Like all the best things in life, building an email list is hard. Luckily, there are proven strategies you can deploy to overcome the speed bumps and accelerate subscriber growth.
In an ideal world, our email lists would continue to accumulate new subscribers without much effort from us. But we live in the real world, and it requires commitment and planning to grow your email list—or it’s likely to stagnate.
In this article, we’ll look at 3 list-building strategies (and 20 tactics) you can use to boost subscriber growth, keep your email list fresh, and ensure the demand for your content is on an upward trajectory.
Building an email list is probably the most difficult part of email marketing. It’s also the most important—after all, no email subscribers = no audience to deliver your email content to.
Subscribers are the people that handed over their contact information and permitted you to interact with them; they are now a part of your email funnel. This means they are undoubtedly your most valuable audience and are primed to become new customers.
Subscribers entrust you with their inbox—look after it!
An email address is like a phone number; you don’t give it out to just anyone. If a subscriber is willing to share it with you, they are entering into a deeper relationship with your brand. And that makes your email list subscribers the precious unicorns 🦄 among your marketing audience.
If you’re just starting out with email marketing, check out our ultimate guide to building an email list from scratch.
Let’s take a look at 3 approaches you can use to grow your email list along with a few examples to illustrate how you can put them into action.
Collecting new subscribers is great, but your email list will languish if you don’t nurture existing ones. Email lists decrease at an average rate of 22.5% to 30% every year. That’s a lot of people you worked so hard to get.
Fortunately, there are numerous tactics you can employ to prevent unsubscribes and even turn your loyal subscribers into advocates for your brand and newsletter.
You attracted your subscribers with a promise to deliver content they care about. Take a good look at your newsletters to see if you’ve kept your end of the bargain, and evaluate whether it’s time to make some changes. A content refresh could be just what you need to get current subscribers re-energized.
Segmentation is when you divide your subscriber list into smaller audiences based on a set of characteristics that you choose. It’s a way to better understand subscriber preferences and therefore craft content that is more relevant. This will result in improved email deliverability and thus a higher conversion rate and ROI.
As you build a steady list of loyal subscribers, there are a few simple things you can do to turn their newfound love for your brand into advocacy... ⬇️
Sure it’s easy enough to click “Forward” in the email client, but by adding a button in the content prompting the user to do so, you’re placing a visual cue within the email itself. A split-second glance that could prompt them to think “Yeah, mycoolsmartfriend would enjoy this!”
Even better, making the newsletter easily shareable on social media further expands your reach. Enabling your subscribers to share in this way gives you valuable access to their networks—people that likely have the same interests. Just remember to add a subscribe button as well so that anyone who receives the forward can join in on the fun. 🤗
Recommendations count for a lot—especially when the source of the recommendation is a trusted friend or colleague. In fact, 92% of consumers trust the recommendations of people they know personally.
Receiving a referral from a friend or colleague will make new subscribers feel as if they are becoming part of a community, not only signing up for your newsletter. To encourage your current subscribers to start referring, offer an incentive in the form of discounts, exclusive content, loyalty points, merchandise, and even cash rewards or vouchers.
Below is a great example of a referral program from Morning Brew, which they used to build an audience of 2.5 million subscribers.
Interested in learning more? Check out our guide on how to create a referral marketing strategy with examples.
Social proof (like customer testimonials) creates a sense of trust and value for your content and brand, and could be the push a user needs to join your email list. You should utilize genuine customer reviews or testimonials wherever appropriate—and your sign-up landing pages are no exception. What better way to encourage a user to commit to your email list than with praise straight from the horse’s mouth?
Looking for list-growing tactics you can implement fast, like TODAY? Then this section is for you! There are some quick, simple changes you can make to your existing digital assets that will encourage and enable users to hit that subscribe button.
Adding subscribe links to your videos and profiles is a great way to collect subscribers. If they’re already consuming your content across various platforms, then they’ve already shown interest in what you have to offer, and are a part of your wider audience.
Give consumers of that content a way to get involved and stay in the loop, and learn more about your brand, products, or services. You can add subscribe links to:
Video or podcast descriptions (See example below)
Social profiles such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram
Posts or profiles on relevant online communities you are actively engaged in
In a call to action (CTA) button on your Facebook page
In an Instagram story via the “Swipe up” feature
Use your social media cover photos to advertise the value of your newsletter and grow your email list through high-quality, eye-catching graphics. You can create a single graphic to promote your newsletter in general, or even create a custom header for each edition that you send out, teasing the content that’s up next.
If you’re looking for an easy way to create great-looking graphics, Canva is a popular choice.
Website visitors should find it easy to join your email list, whether on the homepage or blog. So every page of your website should include an opt-in form that’s simple to find and fill in, and doesn’t interfere with the user experience. You can add opt-in forms:
At the footer of every page
At the end of each blog post
Within the content of popular pages
Below is an example of an email signup form in Paperchase’s website footer.
Find out how easy it is to add signup forms to your website with MailerLite’s web form builder.
“Want to learn more? Subscribe to the mailing list.” A simple CTA and link to your email signup form can be added to your signature to entice people that you’re already in a conversation with to sign up for more of your great content.
Now that your email content and current subscribers are primed to keep your list healthy, it’s time to cast the net wider and reel in new sign-ups. Striking the right combination of methods will be sure to speed up email list growth and give you an idea of what works best for your target audience.
There’s more to creating an email CTA than simply asking people to “Sign up”. Everything from the language and graphics you use, to the colors, fonts and buttons—and how it all fits together with the rest of the content on your page—play a role in making a CTA effective.
Describe the value/benefit in the text
Use command verbs such as subscribe, sign up, download or learn more
Use contrasting colors for the call to action button
Add directional cues
Remember, less is more
Carry out A/B tests on your CTAs to find out what gets the best results! Check out our guide on A/B testing.
No one wants to fill out huge forms asking for endless details—both for reasons of time and privacy. Keep it simple by only asking users to provide an email address and maybe a name. You can always collect more data at a later date to optimize your email campaigns.
Have you ever been on a website and signed up to the mailing list because of a pop-up? I know I have. Pop-ups work incredibly well, but it’s important to use them wisely. Timing and context are everything.
Discount pop-ups are popular in e-commerce, as shown in this example from LookFantastic.
Here are a few ideas of how to use pop-ups to grow your email list:
Create a pop-up to offer gated content or offers when the visitor subscribes
Use exit-intent pop-ups to encourage visitors to sign up and stay connected just as they are about the close the page
Use pop-ups at the end of blog posts so that visitors who enjoy your content can sign up for more
Appeal to specific interests by tailoring different pop-ups to match the content on each web page
There are many ways you can make use of pop-ups, the trick is to not negatively impact the user experience and drive website visitors away.
A lead magnet is a free item, usually in the form of content or offers, that you can provide in exchange for data, in this case, an email address. The quid pro quo of email list building, if you will.
Some types of lead magnets you can offer are cheat sheets, top tips, whitepapers, ebooks, reports, checklists, case studies, templates, guides, courses, tutorials, tools, online events, webinars, podcasts, free trials, and discounts.
Phew! That’s a lot of options for you to get creative with, offer value to potential subscribers, and grow your email list. Choose those that are relevant to your niche and promote them on social media, online communities, and your website by giving teasers of what’s up for grabs if they subscribe.
Below, see an example from Love Sweat Fitness where they offer up a free 6 week challenge.
Collaborating with an influencer or industry partner can help you to reach new audiences with the backing of the person or company that they are already followers of.
Some examples of how you can collaborate are:
Create a special offer exclusively for the partner’s audience
Collaborate on a lead generation project
Be a guest on their podcast/web show
Offer a free resource or piece of content to their audience
Collaborate on a giveaway
And don’t forget to link back to your opt-in landing page!
QR codes are a quick, effective, and convenient way for users to join your email list—it’s the ideal way to connect digital technology with the analog world.
You can place a QR code that leads to your sign-up page in-store or on-premises if your business has a physical presence, at events on banners and handouts, and on your business card.
Create fun, eye-catching ads about your newsletter and target specific audiences on Facebook. The great thing about this approach is that you can target users by core demographics and interests, reach out to users who have engaged with your business before, and create lookalike audiences that are similar to your current subscribers.
By adding pay-per-click (PPC) advertising into the mix, you’ll make your presence visible across multiple digital channels. Capturing emails through PPC will allow you to build more targeted audiences, because you know exactly what visitors are searching for. This also enables you to tailor the landing page content just right, so users will have a hard time not signing up.
Webinars are a great way to share your knowledge and establish yourself as an authority in your industry. Even better, you can provide access to such exclusive events by sign-up only, allowing you to enable users to opt-in to your newsletter in the process.
The promise of supplementary material to an already engaged user is hard to pass up—if they’re already learning and gaining value from your content, any upgrade feels like a huge bonus.
Some ways you could offer content upgrades are:
Podcasts: show notes, research files, VIP episodes
Blog: Access to VIP blogs, guides and more
Webinars: Resources, reading and study notes
Website: Give private access to parts of your website that include useful resources and content
Finally, foster intrigue in users by offering them a taste of what your newsletter contains without actually giving away any of the goods. Show them what they’re missing out on and how subscribing to your newsletter is going to benefit them. And of course, give them an easy way to opt-in!
When it comes to your email list, the sky's the limit! If you’re looking to speed up your subscriber growth, you need to try out a bunch of tactics to nab those sign-ups.
Remember that building your email list is an ongoing project and one of the more difficult aspects of email marketing—it’s natural that from time to time you’ll reach a plateau.
If that happens, don't be tempted to try any shortcuts, like purchasing an email list. It will do more harm than good. Instead, switch things up and test, test, test! If you take care to plan, test, and be patient with growing your email list, the long-term results will be speedier growth and more engaged subscribers. What’s not to love about that?