Photo by Forgemind ArchiMedia / CC BY 2.0

14 Must-Use Tactics to Build a Better Email List

Have you heard that email marketing is dead? How can that be, you ask? Well, it can’t because it isn’t. Email marketing is absolutely, positively NOT dead. If anything, the patient is alive and kicking more than ever. So if you’re thinking about ditching your email list in favor of search or social media, think again. If you need convincing, take a look at what Campaign Monitor has to say about why you should use email marketing:

  • Email marketing is growing 20% year-over-year and will be a $6.8 billion dollar industry by 2018.
  • Email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Twitter or Facebook combined.
  • For every dollar invested in email marketing, the average return is $44.25, or 4,400%.

Now that you’ve seen the numbers, you’re ready to take the first step towards successful email marketing: building an email list of engaged, responsive subscribers with a high potential for converting into paying customers. Get started with these must-use tactics:

1. Place Sign-up Forms in High-Converting Locations

If your sign-up forms are not converting well, it could simply be that you’re not placing them in the best location. According to the guide to obtaining and maximizing email subscriptions from HelpScout and AWeber, there are four high-converting locations for sign-up forms:

  • Pop-up box or feature box
  • Top of the sidebar
  • Bottom of the page
  • Dedicated page

One very effective use of pop-ups is an exit intent lightbox that appears the moment a visitor starts to leave your site. For inspiration, take a look at how easy it is to create a Digioh Exit Intent Lightbox that integrates with popular email marketing applications like ExactTarget, Constant Contact, and Magento and MailChimp.

2. Acquire Engaged Subscribers

When your sign-up forms appear is as important as where they appear.

For example, if a pop-up subscription form appears only seconds after your homepage loads, you may at best get a lead that doesn’t have value since the visitor doesn’t know much about your organization or product at this point. At worst, you may end up annoying the visitor and turning him or her away to never come back.

On the other hand, if your sign-up forms appear only after the visitor has scrolled to the bottom of the page, or even on the second or third page hit, chances are you’ll get a subscriber who is much more interested in what you have to offer.

3. Give Visitors a Reason to Sign Up

Email marketing’s equivalent of real estate’s “Location, location, location” could very well be “Incentive, incentive, incentive.” In other words, you need to give visitors a reason to sign up.

There is no shortage of ways to provide an incentive for visitors to subscribe to your email list. What you choose will depend largely on what you’re offering and who your target customers are.

Great content. Great content can be offered in many forms including newsletters, downloadable guides and white papers, webinars, and online courses. Again, much will depend on your product. But no matter the type, your content must be great. In other words, it must be genuine, compelling, relevant, useful, well-researched, and actionable.

Discounts and promotions. If you run an e-commerce website, discounts and promotions make the most sense for you. In return for signing up, you can offer visitors discounts, coupons, or free shipping.

Early access and exclusive promotions. People love to feel special and that they’re part of an exclusive community. Take advantage of this human need by offering your visitors early access to your product or limited-offer promotions in return for subscribing.

Giveaways and contests. Humans are innately competitive and like to win. Leverage this drive by asking visitors to give you their email address for a chance to win a prize.

4. Optimize for Mobile

Did you know that, if your email marketing is not optimized for mobile, you could be missing out on as much as 30% of your market? To find out why mobile optimization is an absolute must, take a look at these email marketing stats and mobile email usage stats.

  • There are 897 million mobile email users worldwide
  • 48% of emails are opened on a mobile device
  • If an email does not display correctly on mobile, 72% of readers will delete it immediately
  • 30% of consumers now read their email exclusively on mobile devices
  • 37% of B2B marketers and 25% of B2C marketers saw improved email marketing results after optimizing for mobile

5. Keep It Simple

As counter-intuitive as it sounds, having more options makes it harder for people to make a choice. This is what’s known as decision fatigue. And in fact, having too many choices can cause anxiety and may even prevent us from making any choice at all. This is known as action paralysis. (You can read more about these findings in Columbia University professor Sheena Iyengar’s book, “The Art of Choosing.”)

The main takeaway from all this is that your sign-up form should have one, and only one, call to action: Sign up. Anything more than that, your visitor is likely to feel unsure of what to do, and then the one thing he or she will end up doing is closing the form. The other takeaway is that the call to action itself should be framed simply and directly: Sign up. Here’s why. Here’s how to do it. No more and no less.

6. Thank Subscribers

Immediately after a visitor submits the sign-up form, display a Thank You page or overlay making it clear how much you appreciate the subscriber’s interest and willingness to hand over his or her email address. This is also the time to assure visitors that their subscription was successful and to reiterate the benefits of signing up. Most importantly, this is the time to direct subscribers to check their Inbox NOW for their confirmation email (see tactic 8).

7. Guarantee Privacy

Speaking of assurances, the Thank You page is also the place to guarantee subscribers of your commitment to their privacy. If you have a privacy policy (and I sure hope you do), include a link to it.

8. Use Double Opt-in

The clash between single opt-in and double opt-in (also known as confirmed opt-in) is alive and well, and both sides of the argument have pros and cons. In case you’re not familiar with these terms, double opt-in is the practice of requiring an email confirmation before actually completing a subscription; single opt-in completes the subscription as soon as a visitor submits the sign-up form.

On the con side of double opt-in is the argument that email confirmation involves too many steps for what should be a simple process and that it therefore acts as a deterrent or demotivator. On the pro side, however, are two highly compelling arguments. First and foremost, double opt-in protects you by making sure the emails you acquire are, not only valid, but from subscribers who are truly interested in what you have to offer (otherwise, why would they bother to confirm). Secondly, double opt-in protects subscribers by preventing people from spoofing their email address.

Just these two arguments should make it clear enough that double opt-in is a win-win practice with benefits that far outweigh the little inconvenience posed by an extra step in the process. But if that is still not enough, take a look at a study done by MailChimp on their customer database in 2011 showing that double opt-in email lists have much higher open rates and click-through rates than single opt-in lists (29% vs. 17% and 6% vs. 3%).

But these are not the only benefits of using double opt-in. If handled properly, double opt-in can be the start of the lead nurturing process. Instead of viewing the confirmation request email as a needed annoyance, look at it as an opportunity to start the conversation with prospective customers. Thank them again for signing up. Reiterate and set expectations for what they will receive. Include another link to your privacy policy. Provide an email address where they can contact you. And, last but not least, make it clear they are under no obligation and have the option to opt out simply by not confirming.

9. Confirm Subscriptions in Real Time

As we talked about in the last post on coupons, the chances of re-engaging a lead drop by as much as ten times if a response does not occur within the hour after the first interaction. The takeaway here is that you must send out the sign-up confirmation email in real-time. Like we said in 7 above, the Thank You page should direct subscribers to their Inbox to check for a confirmation email. And when they do that, the email should be there.

10. Make It Easy to Unsubscribe

Make it as easy as possible for subscribers to unsubscribe, beginning with the confirmation email if you’re using double opt-in (which you should be). From then on, make the option available just about every time you interact with a subscriber. This means having an Unsubscribe link at the bottom of every email you send (in Canada, this is required by law) in addition to including an Unsubscribe function as part of subscriber accounts or preferences.

11. Make It “Hard” to Unsubscribe

At the same time that you make it easy to unsubscribe, you should make it “hard” to unsubscribe by giving your subscribers every reason not to. This means keeping them engaged and feeling rewarded and appreciated.

12. Make Your Welcome Email the First Step in the Lead Nurturing Process

If you don’t take the opportunity to use the confirmation email as the start of a conversation with your subscribers, the Welcome email should definitely be the first step in the lead nurturing process. Thank subscribers one more time for signing up and welcome them in a way that makes them feel part of something important. Reiterate again what the benefits of subscribing are, set expectations for future communications, include links back to your website, and provide contact information.

But the main thing you want to accomplish with the Welcome email is to sustain engagement and get subscribers to respond. In other words, you want them to click somewhere on that email to bring them back to your site and hopefully buy something. Your goal is to have as many opened emails as possible result in a click. The number of clicks as a percentage of the number of opened emails is what’s known as the click-through rate, and this is one of the key measures of email marketing success.

In an ideal world, click-through rates would be 100%. Unfortunately, click-through rates for all email in the real world are somewhere around 4%. However, click-through rates for triggered email (email sent as a result of a consumer action, for example a Welcome email) are as high as 10.2%. That is a huge difference and one that makes it startlingly clear just how important your Welcome email is. (For these and other similar statistics, see Epsilon’s Q4 2014 Email Trends and Benchmarks.)

So how do you get subscribers to click? The answer is really no different than the answer to how you get visitors to subscribe in the first place (see tactic 3): Give subscribers a reason to click by offering them great content, discounts and promotions, early access and exclusive offers, and giveaways and contests.

Keep in mind also that the Welcome email could be only the first in a campaign of Welcome emails (commonly referrred to as a Welcome Series or Drip Series). By sending a number of emails welcoming new subscribers instead of just one, you keep those subscribers engaged until they are hopefully converted into paying customers.

13. Focus on the Most Important Part of an Email: the Subject

Of course, there would be no such thing as a click-through rate if no emails were opened in the first place. That’s where the email open rate comes in, which is the number of emails that are opened as a percentage of emails sent (excluding bounces). According to the Epsilon study, the open rate for all email in Q4 2014 was 32.2%, while the open rate for triggered emails was 55.6%.

The question here then is, how do you get subscribers to open emails? If nothing else, focus on the most important part of an email: the Subject. Here are some key takeaways:

Personalize. If at some point you manage to collect subscriber names in addition to email addresses (see tactic 14), include names in the Subject of all emails. Another study done by MailChimp showed that personalizing email subjects had a positive impact on email open rates, with increases of as much as 33% when the subject line contained both first and last names.

Be Careful of Word Choice. The same study by MailChimp showed that using words that imply time sensitivity results in much higher open rates than normal. For example, using the word “Urgent” resulted in an increase of 79%. Choice of words can also have a negative impact. For example, the word “Reminder” had a negative impact of 29% while the negative impact of the word “Cancelled” was as high as 40%.

14. Request More Subscriber Information to Start Segmenting Your List

The final must-use tactic takes us back to the Welcome email and how important it is for getting the lead nurturing process started. In tactic 5 we talked about keeping it simple by asking subscribers to do the minimum. But once you get to the Welcome email, you can be sure subscribers are highly engaged and interested, so they will be willing to share more information about themselves.

At this point, you should ask subscribers for their name (first and last) so you can start benefiting from personalization (as shown in tactic 13). You should also consider asking subscribers for information about their interests and preferences so you can start segmenting your list to improve the relevance of future emails. Just remember to make this additional information voluntary. If you would like to learn more about optimizing your Welcome emails, take a look at this great infographic put together by Easy-SMTP.

Now that you know email marketing is not dead, we encourage you to start building a better email list by putting these tried and tested tactics to good use.

Want us to show you how the Digioh Lightbox fits in with your plans to build a better email list?

Take a tour or book a demo with us today. We work with all major e-commerce platforms.

Photo by Forgemind ArchiMedia / CC BY 2.0

About Cecilia Farell

Cecilia Farell is a freelance writer living in Toronto, Canada. She does content marketing for Digioh and blogs regularly on inbound marketing, lead generation and conversion optimization. Follow Cecilia on Twitter @ceciliafarell.