5 Reasons Why You Should Use Online Challenges For List-Building in 2020


Are you tired of list-building… just for the sake of growing your e-mail list?

Do you feel like you’re only attracting freebie hunters, people who never open your e-mails and it doesn’t seem like they ever are going to become your fans, not to even say – buyers?

In this article, discover one of the most underestimated list-building methods: Free Online Challenges and why it’s such a powerful tool to turn strangers into customers without spending months nurturing them — especially if you’re running a service-based business (done-for-you services, online courses, coaching, mentoring, healing).

What Is A Free Online Challenge?

A free online challenge is a series of free trainings on a specific topic, delivered over a few days. Usually, it’s taking the form of e-mail series, enriched with videos and community support, most often happening in a Facebook group.

Sounds complicated? Let’s break it down:

  1. People sign up for the challenge.
  2. They receive daily prompts with lessons and tasks to accomplish.
  3. They share their progress in the community, while getting support from you (the leader) and each other.
  4. They are offered the opportunity to continue working with you in order to achieve their goals.

So basically it’s like running a free workshop online, delivering some results, and giving an option to continue with you as a paying client so that they can fully resolve their problem.

There are lots of examples of running successful challenges across many niches, and all levels of business.
You can run a challenge even if you have 10 people on your list (and a challenge will help you explode it).
You can run a challenge whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned entrepreneur.
And a challenge will help you scale your business.
For examples on 7-figure entrepreneur using challenges, check out Jennifer Kem and her Brand Story Challenge.

Now, why is this approach so powerful?

Reason #1: Online Challenge Attracts Those Who Are Committed To Take Action

Typical optins (for example a free e-book, a webinar, a cheat sheet etc.) are attracting people who are the stage of research and information gathering. And for many, this stage never ends… we also call them freebie hunters ;). In fact, you might see them never open your e-mails — even the first one, with your download… or immediately unsubscribe after receiving it.

On the contrary, a challenge is action-oriented. It’s all about rolling up sleeves and getting into action mode, and simply starting to get some momentum forward. For you, this means 2 great things:

  • people who sign up for your challenge are ready to finally take action to solve their problem
  • those who will go through the challenge are your ideal clients: not just ready but truly taking action, ditching the excuses, and committing their time to get results they want.
    … they also usually finish the challenge asking for your payment link 🙂

That’s why you can usually expect much higher conversion rates from running a challenge. A typical cold traffic funnel (optin freebie – email sequence – upsell) will convert at 1-2%, while a properly orchestrated challenge can easily convert at 10% up to even 30%.

Reason #2: Online Challenge Positions You as THE Expert

A challenge goes way beyond simple deliver information to show expertise, like an e-book or webinar. Nowadays, when you can Google anything and everything, providing information is like showing a black-and-white silent movie while what people really want is a 5D-cinematic experience with all the bells and whistles.

Here’s where a challenge comes in handy ;). During a challenge, participants not only witness your expertise – they experience it and start seeing some real shifts in their life or business. This is exactly what makes a challenge so powerful. We are experiential animals, you see.

“Tell me and I will forget. Teach me and I will remember. Involve me and I will learn.” Benjamin Franklin

We learn best by taking action — and there are no results without action.

BTW, a tip: If you’re looking for the best ways to ‘add value’ to your audience, give them something actionable. Not just the lesson – give them a task they can complete right now, and they will love you forever.

Now you are moving them from passive information download into actively taking action and feeling more in control of their life or business.
They are not just learning from you — but IMPLEMENTING.
They are not just learning — they feel EMPOWERED now.
All thanks to your teachings, prompts, support, encouragement.
It’s YOU who is making their goals POSSIBLE.

So when the challenge is finished, you are perceived not only as someone who has all the knowledge and skills needed to solve their problem… That’s mandatory if you want them to become buyers, but it’s not enough.

You are now perceived as someone way more impactful! Someone who:

  • can, in fact, be the vehicle of change in their life (read: knows how to make things happen without a struggle or confusion or loss)
  • they greatly enjoyed interacting with you (read: you’ve given them a positive dopamine shot from taking action — and a sense of capability)

In short: now they know, like and trust you.
I would even dare to say: by now, they know, love and trust you.

Oh, and if they dropped off during the challenge, this means they’re not a good fit for you… which is just perfect!

Those who ‘get you’ will stay with you.
This is what will move them over the fence to actually invest in you.
You’ve just become their go-to solution.

Reason #3: Online Challenges build relationships FAST

Did you know about the Marketing Rule of 7? For a long time, it stated that a potential client needs to hear your message about 7 times before they’ll take action to buy your product or service.

But now, with all the clutter in people’s newsfeeds & life distractions… research shows it takes 15 to 20 times just to be heard.
Or even more! A recent research by Google showed that for online consumers, it can even be 20 – 500 touchpoints, depending on purchase type.

Does it mean you need to prepare for a mundane work of producing hundreds of emails and following up forever?
I bet you’d rather do this in a smarter way.

See, the algorithms and the clutter levels may change, but one thing won’t change: people buy from people.
And creating a meaningful relationship is your best sales tool ever.

Here’s how a challenge helps you build authentic relationships with your potential clients, much faster than any other list-building tool:

  1. They basically get to spend a few days together with you. What’s more, they expect and welcome those interactions — seeing you in their inbox, watching your livestreams, waiting for your responses in the Facebook group. That’s intensive and it’s LIVE! For a few days, you become omnipresent and they know there’s a real person on the other side, listening to them, supporting them.
  2. They get to know who you are as a person. Most of the challenge content is shared via video or livestreams, which means people get the idea of who you are as a person, how it’s to work with you… do they enjoy your cheesy jokes or do they hate the way you smile? Yes, it all matters.
  3. It’s a conversation builder. Unlike other optin types, a challenge is an interactive format, which means there is a conversation between you and the audience – instead of typical and non-engaging, one-way communication.
  4. They get real help from you. During the challenge, you are helping your potential clients to take action and to get momentum towards their goals. This creates strong, authentic bonds between you and them. Plus, at it’s core, selling is helping (here’s a very interesting Forbes article on this).
  5. A community feel. All challenge participants are joining the community at the same time and benefit from creating a shared momentum. It’s not only interactions with you, but also interactions between the challenge participants, watching other’s people progress and getting support from each other that make a challenge so special. You are now seen as a leader and connector – someone who helped them meet in one place and move forward and it the part of the community.
    Plus, you don’t have to spend hundreds of hours on discovery calls to create those connections… How’s that for a win-win?

Here’s your smarter relationship building approach. You’re welcome :).

Reason #4: Online Challenges Let You Refine & Scale

What makes a challenge a great market-research & offer creation tool, is that it gives you LIVE feedback.
You don’t have to second-guess yourself or play a hit-and-miss game launching webinars and freebie optins.

You are interacting with people in your community: they ask you questions, you can see where they get stuck with your process, what needs refining, what’s a complete bonkers and what gets them excited and moving forward.
So that during your challenge, you get a chance to update your sales message and make it perfectly adjusted to your audience: because you get a better understanding of their pain points, their goals, their objections and their WHYs.

Plus, there are no limitations as to how many times you can run your challenge.
I’ve seen challenges being run from once a month to a few times a year to once a year.
Whatever works for you personally and for your business model.
You can start with a challenge and then tweak & refine & repeat… and it gets better (and so much easier!) with each time.

This is where it gets really exciting, because now you are ready to scale it.
Next time you launch it, all your assets are ready.
You can spend 90% of your time promoting the challenge.
You can run paid ads, because now you know what’s working.
And then, during the challenge you can give your audience your full attention and make investing in you their natural next step.

Next up, you can take a proven challenge and turn it into a hands-off version: an online course, a video training series, add a messenger bot for better communication or even package it as a paid product.

I’m pretty sure that by now you have come up with a few options you could implement in your business ;).

Reason #5: Online Challenges Create One of the Most Positive Sales Experiences

In Hubspot research, the top ways to create a positive sales experience – according to buyers, are:

  • Listen to their needs (69%)
  • Don’t be pushy (61%)
  • Provide relevant information (61%)
  • Respond in a timely manner (51%)
  • Cares about the success of my business or project (45%)
  • Detail the ways s/he can help me succeed (37%)

Now, can you count how many of those we tick for the challenge? 🙂
Yes… all of them:


✅ Listen to their needs
Oh, that’s exactly it! They are asking questions in the challenge community, they are sharing their goals, their dreams, their pains, their progress, all the things they have doubts and objections about… and you’re there, listening carefully, in your ninja-market-researcher hat.
✅ Don’t be pushy
Introducing your offer becomes a natural next step – they allowed you into their life, you’ve proven how helpful you can be, they’ve seen initial results… now it’s THEM asking you about how they can continue working with you.
✅ Provide relevant information
This is your challenge content, your daily teachings and prompts – plus all your responses to their questions in the community.
✅ Respond in a timely manner
That’s you again, interacting in the group, answering their questions in the comments and in your Q&A livestreams. Be there for them!
✅ Care about the success of my business or project
You’ve just given them your time & attention, making sure that they will get the most value from your challenge and helping them move towards your goals.
Can you think about a better way for showing that you truly care?
✅ Detail the ways she can help me succeed

A challenge gives you a perfect opportunity for making an offer adjusted exactly to their needs. Thanks to all the live feedback and interactions, you now understand what they mean by ‘success’. It’s now easy for you to show them how you can help them – on your sales page or through a discovery call. 

And with the challenge format, as you are guiding your participants a bit further towards their goals… choosing to work with you becomes their natural next step.
You’ve already primed them for the sale.
You’ve showed them your value.
Now it’s their turn to open the wallet ;).

Now, there’s some science to running a challenge that will help you achieve YOUR sales goals. It’s about:

  • Picking the right topic for your challenge
  • Delivering a win-win daily experience (without undermining your sales)
  • Maximizing sales, feedback and testimonials

Let me know in the comments whether you’d be interested to hear more about it!

And I’m curious about your experience with challenges. Have you ever run one? How did it go? Can’t wait to hear from you. Thanks!

Cheers to fun & freedom,