Why Small Businesses Need to Get Smarter About How They Grow Their List (And How You Can Actually Do It)

If you’ve using email marketing for your small business, there’s a good chance you’ve already started collecting email contacts.

After all, without an audience for your emails, how would you ever expect to generate business results?

Maybe you started the old fashioned way by collecting email addresses with an email sign-up sheet at your place of business. Hopefully, you’ve also added a signup form to your website and made it easy for fans on Facebook to join your list as well.

And hopefully you’ve at put some thought into the different tools out there to help build your email list.

But beyond the initial steps of getting yourself setup to collect email addresses, when was the last time you took a fresh look at the type of results each of these methods is delivering for your business?

If I asked you today, “What is your most effective way for collecting email addresses?” or “Where could you be doing more to grow your list?” Would you have an answer?

When you have knowledge of where your contacts are coming from, you can make smarter decisions when it comes to growing your list.

Why it’s important to get smarter about the ways you grow your list

If you’re not continually trying to grow your contact list you’re really limiting your potential for long-term success. As your contact list grows, you’re expanding to reach more people who can help your business grow by becoming repeat customers and spreading the word about your business.

And while your current contacts may be delivering value for you today, it’s possible they may outgrow your business. So having a cycle of new customers, clients, and prospects opting to receive information from your business is crucial for improving on those results down the road.

How to get smarter about the way you grow your list

An effective list growth strategy starts with covering your touch points. By covering your touch points and making it easy for people to join your list in all the places they interact with your business, you’ll cast a wide net that will be guaranteed to deliver the new contacts you need to grow your audience.

Here are some of the most common ways small businesses are growing their lists today:

  • A paper signup sheet at your place of business: Signup sheets continue to be one of the most effective tools for growing your list. It’s the way a lot of consumers are most comfortable with, but will require adding contacts to your list manually.
  • An automated signup tool like Text-to-Join or Scan-to-Join: Tools like Text-to-Join  and Scan-to-Join from Constant Contact allow consumers to join your list automatically—by sending a text or scanning a QR code.
  • A signup form on your website: Having an email signup form on your website allows you to collect contact information from prospects that are coming to your site via search. It also gives current customers an opportunity to sign up if they’re not already on your contact list. You can also share your online signup form on your blog or in the other places you interact with customers online.
  • A signup form on your Facebook Page: Add a Join My Mailing List tab to your Facebook Page and share your newsletter on all of your social networks for greater visibility.

In addition to simply covering your touch points, small businesses can also incorporate list building into the stuff they’re already doing like:

  • When hosting an event: Collect email addresses when people register to attend or make sure it’s easy for people to join your list at the event.
  • When offering a local deal: Make sure to collect contact information from people when they redeem your offer, or choose a deal provider that lets you collect information when someone buys the deal.
  • When running a campaign on Facebook: Running a Facebook Ad or contest is a great way to attract new fans and generate business results from sites like Facebook, but it’s also a big opportunity to grow your list. 
  • When promoting a piece of content: With a tool like Digioh, you can use a piece of content like a white paper or video to collect emails from your target audience.

Once you all of your touch points mapped out, you can take an inventory of which methods are actually working and what you could be doing differently to improve your overall results.

Tracking your list growth

If you’ve been using all—or at least some—of these methods of growing your list, you should already be in a position to take an inventory of your contacts. If you’re just getting started, you’ll need to give yourself some time before you make any decisions about what’s working or where to make improvements.

Taking an inventory of your contacts isn’t something you’ll need to do after every email, rather it’s something you should try to do at least one a quarter or every few months.

Take a look at each of the methods you’re currently using to grow your list individually. There are three questions you’ll want to consider for each:

1. Is this method working?

2. How does it compare to the other methods you’re using to grow your list?

3. Could you be doing more to improve your results?

Here is an example of how this would work:

Bob Marshall is the owner of Marshall’s Farm. Today he has around 2,800 email contacts on his list.

For years, Bob’s primary method for collecting email contacts was a signup form at his retail business. He also has a signup form on his website and recently added a signup form to his Facebook Page as well.

Three months ago, Bob decided to give Scan-to-Join a try at his retail store. He kept the signup sheet but also printed out a poster with a QR code that customers could scan to join his list.

Is Scan-to-Join working?

After three months Bob has seen 60 new contacts use their smartphones to join his list with Scan-to-Join.

How does Scan-to-Join compare to the other methods he’s using to grow his list?

In that time, Bob has added 300 new contacts overall, which is just above average for this time of year.

The traditional sign-up sheet proved to be the most effective method—with about half of his new contacts signing up.

His website and Facebook Page signup forms generated about 40 new contacts. Which, based on past trends, is typical for his retail business.

Could he be doing more to improve his results from Scan-to-Join?

While a majority of contacts are still choosing to write out their name and email address, rather than scan the QR code in his store—the fact that combined, more three-quarters of contacts are coming from in-store signups, shows that Scan-to-Join is a nice addition for Bob’s more tech-savvy customers.

And because these contacts are being added to his list automatically, uploading and managing in-store signups has become much easier and more efficient.

In the next few months, Bob will be attending a handful of events where in years past he had used a paper signup form to collect email addresses from attendees. This year, he is going to offer attendees the option to use Scan-to-Join to join his list as well.

Get smarter about how you collect contacts

Take an inventory of your own email contacts. What’s working? What’s not? Where can you make improvements?

By identifying your list building strengths and weaknesses, you’ll be able to make smarter decisions about how you grow your list and extend the reach of your emails.

What other ways are you growing your contact list? What methods are attracting the most attention from your target audience? Let us know in the comments below.

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