Email marketing has long been one of the most reliable methods to help businesses grow. But before you can reap the benefits of email marketing, you first need to build an email list.
Email list building is the process of collecting the email addresses of your leads, prospects, and customers for the purpose of developing stronger relationships with them into the future. It’s a time-honored tool for nurturing leads, making sales, and fostering customer loyalty.
In this post, we’ll explain how to use the More Like This framework to build your own high-return email list. We’ll walk you through various tactics for how to get new subscribers to sign up, and crucially, we’ll show you that to make the most of your list you need to consistently give subscribers opportunities to explore more of what your business has to offer.
So let’s get to it.
Why email marketing is still as important as ever
Given the explosion in new digital communication channels over the past two decades, you might be forgiven for thinking that the days of email are numbered. But the fact is email is more popular now than ever. Over half the world’s population has an email account, which far outnumbers the user base of any other digital communications platform. Email marketing continues to prove itself as one of the most effective channels for businesses looking to build strong and profitable relationships with their audiences.
First, email marketing delivers a huge ROI compared to most other digital marketing channels. According to the DMA, businesses can reasonably expect a return of $42 for every dollar spent on email marketing. To put this into perspective, Google estimates that the average business earns about $2 for every dollar spent on PPC.
Another undeniable perk of email marketing is that you have complete control over it. Unlike other digital media channels, your ability to reach your audience through email isn’t vulnerable to sudden, drastic shifts in ranking algorithms or third-party policies. As long as you keep giving subscribers what they want, your email list can continue to serve you indefinitely.
But perhaps the biggest benefit of email marketing is that it lets you develop strong, trusting relationships over time with your prospects and customers. A significant proportion of your subscribers will be casual fans, window-shoppers, or otherwise interested observers who have no immediate intention to buy anything from you. Many of them may well become your customers in the future, but will first need a little more convincing that your business is right for them. Email marketing is especially useful when it comes to this task of lead nurturing. By sending out targeted emails to leads at different stages of the sales funnel—with messages featuring relevant content, special offers, and news on upcoming events—you begin to earn the trust of leads by proving you can meet their needs and interests. And, of course, the more your leads trust your brand, the more likely they are to become your customers.
Paving the road to subscription
Before we look more closely at how to start building your own email list, it’s worth having a quick recap of where new subscribers fit into your marketing funnel.
In most cases, people will pass through three distinct phases on their journey to becoming a subscriber:
These are people who fall into your target market but don’t yet know that your business exists.
These are people who have a passing familiarity with your brand. Maybe they’ve read a few of your blog posts, watched some of your videos, or heard you mentioned by an industry thought-leader. People at this stage may even follow you on social media, but they haven’t yet found a reason—or been given an opportunity—to sign up to your email list.
These are your new email subscribers. They have signed up following a positive interaction with your brand that persuaded them to hand over their contact details in exchange for something of value. That value might be something tangible, like a lead magnet, or simply the promise of being kept up-to-date on your latest content or product offers.
Clearly, to build an email list you need to move as much of your target market as you can to this third phase. And once they’ve become subscribers, you can begin the job of ushering them closer and closer to becoming a customer.
With that in mind, let’s now look at how you should approach earning new subscribers.
Introducing: The More Like This List Building Method
Whenever someone subscribes to your email list, they’re essentially letting you know that they like what they see and they want to see more like it.
For example, a lead might stumble across your company blog, be impressed by how original and useful your posts are, and then decide it would be a good idea to stay abreast of any future blog posts by signing up to your newsletter. Likewise, someone might be intrigued by a free course you’ve promoted in a Facebook ad and then decide to exchange their email address to get access to it.
Whatever the case, the same basic thought occurs to your new subscriber: “Hey, this looks good. I want to see more like this.”
You can use this fact to your advantage by ensuring that whenever your audience encounters your content online, you also give them the option to find “more like this.” We’ll call this the More Like This method, or MLT for short.
For example, when you post something interesting on social media, you might let your followers know they’ll find “more like this” on your website. Or when someone reads your blog, you might let them know they’ll find “more like this” by signing up for an ebook, checklist, template, or some other lead magnet. And similarly, when someone signs up for a lead magnet, you might let them know that they’ll find “more like this” by keeping a close eye on your weekly newsletter, and so on.
The beauty of the MLT method is that it encourages your audience to delve deeper into your brand irrespective of how they found you. No matter where a lead first encounters your brand—be it on social media, through Google, or via a third-party backlink—the “more like this” invitation will always prompt them to explore more of what you offer.
Of course, not all leads who come into contact with your business do so via the same entry point or with the same interests and objectives. Some will be like the top-of-the-funnel window-shoppers we mentioned earlier, some will be weighing their options and doing some market research, while others will be hot leads on the verge of making a purchasing decision. For this reason, it’s important to give new leads the option of skipping a few steps along the customer journey. That means, for example, telling new leads where they can buy your core product or service when they sign up for a lead magnet.
Let’s now look at how to put the MLT method for list building into action.
How to build your email list using the MLT method
Equip yourself with the right tools
If you want to easily manage and measure the effectiveness of your email campaigns, you’ll need the right toolkit for the job.
Fortunately, there are plenty of free and paid-for email marketing tools out there that can help set you up for success. Email marketing software like Mailchimp, AWeber, and ConvertKit all include the essential features you need to run effective email campaigns, such as sign-up forms, auto-responders, list management tools, and analytics.
(As an aside, if you want to learn more about how Leadpages works with different third-party email apps, head over to our integrations page.)
Get to know the different email types
To get the most out of your email list, you should familiarize yourself with the different types of messages used in email marketing.
Broadcast emails are messages you send to your subscribers or different subscriber segments in bulk. They typically involve an announcement, like a piece of company news, an offer, a new product, or a promotion. As such, they tend to be time-sensitive and primarily focused on the company.
Expected automated emails
An automated email is sent as part of an automated email sequence, which is a predefined series of emails that are automatically sent when a subscriber takes a specified action. For example, when a subscriber opts-in for a lead magnet, they’ll receive an automated email containing their lead magnet.
An expected automated email is simply a message that contains information or material the subscriber signed up for, like a downloadable resource, a discount code, or a registration confirmation.
Surprise automated emails
These are messages sent out on a set schedule and aren’t always directly connected to what the subscriber first signed up for. They will generally include valuable resources or promotions that the subscriber is likely to find relevant. They’re designed to keep this lead engaged with your content, products, and services.
Surprise automated emails also include check-in messages, which are sent periodically to subscribers to ask if there’s anything they need help with. Typically, these are sent on a preset schedule, like 14 days, 1 month, and 3 months after first sign-up.
Give your audience every reason to sign-up
The best way to convince your ideal clients and customers to sign up to your email list is to offer them lead magnets that they’ll love.
The trick here is to offer lead magnets that work well for cold traffic. In other words, content that will appeal to people who, up until this point, didn’t know you existed. The best content for this purpose will tend to be concise and simple, while providing a specific solution to a specific problem relevant to your target audience. Free resource guides, cheat sheets, short email courses, and quick, snappy videos all work well for cold leads.
You want to avoid offering your cold leads anything that takes up too much of their time or energy. Since they don’t know your brand well enough yet, they generally won’t be ready to opt into more high-commitment lead magnets when they first encounter you. Newsletters, free consultations, and webinars tend to be better for moving people who are already familiar with your brand further down the sales funnel. But you can (and should!) point new subscribers to these resources once they receive their initial lead magnet—once again letting them know where they can find “more like this.”
Remember, a successful lead magnet will earn you more than just the email address of a new lead. It will also help you begin to build trust and rapport with your new subscriber by proving to them that your business delivers on its promises. This will help warm them to the prospect of doing business with you in the future.
Give your audience every opportunity to sign-up
Another essential component of building an email list providing enough access points to your list.
Here are the best ways to make it easy for new subscribers to sign up:
A dedicated landing page
A lead magnet placed on a dedicated landing page will typically see an 8% to 20% conversion rate, compared to just 1% to 3% when placed on a homepage.
This is because a dedicated landing page has a singular focus: to promote the lead magnet and encourage visitors to sign up. Unlike a typical web page, a dedicated landing page limits distractions by doing away with the navigation bar and links to different kinds of content.
The simplicity of dedicated landing pages also makes it easier to split test different versions and find which one yields the most conversions.
To get an idea of how easy it is to create beautiful landing pages with Leadpages, check out our template gallery.
Pop-ups are small boxes that suddenly appear on the screen when a visitor is browsing your website and clicks on an image, button, or text link. A timed pop-up will appear after a visitor has been on your page for a specified duration, while an exit intent pop-up appears when someone tries to leave your page.
These types of pop-ups can be used across your website to promote your lead magnets and to encourage visitors to join your email list.
Pop-ups can also combine well with dedicated landing pages. People will often put their guard up if they notice a sign-up form the moment the landing page loads, so it’s a good idea to place the form inside a pop-up box that only appears when the user clicks to sign up.
An alert bar is a narrow banner that stretches across the top or bottom of a web page to attract a visitor’s attention without obstructing the content that they came to see.
These bars can contain written text as well as form fields which makes them perfect for prompting users to sign up for lead magnets and content upgrades.
Don’t forget the thank you page!
Thank you pages are a crucial but often underutilized element of successful email campaigns.
Once a new subscriber has signed up for a lead magnet, the thank you page lets you reassure them that they made the right choice in giving you their email address. You can do this by writing some copy expressing gratitude that they signed up and letting them know that the resource they signed up for is on its way to their inbox.
A thank you page is also an ideal place to continue the conversation with your new lead. Using the MLT method, you can make the most of your thank you page by directing new subscribers to some other resource or offer that might interest them. For example, Kelley Garrett from ekcetera uses her thank you page to encourage her subscribers to join the company’s Facebook group.
Don’t forget, you can also use your thank you page to encourage new subscribers to share what they just received!
Measure your performance and adapt
In order to gauge the effectiveness of your email campaigns, you’ll obviously need to track your performance and make changes accordingly.
Many people assume that subscriber count is the most important metric when it comes to your email list. We disagree. Sure, having more subscribers lets you know that your email list is growing, but too much focus on growth ignores the fact that even a small email list can produce outstanding results with the right type of messaging.
So instead, we recommend prioritizing these three metrics when tracking your email campaign performance:
Emails aren’t worth much if your subscribers don’t read them, so keeping a close eye on what percentage of emails actually get opened is essential.
When it comes to broadcast and surprise automation emails, you should be aiming for an open rate of 30% or more. As for expected automation emails, 50% and above is a realistic target.
One of the best ways to increase your open rates is to segment your list based on subscriber attributes and to then send out targeted emails to each segment. Your subscribers will be more inclined to read your emails if the subject matter is tailored to their specific interests and objectives (i.e., “more like this, not that”).
Another great way to figure out what kind of emails your subscribers prefer to receive is to simply go ahead and ask them! Send out a probing message from time to time asking whether they’d like to see more emails relating to topic A, B, or C. Chances are they’ll be impressed that you even asked, and thrilled when you follow through with just the relevant content they’ve asked for.
Your email click-through rate tells you what percentage of recipients opened at least one link in your email. In other words, it measures how effective you were at convincing your readers to discover “more like this” by clicking through to your blog, product page, or other destination.
For broadcast and surprise automation emails, a 3% click-through rate is pretty solid. For expected automation emails, you should try aiming for around 10%.
Revenue from email
The clearest measure of your email campaign’s success is the amount of money it brings in. If this is a metric you can accurately track, you definitely should. Fortunately, there are now multiple tools such as Salesforce that make it easy to attribute conversions to different channels, including email.
A good revenue target to set initially is $1 per subscriber, per month.
The three pillars of building a successful email list
On top of all the tactics we’ve covered, we also urge you to stay true to the following MLT principles in order to give your email campaigns the best shot at success.
While it’s great to exceed your subscribers’ expectations with the occasional ‘positive’ surprise (like a discount, a free event invitation, access to exclusive resources, etc), you should avoid sending unpredictable, sporadic, or otherwise random messages.
Similarly, you should also be sure to avoid pivoting the subject matter or the format of your emails too much. Your subscribers signed up expecting to receive content and promotions relating to a specific niche, so make sure your messages continue to align with their expectations.
Whenever someone subscribes to your email list—be it for a lead magnet, a webinar, or your newsletter—they are trusting that you’ll make good on the value that you’ve promised to provide. Don’t forget that handing over an email address to a business doesn’t come easy to many people. Inboxes are tightly guarded real estate!
Remember, every message you send should let your subscribers know where they can find “more like this”, whether it be an article, video, or another lead magnet. You can also build anticipation for your next email by dropping hints of what’s to come in future messages.
It’s important never to lose sight of the fact that the ultimate purpose of your email list is to help increase your business revenue. You want to avoid training your subscribers to expect everything for free.
It’s a good idea to pitch offers early and periodically. The first message you send your new subscribers should make it clear that they can pay for “more like this” by checking out your core products or services. As a general rule of thumb, we recommend you aim for three value messages for every message that contains a sales pitch.
Time to level up your email marketing game!
There’s no denying it takes planning and patience to build a high-quality email list that serves your bottom line. But if you approach your email list from the outset as a means to get leads to discover more about what you can offer them, you will soon be rewarded with more engaged prospects, more sales, and more customer loyalty.
For a deeper dive into the tactics behind list building, and for more ideas on how to generate leads more generally, check out our free training video, 5 Simple Steps to Building a More Profitable Email List.
And if you’re ready to start building the landing pages that can help you deliver on the promise of giving your audience more of what they want, you can try Leadpages free for 14 days.