John Rampton Subscriber
We learned something very promising about small business marketing while researching the 2015 State of Small Business Report: About 46% of businesses are using email marketing.
Email marketing has one of the highest returns on investment of any marketing tactic. It’s also top-rated for retaining customers, and nurturing people from leads into customers. In other words, it works for every phase of the customer lifecycle: Prospecting, Lead Nurturing, and Retention.
More importantly, email marketing helps build an asset. An email list is worth far more than all social media platforms and followers combined because you own your email list. No one actually owns their Facebook account. Facebook can shut it down at any time (and yes, that does happen.)
Email lists offer another major benefit. With an email list, you can communicate with your customers directly. It costs almost nothing, and is often completely free. Many email service providers offer free accounts that have more than enough features to get you started with email for little or nothing per month. Zip, Zero, zilch. This advantage should fit even the most frugal budget.
Check out companies like MailChimp, MadMimi, and ReachMail if you want a free account. If you want to add more advanced features and take out the obnoxious advertising in free email, you’ll need to go with a paid account. Even this cost of email won’t go much over $30 a month.
Despite how effective and affordable email is, there is one critical requirement for email marketing success. You will need subscribers. There are dozens of ways to get more subscribers, but this list of eight methods is specifically designed for small local businesses. It’s also set up to help you get subscribers quickly. This is a call to action list that will entice subscribers to sign up, fast.
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1) Offer an incentive to sign up.
If you’re not getting many people to sign up for your list, the most likely problem is either not offering an opt-in incentive to join your list, or the incentive you’re offering is not enough to woo people.
Remember: It’s no longer 1998. The allure of email wore off years ago. Now, you practically have to convince people your emails are worth the space in their inbox. Typically, that means offering them discounts, coupons, and sales. On the front end, it may require offering an unusually good discount, like 20%.
Different incentives work best for different companies. Try out a few offers and see which incentive works for your product or service. Present the right option, and you could double your opt-in rate overnight.
2) Embed the opt-in form.
This change alone often doubles the opt-in rate. It’s very simple. Don’t make people click through to a new page. Embed the opt-in form wherever you ask people to sign up.
To illustrate, try this:
You’ll get almost twice as many signups.
3) Put a prompt (option) to join your email list on every page of your site.
If people can’t see your opt-in box, they probably won’t think to sign up for your list. So let them see it. Ideally, you’d have an opt-in box in view no matter what page someone is looking at. Usually this means adding an opt-in box to the top of the vertical navigation column, and to the footer area (the bottom part of your website.)
Adding an opt-in box to the footer area typically increases a site’s opt-in rate by 20% – 30%. Adding a “feature box,” which is a full-width opt-in box above the scroll line on your homepage, often doubles an opt-in rate.
4) Install a slider OR a pop-up, a.k.a., as a lightbox, or interstitial.
Pop Ups don’t have to be annoying. These are two proven ways to make pop-ups significantly less annoying, but still very effective:
- Set a slider or pop-up only to be shown to each visitor once per week. This way people won’t be seeing them again and again on every page, even though they’ve already closed the popup and basically said, “no.” Geez, that would be annoying.
- Set them to show only after people have been on your site for 1-2 minutes.
This pop-up appears only after you’ve been on the site for 60 seconds.
If you still don’t like the idea of a pop-up, consider a slider. A slider may act somewhat like a pop-up, but it only appears after someone has scrolled down the page a bit. Even when a slider appears, it’s in the bottom right-hand corner. Still in view, but not forcing the user to click on it or move it out of the way.
5) Use an app and a tablet to get signups.
Are you using a printed out sign-up sheet to get more email addresses? The ones where people have to write out their name and email address on the form? That’s a very good start, but some sources say you’re probably losing up to 20% of those email addresses due to bad handwriting.
There’s a better way. Use a signup app that runs on a tablet. Many email service providers offer one (like MailChimp, GetResponse, and Constant Contact) at no extra charge. Other options are paid, but usually run around $20 a month.
If you happen to be using a tablet for checkout, offer a signup bonus either before or after checkout via the tablet app. This ease of use works especially well. The tablet signup app is also great for event marketing and sign-ups. Always offer an incentive.
6) Use text to join.
You’ve noticed how addicted people are to their phones these days. Much of their activity is texting. You can leverage this love of texting to help build your list. This little bonus is called, “text to join.” Many email service providers, like Constant Contact and Bronto, offer text to join functionality for free.
Even if your email provider doesn’t offer this great service, there are stand-alone services that can make texting to join options work just fine. JoinByText.com, Trumpia, CallLoop, and TXTImpact are all options. The costs for these services are about $20 for up to 500 new subscribers per month.
Here’s how it works for Chuck E. Cheese. This is the ad:
A word about QR codes
QR codes are those blocks of really low-res black and white squares that you can scan to be brought to a web address. They were popular a few years ago. The big stumbling block was that you had to open up an app on your phone to read the QR code. Usually, this process was harder than just typing in a simple web address. As a result, the QR code kinda fizzled.
There may be more life for QR codes ahead. Snapchat (one of the newer social media platforms) has gotten around the hassle of opening up an app. You can follow someone on Snapchat just by scanning their Snapchat QR code. The codes can be customized, too. No extra app required.
This is probably not of huge interest right now, simply because few small businesses are active on Snapchat. If Facebook or other social media platforms see this working (and it is), they might add similar functionality to their apps.
If you take a picture of this image with the same camera you use for your Snapchat account, you’ll automatically follow this fellow on Snapchat. Let’s see how long it takes Facebook, or your email service provider, to catch on and catch up.
7) Put prompts to join your list on all printed business collateral
Remember about always having an opt-in box within view on your website? It applies in the real world too, though to a lesser extent.
To remember to keep your email list on your mind, try adding opt-in prompts to printed materials. These could include:
- business cards
- direct mail
- packing slips
- door hangers / bumper stickers / fridge magnets
This napkin is an unusual place for a call to join an email list. Notice the use of text to join, too.
8) Run a contest.
Got a large Facebook following, like more than 1,000 people? Odds are good that a well-executed Facebook contest could net you 300-500 new email subscribers. Use an app for this: Any one of the Facebook contest services like Heyo, WooBox, Wishpond, or others will do. Come up with a really great prize your ideal customer would want (i.e., not another free iPad.) Plan your promotion, launch it, and promote the heck out of the promotional item for the week or so it runs.
Facebook contests can get you thousands of new subscribers in a week. That’s nice, but a couple hundred new subscribers is more realistic. Really, the thing Facebook contests are best for is to get the email addresses of your Facebook followers.
If a Facebook contest does not appeal to you, consider partnering with another company and running a contest. I’ve been seeing a bunch of these collaborators recently, which suggests this mechanism is working.
Here’s how it works: A company teams up with 3-4 other related companies. Then all the companies send an email to their own subscribers announcing the contest, but it’s really going to everyone’s subscribers. Whoever enters the contest is signed up for each company’s email list.
This is what one of these shared contest emails looks like:
This is the landing page:
These are some of the best ways to get more subscribers on your list fast. Maybe you know of a few ideas I’ve missed. If you can contribute, please tell us about your ideas in the comments. We want to know what’s been working for you.
John Rampton Subscriber