Email subscribers are the lifeblood of any well-marketed business, but like cupcakes, funny cat videos and “That’s what she said” jokes, you can never truly have enough. Capturing more email subscribers is essential for countering the constant erosion that occurs over time as people unsubscribe, change email addresses, or otherwise encounter any number of circumstances that render them unable or unwilling to continue hearing from you.

Never ones to shy away from helping you improve your business, we’ve put our heads together to create a handy list of tips for growing your email audience. Read on!

1. Encourage Sharing

If you’ve invested significant time crafting high-quality content for your newsletter, it makes no sense to limit its distribution by not including Forward to a Friend functionality in your messages. Most email service providers such as ExactTarget offer this feature, and others such as MailChimp even include the ability to directly share your newsletter on social networks.

2. Offer an incentive

Although creating and curating awesome content is one way to attract people to sign up, it can be equally, if not more effective to provide a free incentive – aka, bribe them. The right brib- ahem, incentive, can convert strongly for you when done correctly. It can be anything – a free ebook with useful information, a free trial of one of your products, or maybe even just access to an exclusive video. The key is that the incentive has to have value, and get the relationship off to a good start, thereby increasing the chances of your next newsletter finding a receptive audience.

Showing your visitors a preview of what they'll be getting may persuade them to get off the fence & subscribe

3. Use the foreshadow

In general, people don’t do well with uncertainty, so showing previews or screenshots of your emails prior to the act of subscription enables visitors to make an informed choice about what they’re actually signing up for.

Be up front about how you'll use your subscribers' info, and save yourself a headache later

4. Come clean

This is another area where providing transparency can help you. By clearly articulating your mailing list policy in human-readable language, you avoid en masse unsubscriptions by people caught off-guard by how you’re using their contact information.

5. Tip of the iceberg

Asking for less information upfront allows for a more frictionless subscription experience for your visitors. Nothing can be more daunting online than being faced with 15 required questions. Remember that besides the actual email address itself, almost any other information can be either deduced, researched or outright requested from your subscribers. Get the address, and the rest can come later.

6. Make ‘em feel special

By opting into your mailing list, your subscribers are entrusting you with a direct line to their attention, so you should reward that trust with exclusive content they can’t get anywhere else. You can then turn around and show anyone else who’s on the fence about subscribing all the wonderful content and perks you’re providing to your audience.

Allow your subscribers to update their preferences, and it'll help keep your mailings relevant

7. Plug the leaky bucket

Mailing list attrition is a fact of life for any email marketer, but oftentimes subscribers can be retained if you empower them with the ability to tailor their subscription to their liking. For example, if Joe just bought a patio furniture set, he probably isn’t interested in the giant sale you’re having in lawn furniture, and would perhaps prefer to hear about living room furniture instead. By letting Joe indicate that preference, he gets to hear about products relevant to him, and you get to keep him as a subscriber and potential paying customer – everybody wins. Oh, hey, look at that: we just posted about best practices for unsubscribe pages. How convenient!

8. Cross-promotion is key

Many marketers are pedalling away to cultivate their audiences across multiple channels, but a large proportion of them are speaking in silos – their Twitter followers aren’t their Facebook fans, who in turn aren’t their email subscribers. A little cross-promotion can drive these engaged audience members to coalesce around your mailing list, where you can arguably forge a deeper relationship with them.

9. Partner up

Sometimes it’s a cold, lonely world out there for a lone email marketer, so partnering up with others can help share the burden of hunting for new subscribers. The odd promotional callout in a relevant partner’s message (and vice-versa) can work wonders for you both, as both lists benefit from a reciprocal influx of new subscribers.

10. Sweepstakes

A good giveaway can net you a large haul of new subscriber addresses, but how you handle them afterwards is important. Many of these subscribers may just be in it for the prize, so you have a precious small window to persuade them to stick around and become mainstays of your list. Communicate early and often with these folks to give them a full taste of the very best your mailing list has to offer, before their interest wanes!

11. Encourage walk-ins

Make sure to place subscription forms on the landing pages or blog posts you’re directing your subscribers to in your emails. It’s all good content, and unless you’re specifically barring non-members from seeing this content, you can always leverage some of the organic traffic arriving there to add some new people to your list.

Just before or after a successful checkout is the perfect time to get that crucial opt-in

12. Paper, plastic, or signup?

Catching your customers just before or after they checkout from your site can be an easy way to leverage the warm fuzzy feelings that result from a good website experience and successful transaction, and pick up some new subscribers. Adding a simple checkbox confirming their desire to opt-in may be all you need.

13. Return of the popup

Recently, many blogs have clued into the effectiveness of time-delayed popup modal windows that encourage visitors to subscribe to their newsletters before gaining access to the actual page content. This can be a double-edged sword, as you may turn off a lot of your existing readers, but can be a way to get a quick hit, or draw attention to an incentive you’re offering in return for email addresses.

What other effective methods have you found for collecting email subscribers? Let us know in the comments!

  • kim

    This is really great content and information that I will take into practice.

  • Very comprehensive list. No.2 is one of the most effective. We have tried to give out free leads and there was almost a 25% increase in our mailing list subscribers.

  • Jason Amunwa

    Thanks for the anecdote, Anika! Yes, the lure of something free is a powerful one on the Internet.

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  • Jason, this was well worth the read. We’ve been looking at ways in which we can plug the leaks in our proverbial buckets and get more email signups.

    • Jason Amunwa

      Thanks David! Years of hard-earned experience in there…

  • Nice insight!

  • Definitely spot on and useful to experiment with one’s own email campaigns. Ta

  • Good sensible tips here! Thanks

  • Thanks! i just realised i am not doing number 3 so i will start using the foreshadow right away. very helpful.

  • How about using text messaging to capture opt-in emails from events, in-store, and traditional media? No more clipboards, no more “visit our website to signup.” One or two text messages and you have their mobile number and email. We’ve seen many nonprofits do this at rallies and events.

    • Jason Amunwa

      Yep, that’s an excellent tip Justin. It’s like the digital equivalent of the conference booth goldfish bowl for collecting business cards.

  • I like the visual approch rather than just a sign up box i can see that working well will have to change my strategy thanx Jason

  • I think all these are excellent… however, the caution is to not attract unwanted subscribers at the same time and to provide and make it even easier for them to get out than get in. To improve my open rate and hopefully decrease my “spam” click rate, I recently asked my current subscribers to hit “not spam” if I was in the spam box and “unsubscribe” if they didn’t want my email. I prefer a clean list over a big list… balance is key.

  • Thanks, great tips. I think developing a solid email marketing campaign can come in handy with new product launches and fund raising efforts.

  • Not only are these great tips for increasing email subscribers… they’re also great tips for improving prospect cultivation on a website and encouraging customer loyalty. Thanks for the takeaways.

  • Well and good

  • Intuitive tips, and a fun read. Cheers to more followers!

  • travis

    Very good information thank you for all the great information. Very useful

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  • Popups are indeed very effective. After months of contemplating and doubts I finally decided to introduce this on my blog last month. My conversions have gone up over 200%. I knew it will improve but had no idea by this much.

    • dtelepathy

      Glad you’ve seen some success with this!

  • Great points! Although, incentives (in my opinion) are a far more effective ROI than most of the other points in the article.

    Offering a signup incentive (a lead magnet) is something that nearly every business should be doing. They give the visitor a reason to give up their email address, other than the promise of ‘exclusive content’.

    Humans like free stuff. And—as much as it seems like lead magnets are just bribes—they’re totally effective at converting visitors into subscribers. From there, it’s all about providing value to your Email List to keep moving them down your sales funnel.

    Here’s a bit more about using Email Lists to get new customers (and revenue):