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4 tips for growing your email list

4 tips for growing your email list Monique Torres

Mere moments after email went mainstream -- back in the late '80s or so -- the drumbeat of its demise began. It was the fad of the moment -- like rock 'n' roll or blue jeans.

But email hasn't died, and it won't -- because it works. No matter how many cooler or sexier communication platforms hit the cyber sphere, many will be fads that will fade.

Is it old-fashioned? Maybe, but it's also one of the most powerful and cost-effective marketing methods around for developing and maintaining brand-to-customer relationships. Consider this, from the DMA's "National client email report 2013":

  • Fifty-four percent of organizations generate 20 percent or more of overall revenue through email marketing. For 21 percent of respondents, email marketing accounts for 60 percent or more of all digital business revenue.

  • Email marketers estimate 30 percent of email revenue derives from targeting to specific segments; activity and lifecycle-based triggers produced 22 percent of total email marketing revenue.

  • The median return on investment for customer emails is $28.50 for every $1 invested. (Compare this to search's return of $19.71, online display's return of $22.38, and mobile's return of $11.37.)

And from a small sampling of other 2013 studies:

  • eConsultancy: 74 percent of email marketers report having an "excellent" or " good" ROI.

  • MarketingSherpa: 60 percent of marketers agree email marketing is producing ROI for their organization, and 32 percent believe it will eventually produce ROI.

  • Monetate: Email has a higher conversion rate than search and social combined, with email at 4.16 percent, search at 2.64 percent, and social at 0.48 percent.

Capture interest and grow your list

Clearly email continues to hold a lot of sway in the purchasing process. To get this kind of success, your list must consist of prospects and customers who want to hear from you. Here are four tried-and-true practices for growing your email marketing list.

Email is cheap, so don't cheapen it

One of the most prevalent errors marketers continually make -- and this happens across all business types, large and small -- is taking the default position that email should be quick, easy, and resource-light. After all, it costs a mere fraction of a cent to send, so let's cast a wide net and hope we catch a few choice fishes. It's practically free, right?

Wrong. Make no mistake, when it comes to marketing communication, email is pretty intimate. Unlike social media platforms where anonymity is a main attraction, your email subscribers proactively invite you to talk to them and, by extension, to learn about them. Having their names is a privilege.

Even if you're only paying 7 cents per thousand emails, do thank your lucky stars for getting such a bonanza deal. But don't take advantage of the generous opportunity your subscribers have granted you. Don't over-mail. Don't send everybody everything.

Offer valuable incentives

The word "incentive" sometimes gets a bad rap, viewed as being disingenuous or the mark of a sub-par offer (e.g., "If it was any good, you wouldn't have to sweeten the deal to get people to use it").

But this isn't true. People need a reason to register for your list. It doesn't have to be a free t-shirt, but there must be a perceived exchange of value before someone takes the time to connect with you.

Content as an incentive
Good content is an effective list-building incentive because it's self-fulfilling: People want it enough to sign up to receive it. Anything of quality can work: case studies, helpful hints, advice, news, how-to's, webinars, even cartoons. Show it off by providing a preview of content in your emails and on your sign-up pages. And be sure to pitch subscribing to your email list wherever you can: on your website, in your videos, in social media, in your papers.

Other incentives
Content alone doesn't work for everyone; some people need a bit more encouragement before signing up for your emails. Here are some ideas that can get them to the finish line:

  • Offer exclusive access or an exclusive offer. People like to be part of a special group -- especially if it's a group other people don't know about.

  • Use testimonials on your sign-up page. People are more comfortable going where others have gone before, particularly if they're well known or from well-respected companies.

  • Hold a sweepstakes. The trick here is to ensure that the prize is something -- valuable to your target audience and directly related to your value proposition. If your company sells electronics, a sweepstakes for a $2,500 man-cave-worthy flat screen may be more effective than a $2,500 shopping spree at Nordstrom.

  • Offer a discount or coupon. Many companies are quite successful using this tactic, but used too frequently, discounts and coupons can adversely affect the perceived quality of your brand. Give it careful consideration before diving in, and test.

Monique Torres is a senior writer for Act-On Software with nearly 20 years’ experience in all things (ok, a LOT of things) direct marketing, particularly in the technology industry. Her passion and focus are B2B communication and the dynamic...

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