Email marketing, without doubt, is THE most cost-effective way of promoting your online business.
If you build your own list from scratch, then the people on that list will already be familiar with your brand, they will have agreed to receive communication from you, and therefore they are one of the most receptive and potentially high-converting audiences you can hope to find.
Once you have an organically-built, large list, and you understand what information, deals, and products/services they want to see from you, then you’ve unlocked the door to some highly profitable sales.
Because beyond the subscription cost of your email marketing software, it’s free to promote to this audience. And that, teamed with their responsiveness and familiarity with your brand, means you have a low-cost, high-converting promotional channel – it’s the holy grail for almost all businesses.
But there’s a catch.
You can’t force your list growth.
You can encourage it, but you cannot force it.
When you start looking at purchasing email lists or using underhand tactics to get website visitors to unknowingly subscribe to your list, then you damage your conversion potential, you damage your brand, and you run the risk of getting blacklisted for spam.
One of the reasons email marketing is so effective is that your subscribers trust your brand – so much so that they decided to subscribe in the first instance.
Purchasing a list means that your brand will be alien to your audience, they have no awareness of you, or trust in you – so you’ll probably see a high level of unsubscribes and/or spam reports pretty quickly.
Forcing subscribes means that your subscriber list may be aware of your brand, but they didn’t agree to receive your emails – so whatever trust they had in your brand before will soon be lost when they realise you are contacting them without their consent.
So, the question is, how do you cheaply and quickly build your own list organically?
Well, there’s a few techniques – ones that have helped me and my businesses amass hundreds of thousands of genuine, engaged subscribers to our own lists – and I’ll share these with you here.
Have a Clear Subscription Motivation
Before you start thinking about driving traffic to your site to grab their email addresses, ensure your subscription offer is optimised.
By this I mean, understand your audience and what they are interested in, then build an offer (such as a free ebook, video, a free sample and so on) around those interests.
Give them something as a reward for entering their email address. Something they will see value in.
Gone are the days of ‘Sign Up Here for Our Free Newsletter’ offers.
Everyone’s inbox gets flooded with junk and promotional content each day, why would they want to receive even more of this?
Give them an offer they can’t refuse, and that really hones into their needs, and you’ll see maximum conversion of traffic from visitor to subscriber.
Make Your Subscription Offer Visible
Now you have your offer that visitors cannot refuse, you need to put it under their nose at every opportunity.
Make sure it’s visible on all pages by placing an opt-in form at the top of your sidebar or in your website header, introduce a pop-up (exit pop-ups are a great way to grab people before they leave your site, I use OptinMonster for mine), and incorporate opt-in options in other processes where an email address is already being entered (checkouts, sign-ins and so on) – they’re entering the information anyway, so to tick a box and receive your subscriber offer becomes even easier for these people.
Steal Other People’s Lists
This might sound like I’m going against what I said earlier about growing your list organically – but this is smart stealing.
Think of an offer you can provide that will interest potential partner sites.
Think of the highest-traffic sites in your industry or niche (not direct competition – think of sites that will actively want to work with you), then think of creating an offer that they would be interested in promoting to their own lists.
Maybe you can offer a freebie, a huge discount on your products or services, or provide some valuable information or resources to their subscriber base.
Then, do some outreach to these sites explaining that you would like to work with them to promote your offer to their subscriber list.
Angle along the lines of – it will make them look good for providing something valuable to their readership, and it benefits you too in terms of the traffic they send to your site from the mailer.
You could even offer affiliate commissions for sales referrals to your partner site, if you have an active program on your site, to incentivise them even more to run with it.
Then, before the mailer goes out, ensure your own list-building forms and offers are highly visible and if you have a sales channel or checkout, ensure you give people the opportunity to subscribe at this point also.
Then get your partner to run the mailer.
What you are effectively doing is not only boosting your immediate revenue and/or traffic through the mailer, but you’re taking your partner’s list, grabbing the ones on this list who are actively interested in your brand and your subscription offer, and storing them for future promotional mailers.
You’re effectively stealing your partner’s list, but with theirs and their subscriber’s consent.
A guest blog is where you write a post for someone else’s blog.
Guest blogging is the perfect way to display your knowledge on a particular subject to a fresh audience.
So this marries well if you have a subscription offer such as a whitepaper or other information-based product – once you’ve proven your knowledge to your new audience, they are way more likely to subscribe in order to discover more from you.
Buzzsumo.com is a great tool for finding blogs around particular subjects, or you can simply Google for blogs in your industry.
When you have found the most popular ones, contact them and see if they allow guest blogging, and if so, put yourself forward.
Make sure you can put a link in there back to your website so people can easily see your subscription offer and sign-up.
Consider Solo Ads
If you have a well-optimised squeeze page, and an enticing subscription offer, you can source ‘solo ad’ suppliers and build your own list this way.
If you aren’t familiar with what solo ads are, basically, it is people with lists that will send out your offer to their list, and charge you a set rate per click.
So, rather like the list-stealing approach I mentioned earlier, this is an even quicker way to get a partnership set-up and drive traffic from someone else’s list, that may then subscribe to your list for you to then email directly.
The best way to find a solo ad is via the Solo Ad Testimonial group on Facebook.
Solo ads are particularly suited to the ‘Make Money Online’ and ‘Online Business’ domain, but there are solo ads for other niches – you just have to shop around and make sure that the solo ad provider has an audience/list that will be interested in your offer and likely to convert down the line.
Always check as many reviews on your chosen solo ad provider too – there’s a lot of solo ad providers with useless lists out there, so choose carefully. Ask them how they built their list initially, and what those people initially subscribed for (what subscription offer was used).
Following the above techniques will allow you to quickly and cheaply build your own email list – and combined with a consistent effort on longer-term traffic channels such as SEO – you will eventually see your list expand into a significant, high-converting audience.
If you have any list building tips of your own, please share them below.