The list is the thing.
The money is in the list.
There are a million taglines and marketing mantras that underline the importance of building a strong, solid list of email subscribers.
Contrary to social media urban myths, email is not dead. It’s alive, well and if you do it right – possibly the most profitable business tool you have at your disposal.
I’ve discussed what to send, and not send, your list in another article. But let’s talk about building that audience in the first place.
Bulking up your list is simpler than you think, even if you are starting at ground zero and have no subscribers at all.
By the way, setting up your opt-in box is a simple, but unique, process depending on what service provider you use. Some of the most popular ones include Aweber, Leadpages and Mailchimp. I’ve listed some here our resources page. Once you have that opt-in box or widget code set-up, make sure it’s all over your site, on every page. No matter what page your visitor lands on, you want them to be able to subscribe swiftly and easily.
Once you have that set-up, there are a lot of ways to go about building your list. The following is a mixed list of tips, tricks, do’s and don’ts. Let’s start with some don’ts. Why? Because it’s almost more important to know what not to do as it is to know how to do it right.
Don’t…Ask For Too Much Information
When setting up your opt-in form, keep it simple. Very simple. You’re welcome to ask for as much info as you want but only require folks to give you their email address. Every time you add in another box that they must fill out, the odds of them filling it out drop off exponentially.
In fact, though you can ask for whatever you want and have it not be a requirement, I’d still keep those fields to a minimum. It’s all too easy to intimidate folks with a huge opt-in form and have them think “forget this” and click away, never to return.
Don’t . . . Give Out Unrelated Prizes
If you’re a technology company, don’t offer travel discounts or free food as enticements for folks to sign up. You’ll end up with a list full of freebie-hunting people who may or may not be in the market for your product.
You may see a surge of interest and subscriptions, and then an equal surge of unsubscribes and lower open and click through rates once the winner has been announced. Contests are smart, and you should run them to increase subscriptions, but pre-qualify your leads with prizes that are related to your industry.
Don’t . . . Try It Once And Give Up
I have met far too many business owners who have tried to build a list using technique X or tool Y and they have met with mediocre or dismal results. So they give up and say “Well, clearly email lists don’t work.”
No, clearly you didn’t keep trying and testing out different opt-in bait, lead magnets, techniques and tools. There’s a magic formula for building your list, you just have to keep going until you find it.
Don’t . . . Bury Them
Adding names your list is only part of the game. Keeping them on there is just as key to building your list. So don’t deluge your email subscribers with too much information, too many emails.
These tips on how to turn your email readers into customers has tons of great tips and information.
In fact, let them know on your autoresponder how often you intend on emailing them. If they expect a weekly or biweekly communication from you, they’ll be less likely to feel overwhelmed by your emails and less likely to hit the unsubscribe panic button.
For example, you know that this ezine will arrive weekly on a Monday, because we told you when you joined.
Do . . . Keep It Simple, In Every Way
The name of the game is “frictionless.” You want the sign-up process to be simple and fast. You want the auto responder to be simple and fast. If you’re having them opt-in, keep that simple, fast, frictionless too.
Any bump in the road and your potential new subscriber could jump ship, click away and be gone forever.
Do . . . Use Existing Marketing Tools
The easiest way to create a base of subscribers is to leverage the points of contact you already have and convert those contacts into email subscribers. If you have a healthy stream of customer service phone calls, start asking them for their email addresses.
These tips and techniques we learned from Zappos are great customer service tools to have on hand.
Just have a reason why handy, like the fact that you want to email them a receipt, or further correspondence about the issue they phoned you about. In fact, you should also be able to rattle off other benefits like emailed coupons, discounts, private member information etc. to assure them that you don’t intend to simply spam them.
Do . . .Know Who The Heck They Are
Once they are on the list, it’s time to dig a (tiny bit) deeper. Early on in the autoresponder series, ask them to help you get them the content they want and need. And not a lot of stuff they don’t. In fact, this is a great time to use these techniques on visualizing the perfect customer.
So, ask them to fill out a simple survey with their industry, business size, etc. facts. To make it easier on you, set up an online survey that aggregates all the responses for you. (Having them reply individually to your email adds up to a logistical nightmare on your end.)
You can set up surveys for free with Google Forms, part of Google Docs that comes with Gmail.
Now that we have some overall philosophies in place, let’s talk more about how to build the list. Time for some tips and tricks.
Always Be Building. Don’t limit your list-building to online platforms, although those are the simplest and again “most frictionless” way to capture emails. Ask everywhere.
Thank You, Please Come Again
One of the most clever places to ask for emails is right on the transactional receipt. These emails are usually read and retained in the customer’s inbox. Why not give them a receipt that not only records their transaction, but thanks them for their purchase and tells them why they should get on your email list?
Link them right to the opt-in from there!
Tradeshows and live events are ideal places to capture emails. You need to kit yourself out with two things before you arrive. First, find an eye-catching prize to prominently display. Large gift baskets work better than, say, a smaller but more valuable gift card because they’ll stand out more in a crowded room.
The second part of this email capture system is the mechanism to capture the names. Make it super simple.
It can be as old school as a clipboard people put their names on, or you can have a laptop open and have them tell it to you and you type it in for them. (Bonus: by telling them that this email is how you’re going to reach the winner, you will guarantee that you aren’t getting a phony email that never gets checked!)
Tell Their Friends
Once you have that email subscriber, urge them at the bottom of every email to share your interesting and invaluable information with a friend. Most opt-in services offer a function in their templates that allows current members to type in their friend’s email address.
If you can, incentivize them to spread the word by offering additional coupons or content.
Ask Your Friends
While you can’t ask another business owner to simply hand over his list and you hand yours to him, you can still help each other build your prospective lists. Create a landing page for your friend’s customers, explaining how and why your content could help them.
Then ask your friend to shoot an email out to his list, urging them to sign up for your content as well, and linking them to that page.
Every so often, urge your Facebook. or Twitter. audience to sign up for your awesome newsletter/content/whatever you want to call it. Tell them why and what they’ll get out of it and how much they’re missing by just following you in the social channels.
Make sure a link to your opt-in is in every signature you have. Your email signature, any signatures you have in online communities. Spin up a concise, clever way to describe the benefit of subscribing to your list and end it with a direct link.
Now It’s Your Turn
If you haven’t started building your list, what are you waiting for? Here’s today’s challenge:
Visit our tools page and choose a list service.
Sign up and follow their instructions on adding a form to your website. Now start collecting! One a day adds up over time – so get started ASAP. If you are still struggling, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask how to get started. That’s what we are here for.
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