12 ways to grow your mailing lists organically

  • Oct 19,2015

Growing your mailing list contacts is a difficult task and many of our clients here at Apropos over the past few years (including some of our newer clients) have been lured into purchasing email lists from questionable vendors.

You can get thousands of email addresses for your lists from plenty of providers (a process called paid acquisition). It sounds way too easy and gets the job done in a few minutes. But this won’t bring you any satisfying results.Instead, successful email marketers have been focusing on organic ways to build email lists. Difficulty is an issue but the disadvantages of paid acquisition pose a great risk to your business ( Why buying mailing lists is not a good lead generation idea ).

So let me give you some solid tips on building your lists organically and never worry about spamming again.

Prominently display your sign-up form and host it on its own page

This may sound basic advice but the number of websites only featuring their sign-up form at the bottom of every page of their website, within the footer area is massive. Users are familiar with website design patterns and they tend to neglect content that is hosted at the footer.

Newsletter sign-up forms are usually short and easy to fit in various areas of your web design so they are very prominent. Sometimes something of value is offered to new subscribers and therefore users are willing to provide more personal information when signing-up to be able to receive it. In this case you can ask for more information from the user to allow him/her to subscribe, so it is advisable to gather as much information as possible (without making it too hard) so you can use this information to segment your mailing list and personalise elements of your newsletters
Both your website and most forms of marketing communications, either on social media, your business cards and other material should have your newsletter prominently displayed.

Use testimonials on your sign-up form

Testimonials from real users can convince more people who reach your sign-up form to fill it in. While you may write some anonymous ones since you do not have that kind of feedback from your subscribers, an honest testimonial from a satisfied subscriber can go a long way

It does sound difficult to get a real testimonial but there are numerous ways to do it.

At the end of every newsletter include a link to review your newsletter. This link should send users to a landing page with a form where it is ultra easy to fill in a very short form. If you publish great valuable content, some of your happy subscribers will bother to fill it in.

Another way to do this is by monitoring your email campaign metrics and sending a personalised version of your newsletter to the subscribers segment that engages most. After all if those users frequently engage with your content they will be more likely than the rest to fill in their testimonial.

Incentives in the form of gifts to the subscribers who post testimonials are also a great idea. Offer a great ebook, a technical whitepaper or another valuable resource free to those who submit a testimonial.

Social media is also a great channel to listen to your subscribers. This can be done in multiple ways. Post a question on why they feel your newsletter is valuable to them to gather testimonials. Another would be to start a discussion with a post to get feedback on what other content they would like to see and follow up answers in the comments section with questions on what they like most.

From the answers you have gathered, choose the ones that will definitely convince others to join and feature them in your newsletter sign-up landing page. A/B test with different testimonials to find out which work best and bring the higher conversion rates.

Welcome email and thank you landing page

A great welcome email can go a long way. It is a great opportunity to remind the user why they signed-up and don’t forget to make it easy for your new users to share your newsletter on their social media profiles. I am stressing you to include information such as the reason they signed-up, as just a link to share after a generic “Thank you” message won’t work.

There are great strategies for welcome emails, some of which apply to all email campaigns and others only to specific industries. These strategies are outside the scope of this blog post, but a key takeaway is that a nicely crafted welcome email can increase the lifetime engagement of subscribers with your brand and also generate sales (How can you send a welcome email through Apropos).

Additionally, a “forward to a friend” link that sends the user to a landing page with a very simple form to enter a friend’s email address is also a good way to increase subscribers. This is why it is important to include the reason(s) they signed-up for your newsletter in your welcome email.

Remember to send the welcome email while your new subscriber is still “hot” about it. If you send it 20 minutes later it is a completely different story and you probably won’t see a high engagement rate.

“Thank you” pages should also be nicely crafted and include social sharing links and forward to a friend links. The thank you page is seen by the subscriber while he/she is still hot about your newsletter so it is a perfect time to entice them to share it with their friends.

Send unique and quality content in your emails

There are millions of newsletters on the web as we speak (if not billions). In order to ensure that your subscribers are eager for your next email, your content must be of very high quality and suitable for their needs.

This sounds like a lot of time. If you invest time on building a great editorial calendar it will make it easier to manage your newsletter content. There are many benefits in investing in great content:

- People find out about your newsletters through word of mouth

- Subscribers are more likely to share the newsletter with their friends on social media

- Your newsletter is likely to be forwarded to their friends, thus getting more wesign-ups without any other effort

- Subscribers engage more with the content and your email campaigns perform better

There are probably hundreds of other reasons why content matters, but these four points I am making here should be more than enough to convince you to invest in a great email content strategy.

Use widgets and social links and buttons to increase sharing

Make it easy for users to share your content with their friends by including sharing links in all emails. I touched on the welcome email above and the importance of including links there.

If your content is great and provides real value to your subscribers, they are likely excited to have received it and very likely to share it with their friends.

Including sharing links next and below the content works best, but it is better to test this out to figure out the best combination. Sharing links at the top might also work, so do not hesitate to test everything out in order to find the optimal placements.

Use SEO on your newsletter sign-up page

Improving the organic visibility of your newsletter can only happen if you host a landing page for it. Think of what words or phrases prospects are likely to be searching on the search engines and ensure you have included them in the title of the landing page and its content.

Do not hesitate to write long copy about your newsletter. You can always include 2 or 3 sign-up forms along the content.

Promote the link of your landing page as much as possible, but only to relevant pages on third-party websites. The best advice I can give you is to find websites which are not directly competing with your brand or your newsletter and create a relationship with them.

If your newsletter complements nicely the content of other websites, their owners/webmasters are likely to include it and link to it. This will get your landing page a lot of trust in the eyes of search engines.

Create an email subscription form on your Facebook page

I am sure you have noticed a sign-up tab available on various Facebook pages. It is a great opportunity to promote your newsletter and grow your mailing list. It should be similar to the sign-up landing page on your website, so all the tactics and methods outlined above apply here as well.

A nice visual can make your newsletter more appealing both on your Facebook page and on your website, so get your creative skills to create one or assign it to your company’s talented graphics designer.

Occasionally promote your newsletter on your social channels

Since you have probably built a following on your social channels, it is a good idea to promote your newsletter both to your existing followers/fans and to your newly acquired ones.

How frequently to post about your newsletter depends on your market sector and the nature of your following. What I would strongly advise against is promoting it very frequently (like every few days or weekly).

Include links back to your newsletter in your automated emails

I am sure you use a certain level of email automation. For example when someone signs-up on your website or when a new transaction takes place. Automated emails are also great for cross-promoting other stuff your brand offers, such as your valuable newsletter (Read about the Marketing Automations at Apropos).

If your business is in the ecommerce sector, there may be certain products (or all of them) usually bought from people who are likely to be interested in receiving your newsletter. Include a short copy in your transactional emails on why they need to sign-up.

If you have an informational website allowing users to become members include an option to subscribe in the sign-up form and also include a link in the welcome email they automatically receive.

Promote the newsletter on all company emails

In all brands and organisations, email plays a key role in the day-to-day business. Employees are constantly using email to communicate with existing clients, new clients, prospects, suppliers and many others. Include a link to the sign-up landing page in all email signatures within your organisation. Also when you email people on issues relating to the content usually included in your newsletter, politely tell them that they will find it very valuable if they sign-up.

Offer something valuable for signing-up

A hard to resist offer such as a whitepaper or an ebook offered for free can also increase your mailing list size. It offers a great incentive for people to sign-up and indicate that you are offering great value to your subscribers

Use the offer in all promotional material that you have created for your newsletter (landing page, welcome emails, social media, etc) and make sure this offer is shareable too if you have a separate landing page for it.

Participate in online and offline events and collect emails

Online events such as webinars, hangouts etc. are great to meet people and build your personal network. Carefully promote your newsletter to others, so that you do not annoy by being considered a spammer.

The same applies to offline events. You network with prospects is a great opportunity to let them know about your newsletter.

Use a tablet to make it easy for users to sign-up and also I would advise in this case to send an email a bit later so they see it first when they return to their desk at their office or at home after the event.

Wrapping it all up

Some of the methods talked about in this post are easy while others have a technical element attached to them and as such are more difficult to implement. It is worth to try all of them and modifying them to suit your marketing needs.

Just don’t focus any resources (financial or labour intensive) on gathering emails from people that never opted to sign-up to your newsletter, such as lists to buy. They pose a great risk and are not worth the effort and money.

Have I missed any other which you think it should be included in this list? Just let me know in the comments below.