Creating an email list
It’s all well and good having the best idea for the best marketing campaign ever, but without a solid email list to send it to, what good is an idea? The thought of slowly building up an email list over time may seem daunting. Couldn’t you just buy one and be done with it?
During your research you may have come across vendors selling collections of email addresses to third parties. It’s understandable that getting a ready-made email list would be tempting for someone just starting out, but this is a bad idea for a multitude of reasons:
The owners of these emails did not opt in to your list, therefore your emails will be both unsolicited, unwanted, and an annoyance
The list is likely to be of poor quality, with incorrect data and emails addresses that don’t even exist anymore
It will be detrimental to your business reputation and your IP reputation. If your ISP sees your emails being relegated to the spam folder time and time again, after a while your emails will be considered just that: spam.
It’s also likely that these lists weren’t gathered through the most honest of methods. Many of them were created through email harvesting. Email harvesting is when bots and poorly-paid workers scour the net to capture a sizable number of email addresses.
The CAN SPAM Act of 2003 – a law that established rules for sending emails of a commercial nature, whether it be business-to-business or business-to-customer – makes sending emails to recipients who ask to be opted out illegal. If a business isn’t compliant with these laws, they can be fined up to $16,000 per email sent. Furthermore, if you plan on doing business in the EU, you must have direct consent before you send someone an email.
I think we can all agree that coloring your first foray into the world of email marketing with a dose of shady spam stuff isn’t a great idea. That’s why we’re going to tell you how to build an email list the honest way.
Capturing Email Addresses
Capturing email addresses isn’t rocket science but you should try to do it in a way that disrupts your customer’s experience as little as possible. You also want to make sure that you are targeting people who want to be targeted.
A key element of successful email marketing is a lead magnet. A lead magnet is when you offer something to a user in return for their subscription. It’s probably good to think about what it is you’re marketing and make it relevant. You don’t have to offer anything beyond a simple form asking someone to sign up, sure. But oftentimes, the more compelling your opt-in offer, the more likely a lead is to becoming a subscriber. There are myriad things you could do: offer a free sample of something, a discount, or simply just a newsletter.
Whatever it is, you need a strong CTA here that will convince this person that it’s worth being on your list. Chances are, this potential subscriber is already being inundated with many, many other emails. What will set yours apart? Good copywriting will definitely come into play here.
Here are some common lead magnets websites use to encourage users to sign up for mailing lists:
Discounts, coupons, special offers
Free e-book or whitepaper
A cheatsheet of exclusive tips
Notifications for price drops or sales
A free webinar
A free trial
Special content just for subscribers
And so many more.
Depending on what it is your small business website offers, there is bound to be a whole host of things you can offer to a subscriber if you get a little creative. Think carefully about what makes you stand out from the crowd and how you can offer this to new subscribers in return for their loyalty.
So, what is it you should actually write on your opt-in form? This will obviously depend on what it is you’re offering. But you also want to use this is an opportunity to set up your lead’s expectations. From the form, the basic information they should learn is:
You can can also include:
For example, if you run a blog you could say something like, “Get my newest posts straight to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday” or, if you have an e-commerce site it could say something along the lines of “Be the first to hear of new arrivals and exclusive offers”.
With both, a very clear expectation has been set when it comes to what kind of emails you’ll be receiving should you sign up.
For an example of how specific you can get, take a look at the email subscriptions opt-in form from The New York Times:
Signing up based on your interests is made easy here, and you know exactly when to expect your subscription of choice to arrive in your inbox.
As another example, here’s the sign-up form for NameCheap’s mailing list:
It is brief and to the point, asking for just an email. It’s clear that by signing up you will receive the newsletter and marketing offers.
With an opt-in form you’re essentially getting permission from your subscriber to enter their inbox. They have opted to trust that you will meet their expectations; remember that. Stray too far from the expectations you’ve set, you may find your subscribers quickly turn to unsubscribers, or just don’t bother opening your emails at all.
The opt-in form should be as brief as possible so as not to put off a user from signing up, but at the same time, you should be able to gather the data you need for segmenting your list. This could be something like location or gender, but always err on the side of less is more.
There is more data you can use to find out about your subscribers, which we will talk about in a bit.
Key details for your opt-in form:
A specific, attention-grabbing headline that matches your lead magnet
A short, concise, but punchy description which includes key details of what you’re selling or offering, including numbers, stats, and what the user can expect to achieve by subscribing
A specific, attention-grabbing headline that matches your lead magnet
At least one relevant, professional, compelling image that either injects personality or shows the change they can expect from the offer
A simple form that asks for only necessary information, such as email and first name
A CTA button that really stands out
An arrow never hurts when it comes to directing the eye to the subscribe button
Where to put your opt-in form
There are so many opportunities to sprinkle your opt-in form throughout your site, don’t waste them by burying it on just your Contact page. Like with most things when it comes to website design, make it evident, but not in your face. Some popular options for email opt-in forms include the following:
A floating bar is one that stays in sight as you scroll through a website. By putting a simple opt-in form in one of these, a user has the option to subscribe at all times, should the urge take them.
Header, sidebar, and footer
For immediacy, the header is a great place to place an opt-in form.
The very top of a sidebar also gives your user an immediate opportunity to sign up. If you have long-form content, you can even add in a couple more forms for the user to see as they scroll down the page
Chances are, if a user reaches the end up of your page, they have more than a passing interest in what you’re offering. Give them another chance to subscribe by adding your opt-in form to the footer.
The idea of a pop-up can be just a little bit obtrusive, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can time your pop-ups so that they don’t show up straight away, and they don’t even have to be so in your face. Some options for pop-ups include:
Pop-ups that appear when your user reaches the end of a page
Ones that pop up when the user is about to leave your site
A timed pop-up that only appears after the user has spent a couple of minutes browsing your content
A slide-in form that appears after the user scrolls down the page. These tend to be more subtle and won’t take up the screen like a regular pop-up.
Also, don’t forget to include opt-in forms on different pages of your website, particularly your About page, Contact page, and blog.
On a side note, let’s not forget about opportunities to capture email addresses in real life. If you’re a local business taking its first foray into the world of the web, use your bricks-and-mortar presence as a way of building your online presence. In your store, office, etc. leave a simple sign-up sheet somewhere noticeable, inviting people to learn more about your offers, etc.