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How Smart Email Marketers Grow Their Lists

Jan 27, 2014   |   3 min read

Knowledge Center  ❯   Blog

grow email listWithout a doubt, email list growth may be the single most important metric email marketers track. There’s a lot of advice out there about the best ways to grow a list, so it can be tough to figure out the best approach for your company. To help clear things up, we’ve analyzed recent surveys conducted by two industry leaders-ExactTarget’s 2013 Audience Growth Survey and MarketingSherpa’s 2013 Email Marketing Benchmark Survey-to offer top recommendations for growing your email list as effectively and efficiently as possible.

1. Make the Opt-in Form on Your Website Impossible to Miss

Visitors to your website don’t have the time to hunt around for your opt-in form. Make it as prominent and compelling as you possibly can.

In fact, try a popover or popup window. Sure, lots of marketers think web visitors hate them, but the numbers don’t lie: popovers can generate amazing results. Just ask Michael Stelzner, CEO of His website uses a popover opt-in form:

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If you choose to use a popover opt-in form, best practices suggest you set the form to appear at a 15- to 45-second delay and only once per session.

2. Focus on Content, Not Just Marketing Messages

In general, people will only be willing to provide you with their email address if you deliver value to them in return. When you share your advice and insight along with your marketing messages, the results can be exponential; people will not only want to access this content, they’ll want to share it, too.

As Stelzner explains, “The right content is highly sharable and can quickly draw important people to your business, enabling you to achieve rapid growth and soar beyond the competition, without the traditional costs of marketing.”

Stelzner confided to the experts at KissMetrics that between January 2011 and January 2013, his email list grew a whopping 375 percent to over 190,000 readers. Steizner attributes nearly 70 percent of that growth to his popover form.

At the very least, you can super-charge your opt-in with social proof. For example, highlight the number of subscribers that your new subscriber will be joining. Or include subscriber testimonials to showcase the great things your new subscriber can expect from you. Better yet, combine social proof with your popover like they do at the Content Marketing Institute:

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3. Ask Everywhere You Can

You should ask everyone you encounter to opt into your list in as many places as possible: at your brick-and-mortar store, during the checkout process, on your invoices/packing slips/shipment receipts, on your marketing materials, in print ads, at networking events, at trade shows, even in your email signature.

The beauty of this strategy is that it’s so simple to implement. For instance, the New York Public Library has been using emails to remind patrons when books were due for years. In 2011, it decided to add two simple sentences to these emails: “Get the latest NYPL news and events. Sign up for our newsletter at: [shortlink].” With just this single, small change, New York Public Library’s opt-in list grew by 120 percent!

4. Make your Postal Mailing List Work for Email, Too

Email append can be an effective way to quickly grow your list if you already own a sizable database of postal addresses. With this relatively low-cost service, a vendor can compare your postal list against a database of unique names, postal addresses and opt-in email addresses. You can then attach email addresses to each of your records, growing your list in a matter of days. Not only does email append generate fast results, it can also generate cost savings by reducing the need to send expensive postal mailings.

When considering email append, be sure to work with a reputable vendor to ensure the appended email addresses are valid and 100 percent opted in. Ideally, the vendor will contact each customer to obtain permission and to verify the email address.

Ultimately, however, there are no one-size-fits-all strategies when it comes to email marketing. Smart marketers assess each potential tactic against audience personas and company objectives to develop the right strategy and the right ROI. And there’s always more to learn.

To discover even more ideas for building your database, download “20 Great Ways to Grow Your Email List” today!

Photo Credit: Sarah Horrigan

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