What’s in here?

After email has died along with SEO for at least 10 times in the last year, I figured there are many more ideas that haven’t been thoroughly discussed and tested and I really wanted to share them with the eCommerce community. Also, I should mention that many tactics and ideas mentioned aren’t exclusive to eCommerce businesses and can be successfully applied to most businesses that want to use email marketing. So, what’s in here?

List building tactics, ideas and tips

This tactics guide is the first part of “The Epic List Building Guide” – an in progress series that covers everything you need to know about list building, from strategy & tactics to useful tools and stats.

If you’re thinking “great, another article that tells me to share links on social media to get more subscribers” – you’re actually in for a pleasant surprise. I’ve tested almost every idea and tactic listed below (I’ve also added comments on best practices and what I’ve encountered where it felt relevant) and I’ve had quite a few failures and breakthroughs trying to grow lists for eCommerce businesses and other clients.

That’s why I will try to offer as much context as possible (yes – it’s a very long article / guide – bookmark it if you’re in a rush) without disclosing confidential data and link to the best resources around the web to make sure you can implement these tactics and actually see results.

Why should you care?

With all the buzz around social media and other channels, let’s just remind ourselves now that while many tend to ignore email marketing because of its complexity, when it comes to performance and actual return on investment, the numbers don’t lie: email is still one of the best channels to drive sales for eCommerce businesses and it’s especially valuable since it can help drive repeat purchases, the cornerstone of a financially healthy operation.

If you still feel unsure about investing (more) in email marketing, you should know that email is:

Driving 7% of all eCommerce user acquisition

As eCommerce matures and email marketing is being mixed with better personalization technology, we're expecting this indicator to grow.

That makes it the 2nd best acquisition channel

…behind search, which accounts for 15.8% of all eCommerce user acquisition. Source: custora.com

Bringing in 44.25$ for every dollar invested

You honestly think that Facebook marketing (everyone is obsessed with Facebook lately) can consistently bring that ROI? Rarely.

The best potential ROI compared to other channels

The only downside I can see to email marketing is that it can take more time to build a sizable list. Source: experian.com

Influencing over 70% of all mobile purchasing

These times, mobile marketing is a must. And email is here to help you sell.

Opened by 82% of consumers receiving them

People hate commercial email less than other advertising forms.

The List Building Tactics

The following tactics, ideas and recommendations focus especially on getting new subscribers and are split under:

  1. Approaching list building with the right mindset
  2. Integrating email marketing in your digital presence (12)
  3. Optimizing the subscription process to maximize value (17)
  4. Generating additional exposure to convert traffic (9)
  5. Integrating content marketing with email marketing (10)
  6. Integrating with advertising networks (5)
  7. Integrating with social networks (6)
  8. Leveraging offline tactics (10)
  9. Other list building tactics
  10. 7  tactics you should avoid
  11. The list building checklist
  12. 100 list building apps and tools

We’ve gathered all our ideas and we tried to order them logically for you in order to get the best result if you’re just starting out with building your subscriber base. No point in driving too much traffic towards your newsletter landing page before optimizing it, right?

Step #1: Let’s approach list building with the right mindset

Before we go on to all the fun ideas on how to grow your subscriber base, let’s talk a little about the mindset we should approach list building for email marketing in order to gain even more value.

1. You have to focus on building a community, not a list

18.775 new subscribers. Mission accomplished.” This is a statement I made while working at a successful brand a couple of years ago and that I now regret having made. Why? Because I did not see the opportunity to turn that number into something more: a thriving community that could reach the critical mass where it becomes self-sustainable. The platforms, technology and tactics to transform a subscriber list into a community are there. You just need to get in the right mindset and look beyond the stats from time to time.

Put simply, if you focus on creating a community around the need you’re fulfilling the only thing you need to worry is fueling it’s growth. If you focus on just building a list, you’ll need to worry about many more things, from reduced engagement, high(er) list churn and even diminishing returns after a point.

2. You need to know your customer’s buying journey (and all touch points) so you can choose the best tactics

It makes me sad that most businesses don’t take the time to actually map out buyer journeys and customer personas. Knowing what touch points to optimize and for what segment can improve the ROI of (not only) email marketing tenfold.

Trust me, if you take the time to map out your buying journey with all the existing touch points, you’ll be able to make precise adjustments to your efforts and choose the best tactics from the 68+ listed in this guide.

If this seems confusing or it feels like a daunting task, just head on to this article on how to get started with buyer personas & buyer journeys and this one on CrazyEgg on how to efficiently map content to the buyer journey.

3. You’re in for a long trip with email marketing, especially for an eCommerce business

I think it’s important to set realistic expectations when it comes to email marketing and its benefits. If you’re hoping on getting fast results through email marketing, you’re going to be disappointed: building a quality subscriber base can take a lot of time and effort. Depending on your industry, it might take even a year before you starting seeing a clear return on investment.

That being said, if you want to invest and grow a subscriber base, arm yourself with patience (and lots of content).

4. You’re going to need to mix in creative content & tactics, design, technology and cold hard data

That’s why most brands aren’t using email marketing at it’s full potential yet. It’s hard to get all the pieces together and keep up with all the emerging best practices related to technology, but if you do, you’ll have a strong advantage over competitors who sink their resources in channels they don’t own.

Also, don’t neglect the importance of tracking relevant KPIs and figuring out both subscriber acquisition costs and revenue per subscriber. Growing your list is the easy part if you have the money. Growing a profitable list gets a little bit harder. You can find some great tips on this issue in this article from MarketingProfs.

Alright, let’s start getting more subscribers!

Step #2: Integrating email marketing into your digital presence

Before we jump to the fun part – getting more subscriber through increased exposure, let’s discuss the required steps to integrate subscription forms in all the right places and increase the discoverability of your newsletter program.

Mashable Newsletter Subscription

Mashable gets it right, catering especially to their mobile readers.

1. Integrating with your blog

If you’ve neglected the benefits of blogging for eCommerce, you’ve got a lot of work ahead to integrate proper content & email marketing tactics.

But if your blog is up and running, you should start integrating subscription forms and call to actions in the top performing (and most common to be honest) locations of the blog, such as:

  • The top of the sidebar (tip: try to make it fixed while users scroll down)
  • At the end of posts
  • As a feature box
  • On author pages

Make sure to:

  • test most positions and determine a conversion rate before “setting and forgetting”
  • maintain a balance between forms and other important elements (social sharing buttons, social follow buttons, recommended content etc.)

2. Integrating with your online store…

Clearly one of the most intuitive tactics when it comes to subscribing people on your online store is inviting them to subscribe after placing an order. While most online stores simply add a “Subscribe to our newsletter” checkbox in the checkout process, I would advise removing this completely from the checkout process and integrating it properly in the “Thank you” page. I’ve confirmed this works better in several tests, but you should test as well.

But there are some other tactics and locations that can be very favorable to a subscription form, such as:

  • Implementing a “notify me when the product is in stock again” and linking it with the subscription form (you can do wonderful things with AJAX, such as a 2 step process – “add your email to be notified” and “would you like to subscribe to the newsletter as well”)
  • Implementing a “notify me of future discounts” (tread lightly on this one, as it may discourage placing an order) and do the same as above

3…and other web properties

Chances are there are some outdated pieces of content and landing pages on your website. Chances are you’ve even created microsites. As years go by, a lot of projects are forgotten by the company and don’t get any more attention. Which might be a lost opportunity.

Funny story: while going through Analytics reports for a client I saw that there was quite a lot of traffic coming in from some websites that promoted some niche events long ago. Turns out, the client had built those microsites to promote but wasn’t doing much with them. After a quick refresh, they brought in a steady stream of subscribers who were interested what the brand has to offer and what comes next.

Pro-tip: don’t take down outdated landing pages / campaigns / microsites if they’re still pulling in traffic. Instead, focus on changing small elements to inform the offer / event / campaign is no longer available and integrate email subscription so visitors can stay up to date and/or be announced of the next thing.

4. Integrate HelloBar(s)

You’ve probably seen that orange bar at the top of many websites before. It really does the job it’s meant. While there are many HelloBar clones and alternatives now that are implemented on many websites, it doesn’t seem to have reached a saturation point with users yet. Maybe it won’t since it’s not intrusive at all.

Hello Bar Setup for Email Subscription

The setup is quick & easy. Integrating it in your site takes a couple of minutes.

Neil Patel reports that HelloBar accounts for 11% of his leads on Quick Sprout (you should read the whole article as well – it’s quite epic). The best thing about HelloBar though is it’s versatility, as it’s efficient for more than 5 use cases, from growing the number of subscribers to A/B testing messages. Also, the impact on page load time is rather minimal.

SEOBlog Popup

SEOBlog has quite a beautiful popup that activates at the right moments.

5. Integrate Smart Popups

Some of the most beautiful popups I’ve seen were for daily deal sites such as Groupon (they might not fit in to popup category technically speaking). While they’re rather obtrusive, they have extremely high conversion rates (who can say no to 90% OFF FOR A MASSAGE?).

Make sure to:

  • Implement a popup that activates when it detects exit intent
  • Use an overlay to allow focus on the popup content
  • Make it as visually attractive as possible

Under any circumstance do not:

  • Trap the visitor with browser notifications / redirects or whatever hacks might be trendy
  • Forget about setting cookies to remember the visitor’s preferences (or that he signed up)

6. Integrate a Content Toaster

Content Toaster for Recommended Content

The AddThis Toaster. It would be nice to be able to put in a subscribe form there.

It took me a while to remember the name of this element. A content toaster (or a slide-in as I’ve found it named) is that “widget” that gracefully slides up in the bottom right of some websites as you’re almost done reading a piece of content. Most times it contains calls to actions, recommended content or even forms. From what I recall, The Guardian or The New York Times was the first to use something like this.

After that, PadiAct became to go to tool for slide in subscription forms.

AddThis calls it a Content Toaster (it’s actually quite creatively named come to think about it) and it activates as you reach towards the end of the content (I’m pretty sure it calculates scroll percentage and activates at a threshold). It’s quite visible and it’s a perfect spot for a subscribe form.

7. Use a form subscription locker

Spent 16 hours on that beautiful content piece? If you aren’t bothered by the obvious downside of reduced shareability for your content, you can try locking half of your content with a form subscription locker. I’ve already tested Opt-In Content Locker for WordPress (Codecanyon) and saw quite an uptick in newsletter subscriptions due to it. But mostly I stick to social content lockers – the added traffic usually fares better and drives even more subscribers.

But if we’re talking about a specific type of content that doesn’t usually get shared, go with the opt-in content locker instead.

Make sure to:

  • Lock only parts of high value content in order to convince the user it’s worth subscribing
  • Test it thoroughly – these types of plugins don’t always work out of the box

Try not to:

  • Forget to set appropriate cookies so the user doesn’t have to enter his mail again in order to read another piece of content
  • Overuse this tactic or apply it to click-bait. It can’t end well for you and it pretty much crosses into SPAM territory.

8. Integrate with customer support

Your customer support people can become a good growth driver for your email marketing program. They’re already in touch with users and they can determine the best moments to present the benefits and invite customers (and prospects) to subscribe. This always works well after a customer request or concern is taken care of successfully.

Depending on support options – live chat, phone, email, ticket systems etc. some other tactics can be applied, but it all comes down to figuring the best moment to incentivize the user.

Oh, yes…you can include a call-to-action towards your newsletter landing page in all your email signatures. But chances are this won’t make much of a difference if you’re not sending out lots of emails daily.

I’ve tested this approach at a company with over 40 employees and in the course of one year, we didn’t see more than 500 people visiting the website through that short Goo.gl URL. Very few of them actually signed up for the newsletter.

9. Integrate with

[customer satisfaction] surveys

Surveys are really fun. Said no one ever. But they can actually be engaging by design and they present themselves as both as an opportunity to find more about your customers and contact them. Trust me, they won’t mind you asking if they’re happy with your products & services. Especially if you reward them as well.

This is especially useful if you’ve missed the opportunity to contact a set of users for which you have contact data but you don’t know how to approach their potential subscription.

Pro-tip #1: When relevant, you even can use the survey results as an incentive to join your newsletter.

Pro-tip #2: Engage your existing customers and potential customers by showing them how their feedback is implemented afterwards. After that, converting him becomes much easier on any channel.

10. Integrate with transactional emails

Transactional email is probably the least attractive item on a marketer’s list. Everybody cares about the newsletter. But no love for the transactional mail. In case you don’t know, transactional emails are emails generated by various web apps/platforms such as your shopping cart for specific events (user signed up, user requested password change, order confirmations etc.) – Mailchimp has the best explanation if you want to learn more.

The idea is that these emails already get the user’s attention and the users actually expects them. That means you have a valuable piece of real estate on which to advertise your newsletter – right in the user’s inbox.

Also, you should focus on integrating your brand in these transactional emails – I’ve seen far too many stores that have invested maybe tens of thousands of dollars developing an attractive brand, but their transactional emails look like we’re back in the ’90s talking about what a big hit pets.com is going to be.

11. Integrate with account registration

The account registration is one of the best moments you can convince your visitor to subscribe to the newsletter as well. Most likely, if he’s registering he has a clear buying intent and that’s when your incentives can do the trick and convince him to subscribe. Just make sure you’re doing more than simply adding a checkbox to subscribe.

Try to avoid the temptation of automatically subscribing the user to your newsletter without asking permission. But you can go with the little gimmick of having the checkbox that says “Subscribe to our newsletter” checked by default.

12. Integrate with your loyalty programs

While loyalty programs and schemes are seen as a tool for the big retailers, the current technology and SaaS platforms we have access to now make them quite viable for smaller eCommerce businesses as well. Most popular carts have already implemented this functionality or have available plugins/modules/integrations in their marketplaces.

From my point of view, you should strive for an integration that’s as tight as possible between email marketing and your program. Use your loyalty program to get subscribers and turn existing subscribers into members of your loyalty program. After that, use well targeted newsletters to drive repeat purchases. The only question you should ask yourself in this case is how to add value with a loyalty program. Because the profitability of customer loyalty hasn’t ever been a problem.

Extra Resources: Design, Usability & Compatibility

If you have the time, I would suggest getting up to date with the resources below to ensure you’re integration subscripting forms properly (from design / usability & compatibility view points) into your digital presence:

Step #3: Optimize [Forms, Placement & More]

13. Offer incentives to subscribe

Offering incentives to subscribe to your newsletter is pretty much a no-brainer, but there are some things you should take into consideration before offering various incentives such as:

  • Is the incentive visible/clearly understood?
  • Are the incentives I’m offering paying off?*
  • What qualifies as an incentive to my audience?
  • Are the incentives I’m offering increasing subscription rates?
  • Should I offer different incentives in different locations for different segments?

We had an interesting experience related to discount codes – a common tactic used as an incentive to subscribe – a discount code offered to subscribers on a premium brand had almost 0 impact on revenues generated by our email marketing. How come? There was a small increase in conversion towards subscription, but the people that signed up simply for coupons did not end up purchasing products. We sort of expected that, but we couldn’t know for sure until we tested.

At the time, our focus with the client was on financial metrics and decided we should go with a rather different approach: creating a product category that was only available for newsletter subscribers. The result was a complete success with this approach.

On the other hand, you should keep in mind that during each stage of the customer journey, your potential subscribers / customers have different objectives, from figuring out what’s the best product for their need to getting the best price. For example, let’s say you’re selling a product on which consumers usually have a hard time deciding and do a lot of research to figure out what’s the best solution for them.

That means they’re likely to end up on blog articles, FAQ pages etc. if you already invested a little in inbound marketing & SEO. Offer a buyer’s guide or an e-book as an incentive to subscribe. If they’re in the price comparison phase, try going with the coupon tactic (or free shipping for example – it’s proven that free shipping usually beats a discount). Plus, you should always test if the incentive you’re offering actually increases subscription rates.

We’ve also had a surprise with a customer who was offering 15% off coupons for signing up for the newsletter. It was quite a particular case, but removing that incentive proved more profitable for the company than keeping it.

*I think it’s important to point out that tracking different segments that have been offered certain incentives to subscribe can lead to a lot of interesting insights such as: “These segment is subscribing at a higher rate based on incentive X, but we’re not seeing the same increase in sales.”

Remember, “more subscribers” doesn’t always translate into “more sales”.

14. A/B test newsletter placement

When it comes to subscription rates, newsletter placement is one of the most important factors. We’re not talking about just “keeping it above the fold”, but about testing different combinations of positioning on a per-section and per-page basis of your website. While your sidebar can drive a good number of subscribers, it’s likely that placing the form at the end of articles will drive even more subscriptions.

And don’t consider that you’re limited to just one form. You can adapt your subscription forms and try inserting them in every relevant location, from your sidebar to your footer. But it’s important to test these combinations to figure out the best mix and don’t lose out on other elements, such as sharing buttons, social subscription icons etc.

In any case, you’ll find a couple of cool A/B tests on placement as well as on colors, copy etc. at the end of this section.

Besides testing the placement of your subscription form, don’t forget to do A/B tests on popups that have various behavior rules applied to them (exit intent vs. number of visited pages vs time on page etc.). In the end, it’s the constant improvements and testing /experimenting mindset that will get you a constant influx of high value subscribers.

Make sure to:

  • get enough data to reach statistically relevant samples.
  • always keep testing fresh locations.
  • never assume anything.

Try not to:

  • make other layout changes that could impact A/B tests. They won’t be A/B tests anymore.
  • jump directly to multivariate tests (those can be pretty hard to implement correctly)

15. A/B test colors, copy and animations

Test & Optimize Colors

Here’s an A/B test with an extremely ugly button that got an extremely high opt-in rate after adding a red border and a green on:hover effect. In the end, results matter more than aesthetics. But let’s not go back to blinking text though.

Depending on your branding guidelines, play around with colors and test until you get a higher conversion rate. ConversionXL has an awesome guide to figuring out which colors convert best.

When it comes to animations, just a little JavaScript jiggle can do wonders to attract attention on your forms, by the way.

16. Increase, build and maintain trust

If it’s one thing people hate, it’s getting SPAM. In most cases, adding the already classical Privacy link, lock icon and assuring your visitors their email is safe with you and will not be shared with 3rd parties can increase your subscription rate.

Make sure to:

  • clearly state what the user will receive in exchange for his email
  • clearly state he will be receiving communications only from you
  • link to your Privacy page if you have a privacy conscious audience.

Careful not to clutter your newsletter area though – some case studies report an increase in subscription after removing trust & privacy elements / phrases. So you might want to test that for a while before leaving it permanently up.

But I should point out that the level of trust towards subscribing store is directly linked to the general level of trust in your online. If your store is new and you’re lacking in fundamental elements that build trust for first time visitors, assuring them you won’t sell their emails to 3rd parties might not help at all.

17. Offer social proof

You’ll see that many successful sites and online stores boast the number of subscribers. “Join over 25.000 fashion lovers who receive fresh content on the latest trends” works really well. Plus, it’s more appealing due to the “community feeling”.

If you’re just starting out, you’re going to have to improvise on this one if you want to use it as a conversion increasing tactic. And by improvise, I mean create something so incredible you’ll get a decent number of subscribers or you have enough of a social following (as fans, followers etc.) to boast that instead of newsletter subscriber count.

I can’t tell you that inflating the number of subscribers you have is a good idea.

18. Personalize content, structure & behavior

Don’t just copy paste your form and call to action. First of all, adapt your copy & content depending on the visitor’s context:

Is the form at the end of an article promising users to get more similar content? Is the form on your product pages promising to give them exclusive deals? Is the visitor on his first visit and you’re wasting precious space trying to subscribe him to the newsletter way too early? Is the visitor coming back again and again but hasn’t (maybe) subscribed because he never noticed the forms?

Courtesy of SiteApps.com

Courtesy of SiteApps.com

After the first round of adapting your forms and call to actions to best fit your visitor’s interest, you should get started on proper personalization using personalization technologies / plugins that allow you to display different content / CTAs / positioning etc. per segments. If you’re curious how far can personalization go – check out these 3 examples of website personalization from Hubspot.

There are cool plugins like SiteApps and solutions like Evergage that can do wonders for your conversion rate if used properly.

This tactic should be treated more in depth – I’ll follow up with a detail post on this.

19. Showcase newsletter editions

Let the user convince himself that your content is high quality and that subscribing is worth his time. Make sure you have an easy way for potential subscribers to interact with previous newsletter editions.

Having an archive gallery of newsletters has some other benefits as well if done properly, such as the possibility to attract long tail traffic, backlinks etc. That’s why I advise my clients to keep web versions of their newsletters on their main site, even though many email marketing services can do that automatically on their platform.

20. Create time sensitive offers

It has been proven time and time again that urgency and “fear of missing out” gets people to take action. Add in some scarcity to the mix and your incentive / offer should net you a decent amount of subscribers.

There are many elements that can be used to efficiently apply this tactic, from headlines, call to actions, countdowns to visual cues in order to get your visitors to subscribe.

21. Don’t call it a newsletter

While trying to optimize conversion rates from visitors to subscribers in a non-English speaking country, we figured that most people didn’t actually have a clear sense of what a newsletter implies and there weren’t any good alternatives to the word “newsletter”. So we just went with very simple copy, specifically explaining what they’re getting, how often and why it’s worth subscribing.

We took it even further when we switched to double opt-in (which in this case dealt quite a blow to our conversion rate) and added a “Successful submission” page with screenshots with what they needed to do to receive the following emails and benefits.

I know – this advice is pretty much useless if your target audience is educated. But there are still large segments that are just getting started with the modern miracle of email marketing, eCommerce, online payments etc. Don’t forget that until we have 7 billion people connected to the internet. And maybe not even then…

The reason I’m even talking about this is because I see a lot of serious websites that don’t do more than just adding a “Newsletter Subscription” title and a simple form in their footer. It’s not enough and it does nothing to help your list growth rate.

22. Don’t treat it like a newsletter

Our common understanding of newsletters and email marketing implies that you need to respect a certain frequency, a certain format and many other rules that can hinder you from getting started – which is the most important thing. A full fledged email marketing strategy that integrates content marketing can get you a long way but you need to think if that’s even possible with your current resources.

The point of building a list is to reach out easily to a certain audience and your existing customers and communicate with them in order to achieve a specific goal. If you know you only have time to launch campaigns focused on discounts and maybe expand your product offering – simply state that and try to sell your potential subscribers on the fact that they’ll be receiving discounts from time to time and get notified of new products. It’s better than nothing and it’s certainly better than promising them exclusive content and not being able to deliver (expectations matter – a lot).

Yes, most marketers will scream out that if you don’t send emails with a certain frequency “people will forget and unsubscribe / report as SPAM”. Yes, few will do so. But it’s certainly the better option if the alternative is sending low quality, boring content that’s been created just for the sake of respecting frequency – that might even hurt your brand in the long run.

23. Don’t make it a newsletter

This is a tricky one. Most likely a big part of your audience perceives a newsletter as a nuisance and associates it with the feeling of a mail box full of catalogs and letters. And they’re entitled to feel that way. What you should consider in this case is wrapping your email marketing program into other forms and integrating the community vibe into it.

We have so many opportunities to create content sites, forums, membership sites etc. that can get people to join, participate and in the same time allow you to communicate your message through all sorts of channels, not only email.

Depending on your business model, think about setting up an early adopters program, a feedback & testing user group, a niche community centered around your customers’ passions and/or problems etc. If done right, with the customer in mind, not only will this net you many more emails than the most optimized subscription page/form/incentive, but it will help you create a loyal customer base.

24. Integrate testimonials

In some cases, getting a known figure to say something positive about your newsletter program can do wonders for your conversion rate.

Let’s say you’re have an online store that sells limited edition clothing and your newsletter revolves mainly around the latest fashion trends. Getting a known influencer in that space to vouch for the quality of content being delivered can do wonders for your conversion rate.

But plain old customer could also suffice in some cases. Let’s say you sell baby care products and you send out newsletters focused on baby care. Staple a couple of moms below applauding you for your great tips on how to keep their babies healthy and in line with the latest…ummm…baby fashion trends? Seriously?

25. Integrate Facebook’s Like Box near your forms

I’ve seen mixed results with this tactic, but to be honest, I really think it’s worth an A/B test on your newsletter page. The thing about Facebook’s like box is that people are already accustomed to it and since it’s personalized to see what friends already like the brand, this can lead to a higher conversion rate towards subscribing to the newsletter as well. But, as I’ve said, this needs to be thoroughly tested on a per-website basis from my point of view because it can decrease signups in favor of page likes.

Although there are some interesting hacks you can use to display what friends have signed up for your newsletter,  that could be seen as an invasion of privacy and we’d urge you to stay away.

26. Offer “frequency” options on subscription

We just love HBR's email preferences center.

We just love HBR’s email preferences center.

There’s no such thing as the “perfect frequency for newsletters”. You might reach an optimal number of newsletter you should send out, but you’re still going to send too many newsletters to some people or an unsatisfactory condensed version to some.

Depending on how much content you’re actually producing and your current frequency of newsletters, we would advise you to test a granular frequency option for your subscribers: daily, weekly and monthly. Maybe “as it happens” in some cases. If you don’t want to complicate your forms, you can just as well pay a little bit more money to a developer (or do it yourself if you’re using an advanced sender) to implement a clear “Email Preferences & Frequency” option in all your newsletters.

But the last option wouldn’t do much for your growth. It might keep your list happier though. In any case, this is something you should test as well, after you have some clear data on the non-granular version of the subscription forms.

27. Offer “interest” options on subscription

Newsletter Email Interests & Preferences Selection

Newsletter preferences, as seen on WPBeginner.com

If your content marketing efforts are covering many topics and you’re seeing some well defined segments and interests, try offering potential subscriber the option to filter what they receive based on their interest.

Although it has nothing to do with eCommerce, the Harvard Business Review’s Email preference page is a good example of how email marketing should be done. Also, the interest checkboxes on WP Beginner’s website do the job really well.

28. Enrich your existing data

Most businesses don’t know much more than emails and a name (if they’re lucky). There are solutions such as Rapleaf to get a lot of insight on your existing list and “enrich” each email in your list with details ranging from occupation to estimated income.

Of course, simply enriching your existing data won’t do much for growth. But it paves the way to better list segmenting, personalizing newsletters (see 4 basic examples on Rapleaf’s blog) and finding better content mixes that will in turn increase sharing, referrals and engagement.

And that’s just some of the ways how data enrichment and content personalization can help you get more subscribers.

29. Get a human face up there

This is pretty much up for debate and I stress that it should be tested thoroughly before going with it. We see this tactic being applied very often (and successfully) in B2B markets where a personal brand can weigh a lot, but it’s less often seen in B2C eCommerce.

Figure out who you want to be your brand’s ambassador and always put him/her up front. Your readers and subscribers will surely connect more with a human. And you can this further, by actually sending the newsletters with the ambassador’s identity (add a signature and picture for an added authenticity feeling). This will most likely increase both open rates and engagement.

In any case, I see this working best with very small eCommerce businesses (especially in the crafts market, designer clothing etc.) and big eCommerce businesses that can afford to get industry-specific influencers to contribute to or even write their newsletters.

Extra: some great case studies & resources

Some of the case studies that are worth checking out include:

If you’re running your store and/or blog on WordPress, be sure to check out these 4 awesome A/B testing plugins.

Also, if you you should try out CrazyEgg and generate your heatmaps. It will help a lot in figuring out how to re-arrange elements and decide what A/B tests should be done. To be honest, CrazyEgg was the first tool I ever used when I started learning about usability and conversion rate optimization and it opened my eyes to how many of my common sense decisions were flat out wrong.

Or you could just go with your gut feeling…

Step #4: Generate Additional Exposure

30. Create an overwhelming welcome email experience

Depending on your industry, you should think about delivering a welcome email that simply blows the subscriber’s expectations. Show him you love him and you’re happy he chose to be your newsletter friend. Shower him with exclusive content and gifts (in the form of discounts, free shipping and things like that). Maybe even show him to your secret product category. Let him know it’s not something you do for every subscriber who walks in on your life.

Why? Because you create the perfect moment to ask him to actually forward the newsletter or share it with his friends. Why should they miss out on all the benefits? Even if he doesn’t click that Forward button or Share, he’s still going to talk about it.

But tread lightly: you’ve raised the bar now. You can’t just impress him and then come back in a month with a dry, indifferent message. He would have expected more from you…

31. Everybody loves a good old contest…

My personal best is getting over 12.000 participants who subscribed to the newsletter as well in the first 24 hours of the contest. My budget was roughly 600 EUR at the time (including the prize) and I’ve used only tactics listed in this article combined with some simple sharing mechanisms and pseudo-user generated content.

Building a contest that has viral potential deserves a long, detailed post – I would love to get into more detail here, but I’ll be back with a similar guide on how to create engaging (maybe viral) social contests & promotions that can bring both a large number of subscribers and a decent boost in sales.

32. …but sweepstakes will do just fine

If you’re not feeling overly creative at the moment, or you don’t have the time to deal with all the small details of a full fledged contest (comment moderation, submissions reviews, eligibility verification etc.) go with simple sweepstakes and define simple participation mechanisms that gets the user points / more chances to win and drives you exposure.

33. Optimize for long tail newsletter keywords

“Wait, what…?”. Let me explain. I’m surprised I haven’t seen this mentioned around the, but think about it: there are people in the world actually searching for great newsletters to subscribe to. While this might be extremely profitable for professional niches and B2B, you might have some luck even in a B2C context. Just do you keyword research and see what you get on long tail variations that include “news” & “newsletter” We’ve had quite a surprise a couple of years ago with this tactic built around fashion topics, netting about 400 subscribers monthly for a client.

Make sure to: 

  • create a search engine optimized landing page that works well on mobile as well
  • optimize for your “brand name” + “newsletter” – it will come in handy as your branded search traffic grows in time

Try not to: 

  • forget about adding benefits, showcasing previous newsletters, adding social proof etc.
  • simply create a half blank page including a subscribe form. That’s waste of everybody’s time.

34. Strategic partnerships

Did you know that strategic partnerships have a fancy new name? Yeah, it’s called Alliance Marketing. Here’s some insight on what alliance marketing implies. In any case, non-competitive business (or that offer complimentary products/services) have many opportunities for social and email cross-promotion. There are many downsides to this kind of tactic (it’s almost impossible to create an equally beneficial partnership these days) and it can take a long time to develop a sane plan to implement shared campaigns and promotions but it’s one of the tactics you don’t have to invest financially in.

There was a platform called SaberBlast that matched businesses for the purpose of alliance marketing, but it’s pivoted towards an email marketing service provider with a twist since there (it’s a shame, since they were the first to try this). They’re still up & running though. If you know any alternatives to this, please let me know in the comments (I’ll owe you one).

But speaking of strategic partnerships, please don’t swap email lists for god’s sake. Yes, it’s tempting but you’re in for some bad experiences after the first mail is sent.

35. Hooking up with bloggers for campaigns

Usually campaigns with bloggers can turn into complete flops or incredible wins. Since getting more subscribers is our main objective, let’s think about how we can work with bloggers and what campaign mechanism we can devise to ensure we end up with more subscribers, not just traffic.

Depending on how you model your campaign, there are lots of interesting tactics to use with bloggers. If you’re offering freebies for reviews, ask them to add a CTA to subscribe to your newsletter. Also, try advertising your incentives on their blogs as well whenever possible.

When going for broader, paid campaigns with bloggers that include email blasts, make sure to include CTAs to landing pages that are optimized for email capture (if you’re not pushing hard for sales). If you’re launching a new product or category, make sure you do your best to organize the pre-launch campaign with bloggers and send people to an interactive product teaser (more on this below).

It’s worth noting that when selecting bloggers you should aim for those that have a big(ger) email list, not a bigger social following if your aim is to gather subscribers.

36. Let bloggers re-publish your newsletter content

This tactic requires an extreme amount of attention to detail and quality of your newsletter content. If you’re investing a lot of time into content marketing, content curation and distribution, you can model your content strategy to create high value content that bloggers are hungry for and that they can use or re-use for their audiences.

Also, you can transform the same content pieces into multiple forms (infographics, slides, eBooks, videos, audio downloads etc.) to make sure it’s extremely easy to distribute on more mediums and networks.

The only catch here is targeting bloggers to become subscribers first and then keeping them close and feeding them content. An interesting approach would be offering bloggers content earlier than your usual subscribers and clearly outlining the guidelines for republishing content (link back to your newsletter page or another specific page).

An example? You’re selling various fashion items and you publish content on the newest trends each week. This type of content can be easily transformed into many forms and it’s prone to be re-shared and even re-used by fashion focused blogs that can reach audiences you don’t have easy access to.

37. Processing your contacts

In most cases, this is a lame idea to be honest, but if you’re just getting started or you own a small online store, it can make quite a difference. Your contacts will most likely accept being subscribed and will pass on your content to friends just for the sake of helping you out.

Personally, I’d even recommend this for beginners, especially because I think it’s quite depressing to send your first newsletter to just a couple of subscribers. But everybody who’s getting started with email marketing goes through that and you need to keep your enthusiasm.

38. Experiment with Daily Deals sites

Running daily deals can be extremely rewarding for your business if your goal is getting additional exposure and growing your email list. There are hundreds of discussions and contradictory opinions on the financial viability of Groupon style deals, but if you have any product with a high margin, I think it’s worth experimenting with this.

Be advised though that running deals on platforms like Groupon can be quite a risky business if not done properly or for the wrong reasons. Also, running a successful Groupon is not that hard though.

Very important: make sure that you design an offer that requires users to share their data with you at one point, because Groupon will not disclose their email addresses.

As an end note to this sub-chapter, if getting more exposure is your main concern, you shouldn’t hesitate to get in touch with online media planners if you’re willing to spend more. Some will have access to valuable information and can facilitate some interesting campaigns.

Step #5: Integrating Content Marketing

39. Create valu…uh…

I’m not going to tell you to create valuable content. I’m sure you’ve heard that so many times Also, valuable content is actually extremely subjective and hard to define without knowing what you’re selling and to whom.

I’d rather give you some specific ideas. The first example that comes to mind for me is Sutura.io – a technology publication that has a really nice series called “This Week in Tech“. You can see TWiT very often on Reddit in the form of small infographics.

The idea is that users expect to see this weekly . Sutura.io broke my heart when I didn’t see a newsletter form on their website…but we patched things up – they had a smart popup.

When it comes to content, there’s only one way left to do it if you want to see results: write epic content.

40. Start a post series / story and…stop publishing

Let’s say you’re reading a great post series for a while or a story that has your attention now…and the author suddenly decides to send it exclusively to email subscribers. Chances are you’re going to be a little bothered by this move, but most likely you’ll subscribe. You just need to know how it ends.

As long as you have interesting stories to tell or you’re good at integrating storytelling in your content, you can use this to sell your newsletter to your visitors without them being too bothered by the tactic.

41. “Rich” teasers and previews

Interactive Product Teasers & List Building

You might not have the budget in for Samsung style pre-launch campaigns and teasers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be creative and boost your list numbers by creating engaging teasers and product pre-launch squeeze pages.

One of the best tools I’ve used to create highly converting teasers/previews is using Typeform’s built-in features.

Also, if you want to create a memorable teaser, be sure to check out this guide on SmashingMagazine and Unbounce’s 6 steps to creating an irresistible email teaser campaign.

Extra advice: teaser campaigns go well with referral engines and limited or early access promised to those who subscribe. If you want to go an extra step, you can add in a couple of prizes, which most times will boost traffic considerably.

42. Create content exclusive to email

Arguably, with this tactic you can lose more on the SEO part if you choose to make content that’s commonly searched for exclusive for your newsletter. But with some proper keyword research and a detailed content map, you can choose the topics your audience is interested it enough to subscribe and you can cover safely without the fear of losing out on organic traffic.

A way around missing out on the SEO part would be publishing content later on on your blog/website.

43. Create downloadable resources

While this is basically content gating, the focus should be put on creating high value resources that can be easily transformed into downloadable resources. From guides and toolkits to media downloads, as long as you create something your readers want bad enough, you’ll see them subscribe.

This tactic, coupled with good design and attention to optimization & conversion can turn into one of your primary list growth sources.

44. Create rich surveys

The truth is most surveys are as engaging as a brick. They don’t tell me more than “We’re doing it to improve your experience.” They don’t explain how my input will help define future products/their website/offers etc. Filling out most surveys simply takes up my time and I almost never get a follow up on what happened with the data, if there was an interesting find, trends discovered etc.

While most B2B professional publications do some engaging surveys (example: State of Content Marketing 201x), where they publish results afterwards and notify people who bothered to fill it out.

If built and presented properly, a [rich] survey is an opportunity to engage your reader, make him feel important, get his mail and even generate shareable content.

I’ve had a very positive experience when I built an interactive survey asking our customers and fan base how a new jewelry collection should be defined: gold colors, precious stones, design variants, price ranges etc. The amount of feedback we received in that month + the new subscribers + the fact that the new collection was an instant hit made it worthwhile.

User Generated Content

Yeah, right. Courtesy of: Designed by Freepik

45. Integrating & promoting user generated content

When it comes to eCommerce, UGC is a vital piece of your marketing strategy. From reviews & testimonials to various contest submissions, integrating user generated content on your blog, newsletters and online store can do wonders for conversion rates and your subscriber growth rate.

But simply adding testimonials and allowing reviews is not enough. The idea is to connect all your user facing platforms (blog, online store, forum if available) and constantly entice readers to get involved and submit all types of content – which can vary a lot depending on your industry. Let’s say we’re talking about fashion – when it comes to trends, entice users to submit their suggestions, photos, outfits etc. and promote that content as much as possible.

And along this flow, integrate the subscription options as much as possible. If the concept of user generated content seems hard to tackle for your business, be sure to check out WordStream’s 101 guide to UGC – it’s filled with interesting examples and actionable tips.

Interactive Stories with Forms46. Create shareable interactive experiences

From The Wilderness Downtown to the interactive The Hobbit camapign, interactive & personalized experiences are one of the best tactics to make visitors convert. Be it coupled with a sales campaign, a pre-launch or teaser, it will surely bring results when promoted towards the proper audience.

When it comes to eCommerce, one of my personal favorites on this topic is the Prius C Configurator, which makes the point that online car shopping doesn’t have to suck (it usually does).

Although creating such interactive experiences is bound to cost you quite a lot, there are many ways to bootstrap and create similar or at least stripped down experiences that will delight your potential customers (and make them share/give you their mail) with a decent budget. Don’t believe me? The most basic example is Typeform’s use cases (linked above at #41).


47. Start a content curation program

Most people love curated content. It saves them from the horrors of going through loads of low quality content (to say the least) and they might be willing to subscribe as long as they’re convinced they will keep receiving high quality curated content on the topics they love.

There are many tools, many sources and many sub-tactics for your business to benefit from content curation. And the benefits list is quite long.

Raven Tools offers a 20 minutes/day content curation guide with their tools and there’s a guide to content curation in 45 minutes/day on MOZ as well. The most actionable and detailed guide to curation is this one on Buffer though.

48. Create valuable tools

This depends a lot on the market you’re in, but pretty much any industry has problems that can be solved through web apps, mobile apps and various tools. Granted, it’s a rather costly approach, but it can bring impressive results.

As this sounds maybe too general, let me give you a couple of specific examples per industry. Let’s say you’re selling…baking ingredients and kitchenware (first thing that came to mind – guess it’s late and I’m hungry). Most likely, if you have a content marketing strategy, you’re publishing all kinds of recipes and baking tips for your customers & readers. A good tool would be let’s say a calculator that has all the ingredients listed and the reader can fill in how many cookies he wants to bake (or for how many people) and this little tool immediately lists all the quantities he needs to buy for those specific recipes and quick links to your online store.

One other example that I’ve tried for a customer who sold jewelry online was to create a product simulator that let buyers play around with various precious gems on various rings and apply all sorts of customizations. Although they couldn’t place the order online, the simulator gave them a good idea about how much their “perfect” combination would cost.

Step #6: Integrating with Advertising Networks

If you don’t know some fundamental key performance indicators regarding your email marketing efforts, such

49. Good old pay per click campaigns

Since you know how much each subscriber is actually worth to your business, running PPC campaigns can be a fast and profitable list growing tactic that’s actually scalable (that’s rare). I’m not going to get into too much detail about the advertising networks you should get on, but your safest bets are Google Adwords and Facebook Ads.

When it comes to Facebook Ads, there’s a quick & easy guide from GetResponse to get you started.

When it comes to Google Adwords, the possibilities are quite endless, so I’ll refer you to WordStream’s best practices for Adwords to get you started.

The most important things to keep in mind:

  • Build a kickass landing page and a great subscription form.
  • Track everything throughout the funnel.
  • Optimize for conversions.
  • Know thy metrics.

50. Run CPA/CPL campaigns

If you’re new to advertising terms, CPA stands for “Cost per action” and CPL stands for “Cost per lead” – in most cases they’re the same thing. And this often falls under affiliate marketing campaigns, although there are some exceptions.

The point is that as long as you know qualified email subscribers have a lifetime value of “X” you can easily start a campaign that rewards each successful email subscription with Y% of X.

But beware: many affiliates and publishers will try to scam you and if you’re running without double opt-in, it’s harder to define a good “successful conversion”.

51. Experiment with retargeting campaigns

Getting people to subscribe should be treated the same as getting them to buy a product in most cases. Why? Because you might not “make the sell” the first couple of times they’re visiting. Don’t forget that some people guard their email addresses as much as they value their account balance.

One tactic I’ve had success with was creating retargeting campaigns advertising the benefits of newsletter subscription for specific segments who had visited a couple of great content pieces, but had not subscribed to the newsletter yet. Since they already had the brand in mind and content consumption was “fresh”, the conversion rate was much higher than expected.

Yet another tactic that you might use is to advertise specific incentives based on where the visitor stands in the purchase funnel. If they’ve visited multiple product pages, advertise a coupon or something like that. If they’ve visited multiple content pages, advertise similar email exclusive content.

Most often, retargeting is used to sell products and services, but it works just as well to get people to subscribe to your newsletter. If this piques your interest, you should check out Wordstream’s guide to Adwords remarketing best practices.

52. Experiment with interest based campaigns

Interest based campaigns are a longstanding feature in Google Adwords and more recently Facebook has ramped up its efforts to improve targeting throughout the web. As long as you understand your industry and your customers, I’m sure you will find a lot of interesting combinations and links to be made between segmented ad groups, your content strategy and your email program.

Interest based targeting is an extremely powerful feature in advertising and you need to start taking advantage of it by delivering great content to the people who are interested in it, before everybody starts doing it (that’s what happened with remarketing and retargeting).

Chances are you don’t have to do much than just tweak existing campaigns to match the topics your newsletter covers, direct ads to a dedicated landing page and presto! you have a highly converting tactic.

53. Experiment with Twitter’s Lead Generation Cards

Twitter Product Card for eCommerce Marketing

A Twitter Product Card. Image “borrowed” from Shopify.co.uk.

Twitter’s new lead generation cards (ok, not so new) are quite effective at capturing emails and there are a lot of case studies that show they’re worth at least a try. They have since expanded the use of cards and there are quite some interesting use cases. This article from Shopify clears up everything you need to know about cards for eCommerce.

And here’s another great guide to get you started.

I got extremely excited about Google Adwords’ email capture features, but they silently killed that feature after a couple of experiments. May it rest in peace, like many other Google products & features. Fortunately, there’s an option to integrate lead generation forms into display advertising Kwanzoo.

Also, I bumped into something called Solo Ads online – keep away from it: it’s a waste of time and money. While doing some research on these guys I came across a great post from David Boozer that covers list building from scratch and there are some really helpful ideas & stats there.

Step #7: Integrating with Social Networks

Users have a lot on their mind. Integrating your marketing communications increases the chance you'll actually get noticed. Courtesy of: Designed by Freepik54. Integrate content, social media and email marketing

It might sound easy, but developing an integrated approach towards email, content and social media can prove quite challenging some times.

Why is this so important?

  1. Email marketing can grow social following and an increased social following can help grow your list.
  2. Integration expands the reach of your newsletters content beyond existing subscribers.
  3. Integration allows you to identify community leaders and influencers.
  4. It allows you to build credibility and offer social proof which in turn gains you more subscribers

Some common things you need to do to approach a decent level of integration are:

  1. Develop a cross-channel communications calendar (working with separate plans for separate medium can end up in chaos and missed opportunities fast)
  2. Identify most common cross-promotion tactics (integrating social icons in newsletters, asking fans to join your newsletter, asking subscribers to share newsletter content etc.)
  3. Determine audience overlap between your channels (blog, brand pages, email list etc.) and adapt communications where required.
  4. Optimize content publishing / scheduling between channels.

In the end, the whole problem lies in actually devising an actionable social media strategy that takes into account both the opportunities and challenges in integrating email marketing. There are many articles on social media strategy, but very few of them touch the list building subject. I’ll probably write more on this topic later on.

55. Integrate social sharing in your newsletters

There’s not much to say here – make sure you add social sharing in your newsletters, especially if you tend to write longer ones (and not previews/excerpts). The only issue you need to take care of is making sure the buttons actually share a web version of the newsletter or a web version of the specific type of content (and that they are optimized for social feeds so you can actually get traffic).

Most major email marketing services provide easy integration for social sharing in newsletters, but if you’re out of luck with your current service you can improvise buttons that work in emails and look great easily with AddThis – they have a detailed guide on how to achieve this.

How does this help you get more subscribers? More traffic to your optimized newsletter pages = more subscribers (indirectly, but still…).

56. Optimize newsletter pages for social media feeds

It’s really important to know how and when you can take advantage of Facebook’s Open Graph personalization options. If your online edition of the newsletter is getting shared a lot, you might miss out on quite a lot of traffic if the link is not displaying right (bad title, missing description, image not loading etc.).

The best (and fairly technical) guides on:

57. Make sure your product images are “pinnable” and pin-worthy

Chances are you’re working in an industry where you see a lot of people being passionate about what you sell. While this applies mostly to eCommerce businesses that have visually pleasing products, Pinterest can drive a lot of qualified traffic that tends to convert well, both in terms of sales, subscriptions or social following.

Why should you bother about this? Because existing subscribers will pin images and digital artwork from your online version of the newsletter and bring more traffic that sees the newsletters and since your content is high quality (that’s what got them on your pages in the first place) they will end up subscribing.

There’s a great guide on SocialFresh on how to make Pinterest work for your online store. And if you want your pins to drive new traffic and subsribers, be sure to read the Anatomy of a perfect pin from Hubspot.

58. Constantly tease your social media followers

Don’t just keep on going about how interesting your newsletter is or posting the same link to your squeeze pages. That gets tiresome very fast for your fans.

Instead, re-purpose content into forms that perform well on each platform (for example, infographics do well on most platforms, photos generate extra engagement on Facebook, Pinterest is strictly a visual social network etc.) and tease your followers for upcoming content in the same time. Or publish something like 70% of the content and require them to subscribe to get the rest.

Combined with a content curation program, this can get you a steady stream of subscribers without incredible efforts.

58. Add a Twitter auto reply with a clear CTA

Just don’t expect much it to do much of a difference. If your brand is very active on Twitter and you’re getting a constant stream of new followers, you should try adding an autoresponder that suggests they subscribe to your newsletter. Try to explain in 140 characters what they’re missing out on and that they might not seem some of your best content / deals / new products.

I’m recommending this tactic simply because I believe every marketer and business owner should do his best to minimize dependency on social media platforms. Yes, I know autoresponders are frowned upon. If you’re not getting unfollows due to it, I’d say keep it.

Step #8: Leverage Offline Tactics

Let’s take into consideration that most of retail is still done in brick-and-mortar stores and there’s a huge amount of traffic to be capitalized. While this may or may not apply to your business, we think it’s worth covering the extra tactics that work well in the offline medium. Just remember not to be too pushy – getting that extra email address is not worth ruining a shopper’s experience.

WiFi Subscription Locking59. WiFi subscription locking

We’ve tried this tactic in a couple of ways for a client that owned multiple coffee shops and had free WiFi. The idea is quite simple: people use your WiFi and that’s an opportunity to ask them to log in with a social network or subscribe to your newsletter to get access.

The coolest things we’ve done was actually get approval to setup another hotspot in a park near the coffee shop. There were people sitting idly (or doing park…activities) who tried connecting to this hotspot and they were simply shown a simple landing page urging them to stop by for a cup of coffee. They just had to tap “Thanks for the invite” and they could connect. The costs were really low to implement this and there was a slight increase in foot traffic attributed to this tactic.

There are a couple of cool services that will allow you to do this without having more technical skills than the ability to plug in a couple of routers. Make sure to check out the list building toolkit published tomorrow (hint: subscribe >)

Make sure to:

  • use a tested system that doesn’t fail every couple of minutes
  • check out your local data privacy laws

Try not to: 

  • make the user jump through hoops by implementing a complex multiple step process
  • ignore your local privacy & data protection laws
  • get greedy with their personal data

60. Have you tried…asking?

If you own a physical location, you really need to start training your personnel  to ask people if they want to subscribe to the latest news and offers from your brand.

“Do you want fries with that?”

“Do you want to signup for our monthly newsletter to be eligible for prizes, discounts and exclusive offers?”

In any case, collecting emails at the point of sale and through store representatives is a pretty much tried and proven tactic. But don’t limit yourself to the point of sale (more on this below) – you’re losing out on the “undecided” segment. And that’s a double loss: in subscriber count and in future sales.

61. Slap a QR Code on marketing collateral

See, this is where that landing page that you’ve optimized both for search engines and a higher conversion rate really comes in handy.

What to do:

  • Provide a text URL as well.
  • Always test your QR codes. Always.
  • Make sure the link points to a responsive web page.
  • Make sure your audience is tech savvy if you’re going to use QR codes.

What not to do:

  • Slap a QR code out of context or without properly setting expectations on what the user is accessing.

62. Process existing customer data

A couple months ago I started fresh with an email marketing strategy for a gifts shop and we happened to stumble on a gold mine in one of their stores. It seems that the people who were in charge of taking orders had collected in time over 1.000 email addresses & phone numbers from customers in order to notify them their order was ready to pick up.

We used a satisfaction survey and a redeemable voucher as an excuse to email them. After completing the survey, they were prompted to join our newsletter in order to receive even more benefits in time. A surprising percentage of them confirmed that they want to be subscribed to the newsletter.

Make sure to:

  • Contact customers from the last year. Those older than that might hit the SPAM button pretty fast.
  • Check every department that has any contact with customers if there is data available.

63. Collect business cards (use with caution)

This is one of the slowest growth methods for your newsletter and might not even apply, but it’s worth at least mentioning. I’ve done this in a B2B eCommerce context and after the first contact I tried to convert people I’ve met towards subscribing to the “industry news” edition of the newsletter. 75% of the time it actually worked and those were really high value subscribers who proved to have a much higher rate of engagement.

I’ve seen probably 10 articles saying to collect business cards with a fishbowl. Seriously, has anyone done that and seen anything else than confused looks towards the fishbowl?

64. Product packaging inserts

If you have your own products and your online store is not the only sales source, introducing inserts that inform buyers about your newsletter can bring interesting results. This is especially effective if:

  • Your products are being sold by resellers.
  • Your products are being gifted.
  • Your products cater to a professional consumer base.

Most the of tips in this article relating to incentives and other factors apply to inserts as well, so take some extra time to make sure you’re putting in an insert that looks great and convinces people to signup (via link, QR code or even SMS with their email).

65. Incentivize employees

Anyone coming in contact with customers should have on his agenda to gather as much data from them as possible. As said at #8 relating to customer support, if they’re already in touch with customers, they can determine the best moments to present the benefits and invite customers (and prospects) to subscribe or ask them for their email address. If there’s a double opt in – even better – since the customer can just ignore it if they didn’t actually want to be subscribed to your newsletter.

Event Marketing66. Create offline events

Niche offline events are a goldmine for your business as a whole and they’re a good opportunity to gather emails from people who are prone to be much more engaged than your average “anonymous” subscriber.

The steps are quite simple. Are you selling sporting goods? Start specific events catering to respective sports categories, throw in some relevant/attractive prizes for the participants, partner with online media, get some bloggers at the event, require people who want participate to sign up with their contact data and have fun.

There are a lot of great articles on how to create a successful and engaging event, but the main problem remains on how your promote it towards the best possible audience. Being physically limited, it’s important that you select the most relevant people to attend, no matter what kind of event or topic you choose.

67. Co-market online & offline events

Co-marketing events takes the pressure off of you and helps you reach new audiences that you can easily convert. The only point here is making sure you get access to participants’ data and you can devise ways to subscribe them to your list gracefully. Of course, that means higher expectations from your partners or the main organizer of the event, but it’s sometimes a better option that starting your own events.

When it comes to online events though, the only ones that are worth mentioning are web seminars (uh, webinars) and they can work pretty well even in B2C contexts if you find topics people are willing to dedicate their time to and you can make it appealing. Tactics such as webinars are very appealing because they scale quite well (you’re not limited to 100 participants), are relatively cheap, can be transformed into interactive events and it’s extremely easy to gather emails and other data.

An example of B2C webinars you say? Selling baby nutrition products? Start a webinar series targeted towards mothers, on topic of baby health, nutrition and stuff like that. Add in a well known blogger/influencer and things get even better.

The cool thing is that you don’t even need to be an expert on the topic. As long as you’re organizing the event and you’re paying for its promotion, it’s easy to get an expert on board to talk about interesting topics, since most of them want to expand their reach and build their brand.

68. Print’s not dead (yet) so you might as well…

…take advantage of the fact that people who are willing to pay money for magazines will pretty much be willing to sign up to your newsletter as well. Of course, we’re not talking about newspapers here, but we’re talking about niche magazines that cater to your specific audience.

Selling fishing tools and bait? Buy an insert on The Fisherman and advertise your newsletter. Be sure to hook them (pun not intended initially) with a freebie. Or bait them (ok, I really need to stop) with a free guide.

That’s about it. I had one more good idea, but I left it out for the sake of the post title. I’ll update it if I get more ideas I can work on in the comments.

9. Other List Building Ideas

Some are just basic, some are very limited or extremely specific, but they might be worth writing down. Please share your thoughts and tactics as well in the comments – I’ll make sure to mention your name and blog (if you want) when I add them to the list.

So, here we go with a couple more tactics and ideas:

  1. Landing pages customized depending on social network traffic (will bring a small bump in conversion)
  2. Add a newsletter sign up CTA in your social pages’ covers (arrow to a tab on FB – no link though).
  3. Post links to pages with gated content on social media
  4. Advertise pages with gated content
  5. Use Slideshare’s PRO features (works in B2B markets mostly – few cases of success for eCommerce)
  6. Monitor shared and re-shared instances of your newsletter and engage in the conversation
  7. Develop niche forums – for existing customers, for specialized topics etc.
  8. Comment on popular articles / Quora (and other similar sites) and mention your newsletter as long as it’s extremely relevant
  9. Start a brand ambassador program and explain to your ambassadors how to best promote your newsletter program
  10. …and hopefully many more in the comments

And the last tip, which is pretty much self-implied…after you’ve done integrating email marketing in your digital presence, connected it with your social media strategy and optimized everything that could have been optimized, simply focus on driving more qualified traffic. The better qualified the traffic you receive, the better your conversion rate will be, thus more subscribers.

10. Tactics you should avoid

We’re not even going to list buying emails as a tactic. Everybody should know not to do that by now. On to the tactics that might seem like a good idea or are just floating around the web haunting us, I think you should think twice before:

1. Gathering Wordpress comments emails

We saw this tactic flying around the web lately and frankly we think it’s quite a bad idea, especially because it might alienate the most loyal readers who take the time to comment on your content. We’ve got Jeff Chandler from WP Tavern on our side of the argument. A good alternative that keeps everybody happy is simply adding a checkbox with “Subscribe to our newsletter” at the end of the comment form, as we’ve stated above as well. If this seems like something you want to try out, check out Newsletter Signup for WordPress.

2. Gathering emails from social signups

As more and more websites and online stores integrate social signup, we see that many are abusing the data the user provides them when he uses a social network to signup. Being automatically subscribed to a website’s newsletter after signing in with your social account is pretty far away from basic principles of permission marketing.

I would advise against this tactic, since it’s in a gray area when it comes to permission. Yes, the user shares his data with your company, but that does not imply his acceptance towards subscribing to your newsletter. Instead, create a one time welcome email where you explain the benefits of subscribing to the newsletter. Just make sure to make it easy to confirm by introducing a confirmation link.

3. Creating a magical Facebook Tab

Ok, this tactic was overused and rarely worth the effort after the first 9-12 months since the introduction of tabs. But it’s still floating around. If you’ve got money to spend on building a Facebook app that offers some value to users just to get more targeted emails – go for it. But stop wondering about tabs. They’re pretty much gone said someone at Fortune.com. Tabs area dead, long live the Timeline! said Hootsuite. Yet, Jon Loomer advocates that we don’t discount them completely.

Personally, I don’t think they’re worth that much attention when you have so many other tactics at hand and I’ve rarely seen them make a difference in the last couple of years. As a solitary tactic, I consider them completely useless. Social promotions and interactive apps are a whole different discussion though.

Email marketing - list growth tactics.

Best. Tactic. Ever.

4. Asking people to sign up EVERYWHERE

I’ve seen way too many ideas being presented online that are over the top, such as:

  • Posting classified (it’s not 1998 anymore)
  • Asking on your business card (it’s just rude)
  • Asking people to subscribe on your…voicemail (what…why?!?)

Yes, growing your subscriber base is extremely important. But be careful not to overdo it.

5. Mining/scraping email data

Just…don’t. In almost every case it’s illegal or in a best case scenario in a very gray area. That’s why I won’t give anyone any ideas on how to use this tactic and I’ll move on.

6. Everyone switch to single opt in fast!

Just wait a little. There’s a lot of controversy on single opt in vs double opt and my personal opinion is that…it pretty much depends. If you’re just starting out, I would advise you to go with double opt in, grow your list for 3-4 months and then if you feel that switching to single opt in might be a good idea at least you have data to backup your assumptions and compare.

If you’re keen on learning more on this, you should check out Kevin Muldoon’s article on this – he’s gathered quite a few opinions there. Oh, and check out this SmartInsights article on single vs. double opt in – I was surprised by some of the data presented there.

7. Investing too much in platforms you don’t own

One of my favorite quotes by Aldous Huxley – “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” complements this last piece of advice perfectly. The fact is that platforms are changing, marketing channels are constantly evolving, partnerships don’t last forever. If you’re mostly investing in any kind of platform where you don’t have sufficient control and peace of mind that you’re not just “renting” (let’s just assume that platform/site/program is shutting down in a week), I’d suggest you prioritize investing channels such as your website and blog.

8. Just give people money

After reading a couple of articles on LinkedIn, it seems there’s actually a trend in trying things like: “1$/5$/10$ for your email address.” at events/expos. I don’t even know how to qualify this. Yes, it can actually be a profitable tactic, but what does that say about your brand?

11. The list building checklist

Want a nice checklist to go along with this guide, the upcoming toolkit and your list building efforts? The checklist contains over 100 nicely categorized points to help you optimize every part of the list building process. One little click and it’s yours!

[sociallocker id=”391″]

Thank you for the share! Here’s the link to the PDF:

» PDF Version: The List Building Checklist


If you want to find out more about its content, check out the separate article on it from the series.

12. Useful apps and tools

This post is already way too long to include tools & insights so I’ve compiled almost  80+ awesome list building plugins, apps and tools (with some focused on eCommerce platforms) in a separate post.

The List Building Toolkit: 80 Tools, Apps & Plugins

What’s next? More epic content!

Subscribe to the KommerZen NewsletterI’m  currently writing “The List Building Toolkit: 100+ Tools , “50+ Content Ideas for Your eCommerce Newsletter” and a secret content piece anyone in eCommerce will want to read – just subscribe to the KommerZen newsletter to get them as soon as they’re published.

Introduction: The List Building Guide
Part #2: The List Building Checklist

Have any more ideas you think we should add to the list? Let us know in the comments and we’ll feature them (mentioning you as well).