Nearly nine out of 10 marketers use email marketing to distribute content. It’s an effective tool, as it provides you a direct line of communication with your audience and potential customers. However, if you don’t have people signing up for your list, your content won’t have a chance to resonate because no one will be reading it. That’s why it’s critical to take action. Here are nine strategies to build your email list.
Strategies to Build Your Email List
1. Get Personal
When Chase Dimond, Founder of ChaseDimond.com & Partner at Structured, began his own email list, he segmented out his LinkedIn connections into three buckets: people who for sure knew him, people that knew him as a friend or connection, or people that didn’t know him at all.
After creating those buckets, he sent out personal messages providing an update on what he was up to and encouraging the recipients to check out his list. While it’s easy to view that third bucket as cold emailing, Dimond considered the group more “lukewarm” leads because they were still connected on LinkedIn. And it had impressive results.
“I acquired a few hundred folks just from that and have had great open and click-through rates,” he says. “The message doesn’t need to be too complex, but should be a thoughtful, personal update to your network. I said how my wife and I just welcomed our first daughter into the world and how my agency was doing. Lastly, I wrote that I was sharing some tips and tricks that I thought would be good resources for them, and would love to have them join the list.”
Especially as you’re just getting started, your current network will likely be your biggest supporters. Don’t be afraid to check in with them, but be direct in your ask.
2. Tap Into Social Platforms
On top of personal emails, Dimond also shares glimpses of his newsletter on social media. Using a combination of organic and paid social promotion, Dimond posts a teaser of the next newsletter.
“I’d tweet how I’m going to be posting about A/B testing, for example,” he says. “And post it organically and boost it so everyone on my feed sees it. Then, every Monday after I send out a newsletter, I post an organic tweet and put a bit of spend behind the tweet to make sure people see and open it.”
You can also ride the coattails of people with larger audiences. Remember, everyone on a social media platform has worked hard to build up a following of engaged and interested followers. Don’t be afraid to use that to your advantage. Chris Osborne, founder of KintuLabs, was working on a blog post for his Crypto Weekly newsletter when he made a last-minute decision that worked much better than his original plan.
“I was about to do a blog post on a hundred people that are worth following on Twitter,” Osborne says. “Right before I hit submit, I decided to turn it into a mini-site instead: The 100 Most Influential People in Crypto. That page is a direct result of hundreds of thousands of subscribers, and it was only going to be a list of people to follow. But I expanded it and made it prettier and more helpful, and it led to a lot of growth.”
The Omnichannel Approach
Osborne supplemented the new mini-site by reaching out to the people featured on it. Some of them shared with their followers, and Osborne said that every year a few key players continue to share when it gets updated, continuing a solid funnel of growth.
Social bios are another strong tool for driving signups. Instead of including a link to the homepage of your website, point to a specific landing page or blog post with a signup call-to-action.
“Tap into your subscribers on other channels like YouTube or other social media by posting a link to a sign up form or landing page in your bio,” says Kelly Forst, email marketing expert at AWeber. “That’s a fantastic omnichannel approach to funneling your followers into your email list.”
Be clear about what you’re offering, too. If you’re giving away a free checklist or e-book, make sure it’s included in the welcome email. You can also share what else subscribers can expect, and how frequently your messages will appear in their inbox.
3. Get Onstage
Think about the last conference you went to. At least one of the speakers likely sent you an email afterwards, expanding upon the information they shared during the event. Maybe they sent around a signup sheet, or perhaps the event coordinators offered up your email.
Taking advantage of speaking opportunities provides an influx of subscribers who are all people that have heard what you have to say. Chances are, they’ll stick around for additional emails from you, especially if you continue to deliver value.
“Personally, speaking from a stage is what results in the highest number of engaged and interested people on my list,” says Alyson Lex, high converting sales copywriter and Co-Host of System to THRIVE podcast.
Even during a time when most in-person events have been postponed, you can still network and apply for speaking opportunities at virtual conferences or summits.
Jennie Wright, who cohosts System to THRIVE Podcast with Lex, uses a similar strategy in a different medium. Instead of speaking from a stage, Wright values the power of summits.
“I also believe that you pair using summits twice a year with a bunch of other little style list builds—like online challenges, webinars, and PDF downloads—for the most effective strategy,” she says.
4. Turn Business Cards Into Subscribers
Similarly, meeting new people at events can lead to subscribers down the road. Tamika Bickham, founder of TB Media Group, acknowledges it can be a time-consuming process to manually enter the information from a business card onto your list, but that initial effort will pay off.
“Social media is like 1-on-1 networking at scale. People opt in to get a freebie or learn more and they’re added to your list,” says Bickham. “I see events as the same thing. They’ve given you their info because they’re interested in learning more. It takes a little more effort, but it’s definitely worthwhile because you’ve already got that connection.”
Bickham pointed to a recent example of this strategy in action: She met someone at a networking event who was interested in getting additional content for his website. He and Bickham exchanged emails, and Bickham added him to her mailing list. Their direct email thread dried up, but Bickham was still delivering solid advice to him.
“I was showing up in his inbox every week,” she says. “Then one day, he replied and asked about blogging again. He said he had multiple people asking about content help and reached back out. That all stemmed from getting his business card at an event.”
5. Offer an Ambassador or Referral Program
Ambassadors will typically come after you already have a somewhat established list with at least a few ardent supporters, but it can supercharge your list’s growth.
“In my ambassador group, people get to join a monthly call with me,” Chase Dimond says. “They can hop on Zoom and ask whatever they want to help them grow their business. I send out the recording to everyone who wanted to be on the call but couldn’t attend. However, you have to refer two friends to be invited to the call. I offer a CTA at the end of the newsletter to make it quick and easy for people to do that.”
A referral program works because of the incentives involved. While most brands have a few fans that will support anything they do, most people on a mailing list need a little extra nudge.
“If I ask my followers to do anything, I always ask: ‘What’s in it for them?’” System to THRIVE’s Lex says. “By offering a reward of some sort—everyone who brings a friend will get into this special training or get a special offer or discount—I give them the ‘what’s in it for me’ answer.”
6. Repurpose High-Performing Content
Your newsletter is only one part of your overall marketing strategy. That means there are multiple opportunities to repurpose a strong piece of content. If you have a newsletter that has a higher click-through rate than usual, that content would likely resonate on your blog or social media. Similarly, a high-performing LinkedIn post will probably be just as valuable to your email list.
“I’m a huge fan of reusing stuff,” says KintuLabs’s Osborne. “If you do a job, try to get three or four uses out of it. Most people just use something once and don’t have a brainstorm to see how else to leverage it.”
If you’re not sure where to start, here are some ideas for repurposing your blog post to maximize the impact it has on your customers.
7. Pop on a Podcast
One of the other ways you can repurpose content? Through podcasts. And no, that doesn’t mean you have to start one, although there are certainly plenty of effective ways to market a show. Instead, reach out to podcasts in areas related to your newsletter. Your target audience is likely among the listeners of these shows.
By sharing quality content on a podcast, even if you’ve published it elsewhere, you’re showcasing your value to new potential customers. Some of them will want to learn more and will reach out or sign up for your list. And the evergreen nature of podcasts can make those appearances fruitful and long-lasting.
“Podcasts have incredible staying power,” Lex says. “I get messages from podcasts I did in 2016!”
“I also find appearing on podcasts is a huge, huge boost for my list,” Wright adds. “Like Alyson, I’m getting leads from podcasts I was on several years ago.”
8. Keep an Eye on KPIs
Monitoring email marketing statistics, also called key performance indicators (KPIs), is critical to your marketing success. Not only can you assess the performance of your email campaigns, you can also identify areas of strength and weakness. That allows you to improve email content and avoid overspending on campaigns that aren’t working.
Monitoring should start at the subscriber level. System to THRIVE’s Wright thinks unsubscribes are an underrated KPI. Usually when someone leaves your list, it’s seen as a negative. However, Wright likes to view it as an opportunity.
“People get pretty bent out of shape when they get unsubscribes from their email list, but I see it as untapped data,” Wright says. “I want to look at those unsubs more deeply and see where they came into the list, what they consumed, and the thing that made them leave. It can show you that you might not be segmenting your list enough or that you’re sending the wrong content to the wrong people at the wrong time. It’s a great way to fine tune your email marketing.”
AWeber’s Forst agrees, pointing out how unsubscribes can help more emails reach their targets.
“A smaller, more engaged list is actually better than a large, unengaged list,” Forst says. “A lack of engagement with your emails could impact whether they’re delivered to the inbox or the spam folder.”
While open and click-through rates are certainly important, Obsorne is a bit more focused with his KPIs. In fact, he only cares about one.
“Revenue,” he says, laughing. “There’s only one notification I have on my phone, and that’s Stripe notifications. Anytime it goes off, I know I’ve just gotten a payment.”
9. Think About The Customer Journey
Email marketing is perhaps the most effective and direct way you can communicate with your customers. But if you don’t understand how they’ll digest the information you share, it will be like shouting while standing underneath a waterfall; it might be fun, but your words won’t go anywhere.
INK Communications Co. suggests a four-pronged research approach to develop your brand message: industry landscape, competitive analysis, customer assessment, and audience research. By the time you hit that fourth step, you should have a strong sense of what’s most valuable to your customers, and can tailor your messaging accordingly.
Forst stresses the importance of stepping into your customers’ shoes as soon as you start your email marketing efforts and consider how they’ll approach your signup forms.
“Think about your customer’s journey and how you’ll place your form on your website,” Forst says. “Do you want to drive them to opt in from a blog post? Or will you place the sign up form on your homepage? How about a form that pops up when visitors go to exit your page? There are many ways to collect subscribers’ information, but thinking strategically about how site visitors will experience and interact with the form will help you decide where to put it.”
Targeting Your Audience
Thinking through your customer’s journey also helps with segmenting emails. You can create lists based on customer interests or by engagement. ShippingEasy notes that people who have opened or clicked on previous CTAs are more likely to do it again.
If you’re trying to make a sale or drive traffic to a certain page on your site, it can make sense to start with your most engaged audience. They can offer feedback on the experience and allow you to make adjustments if and when you reach out to your larger list.