Email has been the universal communication avenue since the dawn of the internet. It is universally accepted across the digital space and has proven to be one of the highest-converting marketing tactics time and time again.
Total spending on email marketing in the United States is expected to hit $3.07 billion in 2019!
Hopefully, your business has some sort of email campaign strategy in place. This could be a monthly newsletter, product recommendations, content updates, etc. Regardless of your approach, the backbone of email marketing will always be your lists. The more extensive and segmented your lists are, the better results you will see.
In this post, we will dive into the specifics of how you can develop a kickass list for a seamless email marketing campaign.
What is List Building?
As the name implies, list building is the act of adding names and email addresses to your company’s mailing list. While the concept sounds relatively straightforward, the nitty gritty details of how to approach this task can be quite extensive.
Ultimately, list building relies on your ability to create compelling content designed to funnel users into the action of forking over their personal contact information.
Keep in mind, as you can probably relate, the amount of junk mail that fills people’s inboxes these days is astronomical. That said, you need to give people a meaningful reason as to why they should allow you to add to their inbox. This is what makes list building a tough and ruthless job.
Why Build and Grow an Email List?
There are all kinds of reasons why it’s vital to build and grow your email list. For starters, it’s the foundational pillar of your CRM and gives you an idea of how big your company’s presence is.
While email might seem like a primitive, outdated form of online marketing in comparison to the likes of social media and all the trendy content formats, it remains one of the most widely understood and accepted forms of online communication.
First off, regarding marketing tactics, email has a distinct advantage that it is direct.
People discover email-based content much differently than they would on social media or a niche website – even if it’s highly personalised. The act of opening an email forms a 1-1 bond between a business and a consumer.
The more of these bonds you can create with your messaging, the more traffic your website will get. If you run a business page or e-commerce website, more traffic can potentially improve your SEO and conversion potential.
Secondly, email is very customizable these days. There are all kinds of services that enable you to build out unique templates that provide instantaneous brand recognition to recipients. More recipients = more brand recognition. Even better, this can be done for relatively cheap with most services.
Third, thanks to the rise of mobile, people check their inboxes all the time. When you look at social media, for instance, people can go a few days without checking their feeds, and the effects are minimal. In fact, some people even pride themselves on going for long periods of time without checking social media. Email, on the other hand, is something people simply cannot ignore.
How to Grow Your Email List
Unfortunately, there is no “fill-in-the-blanks” framework or template that will guarantee EVERY company success in growing their email list.
Generally speaking, people are pretty hesitant to give businesses their information nowadays. This could be attributed to the fear of their personal data being sold and/or used in sketchy ways without consent (thanks, Facebook.). Or, it could simply be they don’t want any more junk mail flooding their already-overwhelmed inbox.
While navigating around these factors and convincing sceptics to sign up can be a challenge, there are a handful of time-tested strategies you can use.
Use a Double Opt-In
Before you begin establishing your email marketing campaign, you need to make a critical decision to either use a single opt-in or double opt-in for your list.
For starters, you need to understand what exactly these components are, the advantages, and why a double opt-in is a better choice.
A single opt-in refers to a sign-up process in which the user only needs to enter his or her email address once. From here, the data is transferred to your list and the subscriber can then start to receive your email content.
In terms of the pros, the major advantage of single opt-in is it’s easiest for the user. Given the fast-moving state of the digital universe these days, simplicity is the users’ best friend. Single opt-in is a one-and-done process that only takes a few seconds. Keep in mind; each extra step is another opportunity for the user to reconsider their choice.
Double opt-in requires a two-part action from the user. The user would start by entering their email address and additional information into your online form (just like in a single opt-in scenario). However, the second part involves confirming their information via a test email. This test email requires the user to verify that they are the owner of the email address and would like to receive your content.
So why is double opt-in the way to go?
It’s practically a given that you are going to get fewer emails on your list with a double opt-in than you would with a single – due to the extra step. But, with single opt-in, there is always the risk of human negligence. Perhaps they don’t enter in their email address correctly, or they give you someone else’s.
Every email address you add to your list with double opt-in is not only verified, but the fact that they took the extra step shows they are apparently interested in reading your content. Ultimately, even though you might get fewer email addresses with double opt-in, the recipient will typically be more open to your messages. Quality will always trump quantity when it comes to list building.
Most of the major email marketing programs give you the option to enable double opt-in.
Make it Easy to Opt-Out
To reiterate, email marketing is all about simplicity. Just like you need to make it easy for people to opt-in to your content, you need to do the same for opting-out.
Now, you might be wondering why you should even include an opt-out option at all. You got the email address, right? Well, if you are doing business in the United States, you are required by law to give recipients the ability to opt-out of your messages. This is part of the CAN-SPAM Act.
In Europe, there are GDRP laws that influence a recipient’s ability to opt-out. Similar to the United States, European businesses must honour opt-out requests. This means unsubscribe applications must be kept in an email suppression file to ensure an email address is deleted from future campaigns. Similar to the United States, it must be easy for a recipient to opt-out and your business must provide clear instructions for doing so.
Most opt-outs are a tiny link anchored to the word unsubscribe that leads them to a bland landing page at the bottom of the email. While this is par for the course in most email marketing strategies, you don’t have to conform to this. Some might even consider the tiny print and boring landing page as a symbol of bitterness that someone chooses to opt-out.
Now, opting-out doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing type of deal. You can offer a few options to scale back the email blasts if the recipient is feeling overwhelmed by your content.
In addition to being easy, make it clear that there are no hard feelings. The last thing you want is to leave a bad taste in someone’s mouth.
Highlight the Benefits (and Transparency)
As previously mentioned, consumers these days are very skeptical of brand messaging – in any capacity. When you are trying to convince people to give you their email address for your list, you need to clearly emphasize why and how signing up will benefit them, rather than add to the ever-increasing flood of junk to their inbox.
Simply put, you probably won’t get a right amount of sign-ups just by telling them they will get your newsletter or see your latest content. You need to sell them on your messaging and why it will improve their day-to-day lives. The effectiveness of your sign-up forms depends heavily on how you can convey the value of your emails.
For example, if you are an SEO consulting firm, you could say something like “Sign up to get the latest insights on the search engines!” or “Sign up today and start improving your organic rankings!”
If you run an e-commerce store, you can explain how signing up or creating a user profile allows them to see a personalized website layout tailored to their browsing behavior or past purchases.
You can also offer something free in exchange for signing up, like an eBook or coupon code.
Additionally, as the concept of data security has been taking the spotlight in online business as of late, you need to make it perfectly clear that the user isn’t putting themselves at risk by giving you their information. Make it a point to let them know that you will never sell their data or use it for something without their consent.
The most important point to get across here is that you will be providing substantial value with your email content and you can be trusted with personal information.
Use Creative and Unique CTAs
Email marketing, at its core, is a conversion funnel tactic. The information on each email blast should ideally prompt the reader to take some sort of action. When it comes to guiding people through the customer journey, the CTA buttons are transition points that make progression possible.
While the concept might seem simple on the surface, it’s important to note that CTA buttons are one of the most commonly split tested/optimized elements in the realm of web design. Companies across the board spend crazy amounts of time testing out the color, text, and positioning of their CTAs to find the perfect formula.
In regards to building an email list, these sign-up buttons would likely live on your website’s homepage and internal content pieces. The most crucial aspect of a creative and unique CTA button is that it stands out and draws people in immediately. With this in mind, the color and positioning needs to be a sharp contrast from the rest of your platform’s layout.
In the example above, the off-color CTA button instantly draws eyes and attention to the subscribe form.
Now, CTA buttons give you an awesome opportunity to get bold with both the design and copy. Here is an awesome example from EPIC:
The CTA button is big, bold, and has a compelling copy that instantly makes the user more comfortable providing their information.
CTA buttons are something that should be viewed as a constant working progress. Don’t be afraid to test and experiment with new ones for sign-ups. You never know when you might strike gold!
Never Purchase Email Lists
Let’s keep this part short and sweet. Buying email lists is NEVER a good idea.
For starters, to reiterate, email marketing is a direct 1-1 communication between a business and a consumer. If they gave you their email address, they know who you are and are likely interested in what you have to say.
Sending an email to a person on a paid list is essentially cold emailing. In this day and age, nearly every form of marketing that begins with the word “cold” is not a very effective approach.
Second, most (if not all) of the reputable email marketing platforms don’t let you send emails to lists you have purchased. If you somehow get an email blast off, you might face penalties from the email service provider. Third, you could potentially harm your IP reputation and deliverability. Fourth, and most importantly, good email addresses cannot be bought.
To put it bluntly, buying email lists is a subpar shortcut and a waste of money; just don’t do it.
What to Do After You Capture an Email Address
So we’ve covered the details of opting-in and opting-out. But what about everything in between?
One of the constant goals of email marketing is to convince people not to opt-out once they’ve opted in. While there are a million little things you can do to keep people tuned in and make sure your list is constantly growing, there are two broad strategies you need to keep in mind.
Send a Strong Welcome Message
Everyone knows how important first impressions are – both in the business world and in our personal lives. Email marketing is no exception.
When someone joins your list and receives their first email, they deserve a royal welcome. In the body of the email, make it clear they made a good decision to sign up. Give them an “orientation” of sorts to everything you have to offer.
You can also give them a surprise like a free resource or discount code. Also, be sure to reinforce what they are getting and why it’s important, as well as the fact that you will not be doing anything to their data without consent.
The first impression here forms a huge basis for how they approach your future email blasts and whether or not they stick around on your list.
Always Send Relevant and Fresh Content
While this should be obvious, the best way to keep people on your list is to keep the content fresh and relevant. Always keep in mind, it only takes a few subpar emails to be labeled “junk mail”. Over time, this forms an instant negative perception when someone sees your new messages. Once this is the mindset, they will delete it without opening or unsubscribe altogether.
Good quality content is the backbone of any marketing strategy. If you want to build and develop your mailing list, you need to earn a reputation for distributing stellar messaging.
Over to You
The world of email marketing is easy to enter, yet hard to master.
Statistics have continuously shown the promise land of outstanding email marketing in terms of ROI. Think of your mailing list as the bricks that form the foundation of your online business presence. If you go after low quality bricks or have shoddy practices to get more of them, the consequences can be very bleak. A better quality list means better open rates and more engagement.
This is a guest post by Manish Dudharejia, Manish is the President and Founder of E2M Solutions Inc, a San Diego Based Digital Agency that specialises in Website Design & Development and eCommerce SEO. With over ten years of experience in the Technology and Digital Marketing industry, Manish is passionate about helping online businesses to take their branding to the next level. You can connect with Manish on Twitter: @Manish_Analyst