Not building an email list is one of the biggest mistakes you can make in an Internet business. Keeping in touch with customers and prospects should be a key focus for any business owner, and email is the most efficient and cost-effective way to do this. Most people are happy to receive emails, and the widespread use of smartphones and mobile devices means they can access them from anywhere at their convenience.

Building an email list should be one of your core marketing activities. I had been operating my affiliate marketing websites for several months before I got around to setting up a process to capture email addresses from visitors. This probably cost me thousands of dollars in lost revenue in the years since I started to build my lists. Many Internet marketers spend several hours a week using social media rather than building and marketing to a list. The excuses I hear for not focussing on getting email sign-ups include not understanding the legal implications to not knowing what content to send in emails.

The Email Sign-up Process

It’s essential that you set up an auto-responder if you’re serious about email marketing. As well as automating the process of capturing emails, this software can send emails to your list and track the results. I prefer Aweber, but there are a few good alternatives. MailChimp offers a free auto-responder service, but there are a number of limitations I advise you check before signing up.

The best advice I can offer about choosing an auto-responder is to think about the long-term needs of your business. Opting for a free service with a limit on the number of subscribers can be a big mistake. Some of the free services include their own ads in the emails sent on your behalf. It’s possible to switch auto-responder providers if you realize yours isn’t meeting your needs, but I think it’s easier to choose the right one from the start.

An auto-responder only works if people are willing to give you their email address of course. There are a number of ways you can encourage them to do that, and I’ll share my preferred methods in a moment. By far the easiest method to get people to become subscribers to your emails is simply to ask! If your website contains quality content about a subject a visitor is interested in there’s a very good chance he will sign up. Some people worry about being bombarded with too many emails, so I always make it clear how regular contact will be. The offer of a monthly newsletter is generally acceptable.

Tips For Attracting Subscribers

The following tips will help you accelerate the growth of your subscription list.

1) Make it easy to sign up.

Make sure the opt-in form is clearly visible on your website. I’m not a fan of opt-in forms that scroll across the screen when a visitor hits your site, but every visitor should know that they can subscribe. The form should be in an obvious position on your home page, and the content on your website should encourage visitors to sign up. For example, at the end of an article add something like ‘To read more articles like this click here to sign up to our monthly newsletter.’
Test your opt-in form using different browsers to make sure that it works for all visitors. It’s also a good idea to test it using tablets and smartphones as this is how a large proportion of your traffic is likely to access your website. There’s nothing more frustrating for a visitor than trying to enter their email address and finding an error in the opt-in form.

2) Promote your newsletter on social networks.

It’s a common mistake to assume that your website is the only potential source of subscribers. Facebook, Twitter and other social networks are great for attracting people to your list. Many of the social networks offer the facility for followers to sign up, or you can direct people to your main website to use the opt-in form.

3) Offer a special incentive.

This is my personal favorite. Offering a free ebook or short report is an easy way to explode your list. If you aren’t happy writing this yourself, there are plenty of freelancers looking for this type of work. Make sure your report has a punchy title and will appeal to your target market. ‘Free Guide To Playing Poker’ isn’t likely to attract many people. ’10 Secrets Of The Poker Stars’ would have a much greater conversion rate.

If you run a bricks-and-mortar business you can offer a coupon to encourage subscribers. For example, a pizza restaurant website could offer a coupon for a discount or free sides in return for an email address.

4) Encourage people to share your newsletter.

It’s reasonable to assume that someone with an interest in a hobby, sport or activity has friends who share their passion. Include a line in your emails encouraging subscribers to forward the content to others who may be interested in it. People will be happy to do this if the content is interesting and informative. This is an easy way to double your subscribers overnight.

5) Promote through online forums.

Forums are a great place to connect with people interested in your niche. It’s important that you check the rules of a forum before using it for marketing, and you have to go about it in a subtle way. If you simply start a thread to promote your email list you’ll be banned from most forums. Join some forums on relevant topics and start to take an active interest and post comments. Once people see that you have an interest in and knowledge about their passion they will start to notice you. Most forums will allow you to include a link to your website once you’ve been an active member for a certain amount of time.

Quality is more important than quantity when you’re building a list, so don’t try to cut corners or use ‘black-hat’ methods.