It may not be as flashy as social media, but savvy small-business owners know that a carefully curated email list can be priceless.
"When it comes to ROI, email is still king,” says Jon Clark, owner of Fuze SEO. "Growing your email list should still be one of your top goals.”
Customers on your email list tend to be the most loyal, adds Eric Groves, CEO and co-founder of Alignable, a free online social network for local businesses and author of The Constant Contact Guide to Email Marketing.
An important part of creating an effective email marketing channel is building your list, says Lance Brown, vice president of product development for Huzzah Media. “You want highly interested and engaged customers on your list who appreciate the type of email that you're sending and will act when the time is right,” he says.
If you'd like to build an email list that hits all the right points, try using these five proven methods:
1. Let Customers Know
To encourage people to sign up for emails from you, broadcast the fact that you have an email list at every customer contact point. “Anywhere you’re engaging with people, take the opportunity to let them know about your email list,” Groves says. “If you’re at a conference or social mixer and people give you their business cards, put a star on the cards of those individuals who want on the list.”
Promote your email signup form on every page of your website, social media channel and email signature, adds Clark. “The more options users have to sign up, the more likely they'll do so," he says. You should also remind your employees to let customers know about your email list.
2. Make It Easy and Accessible
People are more likely to sign up for your email list if doing so is a simple task. Place a sign-up sheet next to the point of sale in a restaurant or retail establishment. When people visit your website, rather than jumping all over them with popups, put an easy-to-see signup link on all the pages.
“Keep it simple and short,” Clark advises. “Remember that each field in a sign-up form represents a roadblock to getting that user to sign up. Don’t ask for all their information upfront, such as an address. That’s a big put-off, because it takes too much time to fill out. Get the person’s name and email address in a form that takes five seconds to fill out, and capture additional information through your re-marketing efforts."
3. Give Customers a Reason to Sign Up
Incentives are a good way to encourage those who might be on the fence to sign up. “As a thank you for signing up, give an awesome, valuable and free gift, whether it be a white paper, e-book, discount or T-shirt,” Clark suggests.
At the same time, don’t force people to join, Brown adds. “The size of your list doesn’t matter," he says. "You want quality people who want to be on your list. Never include people who didn’t ask or agree.”
4. Alleviate Fears
The two main reasons people hesitate about signing up for an email list are that it won’t contain relevant information and they won’t be able to get off the list if they want to, Groves says. “Assure them they can easily unsubscribe at any time,” he says.
To show people the value of signing up, Groves suggests giving them examples of the kind of emails they can expect. Provide a link on the homepage of your website that takes them to a sample email, or, if you have a brick-and-mortar location, display a sample email at the point of sale, right next to the email sign-up sheet.
5. Attract, Don’t Promote
Don’t oversell on your email list. “When it’s all about me, me, me, recipients tune you out and eventually ask to be taken off of your list,” Groves says. “They already know what you’re selling; you don’t have to hit them over the head with it. And don’t send too many emails, as this can easily be considered spam.”
Instead, Groves suggests, “be brief, be bright and be gone, which makes ripples in the brains of your customers. To do this, offer 30 percent promotion and 70 percent education. People feel like you’re talking directly to them when you share your knowledge, and that will keep them opening your emails.”
Remember, the quality and effectiveness of your email communication and resulting engagement with customers is only as good as the strength of your list. These strategies will help you build a list that works.
For more tips on how to connect with customers through great emails, access this exclusive video course, Rethink Your Emails to Customers.
Read more articles on email marketing.
This article was originally published on September 3, 2014.