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Why building your email list is as important as promoting your products or services?
So you have your first e-news, e-zine or email campaign all worked out. After adding the final touches you hit send and out it goes to the 38 subscribers on your list. And don't you feel pleased with yourself?

A total of 10 people open your email but not one clicks on the link to your offer.

Like air rushing out of a deflated balloon all your enthusiasm disappears. This is not the magic fix to your ailing sales you'd been hoping for.

Don't give up.
Problem: you need a bigger list. Opening rates vary with different industries but you might be surprised to know that opening rates of just 20% or higher mean you're doing well. So if you thought 90 - 100% of your list would read your e-news, think again. Now you can see why you need to build your list. It is from the list that you get sales opportunities. Effort spent building your list means more sales opportunities.

Why quality is more important than quantity in your list
Building a quality list means attracting subscribers who want what you are offering. A huge list of people who have no interest in you, your product or service is just a great big waste of time. Worse, it could damage your reputation as you irritate people with unwanted emails.

Building your list relies on developing trust between you and your subscribers.

Offer something of value.
Treat email addresses as valuable.
Remember that email is a personal communication i.e you are sending messages to real people not just email addresses.

How thinking of your e-news as a valuable product will help you promote it
Hopefully you are sending content that your readers want. This content is valuable to your readers. Start to think of your e-news as a valuable product and promoting it gets easier.

First decide what the value is e.g. special offers, tips, ideas, alerts, industry news etc. Write a line about what you offer,

e.g. 'If you'd like to know about future special offers and promotions, subscribe to our e-news.'

You can add a touch of exclusivity to make it more attractive,

e.g. 'To get our exclusive, subscriber only offers, sign up to our e-news'

How using an incentive can encourage people to subscribe
People are wary of giving away their email address. After all who wants more emails in their inbox? Offering an incentive can help to persuade people that a) there is something of value in your e-news and b) you are genuine and offer something relevant.

Incentive ideas:
  • a competition (offer a monthly prize draw for a voucher to be used in your business)
  • free software
  • free membership to a forum
  • a free e-book (write your own or type "free content" into Google and you'll find piles of free e-books that companies would love you to give away).

Ideas for e-books: If you are a tourist attraction, offer a guide to festivals in the area. For guests coming to self catering cottages, a short history of the area or a guide to walks in the area would be useful. Web developers could offer a short guide to starting a blog.

Asking for the information
Don't ask for too much information. Long forms are off putting. First name, last name and email address are the minimum. You may want to know which country or region your subscriber is from, but don't ask for full postal addresses unless you want to mail to your list as well.

Email addresses and the law
It is both good practice and a legal requirement that you only send emails out to those who have 'opted in' to your list otherwise you are sending spam i.e. unsolicited messages. In the US and countries like Italy the anti-spam laws are strictly enforced and carry heavy penalties if you fall foul. To be sure you are on the right side of the law in the UK, consult The Privacy and Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003.

Ensure you are complying with the law on data protection. In the UK you can find all the dos and don'ts here.

Quick tips for promoting your enews.
Online promotion
  • Sign up form on your website (home page or every page) with incentive.
  • Pop up window on your website - these appear when people enter or leave your site. Use with caution, preferably when people are leaving the site as any appearance of coercing people to subscribe before they've had a a look at what you offer, will back fire and annoy people.
  • Add the incentive and link to sign up in your email signature.
  • Post a link to every enews on your Facebook page (talk to your web developer about automating this process).
  • Post a link to every enews on your LinkedIn page.
  • Tweet a link to every enews (many email marketing programmes will do this automatically for you).
  • Promote your e-news via your blog. Give a taster of the e-news and then a link to the full version and a link to the sign up form.
  • Guest blogging. If your articles appear on other blogs, don't forget to include your line about subscribing at the end of your article.
  • Online directory entries - many membership sites, allow you to write a 2-400 word entry about your business. Include your sign up text with link.
  • Add a link to your sign up form at the bottom of every enews (if you use an email marketing programme like Mail Chimp, your enews will be hosted on a public web page so not everyone that reads it will necessarily be a subscriber).
  • Ask for opt in after the check out in your online shop.
  • Enews swap - find out which other enews your subscribers read (from complementary businesses rather than competitors) and ask the supplier to swap recommendations. You could offer guest articles and publish articles for them as well. This is an effective way to build your list.
  • Ask your existing subscribers to introduce you to friends or colleagues who would benefit from your e-news. Many email marketing programmes include a forward to a friend button in the footer as standard but consider a specific campaign twice a year. Include the text that subscribers could send to friends or colleagues.

Offline promotion
In countries where double opt in is required (i.e. customers subscribe once and then confirm subscription), you cannot complete the opt in process for them, even if they have given you permission. In that case use methods that encourage people to go online and subscribe using the form on your website.
  • In retail premises provide a kiosk (could simply be a PC) with your sign up form and information about your enews on the screen. Ask people if they'd like to sign up after they've completed their purchase.
  • Ask for email addresses (and permission to sign people up) on feedback forms.
  • If business customers come to your premises, have a fish bowl at reception to collect business cards.
  • If your customers don't carry business cards, use the fish bowl but offer simple forms for people to fill out.
  • Ask if people would like to subscribe when they phone to make an enquiry, booking, request more information.
  • Tell people about your enews in Visitor books.
  • Add a line about signing up to your invoices and estimates.
  • Use the back of your business card to offer your enews as a useful resource. Remember to add the website address.
  • During presentations, offer something of value e.g. a free report and ask for business cards from those that want to sign up.
  • Postcards - if you have a database that has mailing addresses rather than email addresses, send out a short postcard encouraging people to subscribe for the online version of your newsletters or offers.
  • Telemarketing campaign - likewise if you have phone numbers but no email addresses, consider a campaign to 'update information'. Ask your list if they'd like to receive offers, news or updates by email.

Building your list is not a one hit activity. When you consider that customers are the life blood of any business and email marketing, done right, is a cost effective way of getting business, then you can see that promoting your e-news is fundamental to developing your business. It's something you should work on every week.

Go now and do one thing to promote your enews and build your list.
Contributor: Juliet Fay @

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