While other marketing channels keep showing up, making a lot of noise before gradually disappearing, email continues to be the go-to channel for digital marketers. With the potential to generate $40 for every $1 spent, a number that far outweighs its nearest rivals, it’s no surprise that a well-stocked, carefully-curated email list is the ultimate prize for ecommerce marketers everywhere.
But while we all want an endless source of targeted and highly engaged email subscribers, a lucrative goose that lays golden eggs of revenue, actually building a great email list is much easier said than done.
In this article, we’ll discuss some email list-building best practices, learn what you should avoid during the process, and present some useful, easy-to-implement tactics for getting your list off the ground and crafting it into the revenue-driving machine that it promises to be.
But first, let’s cover a few basics.
Put simply, an email list is a collection of email addresses that you’ve gathered from anyone who has shown an interest in your business. These contacts can be people who have visited your website and subscribed to your blog or newsletter, or made a purchase and agreed to receive correspondence from you regarding sales or updates.
Theoretically, your list should be populated by engaged, active potential customers who are knowledgeable about, and interested in your brand. Of course, in reality, we know that this isn’t always the case. Email addresses become inactive and people lose interest over time, meaning that your job goes beyond simply adding as many new contacts to your list as possible.
With this in mind, let’s have a look at a few things to think about when curating your contact list as effectively and efficiently as possible – a key element in your overall email strategy.
1.It’s all about the opt-in
Permission-based marketing is not only more ethical and less annoying to the consumer, but it is an effective way to build a more valuable email list. This is because those subscribers to your list have made a conscious and active choice to be there, meaning that they are much more likely to be interested and engaged with your brand.
Not only that – by getting people’s consent before marketing to them you’ll stay on the right side of GDPR, an EU regulation that requires users to fully agree before giving away their personal information online.
2.Get yourself a good email marketing platform
There are a plethora of smart, automated email marketing services on the market that can make curating your email list easier than ever before. The key is finding one that best meets your needs and budget, and that offers at least the following features:
- A range of eye-catching and effective signup form templates
- The ability to send different forms to different lists
- Smart segmentation of subscribers based on their demographics and behavior
- Testing and reports based on the effectiveness of each signup form
- Automated messaging based on all data collected
With a solid automation platform and these features up and running, you should be collecting signups automatically, and getting them sorted into highly-targeted lists based on a variety of factors.
3.Keep your list clean and in good health
A healthy email list is one that is free of any inactive or disinterested contacts, leaving you with only engaged and interested subscribers, eager to hear about your latest news. Regularly check your list for open and conversion rates, and don’t be afraid to purge email addresses that haven’t been active for a few months.
As painful and counterintuitive it might seem to deliberately shorten your list, inactive contacts are not only a waste of your time but will skew your marketing analytics and results too. For dormant contacts, you can consider Customer Reactivation strategies, and incorporate email signature marketing in your reactivation campaign to increase conversion rates and establish better brand recognition.
If the above best practices represent ‘white hat’ strategies that will bring ethical, long term benefits, there are certain ‘black hat’ practices that, although tempting, are more likely to deliver the opposite.
The main thing you should avoid when building your email list is taking the easy way out and simply buying one. There are countless cowboys online, posing as reputable sources, that promise thousands of ‘high quality’ contacts, delivered to your doorstep for a fee. Now, even if we discount the ethical and legal reasons why this is a terrible idea (and we shouldn’t), there are several other arguments as to why you should never buy an email list:
- People in shady businesses more often than not have shady business practices, and you could quite easily find yourself the victim of a spam trap. If this is the case, the emails that you send to those contacts will be immediately blacklisted as spam, and your sender’s email address and IP address will be tainted forever.
- Let’s say the contacts are legit, but you approach them out of the blue without any consent. Aside from setting you up for trouble with GDPR (if they are European), you risk being marked as spam by thousands of disgruntled people, killing your sender’s reputation stone dead. And you paid good money for this?
- Even if the contacts are legit and few mark you as spam, chances are you’ll be up against other marketers who have made the same bad decision and are marketing to the same random people. There is simply no value in this approach!
1.Use sign-up forms and pop-ups on your website
Sign-up forms are the easiest and most obvious way to capture the details of visitors to your website, and are something that users are both accustomed to and comfortable with.
Most of the major ecommerce store platforms (like Shopify, for example) will have sign-up forms installed and enabled on your website, which you will have to disable if you decide to go with a more comprehensive system provided by your email marketing platform.
While sign-up forms are a subtle and unobtrusive way of collecting contacts for your list, they can also be a little passive. It is quite rare for a site visitor to search out a way to leave their details with you voluntarily, and connect with you without some kind of nudge or incentive. For a more dynamic approach, consider using pop-ups.
While traditionally seen as annoying and intrusive, pop-ups are still one of the most effective ways to collect new subscribers and are becoming ever more personalized and sophisticated.
You can experiment with different types of pop-ups on your website to see which gets the best results, but research has shown that an exit-intent pop-up, which appears only as users are preparing to leave the site, performs better than an immediate pop-up, which appears before users have had a chance to browse the site first.
Play with gamified interactive pop-ups that offer incentives like this one from The Purr Shop above, send different pop-ups to different segments of your audience, add extra fields to collect SMS details too… be creative and test, test, test!
2.Use a CTA to subscribe
A single, temptingly clickable button can make all the difference when getting people to sign up to your email list. With just a few ‘power words’ that convey a direct benefit to the user, you can make the choice to enter an email address an easy one — who wouldn’t want ‘Instant Access’ to your amazing community for the price of some basic details?
Some good power words to use on your CTA button might include:
These verbs create a sense of action and urgency, and when combined with bold button colors, the benefits that you offer for signing up, and a hassle-free experience, you’re sure to see the conversions start rolling in. Check out the example by Avanchy below:
Your CTA can also be used to redirect them to a specific link, for example, another article or landing page, which is much more focused than your store pages and is created for high conversions from a single product or deal. For visitors to gain access to this great deal, they’ll need to sign up — an excellent incentive and a nice welcome to your community.
3.Suggest lead magnets or host an online event
Lead magnets are little bonuses (for example, an ebook, gift guide, stock images, etc.), which visitors to your site value. By offering them in exchange for a sign-up to your newsletter or email campaigns, you’ll gain goodwill and trust while building a loyal and knowledgeable email list.
The best lead magnets are something within your area of expertise. Take the above pop-up by AdEspresso, for example, which offers a free ebook with insights into advertising on Facebook.
Alternatively, if you have the resources, you could consider hosting an online event. This could be something like a free course, a panel discussion, or an interview with a celebrity or influencer connected to your field. Simply collect emails when people register for the event, with a clear clause indicating consent for further correspondence.
Your expertise signifies an authority in your field, which in turn builds trust for newcomers to your site — people are more likely to purchase from a retailer with a deep understanding of its product.
4.Incentivize customers to receive “email only” specials
A good email list is an extremely valuable asset, so it’s certainly worth spicing the deal up a little bit by offering something nice in exchange for a visitor’s email address. It doesn’t have to be anything intricate or fancy — maybe free shipping on the first purchase, or a giveaway of one of your products for email subscribers only. Check out the example below:
5.Use social media channels
Harness the power of social media by creating competitions and promotions on platforms like Facebook or Instagram, with an email address required to enter. Because while social media might have a greater reach, email boasts 3x higher conversions and customers have consistently shown to prefer receiving promotional messages by email rather than their Facebook.
So rather than advertise your products directly on social media (and pay a hefty fee in the process) it makes sense to use it primarily to create a buzz while gathering email addresses for your list, instead.
You can create a competition with one of your products as a prize, with the number of entries increasing with the number of times a user has shared your post, or followed one of your other social accounts. This will both increase your reach and get people talking about your brand — all while your list grows organically.
6.Use affiliate and referral marketing
Similar to the above tactic of using existing subscribers to attract new ones, referral marketing is a good way to get your followers to share your offers with their friends, family, and colleagues.
There are ways that you can get referrals for free — you can simply add an easy ‘share’ or ‘forward’ option to your newsletters, lead magnets, or welcome emails. However, to sweeten the deal, you could offer a reward in return for a referral, something along the lines of a discount, free shipping, coupon, or free sample.
Because nothing is more powerful than word-of-mouth, referrals are an incredibly effective and time-tested technique. Add it to your list-building arsenal and watch your list grow exponentially!
Congratulations! Your email list goose is now well-fed and happy, laying you endless golden eggs of conversions and revenue.
Because if you look after your list, nurture it and keep it healthy, it will continue to be your best source of revenue long into the future. But remember the golden rule — it’s about quality, not quantity. A shorter list of engaged, interested subscribers making referrals and moving down the sales funnel is far better than a long list of inactive, disinterested contacts!
Did we miss anything? Feel free to contact us with your own list-building hints and tips — we look forward to hearing from you!
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