Everyone tells you to build an email list. Why and how?

Email has been around for decades now and is still the most effective way for small businesses to engage with their customers. In the case of your own business, you may wonder what’s the big deal with email when you are active on social media and get engagement already.

Why do you need an email list?

It’s good to remember that to even sign up for a Facebook or Twitter account, you have to enter your email. What does Facebook do to notify you of an update or when someone has tagged you on a photo? It sends you an email. Why? So that you can visit the site to check.

It’s familiar. We all know how to open an email, write one, reply or forward it and click on some link embedded in the text of the mail. This set of actions that everyone performs can be profitable for a small business. Your email can be as simple as hey, here’s a discount for you if you act before a certain date or here’s an update on what’s been going on at our end.

It gives you control. A good email campaign can drive people to your website, make an offer of a discount, ask them to make a phone call or peform some action that you want them to. Not only that, but a good campaign can also track how many bulk emails are being delivered, how many opened, how many clicked through, how many unsubscribed and so on. These metrics are important for they give you better understanding of what works.

It is cheap. As many small businesses have discovered, email costs literally pennies per message and the cost per conversion is low. Email marketing companies like MailChimp, for instance, allow you to send up to 12,000 emails a month for free.

It works better than social media. On Facebook if you post your update to your 1,000 fans it will be shown to only about 200 people in their newsfeed, for that’s the way Facebook works. They want you to choose their paid ad options so they limit your exposure. If, on the other hand, you send an email to 1,000 people, they will all receive your message in their inboxes.

Email is the currency of the web and the sooner you can get hold of current and future customers’ mail id’s, the better it is for your business.

How do you go about building a mailing list?

Your small business needs a email marketing service like MailChimp, ConvertKit, Constant Contact, Send in Blue and literally hundreds of other other choices. A good web developer who builds or re-builds your website can connect any of these services and make it work through your site. This is the first starting point.

What can a email marketing service do for you? It can create “Subscribe” forms for display on your site so that visitors can sign in and be added to your email list that the service maintains for you. As the list grows, the service can keep it constantly updated, allow you to segment the mails into sub-lists or categories if you wish, create and send mail campaigns to various sub-lists with offers, discounts, updates, newsletters, etc. The service will also let you know how many opened your mails, how many clicked on the links inside, etc. This is powerful stuff.

In the beginning stages, at least, most of these email marketing services are free. As your list grows beyond a certain number like 1,000 subscribers (it varies with each service) then you pay the service monthly.

Build a list through subscription forms. As mentioned above, the subscription form provided by your email marketing service will get you the emails from those who visit your site. It makes sense to offer them a periodic newsletter in exchange for their email id. Or offer a valuable freebie like a how-to guide pdf or a checklist pdf for free in exchange for their id. This is called a lead magnet and if chosen well it can get you good additions to your mailing list.

Build your list through regular sign-up forms. If you have a brick and mortar store or you are hosting an event, make sure to get email id’s of the attendees through your sign-up form.

Build your list through social media. This is often a good starting point if you don’t have a big list to start with but have a good following on Facebook, Instagram, etc. Share your sign-up form on social media channels.

Build your list through a contest or offer discounts. When you offer an incentive like a discount, people always respond. People want a good deal for themselves always. Or try offering a prize to a lucky winner of some contest that is relevant to your industry.

Build your list by making your emails easy to share. Your website builder can help you with creating social share buttons on your emails so that people can share the mail with others.

Build your list with a special landing page. Again, your website builder can help you with this. You can offer your visitors a clear and focussed sales message with well chosen images and well written content and promote the page on social media channels. When people land on this page, they can claim their benefit (discount/offer/free e-book etc.) in exchange for giving their mail id’s.

All the best for your budding email marketing initiative. As with many worthwhile things, once you start, you will wonder how you ever managed without it.