Email is an incredible digital marketing tool. With its widespread reach and viral potential, it allows your business to connect with prospects in ways that no other marketing medium can.
But first you need a list of subscribers to send emails to. Whether you lack the time or the know-how to create quality emails, there are plenty of challenges that can prevent you from developing a healthy email list.
Fortunately, there are lots of easy ways to collect email addresses so that you reap the benefits of email marketing. We’ve gathered the best email list building tactics to grow subscribers in this guide. They are grouped below to help you:
- Gain more subscribers through existing relationships
- Learn how to get more emails from your website
- Earn email subscribers from social and other sites
- NEVER buy a list
- Monitor and track email performance
Collect more emails addresses through existing relationships
One of the easiest places to get started is by connecting with existing friends, colleagues, and any subscribers you have already. Not only is this a good place to start if you’re starting from scratch, but this can also feel the least scary. All you have to do is ask!
Before you reach out to people, there are a few best practices you should keep in mind:
- Message people you have a relationship with. That random Facebook person you don’t remember meeting probably isn’t the best fit.
- Use WIIFM (What’s in it for me?”). Every time you message someone, make sure to tell them how your content, — whether it’s a newsletter, email course, case study, or something else entirely — will benefit them or their friend.
- Be yourself. Tell your story, share your feelings, be vulnerable and real. People will subscribe and share your sign up form because they want to help YOU.
1. Ask friends, family, and colleagues
One of the easiest marketing strategies to execute is to ask your current connections to join your list. Leveraging your network is a great way to steadily increase your email list, and often the best place to gain traction, especially in the beginning.
Although some of your connections may not be interested in the material themselves, they might know someone who is. Tell them you’re starting an email list. Explain the benefits and ask them if they know someone who would be interested in your focus areas(s).
Clearly articulate your purpose and the benefits.
When it comes time to send an email, avoid communicating like a robot. Talk like you do in real life — it will help your customers relate to you better.
Email templates are a great starting point, but be sure to tailor it based on your relationship to the person and how you are asking. Depending on where a conversation is happening, people communicate very differently. When you text someone, you should be more casual than in an email. If you’re talking to someone in person, you shouldn’t be reading from a script you wrote beforehand.
2. Ask customers and prospects
When existing and prospective customers buy something from you or connect with you, verbally ask if they’d like to sign up for your email or newsletter. To entice them, you can provide something that could directly benefit them like a free ebook or kickoff template.
Grow your email list by asking customers you’re already speaking with on the phone. Tell them about what they can expect from your emails. It only takes a few seconds to jot down an email address. If you make “the big ask” five times a day for one work week, that’s 25 email addresses you didn’t have before you started, and 100 email addresses in just one month!
3. Capture emails from your email signature/closing
How many people do you contact personally via email every day? These contacts might not be on your business email list yet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t suggest that they sign up to receive your email newsletter.Include a brief call-to-action and link to a form or landing page in your email signature.
This might not lead to a mountain of new email signups, but it is an easy, passive way to bring awareness if you’re emailing people regularly. Don’t forget to update other email signatures (e.g. a customer service email) and have team members update their signatures.
4. Encourage forwarding
Reach out to current subscribers and encourage them to share your email with people they know. Word-of-mouth is one of the oldest and most powerful means of advertising, and email offers the perfect venue for suggesting it to your subscribers. If they’re on your list and getting value from your messages, chances are they know others who would also benefit.
It’s important to make your emails easy to share and subscribe to. Update your template to include social sharing buttons. Devote a section of your newsletter to encourage subscribers to forward your message. Then, include a link to your sign-up page or hosted web form so that new readers can sign up directly from your email.
5. Send postcards via snail mail
Michelle Kemp, a fan of AWeber on Facebook, swears by sending postcards to prospects by mail:
“Get your offline clients’ email addresses by mailing them a postcard with a free offer. Give them a website to go to and when they opt-in, give them your free content/giveaway that you promised. This works like a charm!”
If you have their postal address, sending a client a personalized, handwritten note or postcard with a return address shows that you market transparently. It also puts a human touch on the otherwise technical task of collecting email addresses online.
How to get more emails from your website
Oftentimes there are website improvement opportunities right under your nose. In many cases, an email marketing strategy starts with a general, “subscribe to our newsletter” goal, then additional email capture goals are added piecemeal.
1. Offer freebies
You can also collect email addresses by offering freebies. Nothing is more attractive to a potential customer than a free product (also called a lead magnet) or a glance at a service that they don’t have yet.
No matter what your newsletter is about, you are an expert in your field. Write up a quick guide to your industry, offer free templates or send an exclusive download of your latest podcast that’s only available to your email list.
As long as your free gift is relevant to the content of your newsletter, it’s the perfect incentive for prospects who might be on the fence about signing up.
2. Make sure a form is present throughout your website
It’s best to have a sign up form on just about every page so that anyone who lands on your site is able to sign up quickly and painlessly for your emails. This is the simplest part of growing an email list, yet a common oversight for businesses focusing only on the homepage or a shortlist of “top pages.”
The first (and sometimes only) interaction you have with people may happen on your website or blog. If you don’t make the most of that opportunity, it may be the last. When coming from Google, Facebook or a link shared on a blog, visitors will very rarely end up directly on your landing page. They’re probably directed to an article, or a specific page on your site that relates more closely to what they are looking for instead.
3. Optimize your current form placement
Even if you do have a sign up form accessible on every page on your site, test its location on various page templates. For example: if your blog posts only include a sign up form at the bottom of the post, the form isn’t getting nearly as much visibility as it would in the sidebar or halfway through posts.
Put your inline web form in an easy-to-find, consistent spot on every page of your site. In most cases, the web form should be above the fold (the section of your site that is visible without scrolling).
4. Review what info you’re asking for and form messaging
The email sign up process should be easy for the new subscriber and share what they can expect by signing up for your email list.
For starters, take a look at your current web form. Remember that getting all of their details up front will be helpful to you, but it isn’t an easy task for them.
Studies show that form length will impact the number of signups you receive. You should request only what you really need from them at this stage to prevent any barriers to entry.
That doesn’t mean you can’t collect information to help you personalize your email send. But make sure that asking for that information isn’t causing a roadblock.
Also make sure you clearly communicate what your website visitors will receive after signing up, how often they will receive emails from you, and then stick to your commitment. Give visitors a reason to subscribe.
5. Experiment with Pop Ups
Pop up forms can be a simple yet effective way to bring more attention to your email list. But it’s important to establish a few ground rules before getting started.
You don’t want to interrupt or annoy your website visitors with too many pop ups. Not all forms have to pop up in the middle of a screen and darken the background content. You can use a “sticky” form that unobtrusively remains on the bottom of the page as a user scrolls, or a slide-in form on the side of the screen.
You can set the timing of your pop up forms to display after a user has been on the page for a certain time. Or set it so the form displays only when a user takes a specific action (e.g. their mouse showing exit-intent towards the X button) or when they reach the bottom of the page.
6. Add incentives after a purchase
Add an automatic incentive or CTA after a purchase is made (e.g. on your thank you page). Not every customer that purchases an item or service from you will always return.
You can, however, work towards building customer loyalty with your emails. By leveraging the point of purchase to collect email addresses, you can bring them closer to becoming repeat customers.
7. Run a contest to collect subscribers
Contests are a perfect marketing strategy for drumming up excitement and attracting new subscribers. There are a number of tools available that can help you easily host a contest, such as Gleam.io or ViralSweep.
Make sure you have a valuable prize, a relatively short entry period, and then don’t forget to promote it on your website and on social media. Setting a time period (e.g. a weeklong contest) instills a sense of urgency. This way they won’t assume they have plenty of time to sign up. And whatever your prize is, make sure it’s a valuable something-they-can’t-live-without item or offer.
Earn emails from social and other sites
Now that you’ve asked existing relationships and optimized your website to capture more emails, you’re ready to explore growth opportunities that extend beyond your site. Leveraging your social media following and reaching out to other sites in your industry should be some of the primary pillars of your growth strategy.
1. Reach out to your social followers
As a business owner, you probably already know a consistent social media presence can help you engage with customers, promote special offers, and build brand awareness. But did you know that you can use channels like Facebook and Twitter to grow your email marketing list, too?
By encouraging your social followers to sign up for your email list, you’re able to tap into an audience of people who are already interested in your business and what you have to say.
While you can certainly post about the benefits of your email content (along with a link to your sign up form), you can also prove it by linking to your email archive.
2. Add a form to your Facebook business page
Did you know that you can capture email addresses directly from Facebook? Simply integrate your email software with Facebook so that anyone visiting your page on the social networking site can easily subscribe to receive email updates. Here’s the step-by-step integration instructions for AWeber users.
3. Pin a tweet that could entice a sign up
While simply pinning a tweet to the top of your profile feed that says “sign up for our newsletter” will likely have little impact, there are ways to show off reasons and opportunities to subscribe. Here are a few examples of what you can pin
- Your most recent newsletter to provide a glimpse into what they could expect
- Impactful quotes, unique data, and other information from whitepapers/ebooks
- Upcoming webinars and events
Create an even more desirable tweet with an image or GIF and easy-to-read copy.
4. Invest in social advertising
Social media is a powerful tool, especially when you can invest in it. LinkedIn and Facebook ad formats that specifically cater to email signups can help you reach your target audience.
Don’t be afraid to play around with your ads and A/B test different images, videos, GIFs and copy. Like email marketing campaigns, the only way to understand what resonates with your audience is to test, test, test!
5. Don’t forget about YouTube (if you’re using it currently)
Whether you’re active on YouTube and treat it like a social network or simply use it as a repository for video content, there is potential to earn email addresses.
Consider the best way to ask for an email—in terms of placement, the messaging of the ask, and the value they will receive. Most importantly, think about how to make it easy for users to subscribe.
YouTube offers a number of ways to include calls to action within the video area itself. You can also update the video’s “About” section to include a CTA. Always preview the live video first so you can place the most important information before the “Show More” truncation occurs.
6. Write for other industry blogs
Guest writing is a great way to reach an audience you otherwise might not have. By contributing to other sites, you not only provide value to a new audience, but you also have the opportunity to find subscribers who might become some of your best customers.
7. Cross-promote your list to another list
Have more than one list? Cross-promote your offer on one list to the other list.
The idea here is to convince people that there’s value to be obtained from your email list, and now’s the time to subscribe so they can get something immediately in return.
But whatever you do, never buy a list
We get this question a lot when talking to new email marketers: “How do I buy a list of emails?”
The answer: don’t do it. The thought of building an email subscriber base can seem daunting, but the worst thing you can do is buy a list. (It’s actually illegal to sell email lists!)
And when you purchase an email list, it hurts your email deliverability, because these emails did not subscribe to you and are likely to mark your messages as spam.
Monitor and track email performance
Make sure you have the correct tracking in place on both your email newsletters and your website. The data you collect will allow you to identify top-performing content and inform decisions that help improve your strategy, which will result in more email addresses on your subscriber list. It’ll also help you find out which lead generation methods are producing the most impactful results.
Without the ability to track key metrics like conversion rate, it will be difficult to understand how your readers are interacting with your content and what they likely want to see more of in the future.
To keep things simple (and free!) a tracking tool like Google Analytics can show your numbers and help you gauge performance. You can set this up in just a few minutes and start gathering in-depth analytics around your email and website traffic.
What are your list building tactics?
Does one particular method help you attract new subscribers? Is there something that doesn’t work very well for your industry?
Once you have your list, now it’s time to start using email marketing to quickly grow your business. Get all the tools and resources you need to become an email pro with our guide “How to Grow Your Business with Email Marketing”