How to Grow Your Email Marketing Audience

How to grow your email marketing list

Use email capture forms to transform your website from a digital brochure into a lead generation tool.

Gated Content

Gated content is often the “easiest” way to capture email addresses. Gated content is any type of content that is locked behind a lead capture form. The most common gated content is white papers or informational ebooks that are downloaded as PDFs, infographics, and other types of media.

The typical process to implement an email capture program using gated content is:

  1. You create a marketing asset like a white paper or eBook that will be deemed useful to your target audience.
  2. Create a landing page with a form and compelling copy. When a website visitor fills out the form they get an email with a link to the asset.
  3. The landing page is promoted over multiple channels. Social media, direct mail, and digital advertising can all be effective.

This tactic will be most effective when you deeply understand your target audience and their pains and goals. When you understand your audience you can create content that is useful and will help establish trust in your company. Sales focused content that highlights your capabilities normally won’t work.

The great thing about creating useful content is that you create and the process once and then

Popup Forms

Nobody likes those annoying popup “give us your email address” forms, but they’re used because they work. I recommend testing them. One client I have shows it only one time ever so as not to be annoying. Last week I had an opposite experience. I went to a landing page and was in the process of typing my email address in a form when a popup asking me to fill in my email address got in the way. Very annoying! There are many ways you can trigger a popup form that an enhance effectiveness while reducing annoyance.

  • Show the popup when someone gets to the bottom of a page and are wondering what to do next.
  • Show the popup after someone views 4 pages on your website, or views 2 projects.
  • Show the popup when the visitor appears to be leaving your website.

Use a slide-in footer or side bar if you can’t stand the thought of putting your visitors through the popup experience.

SumoMe and OptinMonster are two popular plugins for adding popup forms on a built using WordPress. Many email service providers, such as MailChimp, also provide tools to create popup email capture forms on your website.

Prominence, Promise, and Proof

Don’t expect to put up a “sign up for our newsletter!” form on your website and get many responses. You can dramatically improve your subscriber list growth rate by doing these three things:

  • Prominence:  Make your signup forms very visible on your website.
  • Promise: Make it clear what people are signing up for.
  • Proof: If you already have a lot of subscribers show the number as social proof. Otherwise add a subscriber testimonial.

If you think you can improve on any of these I highly recommend reading Orbit Media’s 3 Factors in Boosting your Email Signup Form blog post.

Test Your Email Signup Process

Once you’ve implemented Orbit Media’s three suggestions, test. Think of improving your email capture process as a continuous improvement process. Test the following:

  1. Experiment with popups and slide-ins to find the fine line between being a nuisance and having an effective lead capture process.
  2. Test various social proof and call to action messages. Try mixing up “join thousands of subscribers” (once you have them) messages and various customer testimonials.
  3. Require as little information as possible. The more form fields you require, the fewer subscribers you’ll get. All you really need is an email address, but I always also ask for the first name. Once you have an effective process in place you can experiment with asking for the last name, company, job title, or other useful information and see how it impacts signup rates.

Your House List

You likely have hundreds or thousands of customer and prospect email addresses that you’ve collected over the years. These are found in your sales and service reps’ email accounts and accounting systems. It is very tempting to upload all these email addresses into your email marketing platform and start blasting out emails to them.

Don’t do it!

There are many reasons this is a bad idea.

  • Your email service provider may suspend your account if you have a high bounce rate.
  • Your customer’s email server may flag you as a spammer if you send an email to numerous people that are no longer at the company.  
  • It is likely against your email service providers terms of use.
  • You may bother some long-time customers.

In the United States, you are more likely to run afoul of your email service provider that you are of the law, as the providers’ policies tend to be more restrictive than what is legally allowed. MailChimp provides good guidelines explaining lists that are and aren’t allowed by their policies. Other email service providers have similar policies.

About Bounce Rates

A bounce is an email to an email address that doesn’t get delivered. There are soft bounces, which are temporary delivery problems, and hard bounces, that occur when an email address doesn’t exist. Bounces are a fact of life in email marketing, but you should be diligent in keeping an eye on your hard bounces.

A good rule of thumb is that 20% of the email addresses you have will go bad each year as people spend on average five years at a company. If you email to your list once each month you’ll likely see a hard bounce rate of 1.5-2.0%.

Emailing your contacts at least once a month will keep your bounce rate at acceptable levels. Once you start email marketing consistency is important, but never go beyond three months between emails.

If your bounce rate gets up into the 5-10% range there’s a good chance your email service provider will suspend your account. I’m always nervous when sending an email to a new list.

Tips for Sending Emails to a New List

When sending to a new list or segment of contacts it is important to keep a very close eye on hard bounce rates, unsubscribes, and spam complaints.

Here’s tips to make things go as smoothly as possible.

  1. Send small batches of emails to test response to the new audience.
  2. If possible gradually mix in new email addresses into your existing list and monitor bounce and unsubscribe rates.
  3. Never ever purchase an email list and blast an email to it. It may have spam traps, and the response will be very low. There’s a good chance you’ll be blacklisted as a spammer – because you are.
  4. If you must purchase contact lists don’t add them to your email marketing program right away. Warm them up with direct mail or a sequence of phone calls and emails from a real person. But beware of spam traps, which are fake email addresses companies deploy to identify spam emails. It’s best to make a phone call first to verify it’s a real person.

Getting Started

If you’re already blogging or regularly adding projects on your website, the easiest way to begin email marketing is to summarize the previous month’s blog posts.

Make it very clear on how the newsletter will benefit the reader. You must have a target audience and you must understand the problems they face. It can’t be about you.

Unless you have high growth goals and you’re well funded, it is better to keep your email marketing simple when starting out.

Here’s a typical progression that companies go through, starting simple and getting more sophisticated over time:

  1. monthly newsletter
  2. onboarding drip campaign
  3. customized content using segmentation data
  4. behavior-based emails using a marketing automation platform