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5 Tips to Drastically Improve Email Subscriptions

Attention small business owners: email marketing is not dead. Email marketing is alive and well and continues to blow the doors off of other digital marketing channels.

I recently had the pleasure of keynoting in Orlando, Florida the Any Lab Test Now! Annual Franchisee Conference. The event, packed with ALTN franchisees from throughout the U.S., provides franchisees with best practices to take their businesses to the next level. The event included lots of sharing of valuable information and meaningful discussions.

During a break one of the attendees posed to me the following question: “Is email marketing dead?” My response, “hell no!”

Our inboxes continue to become inundated more and more with emails that feel like nothing more than noise. And email filters continue to redirect marketing-based emails into the abyss. Both give the impression that email, as a marketing medium, has run its course. But the reality is that a well maintained email program rises above the noise and filters and provides a return on investment unmatched by most other marketing channels.

According to Campaign Monitor, “Even with the explosion of new technology, marketers keep coming back to email. The reason is clear – for ten years in a row, email is the channel generating the highest ROI for marketers. For every $1 spent, email marketing generates $38 in ROI.”

Consultancy McKinsey & Company concurs, stating that “E-mail remains a significantly more effective way to acquire customers than social media – nearly 40 times that of Facebook and Twitter combined. That’s because 91 percent of all US consumers still use e-mail daily, and the rate at which e-mails prompt purchases is not only estimated to be at least three times that of social media, but the average order value is also 17 percent higher.”

Does this mean small businesses should abandon their social campaigns and focus entirely on email. Absolutely not! Social remains a growing channel – particularly when backed with great content and influencer support. In fact, small businesses must include social more than ever in their marketing plan. But they must also ensure not to let up on email as it remains an incredibly profitable marketing channel.

The key to a successful email marketing program is a high quality email list. According to BOLDFACE CEO Randy Fenton, “Our marketing success is largely attributed to having an email list comprised of BOLDFACE fans. Those that have opted-in to our list open our emails and engage with our brand at rates that outperform other outreach activities. So the larger the list we are able cultivate the greater success we’ll have marketing BOLDFACE products.”

Based on the overwhelming success of email when compared to other marketing channels it is surprising how many small businesses have failed to optimize their Web sites to develop high quality email lists.

The following are five tips to help small businesses attract fans to their email list.

1. Make the email opt-in box as conspicuous as possible. While it is true that leading a horse to water will not make it take a sip, how many horses would pass up a refreshing drink after a long journey? The same is true of visitors to a Web site.

Visitors that have gone to the trouble of typing in or clicking on a Web link are sufficiently intrigued with your product, service or content that they are willing to invest some of their valuable time visiting the site. Whether it’s through a Google search, a social media post or some other referral, there is enough interest to result in a visit to the site.

Experts agree that the best way to attract a new email subscriber is through continuous calls-to-action. This means that a Web page should provide opt-in opportunities throughout the page. The greater the number of opt-in reminders on a page the greater the likelihood that a visitor will subscribe.

Given the importance of strategic placement of opt-in opportunities, at a minimum, it is important to place an email opt-in box at the top of each page. Even if the visitor does not scroll down a page, the call-to-action included at the top of each page provides an opportunity to capture the visitor’s email.

The key to growing an email list is to make the process as easy and pain-free as possible. Placing the email opt-in box at the top of each page eliminates the reader’s need to figure out how to subscribe. It also becomes one of the first things they see, moving the idea of subscribing to top-of-mind.

In the example below the email subscription call-to-action is included at the top of the sidebar. As soon as the page loads the visitor will see the request and begin thinking whether the site is worthy of receiving the email.

Other locations for the call-to-action can include the menu bar, a floating email subscription box and an email subscription box in the header of the Web page. Simultaneously placing a subscription box in all four locations is possible and works well so long as the subscription boxes do not overwhelm the site and do not distract the visitor to the point of being annoyed and forcing them to exit from the page. Keep it simple and make the content the focus of the page – not email opt-in subscription.

2. Limit the information collected. Consumers are increasingly hesitant to give up too much information due to an increase in the number of media reports describing online information breaches. As such, an email opt-in box that limits the information solely to email address may be more palatable to cautious visitors. Collecting too much information may scare off potential subscribers.

The example below shows the email address as the only piece of information being captured. While it is always more beneficial to collect at least the subscriber’s first name in order to personalize email campaigns, it is better to collect the email than risk not collecting any information.

3. Finish each article with a call to action. There is nothing like great content to inspire a reader to subscribe to an email list. Having an email opt-in box at the end of each article is a great way to increase email subscriptions. A visitor that finds the content useful will want to engage on an ongoing basis to gain timely access to more great content. An opt-in box at the end of each article maximizes subscriptions from satisfied readers.

Another idea is offering a freebie at the end of an article in exchange for an email opt-in. For example, an offer for an ebook can be placed at the end of an article. If the ebook or other freebie relates to the article’s subject matter the offer is likely to produce strong opt-in results. The freebie encourages visitors to provide their email in exchange for something of value – the ebook.

Some companies such as OptinMonster provide the ability to create opt-in boxes at the time a visitor exits the Web site. Using an exit pop-up box can capture additional visitors before they leave the site altogether.

4. Sell it with social proof. There is nothing like social proof to boost email subscriptions. Bar owners create social proof by keeping people in line. “If the line is that long that must be the cool place to hang out” say passers-by as they get into line.

Similarly, Web sites should make use of social proof to encourage others to follow. Social proof can be established by posting testimonials, showing an impressive visitor count, revealing a large number of subscribers or other statistic that demonstrates that people find the site valuable. Using social proof, subscribers beget subscribers.

The example below provides social proof by way of reader testimonials. The idea is to get visitors to say, “If they loved the content, I’ll probably love it too! Let’s do this!”

5. Use freebies. Successful email subscription campaigns make use of special offers. Visitors to a site may not be willing to give up their email unless the price is right. While financial gain is not necessary, some form of incentive may be necessary.

In the example above a pop-up box provided by a vendor such as OptinMonster is presented to the visitor upon arriving to the site. The pop-up box provides an offer for something of value to the visitor. The visitor is provided with an offer for a free e-book. While full length books are not necessary, something of value to the reader may be needed to encourage subscription.

For example, this post of 5 Tips to Drastically Improve Email Subscriptions converted into a pdf and delivered to a visitor’s email inbox may product strong email opt-in participation. Other examples can be access to videos, white papers or any other content of value. The best way to determine the content to offer is to understand the site’s target audience and what that audience considers valuable.

Web site owners should see immediate results after implementing these five tips. The use of these techniques should convert a greater number of visitors, providing greater marketing opportunities and improved profitability.


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About Jesse Torres (42 Articles)
Jesse Torres has spent over 20 years in leadership and executive management positions. Jesse maintains a wide range of skills that include risk management, internal audit, operations, information technology, marketing and public relations. Jesse has written books and articles related to entrepreneurship, marketing, and social media. Jesse is a contributing writer for Entrepreneur, a frequent speaker at conferences and is often interviewed by business publications. He holds a B.A. from UCLA and is a graduate of the Pacific Coast Banking School. He holds several certifications, including Certified Information Systems Auditor, Certified Internal Auditor and Certified Information Systems Security Professional.

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