Shop Talk: Best Practices for Growing Your Email List
Q: "We have a fairly new deal site and we're looking for ways to grow our email marketing list and, by extension, our sales. Would love some best practices around increasing the size of our list and writing email subject lines that both catch people's attention and avoid spam traps." — Reuven Lakein, Zagerz.com
A: Finding the right marketing mix to meet your acquisition goals can be a test-and-learn endeavor. The first thing you need to know is your audience. Where online do they spend time? It's likely your strategy will contain a mix of display advertising, social media and search engine optimization to drive direct signups on your website. Knowing where your customers spend time online will inform how much you should invest in each channel.
A fruitful opportunity to grow your subscriber base is right under your nose — your current customers. Referral marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways to win new, loyal customers. It's estimated that referred customers are four times more likely to buy, have a 25 percent higher profit margin than nonreferred customers, spend 33 percent more per purchase than other new customers and are 18 percent less likely than nonreferred customers to abandon a brand within the first two years of the relationship. Start by targeting your "best" customers and incentivize them to refer a friend.
No matter the source that drives them to become an email subscriber, the page on which they actually convert should clearly set expectations and explain the benefits of registering. What sets you apart from the competition? What can they expect from your email program moving forward? Be clear on the content and frequency of messaging, as well as what's in it for the subscriber. Also, ask a couple of basic segmentation questions as part of the sign-up process. This will allow you to send more personalized messages right off the bat. In your first few emails, prove that your products are in line with the subscriber's interests to help lead to their first purchase.
Furthermore, thoughtfully consider how you will onboard your subscribers. Don't just dump them into your regular email stream. Take the time to showcase your products and show value over time. Use the opportunity to get to know your subscriber's preferences by observing email clickthrough and website browse behavior to progressively enhance their profile. For instance, if in an early email campaign you showcase product categories for pet supplies, kitchen gadgets and electronics, you can infer interest in a certain product category and market those products more aggressively going forward based on how someone clicks.
Once a subscriber has been onboarded, continually messaging them with relevant content is key in keeping them interested in receiving your emails. Start by optimizing subject lines, which are typically the determining factor in whether a recipient opens a message. Subject lines are amongst the most widely tested components of an email message. Test subject lines at the start of a campaign and deploy the winner to the rest of the list. Test such variables as length (be mindful of truncation, particularly for mobile audiences), personalization and positioning of value statements. In your subject lines, consider using words from the most popular searches on your website as well as referring terms from search engines to help keep your messaging relevant. Also, mine the subject lines of your closest competitors for ideas.
Acquiring customers and keeping them engaged are two of the top marketing objectives for any company. Look for those hidden opportunities such as your current customer base and search behavior to inform your strategies.
Amanda Hinkle is a senior digital marketing strategist at StrongView, a cross-channel marketing software provider.