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Email marketing can make or break a small business. Emails provide an invaluable resource for nurturing leads and moving customers through the sales funnel. Emails also give businesses a way to maintain relationships with existing clients. With email databases decaying by 22.5% every year, it’s important to have a strategy for generating new contacts.

This article will provide strategies for building email lists as a small business. 

Why Email Lists Are Important

An email list can be one of the most valuable marketing assets a firm has. While building an audience on social platforms like Facebook or Twitter can be useful, investing time and resources into an asset that you don’t control can be dangerous. These platforms have the prerogative to ban your account and limit how and what you can say. Thus, email lists give you a direct path to your qualified audience. You’re free to say what you want to who you want, as much as you want: a luxury that you won’t find on social media, or through SEO and PPC.

Start With Your Current and Past Customers

Your current customer base is a great place to start building your email list. If you have a CRM system, you probably have already have clients’ email addresses. The more information you have, the better. Start with an overarching list that includes all customers and then keep segmenting and branching out based on who your customers are, where they are located, what they purchased, or any other number of relevant variables that you have collected. If you don’t have a CRM and have not been collecting emails of past clients, then you’ll have little tougher time. Try calling your past and current customers, look on their website for contact information or reach out on social media to acquire their emails. Starting with your current and past customers will give you a solid foundation to build on.  

Take It Offline

After collecting the emails of current and past customers, the next easiest way for small businesses to build their email list is to integrate email conversion into offline operations. Most small businesses have offline operations, whether that includes direct traffic to a brick and mortar store, client cold calls, customer support or any number of process that take place outside the internet. An opportunistic marketer should use these interactions as a way to grow their email list.

In fact, Clarity estimates that about 70% of people respond positively when approached about being added to an email list during an offline conversation. Furthermore, Clarity says that emails acquired offline are reported to have much higher click-through rates, sometimes more than twice as much. Make asking for an email second nature, and you’ll quickly grow your email list.  

Optimize Your Website for Opt-Ins

Your website is an incredible resource for email list building. It is one of the only platforms that you have full control over, which gives you the opportunity to promote opt-ins without restrictions. Opt-in early and often! This can be something as easy as embedding opt-in forms on all of your pages. Simply embedding opt-in forms has reported to double the growth of opt-in rates.  

Also, don’t be afraid of “scaring” people off by constantly asking for their email. Popovers are a great way to grow your email list, but many small businesses are afraid to implement them because of their bias perception. SumoMe analyzed 390 million pop-ups over a 1-month span and concluded that popovers, on average, convert emails at a rate of roughly 1.06%. While this might not seem like a high number, it’s still 1 out of 100 visitors and is one more lead for your sales funnel. You can increase your chances of converting with popovers by avoiding boring calls-to-action like “Sign up for our newsletter.”

Quid Pro Quo

While consumers have steadily become desensitized to giving out personal emails, they will be more apt to provide an email if there is a value exchange. As we mentioned above, simply asking someone to join your newsletter isn’t going to convince them that they are receiving value in return for their contact information.  It’s important to be transparent, convincing and urgent with your opt-in call-to-action. Some easy ways to offer value for opt-ins is to:

  1. Gate a valuable piece of content: One of the most common barters for emails is the exchange of valuable information through content. This could be an e-book, white paper, infographic, webinar, etc. You lock the content and only open it once the user gives you their email address.
  2. Offer a discount: Small businesses typically have less red-tape when making operational decisions like offering discounts. Thus, you can easily gain a competitive advantage and increase the likelihood of opt-ins by providing discounts to new registrants.  
  3. Answer the “Why?”: Compelling language will help convert signups at a higher rate. Write actionable copy that emphasizes benefits and perpetuates the user to give you their email.