6 email list growth hacks for your startup

email1Everyone always talks about building a huge following on social media, but if you keep a laser focus on social, you may be leaving out the second critical piece of the puzzle. Social media is a great way to build and engage with an audience, but ideally, it should work as a supplementary platform to the real channel that drives to your bottom line – your email list.

Research from global management consulting firm McKinsey and Company should hammer that last point home: It turns out that email is a much more effective way to acquire customers than social media. Email marketing brings in new customers at a rate of nearly 40 times that of Facebook and Twitter combined.

Simply put, your email list – stocked with the right people in the right numbers – can be an absolute powerhouse of lead generation marketing. But let’s not put the cart before the horse. A big email list is great, but it’s not going to just magically appear.

You need to build it first, and in the case of a startup that is trying to build an audience, get its first customers and gain traction quickly, you can’t afford to let it grow through a slow, steady drip. You need signups now.

Sure, that’s easier said than done, but it’s definitely not impossible. Here are six growth hacks you can use to bulk up your email list in a short period of time:

Optimize your web pages for email signups
Forbes columnist Neal Taparia interviewed AppSumo’s Noah Kagan, who shared some of his best email list growth hacks. Kagan explained that one of the key ways startups lose out on valuable signups is that their websites are not optimized for email list conversions.

Look at your most trafficked webpages and make sure you have a box where visitors can join your email list placed prominently on the page. Your homepage and “About Us” page are perfect candidates for a well-placed signup box.

One thing to note: Studies have shown that most of what appears on the right column of the screen gets ignored – perhaps a side effect of banner ad blindness. Thus, you should place signup CTAs at the top of the page, or even embed it right in the content. Kagan put his email list CTA right under a big picture of him on his homepage and boosted signups by 10-15 percent.

email2Have a giveaway or bonus content
Sometimes it’s not enough to have a compelling CTA, so you need to sweeten the deal a bit to get people to give you their email addresses. Giveaways are excellent for this purpose, and they don’t have to be costly for you either. IMPACT, an inbound marketing company, said that giving away things like relevant books or extended product trials can be just the carrot you need to dangle in order to get signups.

If a giveaway doesn’t work for you, simply including some valuable bonus content about your business or industry, like an ebook, case study or video that will add some quick value could be a great way to entice leads to signup for your list.

Gear content toward encouraging word of mouth
Yes, it’s a cliché, but it’s true: Content is still king. Your audience should always be top-of-mind when you craft emails for your list. You may have a cool blog with great content on it, but always save your best stuff for the people who truly want it.

But sending top-notch content is only part of the battle – you need to encourage your readers to share it. Be sure to include an in-text CTA or button that will allow a reader to forward the email to a friend. This is also a prime location for more rewards or bonuses. You can create incentives for the people who share your content and get their friends or colleagues to sign up. For example, you could give a coupon to a reader who gets five of his or her friends to opt in to your list.

Do the unthinkable: Pop-up optin windows
Pop-ups in the 21st century? It sounds borderline insane, given how much people despise pop-ups, but the fact is that many marketers are finding success with them.

There’s a right way to do this to ensure you won’t annoy your visitors, Gleam wrote. Make sure the pop-up only appears once and doesn’t come back after the viewer exits. From there, follow the hallmarks of good web copywriting: A killer headline, concise body copy and a crystal-clear CTA. You can even tie your giveaways or bonuses into it for more persuasive punch.

Still sounds crazy? Gleam found that pop-up email list opt-ins can increase subscribers by anywhere from 5 to 600 percent. With those kinds of conversion rate improvements, you shouldn’t be worried about the few people who might get annoyed by your pop-up.

Webinars and courses
This may entail a lot of work, but if you’re willing to put in the effort, you can tie a small course or webinar into your email marketing.

One of the most common tactics for online courses done through email is to get relevant industry experts to give your customers new insights – delivered through your email list – every day for a specified period of time. Kagan used this tactic to drive signups for his AppSumo website, and other marketers have jumped on board as well.

email3Do NOT buy your lists
Sometimes the actions you don’t take are just as important as the ones you do. Some growing startups will try to buy an email list, but this is one of the worst things you could do for your business.

You only want people on your list that have freely chosen to opt in and hear from you, which is impossible when it’s stocked with people who have no idea who you are. These pre-made lists, in addition to being of dubious legality and morality, are probably a mishmash of people who may not be in your target audience at all. Thus, even the most well-crafted emails won’t make them budge on a purchase.

Use the tactics above to build your list organically, and remember that while you can speed the process up, there are no shortcuts. It’s better to have 100 enthusiastic recipients than it is to have thousands of unwilling subscribers who want nothing to do with you.

What tactics have helped you build a solid email list from nothing?

Chelsea Segal

Chelsea Segal

Chelsea Segal is the CEO of Targetwise. TARGETWISE empowers agencies, brands + marketers with results-oriented solutions that grow, nurture + maintain a social ecosphere.

Neutralizing all digital channels, we accelerate performance by applying data driven optimizationin real-time across a superior blend of mobile, video,display and email inventory. Converting the right people at the right time, we drive brand solutions, while securing optimal impact, engagement + results.
Chelsea Segal