Pump up your list

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Erik Gabrielson
Erik Gabrielson

Every visitor to your site is an opportunity to pump up your list. You spend a lot of time and money driving traffic, so wouldn't it be nice to get a little something extra from visitors — like e-mail addresses sprinkled with some consumer data? An organic list building strategy is crucial to making this happen.

Organic list building is low-hanging fruit. You already have a Web presence and e-mail program, so there's no downside. It's easy to implement and has minimal cost. It also produces the highest quality subscribers — allowing your brand to reach out to consumers you know and positively affect their experience well beyond site visits.

Focus on these areas to get started. They may seem like no-brainers, but you'd be surprised at how few companies execute them.

Put a signup call to action on your site. Don't make it hard for consumers to find your e-mail offerings. Devote premium space to your e-mail signup call to action and keep placement consistent throughout your site. The top or navigation areas can be effective depending on your layout.

Since any page can be a visitor's entry point, consistent placement ensures that your e-mail program is exposed to the largest possible audience. Don't miss opportunities by only asking for signups on the home page or certain sections of your site.

Optimize that call to action. The e-mail signup call to action can be a simple “sign up for e-mail  offers” link that goes to your preference center, a single text box for collecting e-mail addresses or an interface that expands and collects multiple data points.

A text box allows for quick and easy signup, but if you have multiple e-mail offerings or would like to collect more data, directing people to a more robust preference center might be best. Experiment to find what provides the best user experience.

Get specific. If you offer targeted newsletters, heavily promote them on relevant sections of your site. For example, an electronics retailer might promote a PC Sales Alert e-mail in the personal computers section. A publisher might include an International News Alert signup call to action before and after international news articles. Consumers will see these as valuable offerings targeted to their needs and interests.

Use house ads. Include promotions for your e-mails in the rotation of your banner or text ads, if you have them. Certain types of rich media ads can collect e-mail addresses and other data. If this isn't an option, basic ads can simply direct to your preference center. Even if you don't see many direct signups from house ads, they work well to improve awareness and indirectly influence signups.

Gauge effectiveness. Calculate a signup to visitor ratio to help monitor the effectiveness of your strategy. For example, one new organic signup for every 100 unique visitors shows a 1% success rate. You can get a more accurate ratio by removing current subscribers from the unique visitor total. If this isn't possible you'll still have a valuable metric to gauge effectiveness over time.

Organic list building is critical to a healthy e-mail marketing program. Because list churn takes a toll on even the strongest brands, a constant focus on getting new subscribers is worth the effort. The payoff is not only growing active lists but long-term consumer relationships.

Erik Gabrielson is emarketing strategist at Premiere Global Services.

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