Small business email marketing is pretty useless without an email list. Unfortunately, many small business owners struggle with how to build an email list which often results in a weak and ineffective email marketing plan.
So what exactly is an email list and how do you build one? What are effective tips and tricks to help you build an email list?
Fear not, this article will answer all these questions.
Let's start with...
What is an Email List?
An email list is a compilation of data about current clients and potential prospects for your business. It obviously includes email addresses, but may also contain names, phone numbers, business name, and more.
Email is still one of the best ways to nurture prospects and engage current clients.
Why do small businesses need an email list? Let's jump into that next...
Why You Need to Build an Email List
This video does a great job of communicating the importance of building an email list. Derek's pretty direct but I think the information is super valuable. Take a break and watch this short, 5-minute video...
I think Derek makes a pretty convincing argument for why you need to build an email list. Let's jump into how to build an email list...
How to Build an Email List?
Follow these general guidelines to start building your email list...
Step 1: Choose the right email marketing platform.
Your email marketing platform is like the foundation for your house. Your entire email marketing strategy will be built upon it.
There are a number of great email marketing platforms to choose from and most of them are very reasonable to get started.
Once you've chosen the platform you want to use, you need to address how you will set up and manage your list.
The two most common ways to organize are with lists and tags. We have one master email list for our business with a lot of different tags. The tags allow us to segment our audience while keeping things easy to manage because there is only one list.
Some people prefer to have multiple lists instead of tags. It's really a matter of personal preference.
Step 2: Outline your email marketing plan.
- What type of content are you going to send to your subscribers?
- How often will you email them?
- Will you need and use an autoresponder?
These are just a few of the questions you'll need to answer to create a plan. Don't get overwhelmed!
Start small and build from there. The plan you start with will not be the one you end with, so don't worry about it. Just get started!
Step 3: Create some email templates.
Now that you have your plan, it's time to identify the different types of messages you will be sending out.
Build templates in your email marketing platform for the different types of messages you will be sending.
Templates will save you time and make it much easier for you because you won't have to reinvent the wheel every time you want to send a message.
Step 4: Create an email opt-in form.
Your email opt-in form will be used primarily on your website and other online assets to make it easy for people to subscribe to your email list. You really need to nail this so people find it worthwhile and want to subscribe.
There are many examples of great email opt-in forms. Take your time and get this right because it will make your efforts at getting subscribers more effective.
Step 5: Promote, promote, promote!
Now that you've got an email list, you need to promote it to get sign-ups. In most cases, subscribers won't just magically appear.
The tips below will help you get started...
Tips and Tricks for Building an Email List Easily
1. Create valuable email content.
I can't stress this enough - CONTENT is KING, and if you send out lousy content in your email messages then subscribers will stop paying attention.
Your email content should be good enough to make people subscribe, stay engaged, and not hit the unsubscribe button.
2. Encourage subscribers to share and forward your emails.
Simply include social sharing buttons and an "Email to a Friend" button in all your marketing emails. These buttons will be your extra set of hands in getting people to subscribe.
3. Segment your list.
Recipients are more likely to subscribe or take action if the email content caters to their needs in a more specific way. Remember how I mentioned tags above?
Tags are a great way to segment your list so you can send super relevant content to your subscribers. This will translate into engagement, which is exactly what you want.
4. Add a link in your email signatures.
A great way to direct people to your email list sign-up is by putting a hyperlink in your email signatures.
5. Create a lead magnet.
A lead magnet can be something like a cheat sheet, ebook, video, white paper, or a checklist. It is something your audience will find valuable and worth giving you their email address in order to receive it.
You are basically saying "Hey, would you like this cheat sheet? Give me your email address and I'll send it to you."
6. Create 'Bonus' Content
Are you creating blog articles or something similar as part of your content marketing plan?
This is really similar to #5 above. Bonus content usually comes in the form of a checklist or cheat sheet that is hyper-relevant to the content.
For example, if I wrote an article about "how to train your dog in 5 simple steps", I might promote bonus content in the article with a list of the tools you'll need to successfully complete the 5 training steps.
7. Promote an online contest or giveaway.
Use your social media accounts to get email addresses by hosting an online contest or giveaway. Ask your followers to complete the sign-up form to join the contest.
8. Promote your email list on your social media channels.
How you actually execute on this will vary depending on the social media channel.
On Facebook, you might use the CTA button for an email list sign up. On YouTube, you might use End Cards to encourage viewers to sign up for your email list.
Promote an online contest or giveaway (from #7 above) on your social media channels. Anything you can do to get social media followers on your email list is super important!
Why? Because you OWN your email list, but you don't own your social media channels or the followers associated with them. Facebook could shut your page down tomorrow and if you don't have your followers on your email list then it's all gone...
9. Build an online quiz.
Online quizzes can be a really powerful lead generation and email list building tool.
They are fun for users and you'll gain a ton of valuable information in the process.
10. Limit the fields in your lead-capture forms.
Most of us have short attention spans and we tend to close our browsers when websites ask a lot of questions.
When gathering contacts, limit the fields in your forms to the information you really need. I like to ask for first name and email address, but there are a lot of forms that only ask for email address.
11. Be a guest.
Be a guest on a podcast or guest blog post. By doing this you'll gain access to a new audience. Include a call to action or a link to a sign-up page to encourage new subscribers.
12. Co-brand content or offers.
Do you have strategic partners you work with? Why not co-brand content or offers with them?
When they promote the content with their audience you'll gain exposure to a new audience. If they like what you have to say, they'll want more and will subscribe to your email list.
13. Provide seminars or webinars for your target market.
Training is a great way to build credibility and trust with prospects. It's also an awesome way to gain new email subscribers.
Offer something of value during the training (remember our tip on lead magnets above?) and you'll add new subscribers guaranteed.
14. Collect contacts from events and trade shows.
Traditional marketing like trade shows is still a great way to collect contact information. You can collect sign-ups in person after your product or service demo and then import these contacts to your email marketing platform.
If you choose to do this, I'd highly recommend setting up an autoresponder that is very specific and catered to the event or trade show. This will make your initial communications much more relevant and will increase engagement.
Do you feel like you have a better idea how to build an email list now? Are you ready to start email marketing for your small business?
By the way, as you dig deeper into email marketing keep these email marketing tips in mind for the best results.
If we missed something or you have more questions please let me know. I want to hear about it in the comments section below.
Need more lead generation tips? Check out our entire Ultimate Guide to Lead Generation.
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