Email list growth is the process through which businesses increase their number of email subscribers. Email lists are important because they facilitate reliable dialogue between a business and its buyers.
And since email marketing provides higher conversion rates than any other type of marketing messages, email list growth should always be at the forefront of every marketer’s mind.
But an email list isn’t all about reaching a mass audience. It’s also about fighting churn and retaining the audience you have.
“Churn” is the term marketers use when subscribers stop engaging with emails through one of two ways: opting out or becoming inactive. While it’s normal to lose subscribers over time (~25% a year), preventing churn is a major goal for companies and marketers. The best way to prevent churn is through quality user engagement. And the best way to engage users is through relevant content.
In short, you need to appeal to users who love your brand and want consistent, reliable updates on your services.
Focus on growing your list with the right people, rather than buying a list (don’t do this) or simply appealing to a mass audience. By focusing your efforts, you will decrease your chances of losing subscribers, and most importantly, generate email list growth for your business.
Give users plenty of opportunities to opt in
Encourage sign-ups through all platforms
Elevate your signup forms
Give people an incentive to sign up
Set expectations about content & frequency
Have you ever visited a blog post, enjoyed what you read, and wanted to subscribe to the newsletter?
But you run into a problem—you already closed that pesky subscription pop-up. Now what? Hopefully, the site is forgiving and you can easily find another way to subscribe to the newsletter. A website that gives its users plenty of opportunities to opt in are more likely to gain subscribers.
In the same way you want sites to simplify registration for you, you should give your users lots of options, too. You want the UX to be positive and simple, so make the signup process easy to find and fill, and give users several signup locations.
You can see an example of this in the images above, taken from Ali Edwards. When visiting the site, you are prompted with a newsletter registration pop-up. In case you close out of the pop-up before registering, you can still sign up in the bold footer.
With that said, it’s also important to make sure your subscribers truly want to be opted into your list. While it may seem moot to require users to confirm they've opted in, you may actually gain a more dedicated group of subscribers through confirmation.
These subscribers are more likely to remain in your list, and this will help you fight high churn rates. What’s more, this confirmation will decrease the chances of users reporting your emails as spam.
Notice the simple double opt-in email from Halo Top Creamery above. The copy is simple, yet it incorporates the brand’s persona. Users can quickly scan this email and hit the CTA.
Pop-ups and buttons, while important, won’t appeal to the entirety of your audience. Some users will need more of a reason to sign up. In other words, how can you combine benefits and convenience? The answer is easy—by providing quality content.
Let’s say you have a blog post that ranks at the top of Google for its targeted keyword. (Give yourself a pat on the back.) Now, let’s say someone Googles that keyword and visits your blog post. If they’re simply looking for an answer to a question, chances are they won’t sign up for your newsletter.
That is—unless you make it worth their while. You can do this by offering content upgrades and other worthy downloads, such as PDFs, ebooks, and courses. In order to receive whatever awesome content you’re offering, the user must enter an email address. If you’re a food blogger, your content upgrade may be a downloadable meal planner. If you’re a writer, maybe it’s an ebook or a course.
In the Duct Tape Marketing example below, the offer is a free SEO playbook. Users simply enter their email and automatically receive a free ebook, which makes the process of signing up that much simpler, beneficial, and convenient.
But what if your users are much more active on social media? Whether you have a huge following on social media or a few loyal fans, there’s no reason you can’t bring the email signup process to your social platforms.
The example above is from Cristina Trinidad, who discusses how you can easily include a newsletter link on virtually any social media platform. In her example from Twitter, she includes the signup link in a pinned tweet, along with a giveaway opportunity.
Twitter isn’t the only way to appeal to social media lovers, however. You can also include a newsletter link in your Facebook banner image, send signup information monthly, and even create Pinterest pins that link back to your newsletter.
Instagram is perhaps one of the best social media tools for email list growth since you can share links in your bio and in your stories.
You can see how Catskill Animal Sanctuary shares a newsletter link in the bio shortly after a quick introduction to their brand and cause. While this organization has taken a more serious approach, you may choose a lighter tone in your own marketing.
In fact, Instagram stories are perfect platforms for lighthearted campaigns, which will hopefully feel organic to users, rather than salesy. Notice how Trello uses the “swipe-up” feature in a humorous story to get people on their site.
You can also give users the option of texting into your list. This is another way to target your customers through convenience. You can post these text-to-join updates online, in physical locations, and on social media.
Notice the above text-to-join tweet from Women Like Us. In this tweet, they not only provide the convenience of a text-to-join newsletter campaign but they also clearly set up expectations for the content subscribers will receive.
Prompting users to sign up is nothing new, but the copy and imaging you use should defy expectations. Is your signup form just a simple graphic? How can you elevate the image for your users—especially those who are constantly inundated with graphics and photos?
The same goes for the copy you use. Everyone wants readers to subscribe to their newsletter, so how can copy set your message apart? Put yourself in the place of the reader, and consider what might interest you. Are there examples that have appealed to you in the past? If so, how can you apply those styles to your own site?
Note how this newsletter pop-up from Studio DIY immediately hits viewers with bold colors and negative space. Rather than blasting readers with info, the pop-up is simple. The copy is fresh, too, since its written from the newsletter’s perspective instead of the blogger’s.
How many forms are currently in your signup prompt? If you’re not getting the signups you want, this could be due to a high barrier of entry.
Signups actually decrease for every extra form users have to fill, so lose any superfluous forms you can. Since you probably don’t require your user’s surname or location right away, don’t ask for these during the signup process. Do you plan to send your user a birthday discount? If not, you don’t need the birthday form either.
Test different forms and see which ones perform better. If more people sign up under a simpler form, consider an alternative way to collect information from your user, such as placing a “get-to-know-you” or questionnaire CTA in a welcome email, as Peloton does below:
We all love free stuff. This is why incentivizing signups is a highly effective way to attract subscribers. You can incentivize signups through traditional means, such as a giveaway or a contest. Doing this will encourage people to sign up and tell others about your offer.
Giveaways provide a chance to attract users on multiple platforms. To encourage people to spread the word, you may create a program in which referrals and signups are traded for entries.
Above you can see an example from JewelScent, which rewarded signups with jewelry candle contest entries. When entrants followed on social media, they received extra entries, which also grew JewelScent’s social media presence. In total, JewelScent received 15,675 entries, and just over 20% of those entrants were new subscribers to their list.
Hosting an ambassador program is another way to incentivize the signup process. In this type of program, existing subscribers can refer others on an ongoing basis for benefits and perks. This is highly effective since users who gain perks will be less likely to opt out of the email list later, thus reducing churn.
Society6’s affiliate program is set up to reward existing customers, allowing them to earn a commission for referrals.
It’s crucial that you set up expectations for your users in terms of the content you plan to send and when you plan to send it. Users will sign up for your newsletter if they feel it’s relevant. Once the content stops being relevant, they will either opt out or stop opening your emails.
So, how can you guarantee relevance? Be straightforward with your intentions from the very beginning. If you send a weekly newsletter outlining posts from your blog, inform readers they can expect weekly updates.
In the above example from Amuse Your Bouche, blogger Becca prompts users to subscribe to her email. She indicates that they will receive ~2 recipe emails per week and nothing spammy. Users know how many emails they’ll receive and the content type, which makes registering feel safer. Additionally, this decreases the likelihood of users opting out due to irrelevant content.
Supercharging your email list growth can seem like an impossible task, but luckily, there are ways to engage your users and convince them to subscribe to your newsletter. In the case of email list growth, quality outweighs quantity.
You want users to know exactly what they’re getting when they sign up, and they should know (and confirm) they’ve signed up for your newsletter. This indicates that they’re invested in your content and want to be updated.
To find these users, go outside your site. Utilize social media, text, and incentivized programs to garner interest. Then, continue to engage subscribers with relevant content and perks. If you use these tips, you’ll have a long list of engaged subscribers in no time.