7 Ways to Grow Your Fan List

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The journey of collecting a thousand emails
by Meryl K. Evans

Build Your Fan BaseStarting anything makes you feel like you have a long road ahead of you. Whether it’s hopping on the treadmill knowing you have 45 minutes to go, backing your car out of the garage at the start of a 150-mile road trip or opening to the first page of a 500-page novel. It can be the same when you start your mailing list with one person, yourself.

Instead of thinking you have 45 minutes, 150 miles or 500 pages to go, be proud you’ve taken the first step that many haven’t. Once you’ve completed that first minute, mile or page, look at what you’ve done rather than how much more you have to go.

Now that you have a few names on your list (even if some are team members), you have seven ways to grow the list:

  1. Start with the basics.
  2. Check existing addresses.
  3. Extend your networking activities.
  4. Partner with other businesses.
  5. Do advertising.
  6. Try a hodgepodge.
  7. Rent opt-in lists. (Tread carefully!)

1. Start with the basics

These are easy-peasy activities that you can do in minutes to catch more subscribers.

  • Add a subscription box on your website. This allows you to reach the people who find your message resonates with them. Post a link to an example of your email newsletter or its archives and your privacy statement. You miss opportunities when you don’t share an example. People want to know what to expect, before they give up their information.
  • Put it in your signature. In addition to your phone number and website URL at the bottom of all outgoing emails, include a message asking people to sign up for your journal. You get bonus points if you add a value proposition.
  • Post a privacy policy. The easiest thing you can do to build trust is to add “We respect your privacy” in the subscription form. You also need a clear privacy policy somewhere on your website. This states you will protect their privacy and explains what you will and won’t do with the information you collect.

2. Check existing email addresses

Undoubtedly, you’ve already collected some email addresses. Here’s where to find more.

  • Work with the sales team. The sales team can supplement its sales efforts with a message from your company that arrives in each prospect’s inbox every month. Set up a process to have your sales team send you the new prospects’ contact information. The email newsletter articles are better icebreakers than talking about the weather.
  • Talk to your accounting department. This often overlooked source should be your second stop after the sales team’s address books. The accounting department handles billing and knows all your current and former clients. Starting with those closest to your firm is a good way to maintain your relationship, and try to forge a new one with former clients.
  • Go to your employees. Everyone in your company has email addresses. No matter the company size, the number of email addresses is always larger than you think. Ask employees, especially the sales team, to comb through their address books to gather emails that will form the initial core of your journal subscriptions. Also ask employees to read the email newsletter and share it with anyone, friends included, who will find it valuable.
  • Review information requests. Add to the mailing list people who have written the company asking for more information. These are great prospects with whom you want to stay in touch. An email newsletter offers that opportunity on regular intervals.

3. Extend your networking activities

Remember to take advantage of old-fashioned networking opportunities as well as another, newer one.

  • Cash in on trade shows. These attendees may have an interest in your company, even if the sales team doesn’t find value in calling them. The email newsletter lets you separate those who are interested from those who are not and lets your sales team concentrate on more qualified leads. As you incorporate lead scoring with your newsletter, statistics will tell you when suspects turn into hot leads.
  • Attend networking events. The best way to close a conversation is to say, “Hey, we have an email newsletter with articles. May I add you to the list?” It’s a great excuse to ask for a business card. Your company can grow its list dramatically by making attendance mandatory at networking events.
  • Capitalize on social media. B2B businesses can benefit from having a blog because it makes a great landing page for the newsletter. There, you can have a subscription box. Social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook act as focused search engines that lead readers back to the newsletter’s content, which lives on the blog.

4. Partner with other businesses

Consider offering co-branding, as it can lead to larger target lists. Most associations tend to have a large list. You may be able to send the newsletter to their entire mailing list and grow yours by thousands with highly targeted recipients. In exchange for ads or journal sponsorships, your partner gets the opportunity to send your high-quality newsletter to its mailing list in its name along with yours for free. You maintain control over all content — including your calls to action and ads.

Your partner’s presence in the journal could be:

  • Its call to action (ad) in the journal.
  • The “From line” to the partnering company’s email list that contains its name. (Its mailing list individuals won’t know you and may think the message is spam.)
  • The editorial corner from someone in its organization.

A few business development ideas:

  • Sponsorships. Sponsorships can be bartered to companies whose customers or clients would be interested in your services. In exchange for providing them with exposure, they would give you a list of emails.
  • Reciprocity agreements. Create reciprocity agreements with other companies complementary to yours to help each other acquire new subscribers.
  • Link to articles. Other complementary journals would link to your articles, if you agree to link to theirs; this is an efficient way to create exposure for both organizations.
  • Suggest other newsletters. After people opt in to a journal, they see a thank-you page. It’s possible to create agreements with companies so that the thank-you page suggests opting in to other newsletters. The partner would do the same for you.

5. Do advertising

Studies have shown paid advertising and organic activities together send conversion rates soaring — rather than just doing organic activities.

  • Advertising in email newsletters. Newsletter ads help get a targeted audience to your site. The key to this is to direct visitors to a customized landing page where they can opt in.
  • Advertising on websites and social media. Promote your email newsletter with ads on niche sites that your target audience is likely to visit.
  • Offline advertising. When using traditional media, request email addresses in addition to other contact information. The more direct you are about what they get and why they want it, the higher the response rate.

6. Try a hodgepodge of other activities

This hodgepodge may include activities you already do that you can augment.

  • Articles. Repurpose your content or write another article for placement in other publications, online and offline. Getting your name in print or on other websites not only expands awareness about your company, it also presents you as an expert and puts you in contact with an audience interested in what you have to offer. Add a link to your subscription box at the bottom of the article or in your bio, suggesting the reader can find other valuable information by subscribing to your newsletter.
  • Press releases. Ensure all press releases include a URL that directs people to a page where they can opt in to the email newsletter.
  • Telemarketing. This is a fast way to build the database since you can explain why you’re asking for an email address, which helps overcome resistance.
  • Traditional direct mail. Send a personal letter inviting clients and prospects to visit your website, complete a form or call you. You can include the URL in your subscription box.
  • Referrals (forwarding). Ask your readers to forward the email newsletter to colleagues and recommend they sign up for your newsletter. You can offer an incentive to share, and scale your incentive to provide a greater reward for a larger number of referrals.

7. Rent opt-in email lists (Tread carefully!)

It’s tempting to buy lists with the names and emails of people who may be your target market, but this is a dangerous practice that many experts discourage. If you insist on using rental lists, please follow these guidelines.

The goal of using a rental list should be limited to getting B2B professionals to subscribe to your newsletter so they may receive information that adds value to their professional life. Period. Do NOT make any other offers.

This is a much different strategy than the one you will use when sending your newsletter to subscribers. The goal of the newsletter is to convert those prospects into qualified leads. The goal of list rental mailings is to obtain readership for your journal.

A few more tips for working with rented lists:

  • Work with list brokers with a good reputation in the direct marketing community. Rental list companies don’t stay in business with disgruntled customers or with lists that don’t produce results. The broker helps you find the best targeted lists based on your needs and is paid by the list owner.
  • Ask how they obtained the names. Ask to see the web pages the names come from and how much permission the person granted to receive additional emails.
  • Test a small portion of the list to determine results and then do a full campaign on the lists that work best for you.

List brokers rarely give you the email addresses; instead, they do the mailing for you. This is a good thing, as they take the risk of being labeled as spammers.

Beyond this list of seven ways to grow your mailing list, are a few ways missing? How do you grow your mailing list?

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