If your goal is to have a huge newsletter list, you can definitely buy one—but ultimately you’ll be just as disappointed as your recipients. The only one who really benefits is the one who sold you the list.
In reality, the objective shouldn’t be the largest possible list, but the most engaged list. You want your subscribers to look forward to your emails, open them, and even respond occasionally.
The best lists are built one subscriber at a time. It’s a strategy that takes patience and dedication. However, is it worth it? We think so. Building a list let’s you control your own destiny. It moves you from rented space (being at the mercy of the social algorithms or paid ads) to owned space (having total control over what you send and who sees it).
We at Oechsli have been in the newsletter game for a long time and we’ve tried just about everything. We’ve distilled the best of what we’ve learned into the following 13 tips:
- Send better content - Sorry, there’s no clever hack to start our list. If you want to grow through word-of-mouth (subscribers forwarding your emails to friends, family, and colleagues), you’ll need to ensure your newsletter content is valuable.
This also means being less salesy. Years ago we would burn our email list with promotions. Our unsubscribes spiked and open rates plummeted. We learned the hard way and made adjustments. Today we rarely send promotions. Why? Our objective is long-term engagement, not short-term transactions.
- Build more “content upgrades” - These are enticing giveaways specifically tied to a piece of free content. For example, you might post a Social Security article on LinkedIn that offers a printable “checklist” in exchange for an email. The “checklist” is the content upgrade.
If you’re concerned about junk emails, insist on emailing the content upgrade instead of making it immediately available for download. In your call-to-action (CTA), be sure to use language like “Where should we email your checklist?” rather than “Get instant access.”
- Promote using social proof - If you view Oechsli’s website, you’ll notice we humble brag when it comes to our newsletter. We’ve spent years building over 50,000 subscribers and we make that number visible to the public. Why? It’s social proof that our newsletter is valuable. Even if you don’t have a ton of current subscribers, you could use a quote in the same fashion. Find someone who is willing to write a few words about how great your newsletter is, then use it in your promotions. This is FOMO at it’s finest.
- Use easy subscribe forms on your website - We suggest a sticky website footer or header that asks visitors to subscribe. Also, consider adding a subscribe form at the bottom of your articles and videos. Stay away from annoying pop-ups with impossible-to-find close buttons. When users feel like you’re pushing too hard, they quickly get turned off.
- Utilize turnstiles for your videos - Most video hosting solutions have some sort of lead-capture capability. Wistia’s turnstile feature allows you to capture information at any point in your video. For example, right before you give away the most important nugget of information, you can have an email capture form popup:
Like most good things, moderation is key. If every video requires an email to continue watching, it will get old quick.
- Design social posts that encourage subscribers - When it comes to your organic strategy, LinkedIn is a great place to post about your newsletters. Consider showing a sneak peek of content or even recording a video on why people should subscribe. Post that content with a link to a landing page. Here’s an example...
- Add a sign-up button to your newsletter - When your newsletter gets forwarded around it should be really easy for others to subscribe. Place a simple sign-up button on your newsletter.
- Add a subscribe link to your email signature - While this may only pick up a few new subscribers each year, everyone counts.
- Add emails from webinar and event registrations - When people register for your events it’s likely you're collecting their emails. This is a great time to ask them to join your newsletter list. You can also do this retroactively.
- Run paid ads on Facebook and LinkedIn - Here’s a Facebook ad example we ran recently to build new subscribers. You’ll need a simple landing page or to use a lead-capture form through Facebook. You’ll be able to evaluate cost per new subscriber fairly quickly to ensure it’s worth the ad-spend.
- Simplify your lead capture forms - When gating content, there is a tendency to request too much information. We see people requesting name, email, phone, address, and even current assets. Start with a simple micro-commitment, like email, and nurture the relationship. This goes for all the forms on your website, not just lead magnets. Ask for less, to ultimately get more.
- Collect more business cards - Remember these? Back in the day, Matt Oechsli would return from trips with a stack of business cards in hand. It was a list of advisors he’d met when giving a speech after he plugged our newsletter. If you’re at a tradeshow, guest presenting, or at a networking event, be diligent about collecting business cards.
- Start close to home - When building out your subscribers don't overlook those with whom you are closest. Start your email list building with the addresses you have for clients, prospects, COIs, friends and family.
Lastly, if you’re thinking to yourself that you already have a great list, and don’t need to focus on building new subscribers, think again. Your email list decays with every email blast. You should always be adding new quality emails to your database.
As stated before, this takes time and a variety of strategies. Get everyone on your team focused on building this number and set a short-term goal. Years from now, you’ll have an invaluable asset on your hands.