It’s the best kept secret of building your email list.

Something so simple that it’s often overlooked.

And how couldn’t you overlook it? When most people are brainstorming ways that they can add new email addresses to their contact lists, it’s not long before the technology gets involved: the apps and the plug-ins, the tabs and, of course, the Facebook.

Jason Alvey, founder of The Four Firkins, a Minneapolis specialty beer store, says that a full one-third of the store’s list (8,400 emails) don’t come from any of these cutting-edge techniques.

Instead, they come from this highly advanced method of email collection:

The Sign-Up Sheet

 “Just having a sign-up sheet on the counter has been a really important way for us to build our list,” Jason explains. Each week, The Four Firkins fills about two of these sheets.

Jason recommends five strategies that will help encourage people to sign up.

1. Provide an incentive

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.

2. Encourage sign-ups while customers are in the store

“People are excited about your product when they’re in the store,” Jason says, “not when they’re on the website.”

It can be a lot easier to obtain email addresses when customers are in your great store and buying your great product. Don’t let that enthusiasm go to waste.

3. It doesn’t need to be pretty.

When Jason teaches seminars about social media for SCORE, he hears a lot of hesitation from business owners when it comes to the actual placement – or even existence – of sign-up sheets.

“People are afraid that it will look too messy. But I say, ‘I don’t care how messy you think it looks, you need a sign-up sheet.’”

4. Location, location, location

Jason places the sign-up sheet on the counter at the front of the store. If you have a list at the counter, it’s a hard thing to ignore. Jason and other Four Firkins employees make sure to point it out to customers, so everyone has a chance to sign up for the newsletter.

He also makes sure that almost every page of the Four Firkins website has a place for customers to sign-up. On the store’s Facebook Page, you’ll also find a “Join My List” tab.

5. Return the enthusiasm.

So, people have signed up for your email list. Now, it’s time to make sure that you keep them entertained and engaged.

The Four Firkins has the advantage of shipping in new specialty beers every week, but Jason says that anyone can create a hook that encourages people to sign up and keep reading each email.

“Small businesses should use email marketing to position themselves as experts in their field,” Jason says. “Because, eventually, people will start coming to you. The real key is persistence.”

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