January 16, 2013

9 powerful, simple ways to build your email list

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Target audience: Nonprofits, fundraisers, cause organizations, foundations, NGOs, social enterprises — and businesses and brands, too

John HaydonIf you’re not building your nonprofit’s email list (and increasing your open and click-though rates), you are missing out on a huge opportunity to retain and attract donors.

This is because people prefer to donate via email. A study by Razoo (see above) shows that email is the best way to optimize the transactional aspect of fundraising.

Over the next few weeks here on Socialbrite, I’m going to outline exactly how to optimize all the various aspects of your email marketing. These articles will be based on my own work with nonprofits, as well as big data research. Subscribe to the series so you don’t miss out.

To start with, let’s talk about nine simple ways to build your list.

Prominently place your opt-in form

1An obvious way to increase email subscribers is to make it easy for people to find your opt-in form! When I placed mine at the top of this page, the number of new email subscribers I acquired each week tripled.

Tell subscribers what they’ll get

2The other thing you’ll notice about the email capture form above is that it tells people exactly what they’ll get. Make sure you tell them how often they’ll receive emails, andwhat day of the week they’ll receive them.

Setting expectations up front like this will also lower your unsubscribe rates.

Set the tone with a welcome email

3The moment someone joins your email list is the best time to send an auto-reply letting them know exactly what they can expect going forward. This sets a positive tone to the relationship as well by sincerely thanking them for joining your email list.

Don’t forget your Facebook page

4Because of the massively viral nature of Facebook, you should definitely put an email opt-in form on your Facebook page. In some cases, I’ve found that an opt-in form on a Facebook Page converts more effectively than a website.

Make it more frictionless

5An easy way to increase email opt-in rates is to remove hurdles — hurdles like captcha forms and requiring more than a first name and an email to join your list.

One thing Oceana recently did to make their opt-in process more frictionless was to use Facebook login. Using Facebook login meant that instead of filling out a name and email, all that was required was two mouse clicks. They also made it fun by incorporating profile pictures (as shown above).

Give them subscriber-only content

6Email marketing 101 requires that you answer the question every reasonable person eventually asks: “Why should I join your email list when I can easily follow your content on Facebook?”

An easy way to do this is to offer subscriber-only content, like HubSpot does with their eBooks, or Best Friends Animal Society does with their action alerts.

Get them to tell others

7The moment someone subscribes to your email list is precisely the moment to encourage them to share your list with their friends.

Above is a fun way I get new subscribers to retweet my email list (using Click to Tweet).

Create beautiful popovers

8If you’re like me, you hate pop-ups. They usually appear before you’ve experienced a site’s content or even when you’re still reading i!.

A WordPress plug-in called Pippity solves these issues by giving you control over how and when a pop-up will appear.

Know your audience

9Your current subscribers are always asking themselves: “Is this email still worth the space it’s taking up in my in-box?”

The sure way to building your list requires understanding what your subscribers really want – and consistently giving it to them.

Serving up useful, awesome content not only attracts new subscribers – it keeps the ones you have.

What other ideas do you have?John Haydon delivers social web strategy solutions for “the quick, the smart, and the slightly manic.” Curious? Then visit the John Haydon blog, follow him on Twitter or leave a comment.

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