How to Build Your Email Marketing List

Despite what the click baiters are saying ("email is dead!", "content is dead!") email marketing remains one of the most effective ways to reach your prospects and customers. Studies show people WANT to hear from brands via email more than via other platforms. And if you think about it, that tracks. If people are receiving emails from you it's because they subscribed - they literally asked to receive information from you. This is also why email has the highest return on investment of any digital campaign. In fact, according to Constant Contact, as of 2021 for every $1 spent on email, businesses make around $36. We'll take that ROI all day long. 

But. (You knew that was coming, right?) An email campaign is only as good as the list you send it to. Building and maintaining a high-quality, engaged email list is critical to your email marketing success, and growing a good list over time is no small amount of work. A little attrition is natural and even encouraged to keep your list fresh.  People are going to unsubscribe here and there, and you’ll get a bounce or two as people change jobs. But even with those losses, your list should experience growth over time. If not, something is wrong. Though that “something” might be any number of factors, here are some ways to focus on building your email lists.

How Not to Build Your Email List

Let's start with the most basic rule of quality email marketing: never, under any circumstances, should you buy an email list. Why? For starters, it's illegal almost everywhere but the U.S. It is legal (as of now, anyway) to send one spam email. This is NOT true for other countries, especially since the GDPR. While buying a list is tempting to boost your count quickly, many of the email addresses on purchased lists aren’t valid. And those that are are as likely to send you to SPAM as they are to actually read your email. And you can forget about engagement. 

Simple Tricks for Building Your Email List Organically

Ok, enough with the doom and gloom. The truth is there are plenty of simple tools and tactics you can employ today to start growing your email list quickly, even if you don't have a big one to start with.

  • Create a personalized CTA (call-to-action) for each blog or landing page. Make it easy for people to sign up for your emails/newsletters by putting a form in prominent places. A standard CTA across your marketing objects will do the trick, but we've found that personalized CTAs convert better, so if you're trying to build your list fast take the extra time to tweak the CTA to make it more relevant to each post or page you build your form into. 
  • Add a pop-up or slide-in to your website. Pop-ups no longer need to be the interpretive experience for your visitors they once were. Using the appropriate marketing automation tools ( HubSpot) you can time your pop-ups or slide-ins appropriately, and even use retargeting to offer a pop-up relevant to the visitor's behavior. These types of CTAs actually add to the user experience, and they convert really well. 
  • Let your personality shine. Users are inundated with "yes or no" offers, so much so that people almost don't even see them anymore. Injecting a little personality or humor can get people to stop and take notice. Hey, you're building the pop-up anyway - even if it only convinces a few extra people to stick around or sign up it's worth it, right?
  • Don't limit your CTAs to your website. Pitch your newsletter on your social media accounts and include a link in your email signature. You can even take it a step further and take your CTA beyond your digital communications. Take a page from Alec Baldwin and "always be closing." Ask everyone to sign up. Maybe it’s on the paperwork they fill out or on a customer survey you send after a visit. Your front desk person might ask. You might post it on a sign near the front desk. Brainstorm all sorts of ways to make sure people know you have a newsletter and offer them a chance to sign up. If you have events/tables/booths, make sure to have a way for people to sign up there, possibly in exchange for a prize or the chance to win.  
  • Make the content worth it. All the best tactics won't amount to much if you aren't providing value in return for a subscription. If your content is useful or interesting, people will forward it, mention it, and soon you’ll have more people signing up. Caution: If you promise people offers and special deals, you’d better deliver those. People tend to see one offer and expect them consistently.
  • Segment your lists. Your email list should not be a "set it and forget it" kind of thing. Part of delighting your audience is customizing content to meet their specific needs. Offer people different newsletters or emails to receive. Just because Customer Jane wants to sign up for sale alerts doesn’t mean she wants to be on your monthly “featured products” list. If you send her too much, she’ll probably unsubscribe from both. While this approach is more challenging in B2B situations, segment whenever possible. You might segment based on location, past purchases, location in the buying cycle, etc. Then, give people options for unsubscribing, too, so that they can choose only to unsubscribe from one of your three emails.
  • Keep it simple. To improve engagement on your emails, remember to keep your messaging simple. Unless you're sending a newsletter or digest of past content, your emails should really only ever ask your reader to take ONE action. Download one resource, subscribe to one feed, sign up for one demo. It also helps to keep in mind that most of us read emails on our phones. Your emails should load quickly and be optimized for mobile as well as desktop. (This is less about getting subscribers and more about keeping them, but it’s still good info!)

Still have email marketing questions? We have a whole feed of goodies to answer your questions on the Free Marketing Advice blog, and of course, we're standing by to chat email strategy any time. Oh, and hey, don't forget to sign up for our newsletter! 😉

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