Every digital marketer has heard the phrase “the money is in the list” if you are wondering whether it is true – yes it is.
To put things into perspective, it is reported that email marketing can generate $38 per $1 spent, that is ROI of 3,800% – having a hard time thinking of another marketing channel with similar results? Me too.
But chances are, that if you are reading this post about tips to grow your email list, you already know that. Now you need to know how to grow your list consistently and as much as possible.
After all, the magic is in the numbers, the bigger list you have the more monetization opportunities it offers. It rolls like a snowball, as not only monetization increases but ironically with the growth of your list it becomes even easier to…grow your list some more.
In this post, we will discuss tips on how to grow your email list, and shape it into an additional pillar of your online business.
Experiment with Ad Swaps
If you are not familiar with what email Ad Swaps are, let us make a quick intro. Ad Swaps are a process of cross-promoting your email list with a list of other marketers. Due to the specific nature of the lists that are frequently ”ad swapped”, you may also need to build a landing page for this strategy. Ad swaps are a great way to snowball your list, but at the same time, the main drawback is the deteriorating list quality.
How to do an Ad Swap
In this scenario, you would find another marketer with a mail list of roughly the same size as yours. After you find the right prospects, you propose them a collaboration. They would send a short email to their list – promoting your page and your list, and you would do the same on yours.
Who will send first, will depend on the trust. It is important to choose only reputable partners, so if you see any red flags in communication – better to move to another prospect.
An important part is to monitor closely your clicks and subscriptions to your list. You can create a special URL with a subID and monitor how it behaves.
This way you will start building a conversion benchmark in your niche. Soon you will know that 500 subscribers list ad swap, when presented with a particular copy, will yield 100 clicks and 50 new subscribers.
Where to find Ad Swap opportunities
Basics are behind us, but how can you find a partner to make an email ad swap?
One of the obvious ways is to search for websites in the same niche as you, gather their contact details, and outreach to them through email asking for an ad swap.
The Pros are that you have an overall idea of the website quality, so you can roughly estimate the quality of its email list. So while you will be advertising a good website to your list, you will be also filling your list with new quality subscribers.
The Cons are that the success rate will be quite low. Most marketers will not want to swap lists with somebody they do not know. Maybe their business runs very well without it and there is no need to swap. Or they might have a significantly bigger or smaller list than yours.
This strategy makes sense if there is somebody in your niche, who you already know a bit and there might have been a different collaboration ongoing. In that case, the partnership will be low risk and beneficial for both sides.
Polish your sales writing skills, you will need them. You will have one chance to get the discussion going, so make sure that you are using a good cold email template to make the best use of your leads.
Ad Swap Platforms
To take your ad swap email list building to the next level, you need to automate where possible and make the whole research process efficient and quick. There are some platforms that may help.
Email ad swaps are definitely not the mainstream strategy to acquire new subscribers, so there are only a few platforms that will help you broker these types of deals.
To successfully execute and repeat this strategy again and again, you need:
A group of email marketers ready to do ad swaps
Reviews of these marketers
Calendar, to see what you should send out, and what you should be receiving
Safe-Swaps is one of the more popular platforms that will provide you with exactly that. The platform is very basic, but heavily favored by the ad swap community.
While a calendar is a great thing to have, the main advantage of the platform is that you immediately see the list size, reputation, and niche of other members.
That makes it very easy to choose the right partner and quickly engage in an ad exchange.
Ad swap community is not huge, so they make sure they keep very tight. There is quite a lively community of ad swappers on various Facebook groups who will post either partnership offers or paid ad-swaps.
In the vast majority of cases, they will link to a page with various testimonials where you will be able to see their delivery rates and conversion rates. This way you will make sure that you are dealing with a reputable partner.
If you will be buying, always be careful, and with your first order buy a smaller batch of let’s say 100 clicks to see how they behave. If the clicks are coming from the right countries, if there are no bot clicks mixed in etc. After you established some level of trust, you may start making bigger purchases.
As in previous points, goes without saying that you should test several providers to see who has what quality of traffic.
Also, keep in mind that it does not make sense to reorder ad swaps with the same list every second day. Since your ad was already seen by the list, give it a bit of time before you will approach them again.
Here is one of such groups to get you started – Solo Ad Ad Swaps
Hand in hand with Facebook are Skype groups. When you start to dip your toes in email ad swapping communities you will soon notice that a lot of the participants are active on Skype.
Everyone interested is free to join, and the same procedure repeats. You can post that you’re interested in swapping ads or be on the lookout for an interesting partner to swap with.
Ad Swap Funnel
Keep in mind that traffic from people who run ad swaps constantly is a bit different from a partner that you would find manually.
The main difference is in the fact that the “ad swapped list” is receiving various offers quite frequently.
For this type of email building, you might want to consider a specialized squeeze page that would capture the email as soon as possible, as visitors will have quite a short attention span.
Contests and Giveaways
One of the ways to generate a lot of followers quickly is to create a referral contest. The idea behind this is very simple.
You choose a prize that is appropriate for your niche and let your audience know that you are giving out prizes to those who complete a particular action.
The action itself can be something sophisticated or as simple as entering your name and email – and that is exactly what we are going after.
In a more advanced version of a referral contest – you would not only get the email of the person competing but also incentivize your audience to refer their friends too.
To pull this off, you will need at least a basic audience, but since it has this viral element to it, you can start small and keep repeating it until you reach a notable volume. It has even a self-feeding element to it, as one of the best ways to grow with this strategy is to promote your giveaway through email marketing.
When you spend all that time and money getting the visitors to your site, you want to make sure that you convert as many of them as possible.
While you can get an opt-in here and there just advertising your newsletter, or telling your audience that they will receive a notification about your new post – you will lose most of the potential subscribers.
You need to give an incentive to improve your conversion rates in internet terms – you need to use a lead magnet. Here are some ideas that you can use:
Discounts. An obvious contender if you are an online store. A 5% discount will probably not shift your profitability but will notably increase the number of people who are ready to give their emails.
Infoproducts. Ebooks, reports, one-pagers – those all can serve as good lead magnets. Unfortunately, everyone is using them. So you must take extra care to choose something that will really connect with your audience.
Email Courses. If your page is about running, promising to send a 5-day free email course that will improve the running time is a good idea. Not only will people register but you will also see increased engagement in the email chain that you will send out.
Trial Accounts. If, for example, you are in SaaS, why go through the hassle of taking emails and then trying to convert your list? Go straight to the point and get the emails when converting to a product trial. Visitors will welcome this opportunity to test your product and you will get qualified leads.
Notice how all of these strategies are making sure that visitors will give you their real email, as the value that they are interested in will be sent there. While this is a small tweak, the number of fake emails that will bounce will be minimal – protecting your long-term deliverability as the result.
It is of course great to have free traffic coming to your site and being converted to emails, but sometimes it is not possible. Or you simply need to boost your numbers. This is when paid traffic comes into play.
You may think that paid traffic will be expensive and not worth buying just to convert to emails, well not exactly.
If you find the right angle you may be surprised how good of a result you are getting.
You may be surprised to see Pinterest at the top of the list, but with 320mil users, where the majority are women from the USA with a household income of $50k+ a year – Pinterest is a strong contender for a hidden gem competition.
What is even more interesting is that you can achieve a very low cost per click on Pinterest, actually as low as $0,10 per click.
This of course has its drawbacks. As you can see, though the user base is big, the interests of this audience are very specific.
If your website is related to travel, DIY, cooking, fashion, personal growth, and other related topics – you will see notable success. With other niches, you may have better luck at a different platform.
In every niche, there are influencers that have built the audience that you are looking for. So consider a shortcut – reach out to the influencers in your niche and offer them a paid shoutout.
When you request a shoutout, the mutual understanding is that you are paying for a 24h post on their profile with your link to the bio.
With accounts between 50-100k followers, you may expect to pay $25-$100. Make sure to check the average engagement rates on their posts. Also, shoutouts tend to have notably lower engagements than their usual content – so keep it in mind when modeling your results.
Shoutouts can give you a short-term boost of traffic, and if your lead magnet is calibrated well – you will see very interesting conversion rates.
The same shoutout strategy can be applied to other social media platforms, it all depends on the demographics of the audience that you are looking for.
The Facebook audience is a bit more difficult when it comes to taking action. When people search on Google, they are planning to take a particular action, not so much on Facebook where you usually just come to browse.
This is also the main separator between a successful campaign and failed one. In order to drive cheap clicks from Facebook right to your optin form – your ad must be constructed in such a way that promotes immediate action (very similar to an impulse purchase).
The reason why you see Facebook on this list is the extreme level of personalization that you get with FB Ads. Targeting through interests, demographics and even online behavior will make a big difference when calculating your cost per email lead.
Paid methods are great because they bring you immediate results. That is ultimately what we are all after – to get results as quickly as possible.
The downside is of course very obvious – you have to pay for them. But when your main goal is to grow your list, there is a simple way to lower the bottom line cost or even break even – low ticket sales. It goes like this
You drive paid traffic to your squeeze page.
On your squeeze page, you make a promise of value that visitors will receive after opting in.
Right after they optin and they land on a thank you page, offer them a product (report, ebook, etc.) for a very low price.
The idea is quite obvious:
Lower your PPC as much as possible (through testing of various ads, and value propositions).
Increase the squeeze page optin rate (again, by further building that same value proposition).
Make a low ticket sale, that will cover your campaign costs.
Even if the sale will not cover the whole cost, but 50% – you already doubled your budget. In addition to that, it is much easier to sell to an audience which already bought something from you.
This strategy does not apply to every situation. Maybe you want to position yourself a bit differently than to have squeeze pages and low-ticket products.
But the idea is the same, test around to find the right way to grow your list and get back at least the portion of your ad budget.
Exit Intent Popups
As we talked about above, getting people on your site is no easy task. So why let them leave without a goodbye?
Exit-intent popups are that last frontier before you lose the visitor forever. Usually, the main problem with popups is that they are intrusive and may decrease the user experience. But if they are clicking to leave your site…does it really matter?
Additionally, you will have that last chance to sweeten up your proposal. Offer a better deal than they could see on your page.
Many people leave the site undecided, so help them make that last mental step towards the right decision of registering on your list.
If there is an extreme version of lead magnet it is making a part of your product free or creating a free tool just for the purpose of exposure and higher engagement.
It does not have to be something extremely sophisticated. Think about all the tasks that the audience in your niche has to do:
Maybe they are constantly looking for marketing agencies – create an interactive list for that.
They might want to count words on a particular site – this would be an easy tool to build.
What about a Chrome addon that would scrape information – that is also doable in a short time.
Goes without saying that in comparison to previous strategies, building your own tools is a different game completely. But ultimately, it could be the end-game (in a good sense) for your list building.
If you look around, many companies have released a part of their tool for free to establish themselves in their niche even more, and most importantly shift the attention of their audience to their site.
This completes our tips to grow your email list. We haven’t covered the more obvious strategies (like Adwords or just organic traffic), but you can now see that there are many ways to build your email audience, and it does not matter if you are starting from 0 or already have consolidated a notable number of subscribers.
The approach that you choose will of course depend mostly on the end goal that you are pursuing. Goes without saying that the best and fastest way to build the list is to figure out the low ticket sale strategy about which we talked earlier. This will allow you to scale quickly.
Most importantly we would like to leave you with this (to paraphrase a popular saying) the best time to start collecting emails was right from the start, the second-best time is to start today.
About the author
Vlad Falin runs the digital marketing blog Costofincome.com, where tens of thousands of visitors can read about online business and digital marketing tools.