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Growing Your List (Part 2)

by Randall Craig on February 19, 2016

Filed in: Blog, CRM, Make It Happen Tipsheet

Tagged as: , , , ,

In the first part of this post, we consider the importance of growing all channels – not just email.  In this post, we look specifically at growing your email list – 11 different ways of doing so:

Plug the leaks:  Sometimes a list is growing just fine, but the growth is negated by people who leave.  While some of the “leaks” (bounces, for example) are to be completely expected, the two biggest causes of list contraction are mismatch, and content quality.  Mismatch refers to a mismatch between what you are sending and the expectations of the recipient.  It may mean sending irrelevant content at the right frequency, or sending relevant content at the wrong frequency.  Content quality, on the other hand, is often the elephant in the room.  Poor editorial planning, poorly written content, and always-happy stock photos are but just a few examples.

Existing clients or members:  Perhaps because of history, or perhaps because no one has asked, many real-world stakeholders (existing clients/ members/ partners/ suppliers) may not actually be on your list.  Ask them, and then make sure that your process for anyone new coming into your ecosystem includes a sign-up to your list.  These people are your strongest advocates, and have the greatest influence – see organic growth, below.

Organic growth:  Organic list growth doesn’t happen by itself: if you want existing list members to bring others along, you will need to ask them to do so for you. Note that the stronger the affinity your list has to you, the more likely the list member will pass along your message.  Alternatives range from a footer that asks the user to share with a friend, a one more thing ask, perhaps as part of the PS, or a purpose-written email explicitly asking them to recruit/share with their connections.

Event-driven collection: Very often the goal of events is to generate leads for sales follow-up.  Instead, construct two “funnels”: one as usual for leads, and one that collects contacts who may not yet be ready to commit.  This second group might be ripe for a long-term nurture marketing automation sequence, or perhaps a 4-6 segment educational sequence.

Traditional marketing data collection:  Too often when looking to grow our lists, we forget about the traditional marketing tools that have always been available: from PR, to traditional advertising, to the use of direct mail, to even the simplest marketing collateral.  A simple question: does everything that you currently have now drive the user to a place where they can sign up? (Even your business cards?)

SMS-based collection:  Particularly at events where you may be speaking, why not ask all of the attendees to take out their cellphones, and text their contact information to you?  Your technology can then pluck that info from the text message and automatically add each person to your mailing list.  Not only is this slick, but it also saves hours entering people’s contact information from business cards.  Bonus tip:  This same technique can also work when you are delivering a webinar.

Online lead generation forms:  Usually accompanied by an ethical bribe of a free ebook or diagnostic checklist, lead gen forms are a very common way to collect contact information.  What is forgotten, however, is that lead gen forms can (and should) appear on almost every page, with an ethical bribe relevant for that page. Note that CASL restrictions apply to this approach: you can only send people what you promised.  Bonus idea:  Use pay-per-click ads and social media posts to generate traffic to a landing page with a lead gen form.

List purchase or rental:  Many lists are available from traditional direct mail houses.  Depending on the quality of their list, the price can vary significantly.  If you go down this road, ensure that (1) all recipients have opted in to receive commercial electronic messages (eg a CASL-compliant list), and (2) that the list hasn’t been sold so many times that there is user fatigue.

Partners:  Partners are critical to a list-building strategy; the goal is to put your content within their newsletters, interviews, webinars, speeches, and your “products” on their shelf.  Generally, the deal is a 50-50 revenue split on any products or services sold by you as a result of your inclusion or participation in front of their audience.  Partners can be suppliers, clients, anybody or any organization, but they must meet two criteria: Their distribution (email and/or blog) must be vast, and their audience must be precisely your target audience.

Guest blogging:  The goal of this strategy is to gain exposure to another group’s audience – it is a variant of the partner strategy focused on blogging, and often with a less commercial aim.  The host blogger gets new “friendly” content, while the guest blogger gets a chance to gain new followers.  If the blog post is connected to an offer (ethical bribe, special service or product offer, etc), contact information can be collected. If the blog reader doesn’t sign up, they may still follow your link back to your blog site, and become a follower there.  There is nothing wrong when a user chooses one of your channels (your blog) to consume your content over another (such as email).  The goal is to generate connection.

Web scraping:  This is the unethical (and usually illegal) process where you use a program that scans a list of websites – or all websites – page by page.  Whenever it finds an email address, the program “scrapes” it from the web site, and puts it into a list for you.  The shady people who do this will often scrape a number of sites, and then re-sell the list over and over again to different customers.

This week’s action plan:  While there are a ton of additional ways to grow your list, which of these (beyond scraping) have you never done before, or perhaps with less intentionality? This week, grow your list by doing something about it.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to www.RandallCraig.com to register.

Randall Craig

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About 

Randall has been advising on Web and Social Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of seven books, including the recently released "Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business", and speaks across North America on Social Media and Web Strategy. More at randallcraig.com and 108ideaspace.com.

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