5 Best Practices For Growing Your Email Subscriber List

Earlier this month our Senior Strategist Fawn Young presented you with the best practices when it comes to abandoned carts, and we promised you more. And because we never break a promise, here it is! 

Fawn spent a lot of speaking with marketers at MarketingSherpa 2016 about growing their email lists, and today she’ll be sharing the same with you.


As part of my participation as a Coach in the Coaching Clinics at MarketingSherpa last month, I met with marketers one on one and discussed list growth best practices. A few questions came up again and again, so I thought I’d write a quick post about them.

5. Should I Buy My Lists?

No. Please never do this. It’s bad for so many reasons.  Organic list growth will treat you so much better over the long run. For more information as to why list buying is not a good practice, check out our latest blog post on the matter.

4. What’s The Fastest Way To Grow My List?

Pop-up sign ups are the number one way to grow your list quickly.  Love them or hate them, they work!  The key is to follow some simple best practices when implementing your pop-up sign up:

  • Display to unique traffic only
  • Keep it short and sweet
  • Tout your offer
  • Provide an easy out
  • Test the timing

Here’s an example of a simple pop-up that Overstock.com is using. Notice how it simply asks for email address and provides a clear out (the X in the upper right corner). They are also touting a 10% off coupon and 2% rewards on all orders.

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Not every company can provide an incentive such as a % or $ off for signing up. If that’s the case for you, consider a different approach. In this Us Weekly pop-up example they are enticing the site visitor with a list of Taylor Swift’s Decoded Lyrics. This is a great alternative that just may hook the person into signing up without a discount being provided:

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And here is how Us Weekly’s pop-up looks on a mobile device:

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3. My Boss Hates Pop-Ups. What’s Another Way We Can Grow Our List Organically?

Ensure that your email sign up is highly visible on your website and display it in multiple places if possible. For example, at a minimum, have the sign up in the header of your website and make sure it displays there on all pages, but also have a sign up callout in the footer or perhaps a banner within your site.  It’s important to have the sign up callout on most of your site pages so that if someone enters your website on a page other than your homepage, they’ll still be able to easily see the sign up call to action.

Overstock.com employs not only a pop-up sign up, but they have a callout for it in their header and footer as well.  What’s interesting about their header callout is that at first it appears simply in the header as the word “Email”, but once you hover over it, you are presented with a little box that expands out, allowing you to sign up easily from the header. This treatment allows overstock to give the email sign up placement in the header area of their website without taking up too much real estate.

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Both the header callout and the footer callout carry over throughout the website so that if you opt out of the pop-up, you can always opt in at a later time via the header or footer during your shopping experience.

2. What Else Could I Be Doing To Grow My List

I get asked this vague question all the time. Even if you think you’re already doing everything you can to grow your list, there is likely something else you could be doing.  One of the first places to look is social media. If you are active on social sites, you should be using that presence to help grow your email list.  

For example, you can add a sign up callout on your Facebook page that takes the person directly to a sign up webform and adds them to your email list without ever having to leave Facebook.  Here’s an example from outdoor clothing retailer Ibex:

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Notice the callout for email signup there. Once you clicked through that, you were taken to a webform embedded in Facebook with an email sign up page:

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You can also post periodically to your Facebook wall encouraging your followers to subscribe to your emails:

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Similarly, on Twitter you can tweet out calls to action to sign up for your email program:

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Or employ Twitter advertising as a way to allow followers to subscribe to your email program with just the click of a button.

For Instagram, you can post an image that is in line with your branding or features a product or products and within that image have a simple line of text encouraging folks to sign up for your email program. Ideally you’d direct them to a vanity URL.

1. I’m A Marketing Superstar And Am Already Doing All These Things. What Else Can I Do?

Think about what you are doing offline to increase list growth. This is often an overlooked area, but there are many places you can tout your email program. A few ideas are:

  • Allow for sign up in store by having an iPad at the register or near where the line forms for the register
  • Add a callout to receipts
  • Include an insert in every order you ship out that directs people to a vanity URL where they can sign up for emails
  • Employ Text to Join to enable people to opt in from their mobile phone

These are just a few of the many ways that companies can organically grow their list. Testing will enable you to know what works best for your company.

It’s important to get creative and try everything at least once. Have you found a unique way to grow your list that surprised you?


Also check out 4 Reasons Email Marketers Should Never Buy Email Lists and Are You Applying Smart Marketing To Your Email Program?

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