Whether you’re selling services, software, physical products, online courses, or anything else – if you want to run an online business, you need to build and grow an email list.
With the explosion of content and social media marketing in recent years, you might wonder if emailing has become obsolete. But nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, email marketing is more powerful than ever before if you can stand out from other marketers in your subscribers’ inboxes.
This principle is pretty much gospel around here at Foundr, where a one-two punch of content and email, with secret sauce added in the form of social media, has been key to all of our sales success to date.
Marketing specialist Erik Harbison summarises the social vs. email debate well:
“If social media is the cocktail party, email marketing is the ‘meet up for coffee’. The original one-to-one channel.”
In 2020, studies discovered that 60% of consumers preferring to receive promo campaigns via email when compared to 20% via social media.
This does not mean that you should delete your social media accounts. These numbers show that you shouldn’t focus your marketing efforts on only one channel, instead, you should combine them.
Additionally, Campaign Monitor estimates that for every $1 spent, email marketers can expect a $38 ROI. That’s a 3800% return. If you’re not currently using email marketing as part of your business’s overall strategy, there’s a powerful source of sales that you’re missing out on.
Email isn’t just gold for small online startups, either. There’s a reason Amazon sends sales emails to its users on a daily basis. They’re currently one of the biggest companies in the world. Can you imagine how many sales their Black Friday promotion pulls in every year? It’s got to add up to billions of dollars in a single day.
And while your list isn’t likely to be as big as Amazon’s anytime soon, even a relatively small list can be life-changing for an entrepreneur struggling to get a small business established. Remember, these are REAL people, not robots, giving you their details because they want to hear from you or your company.
Here at Foundr, we’ve made our email list the cornerstone of our marketing efforts. In our first two years of business, we managed to build a huge email list of close to 1/4 million people.
Building a list of that size may seem impossible when you’re just starting out. But it’s really not as challenging as you might think, and the payoff is well worth the investment of time and effort.
That’s why, we are sharing 14 of the exact strategies we used to grow an email list to 250,000 subscribers in just two years, and show you how you can do the same.
Whether you end up using all 14 or just a few, there’s something here for any business.
Tip #1: Your Homepage Is Your Most Valuable Digital Real Estate—Use It!
The first step to building a strong base of email subscribers is simple: You need somewhere for visitors to your blog to sign up. Your website’s homepage is the first place you should use to gain traction.
For most, the homepage will be your most visited page. It’s your front door. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t really using that space effectively. Instead of a list of recent blog posts or a page full of your products, you can use this page to introduce visitors to who you are and what your brand is about – and then, you can give them the opportunity to sign up for your list.
Sophia Amoruso’s site is a great example of how to do this right. Her homepage clearly explains who she is and what she’s about. Visitors are greeted with the perfect pop-up and list-building form, and she has incredible copy speaking directly to the reader: If you’re here, you’re probably a founder, side hustler, or entrepreneurially curious.
We’ve used a similar approach on the Foundr homepage. We offer a link to our course page as well as a link to Free Training to everyone who lands on the page.
Tip #2: Instantly Grab The Attention Of Your Website Visitors: Highlight Your CTAs Using Feature Boxes
If you’ve visited a blog recently, you’ve probably seen these scattered around the page: feature boxes.
Typically they stand out somehow, and include a brief headline, sign-up form, and call to action to encourage visitors to join the blog owner’s mailing list.
Here’s an example of how ConversionXL uses feature boxes.
You can promote just about anything using a feature box: a free ebook, a trial of your SaaS product, or any other incentive related to your business.
Here’s another example of how Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income uses feature boxes.
There are so many different ways to integrate a feature box into your website. You can include it in your blog’s sidebar, at the end of your blog posts, on your About page, etc. Place them in as many different, strategic locations as possible. This way, you’re giving people multiple ways to sign up, wherever it might be convenient for them on your site.
Tip #3: Grow Your Email List By Converting Your Social Media Followers
At the beginning of this article, we mentioned that email leads are significantly more valuable than social media followers. But that doesn’t mean you should give up on your social media marketing. It just means you need to have a strong plan in place to convert your followers into email subscribers.
In fact, social media is one of the major sources of Foundr’s leads. Every month, we’re able to drive tens of thousands of leads to our mailing list by showcasing our best content and linking to our landing pages. (Landing pages are standalone sites designed to achieve one purpose, like make a sale, or in this case, collect a subscriber email.)
For example, on Twitter, we take advantage of the pinned tweet on our timeline to showcase a CTA for a free issue of the magazine. We also include a link in the bio and throughout the timeline, so that anyone who comes to the page will have multiple opportunities to click and opt-in.
It’s easy to do the same with Facebook. We include CTAs throughout our posts.
It’s important, however, to not only post links to your landing pages. You’ll want to offer posts with a ton of value as well, to help build trust and give your followers a sense of who you are as a brand. Share awesome blog posts and useful content, but be sure to include offers sprinkled throughout your page. This is commonly referred to as Gary Vee’s Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook theory of online marketing.
Tip #4: Easily Convert Your Instagram Followers Into Loyal, Buying Subscribers
Instagram is so huge, it really needs a category all to itself!
When it comes to online marketing and growing an email list, Foundr has tried everything under the sun. In many ways, our marketing efforts have been based on trial and error, throwing different approaches at the wall to see what sticks. And Instagram is what’s stuck for us, in a big way.
Over the past several years, Instagram has been our biggest and most lucrative social media channel. We managed to build it up to a million followers in just two years and generated at least 200,000 email subscribers. We are now on track to hit 3million followers in 2021.
It’s pretty crazy when you think about it!
It’s not an exaggeration to say Instagram has been a game-changer for our business and for our ability to build relationships in our niche.
Simply put, what works for Foundr is to post awesome content on a consistent basis. But we also share what we call “product pushers,” which could be anything from ebooks, guides, free trials, or any other content that gets people into your funnel.
Tip #5: Create More Landing Pages To Build Unstoppable Momentum As You Scale To 250,000 Email Subscribers
You may have noticed that ‘landing pages’ have been mentioned a few times. In this section, let’s go into a little more detail about how to build your landing pages and why these are so important for generating email subscribers. They are a huge part of your strategy as they can also help you in reaching that hundreds of thousands mark.
On the most basic level, a landing page is a page on your site that has been created specifically to generate email signups. The reason it’s important to have many landing pages is simple: the more opportunities you give visitors to sign up, the larger a list you can build. Each landing page is tailored to a specific subject, with a specific offering, so the more landing pages you have, the larger your net for bringing in subscribers.
After a little bit of work, you’ll find these landing pages start to create something of a snowball effect, gathering more and more leads once they gain momentum. Think of it this way: if you’re running a blog, the more blog posts you publish, the more traffic your site will get. Landing pages work the same way.
We’ve found that the best-performing landing pages are the simplest ones. We tend to keep ours very basic and make sure the purpose of each page is very obvious.
That means we include an attention-grabbing headline, a powerful promise, and short text outlining clear benefits that new subscribers (future leads) will be able to achieve if they take advantage of our offer. Then we follow up with a strong call to action—clear instructions on exactly what they need to do to receive their free gift.
This opt-in page below uses this format and has a super high conversion rate, If you look at this screenshot of the page, you can see just how simple it really is. You only need a few lines of text to pack a powerful punch with your landing pages.
Of course, you can use landing pages to give away all types of content, not just free ebooks. Audio, videos, entire courses, or free trials of your software can all drive sign-ups to help you grow an email list. Wistia uses this same format to give away a free account for their SaaS tool. You may only want to give away your service for a limited trial period, but in Wistia’s case they’re using a freemium model that allows users to upgrade to an account with greater capabilities if they need them.
Here’s one more type of landing page, this one from Trulia. It uses a very powerful tool, the survey.
Surveys can be a really effective way to segment your list, allowing you to learn what your leads’ specific interests are so you can send them the most relevant messages possible. It’s also a great way to stand out in your subscribers’ inboxes, especially as they become more and more crowded with other companies’ promotional emails.
Surveys also tend to generate leads that are more committed to your product, simply because anyone who fills out a survey is willing to spend a little more time than they would on your average opt-in form.
In summary, here’s what you need to do to make a great landing page:
- Offer a quick win or solution to your audience’s pain-point
- Use social proof, testimonials, and case studies to build trust
- Have a strong headline that will grab the reader’s attention
- Showcase the benefits using bullets, clearly focusing on what’s in it for them (i.e., a strong value proposition)
- Have a strong call to action
- Use a minimal design that isn’t distracting or confusing
- Include awesome, high-quality images that help your offer to stand out
Tip #6: Are You Missing Out On Lead Generation Opportunities? Take Advantage Of Your Email Signature
How many people do you email over the course of a day? How many messages do you respond to? You may have dozens of opportunities a day to promote your email list that you aren’t taking advantage of, namely your email signature.
Include a link in your email signature that leads directly to a landing page.
The reason this is so effective is the simplicity. You can set it up once and forget about it. And the email signature is a piece of digital real estate many people don’t think to use as a tool to build their email lists, so you’ll stand out from the crowd. It’s also quick and easy to implement in just a couple of minutes.
Tip #7: Convert Hordes Of Blog Readers Into Loyal Subscribers With Non-Spammy Popups
Popups have earned a bit of a bad reputation over the years. If you talk to casual internet users, you’ll probably hear them described as annoying or spammy. But there’s a reason internet marketers still use them: despite the annoyance factor, they work, and they work well.
However, there’s a way to implement popups on your site without being spammy. You’ll also need to add them to your pages without attracting unwanted attention from Google. In recent months, the search giant has started penalizing websites that feature invasive and obnoxious popups.
The trick to creating popups that work is to use exit-intent popups that are relevant to your readers. Tailor them to the specific page your visitors are reading, and it won’t come across as spam. Instead, it will be seen as useful and build on a topic you already know they’re interested in exploring.
We use a popup on our homepage directing visitors to a free Start & Scale masterclass to great effect. It piques the curiosity of most visitors to our site without being too spammy.
Using popups like this helped us gain an extra 1,400 subscribers each month when we were just starting our journey.
Imagine how many people you can drive through your funnels using this same method. If your funnel converts even at 1%, that’s an additional 14 sales, which can make a massive difference if you sell courses or other high-ticket items.
Tip #8: Supercharge Your Lead Generation By Offering Blog Content Upgrades
Content upgrades are another incredibly powerful way to transform your blog content into email subscriptions. If you’re not familiar with the concept, this is basically where you offer some kind of freebie that connects with the blog post you’re promoting.
A content upgrade can be basically anything that adds value to the post itself—a free checklist, an ebook, a cheat sheet, etc. All you need to do is ensure it has bonus content that isn’t in the blog post itself. This is a very effective way to get people to opt into your list.
You can embed CTAs for the content upgrade inside the post itself for maximum exposure. Below is an example of one of our CTAs in a blog post, there’s also a few floating around this article, too!
Tip #9: Giveaways And Competitions: A Simple and Easy Way To Generate A Lot Of New Leads
Giveaways are another great way to grow an email list. But too often, entrepreneurs take the wrong approach and offer an item that just isn’t relevant to their business.
If you give away a computer or iPad, for instance, you’re not going to get high-quality leads. People who don’t care about your company or what you do will sign up just to get their hands on some expensive gadget, and the chances of them actually responding to your future marketing efforts are very low.
Instead, think about what it is you do, and what kind of item your ideal target audience would appreciate. For example, if you’re selling a photography course, maybe you could consider giving away a camera. If your brand is focused on wellbeing and mental health, perhaps you offer some free yoga classes.
Jewelry brand F+H’s newest competition is a good example of a giveaway that is in-line with their branding and their customer’s interests. Not only does it help to generate leads but it also offers the opportunity for more sales. After entering your name and email into the draw to win, they send you a discount code for future shopping.
Tip #10: Get More Customers By Giving Away Your Best Content For Free
It might sound a little crazy, but this idea is based on an idea pioneered by Eben Pagan, called “Moving the free line,” that has worked really well for Foundr. Essentially, we take content that we could easily charge people for—information that is helpful, relevant to our leads, and better than a lot of the other paid content out there—and we give it away for free.
Why would we do something like this? Well, for one thing, when people can see your content without an upfront investment, it builds goodwill. It makes them more likely to want to buy from you. It creates trust that your paid content must be even more useful and assures them that it’s worth the investment. “If this is what I got for free…”
If you use this technique effectively, it can quickly create fans who will be loyal to your brand for life. They’ll know that you’re able to put your money where your mouth is. So many internet marketers out there today are all hype and no substance. This approach makes you the opposite—all substance, no hype. By giving away content that’s genuinely good, you’ll be able to set yourself apart from the crowd and easily establish yourself as an authority in your field.
One great example of this is Mariah Coz. The site offers a free course that’s actually really useful and unique, not the typical “make money blogging” course you can find on a million other sites in its niche.
What content should your business give away? That really depends on your industry and product. Keep in mind, this advice doesn’t mean you should give away everything you’ve created. By all means, create great products and charge for them! But it’s important to put the same amount of care and effort into your free content as you would a paid product.
Tip #11: Find New, Enthusiastic Fans By Sharing Your Knowledge With A Weekly Podcast
A weekly podcast is just another channel you can use to share knowledge and find new fans. In a lot of ways, this is more personal than the other methods I’ve shared on this list. When you’re talking into someone’s ear for an hour each week, you really build a more personal relationship with your listeners very quickly.
It’s also a great way to reach people who may be too busy to sit down and read a book, or who prefer to learn by listening. You can repurpose content from other channels for your podcast so that listeners can access the same information in a format they prefer.
As with any promotional channel, the challenge with a podcast is to get your listeners to jump to your mailing list. I like to offer a special guide or some kind of valuable freebie exclusively to listeners. This is another case where you would want to create a dedicated landing page and direct your listeners to the link.
Tip #12: Scale Your Funnels to Profits With Paid Traffic
Paid traffic can be a very powerful source of leads to grow an email list, but it can be tricky to implement without losing money. I recommend only turning to paid traffic once you have a funnel in place. This allows you to scale easily based on the conversion rates your funnel is already reliably hitting.
Here is an example of one of our older Facebook advertising campaigns.
We’ve really worked our paid traffic down to an art. Because we know how many people are likely to convert every time we promote a landing page, we can easily set limits on our spending and invest in the funnels that bring in the most revenue.
Facebook ads are a tricky thing to master and require a little bit of practice and perseverance before you can make it work for you. If you’re looking to start leveraging Facebook ads for your business, make sure to check out our masterclass with Ex-Apple marketer, Nick Shakelford. It’s free!
Tip #13: Partner With Other Businesses To Explode Your Reach
What if there was a way to reach out to a brand new audience that’s interested in your niche or products? Joint Venture promotions and partnerships are one way you can do just that, by teaming up with other entrepreneurs in your space to promote one another’s products and expand both of your lists.
Now, keep in mind, a partnership is a relationship of mutually beneficial exchanges in value. That means you aren’t simply buying a list from another business. You’re trading something valuable in exchange for the opportunity to connect with their list. Look for companies that have a similar product or service to your own, because their subscribers are more likely to be interested in what you have to offer.
We’ve seen other companies make similar partnership deals that have worked well for all parties involved. Recently, luxury powerhouse Gucci partnered with North Face, Disney+ and HotStar announced a collaboration with Brilliant Wellness to create a health and fitness platform, Goalsetter partnered with Nike in an effort to increase financial literacy among youths, and even Cardi-B partnered with Reebok to design a range of sneakers.
Here are a few ideas you can use to partner with other businesses in your niche:
- Content swaps (where you write guest posts for another blog)
- Joint webinars (where you share the leads)
- Affiliate promotions
- Collaborative ebooks or free products
- Collaborative free email course
- Interview swaps
We’ve had great success using all of these approaches in the past. One fantastic source of leads for us has been SaaS companies, which often have similar audiences as our own. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box, though, as chances are there are companies in your space with very different products that will still be a good fit for you.
Tip #14: Offer Valuable Webinars And Free Workshops
Most people only think of webinars as a tool to speed up and facilitate the sales process, but the truth is, they can be a valuable method to grow an email list as well.
Don’t write off people who sign up but don’t buy. You now have an opportunity to continue to build a relationship with them over time.
Sometimes, webinar subscribers are interested in your offer, but it simply isn’t the right time. It’s also possible that they aren’t interested in the offer from the webinar they signed up for, but that they might have a need for your other, related products in the future. Showing them that you can be trusted and that you’re willing to give away your best content can leverage these subscribers into future customers down the line.
We run a lot of webinars, as do many other brands and influencers, and we’ve found it’s a very powerful way to find new subscribers who are interested in the kind of content Foundr shares. You’ll be able to connect with new subscribers who are motivated to learn more about topics in your niche and who might potentially be interested in other products you offer in the future.
Now that you know which email platforms might work best for your business, it’s time to start putting these 14 tips to work. Don’t worry about implementing them all at once. Build a strong funnel, create your first few landing pages, and then you can begin to build up from there as it makes sense for your business. Good luck!
Got any questions for us on how we made any of these tips work? Ask away in the comments!