It’s one thing to understand the importance of email marketing — why you need to earn permission to communicate with an audience — and quite another to have a healthy list you’re consistently growing.
One of the best things I ever did as a blogger was build an email list.
My newsletter has been the most important asset to my online platform, helping me attract an audience, land three traditional book contracts, and build a business that let me quit my job and pursue my dream.
So, yeah… I kinda think email marketing is important. And you should, too. If you’re not getting people on your email list, you’re missing out big time.
The secret to building a powerful email list
What does it take to actually build an email list? You might have thought that all you needed was to get started with a Mailchimp or Aweber account and a form on your website. But that was just the beginning.
Let’s say you’ve done the work of setting up a list and getting those pesky forms embedded on your site. What now?
Next, you want to make sure website is ready to turn visitors into subscribers. Which means you need to design for readers, not yourself.
Your content is only as good as your ability to capture an audience’s attention.
Otherwise, you run the risk of having to keep reintroducing yourself to the same people over and over again. Which means you’ll never have permission to follow up — and that’s a problem.
What it means to get permission
Do you have something to say? A message to share? Something worth listening to? Then you need permission.
Everyone has a story, I believe that. But without an audience, how good is your message? What kind of impact will it have?
You may feel like you have something amazing to say, a word we all need to hear. And that’s great. But without getting people’s permission to communicate, your message won’t go far.
Without someone saying, “Here: I trust you; send me stuff,” you’re forced to throw stuff out there and hope some of it sticks.
The smart way to share a message is to get permission ahead of time so that when you speak, people listen. And how your website is designed is an important piece of the puzzle.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Is it difficult for people to sign up for your newsletter?
- How many clicks does it take to get to a place where they can give you their information?
- How long does it take to even find a place to sign up?
You can’t assume people will search for ways to subscribe to your blog, that they’re dying to get more email in their inbox. They won’t and they aren’t. You have to make it easy.
Here’s how to get started
- Use a feature box. Derek Halpern was one of the first people to popularize the big, fan email signup form on a blog. What he learned in doing this was that one of the best things you can do to get new subscribers is make it super obvious where people can sign up. (If you’re on WordPress, be sure you use a theme that has a feature box built in to it.)
- Have multiple signup forms. Not only do you want to have a big signup box; you want to make it easy for people to sign up wherever they are on your site. For example, I include a signup form at the end of each article. Some sites include one in the footer or sidebar, as well. Wherever people are going, there should be an opportunity to join your list.
- Leverage social proof. You can use a celebrity endorsement or share how many subscribers you have (e.g. “Join over 1000 daily readers!”). The idea behind social proof is that people want to be a part of what people are doing. But be careful that it doesn’t backfire on you (i.e. sharing a small number that prevents people from signing up).
- Offer bait. Seth Godin calls it an “ethical bribe.” I like to think of it as a reward. However you view it, you want to incentivize people to join your email newsletter with an immediate signup bonus. When I did this with The Writer’s Manifesto, my subscribers grew from 75 to over 1000 — in a week!
- Ask people to share. This is an obvious one, but most will overlook it. Once you’ve started getting subscribers, an easy way to grow your list is to ask existing followers to tell their friends. Inserting a tweetable link in a newsletter can work wonders. If you’re offering great content, your audience will be happy to share.
When in doubt, make it obvious, simple, and valuable for the reader. Reward people for their attention, never taking permission for granted, and don’t be afraid to occasionally ask them to share.
Do this, and your work will spread and your list will grow.
Did I lose you?
If this is too overwhelming and you don’t know where to start, I understand. This stuff can feel like Greek 401 if you’re just beginning with blogging and can’t wrap your mind around all the technical stuff.
If that’s you, start with a piece of bait. Find something useful you’ve already created (like a short eBook, blog series, or resource list) that you can quickly package and offer for free on your website.
And then watch the subscribers pour in.
This doesn’t have to feel sleazy
One of the things I often hear people say is, “But I’m not a marketer…” Or: “I don’t like self-promotion.” But that’s not what this is about.
Whether you consider yourself as a marketer or not, don’t forget this isn’t about you. It’s about your message, which deserves to be heard. Email, in my experience, just happens to be the best way to get it out there.
Having a strong email newsletter list will allow you engage with an audience, build trust over time, and lead people wherever you want to go.
For more on how to do this, check out this short video from my recent creativeLIVE class:
(By the way, if you missed the live broadcast of this, you can now get the whole course to watch whenever you want).
One last thing: Art is only as useful as the people it changes (tweet that). You have an opportunity to use the incredible tools that technology affords us to reach more people than you ever imagined. But you have to start.
Good luck, and here’s to your message spreading and your email list growing!
What questions about building an email newsletter list do you have? And what success stories do you have? Share in the comments.