Email marketing remains the most impactful digital marketing channel available online. With an estimated $44 return for every $1 spent, email is a robust, highly effective channel that too many businesses neglect. The challenge with email marketing is the time it takes to build an email list and fully monetize it.
While it’s possible to set up and run an ad on Facebook or Google in a few minutes, it requires a significant investment of time to build lead capture forms and build an organic list of individuals interested in your products and services. For new businesses especially, it can be an overwhelming task. But done properly, it can be a gamechanger for your business. Let’s look at some of the more eye-popping benefits of a well-curated email list and how to build one for yourself.
Why an Email List is So Important
Larger companies invest in email almost universally. More than 80% of companies use some form of email marketing technology and 95% of those companies are automating and sending emails on a regular basis. As the technology has matured, the percentage of companies investing has grown exponentially – with an 11X increase between 2011 and 2014 and a continued double-digit percentage increase year-over-year since then.
Simply put, businesses that invest in email make their money back and then some. But they do it smartly. Over 75% of email revenue is generated by triggered campaigns through automation – meaning they segment their lists and send emails only to those who will find the messages relevant. A big part of that is having the right list in the first place, which can be a challenging, long-term process.
The Challenge of Building a Strong Email List
Whether you are a new entrepreneur preparing to launch your business or a long term small business owner who never bothered to build an email list, the challenge is the same. How do you build a list of individuals in your target market who are interested in what you have to offer?
There are few shortcuts here. Sure, you can buy a list from third-party vendors, but the quality of these lists is often suspect, and the contacts are cold to start. Higher quality lists are available, but they can get costly very quickly, especially in competitive markets.
Tips to Build a Strong Email List
So, email marketing is incredibly effective, but it can be daunting to build a list if you don’t have one. This is the rock and a hard place many business owners find themselves between. As a result, most continue as they were, eschewing list building for other, more immediate tactics that they can launch and measure right away.
If you’re serious about email, though, and the long term potential it offers your business, here are 12 tips to build a quality email list:
Start with Opt-In
Again, buying a list can be pricey and the quality is often suspect. If you have a sales team waiting for something to do, it might make sense, but if you’re building a long term marketing strategy, the sooner you start collecting organic emails, the better.
That’s where opt-in comes in. Provide a valuable resource that answers common questions your prospects have when they search for a business like yours. Accountants can offer checklists for gathering documents before tax time. Nutritionists can offer dieting guides for specific restrictions. Marketers can offer tips for building an effective mobile website. Ask yourself what someone would freely give up their email address to access. That’s where to start.
By implementing opt-in forms on your website, you will capture a higher percentage of traffic to your website – including the valuable people who are just starting to research solutions to their problems but may not be ready to buy yet (and therefore wouldn’t fill out your contact form).
Evaluate What You Already Have
Most businesses already have at least some content that can be “gated” with a form to collect email addresses. Are there PDFs on your website that provide details on your services? Do you offer any long-form blog content that can be delivered in a new format for people to easily download from your website?
Most importantly, do you have content that represents different stages of the buyer’s journey. For example, someone just starting their search will have basic questions you can answer with eBooks, videos, or infographics. Someone who is at the point of comparing solutions may be looking for more specific content like feature comparisons, buyer’s guides, or brochures.
Manage Your List
To build a strong list, manage what you have as carefully as possible. List attrition can quickly undo your hard work and investment if you are not careful. Some things to consider include:
- Segmentation – Segment contacts based on activity, job title, location or any other factors that make sense for your offerings.
- Regular Content – Send content to your list at regular intervals. It should be relevant, interesting and value-added. Don’t just send company updates.
- Clean Up Contacts – Remove old contacts that may bounce or unsubscribe if they don’t recognize your messages. If someone hasn’t opened an email in months, consider removing them to keep your delivery rates high.
- Reinvigorate Old Contacts – Before removing older contacts, or if you have an old list that has been inactive for years, run a campaign to re engage them. This can be an opt-in campaign or just an update to try and engage them.
Treat your existing contacts well and they’ll reward you with routine engagement and higher delivery rates to your newer contacts in the future.
Promoting Your Efforts to Attract New People
Once you have some opt-in forms setup and a process in place to manage your lists as they grow, it’s time to get as many people into the funnel as possible. Here are some quick tips to do so:
- Run a Contest – Give something away to people who register for your email list. Promote the contest on your social media channels and your website.
- Promote Offers on Social Media – Publish your opt-in offers on your social media channels and link back to a gated page where they can download it.
- Run an Ad on Facebook – Boost your reach to Facebook Fans and related audiences with a small ad spend of $15-30.
- Add Buttons to Your Profiles – Add a button to your Facebook Page, a link in your Twitter profile, or a card on your LinkedIn Company Page to download your content.
- Ask for Feedback – Ask visitors, past customers, and others for feedback on your website in the form of surveys.
- Publish New Content Regularly – Maintain a blog that is updated every 1-2 weeks and link related opt-in offers to those articles.
- Publish on Other Websites – Guest post on websites that target your ideal personas once every month or two to grow your reach.
- Run a Webinar – Produce a high-quality webinar. These often have higher engagement rates than other types of content.
- Comarket with a Partner – Coordinate with a partner to produce an eBook, run a survey, or hold a webinar. Share registration lists with each other for mutual growth.
There are dozens of ways to build a list. Invest in quality content, target people as carefully as possible and treat them well after they convert to keep the quality as high as possible. Do all of these things and you’ll benefit from long term growth and ROI from that list.
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