Earlier this month, I shut down my resource library which I had been stocking with free resources for bloggers and social media users since November 2017.
Before I go into the reasons for this decision, here’s a quick overview of what a resource library contains , how people usually build one & what they include in it.
What is a resource library?
A resource library, as the name suggests is the compilation of material that is relevant and useful for your target audience. For instance, if your audience is a group of bloggers and social media users (like mine), some of the resources could be as simple as checklists and tiny PDFs or something more elaborate like an e-book or a video tutorial.
The idea of a resource library is that it is exclusive to the people who sign up for your email list and your training material is then delivered to them once they give you their email address. For the longest time (well over 2.5 years) this was the model that I used to grow my email list.
How do you build a resource library?
There are two different ways to approach the creation of your resource library.
On the one hand, you can create a number of free items and upload them all to a folder on One Drive, Google Drive or Dropbox and give your subscribers unique access to these files once they sign up for your list.
On the other hand, you can create a separate opt-in sequence for each individual resource and deliver that successfully to the people who sign up for your newsletter. Once you have enough free resources, you compile them all into a resource library.
*The second method is what I followed.
What I included in my resource library
Over the last 3 years I have created over 20 free resources for my subscribers. These ranged from 2 page checklists to a detailed e-book on the principles of blogging and building your blog in 20 days.
But a few months ago, my entire approach to the idea of a resource library shifted and earlier this month (November 2020) I removed my resource library access for my subscribers.
Here are the reasons that I made the switch.
Why I did away with my resource library
In July 2020, I came across this fascinating article on the idea of email marketing, lead magnets and opt-in freebies. It completely transformed my approach to the idea of newsletters.
Ever since I have switched gears in my approach to newsletters and email marketing; what I have now observed is that a resource library is a futile tool and a waste of energy for the creator as well as the end user.
Free content doesn’t produce action or results
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. You see that someone is offering something for free- an e-book/a design template/a checklist. You sign up for it and even go so far as to download it. Chances are you never really look at it again.
This is because you weren’t really ready for the knowledge being delivered to you. You just signed up for it because it was free; kind of like when you walk into a supermarket and you notice that they’re handing out free cookie samples.
You’re not really hungry or even in the mood for a cookie, but you’d be silly to pass up on the free stuff, right?
Unfortunately, that’s the biggest challenge with being a freebie- hoarder. You get things that you don’t really need. Most people sign up for a freebie and then end up either letting the content sit on their hard drive or ignoring it altogether.
Net result? Content that is otherwise valuable but has no impact on you or your life.
Free content is not equal to an engaged subscriber
This one is for the content creator. Let’s say you’ve created this wonderful freebie: It’s a checklist and you know that your target audience will truly benefit from it. You decide to create it as a lead-magnet or a content upgrade in your next blog post.
You’ve tried this. Right?
Your blog post about optimising your on page SEO is made perfect when you add a downloadable checklist that people can use. Hey, why not deliver it as a content upgrade?
So you go through the ritual of actually setting up a sign up form and configure it to be delivered to your subscriber when they sign up for your newsletter list. You wait, tease it out to your potential audience on social media and see if the fish bite. (Yes, a freebie is ‘bait’, whether you agree or not).
Once they do, you then hope that they stick around and actually remain on your list. But in over 85% of the cases (don’t bother googling; I just made up that number), the freebie seekers will unsubscribe from your newsletter.
They will either do this soon after they’ve signed up and got the freebie or, more likely, they’d assign your email address to the spam folder.
Net result: You end up sending emails to subscribers who will never open your emails.
A resource library is rather overwhelming for the reader
Again, this is something I didn’t really anticipate when I first launched my resource library. In the beginning it wasn’t so bad. I had maybe 3 or 5 resources. Before I shut down the library, it had over 17 free resources.
As time went on, though, it dawned on me that as my resources grew, something else dwindled: The number of people actually reading the resource or using it.
How would I know if someone has read a resource? If it’s truly helpful, they always let me know. They send me an email or tag me on social media to confirm that the content helped them approach their work with a new sense of purpose.
Once I started growing the resource library and it moved from 5 to 10 to 15 to 20 resources, it became overwhelming for the subscribers. Even if they WERE engaged subscribers, they had no mood to trawl through all the resources to find what they needed.
So, I wait for people now to ask for a specific resource. If it was something I had shared earlier, I send the direct link to them to access/download it for personal use. Because I now know that they are mentally ready and receptive for that specific piece of information.
Net Result: A resource library feels good for the creator; but is useless if it doesn’t actually provide value to the subscriber at the right time.
When you give people something for ‘free’, actually make it free!
This is something that particularly struck a chord when I read it in George’s post.
If I have to offer something for free, I should actually make it free.
Asking for a person’s email address is equal to asking them for something in lieu of payment: their attention.
People’s time and attention are so very valuable. It’s wrong of marketers to leverage that by luring them into their newsletter lists. I’ve done this myself in the past and deeply regret it.
So now, when a person signs up for my Free Instagram course, they are actually signing up for it, without having to sign up for my newsletter. (I’m not kidding. Check it out here and take the free course. No obligation whatsoever)
Net Result: Give people content for free, if that’s your actual intention.
If people need a resource they will ask for it
Most of those free resources I uploaded? They are still free; they just aren’t publicly accessible anymore. I’ve moved the location of most of the free resources.
If a subscriber needs a specific resource I’d be more than willing to share it with them personally, if they were to email me and ask for it. That’s because I know they’re actually going to use it. 🙂
A few of the resources have been moved to Gumroad (or will be moved there soon) to be a part of my store. And I will charge a very nominal fee for users to download them.
One of those, for instance, is my list of 360 Blog Post Ideas for bloggers in 18 different niches. It’s priced at just $2 so it won’t really burn a hole in your pocket. (If you’ve already got it for free in the last 3 years, it’s yours to keep) 😉
Net learning: If your audience values your content, they will be ready to support you and your work.
Your audience is valuable and precious and deserves your attention, as much as you need to earn theirs in return.
I know this is drastically different from any other marketing advice out there and the truth is following this approach will make your newsletter grow much slower than other people in your niche.
But I guarantee you that when you follow this approach- the honest, authentic and ‘resource-free’ approach to connecting with your customers, you will end up with an audience that is extremely loyal to you and your work ethic.
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*I’ve turned off comments on the blog but welcome your valuable insight on this topic over email or on this post on my Facebook page. Feel free to get in touch and share your thoughts.
I’m a blog & content coach with over 13 years of writing, blogging and social media experience.
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