As a small business owner, your mailing list is one of the most valuable marketing assets. This digital rolodex contains customers, shoppers and fans who’ve provided you with their direct contact information such as their email address and phone number. Small businesses spend a lot of time focussing on growing their platform on social media, but to put into perspective just how powerful emails are, consider that likely only about 5% of your audience even sees each of your posts and on average, your email open rate should be sitting at about 30%.
With careful set up, your little black book can be easily accessed and updated, giving you a full picture of your customers, potential customers, how they found you, their purchase information and so much more. Building this list of digital contact points and network for your brand is vital for growing your customers and developing lasting relationships. If done right.
Before you get started, it's important to remember that your email strategy and database growth plans should sit as part of your broader content marketing strategy. Be sure to reference this before making any changes to ensure that your communications are aligned and that you're maximising your marketing opportunities.
You’ve probably got the ins and outs of emailing customers receipts, brand updates and product launch info covered, but have you considered a strategy for growing your newsletter subscribers list? If not, have no fear! Let’s build a plan together.
1. How to Set Up an Email Marketing List
Taking it one step back, if you haven’t already, you’ll need to start by setting up an email marketing provider. If you have an online store but no email provider, your Shopify or Squarespace accounts are likely capturing email marketing opt-ins so hopefully you’re not starting from scratch here!
It’s important to set yourself up with an email marketing provider that can:
- Easily integrate with your existing ecommerce platform
- Meet your mailing needs!
For some tools, the more contacts you have, the more money it will cost you. Alternatively, you might be searching for a powerful email marketing tool that can help you better segment your data and run email automations for you. Mailchimp, Klaviyo, ActiveCampaign, Campaign Monitor and MailerLite are a few you can start investigating.
Once selected, you’ll need to remember to export the customers who’ve chosen to opt-in to mailing from when purchasing, and import these into your new provider.
Awesome, step one complete.
2. The Best Ways to Grow Your Email List
There are a couple of key pieces of information that you’ll need to start growing a robust database. Firstly, an email address (duh), their first name and consent to market to them.
There’s plenty more information you can add to your database like last name, post code, date of birth, how they found you - and more! But you need to remember to select data that is going to be relevant without being too off-putting for initial sign up. You can choose to make additional fields optional, but remember not to rely on this data later as optional fields won’t provide an accurate summary of your database.
Here are some techniques you can employ practically to add people to your database.
Yep, pretty much every website has them. Because they work. A pop up is a very convenient way to capture your visitors attention whilst they browse your site. They are also super easy to add in if your website integrates directly with your mailing provider. Mailchimp suggests that on average, mailing lists growth rate increases by 50% after adding their pop-up form to a site.
Some tips to create a really awesome pop up:
- Keep the requirements short and sweet (see above about data requirements). The less your customer has to fill out, the more likely they are to sign up.
- Create a pop-up form that stands out. Use a catchy headline or some interesting imagery to capture your visitors attention.
- Tell your customers why they should sign up to your mailing list. What will they get out of it?
Another handy thing that you can do with pop ups, is to not serve them to people who have already provided their information. This is a nice touch and saves your already loyal customers from getting frustrated each time they return.
This is a more subtle technique for subscriptions, and is something that every website should definitely have. An inline form looks like a subscription section that’s built into your website. They appear in the footer of many websites, or even on a dedicated landing page. If you are a website known for your written content then an in-line form is a great option where people might be searching for your blogs or journals.
Again, it’s important to tell people what they’re signing up for in with your in-line forms. No random, nondescript boxes asking for people’s email addresses, please.
Check out and Enquiry Forms:
The simplest and most effective way to capture valuable leads is through your checkout or online enquiry forms. Why? Because by this point, your customer has already provided you with all of their information for other means (to buy or enquire) and all you need to do is convince them to check (or not uncheck!) your opt-in box for marketing materials.
It’s not compliant, or very nice to email people out of the blue, so you must make sure that you’re capturing consent and not just emailing everyone who filled out an enquiry form with you since 2012.
Lead generation forms are a type of advertising that you can run on social media to capture database information too! Being a paid feature, this is a costly way to grow your database for many companies - you want to consider the value of a lead to you. If it’s just to send them an email once per month, probably not so worthwhile… If you’re running highly targeted lead campaigns however that are likely to result in sales that outweigh the cost of generating those leads, then definitely look into this as an option.
Your Facebook lead form will appear as a sponsored post, and usually works best with a strong call to action. To sign up to receive something valuable in return … What a perfect segue into our next section on what you can offer in return for someone’s email!
3. How to Encourage Newsletter Sign Ups
With direct customer data so valuable to businesses, it’s rare to not see some form of incentive in return for your visitors providing you with their email addresses. The key here is to choose a temptation that makes most sense for your business and your audience.
As mentioned above with Facebook Lead Generation forms, the highest conversions will come when you’re offering someone something in return. Ideally, what you’re offering is going to provide (at the least) short term benefit to your customer with the possibility for a high-lifetime value for your business. Here are some ideas for ingenious ways you can tempt people to join your list.
Give the people what they want! Exclusive content can take many forms, but most often it’s a lead-magnet that shares a resource or information that your visitor is interested in.
If you’re an expert, start by sharing resources. If you’re a leather goods business, it might be a downloadable guide for reviving your leather pieces. Or maybe you’re a service-based business? A great option here is to put your price lists into downloadable content, or content delivered via email once you’ve captured your customers details.
Another example of exclusive content is to provide ‘insider access’ style content. For ecommerce brands this might often be early-access to promotions or new products. Maybe it’s actually a way for some of your customers to access another part of your offering that the general public can’t access.
Here, the hook is FOMO (fear of missing out). It’s not rocket science, just a savvy way for you not to give away what your customers are seeking, for nothing.
Everyone. Loves. Free. Stuff. You’ve probably seen the posts on Instagram, maybe even fallen prey to this technique yourself. “To enter, simply sign up to our newsletter via the link in our bio”. Gotcha.
Competitions and prize based incentives are often seen as a valuable way to quickly grow your database. A technique like this is going to work particularly well for a brand who already has a large viewership or following across social media.
A study by Unbounce showed that effects of competitions being held across 100 of their customers landing pages. Of a collective 3 million website sessions, they found that landing pages that held competitions gathered 700% more subscribers than those without competitions.
Here, it’s important to select a competition that is going to add value to your brand, rather than take it away. You don’t want to run huge competitions every month as a reliable way to continue to grow your database. Choose your timing and prizes wisely.
Probably the most utilised tactic for encouraging sign-ups is to provide a quick-win for your customer. An offer that is valuable, but not completely underselling the value of your business or product, too! It’s an important balance to strike. Get it wrong, and you may never receive a return on your offer, or discourage repeat purchases. Get it right, it’s kryptonite.
Common pop-up offers generally include a welcome offer - 5 or 10% off their first order, or free shipping on your first order.
You can also use an offer for sign-ups in the form of referral kickbacks. For example, forward our email to a friend and if they sign up, you both get a discount off your next order.
Subscriber or Membership only content:
If a model for your business is subscriber-only content, then this is a no-brainer. In this case, you might be an educator or an industry expert who is growing their database based on their own personal brand.
With this technique, you can still share content via your website in order to draw people in, but save the really good stuff for your valuable subscribers. This kind of content might include access to exclusive webinars or additional intel reserved only for those on the list.
Additional loyalty based content might be available to your high value shoppers or customers. One example of this might be for restaurant regulars to receive an exclusive recipe-per-month from the head chef of their favourite venue (you!). See where we’re going with this?
Treat your subscribers to exclusive content, and not only will your open rates increase, but you’ll find by word of mouth, this technique will also grow your lists.
4. Database retention and Conversion Rate Optimisation
Just like with every new test you initiate in your business plans, you can’t forget about testing and learning. The goal for your tactics to sign up new leads to your database is something that we call Conversion Rate Optimisation. Simply, it’s how many people have the opportunity to sign up, versus, how many actually do. For a pop-up form that appears on your website to all new visitors, you want to divide the number of monthly subscriptions by the number of new people who visited your website that month (x100).
What we’re hoping to achieve here is a growing conversion rate, and there are a few ways that you can tweak your techniques to best fuel your lead machines.
First and foremost, is your form looking really great? If you wouldn’t trust putting your email address into that thing, then it needs a spruce up. Consider language and the security measures you have in place as non-verbal cues to convey trust. Does your enquiry form have a CAPCHA for example? Not only will this protect you from receiving spam leads, your customers will feel safer knowing your website has security in place.
Secondly, how many fields have you got in that form? I know i’m harping on about it, but if you’re asking for their address, their mums name and their mobile number, they’re simply not going to bother. Balance the information you need at-first here with the information you can capture later.
The Fun Stuff:
Ultimately, you need to stand out from the crowd. Every website these days is undertaking at least one of these techniques to encourage sign ups, so how are you going to make your offer extra special?
Excellent copy is the perfect place to start. Something eye-catching in the header of your pop up, a fun call-to-action on the ‘submit’ button and some really excellent explaining of the benefits of signing up. Be sure to keep your copywriting techniques on-brand.
Making your sign-up forms interactive or with an element of playfulness is also a great way to draw-in attention. Here you could use motion like GIFs or videos or a feature when you hover over the submit button. Another opportunity here could be to simply say thank you or provide a gift when their submission is complete.
So, Now You've Got a Growing Database...
Woo! Time to sit back and watch the subscribers roll in. The earlier you set this up in the life of your business, the better, so great move on taking this first step.
From here, my advice is to play around. Make incremental adjustments to your offers, pop-ups and email offering to see what works best for your customers and your brand.
Nothing is static on the internet, so be sure to review your position from time to time to ensure you’re getting the best value and growth for your mailing lists.