The first job in email marketing: Build your list!

Do you have any tips for growing an email list? Please share them with us in the comments below.

A few days ago, I promised to talk about growing your email list. I think most businesses and organizations aren’t nearly as seriously as they should be about growing their list.Grow your email list

When I talk to clients who are considering email marketing, they’re so enthusiastic. And why not?  They imagine the professional look and branding, the efficiency, the easy tracking of opens and clicked links, the measurability – and all at such an unbelievably low price for the potential value.

But then the inconvenient question

What shape is your email list in?  Generally, I get blank stares.

The realization sets in that without a great email list, an email campaign that actually works is probably out of reach. And no one starts out with a great email list.

Anyone even thinking about an email campaign must first think about building a list. It doesn’t matter about how wonderfully easy-to-use Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, Vertical Response, and a dozen others services have become. Or how brilliant your content is.  With a list, you have no program.

What’s more, you have to maintain your list. Email addresses “churn.” Especially if you’re a B2B marketer. People lose or change jobs – and you don’t have their email address any more. So it’s work that’s never done. I’ve seen estimates of 30% churn rate.

So how do you build an email marketing list?

The fundamental principle: Know every customer touchpoint, and think about how you can use it to grow your email list. Here are some ideas. You may have some of your own.

Are you a retailer?

Do you have a sign-up list at the register? Do your sales people get email addresses from customers?  I know of one store that puts a laminated example of a great-looking, interesting email on display, with a signup list next to it. It helps increase the sign-up rate dramatically.

Are you a service company?

Do your service reps ask for email addresses whenever they complete a service or sales call?

Do you have an email signup function on your website?

On every page of your website? Is it just a blah pro-forma sign up box, or do you really sell the benefits of signing up?

Do you promote email signup signature in your regular email?

A nice little “P.S.” might say: If you’re not already a subscriber, may I suggest signing up for our email updates, which feature sale information and timely news.

Do you get inbound phone calls?

If so, does your staff make it a practice to “sell” the idea of signing up for your email program?

Do you offer an incentive for signing up?

Many retailers offer a coupon for signing up. If you’re hoping to get lots of repeat business from your customers, it makes a lot of sense.

Do you attend trade shows?

Make developing your email list a priority. But not for everyone – only with people for whom you think email will be relevant. If they engaged you in conversation, it might be relevant. If they just came by to register for your free swag, no.

Do you monitor and manage networks, or other mission-critical systems for your clients?

This may be one of the rare cases in which you don’t even need permission – you can send each email account updates on their their systems, as well as usage tips, as part of your service agreement. But be careful, these emails must be service oriented, not a sales pitch. Use your common sense.

Are you a professional services company?

You probably do a lot of face-to-face meetings and networking. Asking your new contacts in person if you can add them to the email list, if you think it’s appropriate.

The main idea here: Email is a powerful tool for almost any organization. Done right, it can build your community, enhance your brand image and awareness, and drive sales. But if you don’t make growing your list an every-day priority, you won’t even come close to your email program’s potential.

Of course, there’s a lot more to email marketing than growing your list. Namely, content. And segmenting your list. And confirming permission to email in the first place. But if your don’t start at the beginning, with list building, your program won’t get far.

What are some of your favorite or most effective ways you grow your email marketing lists? Please share them in the comments. 




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