Introduction

Building and maintaining an email list is the most important part of any successful email marketing or newsletter program. Whether you are a solo Etsy shop owner or a marketing person in a large corporation – email marketing using newsletters, blasts and other email communication is your best marketing tool.

Contemporary email and list management platforms offer incredibly advanced features for pinpoint targeting to reach your customer with a custom message personalized just for them. This means you’re not at the mercy of a social media network’s changing algorithms so you are in control of who sees your message. 

“A 2016 survey from U.K. marketing tech firm Adestra showed that more than two-thirds of every generation surveyed, including those between ages 14 and 18, preferred using email to communicate with businesses.” – Ad Age June 25, 2018

However one key thing you have to remember is there are no magic formulas or shortcuts.

Another important thing to remember is that size is not the best metric for judging a list. You want a quality list. An active list. The metrics that should be used to measure your list are things like open rate, click-through rate, revenue generated, forwards and related social shares. Think quality over quantity.

Remember, you’re playing the long game here – don’t get discouraged – just keep at it, keep testing and over time your list will be helping you achieve your marketing goals.

The following eight tips will help get started growing and maintaining a high quality and valuable email list. Enjoy!

Tip 1. Focus on quality over quantity.

The old way of thinking said that the size of your list was the most important metric. Your list has to be HUGE if you are going to be successful. Well the truth is, not so much. If you have a list of 100,000 people but only 20,000 actually open and only 5,000 of those take any action like click or share then you have a list size of 5,000. The 95,000 people who are not engaged with your emails are waste – waste that can be expensive if you’re using a service like MailChimp that bills you per subscriber to each of your lists.

So don’t get hung up on growing a huge list. Grow a quality list. Growth is still a core focus of email marketing but focus on the right kind of growth. Focus on subscribing people who are going to actually engage with your content and click through to see more of what you offer on your site and eventually buy something from you or click on an ad or subscribe to a course you offer.

Tip 2. Create excellent content.

The first step to having an engaged audience is to give the people what they want! They want useful, valuable, high quality content. If you provide people with content they can use RIGHT NOW they will remember you and keep coming back. More importantly they will subscribe to your list and open your emails.

This of course is easier said than done. Content creation is a lot of work and can be expensive if you outsource it (which I don’t recommend). Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint – so budget the time it takes to write good blog posts, shoot good videos, post intelligently on social and remember the calls-to-action on everything. It will pay off in the long run.

Tip 3. Build-in engagement.

Going back to the engagement metrics I was talking about previously, think about how you’ll be engaging with your subscribers in the future and then build your subscriptions forms to capture the right data. For example, you can include a date of birth section of your form and send people offers or just best wishes on their birthdays. Or ask for the subscriber’s top interest relative to your business then be sure to send them content that relates to that interest.

You’ll have to figure out what the hook is for your business but be sure to customize and personalize your subscription form so you’re capturing the thing that is going to allow you to build engagement into your content.

Tip 4. Segment your list.

All of the bigger list management services like Campaign Monitor, Constant Contact and Aweber just to name a few provide tools to segment your list. You can segment by a variety of criteria e.g. shopping habits, product interest, demographics, location, content interest – the list is really endless and up to your individual business.

By segmenting your list according the interest or criteria that makes the most sense for your business you can be sure to create the right content for each segment thereby building in engagement and improving your open rate. People only get the content that matters most to them. It’s more work for sure but take the time necessary to segment your list and deliver the right content to the right people.

Tip 5. Use a Pop Up.

I can hear the groans but hang in there – pop ups work. But they only work if you have a strategy. Be sure the audience visiting your post or product page is targeted and completely aligned with what you offer. Getting the right people to your site depends on how well you are able to target with advertising or content marketing (both of those are beyond the scope of this article). But if you have are creating relevant content or your products are what your visitors are searching for then a pop up makes perfect sense for the few who might be annoyed you’ll capture a high percentage of site visitors and start building your list.

There are many pop up plugins for WordPress and modules for Drupal available. Several of these come as complete marketing packages with pop ups and other site modules you can use to capture email addresses. For WordPress users a good place to start is Bloom from Elegant Themes or Sumo. Both offer all the functionality you’ll need with affordable and easy to use interfaces. There are pop up apps for Shopify users as well.  

Another great tool that is more of a cousin of the pop up is Hello Bar. I’m sure you’ve seen versions of this kind of opt-in on webpages, the thin form that sits on top of your web pages – it can be incredibly effective while being non-intrusive. Definitely worth a try.

Tip 6. Have multiple calls to action on every page.

All of the conversion optimization tests for email opt-in calls-to-action (CTA) have all borne out the same finding – it takes several e.g. up to 5 or as many as your page content will allow. Different CTAs to fully optimize a webpage. When I say different kinds I mean; forms, text links, image links, pop ups, header bars, etc. You can add as many of these different methods to your page as long as there is enough content to support them.

Of all of these guess which, in my experience, has been the most successful? Text links. That’s right, the simplest integration of them all can be the most powerful. Its because the CTA is totally contextual. The call to action can be as simple as “to learn more about email marketing click here” to totally overt; “Want more tips like this? Subscribe to my weekly newsletter.” Play around with integrating text CTAs in your content and you’ll see an uptick in subscribers.

Tip 7. Segment your list.

All of the bigger list management services like Campaign Monitor, Constant Contact and Aweber just to name a few provide tools to segment your list. You can segment by a variety of criteria e.g. shopping habits, product interest, demographics, location, content interest – the list is really endless and up to your individual business.

By segmenting your list according the interest or criteria that makes the most sense for your business you can be sure to create the right content for each segment thereby building in engagement and improving your open rate. People only get the content that matters most to them. It’s more work for sure but take the time necessary to segment your list and deliver the right content to the right people.

Tip 8. Practice good list hygiene.

Be ruthless about keeping your list clean. Remember you could be paying for those people who are on your list but never open. Look at your metrics for every send and remove people who don’t open, bounce or never click. Focus on people who have engaged in the last 4 months. Remove everyone else.

List hygiene also means keeping a close on your unsubscribes. Remember – every time you send an email people will unsubscribe. It’s called churn and it’s a fact of life in email marketing. So pay attention to your unsubscribe rates. If you see a spike or are losing large percentages of your list with every send then you’ll have to diagnose the problem. Some things to look at immediately are; send frequency (too much or too little), content and list misalignment or email creative issues.

Summary

Building an active, engaged list should be a critical part of your business plan. As you grow and work with your list you’ll find many ways to learn from it as well as monetize it. Take this work seriously and prioritize email marketing over social media marketing and you’ll be richly rewarded.

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