Email marketing is a hugely effective way of onboarding new customers and developing positive relationships. Once you’ve got people’s emails, there are loads of ways you can nurture them to conversion, and you can begin to really personalise their experience with your brand.
Yet, email marketing databases naturally degrade by 22.5% every year. So if you don’t get a strategy in place to make up for these lost contacts, you’ll gradually have no mailing list at all.
You might be thinking “Where do they go? Wouldn’t it be easier to stop them leaving rather than gain new ones?” Well, in actual fact, losing contact is inevitable and, for the most part, unpreventable.
Of course, there are measures you can take to try and reduce opt-outs – which we’ll come on to later – but a lot of the time people will have just changed their email address, or it’s been deleted because they’ve left their job. These sorts of scenarios are bound to happen, so you’ll need focus a lot of your energy on getting new sign-ups instead of holding on to your old ones.
If you’re not working on building up your email list already, or you’ve run out of inventive ideas to do so, here are some tips we’ve picked up along the way to help you.
Make the most of your existing email contacts
While some contact losses are out of your hands, there are steps you can take to try and keep your existing mailing list engaged so that they don’t unsubscribe. This is a good place to start, because it will also help ensure that any new subscribers you gain later on stick around as well.
#1 – Create captivating email content
The first and most important rule when it comes to email marketing is to make sure any emails you send out to prospective or existing customers provides value. Otherwise, every new subscriber you take on will end up opting out a few weeks later because you’re just clogging up their inbox.
If your content really hits the spot and engages your reader, they might even share it with their network so that they subscribe as well – it doesn’t get any more organic than that!
Before you send an email out to your list, think about what you’re trying to achieve with it, and imagine how it will be received. If you imagine the recipient seeing the subject line and immediately clicking delete, it’s time to revaluate your content.
#2 – Encourage subscribers to share & forward your emails
As mentioned above, if your content is good enough, your readers might even be inclined to forward it on to colleagues or friends. To make this as frictionless as possible, include social sharing buttons and an ‘email to a friend’ link at the bottom of your message.
Sharing your content might not be something they would have thought of on their own but will gladly do with a gentle prompt. This will then expand your reach to whoever they then share with.
Top tip: On the bottom of your emails, include a ‘subscribe’ link so that the people receiving the forwarded message can easily opt-in.
#3 – Segment your list for more targeted content
Recipients are more likely to engage with emails that cater to their specific interests. As you learn more about your subscribers, begin to segment them into groups based on their aims, buyer preferences and/or demographics. You could send out occasional emails asking them to choose a category that most applies to them or ask them to fill out a survey in return for something (like an eBook or ‘gated’ content – more on this below).
Once you’ve established some different buyer segments you can send out more targeted emails based on their specific interests and objectives. Use automation software like Mailchimp (our tool of choice) to categorise subscribers with tags. You can then send out specific email sequences based on your tags.
#4 – Add a sign-up link to your team’s email signatures
Members of your team may be in correspondence with potential customers who are not yet signed up to your mailing list. If they’re interested in your product/service, this may be something they want to do, so make it as easy as possible for them.
Add a link to each of your employees’ email signatures that leads correspondents to a landing page where they can sign up for your mailing list. Often, people don’t need to be persuaded to take the next step, they just need to be shown the way.
Use your website
One of the very best ways of growing your email list is to direct people to sign up from your website. Many potential customers will visit your website every day, in fact almost no buyers will purchase from a company without visiting their website first. The trick is to convert visitors to subscribers, and subscribers to customers.
#5 – Install exit popups
Introduce targeted popups on your web pages that are triggered by certain actions to grab your visitors’ attention and encourage them to subscribe to your mailing list.
For example, when a person looks like they’re about to leave your site, you can set a popup to automatically appear with a call to action. If they’re looking at the pricing page, tempt them with a coupon which they can redeem by entering their email address.
#6 – Install timed popups
Similarly, you can install a timed lightbox popup, which will automatically appear when a visitor has spent a certain amount of time on a page. For example, if they’ve spent 5 minutes reading your blog and therefore clearly have an interest in it, include a popup that tells them they can sign up to receive blog posts directly to their inbox.
#7 – Unlock the power of social proof
The term social proof is used to describe a behaviour where people feel more comfortable doing something when they know that others have done it. This has become popular in marketing to try a persuade customers to convert and is proven to be pretty effective!
Common examples are testimonials, reviews, case studies and displayed numbers of registered users. Here’s an example of how Hubspot use social proof to encourage prospective customers to convert:
To encourage website visitors to subscribe to your mailing list, let them know how many other people are signed up. Chances are they’ll follow suit when they learn how popular it is.
#8 – Shorten the length of your sign-up form
It can be tempting to try and collect as much information in a form as possible, to help target your content. But this can often backfire, since the more complicated the process, the less likely people are to enter any information at all.
In fact, adding just three extra fields to your form can reduce the conversion rate by 10%. Make this first step as simple as possible, with just two or three fields. You can collect more information later, once you’ve started the conversation and developed a stronger relationship.
#9 – Don’t ask for personal information
Just like having too many fields, asking anything overly personal will put a lot of people off filling in your form. All you really need to get started is an email address – maybe a first name if you want to easily customise each email.
Research by WP Forms shows how asking for personal contact information can have a negative effect on conversion rates:
Remember, once they’re on your mailing list, you can begin to nurture them to conversion. This won’t be possible if they get put off and don’t end up submitting any information at all!
#10 – Create a blog that readers can subscribe to
If you don’t already have a company blog, we highly recommend you start one. Blogs are a great way to drive more traffic to your site through search engines or social media.
These circumstances provide the perfect opportunity to encourage new sign-ups. Add a call to action at the bottom of each post that prompts visitors to subscribe to your mailing list to receive new posts directly to their inbox.
Of course, every visit to your site is positive, but what you really want is to generate recurring engagement so that potential customers look forward to your next blog update. This kind of dedication is much more likely to lead to conversion than a one-off visit.
#11 – Guest blog for other websites with a call to action
Guest blogging for other websites can help you expand your contact list dramatically. The key is to find a site that you know gets a lot of visits from potential customers and ask them if you can contribute to their blog.
If they agree, you’ll be putting your brand in front of many more people, who you know are likely to be interested in what you have to offer.
When creating content as a guest blogger for another website, include a call to action and a link in your author byline for readers to subscribe to your site’s blog or email newsletter.
#12 – Add a social share button to your content
For both your own blog, and any guest blogs you do, add a ‘share to social media’ button at the bottom to make it easy for readers to pass on great content to their networks. This will increase your reach massively and make you much more likely to generate new subscribers.
#13 – If in doubt, A/B test
It might be that you’re doing everything right in terms of tactics and content, but your wording or colour scheme just isn’t appealing to the right people.
Before you take any costly measures to boost your mailing list, try A/B testing your list-building strategies (e.g. popups, social proof, blog) with different design and copy.
Change the call to action text & colour, the time of day you’re posting your blog and the location of your sign up forms – sometimes a small change can drive hundreds more conversions.
Generate subscribers with exclusive content
If there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that people love to feel special. Here are two key ways you can provide access to exclusive content in exchange for an email address:
#14 – Create ‘gated content’
Create special content that’s exclusive to subscribers and make it visible on your website and social media. Once people realise that others are accessing something they’re not, they’ll want to be involved.
The type of content to use as incentive could be an eBook or white paper – basically anything that provides even more value than the average blog post. This will then seem like a fair trade, and should be perfect for getting the right people signed up to your mailing list.
#15 – Create ‘Bonus’ content
Rather than making a whole article exclusive, it’s often more effective to provide free content first to peak people’s interest, and then offer bonus material in exchange for their contact info.
Start with a blog post that delivers beginner advice on a subject, then offer a chance to access more advanced tips as a subscriber. You could even provide the option to download the blog as a PDF as part of the deal.
Use social media to your advantage
You’ll need somewhere to share all this great new content you’re creating, and what better place than social media? Nurture your followers to become subscribers with tempting offers they can’t resist.
#16 – Use social media to promote ‘gated’ content
As well as making it visible on your site, a great way to spread awareness of your ‘gated’ content (mentioned above) is via your social networks. Since you’ve gone to the effort of creating high value content, you should share it as much as possible!
Create a campaign surrounding the launch of your new eBook or free resource that will grab your followers’ attention and make them jump at the chance to get access.
#17 – Promote an online competition
Incentivised marketing can be very powerful, if executed well. Host a free giveaway on your social media networks in exchange for an email address. This is a massively low sacrifice, high reward strategy, since in the end you only give one thing away, but have potentially hundreds sign up.
However, you will have to offer something of value in order to get people to bother participating. If you’re in the service industry, offer a longer trial of your product, or a 6 month subscription. If you sell products, treat the winner to an exclusive bundle.
#18 – Add a sign-up call to action on your Facebook page
Facebook has introduced a call to action button for business pages, which are displayed on top of your cover image and are visible without scrolling.
If you aren’t using this feature already, take the opportunity to add a Sign Up link to encourage people to subscribe to your mailing list.
Just click Add a Button on your page, choose Get in touch with us and select Sign up. Then paste the link to the landing page where you want your visitors to enter their email address – simple as that!
Utilise traditional marketing tactics
Sometimes, the classic ways are the best ways. Here are two prime opportunities to build up your mailing list as part of other marketing strategies:
#19 – Host an online webinar
Webinars are the perfect opportunity to talk about your industry with an audience of like-minded professionals. They’re also usually registered for via email. Why not make subscribing to your mailing list part of the deal?
If they’re interested in a webinar with you, they’re also likely to be interested in what you have to share over email. It’s the perfect match!
#20 – Collect email addresses at a trade show
While we’re not able to do face-to-face events at the moment with Covid, once it picks back up again, it’ll be a great place to obtain new email contacts. Offline events like trade shows are highly anticipated growth opportunities for industry professionals.
While you’re there, collect mailing list sign-ups in person and once you’re back in the office, import them into your contact database. Just be sure to send these contacts a welcome email that confirms their opt-in to your list – they will have signed up to a lot of lists that day and will likely need reminding who you are.
Email marketing is a great way to get your creative content noticed and nurture subscribers to conversion, so it’s definitely worth spending some time building up your mailing list with potential customers.
As you grow your email list with fresh, opt-in contacts, you’ll be able to nurture them with middle-of-the-funnel offers that allow you to convert early-stage leads into sales-ready leads.