Email marketing is extremely common these days, and it continues to be an effective and powerful form of marketing. For those starting out an email newsletter for the first time, this page is intended to give you some ideas on how you can build up your list and bring in as many subscribers as possible, by listing out and summarizing all the good suggestions people have sent us on this topic.
Recently, we contacted many email marketers and put out the following query:
For people who have built up a decent email list, what’s your primary piece of advice to people starting an email newsletter on how to get subscribers? Anything that’s worked for you personally and which most people tend not to think about is especially welcome.
Of the responses we got back, the vast majority recommended 1 of these 2 things (or both):
- Offer a valuable incentive for joining your email list
- Make the opt-in form prominent on your website
That means having your email opt-in form absolutely unavoidable (such as in an entry popup that the visitor sees as soon as they load your site), and offering something that will be enticing in return for joining (such as “Join my email newsletter to INSTANTLY download my 67 SEO tactics that got me millions of visitors,” for example). Paying attention to these 2 simple tips will be instrumental in building an email newsletter.
But beyond these 2 tips that I heard again and again from email marketers, these are the other things comments brought up (for each point, I’ve linked to the full comment that suggests it):
- Creative or exclusive incentives work best (link)
- Create content upgrades for specific blog posts (link), and have content-specific offers (link)
- Collect emails at live events if you can (link)
- Leverage your social media to build your list (link)
- Remember to actually run a quality email newsletter (link)
- Consider an exit popup instead of an entry popup, which may work better since the visitor has already seen some of your site content and read something useful (link)
- Otherwise, use time-triggered popups that open after for example 10 seconds (link)
- Run competitions (link)
- Focus on building a list that’s catered to your primary audience (link)
- Collect emails on your check-out page if you have an ecommerce store (link)
- Host a webinar (link)
- See if you can partner with larger organizations (link)
- Optimize and test your opt-in form (link)
Have a read through the comments below and you should pick up some good ideas.
I realize people say you need optins, incentives to joining your email list. This is true and important. What people don't tell you is as follows: The optins need to be creative, the more creative the better. For instance, I once heard of a relationship blogger who told people if they signed up for his list, he'd tell them how to know if a girl wanted a kiss. The list exploded. He gave them one sentence: She leans in. The best optins are NOT downloadables. Here's another example, my best incentive is access to an exclusive Pinterest board. This is not downloadable. People love exclusive things. A Pinterest board is something people in my niche would gladly pay for. Give them something valuable for free and they'll sign up.
--Janice Wald, Mostly Blogging
I’ve managed to build a email newsletter list of approx. 22,000 subscribers to date. The number one tip I would give to those interested in building an email list is to create a content upgrade for their most popular blog posts. We believe in this strategy so much that we have a unique content upgrade for each of our 170 long form blog posts. So, I’m definitely a bit obsessive about that. Good news is that by doing so you will be able to see a huge lift in your opt in rate. In our case, we’ve found that lift to be about 225% above generic opt-in offers on our blog.
--Vic Patel, Forex Training Group
My one tip for building an email list that most people don't think is to collect emails at live events, particularly if you're attending them to sell things anyway. Before the pandemic, I sold some of my treats at farmer's markets and dog-related charity events where I could get a vendor booth spot. I was doing okay with sales but wanted to get more out of them, so I started trying to collect emails as well.
The thing that I found that worked best was to have a simple game - in my case, I had a large jar of treats and had people try to guess how many are in it. Whoever was closest would win, but of course everyone who entered would have to leave me their email to be notified if they won. It didn't really reduce the number of sales I was making, but I collected a few hundred emails that way. Unfortunately it's probably something that'll have to wait until post-pandemic to be of use to a lot of people, but if you're going to events anyway, it's definitely a way to get more value out of your time and money.
--Alex Willen, Cooper's Treats
We've grown email lists for countless clients, so have a wealth of experience here.
First and foremost, when you're first starting out and building your email list from the ground up, it's important to be aware of getting subscribers that you can actually market to. Time and time again we've seen new clients who have been emailing to GDPR, CASL, or as of this month, LGDP contacts without their express consent. Although it's fine to have a list with contacts from these countries, and it can make your list seem larger, it's dead weight until you get their confirmed consent to market to them.
With clients of ours who have had list building as a primary focus, we've typically recommended a few key approaches - the first, cheapest, and simplest, is via on-site lead capture. Yup, that means pop-up overlays, footer signup fields, and non-intrusive banners that follow your contact around the site, providing them with useful info or a discount if they sign up. Having an effective on-site signup strategy is paramount to a sustainably engaged email list, since these contacts are the most engaged with your brand already, having spent time on your site learning about your products or services.
Next, we typically recommend leveraging social media marketing in order to grow your list, but this can often come at the expense of list quality. We traditionally see that our clients' email lists that are built through social media channels are lower quality and much less engaged, although with the correct approach and proper nurturing once they're in your email program, they can become highly engaged contacts.
While there are myriad ways that you can build your email list, it's always important to think of just how valuable each individual contact will be - remember, most ESPs charge per-contact, so if you have a list of 100,000 people that are dead weight, you'll literally pay the price of not ensuring that they're receptive from the onset.
--Alexandra Marin, CodeCrew
There’s nothing worse than taking the time to open and read a newsletter only to find useless fluff (I know this from experience). If you’re going to spend time and effort building an email list, don’t drop the ball when it comes to the actual newsletter. If you send out a letter with little or no value to the person reading it you should expect them to unsubscribe and all your list-building effort will be for nothing. Even worse, it may darken their opinion of your business and lead to lost sales.
--Todd Ramlin, Cable Compare
Prompt the user to sign up as they're leaving your site. Some users will find a pop up as they're joining the site annoying, and chances are, they won't sign up given they've not even read your content yet. Prompting them after you've given them useful info is an excellent way to catch them with a sense of them owing you something. Plus, this won't hurt your bounce rate or time on page, if they're leaving anyway, why not capitalise on it.
--Thomas Kelly, zeroeffortcash.com
Competitions are great for building email lists. I have run competitions with really great prizes (like free vacations) and they have added thousands of people to my client's mailing lists every time. I have given away very cheap prizes, worth just a few dollars, and they have still resulted in many people being added to my client's email lists. There is one very important caveat though - don't list your competitions on competition websites. The entrants use junk email addresses and will probably never buy from you. People who enter their details on competition listings websites are not good leads!
--Andrew Laws, Andrew Laws Associates Ltd
As for me, the best tip in building an email newsletter is by using time-triggered pop-ups on your website. In my perspective, I’m not really a fan of straight pop-ups whenever I visit a website because I don’t have an idea of what the website is about, so I tend to just close the pop-up. Having a time-triggered pop-up asking for subscriptions is the best way because you allow your visitors to invest time in reading your content and let them be interested in your website. Then, after some time, let the pop-up show and most likely they will subscribe to your newsletter.
--Jacob J. Sapochnick, h1b.biz
DON'T STRAY TOO FAR FROM YOUR BROAD TARGET GROUP: It's tempting to have a large subscriber base, but it's not a good idea to look for subscribers from sources and sites that are no way related to your business. For instance, if you're a B2B company or you sell only to medium or large enterprises, there's a good chance your mailing list is small.
If you suddenly start pitching for subscribers in the B2C category, you make two mistakes. One, because that category doesn't give you too many signups, you tweak your CTA so you end up losing the opportunity to woo the people you really should. Two, even if you do win some subscribers from the B2C segment, they will soon stop engaging and then begin unsubscribing. You again repeat the mistake - you start thinking that your email body is wrong, your subject line isn't good or something similar. And again you try fixing things that don't need any fixing up.
IN SHORT, IT'S BEST TO STAY FOCUSED WHEN IT COMES TO PROSPECTING - TARGET QUALITY RATHER THAN THE NUMBER ON YOUR MAILING LIST.
--Mayank Batavia, QuickEmailVerification
Usually, we offered our guide to blogging to every visitor across our website. One of our guides brought about a 1.1% conversion rate per week for new subscribers. However, after tailoring our offer specific to the page we were able to increase our subscriber's conversion rate to 2.3% per week.
One of our blog posts showcased a list of best SEO tools, and earlier we were offering our guide to starting a blog on the exit intent. We changed that offer to our beginners guide to SEO optimization and BA-BAAM, we increased the conversion rate by 1.2% per week.
Making content specific offers always entices visitors to take the next step.
--Muhammad Farasat Khan, IsItWP
I have tried different methods to gain subscribers like creating a pop-up window, offering discounts and incentives, affiliate advertising, etc. But most of our subscribers have opted-in by signing up at the check-out page. Approximately 80% of our Email Newsletter subscribers have opted-in during check-out.
If you have an e-commerce website, add an “opt-in for our newsletter” checkbox on your checkout page. People have a fear of missing out on discounts and offers, so leverage that and mention the coupons they’ll get which they can use on their next order.
--Susan Thompson, Topp Casino Bonus
Our company not only has an online ecommerce store, but over 75 retail locations around the US. One of the best ways for growing our email list has been through the use of giveaways. These giveaways are not only advertised to our customers and subscribers, but get shared over social media, blogger fans and content-related websites. Our current giveaway is listed on rogersandhollands.com/sweepstakes and has increased our subscribers by over 5,000 already. We try to do these every few months, not only to give back to our customers, but also to help us further market to a new audience.
--Celeste Huffman, Rogers & Hollands
Host a webinar - With everything virtual now due to COVID-19 webinars are a great way to build your subscriber base. A webinar is not only a great way to leverage your expertise and provide your current and prospective clients with value, but it’s also a great strategy to collect up more contact information to construct your email lists. In order for people to sign up for the webinar, request that they give their name and email address. This is an easy way to help grow your email lists, not to mention that people will enjoy your webinar and be engaged with your business.
--Samantha Russell, Twenty Over Ten
I recommend partnering with larger organizations to build your email list. Specifically, I delivered over 20 free webinars to ProjectManagement.com to build my email list. It was a significant time investment! By delivering these free webinars and including a call to action to sign up for a free career report at the end of the session during the Q&A portion, I gained new subscribers with every presentation.
--Bruce Harpham, bruceharpham.com
Our basic method that was most effective for growing the list was discounts on the first order if they join the newsletter, which is a popular ecommerce tactic, but where we spent the majority of our time was optimizing and testing our capture form design and messaging. The overall look and feel, copy, button color, and CTA were all tested over and over until we were converting at nearly 6%. So I'd definitely recommend that if building an email list is a goal (and it should be!), that not only thinking through the best method for capturing emails (discounts, downloads, bonus content, etc.) but really A/B testing the pages, forms, or wherever the conversion is happening to optimize that aspect of it.
--Aaron Mackel, Hurrdat