6 Ways to Build and Grow Your Email List for Long-Term Success

Of all the ways to generate an online income, email marketing is the most effective.

Consider this. For every $1 you spend on email promotions, on average you’ll get a $38 return. That’s a rather impressive 3,800% Return on Investment (ROI).

In comparison, Google Ads sits at 100% ROI and Facebook Ads at 450%.

Look at this another way. Imagine you lay down a $10 note on the table. Would you rather someone walked up to the table and added $10, $45 … or $380 to the pile?

I know which one I’d prefer!

Year on year, email marketing continues to out-perform all other forms of online marketing. Yet, it’s often forgotten in the rush to the Next Big Thing … the next social media marketing fad.

The fact is, email marketing is and remains the most effective way to grow your income.

But, before you can start email marketing, you need a list of subscribers.

List building takes time, patience, and a good dose of perseverance. But, it’s well worth the effort, because you own the list … you’re in control.

You’re not at the mercy of social media giants and their endless algorithm changes. And, you’re not caught up in the endless loop of paying ever-increasing amounts to advertise, only to see your reach decline.

Now, say you decide to go all-in with email marketing. How do you build a list of subscribers? To answer this, we first need to look at why a user’s email inbox is such a special place.

Why Not Just Buy an Email List?

The only way to get a list is to build your own. Never buy an email list. Here’s why …

Take a look at your email inbox. You might have some personal emails from friends, newsletters or promotions from organizations you signed up to, plus some spam emails.

To be clear, I’m not talking about malicious spam … you know, the emails where scammers are trying to steal from you. No, it’s those emails from legitimate businesses who are trying to sell you something.

But, you never subscribed to them. So, how did they get your email address?

Chances are, they bought a list with thousands of email addresses … and your email address was on that list.

Their tactic is to send bulk emails and hope a few people buy their products. A bit like shooting wildly in the dark, hoping to hit the target nailed to the tree.

The thing is, these businesses don’t understand the true nature of your email inbox, that they’ve violated your personal space.

How so?

Well, what happens when you log into Facebook? It seems every third post is an ad. Buy, buy, buy … it’s overwhelming. Then you do a Google search and the first three listings are ads.

Instagram, Twitter … same thing. Ads everywhere, there’s no escape. You’re bombarded constantly from all sides with ads and promotions.

In contrast, your email inbox is a safe harbor.

Social media is the frantic market bazaar … vendors grabbing your sleeve, yelling in your face, tugging at you from every which way, overpowering odors, noise, heat, confusion, stress. “Buy this, buy mine, buy one get one free. Buy, buy, buy.”

However, email is that white sandy beach on a tropical island. Just you and your better half, gazing over the emerald water, palms swaying in the breeze. Ahhh, relief!

Now imagine if one of those market bazaar vendors followed you to the beach, harassing you, invading your sanctuary.

You’d be very angry, like smoke-pouring-from-your-ears angry!

And, that’s why you must always get permission before you send someone a promotional email. They have to invite you in; you don’t just barge in uninvited.

That’s why you must build a list, subscriber by subscriber from the ground up.

And, subscriber by subscriber, building your list has to be a fair transaction …

They give you their contact details in exchange for something of value to them.

They invite you into their personal space. Always respect this.

How to Build an Email List

So, how do you build a list? Here are six ways that are proven to work. You don’t have to use them all. Instead, try a few, then decide which ones work best for your (or your client’s) business.

1. Content Upgrades

Content upgrades are a powerful way to build your list. They’re bonus information or bonus reports closely targeted to the topic of an article or blog post.

For example, a good content upgrade for this article could be:

“Free Report – How to Write a Content Upgrade That Converts”

It can be a text link, or you could create a banner ad. The user gives you their contact details and can then download your valuable report.

The link or banner would sit right here in this section, because it’s directly relevant to this part of the article.

2. Lead Magnets

Lead magnets are similar to content upgrades. However, they cover a broader topic related to your niche.

For example, Wealthy Web Writer could have a lead magnet like this:

“Free Report – The 3 Hottest Web-Writing Opportunities to Boost Your Income”

Again, it would be a downloadable document packed with valuable information.

Wealthy Web Writer would promote the lead magnet site-wide … as a signup in a sidebar, a banner at the top or bottom of every page, in an exit-intent popup, and so on.

Content upgrades and lead magnets work well together. You can have one site-wide lead magnet, then several content upgrades tightly focused on topics within certain articles and blog posts.

3. Popups

No one likes popups … yet, they’re effective.

The anatomy of an effective popup is a topic on its own. Just make sure to keep the user experience at top of mind.

Don’t slam a popup over the top of a page as soon as it opens. That’s downright rude!

“Sign up now!!!”

Your reaction? “No. I don’t even know what the page is about yet. And, even if I was going to sign up, I’m certainly not going to now.”

A popup sliding in quietly at the bottom of the page is a far better user experience … especially if you wait until the user has partially scrolled down the page or you wait, say, 30 seconds.

If you’re really not keen to add popups, at least consider having an exit-intent popup. They trigger as a user is leaving the page.

Most users leave your site and never return. So, why not give them one last chance to sign up to your email list? You’re going to lose them anyway, so you might as well ask one last time.

Exit-intent popups are surprisingly effective, if done properly.

4. Gated Content

Offer premium, subscriber-only, free or paid content on your website. It’s called gated content because, like a gated estate, only a certain group of people has access.

For example, our Outback Travel website Top Wire Traveller, has a Free Resources page. A user must subscribe for access to our free resources.

Other sites have selected content available only to paid subscribers. Wealthy Web Writer is a good example, offering a wide range of high-quality information in return for a monthly membership.

Gated content is an effective way to grow your email list.

The obvious condition is, you must offer something of value within your gated content. Its perceived value must be high enough for a user to part with their contact details and/or hard-earned dollars.

5. Promotions

One way to grow an email list quickly is with promotions, prizes and giveaways.

You offer a prize or a one-off discount in return for a user’s contact details. Once signed up, you then offer them an incentive to share the competition on their social media channels … an extra three entries in the prize draw if they share it, for example.

This way, they’re more likely to share your promotion. You get free advertising and a much wider reach. In return, the user gets extra chances to win.

6. Advertising

It seems no matter how hard we try, there’s no escaping the clutches of social media! Use it to your advantage.

The advertising reach of social media can help you grow your list. Promote your lead magnets, gated content, promotions and so on with targeted advertising campaigns.

The great thing about social media is you can closely target your intended audience. You can find and reach the users you’re looking for.

So, instead of using social media marketing as a sales tool for products or services, use it to increase sign-ups to your email list. Then, use email marketing as your primary sales tool.

Wrapping Up

Email list building takes time, lots of hard work and patience.

However, the long-term benefits far outweigh the effort. Think of email list building as building a community. These people want more of what you have. They took the time and effort to subscribe, so they’re more open to the occasional promotional email from you.

And, unlike on social media, your email list is yours. You own it, and no one can take it away from you.

Above all, always remember the trust subscribers have placed in you … they’ve given you permission to enter their personal space, their email inbox.

Repay this privilege by treating your subscribers with respect. If you do, you’ll have a long and successful relationship with email marketing, plus a community of loyal subscribers.

Do you have any questions about email list building? Let us know in the Comments below.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: September 9, 2020

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