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5 Under-Exploited Ways To Build An Email List

When it comes to building email lists, there are countless ways to do so. Most traditional marketing channels work well. You promote your list on them as you do your business. But there are additional things you can do to.

Some of them are glaringly obvious. But because they are, they're also easy to miss. Others may be new to you. Either way, here are some that I and several of my clients have used, which proved to be quite effective.

1. Forms

Just ask people to join. Simple suggestion, I know, but the point is that you want to ask as often and in as many places as you can on your website or any of your marketing assets — without being intrusive or distracting.

Let's call it LBO or “list-building optimization.”

I have optin forms in three major locations on my website: in the footer section of every page, on its own dedicated page, and in popups.

You should have a page dedicated to promoting your list. Much like a landing page, it shows the benefits of subscribing to your list, provides testimonials if possible, and maybe offers an incentive or two.

As for popups, I avoid having popups hit people over the head. So I use rules, which will trigger them only when conditions are met. For example, a popup will appear when scrolling about 50% down an article or after a period of time.

There are plenty of popup tools out there, and many of them offer rules and triggers like these, such as referrer-based, event-based (e.g., watching a video), or intent-based (e.g., leaving the site), and so on.

2. Events

If you're like many professionals, you conduct online events, particularly in these times of forced remote work. You might offer live classes, webinars, livestreams, podcasts, or virtual meetups.

However, while events usually create awareness about your business, it's also a perfect opportunity to promote your email list. You can either promote the list directly, or promote some kind of incentive or lead magnet that gets people to subscribe (I'll return to this)

With permission, you can mention your list while taking part in other people's events, such as being interviewed or appearing as a guest on podcasts. I prefer having a dedicated page or landing page for your list for this reason.

There are three ways to promote lists during events: bumpers, bios, or blends.

  • Bumpers are ads at the beginning or end of the event. Your newsletter is the event's sponsor, if you will. It can also be your lead magnet.
  • Bios are descriptions of the hosts or guests appearing on the online event. It's an opportunity for attendees to learn more about you, which includes your email list.
  • Blends are mentions of your newsletter or lead magnet throughout your event. They can appear as direct calls-to-action or subtle links. For example, one professional I know does regular livestreams on YouTube. He includes, at the bottom strip of each video, a link to join a list to be notified of future shows.

3. Pins

Every professional should have their own social media pages. You don't need to be active on every one, just the ones where your target market congregates. Sometimes, they can be groups or communities within social networks, and not the network as a whole.

But in either case, make a point to use your “about” section, or the section where you include your website link, that drives people to your list. You can even make a pinned post or comment that appears at the top of the page.

It makes sense to promote your list instead of your business on social media, because you want to attract, qualify, and educate your ideal clients. Pushing a website or service too early, when they don't know you, is a wasted opportunity.

Promote your list instead. If a client wants to contact you, they will find you.

Use the page dedicated to joining your email list in all your virtual “business cards” (e.g., about pages, author profiles, email signatures, media kits, distributable assets, etc).

Plus, with business directories, such as Yelp, Google My Business, or Trip Advisor, use your list instead of (or in addition to) your website. You can even offer a free quote, where the user is offered to join your list when they contact you.

4. Levers

Levers are people you can leverage to help promote your list for you. For example, asking your existing clients and subscribers to share your email on their social media, forward it to a friend, or join a loyalty program where they get a gift or reward for doing so.

The latter is an effective alternative for many licensed professionals, as laws often prevent them from offering kickbacks. But lists are different.

Don't forget your thank-you pages, welcome emails, and existing content, including inline content upgrades to gated, exclusive content available to your subscribers only. And even your 404 “not found” pages are ideal places for promoting your list.

When using levers, you can promote your list directly or indirectly. For example, you can promote an article, event, lead magnet, or special offer, where joining your list is attached to it or offered at some subsequent point.

5. Incentives

Incentives are lead magnets that help attract subscribers to your list. For example, when I first started out over 30 years ago, I offered my free book, which was previously only available offline. I started giving it away as a PDF download once they subscribed. 

It's the main reason my list grew to about 70,000 at the time.

Lead magnets come in all shapes and sizes. You can offer white papers, checkists, apps, cheatsheets, templates, scripts, recordings, transcripts, guides, reports, infographics, assignments, interviews, case studies, email courses, etc.

You don't have to create new or exclusive content. You can simply offer a collection of your best articles or a series of articles based on a specific topic. Even if they're available for free on your blog, you're making it easier and convenient for them.

The incentive is convenience, not content, in this case.

Finally, incentives can also include contests, quizzes, surveys, and polls. Use them as opportunities to promote your email list, or require their email as a way to get their results

For example, 16personalities.com is a site that offers a quiz to determine your predominant personality style. It's based on the four personality styles I often talk about.

You answer a few questions, and the site will show your results, your personality style, as well as a description. You don't have to join any list, but if you want them to save or email your results after you've taken the test, you will need to enter your email address.

If you're curious, I'm INFP-T or a Mediator. It's pretty accurate, too. I was an Advocate for years but recently changed. Life events may have played a role.

Nevetheless, it goes without saying: you need a list.

An email list is one of the most effective and underutilized marketing tools in your arsenal. It's important to have one if only to notify subscribers of when you post new content.

To grow it, make your list your basecamp instead of your website.

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Strategic marketing consultant Michel Fortin