The 3 Most Effective Ways to Grow Your Email List

As a content strategist, I ask people about their content marketing goals every day. Sometimes I almost feel like a fast food worker. “Would you like some lead gen with that?”

These goals vary greatly since content can impact everything from sales to customer experience, but there’s one goal that’s pretty universal: growing your email list.

The email newsletter remains the most impactful channel for reaching your audience—a direct line of communication unobstructed by fickle algorithms. But growing that list can be a daunting task. It’s hard to know where to invest your limited resources.

Ascend2 recently tackled this question in its annual email list growth survey. Below is a look at the most most effective tactics, as chosen by 255 marketing influencers.

email list emarketer

Let’s dive into the top three, keeping in mind that there’s overlap between each of them.

Social media advertising

I was surprised to see social media advertising at the top of this list, but it’s certainly a tactic we’ve been using to help Contently clients grow their email lists. Right now, there’s no easier way to target buyer groups than through Facebook and LinkedIn. You can drill down to location, job title, income level, interests, and company.

But social targeting alone won’t help you. There are a few strategic moves you can make if you want customers to let you into their inboxes.

1. Drive users to a newsletter subscription page with a strong CTA

Ads that compel people to directly subscribe to a company newsletter convert surprisingly well, as long as they’re specific (“get the newsletter that’s the secret weapon of the world’s top content marketers”) and don’t threaten to flood the inbox too much (“get the weekly newsletter that’s the secret weapon of the world’s top content marketers”).

2. Drive users to the landing page of a premium gated piece of content

I have mixed feelings about gated content—a topic I’ll cover in my next Ask a Content Strategist column—but ads that send people to a great piece of premium content will have a low CPC and, ultimately, a low cost-per-acquisition for your email list, since at least 20 percent of those who get to the landing page will fill out a lead form.

3. Drive users to a post optimized for email acquisition

This is my favorite tactic, and one that I cover in detail here. Take your most compelling content, optimize your site with a strong email acquisition widget, and give people the option of opting into your list. This ensures that they receive value from your brand even if they choose not to sign up. Since high-performing content gets such a low CPC on Facebook, the cost-per-acquisition remains low, even if only 3 percent of readers sign up. Plus, it creates a waterfall of other positive actions.

TCS email list

It’s a “win-win” approach, but only if your site is optimized correctly.

Content marketing

What’s going to get someone to sign up for your email list? The promise of value. That could mean coupons and free offers, but even more so, it means amazing content that’ll help people do their jobs better or live a more fulfilling life.

Of course, everyone wants to use content to get people to sign up for their newsletter, and getting access to someone’s inbox is a huge ask. So ensure that your content maps back to your buyer personas. If your content addresses the pain points, skill gaps, and needs of your buyers, people will be much more likely to see you as a valuable resource.

It’s also wise to invest in breakthrough content. As Contently co-founder Shane Snow wrote in his State of Content Marketing 2017 manifesto, the competition for consumer attention has never been fiercer, and “brands need to start creating incredible content or else consumers are going to tune out completely.” Great content is now table stakes, and there’s little chance a reader will press “Subscribe” unless they just read or watched something amazing.

Search engine optimization

One trend we see across Contently clients is readers who come from search are the most engaged compared to other channels. Our clients index heavily in B2B and finance, so this makes sense. People who come from search are usually looking to solve a problem, and they’re happy to sign up for a free resource that provides them with a solution. This is why you have to ensure your article pages and subscription pages are optimized for your target keywords.

As every marketer knows, this is easier said than done—and that’s true for all three of these tactics. Not only were these approaches voted most effective, they were also rated the most difficult to execute. If there’s one common thread that makes all of them easier, it’s strong content relevant to your target audience.

Once you start building a strong email list, an engaged newsletter audience creates a waterfall of engagement across all other channels. One of my favorite activities is to still watch our traffic spike after we send our newsletter and our readers share our stories with their social networks.

email list waterfall effect

In other words, if you play your cards right, you’ll be more than ready to take your CMO’s order.

Image by Marco Simoni / Getty

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