One of the most valuable tools that any small business or entrepreneur has is their list. In this case, it’s an opt-in email list…people that have asked to hear from you! They’re interested in what you have to say…and sell!
The quality of your list is incredibly important, but the size of your list can be a powerful multiplier for your visibility, reach, and ability to generate leads.
So I asked 69 expert marketers–people with huge or fast-growing lists–what they did to build their list…and here’s what they said.
Captivate Your Audience.
In nearly every keynote speech, when I am about 80% of the way through the presentation, I’ll pause for a minute or two and tell the audience about my email program. I then tell them that I will send them the slides of the presentation within 4 hours. And then I put my actual email address (for real, it’s my actual email) in giant letters on the screens.
After a lot of experimentation with forms, text-to-join, and other options I have found that this approach of “send me an email to my actual email address right now” yields the best results. I think because it shows that I trust them to not abuse my email inbox. (Plus, now they know exactly how to reach me if they need consulting, a workshop, etc.)
Try Facebook’s Lead Ads.
Take Facebook’s Lead Ads for a test drive! Users can sign up within the mobile news feed, without leaving the app. Keep your form simple – ask for name, email and one or two other fields or questions. Facebook allows you to collect any user information field, but it’s best not to overwhelm your prospects and scare them off. Create a compelling and short description of what people get when they sign up. Lead Ads are currently only available in Power Editor. Once people sign up, access your leads via the Publishing Tools admin section of your page. You’ll need to download the leads as a CSV file then upload to your email provider. Learn more from our friends at AdEspresso.”
Never Serve Leftovers.
My best advice: be brief, be helpful, and deliver your BEST via email. Make sure that people can hit reply and encourage them to do so. Give them very few links. Never serve leftovers (your stuff they can get somewhere else).
No doubt you’ll find tons of great ideas in this post…the right tools, tactics, and even strategies to build your list. But the bottom line is this:
If you started building your list last year, you’d be ahead of where you are now regardless of the techniques you used to get there.
So rather than try and use all of these tips, find one or two that seem the most logical, the lowest hanging of the fruit, and get to work building your list.
Use Facebook Ads.
Being a Facebook ads guy, I love building my email list through Facebook ads. A great strategy is to create epic content on your website and then send targeted people to it via Facebook ads.
Within the content you can have an opt-in opportunity where in exchange for someone’s email, you give away something that’s relevant to the content (video, checklist, guide, etc…). At the same time, you’re building a retargeting audience of people who visit this blog post. This allows you to setup retargeting ads on Facebook that target those people who came to the article but didn’t originally opt-in.
Not only is this a great way to build your email list but it adds quality people to your list since they’ve consumed your content.
“I’m a firm believer that email marketing is alive and well. When you cultivate your own email list of people that are genuinely interested in what you have to share, you are building a solid foundation in your business that will help you cultivate trust, affinity and consistent revenue opportunities. One of the most powerful list building strategies that I’ve seen work well inside my own business and those of my students, is using webinars, both live and automated, as part of your list building strategy. Webinars are a fantastic way to offer free, valuable content that is sure to wow your audience. If you deliver impeccable value on your webinar AND you work at cultivating that relationship after the webinar, you will be pleasantly surprised by how quickly your email list will grow into an engaged, lucrative asset in your business.”
Check out Amy’s free webinar!
Overwhelm Them With Value.
When I first started in this business in 2003, you could give away an email course with five emails; people would opt-in for it feverishly. However now, the game has changed. You have to deliver so much value that you think you will overwhelm them. It reminds me of my friend Jerry when he ordered his hero (aka grinders/subs/hoagies), he’d ask the guy behind the counter to put so much mayo on it “that you think you’d ruined it.” So to you, my friend: more mayo.
Deliver Targeted, Consistently Valuable Content.
The key to building a high growth and sustainable email list for your blog comes down to one simple principle that in reality is very hard to execute on. If you want people to opt into your email list, you need to provide content that is so valuable that your readers feel compelled to register. This means really knowing who your readers are, delivering consistently valuable content over time and tracking your results. That’s how we build our email list to more than 430,000 and growing.
Use UTM Tracking.
We use UTM to track all our marketing campaigns so we can track our success and click throughs on Instagram We have 6 accounts so we want to know which account is driving the most traffic to our free Instagram Strategy Guide – we also give CTAs to the one live link in the bio. Our conversion rate from our weekly efforts is on average 150-200 opt ins a week.
UTM codes are little snippets of text added to the end of your URL to help you track the success of your content.
Create Free Courses.
One of the biggest game changers for us here at EOFire when it comes to list building has been the creation of our Free Courses.
To date, we’ve brought in over 20,000 subscribers as a result of offering free email courses on specific topics we know our audience is interested in.
As an example, I created Free Podcast Course, a 15-day email and video course that walks you through how to create, grow and monetize your own podcast. In less than a year, we’ve had over 15,000 people go through Free Podcast Course.
This not only helps us build our email list, but it also helps us build a strong relationship of trust with a very specific, segmented group of people: those who are interested in starting their own podcast. So what is it that your audience is most interested in accomplishing? Create a free course around it that’s incredibly valuable, and your list will grow as a result.
Treat Them Like Real People.
No matter how many people are on your list, whether it’s 50 or 50,000, don’t forget those are real people on the other end of those email addresses. The moment you start treating those people like they’re just a number is the moment you’ll start to lose that important and vital connection required to build trust with someone on your list.
Provide Value All the Time.
The secret to building a successful list of email subscribers is to provide value… all the time. You have to be front of mind for your subscribers. Chances are you’re not the only person they’re learning from online – so, be consistent, be high-value and most importantly, be YOU – people want to do business with real people.
Live Video Streaming.
Live video streaming is the new blogging. What I mean by that is with the availability to stream on our phones and tablets via Periscope, Meerkat, Blab.im and others, we now have the ability to create content spontaneously – anywhere and any time. I’ve found that sharing content and then driving people to my web page for a free report or some other gift is a great way to build your list.
Use Lead Magnets.
When creating a lead magnet or content upgrade, be sure to reverse engineer something that relates to your product/service offering. You ideally want the lead magnet to illicit the same (or very similar) intent that is required for the lead to become a buyer.
Example of what not to do: If your product is “How to lose 10lbs by eating right”, your lead magnet shouldn’t be “here are the 5 exercises to help you lose belly fat”. If your product is diet/meal plan related, customers will be hoping to lose weight by adjusting what they eat, not necessarily exercise. So when you pitch your exercise program, they won’t necessarily be the right fit.
Example of what to do: Take one meal plan or recipe from your product and make that the lead magnet. Then in your follow up you can share that they can get a whole lot more recipes and meal plans when they join your product .
Takeaway: Your lead magnet should capitalize on the same or similar intent that will be required for someone to become a customer.
Provide Monetary Value.
By far my best list building technique has been to provide something of actual monetary value for free. Not only has this worked to get an email list, but mailing addresses as well. All for the total cost of less than $3.00 per lead. That’s typically far less expensive than Facebook Ads and make them more qualified because they willing provide their email and shipping address in exchange for the value.
– Dean Patino, Founder of SubscriptionElite.com
Use Sticky Offers.
HelloBar has been the most effective and least intrusive tool I have used to increase my email subscribers. Because HelloBar lives at the top of the screen, it follows readers as they scroll through pages and navigate through your site. The key is to use the space provided in HelloBar to make them an offer they can’t refuse, “Download my Free E-book” or “Get our weekly newsletter delivered to your inbox every Friday”. This tool has dramatically increased my email subscribers and the best part about it, is that it’s completely free.
Chrystie can be found teaching moms how to blog while their babies sleep at LivingForNaptime.com
Add The Three P’s.
Here’s the trick to building your email list. It’s all about adding the three P’s of sign-up forms. These are the aspects of any conversion optimized email signup form.
- Prominence: Make the call to action very visible. Use color, imagery or programming, such as a popup box or “sticky” visual element) to guide attention.
- Promise : Tell people what their going to get and how often, as in “monthly beard waxing tips” or “daily grooming advice”
- Proof : People do things that other people do. So add some evidence that you’re legitimate, such as the number of subscribers or a testimonial “Your shaving tips have made me a better man…”
There are other P’s you can add, such as privacy (is your audience paranoid?) and presents (did you offer them a gift?) but the basics are the three things above. If you don’t do these, you can expect very… slow… list… growth.
Make a Sense of Community.
“People will join an email list in return for something of value — a white paper, research report, e-book, etc. But they’ll stay as members of the email list in return for a sense of community. If you don’t have a sense of community around your members, then they’ll leave your list sooner rather than later. The secret is to make them feel as though they’re part of a community.”
— Jamie Turner, author, CNN contributor, and CEO of 60 Second Marketer and 60 Second Communications
Use AdWords & Facebook Marketing.
PPC marketing is one of the best ways to grow an email list. Facebook has a Lead Ad format that makes it easy to capture email information, as shown here. It’s not free (though it’s not like anything is free) and you can be pretty targeted using remarketing along with demographic, behavior, interest and other ridiculously powerful ad targeting options to get the most qualified emails.
Focus on Content Quality.
Nurturing and maintaining a strong and relevant list is of course based on value. Get in the mindset that every piece of content you send out is a battle for attention. Win it consistently and your list will build.
Use Both Free & Paid Methods.
I’ve asked a TON of people on what is working right now for list building so I can test it with my clients. The non-paid that are working best are… list swaps and guest posting (but only guest posting on VERY high trafficked sites)
The “paid” methods that are doing affiliate webinars and facebook ads. (or media buying, but usually a newbie should try FB ads first – and figure out their numbers before they go to media buying!)
I’ve also seen challenges work (I have a 7 days to $1k challenge – Eventualmillionaire.com/challenge) especially with paid traffic and retargeting.
If you’re one of those people that say “I hate popups and will never use them”, then stop reading right now.
But if you’re a marketer that wants to get MORE email subscribers, you need to treat your popup like a landing page.
When I first started using popups in 2014, I let the same popup run for 6 months. No testing. No changes. Nada.
Then I realized that I could do MUCH better with testing. So I committed to split testing different offers, copy, designs etc.
The result? A 2x lift in my popup’s conversions.
Optimize Lead Magnets.
Everybody knows that you should try to create at least one lead magnet that entices your ideal audience to sign up to your email list to access the free content. What I am finding more and more is that there are two keys to making these lead magnets work:
- Make the content simple and helpful. The more simple the piece of content is to access, consume and process, the more likely people will download it and stay on your list. For example, a one page PDF cheatsheet can be way more effective than a 3 part video series. Make it SUPER useful – no fluff, just easy to follow, step-by-step helpful content that solves a problem they are experiencing.
- Follow up with more awesome content – don’t just leave them hanging after they download your lead magnet. Send your new subscriber some follow up emails that build on the content or tips they downloaded. This is your big chance to build a relationship with them.
Utilize Social Media Contests.
“As they say, ‘the money is in the list.’ Building your email list is vital to succeeding in business! Here’s a tip for growing your subscribers: utilize your social media following by running a contest or giveaway in which fans enter by giving you their email address. You’ll get new leads AND improve your brand engagement and visibility tenfold.”
Try a Subscriber Sign-Up Tool.
I don’t usually plug specific products when I’m asked to share a helpful tip, but in this case, I must!
I’ve been using Noah Kagen’s SumoMe for about 4-5 months. I like the tools that are included for free. I may even upgrade to Pro, soon. I Especially like the one I started using 2 weeks ago.
Welcome Mat is by far, the most powerful email subscriber sign-up tool I’ve ever used. My sign-ups have increased 35% since I installed the tool. That’s insane!
It’s nice to see something work so darn well.
– Joel Libava, The Franchise King®
Use Surveys, Contests, & Feedback.
Two techniques I used to amass emails:
- Listener feedback – getting the listeners to just email in with feedback on episodes, answering questions, asking questions, recommending something.
- Contests / give aways. I am constantly giving away promo codes for apps – and each week I get between 50 and 150 people emailing in for those giveaways.
But even more important than list building is that I am community building around my show – getting the audience to interact with the show – while building up a list of listeners – both 1 and 2 achieve that.
- Is via a demographic survey – it is a short survey with an email address as one of the 7 items asked for.
All libsyn shows have this survey set up. It is – survey.libsyn.com/SHOWSLUG
For my Today in iOS show the slug = tii
So my survey is http://survey.libsyn.com/tii
I usually will do a special contest for those survey’s to get emails – where I give away something physical – a iPhone case or bluetooth speaker or something similar.
Use the little known power of Slideshare. Over 70 million visitors view slide share decks every month and when you combine your deck with a simple opt-in offer you have a machine working for you every day. Instead of using the SlideShare Lead Form, insert two slides (one about half way and one at the end) that offer an opt-in gift. Your offer should compliment what the slide deck is about. Send that link to LeadPages or a hidden WordPress page (with the opt-in offer) and you are off to the races. Our record is 1,000 opt-ins from one deck in one month.
Use URL Parameters.
Once your list is ready to go, you need to make sure you’re properly tagged your inbound links before sending to make sure you track the ROI of your email marketing properly. This is done through URL parameters. Let’s say your call to action is the following URL: www.mysite.com/landingpage
Run that through the Google URL Builder Form to generate the proper tagging for your campaign. Then, use the resultant URL as the link to your call to action. The landing page won’t change, but you’ll track it properly in Google Analytics.
You need to fill out three variables:
- Campaign Source: this is your mailing list name (useful if you have multiple lists)
- Campaign Medium: email
- Campaign Name: This is the name of your campaign (Spring Sale 1 or February Mailer or what not)
- It is imperative you fill in all three variables, or your data will be inaccurate.
Some email service providers (ESP) now include a box for your Campaign Name. If your email provider offers that, use it. They already know your list name (source) and they know they’re sending email (medium). If your ESP offers the campaign name for Google Analytics as a field, use it!
Ask “Thank You Page” Questions.
One of the best things I have done that no one else is doing is asking questions on the thank you page of when someone opts in. On the first thank you page, I ask them something I need to know to determine which campaigns they will go through or not. I only do one question at a time with a total of two pages, and then they land on an upsell.
95% of the people that opt in will finish the survey completely. Yes, 95%. I think they think they have to do it to get what they requested.
Have a Unique Selling Proposition.
There are dozens of smart tactics, many offered by others in this very post, to build your list. But the single best tactic I’ve seen is having a great strategy. Why would people want to subscribe to your list? The answer to that has to be unique. Do you have a unique perspective on the world or your industry? Do you offer insight or entertainment others can’t? Do you aggregate other people’s content in a way that is useful. (That’s what my email list is for, incidentally.) Like anything you’re trying to sell, you need a USP — a unique selling proposition. Nail that, implement all these other tactics, and you’ll be just fine.
Give Away Your Content.
To build my list I gave away content that was well worth people paying good money for. It was my best work, following Chris Brogan’s approach. And this approach has worked time and time again. You’ve got to have something to ‘sell beyond’ too, but what you offer up needs to be quality enough to deserve people jumping that email paywall.
Also, don’t think that you can keep offering the same thing and expect people to hop on in; sometimes you have to move with the times – I’ve shift from only talking Google+ to talking ‘Google for Business’ and have just given a 10 day free course away to help with people going mobile. Keep innovating, keep on moving forward, and lead the people who are paying attention.
Create Multiple Lead Magnets.
When it comes to list building, I find one of the most effective strategies is to create multiple lead magnets and give your readers, listeners or viewers multiple entry points into your list.
But here’s the thing, each of these lead magnets, or “content upgrades” have to be relevant to the topic you’re discussing in your piece of content.
Think about it…
If you’re reading this post and you’re interested in list building, but then get prompted to opt-in for Rich’s best tips on increasing your social presence you’re probably going to think “Huh? I don’t get it” and either not opt-in, or leave the page altogether.
Instead, keep your content and opt-in offers relevant and you’ll notice a big spike in how many people happily subscribe and better yet, open your emails!
Use Relevant Lead Magnets.
If you want to grow your email list, then you need a lead magnet. Lead magnets are simply the free things you give to people when they sign up for your email list. In the past, free ebooks have been popular lead magnets. But there are two problems with ebooks.
First, they take time to produce. If you aren’t fond of writing, they will take a long time to produce. Second, they take time to consume. 40 – 50% of people who buy ebooks never open them, let alone finish them. This means the chances of your subscribers consuming your free ebook is just about as good.
That’s why the new trend in lead magnets is a more simplistic piece of content. Instead of a huge ebook, aim to create a valuable report, useful checklist, or guide to completing a single task that reaps specific benefits. Also be sure to make the topic of your lead magnet something that only your ideal customer wants, that way you have an email list filled with people who are likely to buy your products or services.
– Kristi Hines, Freelance Writer
Create Specific Opt-Ins.
Creating opt-ins that are specific to a blog post can achieve really high conversion rates but it’s time consuming to create these specific opt-ins. Instead we offer people the chance to download a PDF version of the blog post and this typically achieves a 5 to 10% conversion rate and it takes only a couple of minutes to do.
Make it Quick, Easy, and Likeable.
Building (and maintaining) an email list is all about providing consistent value and making the opt-in process, quick, easy, and ultimately a likeable experience. When inviting contacts to join your newsletter, ask for minimal information like just a first name and email. Also, make sure to describe what’s waiting on the other side of the form for them. For example, if your newsletter recipients will receive weekly social media tips, news, and free resources (as the folks on our Likeable Local Newsletter do!) make sure that info accompanies the opt-in! Plus, if you already have a large email list, tell potential subscribers something like, “Join over 50,000 loyal readers of our weekly newsletter!” to add credibility and social proof. Some list building tactics that have worked well for Likeable Local include:
- A tasteful pop-when browsing our resources page
- Giving the option to join our newsletter when downloading other content, like an eBook
- Encouraging readers to share with a friend
Using Twitter Lead Generation Cards to Grow Your Email List.
Twitter Lead Generation cards are a very easy way to grow your email list quickly. The card itself is simply an attachment that you can add to any tweet. It’s reusable. When someone answers the call to action on your tweet, they simply click two times (no typing required), and Twitter collects their name and email for you. Also, you can redirect them to a url of your choice after they take this action. You can schedule several of these in advance, to send out all day long, for as many days as you like. Of course, if you pay to promote these tweets, you will see the most opt-ins, but it’s not necessary to spend any money to see results. For even more engagement, consider pinning the tweet to your profile page.
Collect a Business Card.
It may sound old fashioned, but collecting a business card from every single person you meet in your business life is absolutely critical for building your list.
Isn’t it interesting how the business card has “survived” the digital revolution? The reason, of course, is the same reason why physical trade shows are still popular (more than ever actually): anything dealing with real, live human to human interaction will never die. The key with the business card and building your database is what you do with it after you get it. Immediately scan them, put those emails in your database and email the folks you met. Then keep…thats right, keep…the actual business card for your records.
Getting an actual business card means you wont forget to email them later. and you wont need to worry about your computer or phone crashing and losing that contact information…because you’ll always have a real, live physical piece that has their contact details. So if you’re a millennial and don’t have a business card (like many don’t) or don’t think its a good idea, take it from a Generation X’er…grab the card (and get some made for yourself). Your database will grow and good things will happen!
Do a Webinar.
Webinars, webinars, webinars. We have found this to be the absolutely best tactic to grow your list. Do webinars for yourself. Do webinars for others. When you do them for others, ask to include a call-to-action (a downloadable eBook, infographic, white paper) so you can collect email addresses on your own site. Most organizers won’t give you the registration list, but they won’t have a problem if you want to drive people to your site to download something of value. Doing this will grow your list significantly more quickly than almost any other tactic.
Ask Yourself These Two Questions.
If you’re just starting off building a list, find the people who already own LARGE lists of your exact, ideal customers, and ask yourself 2 questions:
- How did THEY build that list, and how can I model a similar strategy.
- How can I serve / help those list owners in a way that involves them linking to me regularly via email or social media?
I’ve built a 7-figure eCommerce business strategy with those two traffic questions, and I know for a fact that they’re useful in any industry or niche.
Offer Content Upgrades.
Content upgrades have provided a big boost of email subscribers. I’m in a position where we have a lot of excellent archived material, some of it gets significant referral and Google traffic. We’ve identified the top 10 blog posts in terms of week-to-week traffic. We then worked with the author (we’re a collaborative blog) to develop a specific content upgrade for that blog post in exchange for an email. We then use Thrive Leads and Active Campaign in tandem to create a lead box inline the article.
The lead box then triggers an automation in Active Campaign that delivers the content upgrade and identifies whether the user is already on our master email list. If not, then the user is added. You can see this system in action on a blog post where I discuss how to build an online personal training business.
Build Smaller Topic-Specific Lists.
Rather than focusing on building a general newsletter list, build smaller topic-specific lists. Segmenting your subcribers based on their interests helps you send content they want vs. content you hope they want. There’s a trend on blog posts to offer additional content and resources in exchange for an email address. The give-away acts as a lead magnet and creates an interest-based segment in your larger database.
Now, you have better information about your subscriber about their specific interests and can follow up with more information that’s directly related to the topic. Examples include: offering a PDF version of your blog post; a printable checklist or worksheet that relates to the blog post; a list for people who only want to know when you publish a new podcast or video show. Instead of blasting your entire list, send emails to smaller, targeted lists and you’ll reduce unsubscribes as well as create better relationships with your subscribers.
Make Your Emails Stand Out.
My rule of thumb in email marketing is this: if you are adding value, people will subscribe to your emails. That said, there is a lot of content being shared on the web and through emails every day. So to stand out in the noise try visual storytelling. For example, add a cartoon to your weekly/monthly newsletter that will not only draw attention, but hopefully make your subscribers’ day a bit brighter. After all, who doesn’t like to laugh, right? According to Tom Fishbourne, the Marketoonist, his clients who use cartoons on a regular basis increase the newsletter open rate to 45% vs. industry average of 5-8%. Not shabby.
Use Highly Targeted Facebook Ads to Grow Your List.
Facebook Ads are getting better than ever for growing your list. You can specifically target your perfect demographic by age, zip code, interests, college education, income, and you can often target people who like specific Facebook Pages (even your competitors). You can even target the people who have been to specific pages on your website. The Facebook Pixel helps you target people who have been to your website and also helps you measure if those people then opt in. Facebook ads work best when you are offering something valuable for free to grow your list and then using your e-mail follow-up sequence to connect more with your prospects and eventually offer your product or service for sale. Make sure you do some testing on your ads to see what targeting works best as well as test some different images to see what converts.
Offer a More Advanced Incentive.
The biggest bumps in the growth of my email list have come from two things. Free video courses and paid course launches. Having an incentive more advanced than just simply an ebook is a necessity these days.
And launching paid training courses also boost your authority, has other people promoting your work, and leads more people to your brand. I’d highly recommend you to do both of those.
Give Away Valuable Information for Free.
We don’t do anything special around here to build lists – maybe we should 🙂 That said, the best advice I can give on this is to regularly give valuable information away for free. If you do this consistently you will find it a lot easier to get people to opt into your list when you ask. We have always focused on sharing our knowledge without asking anything of our audience. In a sense we don’t want an actual list, we just want people who find value in what we are saying to come seek us out with the idea that at some point they will either need our services or at the least they will share our ideas with others who might need them.
Build Your List Through Events.
Build your list by meeting people in person. One way to build a strong list is through events. The events can be virtual or in person but get in the habit of holding small events that will position you as a thought leader. For the online side of things you can hold Google Hangouts or Blabs on your area of expertise and remind folks that they can get more of your thoughts and answers to their questions directly in their inbox by joining your newsletter.
In person events can work the same way. Have a regularly schedule meet-up or speaking engagements where you bring people together around your expertise and invite people to join your newsletter for updates and as a way to stay in touch.
Create Video Content.
Video content is an incredible way to be discovered by potential customers, especially on YouTube which is the #2 search engine in the world. Perfect for visual learners. But to convert those viewers into leads means taking advantage of key technology and additional content.
The newer version of annotations on the platform that is mobile-friendly and customizable with design is call a YouTube Card. This pop up allows you to link to a page on your website in a professional and compelling way.
By linking to a lead magnet that is relevant to the subject matter of the video, you’ll turn a new viewer into a lead quickly and easily, no matter what device they’re watching from. Even better, that video can bring your leads for years to come. Some of my most popular videos and biggest lead creators are years old. Invest in your archives and don’t miss a chance to convert!
Link to an Opt-In Page and Track It.
As much as email lists are about size, what make an email list valuable is the connection each subscriber has with you and your brand. One sneaky way to grow your email list, not in shear volume, but in quality is to an “P.S.” in the email signature of every staff member in your company with a link back your email opt-in page.
This is especially powerful for customer facing staff members who send hundreds, if not thousands of emails every day to prospects and clients. Add a UTM code to the link for “Email Signature” or even by employee, “Email Signature – Steve” and now you’ll be able to track the effectiveness of this tactic. Each email is slowly reminding the people most engaged with your brand that you provide a deeper layer of content they can subscribe to.”
Make It About Them Not You.
The most important thing to remember is that building “your list” is never about you, it’s about the people on the list. What are they stressed about? What are they looking for? What do they need more of in their lives? (Hint: more stuff in their inbox is NOT on their list!) There are a million ways your inbound efforts can attract a community, but it’s more important by far to entice everyone who is right for you around. Make it useful enough and your community might even grow itself through referrals.
– Laura @Pistachio Fitton, Inbound Evangelist, HubSpot
Get and Keep Your Permission.
Growing your list is not simply about numbers… it’s about adding value to what you do. In order to ensure that happens, the following are important parts of the process…
- Permission is a privilege, not a right: Consumers do not owe us their attention, and they certainly do not owe us their permission. We need to EARN their permission, and that’s not done by a gimmick or a flashy set of ads. Permission is earned through quality content and offers, genuine interest in and deep understanding of consumer preferences/needs, and a consistent track record that builds trust. Keep the trust, keep the permission, keep the follower.
- Relevance is king: We all hear daily that content is king – so let’s take that one level further and point out that it’s not just the volume or brilliance of content that matters to your followers, it is how that content relates to them. If content is not relevant to them, it is nothing more than a waste of your time and a reason for the follower/consumer to take away permission for ongoing interaction with you.
- It’s all about relationships: People must come first – in your growth strategies, in your marketing plans, and in every interaction that you have. When you place highest priority on people, you take the time to do all those hugely important things that build relationships:
You operate from a mindset of SERVICE.
You think about what you can GIVE TO your followers, rather than take from them.
You ask them questions, listen to and clarify their answers, and get to know their pain points and what delights them.
You base your innovations on what they actually need and want.
And the result? You get and keep your permission to continue and build a relationship with them. In other words, permission is your ROR, #RonR (Return on Relationship).
As you head into 2016, remember that Permission is a two-way street, and the traffic signals are controlled by your followers. Be their Green Light… not their stop sign!
Find a Niche and Become the Leader.
I’m sure there are some wonderful, tactical ideas to building your email list in this post. Dive right in and use them. But I’d like to talk about strategy.
Building an audience takes time and a process. Most companies get a story idea and plaster it all over every conceivable channel. This is not a winning proposition. What has worked since, well, forever, is focusing on one content type, one channel, deliver consistently valuable content, over time. That’s it. That’s what the greatest media companies have done and that’s what you need to do.
If you want to build a subscriber list that will grow your business substantially. Find a content niche where you can be the leading expert or voice, deliver to the formula above, and focus all calls to action on building your audience. It’s deceptively simple, but yet almost no one uses this path, which I believe is the absolute best path forward.
Have a Clear & Concise Call-To-Action.
It may sound obvious, but have a clear and concise call-to-action to sign up for email communications on your website. I can’t tell you how many large corporate sites I have visited, only to have a difficult time locating an opt-in button. Ensure this sign-up is separate from your “Contact Us” so you know straight out of the gate that these individuals have elected to received marketing emails – what’s more valuable than that?
Use social to drive traffic. Every post you publish should have a call-to-action and when these CTAs drive to your content, be sure your mailing list is advertised as a secondary CTA. This is a two-fold strategy to both increase your followers and also expand your mailing list.
Split Test Everything.
Split test EVERYTHING! I know it is a pain, but it makes a huge difference. Increasing a conversion rate by even a few percent is money in your pocket.
You don’t have to spend huge dollars on conversion testing apps, a simple tool added to your WoredPress site like Simple Page Tester which I use on my site has increased my opt-in rate significantly.
Personalize and Build Community.
My tip for building your list is understanding it is a community of people, not a faceless list of subscribers. When you get to know and interact with your audience as a group (or segmented groups) of real people, organic growth takes care of the rest. To personalize our messaging we create accurate audience personas and encourage interaction or feedback on every single communication. They only need to hit reply. Those conversations have proved invaluable for knowing we are giving our community what they want.
Write a Book.
Writing a book (even a very short one) can be a wonderful way to build your email list from lots of different sources, including the traffic searching on Amazon.
- Step 1: Write a book that answers a question or solves a problem for your target audience.
- Step 2: Add an offer for some additional training, companion workbook, or other valuable downloadable lead magnets to the beginning and end of the book.
(Require that the reader subscribe to your list in order to access the additional content.)
- Step 3: Self-publish the book on Kindle or CreateSpace (preferably both).
You can give the book away on your website, sell it on Amazon, or print off copies to distribute when you speak.You can even include it in a JV product bundle or summit.
The book positions you as a knowledgeable expert and encourages people to subscribe to learn more.
Require Verified Opt-In (aka Double Opt-In)
Requiring verified opt-in when people join your email list confirms their interest in being on your list in the first place. If they join your email list and don’t click on the link in the email they get not just two minutes later, how interested could they possibly be? Verified opt-in also avoids adding undeliverable emails to your list.
Why would people enter invalid and non-consenting emails?
- Spambots attempting to gain access to protected content.
- Typos when entering an email.
- People entering valid emails that someone else owns.
Super-Target Your Lead magnets to Specific Niches of Your Audience.
Your niche helps define your brand. Do you want people to refer to you as “Oh yeah…that guy…what does he do, again?” Or would you rather be known as “The email marketing guru for small businesses” or “The go-to guy for helping web designers get better gigs”? The more specific your area of expertise, the easier it is for your audience to identify who you are and what you do.
When creating your optin offers, more specific positioning beats generic positioning every time.
Making content targeted for a specific group of your audience increases the perceived value of your content.
For example, when a prospect sees that you’re offering a lead magnet aimed specifically at college students – and they’re a college student – they’ll immediately feel that they’re in the right place. A colleague of mine proved this point by altering his sales page to appeal to different industries, which he then sent targeted ad traffic to. So, instead of reading “10 Accounting Tips,” the page would be positioned as “10 Accounting Tips for Dentists” when a dentist visited from the ads..
This immediately gave visitors a warm, fuzzy feeling — they were in the right place, and they belonged there. It’s no surprise that conversion rates increased when the visitor’s industry could be identified and included on the page.
I’ve had a lot of success with building my email list through SlideShare. I worked with a designer to develop five professional presentations with content from my recently published book, Linked to Influence. The presentations have received over 25,000 views collectively and I’ve generated over 300 leads within a two week period through an embedded call-to-action.
Ask Yourself Four Questions.
Here are four questions I try to keep in mind:
1. Is this something they can consume easily right away or will they probably file it away to read later (or never)?
2. Do any of my key points state the obvious…and therefore signal to the reader: “Nothing new here…move on”?
3. If I need to share a fundamental point that is common knowledge—yet still critical—how can I frame it in a unique way; how can I put a different twist on it, so it signals “This person is an original thinker”?
4. How might I make my points by asking questions rather than making statements, so the reader doesn’t simply say “Oh, I know that” but examines whether they are actually implementing that point.
Follow These Two Concepts.
Your contact list is so very valuable because it is something you own outright that allows you to build and nurture one to one relationships. Two key concepts I would start with:
1. Your list is never going to be perfect, but it is always a powerful tool. You are always going to have emails that bounce as people change jobs or choose different email providers, and you are always going to want to be adding new contacts to your list and further segmenting those contacts you have. Accept that your list is always going to be a work in progress, don’t worry about that stack of business cards you have from 3 years of networking, and know that you can use what you have today to grow your business in a meaningful way. These words were never more true in thinking about your contact list: “Start Where You Are, Use What You Have, Do What You Can.” – Arthur Ashe
2. Ask everywhere and offer something. The key to growing your list is to provide valuable information to an interested audience. Be sure to make it easy for people to sign up on your website, in your place of business, in your email signature, at a trade show, at a networking event. My favorite tool is the Text to Sign up- great for use anywhere someone is waiting in line or in a group. Be sure to let people know what they will get- expert tips and advice, hints and tips, special offers, VIP access etc…you need to have something of value. And remember, “The road to success is always under construction.”- Lily Tomlin
Use the Google Display Network.
The Google Display network is my go-to tool for email acquisition in paid search. Google can reach 94% of US internet users with the GDN, so your customers are definitely out there! Use targeting options like Interests, Topics, Age and Gender Demographics to get your ads in front of the right audience, and offer them a prize for signing up, just like you do when new visitors come to your site, like 15% Off or Free Shipping.
We’ve had really great response to contests and Sweepstakes giveaways, as well. The great thing about this strategy is that not only are the clicks really inexpensive, but when people sign up, they self qualify as being highly interested your product. Just remember to set a CPA on your your campaign, so that you know for sure that your GDN campaign is capturing emails at the right price!
Partner With Influencers.
The best list building tip I know is to partner with influencers and thought leaders to create great content. Invite them to be part of the content, which promotes their personal brand. In return, they’ll be happy to share the content with their audience, because that further promotes their personal brand. Now that those influencers are driving loads of traffic into your content, just include a link at the bottom to sign up for your list. In fact, that’s what you’re doing right now with this article!
Test Your Emails.
To build your email list, and not lose those you have now, always send a test to yourself first.
If you like that, and you would send it to your mom, then I would say it passes.
Building a list is just as much about keeping it healthy and keeping your audience liking you and your content.
Ask for Sign-Ups in Person.
My best avenue for building my email list is signing people up when I deliver in-person trade show training programs and presentation skills seminars. At the end of the program, I ask participants to complete a short survey, which includes a few options to stay in touch. The first option is “Sign me up for Spark’s free monthly e-newsletter, with deals, tips & news.” They just check the box and provide their name and email, and I sign them up.
This approach seizes a moment of strong emotional attachment. Because I’ve just finished a speaking program they’ve (hopefully) enjoyed and found valuable, and we’re all still in the room together, they feel connected to me, and want to stay connected. That makes them more likely to subscribe and stay subscribed. If I approached them hours or days after the program, that emotional attachment would have dissipated somewhat, lessening the likelihood of participants subscribing.
Live Stream It.
I have had the most success recently with live streaming. I love periscope I am on it once a day and show my chocolate store and factory. My viewers ask me where can they get my chocolates from, I have the call to action handy and show them a piece of paper with my website and they screenshot it. I get a new sign ups every scope. This has been the best for my list building. And they buy from my online store.
– John Kapos aka @ChocolateJohnny
Give Them a List of Resources.
As an author and ghostwriter I do speaking engagements about writing your first book. I used to take a printed handout with a list of writing resources. Now, I ask everyone who signs in to include their e-mail so I can send them the list of resources as well as any other pertinent writing information. For me it’s simply a matter of having some information ready to give them in exchange for their e-mail.
Setup Dynamic Calls-To-Action.
Make Signing Up Painless & Valuable.
Make it painlessly easy to sign up in person and give an obviously valuable reason to do so. At bricks-and-mortar stores, check your point-of-sale system for a built-in email collection system. At booths, fairs, shows or festivals, set up a separate tablet dedicated to collecting email addresses using your email provider’s app. Make sure everyone who speaks to customers knows that obviously valuable reason to sign up and can explain it quickly.
Start Using Landing Pages.
If you’re sending all your traffic to your homepage to build your list, you really need to stop and read this section. Landing pages are quickly becoming the backbone of every successful list building campaign. Even tech giant Dell has embraced the change, seeing conversion rates improve by as much as 300% when testing landing pages against homepages.
Landing pages can help you:
- Convert More: Landing pages are dedicated to a single call-to-action. The design, navigation, UX and copy all drive towards one action. With that level of focus, landing pages can outperform traditional web pages when building lists.
- Reduce Ad Spend: Landing pages are highly customizeable. You can (and should) create a landing page for every ad campaign because tailored messaging that matches the ad leads to higher quality scores and lower ad spend. The less you pay, the more ads you can run to capture email addresses.
- Market Smarter: Landing pages show you the exact amount of conversions per page, meaning you’ll know precisely where in your campaign is generating the most opt-ins.
Marketers that use landing pages in 2016 will have the advantage. Start using landing pages to build bigger lists today.
Have a Clear Brand that Strikes an Emotional Chord.
With Luma Coaching it took a long time to clarify what my coaching was all about. Growing my list was a painfully slow process even though the site contained several sophisticated opt-ins. The website for Women Taking the Lead (WTL) was created six months before the podcast even launched with a very generic “Join the Community” opt-in. Within 3 months of launching the list for WTL had already surpassed the list for Luma Coaching.
Whew! That’s a pretty exhaustive list! Still, I’m sure you’ve got some ideas of your own. If you’d like to share them, just pop them into the comment section below! Who knows, maybe we’ll feature them on a future episode of the Agents of Change Podcast!
Oh, and in case you didn’t notice, we’re offering a free download for writing email subject lines so good they practically open themselves! Click on the button below to download your copy!