10 Ways to Grow Your Small Business Email List

Your email list is small business gold, and the bigger your list, the more you'll mine from it. These 10 tips will have you growing your list like an email-marketing pro.

By Janine Popick

When you have an engaged group of customers and prospects who want to hear from you, getting the word out about your business, your services and your offers is much easier. However, people change email addresses faster than hairstyles these days (industry averages say that you will lose one-third of your list to attrition each year). How do you plant the seeds to keep your small business email marketing list strong and growing?

I'm glad you asked. After running an online marketing company for the last 12 years, this topic is near and dear to me, and I’ve got about a million tips to help you. Here you'll find 10 of them.

How to Build Your Small Business Email Marketing List

1. Make it easy to subscribe

If you want more subscribers, you’ve got to make it super simple to sign up. Offer an easy-to-find opt-in form on your website. And keep in mind that the shorter you keep your form (say, to just an email address and first name), the more likely folks will be to sign up. You can always get additional info later.

2. Optimize your website to get even more email subscribers

Providing an email opt-in form on your website's homepage is a great start, but that's just the beginning.

Turn up the volume on your email subscriber numbers by placing your email opt-in form on all your key pages—including your major product or service pages, the "about us" section and the "contact us" page. The more places you offer the opportunity to sign up, the more hits you'll get.

You can take it a step further by creating a dedicated subscription page where you have room to tell potential subscribers what value they''ll get for giving you their email address. Check out this great example of a simple, straightforward subscription page from Skadeedle, a small business marketing site.

And don't stop there. If you're blogging, make sure that you’ve got email opt-in forms on your blog and links to it within other content you might create, like videos, presentations, guide and infographics.

3. Work your social media networks

Adding an email opt-in form to your Facebook Timeline is a cinch these days. A tool called Wufoo helps anybody build online forms, including email opt-in forms, that you can use everywhere. They’ve also got a simple app for Facebook that you can use to install your opt-in form right on your Timeline. You can download your subscribers and easily upload them to your email service provider.

If you're active on Twitter and Google+, you should certainly be tweeting links to your email subscription page or opt-in form at least weekly on these two social networks. Remember to include the value that your subscribers get. It's all about answering the question, "what's in it for me," when you ask someone for their email address.

4. You are your best opt-in form

Nothing beats an in-person contact for getting email addresses. If you’re at a trade show, conference or event, you’ve got a room filled with with potential subscribers. As you network and meet folks, mention your list and ask them to subscribe if it seems like a good fit.

If you've got a bricks-and-mortar or physical location, make sure that your team lets people know you've got a list and how they can subscribe. Making personal connections allows you to put a genuine voice to your email communications and lets subscribers know it is coming from real people, not just a disconnected company.

5. Provide useful content

Want to stand out from the competition? Provide your subscribers useful and helpful content. Answer frequently asked questions in the form of a free guide or ebook, or host a webinar. Weekly or monthly tips shared from your blog also are valuable pieces of knowledge to share.

On your opt-in form page, let your readers know how often you'll mail and what they can expect. When they know they’ll be getting something of value and not just a bunch of promotional offers, they may be more likely to sign up.

More Email Marketing Tips for Small Business

6. Offer Email-Only Exclusives

As I stated, useful content is the real deal, but that doesn't mean your subscribers don't want a great offer once in a while. When you offer unique deals just for being on your email list, your subscribers have more reason to stay subscribed and to forward your email to friends. It just makes small business marketing sense. Offer something in your email that can't be found on your website, on social media or even in-store, so your readers know the value of being a loyal subscriber.

7. Run a Contest

Running a contest works best when you offer something of value to your audience but also related to your business (such as a product you sell). Create a special Web page or a social media tab on Facebook that details your contest and provides a place to sign up for your email list. You can even send reminders to vote in the contest as well as contest winner announcements this way.

8. Get Social

Social media and email marketing go hand in hand. Most email service providers give you a link so that you can post your email campaigns to your social networks. Make sure you always include social sharing buttons in your email, too, so readers can share your email with their social networks and expand the reach of your message, getting you even more new subscribers. Including a "subscribe to this email" link in every email you send is important for this very reason.

9. Subscribe Via Checkout

Do you have a checkout counter either in-store or online? Then you have a place to ask for opt-ins! Online, ask for an email address after the purchase is complete. In-store, have employees at the point of sale ask if the customer would like to be included in your weekly or monthly newsletter. Be sure to tell them what they can expect – like special offers, helpful tips and more.

10. Participate in Events

Having a booth at an industry event or trade show is the perfect opportunity to grow your customer base. It’s as easy as bringing along a fish bowl for folks to drop their cards in, or have an email sign up book to fill out. If the event is high-tech, they may even have a scanning device to quickly collect attendee info in a snap.

These are simple, time-tested and solid ways to grow your email marketing list. No matter what you do to grow your list, the important thing is to keep at it. Your list will constantly change and evolve, and your efforts should go along with it.

Janine Popick is the CEO and founder of VerticalResponse, a provider of self-service email, social and event marketing solutions for small businesses. Connect with her on Twitter at @janinepopick.

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This article was originally published on Wednesday Jul 31st 2013
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