10 Audience Development Strategies for Doubling Your Email List

Audience development strategies to take your email list from zero to hero

How do you currently build your email list? For most publishers, there are two main drivers of email subscribers: 1) a measly “subscribe to our newsletter” box floating around the site, or 2) a check box on magazine subscription forms that opts them in.

Exciting, right? Subscribers must be flocking to your email list.

If this is you, I hate to break it to you but nobody wants to subscribe to your newsletter, especially when you say something as complacent as “subscribe to our newsletter.” People already have enough flooding their inboxes to sign up for something that offers no real benefit. As for the second one, nobody likes being auto-opted into things either.

It probably also means that you’re part of the publishing industry (most of it) that has a sitewide email capture/conversion rate of about .01%. Ouch.

If you’re open to a few new audience development strategies for increasing that rate from what my grandmother would call “a pinch,” to something more hearty like 2%, 4% or much higher like most of our clients, then take then next ten bullet points very seriously.

1. Create a freemium. The first step towards the rest of your email list building life is creating a free product, or a freemium. A free product gives you a landing page to write and optimize for search, and a call to action for all of your articles and social media posts. There is an entire art to creating and promoting your freemium. A free product is the gateway to a larger email list. If you can offer website visitors a free product in exchange for their email address, then you’re starting the relationship off right: it’s mutually beneficial.

2. Write an assortment of text ads. Every time you publish an article related to the topic of your freemium, you’ll want to include a text ad. This text ad will show up about halfway through the article and link to the freemium, encouraging visitors to download and convert to email subscribers. More about writing text ads.

3. Implement floaters. Some people call them pop-ups, but we recommend floaters, which float over your website and ask readers for an email address. These floaters don’t say “sign up for my newsletter,” they say, “download this free report.” More about floaters.

4. While you’re at it, design some Order Forms in Editorial (OFIEs). Make it easy for people to download your report by creating a form they can fill out and submit quickly. Place this little order form on the category page most relevant to your freemium, and at the top of article pages within that category. This is what we call 3C Zone Architecture.

5. Promote your freemium in social media. We have a system for promoting our content that involves writing 12 unique social media posts for every article. We then schedule them out for 12 days on Twitter and 12 months to make sure the content is always being promoted and doesn’t get left behind. Follow this same strategy with your freemium. 

Download a FREE copy of Best Email Subject Lines for Selling Premium Subscriptions and Memberships and discover an extensive list of email subject line frameworks that are consistently proven to sell and boost revenue for publishers.

6. Simplify your sign-up forms. It might sound like we complicated the forms by adding a freemium to them, but what we did was add value. From here, ask for as little information as you can stand. The shorter the form, the higher the conversion rate. If you must ask for more, try this: Ask for an email address in your OFIE where you capture the email address. From there, take them to another form that asks for more information. If they abandon, you haven’t lost them, just their fine details.

7. Add value. What does an email subscriber get for signing up? Access to hidden content, or an archive of freemiums is a beautiful incentive for most people. A chance to get early-bird specials and promotional deals not found anywhere else is another.

8. Send circ-builder emails. The forward to a friend feature is used more often than you think. That’s why we recommend sending an email to your list once per week that promotes a freemium. Everyone on your list already has access to your freemiums, but if someone passes it along and decides to subscribe, you win a bigger list. More about circ-builders.

9. Promote your freebies in print. If you’ve got free stuff, flaunt it! Some of our publishers even print the URL to their freemium directory in the footer of their magazine. Others use a full page ad to promote the newest freemium they’ve published. Cross promotion is key here. Take those super loyal print subscribers and get them on your list. They’re the ones most likely to be interested in everything else you have to offer!

10. Online checkout: Some publishers use this as their only means of collecting email addresses. Crazy after what you’ve read so far, right? Think about it. Do new users find your products and attempt a purchase even if they aren’t registered members? I’ve done this before and in a few instances I was required to register before I could complete my transaction. Talk about a good way to increase shopping cart abandonment. Publishers can avoid this problem while still growing their list by allowing opt-in during the online checkout process. The publisher can collect the relevant purchase information and then have the option to sign up for the aligned email newsletter. This way the purchase can go through with both buyer and seller experiencing a desired outcome.

Then there are the less organic, traditional routes like PPC. Boo, right? If you’re desperate to build your list, sure. Start with step one and go right to Pay Per Click ads. But if you want to grow an online publishing business that works for you while you sleep, get started with step one and work your way down through step ten.

Do you have additional tips or a story you’d like to share about building your email list? I’d love to hear it in the comments.



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