11 Ideas to Grow Your Email Marketing List

Two women look at email marketing on a laptop.

A healthy email marketing list filled with thousands of authenticated emails is the holy grail for businesses. 

Substack, a newsletter subscription service, is valued at over a half billion dollars with annual revenue over $29 million from 3 million paying subscribers, and that number grows every day. With only a 10% take rate, it’s one of the best business models for creators. But here’s the thing – the real draw of Substack isn’t the percentage paid out to creators, it’s that creators own their subscriber list. So if Substack wanted to raise their rates, creators could take their lists elsewhere. This is something that YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), and even TikTok do not offer. 

1st party data is exponentially more valuable than 3rd party data. There is no corporate network controlling your audience with email and that’s the true value. You can reach your customers directly, with no algorithm or advertisements standing in the way. It is easier to convert current or potential customers once they are subscribers, since they have already shown interest in your business and you can personalize messages to them via email or ads.

One way to collect helpful customer data is through cookie tracking, which is when a website uses small text files (a.k.a. cookies) to obtain data about a customer’s online activities. These cookies can track a user’s browsing behavior and remember specific user preferences, including maintaining login sessions. Google has begun testing new Tracking Protection features that are expected to have a major impact on the efficacy of cookies when they fully roll out.

Before we dig in on our list of ways to build your email marketing list, we want to share the most important piece of advice for building an email marketing list. You have to create something of value. Be honest with yourself. Are you sending valuable information to your customers or are you just delivering filler content in an attempt to keep them engaged? Remember, getting an email address is one thing, making sure they stay subscribed is another! 

1. Opt-In Forms on Your Website

Let’s start with the low-hanging fruit. Make sure there is a clear and easy way to sign up for your business’s newsletter.

There are likely hundreds, if not thousands, of people who want to stay up-to-date on what’s going on with your business! It would be the equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot if you don’t give these loyal, regular customers a way to stay connected. 

A laptop with a clock, a cup of coffee, and a tablet open to an eBook.

2. Offer Additional Content

One of the most popular ways to build an email marketing list is by offering premium content in exchange for your potential customer’s email. This can be a whitepaper or an e-book, or anything that is of high value to your target customer. 

Once you have your premium content, you can advertise it as a pop-up on your website, promote it in Google Ads, post about it on your social media, share it on your Linkedin – you get the picture. After they sign up, deliver the content as a PDF directly to their inbox, or allow them to download it immediately.

3. Webinars

Another type of premium content is a live webinar. Most webinars are in two parts – a keynote presentation from the host followed by a Q&A with the attendees. This is a great way to position yourself as an expert in your field and prove your salt. 

4. Social Media Promotions

You might already have a sizable audience on social media. But what happens if the winds of the algorithm change or that platform is banned (cough, TikTok, cough)? The best tactic in the traditional marketing funnel is to convert your existing followers into email subscribers. 

99% of email users check their inbox every day, with 58% checking their email first thing in the morning – before they open up social media. You want to reach your audience where they are.

5. Partner with Local Businesses 

As Taylor Swift said, “Two is better than one.” Teaming up with another local business is a great way to leverage both of your audiences into mutual growth. You can either create collaborative content that highlights the services both businesses provide, or you can take turns promoting each other in newsletters, websites, and social media. 

Meerkat Tip: Make sure that any businesses you’re teaming up with are relevant, but not direct competitors. If you’re a taco shop, you probably don’t want to work with the burrito store. However, that taco shop might be a perfect match for the margarita stand! 

6. Trade Shows and In-Person Events

We spend the majority of our time online, but don’t overlook in-person events! Trade shows are some of the best places to add email addresses to your newsletter.

Looking down on a crowded trade show floor.

Individuals attending industry-specific trade shows are a) interested in your niche and b) real people. You also have the opportunity to pitch your business, your product, and, most importantly, yourself.

Similar to our first suggestion (“Opt-In Forms on Your Website”), have a physical or virtual yet in-person sign-up available. You can additionally offer a raffle in exchange for business cards, and then enter them manually following the show. Sponsorships also offer the opportunity to receive the entire tradeshow list for pre or post-show marketing. Any or all of these ideas or crucial to leveraging trade show and event marketing. 

7. Interactive Tools

One of the most popular tactics to grow a newsletter is through interactive tools like cost calculators and personality quizzes. 

These tools generally involve simple forms with the goal of receiving valuable information, such as a mortgage estimate. In this case, the potential homebuyer will fill out the form and hit submit. They want to see the results and they’ll get the results…delivered to their inbox. And look at that, now you’ve got their email, and they have received the information that you – the expert – have provided.

8. Loyalty Programs

While we’ll never recommend cutting corners, there is one way to create value for your customers that requires little continued effort on your part. 

Premium content is time-intensive and requires a continuous stream in order to hold attention. Enter Loyalty Programs. It’s a simple concept: Every time someone makes a purchase or their birthday rolls around, they get points or free stuff from your business.

Of course, in order to keep track of rewards points or free annual gift, every account needs an email. In addition to messages about the loyalty program, you can funnel these return customers into your larger newsletter base. There are many plug-ins and apps that integrate with website platforms such as Shopify and WordPress, it is just a matter of what the right fit is for your customer base and business. 

A salesperson interacting with a customer.

9. Request Feedback from Customers

Instead of providing value to your customers, they provide valuable data to you – and they’re happy to do it. 

People want their voices to be heard. By providing a short survey to ask about their experience, you can request their name and simple contact information (aka email and/or phone number) to stay in touch. This works best with brick-and-mortar businesses that do not automatically require digital information, such as ecommerce stores. This is a great tactic to use alongside loyalty programs or annual gift offers (looking at you, restaurants!). 

Plus, you’re not just getting their email address. You’ll be receiving important feedback about the customer experience and how it can be improved, so that you can retain business and customer loyalty long-term. That’s what we call a win-win.

10. Giveaways

Giveaways are one of the best ways to grow your audience on social media, and the same concept extends to email. Many individuals see their inboxes as more personal communication than their social media pages, therefore it is vital that the giveaway holds real value.

There is no better example of this strategy in action than the annual HGTV Dream Home. This year’s home (incidentally located in our own backyard) was a stunning coastal retreat worth millions of dollars. Contestants could submit their email to win, and at the same time, sign up for over a dozen different email lists from HGTV to Food Network and all of the sponsors of the Dream Home sweepstakes. 

Find something that holds real value to your audience, and people will join your email marketing list with gusto!

11. Reservations

Reservations are a great way to gain customer information and insight. On the reservation form, simply ensure there is a space for their email and/or phone number, as well as any other data you would like to gather, such as birthdays and anniversaries. 

One Last Thought: Make It Easy

You should always make it easy to sign up for your email marketing list, but it has to be even easier to unsubscribe. Do not spam your potential customers.

Following the new email requirements from Google and Yahoo! in early 2024, it is more important than ever to keep your open rates high and your spam reports low. If you hit certain thresholds, your email blasts could be restricted or blocked entirely. However, as long as you send well thought out, mutually beneficial messages, you should be smooth sailing, and your customer base will be happy to receive your correspondence. 

Ready to Level Up Your Email Marketing Game?

Meerkat Media Group is here to help!

With experience in e-commerce, travel and tourism, food and beverage, non-profits, and more, our team will help you reach the audience you want.

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