Growing Your Email List The Right Way

Feb 2014
mail, e-mail
Photo: @oh_yes_trani

I recently signed up to attend a business seminar that’s coming up next month. There are several speakers who will present during this event, and as soon as I signed up to attend, I magically appeared on all of their email lists. Suddenly I am receiving e-newsletters from business people that I have had absolutely no interaction with up until this point. And, frankly, it irritates me.

As business owners, we’re all trying to ‘grow our list.’ We’re taught that marketing to more people is better. But what if the people you’re emailing don’t care about what you have to say? You should never add people to your email newsletter without them knowing. Period. If you do, you run the risk of damaging their opinion of your brand.

So often I go to networking events, and anyone I exchange business cards with puts me on their mailing list. Newsflash: just because we shook hands does not give you the right to send me information on your company. And it’s sad because some of it is probably interesting – maybe even a service that I need and would use. But if you put me on your list without my permission, you immediately drop several notches on the ‘I respect you as a business person’ scale.

So, how are you supposed to build an email list without simply adding everyone you come in contact with? Here are some tips to get you started:

Work Your Connections

If you have a business, you probably have happy clients. And those are great people to get subscribed to your email newsletter. After all, they already like your company and care about what you have to say – and because of that emotional connection they are likely to forward your email and share it with friends. But, just because someone is your client, does NOT mean you can automatically add them to your email list. You still have to ask permission.

So, try sending a regular email (not a group email blast) to each of your happy clients, asking if they would like to be subscribed to your newsletter. Say something like:

If you don’t want to be on the newsletter list, do nothing. We will not add you without your permission. If you do want to join the list, respond to this email with the word ‘yes!’ 

Make It Easy to Join

When someone is interested in subscribing to your newsletter, you want that to be easy to do. So – just like with your social media buttons – you need to put your newsletter sign-up form everywhere. Try making it part of the sidebar or the footer on your website, so it shows up on every page. Add it to your email signature, embed it in your Facebook page, even mention it at the end of all your blog posts. And make sure that the option to sign up is part of your ‘contact us’ form. Anywhere and everywhere someone has the opportunity to interface with your company, you want to present the option to join the mailing list. You want to push for long-term relationships (a monthly email) instead of just a one-time interaction.

Invite Your Audience

If you regularly speak at conferences and seminars, like I do, and I’m sure you’ve noticed that there are people in the audience who wouldn’t mind receiving your e-newsletter. But how do you ensure that they sign up? (Please don’t add everyone from the participant list you are given from the event’s organizer – those people did not opt-in!)

Instead, come up with a way that your audience can choose to hear from you. Maybe you ask them to write ‘newsletter’ on their business card and drop it in a bucket. Or, better yet, use the text-to-join feature on your email newsletter service. I use Constant Contact, which has a great feature where I can generate a short code (think code word) for my account. Then, from stage, after my talk, I can say:

Do you want to join our mailing list? Simply text KWSM to this number.

Anyone who sends that text is automatically texted back with a prompt to enter their email address. When they do, they’re on the newsletter list.

Show Them the Goods

You can’t expect someone to sign up for your mailing list without knowing what their going to get. When you ask for sign-ups, you should always tell them why they should want to receive your newsletter. Does it contain helpful business tips? Do you offer discount codes only available to subscribers? Is this the only place to see your latest content?

The best way to demonstrate your newsletter’s value, is to make past issues available in an archive on your website. Then people can check them out before they commit to joining your list.  Your email newsletter service should offer an archive feature. If not, use screenshots (jpg) or PDFs to showcase past issues.

Be Valuable

Of course, if your newsletters are terrible, it won’t matter how many subscribers you get. Unless the content does something to engage them, many won’t open your email – and may never see what’s inside. Focus on giving value every time you send something to your list. Not only will they want to stay, but they might help you spread the word.

At the end of the day, email subscribers are no different than your fans on social media. If you have thousands of them that don’t care about your content or your brand, it won’t do anything to grow your business. Better to have fewer names, but ensure they are people who have a connection with your business. Don’t just focus on growing your list. Make it a priority to attract the right kind of subscribers. Success should be measured in open rates and number of clicks on the content – not simply in the growth of emails on your list.

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Katie Wagner Social Media

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