Guest post by Stephan Hovnanian
You know that your email list is the most important marketing asset you have, even more so than your website (coming from a web designer that’s a big statement, but I believe it to be true).
Let’s say you agree, and let’s say that you have a really awesome email newsletter yourself. In this era where everybody under the sun is telling you to ditch the email newsletter in favor of social, how do you grow that list? I have some ideas for you…
An important thing to remember when incorporating any new marketing idea is to test, test, test. But before you start testing, you should have the foundation of best practices in place. This way, as you test, you know that your newsletter, signup forms, and other fundamental pieces of your email strategy are rock-solid and will be there to help close the deal as you promote your list.
1. Make your email awesome
If your newsletter stinks, no amount of promotion is going to hold a subscriber for long. Be sure to have the entire signup process set up properly, with your welcome email, a clean,mobile-friendly design, and most importantly, content that will keep your subscribers wanting more.
2. Have a standalone signup page
Nearly all of us use a signup form on our websites, either in the sidebar, a pop-up (we’ll talk about that in a minute) or near the bottom of our web pages. But those forms are all “passive intent”, meaning the visitor came to that page for another reason (the content itself) and decided after the fact to sign up for your newsletter. Why not have a “sales page” dedicated to capturing signups?
3. Use your signup page as a funnel
The sidebar/footer/pop-up form is great to have, and important, but you should include links in your copy dedicated to drive people to that signup page, where you can make a better pitch. You can also track conversions this way.
4. Put a subscribe link in the email itself
If your email is forwarded or shared, the new set of eyes viewing it has no way of signing up for their own copy of awesomeness…unless you have a link in your email to that dedicated signup page.
5. Include social sharing buttons (if appropriate for the message) in the email.
They’ll link to your web version which, you guessed it, includes a signup link to your newsletter!
Boost your signup form’s visibility
Now that you have the essentials in place, it’s time to drive traffic and messaging to your email list signup page. Here are some ideas to test out:
1. Pop-ups, pop-overs, pull-downs oh my!
Love ’em or hate ’em, those pop-ups that ask visitors to sign up for your email list work. Instead of giving you research and examples, I’ll point you to this blog post by email marketing consultant DJ Waldow who already did the work for me here.
2. Post teasers before your newsletter drops, with a signup link
Give your followers a heads-up that you have some exclusive content coming out in about 60 minutes (then 30, then 15), with a link to your signup form. On Facebook and Google+, post an attention-grabbing photo that announces your upcoming newsletter.
3. Set your list to “send last campaign” after your newsletter drops, then tweet/post the link
IMPORTANT: Don’t post a link to the actual newsletter on social, then you give your audience no incentive to sign up. You also dilute the exclusivity for your existing subscribers, who have given you their email address, only to find you posted the newsletter to everyone on the Internet. Not cool.
Instead, ask your Email Service Provider (ESP) if you can set your list to send the last campaign (your newsletter) to new signups, then you can promote the heck out of the fact your newsletter just dropped.
4. Do a Vine, Instagram or YouTube video about why people should sign up
Video can invoke a level of trust for people who are hesitant to give out their email address, because we see people “face to face” and can read their human emotion in the video. Talking about what their email address means to you as a marketer is a fantastic way to bridge that gap, plus you’re taking advantage of a very hot part of online marketing today: VIDEO!
5. Create a pin on Pinterest that promotes exclusive content and links to your signup page
Pinterest is fantastic for driving traffic to websites, and pins have a long life span compared to other posts that get pushed “down stream” in your followers’ news feeds. Bonus points: pin your YouTube video!
6. Encourage audience participation
DJ Waldow does a fantastic job with this (I’m a fan, what can I say). In his weekly newsletter, he has calls to action to tell him you’re interacting with his email (check out an example). This does three things: first, it makes the email fun and deepens his relationships with his subscribers. Second, it gives him valuable data to use when evaluating his campaign’s performance. Third, he can use those tweets and shout-outs to cross-promote his subscriber list AND his signup page.
Always Be Testing
Hopefully you’ll get some cool ways to boost the visibility of your email list. Some might work, some might bomb. But you’ll only know if you test! If you use any, I want to hear about them, so tweet me @stephanhov or +mention me on Google+.