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8 Email List Building Tactics for Small Businesses

April 15, 2019

The current competitive landscape dictates that to survive, you must keep growing. And so businesses employ all sorts of strategies and tactics to sustain this growth.

chia pet image

One of the most historically successful and proven methods for growing small businesses has been email list building. That’s because having a quality email list offers lots of advantages. An email list gives you direct access to the people who want to hear from your business, and it also lets you:

  • Inform your audience
  • Convert prospects
  • Deliver updates
  • Conduct surveys
  • Deliver targeted messages
  • Drive revenue

So you see, building email lists for small businesses is an inexpensive but effective strategy to grow your business. Here are eight ways that you can build email lists to grow your small business.

1. Create compelling content

Why would anyone want to give you their email address, especially in a time when inboxes are bombarded with tens of hundreds of emails daily?

People only give away their email addresses when they believe you add value to their life. And one of the greatest ways to add value to anyone’s life is to give them content that resonates.

Think about it, have you not signed up for newsletters from publications like The Washington Post, Forbes, or maybe Medium?

newsletter example

We do this because we value the news these outlets provide, and we want to stay informed.

Similarly, if you want to build your email list, you have to create content that people care about, content that makes their life easier, provides solutions, and even entertains.

The first step in creating compelling content is having a clear picture of who you’re writing for. For example, if your business revolves around selling digital design solutions, you have to know what sort of people want design solutions, are they college students or small businesses? Do they want a quick fix or are they looking for permanent solutions? Where do they live? What sort of income do they have?

Asking such questions lets you create buyer personas: an ideal fictional person who represents your target customer. And when you have that image in mind, you can design content which is suited to their lifestyle and their problems.

Now when you know who you're writing for, you should create content that caters to their lifestyle, interests, and problems.

You’ve basically set-up a basic funnel where the top of funnel journey starts when a visitor reads your compelling content. Those who fall in your target audience bracket will naturally relate with your content, taking them down the funnel, and increasing the chances of people subscribing to your mailing list.

2. Run a promotion or contest

Again, getting email addresses is all about providing value and offering incentives. One of the easiest and most straightforward ways of incentivizing people to share their email addresses is to run a contest. People love winning, especially when all you need to stand a chance to win is share an email address.

There are a lot of formats you can use to hold a contest:

  • A photo contest where people share their best travel/food/pet/selfie photo.
  • A video contest where people share funny fails/their best skating tricks/a song cover etc.
  • A contest where people share their favorite poem, a short story, or a funny anecdote.
  • A sweepstakes format where people just have to enter email addresses to participate.

Once you’ve settled on the format, you need to decide what prizes you’ll give out.

example of Instagram giveaway

Cash giveaways are an obvious option, but you will benefit more from setting up a contest that directly relates to your business. That way, if a participant is interested in the prize, they’re likely to be an ideal customer.

If you know your target audience, you can set up the prize in a manner will be most appealing only for that segment. For example, if your business sells eco-friendly sneakers, the obvious option would be to give away a pair of the latest sneakers from your line of products. A cheaper and still relevant prize could be recycled coffee mugs, handcrafted jewelry, or organic cotton activewear.

3. Provide lead magnets

Lead magnets are, as you can guess from the name, offers that you give to potential customers in exchange for personal information like email addresses. Lead magnets are a good way of raising awareness and connecting with prospective customers who haven’t heard of your brand.

Prize giveaways, mentioned in the previous section, are one example that fall under the umbrella of lead magnets. Here are a few other examples of lead magnets:

  • Checklists
  • Ebooks
  • Cheat sheets
  • Product samples
  • Discount coupons
  • Templates
  • Free trials
  • Case studies
  • Webinars
  • Podcasts
  • Premium content
lead magnet example

While creating lead magnets, there are couple things you should keep in mind to design an effective lead magnet:

1. Most people end up signing up for lead magnets when they are looking for a quick answer to some problem they have. Make sure that as soon they give you their email address, you send them an email with the promised content or an email that confirms that what you committed is on its way.

2. Your lead magnet should be perceived as highly valuable or people will hesitate to provide their email addresses. Make sure the copy surrounding the lead magnet is sharp and it succinctly explains the promised value.

4. Use pop-up forms

email-list-building-pop-up

Pop-up forms serve a very basic function on your website. They are built to grab the immediate attention of a visitor to entice them to click on a link or collect their email address.

Pop-ups have garnered a negative reputation for being intrusive, but websites use them for a very simple reason: pop-ups have a very high conversion rate. And you can also make your pop-ups less intrusive by using lightbox modals and automated timers (so that pop-ups only appear after a visitor has shown interest in the page they’re browsing).

On your form, you can offer visitors to sign up for your newsletter, product reviews, contests, or any of the lead magnet variants mentioned before.

Make sure to use clear headlines, provide context, and offer real value in your pop-ups. Pop-ups are most effective when you design them to catch interest; otherwise, you can risk a visitor getting annoyed and never visiting your website again.

5. Create Facebook lead ads

Small businesses often underestimate the power of Facebook advertisements. Touting an average monthly user base of 2 billion, in addition to a variety of targeting options, Facebook can prove to be a very effective tool to find potential customers and build email lists.

Facebook lead ads are even more effective for building email lists, because these ads allow you to set up a form that potential customers can fill out without even leaving the social media platform.

Facebook lead ad webinar registration form

Your ad can offer anything from an ebook to a checklist, a product sample to an in-depth guide. As long as the lead magnets are unique to you, you can expect good engagement if you’ve targeted the right audience—Facebook lead ads are effective.

6. Set up landing pages

Landing Pages, created as part of marketing campaigns, are call-to-action pages designed to capture email addresses or other essential visitor information.

If you created a campaign specifically to collect prospect email addresses, the advertisements, content, and lead magnets serve as top-of-funnel activities to grab visitor attention.

In this context, landing pages are bottom-of-funnel tools, where an interaction with a landing page either ends with a conversion or abandonment. In a sales context, you can consider landing pages as the closing stage—it’s a make or break (convert or abandon) scenario.

Therefore, it’s very important to get your landing pages right and set them up for an optimum conversion rate. To make landing pages captivating, there are a few things you can do:

  • Use a single, prominent CTA button.
  • Use customer-centric copy.
  • Add social proof to boost credibility.
  • Use descriptions that explicitly state benefits of the offer in question.
  • Split-test landing page for best results.

You can also expect to collect a higher number of email subscribers if you keep these landing page design elements in mind:

  • Use the minimum number of links to keep attention focused on CTA button.
  • Use white space and contrast to increase focus on the CTA.
  • Group similar elements together to improve user experience.

With your landing page set up, you can re-route your Google ads or banner advertisements to take visitors directly to the landing pages to collect email addresses.

7. Leverage your social media channels

Facebook lead ads aren’t the only way to use social media platforms to build your email list. All popular social media channels have advertisement capabilities that can be used to target specific people and encourage them to provide their email addresses.

When considering which social media platform to use to build email lists, you should consider the unique characteristics of each and the type of behavior people exhibit on them.

social media icons

For example, LinkedIn is effective for B2B advertising, with 94%  B2B marketers using LinkedIn as a content distribution channel.

Instagram is a great platform for advertising consumer products and Google results ads. In comparison to Facebook, Snapchat has also proven to be more effective for targeting teenagers.

Besides using paid ads, you can also benefit by posting about your latest campaigns. The method is totally free and uses your current viewership to leverage participation.

8. Add social sharing options in your emails

Adding social sharing buttons can improve click-through rates for emails up to 158%, compared to when they aren’t used. And most of these click-throughs are attributed to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+.

email social sharing example

Social sharing buttons in your emails gives you three advantages:

  • Attracting new potential customers: giving your email recipients the option of sharing your emails improves your reach beyond your current email list. If people like your content, they may share it with their friends and co-workers, thus increasing the base for your potential customers
  • Improving SEO ranking: Lots of shares on social will drive more traffic and more links back to your website, which will improve SEO. The more your content gets shared, the greater its chances to rank in search results.
  • Improving customer experience: If a recipient likes the content you share, they don’t want to go through the hassle of copy/pasting links to share. Providing social sharing options makes the process almost instant and users become more inclined to share content.

Building email lists doesn’t have to be a daunting task. If you learn the fundamentals of attracting people through great content, valuable lead magnets, and using the right platforms, you’ll be well on your way to grow your email list—and your business.

About the author

Rukham Khan, the resident writer and content specialist at MailMunch. He writes about email, content, and lead generation tactics in an effort to help and inform entrepreneurs and small businesses. In his free time, you can find him playing squash or managing his personal blog on Medium.