Tips For Growing Your Email Opt-In List

Tips For Growing Your Email Opt-In List

Written by Mark Vogel

One of the most important measures of marketing success is the growth of an email subscriber list. But now, more than ever, list growth must happen “organically” – which means no list rentals, no website scraping and no purchased lists from trade associations or other sources. Your subscribers must find your content engaging and they must be willing – on their own and with a full understanding of what they are doing – to give you their email address for future marketing messages.

According to research by Marketing Sherpa, email lists will degrade by nearly one-fourth each year. This is due to normal requests to unsubscribe, employees leaving a job, people abandoning their old emails and so forth.

So, how do you grow your subscriber list organically? Never fear! Here are some ideas for you:

Make Sure Your Content is King

No surprise, but it bears repeating. Are you creating new, exciting, relevant, compelling, easy-to-digest content on a regular basis? Are you investing enough effort and funding in content development? Many marketers cite content development as one of their biggest challenges. If you don’t have the internal resources available, hire outside pros to help. Here are some content development tips to consider:

  • Create exciting headlines: if the headline doesn’t grab attention, visitors won’t be likely to read more – which means they aren’t likely to opt-in for future articles. Keep headline length between 12 and 18 words long.
  • Keep it simple: long blocks of text won’t be read. Use bullet points and action-oriented words.
  • Be relevant: address your readers’ pain points. Give them something useful that will help make their day.
  • Be original: Google penalizes sites that simply repost – or even steal – other sites’ content. Write with your own voice and your own ideas.
  • Provide actions: if your readers can put your ideas into real-world action, they will be more likely to want more. Give them a clear understanding of how to put your ideas into practice.
  • Be visual: include compelling images to drive interest (but avoid those cheap stock photos!) Use infographics that display relevant trends in your audience’s industry.

“Content” takes many forms – blogs, videos, slide decks, e-books, webinars, and so much more. By understanding your audience, you’ll understand HOW they want to absorb your information.

Visitors will gladly give their email if your content is perceived as valuable. In some cases, you can lock your content behind a “gateway page.” When you create gated content, you’re requesting payment to view that content – in this case, the payment is in the form of their email address.

Create Offers

An email address has value in the mind of its owner. What are you giving in return that has equal or greater value? Here are ideas:

  • Build lists: provide useful lists of tips and ideas that can help your target audiences solve their problems or achieve their goals.
  • Provide business intelligence: give them some inside info on their industry that can help them be more successful at their jobs.
  • Create e-books: if your visitors perceive your content is more appealing than a simple web page or boring PDF, they’ll be more likely to give up their email. Digital editions (such as those created by Nxtbook Media!) are great ways to package your content into visually-interesting, mobile-friendly platforms.
  • Give away freebies: it could be a coupon for a future purchase or a free hour of professional consultation. Here’s an old direct mail trick: send a one-dollar bill!

Optimize Online Sign-Up Forms

You might be thinking “yes, thank you Captain Obvious. We all have sign-up forms on our website!” However, many sites hide their sign-up forms on a single page, such as the “Contact Us” page. Your prospect may not be ready to speak with a salesperson – they just want to get your e-newsletter. Place the forms on EVERY page on your site. Make it overt and “above the fold.”

Reassure them their information is secure. Add the sentence “We never share or rent our lists. Your information is secure with us and you can easily unsubscribe at any time with one click.”

What about “pop-ups?” While no one has ever said “I LOVE pop-ups!”, these email capture forms continue to prove their value. Make sure your pop-up is well-designed and appealing, that it asks for limited information, and that it is mobile-friendly.

Methods to Capture Email Addresses

In addition to great content and appealing offers, here are just a few ideas to consider to help grow your opt-in list:

  • Surveys: people appreciate being asked for their thoughts and feelings. Create a brief survey that is relevant to your target audiences.
  • Webinars: these continue to be popular, especially for B2B marketers. Invite a well-known thought leader to participate and promote it aggressively to your target audiences.
  • Send-to-a-friend: enable the “share with your network” link in the footer of your message, as well as social-sharing icons.
  • Videos: these are important tools to deliver compelling content and to drive positive SEO results. Include YouTube “end cards” in your videos. End Cards are those graphics at the conclusion of a YouTube video that encourages your viewers to sign up for more great content.
  • Pay-per-click: invest in Google Ads, Facebook Ads, LinkedIn Ads, and Twitter Ads to drive prospects to a landing page. If they visit your landing page, but didn’t sign-up, use remarketing ads to follow them online, reminding them of the value of your content.
  • Offline acquisition: don’t forget the real world! Capture email addresses when physically interacting with your audiences. This includes trade shows, point-of-purchase, service calls, inbound phone calls and more.
  • QR Codes: add QR codes to your print ads, coupons, direct mailers, business cards, and posters.
  • Email signatures: design a template for your email signature line that is consistent for all employees. Include a call-to-action that drives opt-ins: “Click here to sign up for great content …”

What’s the Value of One Email Address?

To determine how much effort and funding to put behind your opt-in list building campaigns, you should determine the value of acquiring one email address. Here’s one way to calculate that figure:

  • Revenue per e-blast: if you have sales history from previous email marketing campaigns, then multiply the number of email subscribers times the average conversion rate times the average order size. For example: 10,000 subscribers X 1% conversion rate X $50.00 average order = $5,000.00 average revenue per e-blast.
  • Revenue per year: next, determine the estimated average revenue per year from your email marketing campaigns by multiplying the average revenue per e-blast by the number of outgoing email messages per year. If the above marketer sends out weekly emails, then that would yield the following figure: $5,000.00 X 52 email messages = $260,000.00 per year
  • Email marketing expense: what does it cost you to run your email marketing campaigns? This would include your monthly subscription fee to your email service provider, estimated staff hours times average hourly employee cost, and so on. For the purposes of this example, let’s say the cost is $3,000.00 per month: $260,000.00 – $36,000.00 = $224,000.00
  • Revenue per email address: to determine how much to invest to acquire one good new email lead, then divide your number of subscribers by the annual net revenue: 10,000 / $224,000.00 = $22.40

So, if you are struggling with how much to offer prospects to sign up for your emails, use these calculations to estimate how much each new address is worth. Suddenly, that coupon for $5.00 off doesn’t seem so bad after all!

Keep in mind what I said in the second paragraph above: email lists will degrade by nearly one-fourth each year. Opt-in list building must be ongoing, aggressive, measured, well-planned, well-executed and well-funded.

Mark Vogel is president of Vogel Marketing Solutions LLC and serves as a lead email consultant for Nxtbook Media. He has more than 35 years of experience in the marketing world and has been actively engaged in email campaigns for more than 20 years. His email marketing clients include Fortune 500 companies, e-commerce retailers, non-profits, local businesses, and more. He can be reached at