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Make your website "sticky". With millions of websites to choose from, the fact that someone found yours is something you shouldn't take for granted. With so much choice, how can you expect them to remember to come back tomorrow, and the next day? If you don't have a sign-up form on your website, you are literally throwing opportunities away. This is the single most important thing you can do to build your list. But don't just put it on your home page - put it on every page, or make it part of your main navigation tool. Do it now - most email marketing companies, Emailbrain included, offer this service for free!
Piggyback online purchases. Every form on your website should ask for permission to send future emails. If someone makes an online purchase, include a check box on the order form to get on your mailing list. If they download something from your site, make the same offer.
Leverage other websites. Find a site whose product or service is complementary to yours and call them up. Ask if they'd add your newsletter to their opt-in form. Trade offers - add an additional check box to your sign up form so people can subscribe to your list and your partner's list at the same time. Instead of advertising your product or service directly, consider placing banner ads (or do a banner exchange) for your newsletter on the sites your target audience is likely to visit. Team up with other email marketers. You may be just starting to build your list, but there are thousands of marketers who already own a list and are sending email campaigns every day. Advertise your newsletter or website (with its prominent sign-up offer) in their newsletters or promotions (or do a banner exchange).
Use viral marketing. Even if you only send emails to a handful of people, make sure you include a "forward to a friend" link in each one - and equally important, a sign-up link for new readers. You'd be amazed at how often I get an interesting newsletter or promo from a friend, but can't figure out how to start getting my own copy. Don't forget to promote your sign-up offer at the bottom of your everyday email. Even if you're sending email to a friend or co-worker, include a link to your sign-up form to keep up the momentum. Remember, your email may get forwarded, so cover all your bases.
Make it a part of your brand identity. Every piece of paper that leaves your office should have a link to your website and/or your email subscription information. Equip your lobby or reception area. Post subscription information at your front desk - a little self-standing sign gets noticed. Place a fishbowl for business cards next to it, or better yet, let people sign up right then and there using a computer that's logged on to the opt-in form on your website. Equip your trade show booth. Do the same as above in your exhibit's reception area. If you rent a lead retrieval machine from the show vendor, be sure to customize it so you can capture email and permission information.
Piggyback in-store purchases. When you ring up a customer, ask them if they'd like to get on your email list. Be sure to let them know what they'll be getting and when.
Promote after the sale. Let's say your customer didn't want to get on your email list when given the chance at checkout. They still go home with printed packaging of some form, whether it's a shopping bag, gift-wrap or the product packaging itself. Promote your email list there, too, because (1) they might change their mind and (2) if they're giving it to someone else, you've gained another opportunity.
Use direct mail. It doesn't have to be fancy. A simple postcard promoting your offer to a small, rented (permission-based!) list will do. Sometimes all it takes to get people on your list is to let them know about your offer - and that you can send it via email (instead of killing trees). Use print advertising. Placing an ad is almost as tricky as renting an email list, but realize that we're not talking about placing an ad in Forbes Magazine. Your local newspaper, your neighborhood newsletter, your laundromat's bulletin board... start asking about promoting your offer in everything you read and everywhere you go. Get creative!
Use the telephone. Ask everyone who calls in to your company if they'd like to join your list. Use a list you already have. You probably have one, you just don't know it! Dig deep into your address book or database to find anyone you ever had a relationship with - anyone who ever bought from you, for example. Send them a one-time mailing (via email or mail, use whatever contact information you have) explaining that you are starting a newsletter or periodic emailing and ask if they'd like to sign up. Assure them that this is a one-time mailing, and then keep mailing only if they give you permission.
Which brings me to the second half of our list building equation...
You can promote your offer in every corner of the world; but there are a few more things you should do to ensure your email list contains well-targeted, permission-based, low bounce/low unsubscribe names.
Only use an opt-in or double opt-in subscription method - not opt-out. Double opt-in ensures highest quality, since you are guaranteed direct permission from the subscriber and a valid email address.
Offer people relevance and value in exchange for their contact information, e.g., special discounts, monthly tips-n-tricks, white papers, etc. Giving away irrelevant freebies builds your list in the short term, but over the long run, those leads won't pay off. Qualify without scaring away the really interested people. Ask for more than just name and email - but not too much. Find the right balance, and the people who truly value your offer and want to hear from you will be the ones who end up on your list.
Set expectations up front. Again, we covered this in last month's Splash, but it's worth repeating. Tell people what they'll be getting, and only the interested ones will sign up.
The key to successfully building a high quality, permission-based email list is to realize it's a continual process. Don't expect 10,000 names to appear in your list overnight. But the sooner you start, the sooner you can start building rewarding relationships. Emailbrain offers a free opt-in list builder to help you attract, qualify and store new subscribers while you're sleeping...
Take advantage of it while you focus on carrying out some of the tactics mentioned here. Happy list building!