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Email lists: Why they’re so powerful and how to build one

Email lists
How an email list can help your overall digital marketing strategy
Email list building strategies and tactics
Final thoughts

Sophisticated marketing tools, complex automations, pop-up forms and compelling offers have their place when it comes to email marketing campaigns.

Without investing the time and effort into building a high-quality list, however, your email marketing efforts will disappoint. High-quality lists are something that all successful email marketing programs have in common. Whether you're just starting or looking to refine your strategy, having a well-organized list of email contacts is crucial.

In this piece, we’ll share why building an email list can help your overall digital marketing strategy, plus some strategic and tactical pointers on how to build one that drives revenue.

How an email list can help your overall digital marketing strategy

Done right, email marketing can have a high ROI. Here are just three reasons why a strategic email marketing strategy can help you scale your business:

  1. Cost. Email marketing is generally a low-cost endeavor. Beyond the cost of email marketing software, you won’t need to invest in traditional advertising campaigns or paid ads to reach and engage with your audience over email. Therefore, email marketing can help lower your overall customer acquisition costs (CAC) as well as your cost per acquisition (CPA).

  2. Brand awareness. Email marketing is a great way to build brand awareness and brand equity, as it gives you a chance to directly reach an email list to express your business’s values and personality. Your social media posts may not make it onto your audience’s feed, but your emails (assuming you have good email health) will land in their inbox.

  3. Lifecycle marketing. Building an email mail list and implementing an email marketing strategy allows you to hit all the stages of the buyer journey through lifecycle emails, from awareness to purchase to advocacy, which helps to increase retention and reduce churn.

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Email list building strategies and tactics

Building a high quality email list involves getting new sign-ups and then keeping them engaged.

Here are some list-building strategies that help with both of these pieces of the email marketing and list-building puzzle.

Build your own list

First things first, make sure your email list is your own. Rented or purchased email mail lists often contain inactive or fake email addresses which results in bounced emails. Sending emails to people who didn’t opt in to your email list will also prompt recipients to mark your emails as spam and damage your email health and domain health.

Email service providers such as Gmail and Yahoo have sophisticated spam filters meant to protect their customers from unsolicited emails. There’s a good chance emails you send to addresses from a purchased list might not even make it to their inbox at all.

Your domain health impacts your email deliverability rate for anyone you send to, which means that future emails you send could end up in the spam folder, even for those who actually signed up for your email list.

Create a compelling lead magnet

When it comes to lead generation and building your list, it’s helpful to think of it as an exchange. Someone gives you their email address, phone number or contact information in exchange for information that educates or solves a problem they have.

An immediate value-add in the form of a lead magnet can help you generate leads or build your list faster than simply sending a monthly newsletter, for example.

Done right, case studies, invitations to webinars, free ebooks for B2B businesses, access to discounts or the opportunity to enter a giveaway for e-commerce or online retailers can be effective lead magnets.

The most compelling lead magnets go beyond demographics or broad buyer personas. They are created for a specific target audience looking to solve a specific problem or gain specific insight. A great way to do this is by sending automated emails based on behavioral triggers, like the pages a website visitor clicks on or products left in an abandoned cart.

Behavioral email triggers are just one way to learn more about your audience. It’s also important to collect other quantitative and qualitative data that you can use to send personalized emails that resonate. For example, you can spend time in social media communities where your audience is active, pay attention to evolving trends or challenges and incorporate those insights into your content.

By meeting customers where they are in their buying journey, and providing them with relevant information that helps with decision-making, you’ll improve their experience and likely boost conversions.

Set expectations for subscribers

Your email landing page or opt-in form should outline what new subscribers should expect when they give you access to their email inbox, including the type of content and the frequency of your email sends. This helps conversions as well as keeping people off your list who aren’t actually interested in your content.

Sending a welcome email after they sign up is a great time to revisit these expectations and potentially dive a little deeper if space didn’t allow for it before. People are busy and most likely subscribing to multiple other email mail lists or email newsletters as well. Reiterating this message can help remember why they joined yours and get them excited about future sends.

Have a single CTA on your email sign-up form

Including links to other pages or products will distract potential subscribers and drive down conversions for your forms. Make sure your landing page or sign-up form has just one CTA so your audience focuses solely on the task at hand.

Focus on conversion rates over list size

A growing list can be exciting but provide a false sense of success. Avoid getting so focused on building your list that you lose sight of converting your existing subscribers.

Practice email list hygiene

A clean list is one with active subscribers. Having disengaged subscribers lowers open rates, which lowers conversion rates. A 10K email list with a 5% conversion rate will net you the same amount of revenue as a 5K email list with a 10% conversion rate.

Be sure to practice email list hygiene by scrubbing your list at least once a year. Double opt-ins are another helpful way to practice email list hygiene. This extra step to join your list ensures you’re only attracting subscribers that are interested in hearing from you and are likely to become new customers down the line. It also keeps you compliant with rules and regulations like the US CAN-SPAM act and Europe’s GDPR.

Personalize your list through segmentation

Personalization isn’t just about adding someone’s first name to a subject line. The best way to personalize your content is through segmentation so you’re sending highly relevant content to each group

The time and effort required to create triggered emails and specific content is well worth it. The more targeted your content, the higher the conversions.

Opt for clear subject lines

Urgency and intrigue can be useful tactics when employed sparingly. If all of your email subject lines have a sense of urgency or withhold information about the contents of the email, your email subscribers will grow wary of these tactics and are more likely to unsubscribe.

When you respect your customers’ and potential customers’ time, you gain their trust and earn their attention.

Use customer insight to create email content

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to high-quality email content, or your content marketing efforts in general. Beyond looking at what previous content resonated with your audience (either high engagement or eventually lead to conversion), the next place you should look is your customers. Use their feedback to refine your list of email content strategies to ensure relevance.

Final thoughts

Email marketing campaigns are a cost-effective marketing strategy and a high-quality list is the backbone of them.

Building an email list that drives meaningful revenue for your business takes time, effort and trial and error. Marketing automation tools that work in tandem with your CRM can save you time and help you deliver valuable, relevant content to segmented audiences.

Take the time to deliver genuine value at all phases of the buying journey to your subscriber list and you’ll get the highest return on your email-list-building investment.

Driving business growth