Email list-building is everything to your online business.
Or, it should be.
In fact, if you’re interested in conversions and business growth in general, the number one thing you should be wondering about right now is how to grow your email list.
Email is almost universally used. It’s more popular than social media for communication, and it gets far more conversions than any other platform. It’s a direct line to your audience that works.
If these assertions surprise you, consider these stats:
According to AdWeek, Twitter click-through rates (CTR) get drastically worse the more followers you have. As an example, they shared that Mashable, a big name company with millions of followers, gets a CTR of just 0.11% on its tweets.
The CTR for Facebook ads isn’t much better, unless a figure like 0.07% looks promising to you.
Email, on the other hand, is an ace in the deck. Comparatively, it wipes the floor with social media when it comes down to CTR, conversions, social reach, and ROI.
How Email Pwns Social Media for Reach and Conversions
Here’s how the floor-wiping shakes out (or, if you’re into internet slang, here’s how email pwns social media):
2.6 billion people worldwide use email, while only 1.7 billion use Facebook, the largest social network.
Now, remember Facebook’s ad click-through rates (0.07%).
Hold that tiny number in your mind, and get a load of this:
Marketing email campaigns have a CTR of 3.3% and an open rate of about 20%. (Open rate = the likelihood the person will open the email in their personal inbox and peruse its contents.) That’s nearly 50x higher than Facebook’s average.
And, of course, another biggie is that email is number one for conversions – it drives them more than any other social channel.
Look at the difference in this table from an ExactTarget survey:
It’s not rocket science. For reach and conversions, email > social media.
Email marketing leads to a bigger, opted-in, targeted audience, which leads to more reach, which leads to more conversions.
Or, to keep going with our math references, email list-building = more subscribers = a bigger targeted audience = even more reach = even more conversions.
Smart Insights sums it up this way:
The numbers speak for themselves. Email has power.
To drive home the point, OptinMonster gives you a zoomed-out picture of how email stacks up against Facebook and Twitter for general use. These numbers are based on an analysis of comprehensive stats from 2016:
Needless to say, you definitely should want a bigger list of email subscribers.
So, how do you leverage your content marketing to gain more subscribers and increase your content’s ROI?
Let’s explore how to grow your email list by tying in some content marketing tactics. That way, you can enjoy the potential email offers and make your content more valuable.
How to Grow Your Email List: 9 Tactics to Try in Your Content Marketing
Want to grow your email list? Of course you do. Draw on your content marketing to reel them in and build trust. Then, hit the ground running with some of these tactics.
1. Use Lead Magnets to Draw in Subscribers
Digital Marketer defines a lead magnet as “an irresistible bribe offering a specific chunk of value to a prospect in exchange for their contact information.”
That pretty much sums it up. A lead magnet is essentially a piece of content that you offer for free. The catch is the prospect has to give you their email address in order to get it/download it/access it/etc. That content piece could be anything. It might be a guide, an eBook, an email course, or a white paper.
The point is, you’re offering value in exchange for value.
Here are some top tips for making sure you’re offering lead magnets that people will want to hand over their details for.
Tips for Creating Good Lead Magnets
- Be specific. Your lead magnet content needs to address a specific problem that a specific segment of your audience may have.
- Provide a solution. Your lead magnet needs to give a valuable solution to the problem.
- Forget length. Your lead magnet doesn’t have to be lengthy to be useful. In fact, Digital Marketer says longer-form content is often least likely to convert. Your eBook, for example, doesn’t have to be a novel – it can be 20 pages or less! The same goes for any other form of content. Think shorter.
- Provide quick benefits. Within minutes of opening up your lead magnet and digesting the content, your prospect should immediately benefit. This can mean increased knowledge or insights, or some other gain. It shouldn’t take months, or even weeks. At the very most, it should take days.
Here’s a good lead magnet example (about lead magnets!) from OptinMonster. They chose to offer a cheat sheet:
When you download it, you get a printable PDF checklist divided into categories:
We just published this lead magnet, and it’s getting a whopping 72% conversion rate already on the landing page. Insider “secrets” do really well, especially if you’re sharing them with an audience that is warm and with people that know, like and trust you. This is a great example of providing “quick benefits.”
What Types of Lead Magnets Should You Use?
There is no single perfect lead magnet. The right type of content “bonus” you offer your readers depends on their preferences, your business, and other factors.
That said, here are some solid ideas for starters.
- Cheat sheets – A cheat sheet gives your audience a list of steps to check off for a certain task. Whatever it is, they won’t have to remember the right steps in the right order. They can just look at your cheat sheet!
- Checklists – A checklist is similar to a cheat sheet, but it’s a simpler one that’s generally shorter. Instead of steps, you might list the tools or resources needed for a task.
- Comprehensive resource lists – Where do you get all the good stuff that helps you in your business on a daily basis? Think apps, websites, downloads, or lists where you’re compiling information to save the audience research time.
- Guides – Guides go deeper than cheat sheets. They’re step-by-step, but they take time to carefully explain those steps in more detail. They provide the how and the why behind the process.
- Prompts – Prompts are little snippets that can spark creativity. You can provide these to help your audience with idea generation for any topic.
- Short eBooks – If you have an incredible benefit or solution to a problem you can write about with authority, a short eBook is a good format for it.
- Tutorials – Show your audience how to do something cool and valuable. Offer them a video tutorial, or create a PDF document with illustrated steps.
2. Invest in Evergreen Content
Evergreen content stays fresh, sweet-smelling, and tasty for months or even years after you make it (unlike those leftovers that sat in your fridge for merely a week before going bad).
Your evergreen content can be a wonderful lead-in for growing your email subscribers. But first, you have to create it and promote it.
Ideally, your lead magnets should be evergreen content that has no expiration date. They should be useful not just this instant, but also in six weeks, in six months, and in a couple years.
This is content that keeps working hard for you.
3. Use CTAs on EVERY Relevant Blog Post
This is one of the tips I personally rely on like crazy. Once you have a lead magnet, you need to direct traffic to it. You can do this easily by including a CTA at the end of every related (or relevant) blog post.
Your CTAs should be simple, short, snappy, and make readers want to go do whatever you’re “calling” them to accomplish. Indeed, a commanding CTA is the extra push a reader might need to follow through.
Never write a blog post without including a matching call-to-action. Even if you’re not linking to a lead magnet (you can also link to a service page, for instance), it’s how you add ROI to your content. The authority and trust you’re building, and the value you’re providing with a good blog make it the perfect lead-in to ask the reader to go one step further.
Think of every blog post as a conversion tool, basically. You’re continually building up your relationship with your audience so they’ll become a lead. You’re nurturing trust.
But, the best way to turn blogs into conversion tools is to include that CTA tied to your lead magnet.
Look at how CoSchedule tied their blog post to their CTA and their lead magnet (an “evergreen content kit”).
Their blog post headline:
Their lead magnet and CTA telling you to get it (located right in the post):
4. Connect Your Lead Magnet and CTAs to a Specific Opt-In Landing Page
So, you created an evergreen lead magnet. You urged readers to go get your content for free through a call-to-action on a related blog. Now it’s time to connect all the dots.
Your lead magnet (and your lead magnet CTA) needs a corresponding landing page with a form. This is what the CTA points to. It sweeps readers away to a magical place where you collect their email addresses in exchange for the content.
This is far easier to do if you use email marketing software. If you don’t have it, get it – it’s a must.
5. Try Gated Content to Turn Blog Posts into Lead Magnets
Here’s another idea. Try gating some of your content to get email subscriptions.
This simply means that part of a blog post is hidden. For instance, 1/3 of the post is available to read, but when readers reach that limit, they’re blocked off from reading any further unless they enter their email address to “unlock” the content.
This is an easy tip because you can use content you already have. Just remember that gated content needs to be highly valuable, well-written, and informative in order to give the reader the expected payoff.
In other words, if the blog post is mediocre, your readers won’t be happy. (“I entered my email for this crap?” is the last thing you want them to utter after hitting “submit.”) Don’t gate just any content – gate some of your best, most awesome, in-depth content.
Remember, we’re trading value-for-value, here. The reader’s email is worth a lot to you, so return the favor.
When done right, you’ll give your audience the option to unlock a great blog post with lots of good insights, tips, or information. They’ll be scrambling to give you their details. This is how you turn a blog post into a lead magnet!
6. Create “Hub Pages” for Your Most-Blogged-About Topics
Another way to turn blog posts into lead magnets: Gather them together by topic on “hub pages,” as Help Scout calls them.
A hub page is just what it sounds like. It’s a hub for all of your best blog posts that fall under one topic.
A great example is Moz’s SEO Learning Center. On one page, they’ve compiled all of their articles about using SEO to boost your business.
For instance, if you want to browse all of their articles about link building, click on that topic. It’s all there:
This is all well and good, you may think, but how do you turn hub pages into lead magnets?
Add the CTA! Indeed, Moz has one on their hub page, nice and big and unmissable:
The CTA appeals to those who might be browsing this knowledge base of SEO information.
For your hub page CTA, you might want to include an opt-in form where visitors can enter their email address in return for updates on when you publish that type of content.
Not only are hub pages incredibly useful for your audience, they can also showcase your awesome blog posts that might otherwise be buried in your archives. Win-win!
7. Use CTAs in Your Guest Posts
Do you frequently guest post on different industry sites?
Depending on what the site allows, make sure you’re taking advantage of the extra platform and include a CTA with your post.
This doesn’t mean the actual content: no, rather, your author byline is the sweet spot for your CTA.
It can be as simple as a link back to your main site, or something more fancy. Here’s an example of mine on SiteProNews:
Help Scout recommends going one step further. Link your CTA in your byline to a custom landing page just for that guest post. This makes a lot of sense if you’re posting somewhere with a higher profile and the potential for plenty of readers. On the landing page, welcome those readers, offer a freebie, and ask for their details in exchange. Done.
You’re already focused on creating high-quality guest posts to draw people back to your brand. Use these posts to intrigue new readers and get them to subscribe. Linking to a few key places that feature you and your services are a great place to start.
8. Make Sure Your CTAs Are Irresistible
There’s a lot of CTA talk in this guide, but what if your CTA-writing skills aren’t so great?
Well, you need to get better.
There’s lots of advice out there on how to write a dynamite CTA. However, to figure out what works best with your audience and your business, testing can help immensely.
For instance, HubSpot has a tool that lets you create two versions of the same CTA and test each one (called an A/B variation test). Experiment with different types, wording, and graphic elements to see which CTA comes out on top.
9. Bonus: Add Opt-In Forms and CTAs Wherever You Can Get Away With It
Once you optimize your content for gathering email subscriptions and growing your list, remember to stay creative with your asks.
Yes, write engaging CTAs, but don’t forget to give your audience as many chances to opt-in as possible. Don’t stop short of being annoying about it – seriously, sometimes you have to be annoying to get results. (Depending on how you look at it, annoying often only means persistent.)
On your site, experiment with CTA placement and opt-in forms.
For instance, look at how Kissmetrics uses a floating opt-in form. It’s on top of the left sidebar of every page, but it also floats alongside the main content as you scroll down.
It follows you, so you’re sure to see it wherever you are on their site. It’s unobtrusive, but it’s still right there, so if you decide you want to sign up, it’s no problem. (And that’s what they’re banking on.)
Similarly, don’t be afraid of pop-ups, either. You may be dismissive of them, citing “annoying” as your reasoning. Meanwhile, other marketers are disagreeing with you, saying, “No, effective.”
The Crazy Egg blog presents a whole mound of stats that back that up in this post. One example: A craft blogger tested out two methods for opting-in. One was a sidebar form, the other was a pop-up. Guess which one earned 1,375% more subscribers?
Do I need to say it?
Yep, it was the pop-up.
Definitely try adding these simple ways to opt-in on your blog pages and other content pages. See what happens.
So, You’ve Got People Subscribing…
Once you starting building your email list, you’ll start seeing the benefits. However, you still need to work to keep your subscribers around after the fact. You don’t want them deleting your emails without reading them, or hitting “unsubscribe.”
To keep them interested and engaged, especially the people who are ready to bounce, you need to keep trying.
Case Study: How to Re-Engage Your List and Revive “Dead” Subscribers
Sometimes, people stop engaging with your emails. They stop clicking, they stop reading, and they fail to even open them.
In this case, your reach through email ceases to be effective. So, how do you get those people back, so your emails can keep working how they’re supposed to?
There IS a way.
We know this one works because we’ve done it here at Express Writers with success.
This year, I decided to do some list cleanup. Our email list was engaging at really low rates, under 20% across 6,000 people. I decided to do something that would re-engage our subscribers and tell me who our active readers really were.
Here’s how it happened:
We created a lead magnet and sent it out to our email list.
Said lead magnet (“How to Write Social Media Posts”) was born because it was a “hot topic” I discovered from our Twitter chat (EW #ContentWritingChat) and questions I was getting about my course. I knew it was a useful subject our readers would value. But, some of them just weren’t seeing it.
So, after the first try, we decided to re-engage our list. We put the lead magnet up on our site, then told our email subscribers (again).
The results: That DAY, 62 people signed up and got the content! That’s huge – our list re-engaged, and we got to know who our engaged readers were.
This case study is proof of the old adage:
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
Similarly, if at first your email subscribers don’t take note of what you’re offering, repackage the offer and present it again.
It sounds like it shouldn’t work, but it does.
Another tip for retaining and engaging your email list? Write good email marketing copy.
It’s Simple: Grow Your Email List, Grow Your Brand
This point bears repeating: Email is everything for online businesses. That is, only if you want more engagement, leads, and growth. (Who doesn’t want those things?)
But, don’t take my word for it – the stats speak for themselves.
2.7 billion people use email. 91% use it daily. 77% prefer email when it comes to receiving permission-based promotional messages from businesses.
Even better? Email’s organic reach is gigantic as compared to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
This study from ReturnPath even calls email “the workhorse” and “the foundation” of any digital marketing program.
This is why learning how to grow your email list is so valuable. You can use email to do so much for your business, for your brand, and for your bottom line.
It’s time to hop on the email train and start implementing these techniques. Get going and tie gathering subscribers into your content marketing. Not only will your content become more valuable, you’ll entice your visitors and audience to become valuable leads. You’ll have a direct line to their personal inboxes, which they sanctioned.
Great content with strong CTAs can work wonders to grow your email list.