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4 Ways to Dramatically Increase Email Subscriptions

4 Ways to Dramatically Increase Email Subscriptions
Image credit: Atos International

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. In fact, according to digital marketer and blogger Abrar Mohi Shafee writing on the the Kissmetrics blog, “Your email is your biggest asset!”

But how can that be with email continuing to overtake our in-boxes and with email filters more effectively screening email blasts? It would seem that the effectiveness of email by now would have taken a deep fall off a cliff. But according to the experts, a well-maintained email marketing program rises above the noise and filters and provides a return on investment (ROI) unmatched by other digital-marketing efforts.

According to Campaign Monitor, “Even with the explosion of new technology, marketers keep coming back to email. The reason is clear -- for 10 years in a row, email is the channel generating the highest ROI for marketers. For every $1 spent, email marketing generates $38 in ROI.”

Related: You Don't Need Much Cash to Implement These 5 Essential Marketing Strategies

Consultancy McKinsey & Company concurs, stating that “email 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 U.S. consumers still use email daily, and the rate at which emails 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.”

Shafee states that “list building is the key to a regal online presence.” But a successful email marketing program requires more than volume. The key to a successful email marketing program is a high-quality email list where recipients of emails regularly engage with the business as a result of the emails -- and for companies good at email, the recipients look forward to receiving the emails.

Given the overwhelming success of email when compared to other marketing channels, I am shocked by the lack of emphasis placed by small-business owners on email list building. It is very common in my meetings with small business owners to find email list building towards the bottom of their marketing efforts. This is especially true with brick-and-mortar businesses.

BOLDFACE CEO Randy Fenton stated to me during an interview that some businesses struggle with email list building because “businesses fear that setting up an email collection strategy that is too aggressive may turn off too many visitors to a website resulting in lost potential customers.”

“As an ecommerce business, we rely heavily on email marketing," Fenton says. "Some people will just not provide it, and others will be insulted that we even asked for that information. But they are not likely our target customer or are not likely to make a purchase from us now or in the future. Smart businesses make the ask. No business is going to get every visitor to sign up. But those who do sign up are interested in the products and will hopefully make a purchase at some point.”

However, Shafee cautions that “the technique we choose to request emails often affects the user experience. Sometimes it affects it so badly that users decide to leave our site.”

As such, it seems that while email list building is critical for success, the manner in which emails are requested makes all the difference in building a strong list of prospects. The following are four tips to help small businesses develop a strong email list building strategy.

Related: 5 Steps to Building a Pop-Up Email Strategy That Won't Annoy Readers

1. Make the email opt-in box as conspicuous as possible.

Website visitors demonstrate their interest in a product or service by way of the time they invest inspecting the website content. To the extent visitors like what they see, they are more likely to subscribe to an email list when asked.

A great way to attract new email subscribers is through the placement of conspicuous email opt-in boxes. A well-designed website provides visitors with ample opt-in opportunities through the placement of email opt-in boxes located strategically throughout each page. The greater the number of email opt-in opportunities, the greater the likelihood that a satisfied visitor will be convinced to subscribe.

There is nothing more annoying when visiting a website than continuous interruptions asking for an email address. Having said that, there are techniques that businesses can use to keep email subscription top-of-mind without being overly disruptive. At a minimum, business owners should place email opt-in boxes at three locations: the top of the page, the sidebar and the bottom of the page. Placement at these locations ensures that the visitor is continuously reminded to opt-in at various times of the visitor interaction.

The key to growing an email list is to make the process as easy and pain-free as possible. Placing an email opt-in box at the top, side and bottom of each page keeps the idea of subscribing to top-of-mind, it eliminates the reader’s need to figure out how to subscribe, and it does not interrupt the visitor as the boxes are built into the design of the web page.

While the recommended locations for the opt-in boxes are fairly standard and straightforward, the manner in which opt-in boxes are presented can vary from static boxes to dynamic floating opt-in boxes.

For example, some websites use static opt-in box plugins such as Conversion Insights’ Attention Grabber while others use floating opt-in boxes such as Hello Bar. Companies such as OptinMonster take opt-in boxes to the next level with options such as slide-ins, time-delayed pop-ups and even opt-in boxes that appear when the visitor shows signs of leaving the page (exit intent).

The golden rule of opt-in boxes is to offer the opt-in as often as possible without overwhelming, annoying or distracting the visitor. Keep it simple -- and make the content the focus of the page.

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. Collecting too much information may discourage visitors from opting in.

An email opt-in box that limits the information solely to email address will be more palatable to cautious visitors. 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 only the email address and avoid the risk of scaring off the visitor.

3. 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, websites should make use of social proof to encourage others to opt-in. Social proof can be established by revealing a large number of subscribers, posting testimonials, showing an impressive visitor count or other statistic that demonstrates that people find the site valuable. With social proof, subscribers beget subscribers. The idea is to get visitors to say, "If they loved the content, I'll probably love it too! Let's do this!"

4. 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 do the job.

A common approach is offering an ebook, white paper video or any other content that is of value to visitors. The best way to determine the content to offer is to understand the site’s target audience and what that audience considers valuable.

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

Related: How I Went From Zero to 5,000 Email Subscribers in Six Months