11 email acquisition best practices for email marketing

email acquisition best practices

List churn, known to many marketers as the bane of every email marketing campaign, refers to the number of subscribers you lose from your email list over time. And it really doesn’t have to be as scary as it sounds.

Churn can be transparent—this includes hard bounces as well as people who unsubscribe or report you as a spam sender. Or, it can be opaque, referring to people who never open your emails for one reason or another.

Any way you slice it, your email list degrades at the rate of about 22.5% each year, so you’ll want to do two things to remedy this on the front end—schedule regular list cleanings and work on email acquisition best practices.

Let’s dive into the details of both of these together to help you grow a healthy, thriving email list.

Email acquisition best practices: Growing a healthy list

Growing your email list is a great way to gain a strong base of prospects that you can engage with through lead-generating strategies.

While lists do shrink over time due to opt-outs and other factors, there are many ways you can cultivate a strong, healthy list using simple email acquisition best practices like the ones we show you here.

Let’s start with using content since content marketing is at the forefront of many digital marketing strategies.

5 ways to grow your email list with content

Content that’s relevant and useful to your target audience can be a great way to get them to opt-in to your list.

1. Create a lead magnet.

Often called a “gated offer,” you can give away a white paper, ebook, checklist, or cheat sheet in exchange for a potential customer’s email address.

Make sure your giveaway item is valuable and relevant—customers won’t opt in for any old content. Need an idea? Check out the intriguing promise made by this ebook lead magnet: 


Image: Digital Marketer

2. Provide content upgrades.

Sometimes, gated offers aren’t worth it to all of your visitors. If you have a high-performing blog post, though, you can add to it and offer it as a "content upgrade" with email sign-up—and increase your conversion by 529%.

Here’s how Backlinko did this, using a neat cheat sheet for a very informative, but detailed, blog post.

Image: Backlinko

3. Offer bonus tools or analysis.

You can offer intriguing surveys, analyses, or tools specifically designed for your audience to get them to swap their email address for some insight.

Here’s how Ramit Sethi does it:


Image: Neil Patel

Who wouldn’t want some insight on their potential from a thought leader and influencer?

Once you’ve offered lead magnets and content goodies, consider leveraging your social media presence to get your list growing.

Growing your list with social media

It’s easy to get prospects clicking on social media since these platforms and areas of engagement for users. Here’s how you can capitalize on this behavior to grow your list:

4. Run a contest.

Stage a giveaway in exchange for customer email addresses. You can get users to click to your website or sign up through your social media account.

Here’s how HydroFlask accomplished this via their Instagram account:


To enter, users had to follow HydroFlask and tag two friends in the comments.

This next example showcases a simple Facebook giveaway:

Image: Blogging Wizard

You can also add social sharing buttons to these giveaways and contests that will double your benefit by getting users to promote your offer.

5. Include a call-to-action (CTA) on your Facebook page.

Adding a CTA to a business page on Facebook allows you to leverage the engagement of your audience to tempt them into exchanging contact information for access, a lead magnet, or other offer.

Here’s an example from Facebook:


Image: Facebook - Dollar Shave Club

Besides “sign up,” you can use other buttons such as Contact Us, Use App, Play Game, Shop Now, or Watch Video. Linking to a designated landing page is a great way to acquire new leads.

Optimize your emails for conversion

Now that you’ve created great content and used your social media to your advantage, let’s tweak your emails to encourage opt-ins.

6. Encourage customers to share and tell.

In exchange for providing great and useful content, ask your customers to recommend it to a friend or share on social media if they enjoyed it.

Add clickable social media icons, such as a simple “Email to a Friend” button, and a “Subscribe” option to cover all your bases.

Here’s how Sony did it:

Image: Our Social Times

Notice how the “Follow” and “Pin” instructions are front-and-center? And see the “Share this Email” clickable link at the top? They didn’t stop there—here’s the rest of the email.


Image: Our Social Times

Notice the placing of all their social media icons, prominently featured against a black bar for easy visibility.

7. Re-engage your old list.

Don’t give up on those people on your list who haven’t engaged. They might not be net new but, if done right, improving the engagement of current customers can be even more valuable. Send them a re-engagement email that will pique their interest and get them to re-subscribe or opt-in to a new, more targeted list.

Here’s a great example from SkillShare:


Image: Campaign Monitor

Not only do they tell the subscriber that they’re valued and missed, they also offer a deal (Next Month for .99) and give an update on new and improved functions.

Now let’s move on to fine-tuning your website for email acquisition.

Using your website to grow your email list

Most website visitors are used to the various pop-ups and opt-ins on websites. To make the most of these tools, use them judiciously.

8. Make it easy to sign up.

The more clicks it takes to get to the thing they want (your lead magnet, hopefully) the more likely you will be to hold their attention and get what you want—their contact information.

To make it easy for them to opt-in, keep lead-capturing forms short and to the point, like this one:

Image: Blog Tyrant

Simple, eye-catching and to the point, this opt-in form from Nerd Fitness asks for only one thing — the visitor’s email address.

But, because personalization is super-important in email marketing, you may want to add a field for your prospect’s name, like this one:


Image: Digitalmarketinghq.com

Gathering additional information, like a name or birthday, means you can personalize subsequent emails in the future for greater impact.

9. Get their feedback.

Everyone has an opinion and most love to share it. That’s why it’s a great idea to ask visitors to your website for feedback or questions.

This can even come in the form of a live chat tool that collects email address and other contact information before initiating a conversation.

Here’s a simple one:

Image: Pinterest

This live chat gives you name and email information for future personalization.

10. Put CTAs front and center.

Keep your opt-in options available up front and place them strategically across your site. The most prominent pages are your About Us page, Contact Us page, and Home page, but you can place them on other pages where they’re relevant.

You can use them as a toolbar in the header of each page:



Image: Content Marketing Institute

Splashed across a header:


Image: Content Marketing Institute

Or, in a sidebar:



Image: Content Marketing Institute

You can also place them in pop-ups, slide-ins, or when triggered by an attempt to exit. The sky’s the limit.

11. Don’t forget to blog.

Well, here we are—back to content. If you’re not already blogging, get going! Blog posts help increase search engine rankings and give you the benefit of collecting subscribers through an opt-in.

Twice the benefit for one-time work!

What NOT to do when practicing email acquisition

Sometimes, eager email marketers get caught up in the excitement and rely on poor practices to grow their lists, unfortunately with disastrous results.

The takeaways are simple—don’t do the following:

  • Buy an email list

  • Send sporadic emails

  • Send generic emails

  • Send the same email to everyone on your list

  • Forget to check your email for typos and errors

  • Ignore your analytics

  • Forget to send welcome emails immediately

If you keep these few rules in mind, you can have a buzzing, thriving list that stays healthy and engaged over time.

Wrap up

You don’t have to fear list churn any longer—you’ve got 12 great new ways to pack your email list full of excited, intrigued prospects ready to listen to what you have to offer.

Just be sure to watch out for the stumbling blocks we’ve outlined. Then, choose one, or all, of the methods showcased here and watch your list grow.


About the Author

Kaitlin Wernet is a content specialist on Emma's marketing team. When she's not restraining herself from using too many exclamation points or grabbing one more La Croix from the office kitchen, she can be found working on her first book or planning her next big travel adventure.

More Content by Kaitlin Wernet

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