A Complete Guide to Growing Your Email Marketing List

December 13, 2022

Email – a tried and true online marketing channel. Email plays such an imperative role in any business's marketing strategy, and often its value lies in its many-sided approach. Not to mention, you own that marketing channel. That’s right, you control your messaging to your customers, which makes it an extremely valuable channel for building relationships with your customers. Plus, no intermediaries are determining who sees your email, and it’s super cost-effective too. Facebook and Google could never.

To unlock your brand’s full potential, you will want to have your customers and prospective customers join your email list. Why? Email marketing can not only build awareness for your company but is a proven channel for growing your business’s online traffic and driving sales. Even more importantly, email allows direct communication with your customers so you can nurture that relationship and solidify your brand and its story with those most engaged.

Here at Tadpull, we are strong advocates for growing your email list to ensure we are adding customers who want to be emailed. It’s easy to think that all of your customers might want to hear from you, but the truth is, we see much better engagement by emailing customers who ask to be emailed vs. assuming everyone does. Great brands have healthy, compliant email lists because the subscribers want to be updated on the business through emails and promotional messages. That means we only send marketing emails to those who ask to join our email marketing lists. 

Respecting your customer’s privacy can really pay off in the long run as it keeps your email marketing compliant with the ever-changing privacy laws and helps you maintain good email-sending practices to keep email deliverability in a healthy spot. Because who wants to be sitting in their customer’s spam inbox folders? Not us!

You might already understand the value that email can bring, but how do you ensure that everyone interested in staying connected with your brand has the opportunity to join your email marketing list? We’ll walk you through our proven recipe for growing your email list.

Sign-up Forms

When it comes to collecting new email addresses, sign-up forms are going to be your new best friend. Growing your email doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, many of the methods are quite simple – ask your customers for their email addresses. If you can deliver value back to your customers, they will be more than willing to stay in close communication with your brand.

This doesn’t have to be a boring tactic. There are many ways to gather email addresses with sign-up forms that don’t feel intrusive but become unique customer experiences with your brand. Let’s break down some of the most common types of sign-up forms. 

Pop-up & Flyout Forms

A popup is a quick and easy way to capture your customer’s email. You decide when to display it, where on the page to put it, and what content you want in it. 

Typically, these forms will pop up on your website when a new visitor arrives, and they prompt a visitor to take some action before exiting – subscribing to an email list, filling out interests, or any other type of action you’d like them to take. 

Pop-up forms are really effective and may end up being the sign-up method you see the highest conversion rates. They are especially effective when you have an offer to share with your customers. Try including a sign-up incentive on your pop-up to entice visitors to join your email list immediately.

Duckworth’s pop-up form targets new site visitors that have yet to join their email list. They use a sign-up incentive to capture new visitors' attention, drive email list growth, and encourage the first purchase. Including branded elements like colors, logos, and imagery is another way to make your pop-up forms feel like a proper extension of your brand.

Flyout forms are another form type to explore. Much like a pop-up form, flyout forms appear after a determined amount of time. The main difference is the flyout form will slide into the browser’s window – flying in from the top, bottom, or sides of a customer’s screen. Beyond their set-up, fly-outs can sometimes be perceived as less intrusive than pop-ups since they don’t disrupt the website browsing nearly as much.

We love a good test around here, so if your sign-up form platform can allow you to compare how these form types perform against each other, this would be an excellent way to determine what type of form might attract more email subscribers. 

Expert Tip: Ensure you exclude customers who fill out your forms from receiving the pop-up again. Nothing is more obnoxious than getting the same form again and again if you’ve already filled it out.

Exit Intent Forms

Exit intent forms are triggered when a shopper is about to leave your website. These forms do a great job of capturing a user's attention before they leave. Exit intent forms can help nudge customers towards a sale, like offering an offer or discount on the customer’s order before they leave the site. They are also effective in reiterating that sign-up offer one last time before a customer leaves your site as a last-ditch effort to stay in touch. 

Expert Tip: Test targeting your exit intent pop-ups on specific pages like checkout to nudge customers to complete their order with an exclusive offer before they leave.

Embedded Forms: Footers, Landing Pages, & More

Embedded forms are any forms that are added via a code snippet to your website. Most commonly, we see these used in website footers and landing pages. Embedded forms might be your least intrusive option when it comes to sign-up forms since they don’t interrupt the user as they are navigating through your site.

Sign-up Form Best Practices

If you are just beginning to create signup forms, there are a few things that we'd recommend keeping in mind before diving in headfirst.

Keep your customer in mind

If you’re planning to use sign-up forms to capture email subscribers and grow your email marketing list, you will want to keep in mind the user experience and how your forms play a role in the experience your website visitors experience.

When determining who receives a form, when they receive it, and what the contents of the form are, look at your set-up through the lens of a customer. 

Would you want to receive multiple pop-up forms when you visit a website? When scrolling a website on your phone, would you want to see a form that was obviously not made for mobile with oversized text and graphics?  Would you want to receive a form again after you’ve filled it out? Would you want to be interrupted while trying to make a purchase? I don’t know about you, but I said “no” to all the above.

Forms can be powerful for capturing email subscribers, but with great power comes great responsibility. We know that forms have the potential to be disruptive to your visitors' experience, making it harder for them to shop on your website.

Think through the lens of a customer and design your forms in a way that compliments your customer’s online experience and is user-friendly on your website.

Keep your brand in mind

Your website, including the forms on your website, reflects your brand and its story. Represent your brand using colors, images, fonts, and design styles that connect with your products or branding. This will ensure your forms feel like an extension of your brand to your customer and won’t lead to a confusing experience.

Copy often has one of the most important roles of your form. How will you entice a visitor to sign up for your email marketing list? That’s the job of your copy. 

Supply the value, then emphasize it

You’ll want to clearly communicate the value behind joining your email list - make this about the customer, not the business.  What can your business offer your customer by joining your email list? Keep this value front and center, and consider exchanging an offer for your customers' information. Another tactic is giving a sneak peek (with pretty minimal copy) of what your subscriber can expect when they join your email list. 

Expert Tip: If you’re offering an incentive that includes a discount code, don’t include it in the success message of your form but rather follow up with the discount code in your first email. Not only does this allow the customer to access the code when they need it, but we also get the benefits of our new subscribers engaging with our email immediately. Let your subscribers know they can expect to see their discount code in their inbox and deliver it immediately to avoid frustrations.

With an offer or incentive, your soon-to-be email subscribers receive something that interests them, and you will have a subscriber whom you can continue to communicate with. That’s the win-win situation we’re looking for!

Optimize your form for mobile

Design your embedded forms to be responsive on mobile and desktop devices. We often see beautiful forms designed on a desktop become really obscure on mobile because they weren’t designed for a smaller device. Test your forms on all devices and browsers to ensure your customers will have a user-friendly experience no matter what.

Some of the most obvious mobile mistakes we often see for forms include content that is way too long, difficulty closing forms on mobile, non-stacked form fields, and poor readability.

To combat these mistakes, make sure your form is short and sweet. We want to keep the copy and the number of fields we include minimal, so we don’t create unnecessary friction for the customer and risk losing their interest in filling out the form. Consider using multi-step forms if you insist on capturing a lot of data.

It’s also worth noting that multi-column fields on desktop might look great but are too squished on mobile. Ensure your form fields stack into one column on mobile, so it’s easy for your customer to see what they are inputting.

And finally, make sure your form is easy to close. Nothing is more frustrating than a pop-up you can’t get rid of, so make sure there is an easy option for your customers to exit out of the form.  

Optimize your forms triggers and behaviors

Depending on what platform you use to create your sign-up forms, there will likely be options for you to hone in on what the best triggers and form behaviors are for your initiative. Our best advice is not to shy away from testing, as what you think might work could leave you surprised when you find out it doesn’t perform as well as you thought.

A few questions to ask yourself are: When do I want my form to appear? How often should my form appear? Who do I want my form to show to?

You’ll want to dive into the following to answer those questions:

Display Timing: When do I want my form to appear?

Your email service provider, ecommerce platform, or third-party form creator should allow you the option to set up your display timing. This often includes the option to display your form based on how long the page has loaded (page load) or how far your customer scrolled on your page (page scroll). Setting up these time delays will create a much better and far less intrusive experience for your visitors.

Display Frequency: How often should my form appear? 

We can almost guarantee that your customers will not want to see a form again once they’ve filled it out. That being said, it’s a good idea to ensure that your form is no longer showing to visitors who have already provided you with the information you requested or completed your desired action.

Sometimes, a customer might exit your form without filling it out, and you’ll want the opportunity to show it again. In this scenario, adjust your form to show again for that visitor X days after closing, when they might be more willing to subscribe.

Form Targeting: Who do I want my form to show to?
This is where you can be really strategic in determining who you want your form to display to. Everyone? Just visitors on a specific URL? Just segments of visitors based on their browsing or purchase behavior?

Depending on the platform you use for your forms, you’ll have the ability to choose specific targets for who your form should display. A few common scenarios we often run into include:

  • Excluding forms from displaying on cart or shopping bag pages.
  • Excluding forms from displaying to customers who have already filled out the form.
  • Targeting offers such as free shipping or purchase discounts to our most VIP customers.
  • Targeting forms based on an ad or social media campaign by UTM.

Know how your forms interact with your email service provider (ESP)

Before launching any form on your website, you need to know how that form is going to be interacting with your email service provider (ESP) or other platforms you’re utilizing. So often, we have run into scenarios where a website has beautiful forms, but these forms are not actually syncing those submissions back into the platform needed to start delivering emails.

It’s also a good strategy to plan for what happens after a visitor submits a sign-up form on your website. The first step is ensuring those contacts are being added to a master email list within your ESP. From there, you might want to check to ensure that contacts are flowing into any segments you might have created where the subscriber fits the criteria. 

A best practice in email marketing is to have an automated email series called a Welcome Series. A Welcome Series is a series of emails, typically 1 - 6 emails, designed for your new subscribers, triggered immediately after signing up for your newsletter or email list. 

Expert Tip: We strongly recommend using a single email list that all consented contacts are added to. You may hear this list is called the main list, master list, or newsletter list. If you’d like to break down that main list into different lists, we’d encourage you to do so through segmentation of that main list. Using a single or master list helps maintain good data hygiene, report on overall list growth, and keep track of your deliverability.

Use Double Opt-ins

Using a double opt-in process for your forms and emails is a great way of keeping your email deliverability strong. Double opt-in means that when new subscribers submit a form, they are sent an email to confirm their email address and their subscription. 

The benefit of this is two-fold - you’ll be sure that whoever is signing up for your list is doing so intentionally and wants to be on your list, and the email they submitted is, in fact, a legitimate email. Sending to incorrect emails, unengaged contacts, or people that have not given you consent to message them is a quick way to see diminishing deliverability. 

Expert Tip: If you’d like to use a single opt-in, meaning you don’t want contacts to have to confirm their subscription before being added to a list, we recommend establishing a regular list cleaning cadence to ensure you are removing poor quality emails from your list. 

Opt-ins at Checkout & Account Creation

An easy way to grow your email list is to include an option to sign-up for your email list when customers are creating an account and placing an order. A simple checkbox that allows the customer to opt in is the simplest way to accomplish this. Oftentimes, an ecommerce platform like Shopify or BigCommerce will have an option for you to capture email subscribers in these two key areas on your website.

Similar to other opt-in methods, you’ll want to ensure that customers who are opted in are syncing back into your ESP. It’s always a good idea to rigorously test each new opt-in method before setting it and forgetting it. 

Giveaways 

If you’ve been brainstorming ways to grow your email list, you’ve likely thought about trying a giveaway to increase your email opt-ins. Although giveaways can be very engaging and get the attention of many people, we often see that subscribers who are acquired through a giveaway are less engaged and ultimately less likely to make a purchase. Why? These contacts are typically more interested in the giveaway than actually receiving emails from you. 

A few recommendations if you’re using a contest or giveaway to grow your list include:

  • Create a unique Welcome Series for contacts subscribing via a giveaway. Include how you received their email and details about the giveaway to ensure they understand why they are being emailed.

  • When first emailing contacts acquired from a giveaway, give a very clear option for these contacts to unsubscribe if they are no longer interested in receiving emails from you. Why? It is much better for a contact to unsubscribe right away than for you to continue to email a contact that won’t engage or, even worse, might mark your email as spam.

  • After your giveaway contacts make it through your welcome series, consider doing a list cleanse. If contacts did not engage with your welcome series, do not continue to send to them. Oftentimes people use inactive email addresses to sign up for giveaways. It is much better to have a quality audience than more email addresses to fill your lists. To preserve your deliverability, clean out contacts who did not engage.

  • Keep your subscribers from giveaways in a list separate from your master list. This might be one of the few exceptions to our single-list rule. By keeping these contacts separate from your main list, you’ll be able to determine engagement from this audience more easily.

Facebook Lead Ads

Facebook ads are often used by brands to reach new potential customers. In some ad types, you can use a call-to-action (CTA) to sell products; in others, you can get prospective customers to subscribe to your email list. In exchange for additional information or a special promotion, users are automatically prompted to submit their names, emails, and phone numbers after clicking on your Facebook lead ad. 

Depending on your ESP, Facebook lead ads can be integrated with your email lists so that your new subscriber’s information is synced in real-time.

Expert Tip: As new subscribers from Facebook are less engaged than typical website subscribers, consider using a separate Welcome Series to nurture them.

Social Media

If a potential customer discovers you on social media and decides they'd like to stay in touch with your brand, make it easy for them! If you want to use social media to your advantage, you can add email signup options to your profile or direct subscribers to a landing page through your bio. If you have a social following and aren’t sure if they are on your list, consider running a social media campaign to encourage email sign-ups. A useful tactic is using a swipe-up link on your stories to guide social media subscribers to a landing page to opt-in.

Expert Tip: If you use a link tree in your bio, consider adding a link to sign-up for your newsletter list into the mix.

Order and Shipping Confirmation Emails

Did you know your order confirmation and shipping confirmation emails can include signup information to encourage your customers to join your email list? Include a simple sign-up option at the end of your transactional emails to boost your email list sign-ups. Consider linking to an onsite landing page with an embedded form to join. 

Out-of-Stock Subscriptions

When a product is no longer available on your website, you may have an option for a subscriber to be notified when an item is back in stock. During this notification, sign-up process is a perfect time to ask customers if they’d like also to join your newsletter list. Including an option for contacts to subscribe to your newsletter when opting in for back-in-stock notifications is a great way to keep them interested in your brand while they wait for their desired item to be restocked.

Take Your Email Opt-ins to the Next Level

If you already have your email opt-ins pretty dialed in, congratulations! At Tadpull, we are big fans of continuous testing to optimize performance, so we have a few ideas of inspiration for how you can take your email opt-ins to the next level.

Multi-Step Forms

Multi-step forms allow you to break up your forms into multiple smaller steps. This is often helpful in ensuring that you can optimize form submissions for your most important goal (increasing your email list) while also giving visitors a chance to be prompted to subscribe to SMS or select specific interests.

If your ESP or third-party form creator has the option to break out your opt-in process into smaller steps, this would be a great test to see if you see higher form submissions as well as collect more information about your contacts. 

Collapsable Forms

Another way you can take your forms to the next level is by implementing a collapsible feature. Oftentimes site visitors may exit out of your pop-up forms because they are disrupting their browsing experience, or they may want more time to learn more about your brand before opting into your form.  Having the form collapse into a smaller banner or widget on your website will allow your visitors to reopen your form and fill it out. Consider adding a call-to-action on your collapsed form to signal visitors that they can reopen the form to subscribe or redeem their incentive.

Collect Customer Data

Customer data, specifically, data that a customer shares with you, is immensely valuable. By capturing data, such as interests, from your customers during the sign-up process, you’ll be able to use that information to segment your lists or personalize your emails more effectively. 

Collect information such as the customer’s interests, activities they enjoy, birthdays, or other information that might best help you cater your content or your product recommendations to that customer. 

Test, Test, Test!

Maybe you’ve implemented all of the form tactics we’ve mentioned above, but you still aren’t seeing as high of submission rates as you’d like. Our advice is to rigorously test your forms and opt-in methods to find the highest-performing variations for your brand.

We’d recommend starting with testing things like form timing, frequency, segmentation, and location on your site to begin with. Then, start to test design elements like copy, imagery, or calls to action. One of the biggest variables that can influence a sign-up may be your incentive, so don’t hesitate to test different types of incentives or offers to help grow your email list.

Conclusion

Getting email addresses from customers is very powerful. You can create a targeted list of interested people and use it to bring awareness to your brand and convert subscribers into customers to increase sales.

Outlining your email marketing and list growth strategy might sound like a lot of work, but if you do a thoughtful and strategic job you will be able to build your list of subscribers over time and nurture those relationships into a sale.

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