbox.

Caroline loves using tripwires because people are already in the mindset of saying yes to her (by signing up for her email list). It’s an easy “yes” offer that could lead to an upsell, among other future sales. 

Developing Products

If you’ve made the choice to create and sell products on your website, how do you decide what would make a good product?

Caroline says it’s mostly trial and error. Everyone starts out with an idea, believing it’s going to be the best thing ever! That doesn’t mean it will be well received. Products fail for a variety of reasons. It could be the colors you used, the fonts, the messaging, the words you used, and other variables. The email you send out could be the issue. Sometimes it’s the product itself. 

Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix. Bloggers need to figure out what works and what doesn’t for themselves. 

Caroline says you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, either, to successfully sell products. Tons of people in the personal finance niche sell budget binders, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be her top-selling product (which it is). Don’t avoid selling a product just because everyone else is selling something similar. 

When going through the process of creating a product, Caroline opts for the path of least resistance. She says you should make the most with what you have before advancing to more costly ventures. She hired a graphic designer to make her super simple printable budget binder. 

With another recent successful product launch, Caroline packaged together some videos to help people learn how to negotiate and lower their bills. Caroline charges $5 for the videos, which also come with printables. 

Click here to learn about 3 Things Bloggers Need to Legally Protect Their Blogs

Segmenting Your Mailing List 

One of Caroline’s favorite email list strategies is segmenting her list. With over 32,800 email subscribers (over 33,000 by the time this episode is live), not everyone is there for the same thing. Segmenting your list into smaller, more manageable lists is the key to success. 

The $5 video bundle she launched is designed with people who have never seen any of her other products yet in mind. Through the use of links in her emails, she determines what people are looking for and goes from there. From her list of 32,000 people, the video bundle might get sent out to 600 people. Caroline says if she makes $600 from this small group of people, it’s a win. 

Repurposing Content 

Creating a library of products is time-consuming, which is why Caroline is also a huge fan of repurposing content. She says if you already have it, why not find a different way to use it again. 

The $5 video bundle was created from video snippets from YouTube videos and presentations she’s already recorded. Caroline estimates she spent two hours max on the backend creating her video bundle from existing content. 

How She Uses Her Mailing List to Monetize

For website traffic, Caroline tries to be as organic as possible (free is good). Most of her traffic comes through Pinterest and Google. She says Facebook doesn’t like her very much, but she still tries. 

By analyzing her traffic, she sees what posts are popular and creates freebies to complement those posts. Creating freebies to match her posts leads to a higher percentage chance of people signing up for her email list. 

Admittedly, Caroline likes to do weird things to grow her list. While her website is aesthetically pleasing, her opt-in forms are often an ugly lime green or purple to get the reader’s attention. 

Giving away free content is the perfect email list opt-in strategy. Caroline says to create simple, actionable products to give away, like checklists and workbooks. 

You want to give away something that creates a quick win for the reader. It leaves them thinking, “this helped me at the free level. What else do you have?” 

Using freebies introduces readers to your product ladder, which allows them to climb with you to more advanced products. 

If you’re worried about losing email subscribers by selling products, don’t fret. Caroline says there’s a percentage of people who stay on your list is much larger than the number of people who will unsubscribe. Caroline is ok when people unsubscribe from her email list. She knows that the people who stay are in it for the long haul. 

How To Know What Type Of Products Your Audience Wants 

Caroline likes to test product ideas based on her emails. For example, if the email is about budgeting, she adds several links to unrelated topics to see which one interests her followers the most. Whatever it is, she talks more about it, creates more posts on the subject, as well as products. 

Again, trial and error is key in finding the right products for your audience. 

Dealing With Products That Flop

Not all of Caroline’s products have been an enormous success. She still remembers her first big flop, a course called Group Board Master. The course was based on using Pinterest Group Boards to get more traffic to your blog. The course features 15 modules, all with 45-minute videos and printables, along with other bonus perks. 

Despite all the hard work, the course was an epic flop. Caroline only remembers one person buying it. Caroline never wanted to create another product again but was encouraged by fellow blogger and entrepreneur, Ruth Soukup, to keep going. 

So she created her budget binder, an 82-page printable binder with 16 months of budgeting help. Caroline says she paid a graphic designer $30 to make it. She sent it to 1,000 people on her list and made $1,200. Caroline’s budget binder has generated over $100,000 in revenue since its launch. 

Advice for Those Getting Started With A Mailing List 

For bloggers just starting, the first step is merely beginning the process of creating an email list. Caroline suggests finding your most popular blog post and creating a quick, actionable freebie to attract people. 

While Caroline loves tripwires, if you don’t have the budget (hers costs $15/month), do what you can with what you have now. Start small and then grow. 

Advice For Those With A Mailing List But No Products Yet

Many bloggers shy away from products, even if they have a big email list. If you want to find the right products for your audience, ask them. Send out an email and ask, “How can I help you? 

Once you get some responses, you’ll have a better idea of what your audience craves. 

And if you create a product that flops, it’s ok. Eat some ice cream and contemplate quitting. Then, get back up and try it again. You will find something that works for you and your audience. 

How do you attract people to your mailing list? 

Please let us know in the comments below.


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Andy Hill

Andy Hill is the award-winning podcaster and blogger behind Marriage, Kids and Money which is dedicated to helping young families build wealth and thrive. Andy's personal finance experience has been featured in major media outlets like CNBC, Business Insider, MarketWatch and NBC News. Trusted as a personal finance influencer by national financial brands, Andy’s message of family financial empowerment has resonated with listeners, readers and viewers across the US. When he's not "talking money", Andy enjoys wrestling with his two kids, singing karaoke with his wife and watching Marvel movies.