4 Ways to Build Your Email Marketing List Online

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First things first, this is strictly an online thing. Strictly for your website and not doing real-life actions and events like the fishbowl business card thing or collecting information at a trade show.

Someone asked me a question about how to collect emails for email marketing. For the most part, there are 4 solid methods with variations of all of these if you think outside the box. In order from most engaged email subscribers:

  1. Customers
  2. Sign-ups without an opt-in
  3. Sign-ups with an opt-in
  4. Giveaways, contests, and sweepstakes

And, in order of most volume for each one:

  1. Giveaways, contests, and sweepstakes
  2. Sign-ups with an opt-in
  3. Sign-ups without an opt-in
  4. Customers

As you can see, there is an inverse relationship between the engagement you get from a subscriber group and the number of subscribers you receive with a given method. I’ll go into a bit more detail for each in order from most engaged to least.

Customers, both old and new

So the very first and the easiest way to grow your email list is from your current and new customers. I can’t imagine an ecommerce store not requiring an email address either as a sign-up or to send order information.

Not only have they trusted you enough to spend their money, but buyer psychology says they’re more likely to buy from you again, meaning you should create win-backs and upsell flows/campaigns.

If you have a product that is consumable, something like protein powder, around the time that powder would run out you can set up an email to automatically go out with a coupon for a resupply. Plus you can send them sales promotions and purely information-based emails as well.

These people are going to be the most engaged, they’re going to be opening your emails and interacting on social media, and going back to your website.

Sign-ups without an opt-in

Next up are the people that sign up for your newsletter without needing some sort of opt-in. No coupon, no ebook download, no any sort of “bribe” in exchange for an email. Your conversion rates as far impressions of opt-in to actual sign-ups are going to low, but you’ll know those people are signing up for one reason: they want to see your emails.

In other words, your content is so compelling that you have people that are inviting you into their inbox to disrupt their day with your content.

I want to hear from you.

They’re going to come back, read and share. Become an advocate for your brand. Buy from you in the future, click on your referral links, and become one of your “1,000 true fans.” Great people to have on your mailing list.

Sign-ups with an opt-in

Imagine the previous group of people, however, this group are all going to sign-up for your mailing list because there is some sort of incentive to join it. That may be a coupon code, digital download, or something else that your audience would get value out of.

The only difference this time is that the people that are signing up may only be in it for whatever you’re giving away. Therein lies the downside, especially if you’re using a mailing service in which the price is dictated by the size of your list.

They may not care about your business. They may not care about your newsletter. They may not care about your product. They may have just wanted that ebook.

On the plus side, they also may share it or remember your brand when it’s time to use your service.

Giveaways, contests, and sweepstakes

You’re going to get a lot of email address doing a giveaway, contest, or sweepstakes. The downside is they’re so easy to game that you’ll want to do some serious cleanup before and after you figure out prizes.

There are people out there that will sign-up with their “real” email account for your giveaway. If you have some type of “share to get 3 more chances to win” functionality, they have an army of stolen or newly created email addresses they’ll use to boost their “real” entry right before the contest ends.

If you don’t have that sort of function with your contest, they’ll sign up using their army of email addresses and hope one of those accounts win instead.

If you don’t catch this, they’ll probably win. Not only do you have a massive amount of fake emails being added to your list (which is costly and a waste of space), but the winner doesn’t actually care about your product. They just want to win something. Because they’re losers.

That army of emails? They may be stolen and/or hacked, and the original creator may still be a user. Now you’re emailing Jane in Kansas and she’s getting pissed because she doesn’t care about your kayak sale. You’re marked as spam or junk, your deliverability goes down, and all that sucks.

Additionally, if you’re planning on doing a giveaway, you don’t want to do something general like an Amazon or Visa gift card. You’re going to get a boatload of spam signups from random people that only want that free money.

What you’re going to want to do is keep your prize incredibly niche, almost to the point that your general customer base wouldn’t want to sign up for the contest.

Back to the protein powder example, you could do a giveaway for a lifting belt or a full supplement stack. Something that, if you’re not an active weightlifter, you’re probably not going to be interested.


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