Growing an engaged email list is one of the most important parts of creating a successful email marketing strategy.
And for a lot of businesses and organizations, it’s also one of the most challenging.
You know you have something valuable to offer current and potential customers, but how do you actually get them to sign up?
Luckily, there are a number of tools you can use to grow your email list.
In this post, we’ll take a look at real examples from small businesses and organizations that have achieved success with email marketing and solved the “list growth” formula in the process:
1. Use a paper sign-up sheet (and let people know what they’re going to receive)
Using a paper sign-up sheet is one of the simplest ways to grow your email list. And it’s also one of the most effective. This is especially true if you have a retail store or a brick and mortar location where you interact with customers face-to-face.
According to Jason Alvey, founder of The Four Firkins, a Minneapolis specialty beer store, one-third of his store’s email sign-ups come from a paper sign-up sheet.
The sign-up sheet for The Four Firkins is a printer-sized sheet with the heading, “Would you like to receive emails every week about new, hard to find beer and free beer tasting events?”
This simple question offers readers a glimpse into what they can expect from an email and provides an encouraging incentive.
Learn More: One BIG Secret to Building Your Email List
2. Add a sign-up button to your email
You may not realize it but not everyone who sees your email will be on your email list.
If you share your emails on social media, for example, many of your fans and followers won’t be on your email list. People may also be forwarding your emails to their friends.
This is something Brandon Stewart, a real estate agent in Dallas, Texas learned when he began using Constant Contact in 2009.
“I realized that if I put content in the newsletter that is really popular, people would share it. That’s been invaluable,” Brandon says. “They share it on Facebook or pass it along to their friends, and then their friends ask to subscribe. Every time I send out a newsletter, I’ll get new subscribers back.”
To make it easy for people to sign up, add a Join My Mailing List button to any email you send out.
3. Put a sign-up form on your website
Your website will be the first contact many people have with your business. Don’t miss the opportunity to stay connected with new visitors.
For a business like Allegria Spa, adding a sign-up form to their website offered a whole new way to connect with new customers.
“We’re always giving people the option to join our email list when they come into the spa, but we just recently added the option for people to sign up when they visit our website,” explains Christine Copertino, spa director for Allegria Spa. “The response has been great. We’re seeing a ton of people signing up, and we know that these are really engaged people who will be excited to receive our emails.”
4. Collect email addresses when people sign-up for an event
If you host events where people register or purchase tickets in advance, you’ll likely already be collecting important contact information. This is the perfect time to ask people to join your email list.
As Carrie Bonnet, marketing director at Rains Lucia Stern, PC explains, collecting email addresses from event registrants gives you the chance to communicate with attendees after your event. For her, this includes sending a follow up survey to event attendees.
“It’s great to have emails that are connected to events, which are connected to a survey, and then to look at the results. It eliminates the unknown and gives me more clarity and transparency in my approach…which also makes things a lot more exciting and motivating to keep doing it!”
5. Collect email addresses at industry tradeshows
Industry events, tradeshows, and conferences are the perfect place to grow your email list.
For a business like Mother Earth Pillows, these events give them the chance to connect with new customers and other partnering businesses.
“We have sign-up lists at conferences, we have one at our store, and we have a sign-up list on our website. Then we have the people who call in or are our wholesale partners,” explains founder, Karen Kowal.
6. Look to your existing database
Don’t overlook your existing database of contacts. Colleagues, friends, and family members can help kickstart your list growth.
When Bryan Caplan began using email marketing for his nonprofit Fogo Fund, he reached out to people he had an existing relationship with.
“Linda and I were gung-ho on driving donations, but we first needed people to solicit. After setting up our Constant Contact account, we quickly added an email list of friends and family from our wedding as well as some of my business contacts — all people who could vouch for our credibility.”
7. Offer a downloadable whitepaper
Start new customer relationships off on the right foot by offering them a whitepaper or another educational resource in exchange for their email address.
For a business like Tallega Software, which helps clients keep their information secure, providing a piece of free education is the perfect way to attract new clients to their business.
Once they sign up, new leads receive a series of automated emails with helpful information about Tallega Software’s solutions.
8. Ask at events
Any time you’re meeting with customers face-to-face, you have the opportunity to grow your email list.
For an organization like Gallery Above Penn Square, which hosts a full schedule of weekly events, asking people to sign up is an easy way to continue the relationship after the event is over.
“When people come in, we always ask if they’d be interested in receiving emails about future events,” explains gallery and event coordinator Anca Bala. “It’s a really easy way to get people to sign up so we can stay in touch with them after an event is over.”
9. Let people sign up with their phone
Make it convenient for customers to join your email list by giving them the option to sign up with their mobile device.
Constant Contact has two tools to help you do this:
- Text to Join: Customers can join your list by sending a text message to a custom code that’s unique to your business.
- Scan to Join: Customers can use their smartphone to scan a QR code, which gives them the opportunity to opt-in to your email list.
Cool De Sac used a QR code on table tents in their restaurants to promote a special email offer. This resulted in 350 people joining the Cool De Sac email list.
10. Use a postcard
If you want to give people the option to sign up by hand but don’t have a convenient place for a paper sign-up sheet, consider using other print methods to get customers to join your list.
Boston-area restaurant In a Pickle puts postcards on tables in their dining room and invites customers to “join the club.”
“We have postcards in the restaurant that you can sign up with that say ‘Join our email club!’ and talk about how we offer a lot of vouchers, coupons, free drinks, free parties, and contests through our email,” explains owner Tim Burke.
11. Add a sign-up option to your membership forms
If you have a membership business or organization, you’re probably already asking people for contact information when they sign up.
You can encourage them to join your mailing list online by adding an additional field to your online sign-up forms, or face-to-face when people sign up at your location.
This helped River Rock Climbing Gym grow their email list to more than 9,000 people in less than two years.
“One of the first things we did was to start collecting email addresses through social media,” explains operations manager, Jared Rigby. “But we also started collecting email addresses whenever someone would come in to the gym. Our last email we sent to just under 9,000 people.”
12. Put a sign-up form on your Facebook Page
Social media offers a powerful platform to build an audience for your business. But it’s also important to move relationships off social media and encourage fans and followers to join your mailing list. This will give you a better way to reach your audience without having to worry about network changes or declines in reach.
“We get 40 to 60 leads a month from email marketing,” says the school’s vice principal, Jim McKenzie.
13. Run a sweepstakes
Contests are a great way to engage customers and generate buzz for your business.
Using Constant Contact, Casey Eidson, social media manager for KonaRed, ran a Facebook sweepstakes where people could provide their email address for the chance to win a free month’s supply of their product.
Over 442 people entered the campaign, 72 of which were new customers.
“We had a ton of people enter the contest and we also saw a lot of people sharing it with their own friends on Facebook and Twitter,” Casey explains.
Learn more: 3 Awesome Facebook Marketing Campaigns
14. Run a Facebook Ad
Facebook offers a number of advertising options you can use to reach a new social media audience.
Using Facebook Ads allowed Liberty Jane Clothing to add more than 2,000 contacts to their email list in a single month.
“This year we decided to give Facebook Ads a try. But instead of driving people directly to our Page, we used the ad to drive people to our email signup form,” explains owner Jason Miles. “We added 2,395 contacts in January alone. For us it was worth the investment.”
15. Offer exclusive access
The best way to get people interested in your email marketing is to offer something that they can’t find anywhere else.
Connecticut-based Cedar Creek Productions created a “You’ll Hear it Here First” campaign to kickstart email list growth. Using social media, they promoted their email list as the go-to resource to find out about upcoming news and announcements.
The studio promised fans that anyone who signed up for the email list would hear the latest news about interviews, screenings, and more before it was posted to social media. This netted the studio more than 2,000 new email subscribers.
Learn More: How an Award-Winning Film Goes Social
Start growing your list!
Think about all the different places customers interact with your business. Could any of these strategies work for you?
Pick at least one of these strategies and see how it works. You’ll be amazed at what a big impact it could have for your email marketing and business success!
We want your ideas! What is your most effective list growth strategy? Post it in the comments below.