In 2015, Bryan Harris of Video Fruit decided to show the power of an email list by challenging himself to start one from scratch and make money off it within 48 hours. By the end of the challenge, 13 people had pre-booked his product, giving him an early profit of $247 without any investment. This experiment is only one of many examples that show how harnessing the power of an email list may be a game-changer for a business.
There is no shortage of pundits arguing that email is either dying or will soon be replaced by the next popular communication channel. However, over 4 billion people use email and 95% of consumers check their email every day. For better or worse, email is going to stay. So, let us explore why businesses should start building a permission-based email list.
Email is personal
The average person checks their email about 15 times per day; in fact, 66% of users say that the first thing they do in the morning is check email. Building an email list is important for businesses because it allows them to communicate directly with prospects, leads and customers (past or current). When it comes to social media, the content may not reach the audience either due to the algorithm or because it was overlooked. Email ensures that messages are delivered directly to the audience’s inbox. Further, since the audience has subscribed to them by choice, they are more likely to engage with the content.
A business owns their email list
There is a lot of unpredictability around social media platforms. When platforms modify their policies, social media marketing and SEO efforts may be rendered useless. Brands may spend their time and resources creating content for a certain platform, but they can never be sure if the platform will last. The death of promising social media platforms like Vine and Google+ underscores that nothing lasts forever in the digital world, except email. Since a business owns their email list, they are not affected by decisions of other businesses. Even if their email marketing service were to shut down, they would still be able to keep their email list.
Email can be personalised
According to a 2019 McKinsey article: "Personalization will be the prime driver of marketing success within five years." Unlike social media followers, email subscribers may be divided into segments based on their preferences, previous activity and position in the customer journey. This way they may be reached through custom content that is strategically designed to influence a specific group. Such highly customised emails bring value to subscribers and deliver 6x higher transactional rates.
Email gives higher ROI
Marketers agree that overall return on investment is the most crucial measurement to gauge the effectiveness of any given channel. Email yields $44 for every $1 spent on marketing – a 4400% ROI. This may be fuelled by the fact that email subscribers have given permission to hear from the business by providing access to their inbox. Ramsay Leimenstoll said it best: “A small list that wants exactly what you’re offering is better than a bigger list that isn’t committed."
Email builds significant relationships
Apart from being the chief online revenue driver and biggest customer retention channel for businesses, email is a powerful tool for building a relationship with subscribers. Email offers a space for private in-depth interaction and the opportunity to nurture customer relationships. According to the Adobe Consumer Email report, 40% of consumers want useful and informative email content as opposed to promotional and salesy emails. Consumers don't just care about product experience, they also have growing concerns about the customer experience that brands promise and increasingly, about a brand’s impact on society. Email just may be the right channel to share information and create a valuable experience that converts leads into customers.
Email is measurable and automated
Most email marketing tools today offer the ability to automate and accurately track every aspect of an email campaign and measure the response, in real time.
A business can track delivery rates, bounce rates, unsubscribe rates, click-through rates, and open rates. This gives them a better understanding of how email campaigns are working and how they may be tweaked for better results, and to create a customised conversion strategy.
Now that we’ve explained why businesses should invest their resources in building an email list, let us look at how a business can accomplish that:
Strategically place calls to action
Ensure that a link to subscribe is featured prominently on your website. It could be a pop-up on the most visited page or placed in different sections of the website. Since CTAs draw people in and make them click, it’s vital to get them right. Use contrasting colours to draw attention to the CTA and make sure your copy is compelling and conveys why the user should subscribe to your email list. A business can also run A/B tests to see which colours and copy are converting better.
Buffer doubled their email sign-ups in 30 days by adding eight more ways to capture email addresses. Instead of just using a slide-up box, they leveraged other methods like a HelloBar and a sidebar ad on their website to make it easy for prospects to subscribe. They also made it possible for users to subscribe on social media.
Offer a lead magnet
Another incredible way to grow the email list is to use lead magnets to incentivise visitors to give their email addresses. A lead magnet is a valuable resource that the business gives away for free in exchange for contact information. They may be white papers, e-books, templates, courses, free or extended software trials, bonus features, discounts etc.
Clever Girl Finance is a personal finance platform that educates and empowers women to take charge of their finances by offering a host of free resources. One such resource is a video library that users get access to after providing their email. They can access recordings from personal finance coaching calls where experts discuss financial topics. It answers the needs of their target audience and works as a potent lead magnet.
Leverage social media
Brands that have an audience on social media may leverage it to grow their mailing list. They may share snippets of their blogs or newsletters on social media, and add a link so people can subscribe.
Monica Lent built a successful niche newsletter called Blogging for Devs. She repurposed her newsletter content into bite-sized informative tweets and included a sign-up link at the end. Using Twitter threads, she built a thriving online community of over 5,000 subscribers in eight months.
Running a giveaway to encourage people to join the company's mailing list is a tried and tested way of increasing subscribers. Giveaways are cheaper to run than other marketing campaigns, such as ads, especially if companies offer their own products/services as the prize. The trick to running a successful giveaway is to find a product or service that is of interest to the core audience. For example, everyone wants an iPad but not everyone may want the specific service a business is offering. Picking the right giveaway ensures that the brand builds a list of subscribers that are interested in its offers, and more likely to become paying customers in the future.
Josh Earl, a freelance writer and programmer, wanted to grow his email list of people interested in learning how to use a text editor called Sublime Text. To attract high-quality subscribers, he decided to give away a free license of Sublime Text ($70), a product that would be of interest to his core audience. After 11 days of promoting the giveaway through his email list and on social media, he collected 187,991 email addresses, received 398,896 unique visitors on his website, and more than doubled his Twitter following.
Create a referral programme
Every brand is thrilled at the thought of their subscribers sharing their newsletters with others. While it is great if it happens organically, there are ways to incentivise the audience to actively spread the word. One of the most popular ways to do this is to create a referral programme which rewards subscribers when they reach certain milestones. The rewards can range from a premium version of the newsletter for referring one subscriber to company swag for referring several.
Morning Brew, a daily newsletter, went from 100,000 to 1.5 million subscribers in a span of 18 months. They offered their subscribers company swag like t-shirts, stickers and glasses in exchange for referrals. In fact, their co-founder Austin Rief tweeted that even now their biggest source of growth is referrals.
Use social proof
People's opinion of a brand is strengthened by what others in the community have to say about them. This is why it’s important to add social proof to the email sign up form. It can be a testimonial or simply the number of people who are already on the list. Ideally, the testimonial should come from a prominent person in the community and should include their photo to lend more credibility to the business.
Writer Khe Hy uses social proof by emphasising the number of subscribers that are already on board with RadReads. He also shares their testimonials to show how much value they are getting out of the newsletter. Similarly, Barkbox demonstrates social proof by including the number of happy customers in their promotional emails.
Businesses that have invested time and resources in growing their email list will significantly benefit from their efforts.
With the right strategy and approach like using prominent CTAs, sharing valuable lead magnets, leveraging social media, holding giveaways, incentivising referrals and incorporating social proof, businesses will not just grow their email list, but also improve click-through rates and conversions.
An email list is not simply a list of subscribers; it’s a list of qualified leads that are a great asset to the business. Building an email list takes time, but it pays off in the long run.