In the marketing industry, we talk a lot about reader engagement and quality content creation, but when it comes to email marketing the first step to reaching your audience — and one that should be continuously repeated — is building your list.

After all, if nobody receives your emails, the quality of the content included is irrelevant, and engagement will automatically be zero, which means your conversion will also be dead in the water.

Email marketing is about building and maintaining relationships with customers, prospects, and connections. And, a strong email list is full of contacts added organically (never purchased). 

A purchased email list is a cheap trick that rarely works out. Remember, you want an audience that wants to hear from you. No matter how many email addresses you buy, if your recipients haven’t voluntarily opted in and stated that they want to subscribe, then you are going to run into deliverability issues and those that get through are very likely not going to convert in any meaningful way. As a further word of warning, many purchased email lists feature spam traps — i.e., dud email addresses that can get your IP flagged as spam. That’s not good for your long-term email marketing campaigns, making this one shortcut that isn’t going to get you where you want to go.

So how do you build a healthy list that will keep growing organically as you feed it? Here are our top tips!

1. Provide a Way for People to Subscribe  

One of the best ways to get email subscribers is through opt-in website forms. They’re manual on the customer side, so you can include the requisite checkboxes to make sure there’s no risk of breaking laws like the GDPR, and they’re automated on the business side, so once you set them up they’re hands-off.

There are two main website forms: pop-up and embedded. A pop-up is what it sounds like: a small window that pops up on the screen when a user lands on a particular page. An embedded form, on the other hand, is a static invitation to sign up for email communications or to provide user information in exchange for resources, built right into the page. 

Most businesses use a pop-up on their homepage or other high-traffic pages — you’ve probably seen them when you’re shopping online — and an embedded form in the header or footer and on certain landing pages (more on that in a minute). 

The more ways you can provide for people to opt-in, the better, but there are a few strategies that can improve your signup numbers. If you run an eCommerce business, maybe your pop-up offers a discount for signing up. If your business is in a service industry, maybe you offer a lead magnet, like a downloadable educational resource or access to a webinar.

2. Create Landing Pages

Let’s circle back specifically to one of those means of getting people to subscribe: forms. These forms live on landing pages and serve as the gatekeepers for certain pieces of valuable content, such as ebooks, how-to guides, case studies, whitepapers, and reports. Use digital outreach to promote the content through Google ads or LinkedIn in-content marketing, and then guide those in your target audience who click to the landing page, where they’ll be able to provide their name and address on a form in exchange for the asset.

There are two ways to loop this form into your contact list growth efforts. You can include a checkbox where those who are filling out the form can choose to sign up for your email list, or you can include a line that indicates that they agree to sign up for your email marketing by filling out the information. In either case, be sure to include a note that they’ll be able to opt-out at any time, and make the text clear and obvious on the form, so they don’t feel like they were swindled into getting your emails.

Don’t forget GDPR compliance with your forms. The GDPR is a list of regulations designed to protect the citizens of the European Union’s data and privacy. Even if your business operates out of a non-EU country, you’ll still need to adhere to GDPR compliance because you never know if one of your subscribers is an EU citizen. In terms of your emails, following GDPR compliance requires obtaining consent for any data processing measures, including email marketing. This means providing a disclaimer or checkbox before adding an email address to your list and making it easy for a subscriber to opt-out of your marketing if they so choose.

3. Know Your Audience

While you’re gathering contact information, get to work understanding your audience. Look at your website data to see how customers are interacting with your content — what do they linger over or come back to frequently? 

Take a look at your buyer personas, too. What’s most likely to appeal to the different segments you’ve created in your CRM? Do people’s interests seem to shift based on their location, gender, or other demographics? Think about what these personas have in common and consider gearing your early messages toward those interests.

The better you know your audience and understand what kind of content they crave, the easier it will be to create an email campaign that meets their needs. 

4. Create Valuable Content

Make sure your content is adding value to your subscribers’ lives. Inboxes are crowded, and time is tight; people have little patience for emails that offer them nothing. Whatever your industry, find your favorite resources or create new ones and share them with your audience. 

Creating great content goes beyond the emails you’re sending out, too. Ideally, you should be posting regular blogs, offering gated educational resources, like webinars and white papers, and sharing videos, among other types of content. All of this content marketing will build brand awareness and position you as a thought leader in your space. 

Not only will this added value make your current customers and subscribers happy, but it will increase the chance of them sharing your content with their networks, which will hopefully lead to more signups!

5. Link Back to Your Site

The other thing creating valuable content does is give you the opportunity to use your emails to generate traffic back to your site. Whether it’s a link to a particular product or category at the end of a fun craft how-to infographic or a ‘Read more’ CTA after an intriguing taste of your latest blog post, emails are a great way to entice subscribers to come back to your home base.

This way, your emails and your website (along with your social media channels and other outreach) work together to feed each other, leading your audience to engage with your brand in as many ways as possible. They’ll be happy to do it, as long as you’re always adding value.

6. Host Webinars

Webinars are an excellent opportunity to grow your email list by highlighting your thought leadership skills and tap into a potential pool of new email subscribers. And this goes double if you host it with another brand. Choose a brand with a similar audience as yours, and you’ll both benefit from the expanded outreach.

To turn your webinar into a list-growing endeavor requires that audience members register for the session by providing their name and contact information. After the webinar, email the registrants with additional helpful resources and add them to your email marketing list. As you would do with other pieces of gated content, be sure to include a clear and obvious note stating that providing contact information is consent to receive emails and that opt-outs can be undertaken at any time.

As an added incentive for users to join your webinar, hold a giveaway for registrants, and you could see your conversion rates from visitor to subscriber jump even higher!

Email marketing is only one piece of your overall sales funnel, but it’s a crucial part of the equation — and a strong, ever-growing list is at the heart of its success. With these tips, you can build an organic list that meets compliance standards and increases your conversion rate.

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by Benchmark Team