Note from Jeanne: Happy Throwback Thursday! This was originally published by ClickZ in September 2015 as part of my regular Email Marketing Column. That was a year ago but the ideas are as relevant now as they were then. Take a quick read and then try these tactics to grow your email marketing list. 

There are a lot of risky email list growth tactics out there, which I’ve written about before.

It’s a shame that organizations often look to grey area tactics when there are some very effective ways to increase both the quality and quantity of people on your list.

These can be used without risking bottom-line performance, blacklisting, and without having to spend incremental dollars.

Here are few things you can do which will improve your list growth.

Two of the three require some programming, but they are one-time expenses which will continue to deliver you a list growth boost for years to come.

1. Optimize Your Online Sign-Up Process

This is a relatively simple but often overlooked way to boost your list growth. In this instance we are only focusing on the sign-up funnel.

This starts on the page where the person enters their email address or whatever the first field of personally identifiable information is.

It ends when the person provides all the information you need to add them to your list.

If you’re doing double opt-in, the process ends with the person confirming their interest in being added to your list by taking action on the email you send them. If you’re single opt-in, it ends on the page of your site that confirms they have been added, often with a message like, “Thanks – we’ve added you to our list.”

This analysis and optimization is especially important if there are multiple Web pages or steps a person needs to visit to complete the process. I reccomend starting where I always start: looking at the analytics of the process. You‘re looking to identify three things:

  • Places where people are abandoning the process and not completing the sign-up.
  • Elements of the sign-up pages which increase the likelihood that people will complete the process.
  • Things that might help people complete the process that are missing.

I’ve written about this many times before, most notably a client case study from 2012 that appeared in two parts –  the conversion rate increased more than 4 fold.

For more detail on optimizing your funnel check out Optimizing Your Online Email Sign-Up, Part 1 and Optimizing Your Online Email Sign-Up, Part 2

2. Make The Most Of Your Website

Once your online conversion funnel is optimized, it’s time to look for ways to drive more traffic to it. Your ground zero for this is typically your own website.

Anyone who spends any amount of time on your site is likely a high quality candidate for your email list – but how many of them are opting-in?

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After taking returning visitors out of the equation because many have signed up on for your list on previous visits, I take new site visitors and calculate the percentage that are signing up for email. I’ve seen it as high as 85 percent for a very targeted microsite.

I’ve also seen it at zero, when the calls to action to sign-up are minimal or non-existent. In general, you want to shoot for at least 5 percent of your new visitors to opt-in for email – this goal is achievable for just about any site with a little thought and effort.

Once you get to 5 percent, try to incrementally move toward 20 percent of new visitors, which is again usually attainable with some effort.

After getting 20 percent don’t stop testing to optimize, but do note that the gains often take much more work.

Where to start? Here are some keys:

  • State the benefits of having an email relationship with your organization underscoring what’s in it for the reader. Few people need or want another newsletter, but a way to keep current on industry articles of interest may be more appealing.
  • Include some immediate benefit. For instance, white papers and discounts work particularly well for signing up.
  • Make sure the call-to-action to opt-in appears prominently above the fold on every page of your website. Here’s a client case study showing a 30 percent increase in sign-ups when the call-to-action was moved above the fold.

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3. Make Word-of-Mouth Marketing a Priority

If you read my column about theSkimm, you know that they encourage readers to share the newsletter with friends. This is word-of-mouth marketing, also known as “forward to a friend.”

Back in 2000 every email newsletter I developed include prominent calls to action to share with friends – as well as a link to opt-in if the message was forwarded to you.

Nowadays you don’t often see a message such as this or a link to subscribe in an email newsletter – but it should be there. The space it takes is minimal and it can be a very effective way to grow your list.

It can be tempting to add people to your email list without permission. However, with just a little more effort you can create an opt-in mechanism that grows your list and keeps it perpetually moving forward without the risk of spam complaints and blacklisting that are inherent to non-opt-in methods.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Until next time,
Jeanne

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