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If you’ve been paying any attention to marketing advice over the past couple of decades, then you’ve probably heard about the importance of email marketing.
Email is the second-most used marketing channel for small businesses (ranking only behind Facebook), with 64.1% of business owners saying they use email marketing to promote their businesses.
You get it—some sort of email marketing strategy is important. But here’s the thing: It’s hard to stick with it when you realize you’re sending things to the same contact list of a couple dozen subscribers (one of which is your well-meaning mom).
The real benefits of email marketing come when you’re sending valuable content (and, of course, promoting your business) to an ever-growing list of engaged subscribers.
But how the heck do you go beyond adding a handful of email addresses every week or month and skyrocket your approach to email list building? We’ve got the good stuff for you.
Before we get to the actual strategies, let’s clear the air. Business owners are busy—and, in many cases, totally overwhelmed. In one recent survey, 42% of business owners admitted that they’re currently experiencing burnout or have experienced it within the past month.
When you’re spinning so many plates, needing to figure out how to hack email marketing feels like yet another daunting challenge on your relentless and never-ending to-do list. We get it. And yet, investing time, energy, and resources into your email marketing efforts is well worth it for a few reasons:
If you post something to Instagram, everybody is going to see the same thing (if the algorithm lets them, that is). But with email (particularly if you split your list into email segments), you have far more flexibility to personalize your messages.
Whether it’s something as simple as including a subscriber’s first name in your greeting line or something as complex as creating specific campaigns for different types of subscribers, email marketing provides far greater opportunity for personalization—and, as a result, stronger connections with your current and potential customers.
That personalization pays off, as email marketing is one of the highest conversion-rate marketing channels. 48% of B2B marketers think of it as the most effective channel for driving conversions.
Ultimately, the end goal of any of your marketing efforts is to generate revenue, and building and engaging your email list is one of the best ways to make that happen.
Of course, there are plenty of other ways to market your business—with social media and search engine optimization being two that almost always rank near the top of the list.
But both of those are controlled by algorithms and, as a result, are relatively fickle. Google reportedly updates the algorithm somewhere between 500 and 600 times each year, making it feel practically impossible to stay on top of the search rankings. And you’re probably already familiar with your social media posts being seen by only a fraction of the people that follow you.
You own your email list and that allows you to control what your subscribers receive and see—rather than putting their fate into the hands of some temperamental algorithm.
Email marketing is powerful, but it can also be tough to get the snowball rolling. Sure, maybe you’ll get a new subscriber here and there or an influx of a few new email addresses after attending a conference or another industry event. But beyond that? Your list growth feels pretty stagnant.
Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can try to add more email subscribers to your list and not only grow your audience, but your entire business.
How do you get more people to visit a restaurant? Well, have a great restaurant.
We’ll admit that this first tip feels so simple it’s almost eye-roll-worthy, but it really is a crucial one when you’re focusing on email list building. If you want more people to sign up for your emails, then your emails need to be something worth signing up for.
If new subscribers complete your sign up form and are immediately bombarded with nothing but pushy sales messages and promotions? You can expect them to unsubscribe relatively quickly.
Instead, focus on providing value first and foremost. That not only engages and retains your existing subscribers, but also makes them far more likely to recommend your emails to other people you know (and hey, there’s nothin’ better than word-of-mouth marketing).
There’s a lot that you want people to do. You want them to visit your website and book an estimate and like your Facebook page and leave you a review and subscribe to your newsletter and on and on and on.
But here’s the thing: Asking people to do too much often leads them to do…well, nothing at all. They’re too overwhelmed and confused about what next step you actually want them to take.
If you’ve decided to really invest in your email newsletter growth, then subscribing to your list should be your primary CTA in most places where you ask people to take action (and don’t worry—we’ll cover a few of those spots in the next tip).
If you’re wondering why people aren’t flocking to your email list, try to put yourself in their shoes by attempting to sign up for your own list.
Was it easy to figure out how and where to enter your email address? Or do you need to search for the tiny, totally-missable “subscribe” link in the footer of your website that everybody ignores anyway?
If you want people to sign up for your emails, then you need to make it painfully easy for them to do so. You could include a sign-up link or sign-up form in a variety of places, including:
This is why simplifying your CTAs and focusing on what you most want people to do is so helpful. It opens up a huge assortment of outlets where you can push people toward signing up for your list. For example, rather than including your main website link in your Instagram bio, include your subscribe link.
And when it comes to the actual process of signing up for your newsletters, that should be easy too. Paperform is a completely painless lead capture tool. It’s simple for people to enter their name and email address—and simple for you to collect and use that information too. There are even templates you can use to easily create your own email signup form.
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We’ve already mentioned the importance of creating quality email content, but let’s dig a little deeper into what exactly “quality” means. Exclusive content can be a big piece of the puzzle. This gives your subscribers access to something that they’ll only get if they’re part of your list.
Why bother? The truth is that we’re all already drowning in emails, which makes us pretty protective of our contact information. We’re probably not willing to fork it over—unless we’re doing it in exchange for something we value.
Rather than simply asking people to sign up for your email list (hey, what’s in it for them?), incentivize them with something valuable they’ll get in return. This could be something like a:
And don’t keep this exclusive content a secret—incorporate it directly in your email list building CTAs. After all, which one would you be more likely to take action on?
A) Sign up for our email list!
B) Sign up for our email list and instantly get a 10% off discount code!
The intention of email marketing is to promote your business, but if you want people to sign up, you also need to actively promote your email list itself. Your social media accounts are a great platform to do that.
Of course, you want your social media presence to be valuable on its own too (and not just never-ending posts pushing people to your email list). But you can certainly pepper in mentions of your email newsletter in various places. Here are a few ideas:
You don’t necessarily need a complex strategy here. Something as simple as posting about your newsletter occasionally can make a big difference. People can’t sign up if they don’t know it exists—and your social media followers are a captive audience that are clearly already interested in what you have to offer (which makes them far more likely to become subscribers).
If you’re really trying to push the pedal to the metal on your email list growth, then you might want to put some dollars behind it in the form of paid advertising, particularly on social media.
It can be tough to get your social media posts in front of the right eyeballs (there go those algorithms again) and paid ads will help you reach a target audience of people who have a high likelihood of liking your business and signing up for your list.
However, just throwing dollars behind this strategy doesn’t automatically guarantee success. Combine it with some of the above tips for maximum impact.
For example, rather than paying for a Facebook ad that simply asks people to sign up for your email list, grab their attention and incentivize their sign-up by providing something in return—like a template or guide that’s related to your brand. You’ll stand out in a crowded newsfeed and hopefully boost your number of sign-ups.
You’re probably already familiar with a customer referral program, which rewards your existing customers for sending new customers your way. You can do something similar with your email list, where you provide people an incentive for sharing your email newsletter with others.
SparkLoop is a popular option for doing this easily. Your subscribers can unlock rewards or merchandise for referring your newsletter to other people—and it’s an undoubtedly effective growth strategy. In fact, the cofounder of the company states that newsletters that use SparkLoop grow, on average, 35% faster than those that don’t.
If you don’t want to rely exclusively on your subscribers, you can also partner with other businesses or creators (particularly those in the same or a complementary industry) to promote each other’s newsletters to your own lists. It’s a great way to reach new yet related audiences while also building mutually-beneficial relationships with other business owners.
As humans, we’re wired with an inherent desire for certainty—we like to know what to expect. And while sending a newsletter predictably every Thursday definitely isn’t life or death evolutionarily speaking, that level of consistency is still comforting to people.
Put simply, you can’t send a newsletter with the frequency of a lunar eclipse and expect your email list to grow with any sort of ferocity. You need to commit to a consistent cadence so that you can foster a relationship, build trust, and show people that they can depend on your email content (and of course, your business).
How often should you send a newsletter or email marketing message? Experts with the email service provider, ConvertKit, say you should pop into inboxes as least once a month—but absolutely no more than twice per week.
Worried you’ll let this continuously slide to the back burner as other pressing obligations come up? Hold yourself accountable by:
Wait a minute…clean your email list? Wouldn’t this only reduce your subscriber count? How does that help when your goal is to grow your email list?
We’ll save you the major technical lesson, but the gist is that maintaining a contact list that’s full of junk—like inactive subscribers and nonexistent emails—impacts your deliverability. Put simply, if your email list doesn’t seem legitimate then your business doesn’t seem legitimate either, making your emails far more likely to land in the dreaded “spam” folder of your subscribers.
That’s why list hygiene is so important. Every six months or so, head into your email marketing software to clean out your list. You should have the ability to sort and filter through your subscribers based on their engagement (for example, the last time they at least opened an email you sent).
You can either remove those subscribers then and there (it’s painful, but worth it) or create a re-engagement campaign (that’s a series of emails meant to pull people back in) to see if you can get them to take action on your email marketing messages again.
The important thing to keep in mind is that you’re better off having an engaged email list than a massive email list.
Much like any other marketing effort, email marketing requires some trial and error—and you can’t be afraid to do a little experimentation to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
There are so many different things you could test as part of your email marketing strategy, including (but certainly not limited to):
…the list goes on. Pick a tip or strategy, give it a try, and then keep an eye on your email marketing benchmarks and analytics to see how it works. Did it boost your sign-ups, open rate, or conversion rate? It’s worth repeating. Was it disappointing? Try something else.
What works for someone else might not be the secret sauce for you. So ultimately, the best email list building strategy is to invest in the experimentation it takes to land on what makes the most impact for your business.
These days, it’s pretty tough to ignore the power of email marketing. We’re all glued to our emails, with the average person spending 172 minutes of every single day checking their personal emails (yikes, and that doesn’t even include work messages).
If you want to get in front of potential customers where they already are, it’s safe to assume that they’re in their inboxes.
And yet, when you’re a business owner with a to-do list that wouldn’t fit in a phonebook, email marketing can feel daunting. Plus, gaining any real traction is tough to do (particularly when your most engaged email subscriber is…uhh…your mom).
The truth is that growing an email list probably won’t be an overnight success story—it takes some time and effort. The good news? It’s well worth it—and the above email list building strategies can set you on the right path.
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