Email Marketing: Top 5 most effective list growth tactics


In a digital world, where 72% of U.S. adults prefer communication with companies through email, how do you capture new email addresses?

Acquiring emails for our list is a continuous task. We have to work to not only retain the list we have, but to also grow it to build a larger audience of prospects and customers.

In fact, 63% of marketers reported “growing and retaining subscribers on our list” as a marketing goal, according to the MarketingSherpa Email Marketing Benchmark Report.

But with so many tactics and strategies out there, where do you begin?

In the Benchmark Report, we asked email marketers several questions about the different tactics out there. This MarketingSherpa blog post will break down the five most effective list building tactics, as reported by your peers.


Tactic #1. Registration during purchase
The most effective tactic according to respondents was gaining email addresses during the checkout process. This make perfect sense. After all, you already need an email address from customers during the online purchasing process. You’re not technically asking for anything they aren’t already giving.

However, I caution you to think about how you implement this. You don’t want to prevent customers from purchasing because of a confusing or required registration or list sign-up.

To learn about the two registration options — front-end vs. back-end — read the MarketingSherpa Blog post, “E-commerce: Why a forced checkout registration is never a good idea.”


Tactic #2. Website registration page

The second tactic is viewed as the easiest, with 85% of respondents saying it’s very or somewhat easy.

There are many ways to add a registration form to your site, whether it’s a form on the homepage or a landing page all its own.

Even if you already employ this tactic, it could be worth it to reassess your current strategy. Kodak revamped its strategy, including updating its capture page and adding more opt-in requests, to increase email subscribers by 33%.

According to the Benchmark Report, 29% of marketers found white papers and other premium content is effective for registering new email subscribers on their sites. This could be for one-off downloads or to access a library of premium content. To see how a free paywall can grow your list by using content you already produce, see how Copyblogger grew its email list by 400%.


Tactic #3. Online events

Online events, or webinars, are no exception to the rule that providing prospects with content is a great way to achieve a value exchange. Customers get valuable information in exchange for their email address.

Webinars can require a significant amount of time, planning and resources, so it’s not a surprise that only 31% of marketers say they are very or somewhat easy to execute. However, as the third most effective tactic — with 37% saying it’s very effective — they might worth the investment.

Partnering with another company could be a great strategy for webinars. One, you have another set of hands to help with the webinar creation and execution. Two, you’ll have access to another email list, potentially filled with new customers.

You can create buzz around the event through social media, blog posts and even paid advertising. HubSpot attracted 25,000 sign-ups, which turned into 10,000 attendees. The team was then able to turn 3,500 of those attendees into new leads. Learn how the team achieved these results in the MarketingSherpa case study.


Tactic #4. Offline events

Depending on your industry, you might be involved in different offline events. Trade shows, for both B2C and B2B, can be a great place to build awareness within your market. It’s also a great opportunity to gain email addresses.

A popular tactic is a drawing for a free prize, where entrants must hand over their email address. However, there are other ways to stand out on the show floor.

Loggly — a cloud log management company — created an event sponsor guide for an industry event it was sponsoring. Reaching out to the other sponsored vendors, the team created a crowdsourced guide they posted on their blog.

The company generated its highest level of engagement with the event, and while they posted the guide to a blog post, it could have also been easily gated behind an email capture page. Learn more by reading the case study: “Tradeshow Marketing: Why a SaaS company helped competitors generate leads.”

A great offline tactic for brick-and-mortar retail stores is offering discounts and promotions in exchange for an email address. KooKoo Bear Kids, a children’s furniture and décor retailer, set up iPads for email list sign-ups in plain view of the checkout counters. The retailer found three benefits to this method: 

  • Customers use a popular device, which adds to the appeal of signing up.
  • Customers do not have to say or spell embarrassing email addresses they may have created years ago.
  • KooKoo Bear does not have to manually enter email addresses at the register or from a slip of paper.

This tactic, along with asking for sign-up during online checkout and on most pages of the website, has increased list growth by 15%. Read on to learn more: “Email Marketing: 142% higher open rate, 15% bigger list from retailer’s strategy.”


Tactic #5. Paid search

While a quarter of marketers thought paid search was a very effective way to gain new email subscribers, not many more — 29% survey respondents — reported actually using it to drive list growth. This could be because 80% of marketers reported paid search as somewhat or very difficult to use.

You could use paid search to increase traffic to your site overall or to draw traffic to a sign-up page for a webinar or landing page for a white paper.

While the case study, “PPC Marketing: Testing value proposition messaging increases clickthrough 88%,” uses paid search to increase site traffic, not list growth, it does detail the process of finding the best PPC ads for your potential customers.

Understanding how value proposition affects the success of your ads could not only increase the effectiveness of your campaigns, but it could also reduce the difficulty of knowing what to focus your ads on.


But above all else, test to know what is most effective for your audience

Just because one tactic is effective for many companies doesn’t mean it will be best for your customers. After all, if you don’t have an online purchase option on your site, adding an opt-in during checkout won’t help you.

This list just provides you a starting point for optimizing your email strategy. To know what draws in subscribers to your company, you’ll want to test multiple tactics.

Take Techlicious, a site that publishes simple and straightforward advice on technology for women, as an example of the power of testing when it comes to email list growth. Over five months, they tested six channels to determine which generated the greatest number of engaged subscribers. Read the case study to learn how they garnered 230% more readers from the six-channel test.


You might also like

Email Lists: How sweepstakes work for CNET [Live from #SherpaEmail] [More from the blogs]

Lead Generation: How to build your own list [More from the blogs]

Marketing Research Chart: 63% say registration during purchase effective for list building [MarketingSherpa Chart of the Week]

Lead Generation: Content and email combine for high-quality list building [Case study]

Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we believe will add value to our readers.

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