How to Grow a Quality Email List

March 9, 2016 Jiordan Castle

Grow a Quality Email List

Wanting to grow your company’s email list stems from a simple idea: “I have 10,000 subscribers, but I want a million subscribers.” That’s a leap, and takes a considerable amount of Customer Experience know-how to pull off. First and foremost, it’s important to know that you can’t get the quantity you want without focusing on the quality of your email subscribers. There’s no point in having a million email addresses filed away if the vast majority of them are dead ends. Growing your (legitimate, successful) email list has to come from creating and reinforcing a great Customer Experience.

Let’s start with the glaring do nots. Here are 2 proven ways not to grow your email list (or rather, how to grow it badly and… at your own peril):

  • List purchases. This is a bad idea for a couple of reasons. For one thing, the B2C space usually prohibits it (though B2B is a bit different). For another, it risks sending your emails straight to the spam folder. (If enough people mark you as spam, Google believes you’re spam. And then, unsurprisingly, you become spam.) In short, don’t buy lists.
  • Sweepstakes/contests. This is not always a bad idea, but sweepstakes and contests bring with them the distinct possibility that your subscribers will be temporary. They’ll clog up your email list and decay — 2 things which don’t turn into leads or revenue (and in fact, detract from both).

The lesson here is: don’t push people into your organization that won’t add any value. At best, you’ll have a cluttered email list; at worst, you’ll be spam blocked by Google. If ever there’s any doubt in your mind (if, say, a one-off contest is looking like a great way to cast a wide net), remember to first ask yourself: “What does a bad email address cost me?”

Quality over quantity: the quest for the best email list

It’s reasonable to think of growing your email list as lead qualification. Really, isn’t the point to attract customers who will engage with your brand and refer their friends? This is a quality — not quantity — game. In general, adding more people to your email list is less important than keeping the people you have engaged.

This requires ingenuity in retooling your existing Customer Experience. Consider these 3 things: method, location, and content. You should be providing a consistent experience at every customer touchpoint. That includes making sure your customers are engaging with you the way they want to (i.e. on the phone, online chat, etc.) and that you’re delivering high-quality content that gives them the solutions and services they most need and want.

Wherever you’re delivering your best Customer Experience — be it on a certain landing page on your site or where customers are greeted in store — that’s where you want to attract email sign-ups. For instance, if you have a physical store, it might be beneficial to put text-to-sign-up instructions on dressing room doors, rather than at the register. It seems like a small change, but think: people are rarely inclined to sign up for an email list (no matter what the offering) when they’re in line, clothes or new blender in hand, waiting to pay and get out. You want to catch people when they’ve got a hand free and aren’t frustrated or tired, waiting in line, about to part with their money.

The point of giving as good as you get

Attracting new people requires a different perspective; always offering an equal value exchange (e.g., “In order to download this ebook, hand over your info”) is a must. If you require a customer to sit through a live sales presentation in order to gain access to an ebook, that’s an unequal value exchange. You’re asking too much and giving too little.

In many cases, birthday rewards are a good way to get email sign-ups. They also have the potential to net new customers. Every year, Ben & Jerry’s sends me a coupon for free ice cream to celebrate my half-birthday. Every year, I look forward to their email. This is a brilliant marketing tactic for a couple of reasons. For one thing, because half-birthdays aren’t generally celebrated, Ben & Jerry’s has made me feel special while eliminating the competition. Secondly, I’m not likely to go get ice cream by myself; I’m probably bringing friends. And because those friends aren’t celebrating their half-birthdays, they’re going to spend money. They’re even going to sign up to get emails from Ben & Jerry’s so they too can get free ice cream on their half-birthdays. Genius!

Text-to-join email sign-ups are also a great idea in today’s fast, mobile-first world. Essentially, the easier you make it to subscribe, the more likely you are to attract new customers.

How to win the right subscribers and weed out the wrong ones

But remember: winning a new subscriber isn’t the end. You’re making a connection with a potential long-term customer. As such, the first email that goes out to that person should be a double opt-out email (i.e., “Click to confirm that you want to receive communications from us”). That way, you’re building trust while weeding out dead leads.

Growing your email list is less about specific tactics and more about an overall Customer Experience strategy. And by inviting in the right customers in, you also cultivate a better Worker Experience. Chasing uninterested subscribers is a losing game for everyone; growing an email list of people who truly want to engage with your company — that’s a win-win. 

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