4 proven ways to grow your email list according to a marketing expert

  • Dorie Clark is a communication coach, marketing strategist, keynote speaker, and author of several books on leadership and entrepreneurial strategy.
  • According to Clark, growing your opt-in email list can help you reach new customers, tap into new revenue streams, and minimize reliance on expensive social media marketing tactics.
  • To add subscribers, she suggests four strategies, including utilizing website popups, tracking what’s driving your signups, leveraging your signature file, and performing a “bio audit.”
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Growing your opt-in email list is important for plenty of reasons. It enables you to stay in direct touch with your audience and keep them engaged, so they’re more likely to buy your product or service. It opens up new revenue streams, such as affiliate income (when you promote someone else’s product to your followers and earn a referral fee). And it prevents you from becoming dependent on social media marketing, which can be expensive — and you’re always at the mercy of further price hikes. 

So what are the tools and techniques you can use to grow your list effectively? Here are four that I’ve used personally to grow my own email list by more than 50,000 subscribers in the past five years. 

1. Website popups

Over the past five years, I’ve gained tens of thousands of email subscribers by using Sumo, which is a free tool that facilitates email capture on your website (they offer paid plans with additional features). Sumo allows you to create pop-up windows, which may sound off-putting to those who remember annoying examples from the early days of the web. But theirs are far more elegant, and include variations like “exit intent” popups that only show up after your user has had a chance to check out your site. The tool is simple to install — I was able to do it myself in 30 seconds, and I don’t have technical training. It’s been instrumental in helping me gather far more signups than if I’d solely relied on the static “Join my list” box that’s also on my homepage.

2. LeadPages

One of the best ways to grow your list is to understand what’s driving your signups in the first place. Too many professionals — including me, for a long time — simply sent people to one particular URL to join my list. That’s not terrible, as the primary goal is gaining subscribers. But you’re missing the opportunity to gather data and do a more fine-grained analysis. Where are the visitors to that page coming from? Did they hear about you from a talk you gave, or a podcast appearance, or a link from a prominent colleague? You’ll never know.
Finally, I started tracking the source of my signups. I use the paid service LeadPages to create special landing pages that can track where people discovered me (some mailing list providers, like ConvertKit, have started to roll out landing page features, as well). For instance, if I’m going to appear on a prominent podcast, I might create a special page that I can direct listeners to. That enables me to personalize the greeting (“Hello XYZ Listeners!”) and also registers that they came in via that show. That way, I’ll have a sense of which marketing efforts are most effective in driving traffic. 

You can also track signups based on the content you offer, so you can see what people are responding to. I can track how many people opt-in to obtain my Reinventing You self-assessment, as compared to my Recognized Expert Toolkit, and that gives me valuable data about what my target audience wants to hear more about. 

3. Your own email messages

Here’s one way to grow your email list that’s overlooked by almost all professionals: leveraging the signature file in your own emails. Instead of just linking to your company bio or your LinkedIn profile, simply saying “Join my email list” and providing a link will probably net a few subscribers, as some of the people with whom you’re corresponding are probably ‘superfans’ that want to hear whatever you have to say.
It’s even more effective if you have a compelling lead magnet — i.e., an interesting giveaway for which people are willing to exchange their email address — that you can plug in your signature file. For instance, at the bottom of every personal email I send, there’s an invitation: “Join 63,000+ subscribers with impeccable taste and download the Recognized Expert Evaluation Toolkit.” Even if only 1% of the people you correspond with decide to sign up, for most professionals, that likely amounts to hundreds of new subscribers over the course of a year.

4. Your bio

Finally, it’s useful to do a ‘bio audit.’ Make sure that everywhere your bio appears — your company website, your LinkedIn profile, the websites of conferences where you’ve presented, etc. — that you link to your lead magnet and/or invite people to subscribe to your newsletter. It’s an easy way to spread the word, and it won’t feel like a sales pitch because the nature of bios is that they highlight your best accomplishments and tell people where to learn more about you. Instead of wasting the opportunity and encouraging them to follow you on Twitter, you can get them to subscribe to your email list (“Download her free 42-page Stand Out Self-Assessment Workbook and learn more at dorieclark.com.”)

Building your opt-in email list is a powerful way to grow your business, and ensure you’re speaking directly to the customers and potential customers who most want to hear from you. By following these four strategies, you’ll avoid missing opportunities and can start growing your list today. 

Dorie Clark is a marketing strategy consultant who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and has been named one of the Top 50 business thinkers in the world by Thinkers50.

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