By Neil Patel
Contrary to popular belief, email marketing is not dead.
Sure, there are newer content marketing strategies out there today that may seem more appealing. But if you want your business to thrive, you’ve got to have a core foundation for your strategy.
Stick to the basics. If you’ve recently launched a startup company, one of the first things you should do is build an active email subscriber list.
It’s one of the best ways to get people excited about and engaged with your brand. You’ll use this list to stay in contact with your customers on a regular basis.
Ultimately, your email subscriber list will help you increase engagement, generate leads, and drive conversions.
What’s even more appealing about email marketing is how profitable it can be. In fact, the average return on investment for email marketing campaigns is a whopping 3,800%:
If you have been in business for a while but still don’t have an active list of subscribers, this guide is relevant to you as well. It’s not too late for you to get started with your first list.
You may be a little bit behind right now, but if you want to catch up to your competitors, start focusing on your email marketing strategy as soon as possible.
That said, starting from zero can be daunting. It feels as if you’ve got a long climb ahead of you.
Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.
Fortunately, if you follow the tips I’ve outlined in this guide, you’ll have a much easier time building your first email list from scratch.
Pick your platform
Before you proceed with anything else, you need to choose email software you’d like to use.
This will depend on many factors based on the wants and needs of your company, but you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. Constant Contact is a great starting point for beginners:
But it’s not the only option. Check out similar email marketing platforms such as:
- Campaign Monitor
For the most part, they all will have similar features and benefits. It all depends on your preferences for the interface, pricing, and other factors.
Compare at least a few of these choices before deciding. One thing for sure: you’ll need software to help you with this task.
Email marketing platforms will make your life much easier. That’s because what you’re trying to accomplish here is much different from sending a mass email to your friends and family.
Sending promotional content to your subscribers directly from your personal email account isn’t a viable option if you want to take things seriously.
Plus, you’d spend way more time than you needed to if you did this manually. We both know how much you value your time, so take advantage of any available time-saving marketing tools.
Build your opt-in landing page
Now that you’ve selected a platform for sending emails, it’s time for you to set up a way for your website visitors to subscribe to this list.
You need to build a strong landing page specifically designed for turning web traffic into subscribers. In theory, this is simple, right?
But you’ll need to do much more than creating a landing page that says “Sign up for emails.” That alone won’t be enough to add subscribers.
There is a science behind landing pages that drive conversions. For example, you need to take into consideration the placement of your opt-in button:
As you can see from this data, placing the button in the footer results in a drastically higher conversion rate than placing it in other locations on the page.
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for you to take your time when designing the layout of your opt-in landing page. Make sure it’s simple and clear, and think about other aspects such as the color scheme.
That’s because you can’t rely only on users visiting your website to navigate to this page. As I’ll discuss shortly, people will land on this page from a variety of sources and marketing channels. And that’s why you’ll need to take other factors into consideration as well.
Drive traffic to your landing page
You’ve got your email platform set up, and your landing page has been built. Now, you need to convert your website visitors into email subscribers.
The best way to do this is to get as much traffic as possible to your landing page.
You can start by increasing your SEO efforts, but that alone won’t be enough to build a huge subscriber list. You’ll need to feature this landing page on as many of your marketing channels as possible.
Share the link on your social media channels. Blog about it.
Put a CTA on the sidebar of each page on your website to increase the exposure and encourage conversions.
Here’s a great example of this strategy being used by HubSpot on its blog homepage:
Notice that a subscribe option is featured on multiple locations of this page. This makes it easy for visitors to spot it.
You can employ the same strategy. Visitors will need to make only one click to get to the opt-in landing page you built.
Anything you can do to drive more people to this page will increase your subscription rates.
Give people a reason to subscribe
Your company might be great, but not everyone knows that. This is especially true if you have a startup company.
Plus, people get enough emails throughout the day. Do you really think they want to receive more?
In fact, the average person who works in an office receives 121 emails each day.
Furthermore, 49% of consumers report they receive too many marketing emails from businesses.
It’s important you recognize these statistics. That’s because website visitors and customers won’t subscribe to your email list unless you give them some type of incentive.
You’ll need to provide them with some offer or value that improves their lives or experience with your brand.
Monetary benefits and discounts are some of the best ways to entice prospective subscribers.
For example, let’s say you’ve got an ecommerce store. You can have a pop-up or promotion on your homepage offering a discount off a purchase when a customer signs up to receive emails.
I don’t want to call anyone out, so I won’t use their name. But here’s an example of something I recently saw on an ecommerce website:
Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t completely off the mark. But look at this pop-up, and tell me if it excites you.
Telling subscribers they will be the first to know about a new product release, promotion, or story may not be enough to get them to opt in.
Instead, take a look at this example from Bed Bath & Beyond:
Compare this to our previous example. It’s much more enticing.
That’s because Bed Bath & Beyond is offering value people can actually use. People can get excited about a 20% off discount.
They may sign up just to receive that initial discount, but if you establish a good relationship with them, they could turn into subscribers for life. We’ll discuss that in greater detail as we continue.
Segment your subscribers
Here’s something else you need to recognize and keep and mind.
Not all your subscribers are the same, and not all your subscribers will sign up for the same reasons.
The key to building a great subscriber list is identifying these differences and grouping people accordingly—in other words, segmenting.
According to a 2017 study by MailChimp, segmented email campaigns have a 14% higher open rate. What’s even more astonishing is that segmented campaigns have a 101% higher click rate.
Segmenting your subscribers will help you lower your bounce rates and unsubscribe rates as well.
How do you segment your subscribers? You have many options, but some of the most common methods include factors such as:
- type of message
- email frequency
If you properly design the opt-in landing page I discussed earlier, this shouldn’t be difficult. Here’s a great example of how Bonobos uses this strategy to segment its list based on frequency:
Now, they won’t have to worry about sending too many emails to subscribers who want to hear from them only once a month.
Giving your subscribers the option will improve their experience and ultimately increase sales in the long run.
This will also keep your list strong and active, reducing unsubscribe rates.
Encourage your subscribers to invite their friends and family
To get the most out of your subscriber list, have your subscribers work for you.
Make it as easy as possible for them to forward your content to their friends and family.
Even if you’ve got a great newsletter or promotion, it’s unlikely that most people will do this out of the kindness of their hearts. You’ll have to continue with the strategy of giving them an incentive or added value to encourage an action.
You should offer a discount to your subscribers for getting their friends or family members to join your email list as well.
Research shows that 28% of people would be more likely to make referrals if they received a reward for doing so.
The idea here is to create a snowball effect.
You want each new subscriber to get more people to join. As I said earlier, you can’t rely on people signing up only from your website. Encouraging sharing will help you get more subscribers.
Send relevant and timely content
Now that you’ve got subscribers, you don’t want to lose them.
Make sure you send promotional content to your subscribers. Recall the discussion about segmenting your subscribers, and communicate with them accordingly.
Each campaign needs to have a reason and a purpose.
Sending a message “just to say hello” is a quick way to get lots of unsubscribes. Avoid that at all costs.
You worked hard to get people to opt in, and now you’re losing them. That’s why you need to create highly relevant content for each message.
Don’t get me wrong. Unsubscribes are inevitable, and they happen to the best of us, including me.
Here’s a look at the top reasons why people unsubscribe from email lists:
Don’t spam your subscribers.
As you can see from this graphic, the most common reason for opting out of promotional emails is receiving too many emails.
Sending emails too often can annoy your subscribers. This can have an adverse effect on your company beyond losing subscribers.
Developing a negative association with your brand could cause them to stop buying as well. Just make sure all your content is relevant and sent in a timely fashion.
Keep adding subscribers
So you’ve finally reached your first 100, 1,000, or maybe even 10,000 email subscribers.
It’s time to kick back, put your feet up, and relax, right? Wrong.
Growing your email list needs to be a constant priority. The sky is the limit here. There is no downside to adding more subscribers.
Depending on the platform you selected earlier, you may get charged more, monthly or annually, based on the number of people added to your list.
But the costs are marginal and worth it because of the high ROI of email marketing campaigns.
Now, you just need to use your email strategy to increase conversions and drive sales through offering great content.
No matter what type of business you have or what industry you’re in, you need to have an active email marketing list.
But for those of you who haven’t started this yet, building this list from scratch can feel like an overwhelming task. Just follow the guide I’ve outlined above to make your life easier.
Start by selecting a platform to use. Next, build your opt-in landing page, and find ways to increase your website traffic.
Give people a reason to subscribe. Offer value and incentives to get them to join.
Segment your subscribers so it’s easier to send them timely and highly relevant content.
Follow these tips, and you’ll be on your way to growing your email marketing list from scratch in no time.
What strategies is your brand using to add more subscribers to your first email marketing list?