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Keeping it Organic: How to Grow Your Email List the Healthy, Natural Way

Michael Egan

Small plant on pile of soil in the garden

Growing your subscriber list is a process that costs time and energy, but the rewards can be huge, helping you create repeat customers and build a stronger brand reputation. Of course, the choices you make when building your list can determine how well you’ll connect with your subscribers.

While you want your email list to grow, you also don’t want subscriber numbers to increase just for the sake of increasing. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to rapidly expand your list to as many people as possible. Customers who don’t know or care much about your brand will quickly unsubscribe, or worse, will consider your emails spam, which can damage your sender reputation—meaning those who actually want to hear from your brand may never actually see your messages.

Rather than stuffing the list with disengaged contacts who aren’t likely to bring return business, take the time to organically grow your list by attracting engaged customers who want here from your brand.

Get Their Attention (And Incentivize Them for It)

When done right, having a lightbox or pop-up on your website can be your #1 tool in growing your email list. In fact, one tester found that using lightboxes led to 1375% growth in subscribers.

But be sure to use your lightbox gracefully, or it could come off as annoying. Consider using scroll-triggered boxes that appear once a visitor has shown interest by scrolling down the page to read more. Or only have the lightbox appear after a set number of pages has been viewed. For example, a retailer could ask for visitors for their information after they’ve viewed 3 different products.

And remember, no website visitor will give you their information just for the sake of giving it. (Or at least they shouldn’t!) Your lightbox should get right to the point. Make sure your copy is punchy, clearly visible and includes a call-to-action that encourages visitors to subscribe to your list. This should include some kind of incentive such as 15% off their first purchase in the case of a B2C, or access to an exclusive downloadable ebook, in the case of a B2B.

Regardless of what you offer, make sure you have a clearly marked “close” button on the lightbox to prevent customers from getting frustrated.

Make it Easy to Subscribe

Your website’s layout and design can influence the amount of customers who elect to subscribe to your list. Add a subscribe button to your navigation or footer. Make sure the option to opt-in is immediately noticeable without being obtrusive or distracting.

If you have an e-commerce website, add an “Opt-In” button in your purchase process that customers can click to be automatically added to your subscription list. Be wary of “Opt-out” buttons, which customers must click to avoid being added to the list. These have been found to be much less effective, as customers may not see the button, and may not realize they are being automatically added to your list. Let them make their own conscious choice to opt-in—they’ll likely be more engaged in the long-run.

Ask for Referrals

Never underestimate the power of the email forward. Word-of-mouth recommendations are powerful and have been shown to have a huge impact on customer decisions. According to Nielson, 92% of consumers trust recommendations from other people—even if they don’t know them personally—over promotional content that comes directly from brands.

Provide shareable content in your emails and newsletters and help give your customers the opportunity to organically discuss your brand in a way that doesn’t feel forced or inauthentic.

And don’t be afraid to ask for a more direct referral. Something as simple as “Like this? Forward to a Friend!” can encourage your engaged subscribers to pass your promotion, newsletter, etc. on to someone they know.

Take the Call to Subscribe to Social Media

Facebook Ads or Twitter Lead Generation Cards can help you find new subscribers based on demographics, interests, and more. In other words, it can help you reach an interested audience and connect with them both on social and via email.

The advantage to this approach is that you can reliably expect your ads to be viewed by a large number of social media users, targeted to your specifications, and include the option to opt-in right in the ad.

The downside to this approach is it’s not exactly free. While the cost-per-click rates of social ads are much lower than that of traditional paid online ads, such as those run through Google Adwords, they are still an investment. The more successful your search, the more expensive it will be. Consider your resources when planning out a paid traffic approach, and make sure that your goals are clearly defined.

Make Connections the Old-Fashioned Way

Website tricks are nice for growing your list over time, but it’s hard to beat old-fashioned face-to-face brand advocacy. Making personal connections with potential subscribers can kickstart the relationship between brand and consumer. Consider opting-in subscribers networking events, tradeshows, or at your brick-and-mortar locations. You can even forge relationships with communities by partnering with local nonprofit or charity events. Think outside the box when looking for new subscribers and you might be surprised at the results.  Just make sure you’re always following the golden rule—build based on quality, not quantity.

It takes time to grow your list, but don’t give up! Over time you can iterate and refine to figure out the best approach to connect you and your customers. And remember, you only want subscribers on your list that have the highest likelihood of being engaged with your brand. A growing email list is nothing if you aren’t seeing an increase in opens, clicks, and conversions.

And of course, keep in mind that when customers subscribe to your list, it’s because they’re engaged with your brand and the relationship you’ve created with them.  Subscribing is just the first move. It’s up to you to ensure that relationship is engaging and rewarding for everyone.