10 Steps to Building an Engaged List of Email Subscribers

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A whopping 80% of businesses use email marketing to obtain or retain customers.

There’s a reason so many entrepreneurs and brands turn to email for their marketing efforts; it gets results and it’s affordable.

The power of email can help propel your brand towards success, but only if you have a quality list of subscribers to work with.

When it comes to email marketing, it’s easy to think that having a big list of subscribers is great. Well, sure, it’s great if they’re all engaged with your content. Otherwise, you just have a big list of people that don’t have an appetite for what you’re sending out.

Let me explain this another way…

The holiday season is quickly approaching which means one thing in my house—holiday cookies. My wife is an amazing baker, but I only like certain kinds of cookies, and our family and friends have their own preferences too—she bakes each person’s favorite cookies, packaged for us individually.

You need to think about your email subscriber list the same way.

If each email you send is a delicious cookie fresh from the oven, don’t waste them on people who don’t like that kind of cookie. When you build a list out of anyone who will opt in, those less-engaged subscribers will hurt your deliverability and ROI.

10 steps to building a high-quality subscriber list

Want to make sure the names and emails on your list are truly high quality?

You can be sure you have a useful list of engaged, connected subscribers if you follow these simple steps:

Step 1: Know your audience

Who is your ideal customer?

Identifying who you are trying to target can help you correctly position your brand and your offers.

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The marketing personas you’ve developed for other marketing efforts can be put to good use here. If you don’t have a persona worked up, think about the people or users who would use or benefit from your product the most.

Knowing who you want to target will help you craft compelling offers and ensure you are reaching out to people who are truly prospects for your brand.

Step 2: Build a user-friendly subscriber form

Your opt-in form allows users to easily subscribe to receive your emails. Where you place this form matters.

Build a form that asks for basic details and that does not overwhelm the user with requests or fields as too many fields can lower your signup rates considerably.

The easier it is for your reader to locate, complete, and submit the form, the more likely they are to do so.

Position your opt-in form in some strategic locations on your site so it is easy to find, including:

  • Your footer and sidebar
  • Your “About” page
  • Within the body of pages or posts
  • As a pop-up or banner
  • With a video embed

Step 3: Create compelling reasons for users to opt in

Sure, you need their information to send them amazing content, but why should a visitor hand over their contact information to you?

Using strong calls to action and social proof can turn even a casual reader into an engaged subscriber—and a compelling free download is often the key to boosting your list numbers.

Create an asset or two that your target buyer would love to receive, make them free, and watch your list numbers grow.

Step 4: Set up an automated welcome campaign

What happens when a user signs up?

An automated email campaign that is triggered by the sign up and walks them through the process is an ideal way to make sure you are connecting with your new reader.

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Set up a series of automated emails that showcase your personality, introduce what your subscribers can expect, and give some background about you, your brand, and your mission.

This is also a great place to reward a new subscriber with a promo code or offer.

Step 5: Create a preference center

Give users the option of adjusting how often they hear from you and the way that they would like to be contacted.

Building in options and flexibility can help you lower your bounce and unsubscribe rates. You’ll lower the risk of annoying your subscribers with too many emails or too many requests if you let them choose.

You’ll also allow users to opt out if they need to, improving the effectiveness of your list.

Step 6: Practice good email list hygiene

Sift through and audit your list regularly to remove bad email addresses and improve your delivery rate.

Your overall speed will increase, your metrics will be more accurate, and you’ll have a better ROI if your list is accurate.

Step 7: Use segmentation to drive results

Properly segmenting your users by preference, geography, past buying history, and more can help you effectively boost your click-through rates and conversions.

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You’ll also be less likely to be labeled as spam if the pieces you send are truly relevant to the consumer and of interest.

Step 8: Utilize retargeting or win-back campaigns

Some subscribers begin to drop off over time; before you purge them, give them one last chance to connect, or opt out.

If you still don’t hear back, it is time to unsubscribe them—they are not engaging right now, so they are dragging down your metrics and hurting your open rates.

Users you’ve dropped can always resubscribe at a later date.

Step 9: Keep the killer content coming

What are you delivering to your site or blog visitors—and what keeps them coming back for more?

People won’t take the step to sign up for “more” content if your site and inbound materials aren’t compelling enough.

Tell stories, share pieces that add value and position yourself as a true authority with your content and posts.

From the posts you create for your own site to guest posts, and even pieces written for LinkedIn, you have some amazing opportunities to connect.

Make the most of them—and include subscription opportunities with every single piece you create.

Step 10: Use testing to reveal what works

Creating something that looks “right” to you is a good start, but actually testing your content and emails to see which pieces perform best will help you serve up more of what works.

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Your audience may really love listicles, video, or infographics; if you track and test, you’ll know which types of content they open and read, and which they shun.

Using this information can help you boost your open and conversion rates and ensure you are directing your efforts in the right way.

High-quality emails lead to a high-quality list

From the opt-in setup to the actual content you send, your subscribers should see and get value from subscribing to your list.

A steady stream of relevant, useful content served up at the right frequency will allow you to not only grow a list, but grow a list that you can truly use.

When you have engaged, interested and relevant followers, you’ll truly be able to reap the rewards of email marketing for your own brand. Email marketing software can help with many aspects of this process, from building a subscriber form to auditing your lists. Check out Capterra’s email marketing software directory to see what might work for your business.

Looking for Marketing Automation software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Marketing Automation software solutions.

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About the Author


Corey Trojanowski

Corey Trojanowski is Digital Marketing Manager at Delivra, an email marketing, and marketing automation platform designed and built for results-driven marketers. When Corey isn't waist deep in Google Analytics or working on conversion rates, he's probably spending time with his family or on the ice playing hockey.



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