How to build an email list from scratch
Last updated: January 6, 2023
Say you’re hosting a high-stakes event for work and your job depends on getting as many people through the door as possible. That’s a lot of pressure.
But if you’ve got 30,000 people and their contact information in your phone, ready for you to invite? The odds suddenly look a lot better for you.
This illustrates the importance of having a large (and healthy) email list. A robust email list gives you a built-in base for promoting your products/services, messaging key product updates to your audience, advancing marketing campaigns, etc.
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That’s all well and good for established companies. But what if you’re just getting started? It can be difficult to get your list off the ground if you don’t already have a solid audience and a robust marketing enterprise software at your disposal.
Through smart conversion tactics and good content, you can attract subscribers to your list – and keep them there too. Read on for best practices on building your email subscriber list:
How to build your email subscriber base from scratch
1. Place embedded forms in high-traffic website areas
Traditionally, marketers have promoted their email lists by embedding an email sign-up form on a website homepage. This is a great way to encourage deeper engagement with the company without interrupting the viewer’s browsing experience. To make the most of this tactic:
- Make sure your webpages and email subscription forms are both mobile optimized.
- Use color blocking to distinguish the sign up button from other site elements
- Tell website visitors what they can gain from joining your email list, whether it’s early access to new promotions or discounts, industry-leading coverage of your topic, product-related communications, etc.
2. Create an individual CTA for each blog post or webpage
The people visiting each of your blog posts and product pages are looking for specific pieces of information. To persuade people to sign up for your newsletter, and stay engaged with your company, your CTA and email subscription forms should be tailored for each of those pages.
Tedious as it can be, personalized CTAs can yield significantly more interest and engagement in your email list (and on Omeda, you can easily customize your form’s branding, copy, etc., to better suit your needs).
An example: It’s a safe bet that people browsing the product page for one of your publications are interested in learning more about that specific product, if not making an imminent purchase. On that page, you might ask users to sign up for your newsletter to get new updates related to the publication’s key topics.
The messaging on content-related pages can be more product-agnostic, though. In an article about email deliverability, you might ask people to subscribe for “industry-leading content and best practices about email marketing.”
Another big benefit of specialized CTAs is that they act as a segmentation mechanism. If you see that someone visited your product page without signing up for your list, but they did sign up on a content-related page, you now know what kind of messaging and benefits are most attractive to them. And that moves you one step closer to the ultimate goal: converting them into customers.
3. Offer exclusive access to content
Gated content – like whitepapers and eBooks – is a hugely valuable source of new email subscribers.
But if you’ve ever downloaded an eBook strictly to read the content, only to get an unwelcome call from the company’s sales team 30 seconds later, you know gated content can backfire on your brand reputation. (Learn how to implement thoughtful and effective gated content campaigns here!)
Below are some ways to generate the best results (and the most email subscriptions) from your gated content:
- Make your gated content as actionable as possible. Instead of covering strategy, give people tactical advice that they can use to solve real problems in their work.
- On your landing page, list the key takeaways audiences can get from your content, so they won’t feel underwhelmed or misled after reading.
- Many readers won’t be interested in a demo of your product right away. On your forms, give visitors the option of opting out of a demo (an example from our own Email Service Provider Playbook is below). This reassures potential readers that you’re not about to drop them into an intrusive 20-email drip campaign after signing up, making them more likely to sign up and stay on.
Pop-ups (and overlays) are another popular list-building tactic among marketers, but in recent years they’ve drawn criticism for disrupting browsing experiences.
A good alternative to standard pop-ups is the exit intent pop-up, which appears only when the user is about to leave the page. Users can simply enter their email into the provided box, then leave to perform their next task.
While exit-intent pop-ups are considered more user-friendly than their counterparts, they can still aggravate some customers. On Omeda, you can customize your exit intent pop-ups to better mesh with your audience needs. This includes:
- You can target groups of customers that are most likely to be interested in your newsletter. You might target people who have or have not previously purchased a product with you, people in relevant job titles and industries, etc. (If you’re using Omeda, you can target pre-built audience queries with your pop-ups.)
- Exit-intent pop-ups can include GDPR-compliant disclosures, keeping it compliant with the most strict privacy regulations.
- You can choose to limit the number of interactions someone has with an exit-intent pop-ups, so if they’ve chosen not to subscribe to your list after seeing your pop-up 4 times, they won’t have to see it again, etc.
5. Tell new subscribers what to expect
We’ve given you a few ways to attract people to your sign-up form. Now let’s focus on the follow-through.
On your sign-up form, be transparent about the kind of content you send, how frequently you send it and its value for your audience. This will reassure new audiences that you won’t spam them with unwanted content (a top concern for anyone giving out their email address these days).
Also include a preference page on your form where customers can opt in and out of receiving certain kinds of emails (they might choose to receive content-focused newsletters but not product-related communications, etc.).
6. Describe value in your CTA
We’re all struggling with overcrowded inboxes and unwanted emails. As a result, the words “sign up” and “subscribe” have become negatively associated with getting spammed. Avoid using those in your CTA buttons/links. (And avoid using these spam-triggering words in your emails.)
Instead, use that CTA button to remind viewers of the value you’re going to provide them. This can be enough to nudge them toward subscribing. Some examples include “Access all our exclusive offers now,” “Download our eBook now,” etc. Connecting your CTA to immediate benefits will incentivize sign-ups and further action as well.
Not sure what CTA will stick with viewers? A/B test your CTA messages to see what lands best with your audience. (Here’s how to do it on Omeda).
7. Monitor, reassess and re-engage your list
A 30,000-person email list won’t do you any good if only 3% of them are opening your emails – and even less are clicking any offers inside. As you build your list, don’t lose sight of your real goal: enticing your subscribers to take action with your company.
Each quarter, review your most and least engaged subscribers, then compare them against your list’s main referral sources. Also compare them against industry standards using benchmark calculators and email engagement research (like ours). This can help you identify and reprioritize tactics that don’t attract engaged subscribers.
For instance, you might notice that most people that come in via an exclusive new subscriber discount end up unsubscribing, but that subscribers referred by content downloads are most likely to convert. Also run re-engagement campaigns to ensure that you’re winning back lapsed subscribers from your list.
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