A small business’ success with email marketing is directly tied to its ability to collect email addresses from customers. In a survey of small and midsize businesses, the email marketing service iContact found that the median email subscription list size was nearly 3,500, with 24% of respondents having fewer than 1,000 subscribers on their lists.
Although size is subjective — what is considered a large list to one SMB could be considered a small list to another — the desire to add more subscribers to email marketing lists is nearly universal, and the average merchant hopes to increase his or her email list by 28% this year. In order to achieve that goal, businesses need a strategy that goes beyond just asking customers for their information at the POS.
Here are eight strategies that businesses should consider for collecting more customer email addresses.
1. Leverage online touch points. “Determine where you have the most opportunity to reach your target subscriber audience, both in the online and offline worlds. Does your landing page offer an opt-in for future communication? Your website is the most straightforward source of list growth potential. It sits there every day collecting and directing incoming visitors. For this reason, websites are the single most important method of growing email opt-in lists. Use your web analytics solution to identify the most trafficked areas of your site, so that you can create opt-in opportunities where your visitors will notice them.” (Philip Storey, Lyris)
2. Provide a tangible benefit. “The key to building a database is to provide a tangible benefit, like a loyalty program, which motivates the customer to willingly share their name and email address. With a loyalty program, the business can ask this simple question to which no one says no: ‘May I enroll you in our free rewards program?’ That’s a question that’s met with a lot less resistance than, ‘Can I have your name and email address so you can be added to our email list?’” (Walter Dubowec, Firefly Rewards)
3. Require emails for purchase receipts. “iPad and iPhone POS tools like Shopify, LightSpeed, and Square — there are many more — encourage members to give email addresses so they can receive purchase receipts, warranties, contracts, etc. In this case the ‘ask’ is matter-of-fact: this is how you can get the docs you need.” (Sunil Saha, Perkville)
4. Integrate tools into an email management system. “One of the things we do at Thanx is we integrate directly with existing email management tools — think Mailchimp or Constant Contact. From then on, when a consumer signs up for Thanx and selects an introductory reward, they are given the opportunity to enroll in the merchant’s email list for additional news and special offers. For merchants who turn on this tool, we have increased email signups 10x.” (Zach Goldstein, Thanx)
5. Run contests. “Host a giveaway and ask people to sign up with their emails. You can offer anything from a free breakfast for two, if you are a small restaurant owner, a free T-shirt, or anything else up to a VW camper van. You can promote the contest anywhere — in store, on your website, on social media. Heck, even on the street.” (Didi Zheleva, InTouch CRM)
6. Consider list rentals. “List rental has long been a staple in the email marketing world. However, the name is a bit misleading in that it gives the impression that one takes physical possession of a list, which is not the case. The most reputable and highest performing lists are those that a list broker or list owner uses to send email messages on your behalf. List rental works well when the list is specifically targeted to your audience and is rented from a reputable provider that follows list maintenance and opt-in best practices.” (Philip Storey, Lyris)
7. Just ask. “Ask for the email address. If a business doesn’t send paper notices for billing, then email address is the method of contact. If a business supplies resources, like gym equipment or swimming pools, snail-mail would be way too slow for resource outages or changes, and phone calls can’t be made en masse. So, email is just the standard way a business notifies members of news about holiday hours and alerts.” (Sunil Saha, Perkville)
8. Make the opt-in clear. “Customers should be made aware before they sign up for anything, and also that there is a clear opt-in. When a customer doesn’t realize they are giving you information about themselves and doesn’t have a clear understanding what the information is intended for, the relationship between customer and brand is damaged.” (Debbie Kim, Index)
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.