Email is a critical component in the Inbound methodology, but you can't leverage it's potential if your list is paltry. The good news is email list building doesn't have to be a dreaded task and can even be fun... almost as much fun as the heroes in this picture are having! Here are a few tips to get you moving toward epic status.
There are a multitude of ways to drive email submissions: via blog subscriptions, via content downloads gated by forms, via video gated by forms, etc. However you're attempting to capture user information, you won't be successful if you can't first capture attention.
The simplest rule in email list building is to make it easy and logical for users to subscribe. If you're using a form attached to a content download, make it simple and only ask the required information. Be honest: you don't really need their home, cell, and office phone numbers!
If you're using a box on your site pages, make it eye-catching and inviting.
To ensure your subscription box is seen, find a balance between making it pop and complimenting the aesthetic of your page. Then, include it in any, all, or a few of these essential sections of your site:
- End of blog posts
- Side bar
- About Page
- Page footer
A word to the wise: there is another way to generate list contacts which has been much buzzed about in the industry. The loved and hated pop-up light box is becoming more popular, but that doesn't necessarily make it right for you.
This format disrupts the user's access to a page and prompts them to enter their information. They can choose to simply exit the box, but there's no denying their site experience has been interrupted.
It's up to you to determine whether this style of information collection is a fit for your site and audience, but I do advise treading carefully.
For reference, here's Marketo utilizing the pop-up format:
In case you haven't heard, it's 2013. In the age of identity theft, data hacking and privacy invasions, people are apprehensive to give up their information.
To make matters worse, ill-intentioned or just ill-informed marketers have been spamming inboxes for decades now and steadily build a negative perception of the fine art of email marketing.
To get past these major roadblocks, you've got to clearly demonstrate the value readers will get out of subscribing to your list, and position your offer as legitimate.
I'm a big fan and loyal RSS subscriber to Social Media Examiner, but I recently found something troubling on their site which illustrates the importance of this concept.
Their email subscription box does a great job of standing out in the top right corner of their page, and it even provides a concrete incentive for registering (who wouldn't wan't a free Facebook Marketing Video Tutorial?) They even managed to fit in social proof!
When I noticed they even included a "More Info" link in their CTA box, I thought I had died and gone to email list building heaven.
Assuming this would link to a page detailing the benefits of subscription, I thought this was a great way to transparently provide the reader with all the information necessary to make a subscription decision.
Unfortunately, the party train stops there. And by stops, I mean it veers right off the tracks. When a user clicks on the promising "More Info" text, they're taken here:
Now before we get too critical, let me re-emphasize that Social Media Examiner is (in my opinion) an excellent site with phenomenal resources, and this could potentially be a tech glitch.
Disclaimer aside, this is an incredibly poor way to invite subscriptions.
If the offer to learn more hadn't been there, I may have not thought twice and subscribed on account of their clear value proposition. But after finding out that apparently I can't learn more without being forced to hand over my email, I have to think twice.
This CTA gone bad serves to teach us two great lessons:
- The good: Clearly announce the value of subscribing and detail what users can expect to receive. Not only does this improve the potential for subscriptions, it guarantees that your list members are relevant to your company and more likely to eventually consider you as a purchase option. It's not just about number of subscribers, it's about value too.
- The bad: Don't offer information that doesn't exist. Always, always, always keep the user experience in the top of your mind
I mentioned a few strategies above for collecting emails, such as leveraging gated content and creating direct subscription boxes. While these techniques are certainly tried and true, they're not the only way you can achieve list greatness.
Let's consider some out-of-the-box ideas for list generation:
- Try collecting emails offline at events like trade shows, networking hours, or even seminars and talks you host
- Encourage your current subscribers to pass along your emails via easy sharing or forward to a friend buttons. Keep in mind this strategy can only succeed if your emails are valuable and unique to begin with - so don't expect subscribers to pass along mediocre content.
- Send people to a subscription landing page via social media
- Speaking of social media, did you know you can customize your Facebook business Page to include unique tabs? Why not create one to invite email subscriptions? Check out this guide from HubSpot to get started
Ah, testing - or as I like to call it, the mad science of Inbound.
One of the best things about being a modern day marketer is the ability to test (in real time) the successes and failures of our initiatives.
Whether it's your subsciption box placement, your form fields, or just the color of your "Click to Submit" button, testing is an invaluable component of effective list building. Going back to the much debated pop-up lightbox above: you could try implementing it for a set time, and see how it performs compared to your site without it.
Beyond uncovering optimized techniques for acquiring contacts, you can also leverage testing to determine what type of content performs best in your actual emails. Take note of these metrics:
- Open Rate (Indicates the success of your subject line and delivery time)
- Click Through Rate (Clearly shows whether or not your copy and design are engaging users to go back to your site)
- Conversion Rate (Demonstrates whether your email CTA is genuine in relation to the page users are directed to. A high CTR and low conversion means you need to reassess your messaging)
If you'd like to learn a little more about improving metrics, I've written an article about it here.
If you want to learn even more about list building, here are some great posts to check out:
- 25 Clever Ways to Grow Your Email Marketing List
- The 7 High-Converting Places to Add Email Sign-Up Forms to Build Your List
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/12508217@N08/4571410233