When you are running a web-based business, like a blog or similar, you probably have heard the phrase “The money is in the list.” What this refers to is “Email Marketing”, and it consists of 3 parts:
- Collecting email addresses of visitors of your website
- Continuously sending updates about your site to subscribers, therefore getting them to become repeat visitors
- Offering products (your own or advertised products) to these subscribers once in a while
This post is about the first part: Collecting email subscribers.
Email marketing is all about growing an email list. What this means is you offer signup forms on your website that allow website visitors to sign up for your newsletter. What you need first is an email marketing tool.
Tool Recommendation: Mailchimp
When you are starting out, the best email marketing tool for you to start with is Mailchimp. The reason for that is simple: Mailchimp is offering its email tool for free until you reach 2000 subscribers and at the same time offers a nice user interface and most of the tools you will ever need.
That doesn’t mean that you will always use MailChimp – once your list grows you may need a more advanced tool with better automation options for instance, but for the start, Mailchimp is good and free.
Note: For advanced email marketing we recommend the email marketing automation software Drip – which we are using for all our email marketing.
Grow Email Subscribers – Basic
The basic way of getting new subscribers is a simple newsletter signup somewhere on your site. This may not be the most efficient form of providing a signup (not leading to many signups in comparison to your overall traffic), but it’s a start.
To do this, you create a simple signup form within Mailchimp and then integrate it somewhere on your site. This can be done via several different WordPress plugins for instance. There are different places on your page where you can integrate this – some are more effective than others, and some need to be tested against others:
- Basic signup form in the Sidebar: This puts the signup form into your sidebar where you might also have some options. Here you have to use a very short signup form. The biggest advantage here is that is the form of the signup that is the least intrusive on visitors – but you will also generate the least signups with.
- Basic signup on top or bottom of the page: This puts a small bar on the top or the bottom of your webpage that stays visible while scrolling – in which you either put a very short signup form or a link to a signup form. This is only slightly more intrusive than using a form in the sidebar, but at the same time is far more effective as you make sure that everyone sees your offer/newsletter signup. Can be done via WordPress plugins or tools like HelloBar for instance.
- Basic signup form in lightbox: This opens the signup form in a lightbox/popup overlay above your webpage content. This may seem intrusive, but it makes sure most if not all visitors get to see your offer. This can be achieved with several different WordPress plugins – and depending on which plugin you use you determine exactly how your popup looks and more importantly when it is shown. For instance, you can choose to show the popup after a certain amount of time, at once, or use the very efficient method to open the popup when the plugin detects your subscriber is just about to leave.
These simple forms of subscriber collection offer a first way to get started. But that’s not everything.
The most important thing you need to know about email subscribers collection is that it is all about conversion rates: The bigger the percentage of visitors is that signs up for your newsletter, the better.
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With the above simple forms of signups, you will probably not get more than a maximum of 1% of your visitors to sign up for your newsletter. When optimizing your signup process, it is possible to get between 5 – 10% to sign up for your newsletter. Here are various ways you can choose to achieve this:
1. Offering a Lead Magnet
A lead magnet is a free piece of content that you are offering to your new email subscribers in exchange for their email addresses. This can be a short list of lifehacks, a tutorial on how to achieve a specific task, a list of online tools, a whitepaper, … You should use something that you can produce quickly and that doesn’t cost you a lot of money to produce, and it should be centered around the interests of your audience.
You can also offer various lead magnets on your site.
2. Content Upgrades
This is somewhat similar to a lead magnet, as it works via a free piece of content, but it differs in how it is used: Instead of using a dedicated signup form on your site that is shown everywhere or in certain places, here you use your existing blog or site content.
For instance, I could create an ebook out of this article, write another article about email marketing on our blog and put the ebook in there as a content upgrade. For this, I would create a landing page for the signup and then link to this via the original article: “If you want to know more about email marketing you can download our free Email Marketing Workbook.”
Content upgrades don’t need to be specific to one article each – but when you put a content upgrade into an article you should make sure that it is related to the article. This is a very effective way of growing your email subscribers list via a particular piece of content.
3. The Storytelling Signup
Instead of offering a free piece of content you can tell a story with your newsletter and announce this story in your sign up form. Here are a few examples:
- “I am training for running a marathon in under 3 hours, and I am sharing every step of the process.”
- “I am losing 60 pounds of weight – and I want you to know every step I take.”
- “From 0 to 100,000 in monthly revenue – we will share every step of our startups journey with you.”
These are just a few examples – keep in mind that the story needs to be somewhat true.
4. Offer your Content in PDF Form
If you have a lot of very long articles on your blog, you can create a good looking PDF of every article and offer it in exchange for an email below every article.
5. Use Dedicated Landing Pages For Signup Forms
Instead of directly putting a signup form into a lightbox or your sidebar, you can create a dedicated landing page for the signup and then only link to it from lightboxes, sidebars, etc. This comes with several advantages:
– Landing pages can be optimized for conversions
– Landing Pages give you more room to pitch the signup
– Landing Pages can be linked to from more places on your website (articles for instance)
Email Subscribers Collection – Combining Different Subscription Processes
When optimizing different forms of subscriber collection processes, one thing that is very important to understand is that you can use a lot of the above in combination. There is no rule that says you can only use one of these methods, in fact, you should use almost all of these if you want to have a chance to get to the 5 – 10% conversion rates I was talking about in the beginning.
But, you need to make sure to follow common sense. For instance, you shouldn’t open the same offer on every page – if you showed a lightbox to your visitors on entering your site which pitched “We are generating 100,000€ per month – learn how we do it” and the user didn’t sign up, then you should pitch something else next. For instance: “How to write a business plan for a blog.”
If every visitor gets a lightbox with an email marketing course, you shouldn’t also use this as a content upgrade.
And so on.
For a great example of how different signup mechanisms can be combined visit Neil Patel’s blog.
Conversion Rate Optimization
Whatever you do, make sure that you somehow watch your conversion rates. You need to know whether integrating content upgrades on your evergreen blog posts lead to an increase in conversion rates by 1% or by 0.1%. Because if you don’t know whether what you are doing is good, you don’t know whether you should keep doing it. The key is to always only change one aspect, the measure the results and then continue. If you run more than one test at the same time, it will become difficult to gain conclusive results.
Some tools that you can use offer the option of AB testing – the process that lets you divide your website in two variants that are split tested at the same time.
Tools you can use
I recommended Mailchimp at the beginning of this post and I stand by this recommendation: When you are starting out, Mailchimp is a good option. Once you proceed to a bigger list and need to pay for your email tool anyway, you should think about other options as well.
We are currently testing ConvertKit, and I have to say that it is a big step up from Mailchimp. There are a few key differences to Mailchimp:
- Convertkit is subscriber-centric – one subscriber won’t be in your list multiple times – which is a good thing!
- Convertkit makes it really easy to build automated conversion funnels.
- Convertkit comes with a few prebuilt landing pages that you can easily adapt to your needs.
For advanced email popups and subscription methods, you can use SumoMe. It’s a freemium tool that offers you it’s basic functionality for free, but you have to pay for advanced options like AB-testing. Sumome integrates itself into your site in the form of a WordPress plugin.
Sumome allows you to integrate many different forms of subscription forms on your site – like lightbox/popups, a welcome mat, etc… many of the advanced subscriber generation tactics described above can be achieved with Sumo.ly.
Collecting email subscribers is a process that you should always work on – new list subscribers are fresh leads and as a business, you always need more fresh leads to grow faster!