How to Grow Your Email Marketing List

Kyle McCarthy
Demand and Lead Generation

If you’re struggling to develop a high-quality marketing list, you might be tempted to buy one from a third-party vendor. Do not do this. 

Your contact lists are your most valuable and powerful marketing asset, so you need them to be clean, accurate, and effective.

Email Marketing List

Again, no matter how bleak things might seem, never buy an email marketing list. 

Doing so can (and will) do more damage than good and should never even be a consideration. Here’s why:

  1. These contacts are unqualified, which means they will not open or engage with your emails and most likely send them to their Spam folder, damaging your email reputation and deliverability
  2. You will not have an exclusive relationship with these contacts, because your vendor is selling this information to multiple parties. As a result, contacts are bombarded by dozens (if not hundreds) of marketing messages every day — and getting through all this noise is nearly impossible for recipients.
  3. Contacts will make a negative association with your brand and likely avoid or disregard all future marketing messages from your organization. Establishing good brand awareness and a solid reputation takes years; don’t demolish all that hard work overnight.  

Now that we know what not to do (and why), let’s review three proven strategies for growing an eager and engaged list of email marketing contacts.

1) Use Your Website to Generate Email Subscribes

As your central marketing hub, your website is your greatest asset when it comes to growing your email marketing list. Therefore, you should leverage it every chance you get. Here are a few tried and true ways of doing just that.

Blog and Newsletter Subscriptions

We’re going to talk about the nature of your content in just a minute, but first, it’s important to understand where and how you can use that content. One great way to swap content for contacts is by making it easy for your website visitors to subscribe to your blog and/or newsletters. 

Team up with your web developer to create a clear, engaging, and prominent subscription button on your blog that gives prospects the option to subscribe to your blog, content newsletter, or both! Depending on your audience’s preferences and behavior, you can choose to place the button at the top, middle, or bottom of the page. Better yet, if you really want to get noticed, create a sticky subscription button in the margin that stays with the reader as they scroll down the page.

Relevant and Engaging CTA Placement

We just touched on this topic in the section above, but it’s important to understand how and where to write, design, and place calls-to-action (CTAs) that resonate with your audience and motivate them to engage. First, you should always use descriptive, action-oriented verbiage. 

For instance:

Convey a sense of enthusiasm and urgency, but make sure the language is direct and succinct — and in the second person whenever appropriate. 

Next, you should work with your designer to develop a style, shape, and font that jives with your brand guidelines, accents your site’s color palette, and makes your CTA stand out on the page.

Finally, make sure to place your CTA on the page in a way that will draw the reader’s eye. Your best bet is to place your call-to-action above the fold in an area where there’s plenty of space for it to stick out. Occasionally, you’ll have more than one CTA on a page, so, in these instances, you’ll have to take measures to create a hierarchy of intention. Secondary CTAs should use more subtle or monochromatic colors and be smaller than their primary counterparts.

Well-Placed Pop-Ups

Pop-ups can be controversial and lead to higher bounce rates. In specific instances, however, they can also vastly increase the number of conversions on a given page. Either way, use them sparingly and make sure the CTA relates to the content on the page it’s on. 

In other words, you shouldn’t use the same pop-up on every single page — even if the offer is universal, such as a sitewide discount. In that case, consider using a pop-up on your home or contact page when a user appears to be moving away from the page (i.e., an exit-intent popup); using pop-ups in this way is effective because it helps you reel your visitors back in before they navigate away.

2) Create Quality Landing Pages and Forms to Encourage Conversions

Oh, boy… landing pages and form creation. Two massive and related topics that mean many different things to many different marketers. For the sake of time and gaining a solid foundation, I’ll stick to industry-accepted best practices.

Let’s begin with landing pages:

Landing Pages Should Match Your Traffic Sources 

That is, whatever it was that enticed your user to click through to the landing page should reflect the experience on the previous page — and that goes for copy, design, page structure, etc. The goal here is to create a seamless user experience that reassures your visitors that they’ve reached the proper destination. This will inspire confidence in your brand and your CTA — propelling your visitors to take action.

Include Social Proofs to Create Consumer Confidence

Including customer logos, success stories, statistics, and testimonials (text and video) is an excellent way to establish credibility, build trust, and improve your reputation. Most consumers (especially B2B buyers) are going to conduct exhaustive research on their path to purchase, so it’s important to position your products, services, and organization as reliable right off the bat. Showcasing your client roster and using your customers’ own words to reinforce your positioning will go a long way toward creating and maintaining that consumer confidence. 

Ditch the Navigation!

There are varying opinions on this topic, but if the sole purpose of a given page is to generate a conversion (a paid search dedicated landing page, for instance), it’s a no-brainer: ditch the navigation! Why would you invite your users to browse away from the page when you finally have them exactly where you want them? Sure your bounce rate will be higher than other pages, but that comes with the territory, and your business leadership won’t even notice that vanity metric when you serve up your conversion rates. At most, you should include a linked icon that will easily allow users to travel to your homepage if they want to double-check a few things before committing to the CTA.

Next, let’s take a look at how to guarantee more conversions through marketing contact form best practices:

Fewer Fields Lead to More Conversions

Have you ever been filling out a contact form and decided to just give up after getting about halfway through? Me too! 

It seems strange that such a simple task can feel so exhausting, but people don’t want to be bothered with completing dozens of fields just to get an eBook or a $5 off coupon. Instead, they want as little conversion “friction” as possible, which means keeping your number of form fields to a minimum. 

For prospects filling out a contact or demo forms (commonly referred to as hand-raisers), you should require them to provide a first name, last name, and business email. That should be more than enough information for your sales team to begin the conversation. As these prospects progress through the buyer journey, you can use adaptive forms to limit your fields on individual forms while serving up new requests with each subsequent form completion. This way, you decrease friction while gathering super useful information — such as industry, company size, and/or age. 

Lastly, at Act-On, we’ve developed a unique approach for content downloads that we refer to as “Frictionless Forms.” We don’t want to ask too much of our users when they’re downloading an eBook or watching a webinar, so we place the content on a page with a dynamic form that appears after the users has been on the page for a given period of time. This format gives the user the opportunity to preview content and decide if it is worth their contact information (as you can see in the example below), and it benefits us by increasing conversions and helping us identify and then nurture new high-intent leads.

How to Attract More Prospects

Turn Negative Space Into a Positive User Experience

Regardless of the numerous trends that come and go in graphic design, one common thread will remain: negative space on a form is a good thing. And by following our advice above about using fewer fields, you put yourself in a good position to do so. 

This space is valuable because it makes your form seem less cramped and thus, less intimidating. It groups elements together nicely and presents these items as a collection of related things rather than just a list of text and boxes. This makes your form elements much easier to read and skim.

It also gives you a great chance to really showcase your primary CTA by separating it from your form fields and using different color schemes to make it stand out. (Don’t forget to optimize your forms for mobile — where this rule is especially true.)

Remember, giving things a little room to breathe helps clear out the clutter and communicate a more direct message with your potential consumer.

Use Directional Cues (Within Reason)

If you don’t have a skilled and experienced graphic designer on staff, you might want to skip this step altogether. When done poorly, directional cues look tacky and obnoxious and can actually lead to more confusion rather than solving the existing problem. 

However, when done properly, directional cues are a great way to ensure higher conversion rates. As marketers, we tend to make a lot of assumptions, which can lead to a lot of mistakes. In this case, you shouldn’t naturally assume that your visitors know what to do in order to take your desired action. Therefore, you need to show them exactly where they should be focusing — even if you’ve followed all the advice above to the letter.

3) Develop Great Content Marketing to Entice Your Audience

Nothing I’ve written so far is going to matter much if you’re not consistently pumping out great content that reflects your brand’s tone and positioning. This requires a proper SEO audit of your existing content across all of your digital properties to establish a baseline of your current state. Once that’s complete, continue to work with your in-house SEO specialist (or, if you don’t have an SEO pro on staff, check out Moz, SEMRush, and/or the Google Keyword Planner) to develop SEO campaigns that reflect your business direction and goals and that will facilitate the process of having your prospects find you (instead of the other way around). 

Here are just a few ways you can spruce up your content to help grow your email marketing list:

Blogging About Thought Leadership and Product Features and Benefits

Your blog should be the sharpest tool in your inbound demand generation arsenal. It’s your best chance to get your organization out in front of the right audience by honing in on their primary interests and pain points — and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Each blog should follow a strict editorial process (from topic ideation through posting) and include:

  • High-Level SEO research
  • Editorial calendar creation
  • Topic-Specific SEO research
  • Drafting
  • Editing
  • Edit implementation
  • Staging
  • Final review
  • Posting
  • Social sharing 
  • Email distribution 

Don’t focus too much on your organization’s products or services. No one wants to be sold constantly. Instead, approach each topic from a thought leadership perspective and then gradually filter in content that explains how your company executes these best practices and innovative techniques.

Lastly, if you want to make serious SEO headway and attract new prospects to your blog to help grow your email marketing list, you should be posting at least two new blogs each week. Recent research suggests you should shoot for roughly 1,900 words in each blog to satisfy our Google overlords, but anything between 1,500 and 2,200 words should place your article in the sweet spot when search engines crawl your site.

Informative Webinars for Prospects and Customers Alike

Webinars are one of the most effective ways to build your organic email marketing list because they offer your prospects something substantial. You can promote upcoming webinars on your website, in your newsletters, and throughout your social media platforms. You can also create dedicated paid campaigns to attract more attendees. Not only that, but once you have this valuable contact information, you can place these potential prospects and existing customers into targeted trigger and nurture campaigns.

Best of all, after the webinar, you can continue to collect new contacts by repurposing these online events as on-demand webinars and promoting them across your site, social media platforms, newsletters… heck, you can even place them on your blogs and in your topic-based email campaigns. An extremely effective method of collecting information is by gating the webinar after a predetermined amount of time spent watching, thus leaving your audience wanting more and generating even more form conversions!

Webinars are such a dynamic content source. Make sure to leverage them to the fullest before, during, and after the fact!

eBooks, Infographics, and Datasheets… Oh, My!

Also known as marketing collateral, these content assets are the proverbial carrot to your list generating stick. These are the elements you’ll want to gate behind a contact form in order to build that list. But if your content isn’t up to par, no one is going to bother completing the form in the first place. Everything from your paid advertising copy, landing pages, subject lines, title, abstract, images, and design needs to be spot on.

To start, you need to go back to the SEO research you conducted for your blog, refocus your efforts on topic ideation, and then work on creating longer, more detailed assets to release as gated PDFs. These pieces should go through a rigorous editorial process similar to the one taken during blog creation and should have much more of a design element with quotes, callouts, graphs, images, icons, etc. When finished, these eBooks should really shine and offer great information to move your prospects and customers through the sales funnel.

Again, the goal here is to educate, illuminate, and entertain — not to sell. People do not want to be sold to (at least not at this stage). They want the information they need to make informed decisions that eventually lead to more productive conversations with sales reps. So position yourself as a credible thought leader that also just so happens to solve your target audiences’ pain points.

By creating better, more engaging marketing collateral, prospects and customers will be more inclined to trust that you deliver awesome material and continue to complete more forms — giving your sales reps more detailed information to help them close the deal!

Act-On Helps Marketers of All Skill Sets Grow Effective Organic Marketing Lists

So, what have we learned?

First and foremost, never purchase a list. It will only burn you in the end, forcing you to revamp your demand and lead generation strategy from scratch while simultaneously decimating your brand and email reputation.

Conversely, you should leverage your website, landing pages, forms, and content to attract prospects and engage with your audience to grow an awesome email marketing list. From there, you can segment your contacts by interest, industry, and stage in the sales funnel and market to them accordingly. 

We hope this blog has been a good jumping-off point for improving your demand gen strategy, but we think you can learn even more by reading our eBook, “How to Attract More Prospects,” which is also linked below.

And if you’re ready to learn more about marketing automation and how Act-On can help you achieve your marketing and business goals, please contact us today by completing this brief form.

How to Attract More Prospects