A brilliant opt-in strategy from Playbook - Kathleen Celmins
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A brilliant opt-in strategy from Playbook

What’s your opt-in strategy? Do you have one? If you haven’t put out a new opt-in in the last six months, it’s time. But how do you know what to offer?

Let’s say you’re a software company, and you want to get more attention.

You could offer a free plan.

And then hope somehow you gain traction.

But there are about eleventy hundred software companies out there, all doing the same thing… free trials, free plans, free free free.

So, how do you stand out?

Well, you could do what Playbook did, and offer an occasional free illustration package.

Check it out:


There are a few things to note here:

  1. There’s no mention of what you have to do in order to get this collection.
  2. The button is really easy to see.
  3. You don’t have to know THING ONE about Playbook to download. All you have to do is want some cool free illustrations.

Even when you click the button, the process is seamless:

I like that they tell you the value of this collection. I like their use of emojis, and I like how clear it is that it’s free (with completely acceptable terms).

When you click Claim, you get taken to a page that looks like this:

Now, you’re asked to create an account.

But since you already want those cool illustrations, and the process was entirely seamless up until this point, you’re prepped to do so.

The fact that you can simply click to log in with Google doesn’t hurt.

After the sign-in process

I love illustrations, and I really liked this collection (if you read the post about getting feedback on your offer, you’ll see I already used some of them!), so I signed up.

Here’s what I saw:

They took me right to this collection!

Why this opt-in strategy is brilliant

I think we solopreneurs can learn something from this strategy, even if we’re not building software.

You don’t have to know what Playbook does in order to benefit from free content

They make it really easy to go in and download your illustrations (at whatever resolution!) with minimal hoops to jump through.

They anchor the value you’re getting, so you’re ready to jump through a few hoops, but they really don’t ask much.

They don’t have to create much additional content in order to make this something people want to come back to

They’re releasing new free illustrations fortnightly, which is a word they actually use, and a word that makes me feel like I should be writing with a quill and handing my letters off to the postman on his (because it would have to be his) horse.

That’s neither here nor there. The point is, I signed up for a free account on a platform I do not know.

And, their platform has something to do with illustrations or design or something so they can offer free publicity to any illustrator who wants to contribute a small body of work for free.

Sounds like what Unsplash does, doesn’t it?

People share the heck out of free stuff they find online

In fact, I found out about this free collection in the Top of Funnel Slack group, sent by someone who said, “Hey look at this neat free thing I found!” and as far as I could tell, she wasn’t affiliated with Playbook as a company.

Although, that would be a next-level growth strategy: pretend to be just someone who found something neat online and shares it. Only problem with that is that people can tell when someone is shilling a product for money. Plus it’s against the rules. So don’t do that. Share authentically, disclose relationships.

So, with this opt-in strategy, or rather, fortnightly series of opt-ins, Playbook has:

  • Generated new free plan clients
  • Gathered tons of email addresses
  • Given a bit of publicity to their illustrators 
  • And done it all with very little creation work on their end

All they have to do now is send a series of emails talking about what Playbook is, what problem it solves, why people prefer it over the competition, and chances are, they’ll grow.

One downside? I signed up three days ago and haven’t gotten an email.

It’s important to send one email right away, regardless of whether you’re a solo service provider or a software company.


You haven’t yet earned name recognition with people. Even people who just downloaded something.

Which means the longer you wait, the more likely you are to get people unsubscribing.

If I don’t hear from Playbook for the next few days, when I do inevitably get an email, I’m not going to remember the context.

They’ve forgotten the strategy part of the opt-in strategy.

But since the opt-in was so valuable it might be one that they don’t have to worry about since not only have I been to their website a few times since creating my free account, but I’m sitting here writing about the experience.

How you can apply this same opt-in strategy to your business

Will it take more work to create an opt-in like this? Yes, if you compare it against a PDF download or something.

But will it build your list faster and help you grow your business more efficiently? Also yes, so it might be worth trying to figure out what sort of adjacent free thing you can do.

Here’s how I’d go about brainstorming this:

  1. Think about what you want the person who is signing up for your free thing to do. For Playbook, it’s clear that there’s some sort of non-free version of their software, so getting people to use their software means there’s not much in the way of “here’s how to sign up” tutorials. For a lot of solopreneurs, you want someone to book a discovery session, or even start the checkout process for a product.
  2. Then, work backward from there. If you want someone to, say, join The Vault membership, you’d maybe put together a free version of the vault. You’d brainstorm all the different ideas on what would be included in the free vault. You’d go back and forth with your business partner, saying things like, “you know, I want it to be some of our best content but not all of it because then who would want to upgrade?”
  3. Do your best to make it as easy and straightforward as possible. Follow the path laid out by Playbook, and use a button like theirs. “Get this collection” should lead to a dropdown showing what all they get and how they can use it but not share it.
  4. Send an email right away, then send a sequence of emails daily for a week or so. The first email should be about what they can expect over the next few emails. Then, I’d talk about how they can use the selected files in the vault. Then, I’d map out all the other cool vault stuff that they’re missing by not being a member of The Vault membership. Then, I’d talk about playbooks. Here are the ones we’ve done in the past, here are the ones we’re working on for the upcoming months.

Looks like with this writing I’ve given myself another task.

But since I think it might be a good idea to test out something like this, I’m up for the challenge.

I love creating opt-ins, as you can probably guess.

I love building this community.

I love the idea of an alternative opt-in.

What about you?

What are you creating?

Case study:

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