I once saw a classified ad that said: great car, runs well, no engine. Well, it’s the same thing with email marketing. Listen, if you put together the best-looking email marketing campaign, you damn well better have some people to send it to.
Hi, I’m Bryan Caplan, CEO of BJC branding, and I want to share with you 25 ways to grow your email marketing list.
#1 – Use a Paper Sign up Sheet
Number one is very obvious: use a paper sign up sheet. When you go into stores, you see them all the time. “Hey, sign up for tips, tricks, or sign up for coupons and promos.” That is a direct called action to people as they are at point-of-sale. And ultimately the going to be inclined to leave their information, especially if they’re giving you their money, they’re going to want to save next time.
#2 – The Power of the Ask
My dad always tells me, just ask! The worst they can say is “no.” And it’s so true. If you’re at a business conference, an expo, and someone gives you their business card, be sure to ask them: “May I actually add you to my email list?”
Don’t forget to set expectations: that’s the most important part. When asking you want to tell them, I’m going to send weekly, biweekly, or monthly, and here’s what you can expect in your inbox.
By doing so, instead of kinda shadily just adding the business card to your list, you’re actually going to get more engagement and ultimately you’re going to have a better integrity of your list.
#3 – Use Your Personal Network
Number three, use the network you know and love! All of your friends and family want to see you succeed, so make sure that you’re adding them to your email list, and ask them to share with friends, family, and colleagues, who may be able to actually drive business to you.
#4 – Sidewalk Sign
These used to be really prevalent when people actually went outside. Instead of just having a sidewalk sign that says, “happy hour is at blah blah blah” or, “come on in, we have a sale on XYZ!”, you can use tools, like Constant Contact’s text-to-join, in order to have people text a certain word to a certain number and join your email list right from the sidewalk.
#5 – Small Business Saturday
Take part in Small Business Saturday. Small Business Saturday is a day when everybody’s engaged and excited to help support local businesses. Take advantage of this opportunity, and make sure you have clear calls to action for people to join your list.
#6 – Train and Incentivize Employees
Train your employees and offer them incentives to grow your list. The first part of this is, you need to make sure that in their training, in their onboarding, you’re telling employees to actively ask for email addresses to grow your list.
Also, if you want to really grow your list, offer an incentive. Recently, we had a client that has multiple restaurant locations. So what we did is we offered a $500 bonus to the employee that brought in the most email addresses. As a result, we are able to grow the list over 600 email addresses and just under couple weeks.
#7 – Utilize Social Media
So you want to share your subscription link, and the first thing you want to do is take that subscription link – since it’s usually pretty long, you want to shorten it on a service like Bit.ly. Then what you do is you take that that Bit.ly link, and you put it into your social media posts, you also can add it to groups and pages.
#8 – Use Facebook Call to Action Button
Facebook has afforded you, if you have a business page, the ability to have a nice, beautiful button right at the top right, that allows people to schedule an appointment or make a call, and one of them is to “join the list.” Use that join the list button and have it link to your subscription form.
#9 – Share Your Emails on Social Media
If you’re putting together this beautiful email, and it has some content you’ve written, some content you curated, and it even has images or video, be sure to share than on social media with a link – with that Bit.ly link – to actually subscribe to your email. That way you’re getting more exposure, and ultimately you’re showing them what they’re going to get in their inbox.
#10 – Buy a Social Media Ad
Consider buying a social media ad. With a Facebook ad you can actually tell people, “Sign up for our monthly newsletter to get tips, tricks, and best practices in digital marketing.” And then you buy a Facebook ad, maybe throw $5-$10 at it per day, and see how well you can grow your list.
#11 – Add a Form to Your Website
If people are coming to your website, then you actually want to turn that activity into a conversion. And one of the easiest conversions is to give them a direct call to action to join your list. So make sure you have either an embeddable form or a link that drives them to a subscription form.
#12 – Promote on Blogs
Whether you’re writing your own blog or if you’re guest blogging, the big thing here is people are going to read your content and if you can get them all the way to the end, and you are good writer, at the end you want to have a call to action for them to join your list and get more content like this in their inbox.
#13 – Use Your Email Signature
Tip number 13 which is often overlooked, is: use your email signature. We don’t just want to write “best regards blah blah blah” and be boring. Instead, what we want to do is actually sent out an email and at the bottom have, “Best, Brian CEO of BJC Branding. Do you want my tips and tricks in your inbox? Click here!”
Don’t forget: you’re sending multiple emails back and forth, so that repetition is ultimately going to lead to a conversion, because you giving them more direct calls to action each time.
#14 – Text-To-Join / Sign Up
Tip number 14 is something more technologically advanced, but it’s using a tool called text-to-join, or text to sign up. So through Constant Contact, as an example, you can actually choose a word. So let’s say in my case, “Brian” or “BJC branding” and text it to a specific number. That allows people to actually join your list just through text message. They don’t have to go on a website, they don’t have to give you business card and passing it is very easy to do because you can use it on several different mediums.
Related: Sample Email or Direct-Mail Letter
#15 – QR Codes
Tip number 15, and yes, they still exist: QR codes. We see QR codes on a lot of consumer goods, packaging, things like that. We can also use them as small business owners to grow our list. What we can do is create a QR code that goes to that same subscription link. We can print it out and put it on business cards, on table tents, the bottom of receipts, all over the place. And hope that people actually have that app that can scan the QR code and jump right or subscription form
What we can do is create a QR code that goes to that same subscription link. We can print it out and put it on business cards, on table tents, the bottom of receipts, all over the place.
#16 – Use Your Brochure
At your place of work, at your business, at a conference or expo, you’re going to be giving out print materials, whether it’s a PDF or whether it’s a brochure. Either way, you want to tell people that the best source of information is going to be reading that brochure and subscribing through the text-to-join link that you have, or the QR code.
#17 – Put a Call to Action on your Menu
For all you restaurant owners out there, put a call to action on your table tents and menus and your receipts. You can again use that text-to-join feature, you can use a bit.ly link or you can use the QR code.
#18 – Use Your Packaging
You may not be Amazon or Jet.com, but at the same time you’re sending stuff out through the mail, one of the first things people see are that packing label and the tape. You can actually put calls to action on your tape and on your label. You can have the QR code; you could even have that text-to-join.
This is great property because not only are all the USPS or UPS looking at it, but also all the people that are going through the apartment complex that might go to the mailroom or that are walking by your door stoop are also going to see this call to action. Even more visibility for your mailing list!
#19 – Use an iPad
If you have an iPad at your storefront or your point-of-sale then that is going to be a great way for people to type in their information very quickly and join your mailing list.
#20 – Add a Check Box to Receive Emails
When you have online event registration, you definitely want to make sure that you include a box for people to opt-in for your emails. Now, don’t be shady about this and just assume that since they’re registering for your event they want to receive your communications; that’s not an opt-in. Instead, you want that box, because if they check that box then they opted in, they are actively engaged, and they want to receive your information.
#21 – Start a Loyalty Program
Start a loyalty program, and the first step to that loyalty program is providing your email address. People want to see some consideration for what they’re getting. There’s reciprocity factor involved. So, I need your email address; then, once you make a purchase, hey maybe you’re gonna save 10%.
Related: Strategies to Build Customer Loyalty
Maybe every month I’m going to send you a coupon or promotion. But ultimately it’s under that loyalty program that we’re going to grab that email address.
#22 – The Birthday Club
Now we all love signing up for those email newsletters from restaurants because we know we’re going to get a coupon.
One of the best coupons for restaurants to send out is the birthday coupon. You might be giving out a free entrée, you might be giving out a free appetizer; but at the end of the day, unless your subscriber is a total hermit, they’re not going to go to their birthday dinner alone. They’re going to bring people in, they’re going to bring revenue back in. So implementing a birthday autoresponder or a date-based autoresponder is really going to help you to not only make them feel good and build the community, but also to drive in extra sales.
#23 – Experiment with Website Pop-Ups
These aren’t those ugly pop-ups that are gray with a red X on them. We are talking about nice, custom-branded pop-ups, pop-ups that engage. Pop-ups that know when you visited last so they won’t bug you every time you go on the Webpage. You also need a call to action.
#24 – Use Online Payment Forms
Built into your online process for payment, you want to make sure that you give them the option to join your mailing list. As they’re doing business with you, they already feel secure enough that they’re giving you their credit card or PayPal information. So email is one more thing and, and it’s really very minuscule compared their payment info.
#25 – Offer an Online Coupon
How many of us sign up for an email list just to get that coupon or discount? I mean, I found myself in a restaurant sitting there with my daughter and my wife, waiting for our table, and signing up for the email list just so I could get a free appetizer and look like a hero.
Start Small and Go From There
So those are 25 ways to grow your email list, and of course, there are many more and many that apply to different industries.
Ultimately, start by crawling. Ask your family and friends, go through your network and try to get all the people that may want to receive your email, make sure they sign up, go from there. Once you have a steady base, it’s easy to start growing your email list.
About Bryan Caplan
Bryan Caplan helps businesses elevate their digital marketing. Award-winning CEO of BJC Branding and professional speaker, Bryan travels the country, presenting on a wide range of digital marketing topics.
Bryan has provided digital marketing strategy to well over 1,000 businesses since 2010 and is a guest lecturer at Suffolk University School of Business. He is also a contributing columnist to several publications including GoDaddy, BlueHost, Constant Contact, BusinessTown, and the Boston Business Journal.