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Updated: Dec 23, 2019
This article is part 3 of our series on email newsletters. Part 1 discusses why and how to create an email newsletter, while part 2 shares awesome examples of newsletters to inspire you and help you become a more interesting, well-informed person.
An email list can be the most valuable marketing tool that many business owners have. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a parts manufacturer selling products to other businesses, a boutique selling clothes from local designers, a bookstore or a restaurant, email is one of the few options you have to directly reach out to customers on your own terms.
Your email list is made up of people who have shown a definite signal that they’re interested in what you’re offering. Providing value to your email list is a tightrope walk, but one that can add real value to your brand and zeros to your bottom line.
Gaining subscribers is challenging, but there are plenty of proven methods to grow your list. In this article, we’ll outline 5 ways that you can immediately start growing your list.
An exit pop-up is a window that shows up in the middle of the browser window when the main area of focus on a web page is navigated away from, either when the cursor leaves the page area, or, on mobile, when the user touches a browser navigation element. The main content dims and a modal window called a lightbox takes over the page. This lightbox can display a bit of information and a sign-up form. Typically, you’ll have a bit of copy in the form of a call-to-action. Something like:
‘Don’t leave! We have this really amazing newsletter that will tell you about all of our best deals and a bunch of really amazing other information you can’t live without! Sign up now!’
It might sound intrusive, but it’s not a disruptive user experience, and study after study shows that this method works very well to increase signups. A service like SumoMe can offer one click integration with your email service (this is not a promotion, many services can do this, but theirs is easy to use).
Following best practices is always advisable: you can customize the display of these messages. A good rule of thumb is to only show a pop-up to someone who has been on your site for more than 60-seconds. Otherwise you might give the impression of being too pushy.
Pro tip: Want to increase signups by 30% to 40%? According to Optimonk, a ‘no’ option can increase signups by that amount. Consider adding a ‘no’ option with copy like:
Want to sign up for our super cool, life-changing email list?
Yes, I love cool stuff.
No, I kinda hate cool stuff.
Ok, not all of these suggestions are going to be pop-ups, but if an exit pop-up seems too aggressive to you (seriously, don’t knock it til you try it), you should consider a scroll pop-up. This is very similar to the above method, but the modal window will only appear once the visitor has scrolled down a certain percentage of your web page. SumoMe has you covered once again. Depending upon the build of your site (WordPress vs Squarespace vs custom-coded, for instance), there are a large number of plugins that can accomplish this with just a few clicks.
A hello bar is a module that persists at the top or bottom of your site regardless of where the user scrolls on the page. This will allow a user to subscribe to your email list regardless of where they are on your site. Sometimes a visitor will want to see a certain amount of your great content before they decide that they want to get regular updates from you, but if they don’t have an easy way to sign up, you may lose them. A smart bar contains a discreet call-to-action message and a sign-up form. Hello Bar and SumoMe offer easy-to-integrate solutions.
If you have content that will be of particular value to your visitors, one of the most common ways to capture emails is to gate that content behind a sign-up form. You have to have something of genuine value to offer someone. This can take a variety of forms depending upon what type of business you are. If you are in b2b sales, a list of resources relevant to your visitor’s area of interest would be appropriate. Are you a restaurant? Try a PDF or ebook of some of your recipes. Do something creative? How about a pack of amazing royalty free stock photos or design templates. Whatever it is, make sure it’s relevant and make sure the visitor will feel it’s a fair exchange. If you have a WordPress site, check out a plugin called Members to restrict access to special content.
Advertising your email list on Facebook to people who don’t know your brand can be a risky proposition. The likelihood of someone encountering your business for the first time on Facebook and then signing up for your email list is relatively low. There is a much smarter way to do this.
One of the best uses of Facebook advertising is to promote content on your site. Whether you have a blog post that deserves a wider audience, or you’re launching a new product or sale, if you have something of value to offer people that will get them to click through to your site, you’re ready to begin.
Before you create a Facebook ad (for a primer on how to do that, click here) promoting your content, make sure that you have the Facebook Custom Audiences retargeting pixel installed on your site (to learn how to do that, go here). Now, create a custom audience for people that have visited that piece of content, or any other rule that you would like to set up (to see how that’s done, click here).
Now create a new ad targeting that custom audience, but specifically promoting your email list. Some people think retargeting is a little bit creepy, some people think it’s kind of cool, but most of us understand that it’s simply a part of using the web in 2016. Keep that in mind when you’re writing the copy for your new ad. You can consider going with something like the following:
‘Hey! Did you like what you saw at our site? We’ve got tons more really interesting stuff that you might think is cool. Sign up to our email list for regular updates!’
That’s too vague, and probably too informal depending upon your business. You probably get the idea. Tailor your message to your brand and what you know about your customers. Emphasize how valuable signing up to your email list could be for them. Do you offer exclusive deals? Are you going to offer an immediate discount or coupon to people who sign up from your ad? Make the value obvious. Make it hard to pass up. These are people who have already visited your site, so they’re not coming in cold.
Pro tip: If you use videos to market yourself on Facebook you can make sure that Facebook adds viewers to your Custom Audience after they’ve viewed 3 seconds of your video. That means you can add people to your custom audience list without even requiring them to go to your site.
At the end of the day, nothing is more valuable to the growth of your email list than creating something of genuine value for your subscribers. If you’re creating the type of newsletter that people are excited to receive, which they love so much that they’ll forward to their friends, you’re going to grow your email list no matter what you do. The above steps can help you accelerate that process, but if you aren’t creating something of value, then none of the above will help. If you treat your subscribers with respect and understand that their email address is private and that their time and attention are valuable, you will be primed for success.
Michael Jones is a Senior Editor for Funding Circle, specializing in small business loans. He holds a degree in International Business and Economics from Boston University's Questrom School of Business. Prior to Funding Circle, Michael was the Head of Content for Bond Street, a venture-backed FinTech company specializing in small business loans. He has written extensively about small business loans, entrepreneurship, and marketing.