Even though email marketing is over 40 years old, it still dominates the online space.
Compared to social media, the number of email users also far outnumbers Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest users combined!
With such a strong ROI and reach, it’s no wonder that 81% of small and growing brands rely on email as their primary marketing channel.
But, you can't generate sales from email unless you have subscribers. Which is why you have to make an active effort to grow your email list.
Right now, my online store over at BumblebeeLinens.com generates over 30% of its revenue from email marketing. And this post I'll share examples from my store to teach you my exact strategies about how to scale your email list quickly on a budget.
Your subscriber list can then be used to launch new products, establish your brand, and gather leads.
Strategy #1: Use popups to build your email list
Popups have earned a bad online reputation. But here’s the thing – popups work! According to Privy, popups for an ecommerce store have an average conversion rate of 1.31% in 2020.
While 1.31% may not sound very high, think of the numbers this way:
For every 10,000 visitors on your website, you can get up to 131 new email signups. And because email carries such a high ROI at 42x, each new signup increases your revenue potential by an order of magnitude.
But you can’t just throw up any arbitrary popup and expect it to convert. Design matters. And can be the difference between being effective vs. annoying.
Here are tips about how to create a popup that visitors want to engage with.
Customize the popup based on customer behavior
Nowadays, people are much more hesitant to give away their email addresses online.
As a result, your popups should offer a clear incentive in the form of freebies, discounts, or information.
Make sure your offer is relevant to a user’s interests based on the pages or categories they browse. Popup tools like Privy have targeting features you can use to customize messages based on visitor behavior.
The simplest way to launch a popup is to offer a coupon in exchange for an email address.
But keep in mind: Coupon offers don’t guarantee high signup rates for all ecommerce stores.
If the standard coupon popup is performing below average for your ecommerce store, you should experiment with different offers and see which popup forms increase your conversion.
Specifically, you could tailor your popup copy based on the context of the page.
For my online store, coupon offers were not converting that well for visitors on my linen towel and napkin-related pages. So I switched things up and decided to offer a napkin folding ebook as the lead magnet instead of a coupon.
Compared to my standard coupon opt-in that converted at 1.6%, this content-specific popup increased my opt-in percentage to around 2%. Not only that, but I didn’t have to give up any extra margin because no discount was offered.
Gamify the popup
If coupon popups work well on your store, you can take it one step further with a gamified version.
Everybody loves a chance to win a prize, and incorporating gamified elements into your popups is a great way to entice shoppers to sign up.
A spin-to-win popup:
- Is free with Privy Convert
- Only takes 15 minutes to design
- Has adjustable weighting factors so you don’t have to give away big rewards too often
By shaking things up and gamifying my email capture, my opt-in rate grew from 1.6% to 3.7%!
Overall, gamified popups can more than double your existing email signup rates. By offering a clear benefit to signing up for your list, shoppers are more likely to take action. Especially if you incorporate a sense of urgency with your offers.
Strategy #2: Run a group giveaway to grow your email list
Group giveaways involve collaborating with similar brands to launch a massive sweepstakes contest.
This strategy has helped many ecommerce businesses gain tens of thousands of new subscribers in a matter of days.
Here’s how a group giveaway works:
- You contribute a gift card (or specific products) from your store as a prize.
- You collaborate with other similar brands who also offer similar sized gift cards to create one huge giveaway.
- Each participating brand sends the co-branded email to their existing email list.
- Users enter their email addresses to join the sweepstakes giveaway.
- A grand prize winner is chosen.
- All participating brands get to keep the entire email list and instantly grow their audience.
While the group giveaway is running, you can also use an email autoresponder sequence to offer special discounts and incentives to purchase!
Take a look at these results from group giveaways that I ran to grow my online store.
- Total Emails Acquired: 11.7K
- Average Email List Size Of Participating Brands: 20,822
- Average Email List Size Growth: 56.25%
- Average Email List Size Of Participating Brands: 4,395
- Total Emails Collected: 2,088
- Average Email List Size Growth: 46.5%
A group giveaway is the fastest way to scale your email list, generate traffic, and increase sales. But you have to make sure that every participating brand has an audience of similar customers.
You also have to trust the brands that you are working with to avoid spamming your audience.
But done correctly, group giveaways are easy to implement and cost less than running ads to generate leads.
Strategy #3: Launch a traditional giveaway to build your email list
Traditional giveaways involve a single prize as opposed to a group giveaway.
In most cases, you’ll have to spend money on ads (usually Facebook ads) to launch a traditional giveaway and expand your reach.
If your offer and ads are well-targeted, email leads can be acquired for less than $.50 per subscriber.
Here’s a tutorial on how to set up a traditional giveaway that generates email signups.
Choose A Prize That Will Entice Your Ideal Customers
Huge prizes attract email signups. And in general, a good prize should be worth at least $150. But monetary value is not everything!
A successful giveaway also depends on choosing the right prize for your ideal customers. A relevant prize targets your niche and prevents junk leads that are only after free stuff.
For example Jane.com, a women's apparel company, recently gave away a $3,500 shopping spree to five lucky winners.
This one giveaway campaign resulted in over 5,000 new subscribers and over 100,000 actions on their site!
When selecting a prize, think of a product that your dream customer can't resist. The prize can be either your own product or an item someone would buy alongside your product.
Set up your giveaway
After choosing your prize, you should use a platform like ViralSweep to launch your giveaway. ViralSweep allows you to set up, run, and manage your giveaway all in one platform.
The key benefit of using a giveaway service is that you can make your giveaway go viral by offering additional contest entries to entrants who share the giveaway on social media and email.
Once you’ve set up your giveaway, the next step is to run Facebook ads to promote your contest. Facebook ads can drive extra signups and increase awareness about your business.
Email your new subscribers throughout the giveaway
Most people sign up for a giveaway and quickly forget. So constant communication is important. Make sure you set up an automated email series to provide special offers and keep entrants engaged throughout the campaign.
As soon as a customer signs up for your contest, you should place them on an email autoresponder sequence that:
- Encourages participants to share your giveaway to their friends in return for more contest entries
- Drives sales to your shop with special offers and promotions
- Tells your brand story and unique value proposition
- Educates the customer about the different products you offer
If you have no idea where to start, you can use this sample email sequence as a framework for your emails:
- 1st email: The Welcome Email: Introduce the giveaway and your brand. Make sure to tell entrants to stay on your list to win, and let them know you’ll be announcing the winner via email.
- 2nd email: The Reminder Email: Remind participants to share the giveaway on social media to increase their chances of winning.
- 3rd-8th email: Promotional Emails: Inform your subscribers about promotions, freebies, and other products they can get from your store.
Email subscribers a special offer after the giveaway
At the end of the giveaway, you should always announce the winner publicly to all of the participants.
And to increase the credibility of your contest, it also helps to ask for photos of the winners and include them in your announcement.
The goal is to maintain a positive relationship with your entrants even if they didn’t win. Consolation coupons and other offers can turn your signups into sales almost immediately.
For example, after announcing the winner, you can send out another email to the rest of your list with the following message: “You didn’t win, but we’re giving you 20% off our products to say thanks for your support.”
Overall, the goal of your giveaway is to turn your newly acquired list into paying customers. As a result, you must continue to email your subscribers on a regular basis even after your contest is over.
Clean up your email list
Some people sign up for your contest just for the freebie without any intention of making a future purchase. Some people are dead weight and don’t open any of your emails.
Cleaning your email list after your contest is over lets you filter out good prospects and minimize spam complaints.
When cleaning your email list, the point is to remove inaccurate and inactive data from your database.
You can follow these steps to filter out good prospects from your list:
- Scrub your email list and retain only the email addresses of your most engaged subscribers.
- Segment your emails by location and take out the countries you don’t sell to.
- Optional: Remove AOL, Microsoft, and Yahoo emails from your database. Your email deliverability can significantly go down if users of these services mark your messages as spam.
By cleaning up your email list, you will:
- Get higher open rates and click through rates since you’re only reaching out to interested subscribers.
- Avoid annoying the people who don’t want to hear from you.
- Save money on email marketing costs with a smaller, yet engaged list of followers.
Strategy #4: Create a blog to build your email list
Business blogging and creating content is a powerful tool to generate leads. A blog allows you to drive traffic, demonstrate your expertise, and generate email signups.
Here’s a step by step guide to help you learn how to create a blog that generates traffic and email subscribers.
Perform keyword research to identify relevant content
Keyword research tools like Ahrefs allow you to find out what people in your niche are looking for on search engines like Google. And you can generate search traffic by creating content that specifically addresses these queries.
Since we sell linen napkins in our online store, I used Ahrefs to see what people are searching for on Google for this category.
As it turns out, napkin folding gets 11K searches every month.
As a result, I created a napkin folding guide that now ranks in Google search.
Once you have built up some traffic, you can use a series of popups to build your email list.
The following sections demonstrate the best way to position popups on your blog to maximize signups.
Include sign up forms in your content
Once you’ve created several blog posts, look at your analytics to find out which posts generate the most traffic.
Then, create content-specific email capture forms to make them relevant to a page visitor’s needs.
Below are the different ways to include sign up forms in your blog posts.
Users see this popup if they visit any of our arts and crafts blog posts.
In addition, this popup appears if:
- A user clicks on a signup link within the content.
- A desktop user has been on the page for 20 seconds.
- A user is about to exit the page.
You should experiment with different popups and settings to identify what performs best for your blog.
Static sidebar form
A static sidebar form is visible on every page of your blog and you can opt to change your lead magnet depending on the context of the page.
My sidebar form converts at 1.4% which makes it the second-highest performing form on my blog.
In general, it helps to add an image to your signup form to display a tangible reward.
Bottom of post form
Including a sign up form at the bottom of every post will tend to convert your most valuable customers because they consumed your entire post.
My bottom of post form converts at around 1.3% and is the third-highest converting form on my blog.
I purposely blend the email form with the content so that the visitor’s attention naturally flows to the offer.
Strategy #5: Run a Facebook Messenger giveaway to build your email list
Facebook Messenger giveaways are similar to traditional giveaways, except the giveaway is run entirely via Facebook messenger.
With a tool like ManyChat, you can create a Facebook chatbot to gather email subscribers and run your giveaways on auto pilot.
Why use Messenger giveaways?
The main benefit of running a Messenger giveaway is that the contest is entirely run by your chatbot.
Winners are drawn and prizes are awarded automatically and you only have to set up your contest once.
Messenger giveaways are great because they are:
- Evergreen: A Messenger giveaway can keep running on autopilot after you set it up, and you can pause it at any time.
- Inexpensive: Messenger giveaways have a lower cost per subscriber compared to traditional email marketing. I usually pay 25-86 cents per Messenger-email combo when I run a giveaway.
How Messenger giveaways work
First off, you must sign up for a chatbot tool like ManyChat in order to set up a Messenger giveaway.
Here’s a step by step walkthrough of the exact Facebook Messenger giveaway campaign I recently ran for my online store.
Step 1: Your giveaway starts by running a Facebook Messenger ad to drive visitors to your giveaway campaign. Once a user clicks on the ad, it activates your Messenger chatbot.
Step 2: The chatbot then sends the following message and prompts the user to confirm whether they’re joining the giveaway.
If the user selects “Yes,” they instantly become a Messenger subscriber. This allows them to receive follow up messages and broadcasts in the future.
Step 3: To enter the giveaway, the user selects the email linked to their Facebook account.
By auto-populating the form with a valid email address, the chatbot ensures that you get real email addresses, rather than burner email addresses people use for giveaways.
Step 4: After selecting their email address, the user gets information about the giveaway and receives a special welcome gift.
Editor’s Note: A common welcome gift is a discounted version of the giveaway prize. Often, your giveaway sales will make up for the cost of your advertising!
Step 5: After 23 hours, the Messenger bot runs the draw and informs lucky participants that they’ve won the giveaway.
- A winner automatically gets a coupon code to redeem their prize on your online store.
- A non-winner gets a consolation prize in the form of a discount like the example below.
All new subscribers are also placed on an email autoresponder sequence similar to the one used in a traditional giveaway.
Which email list growth method should you use?
The 5 email list growth strategies outlined in this post can all be applied at the same time. Which means you don’t have to limit yourself to just one.
Overall, you should let the data drive your decision making and don’t ever let anyone try to convince you that email is dead or that popups are annoying.
The statistics don’t lie.
Implementing popups on your website is a no brainer and you can use Privy’s spin-to-win popups to boost your conversion rate if gamification fits well with your brand.
And if you have the budget, a well-run giveaway can greatly amplify your list building efforts. Good luck!