Sales & Marketing Tech

5 Best Email Marketing Best Practices to Grow Your Subscriber List

Published by in Sales & Marketing Tech

As we approach 2018, email marketing sits in an interesting position.

With burgeoning marketing techniques such as social media marketing, chat bots, and artificial intelligence gaining traction, you may be wondering if email marketing is going the way of fax marketing.

And even when email marketing isn’t battling trendy new formats, it’s battling the stigma that it’s the digital equivalent of junk mail, clogging up inboxes with incessant, unwanted sales pitches.

But here’s the reality:

In other words, you need to use email marketing as part of your marketing toolset if you want to market successfully, and you need to do it well.

With that in mind, I got together with Martin Gilman, marketing manager of email marketing platform dotmailer, to come up with five email marketing best practices to grow your subscriber list in 2018. Here’s what we came up with.

1. Popovers

Email marketing best practices: Popovers

An example of a simple popover on the Barbour welcome page

Don’t confuse these with their much maligned cousins, the pop-up ads, or the completely unrelated, but scrumptious, Pop Tarts.

A popover starts like a pop-up ad, in that it pops up when a visitor comes to your web site, but they’re a little less annoying than a pop-up ad because they don’t open a new window or tab. A popover is more like an additional layer on the screen, so they won’t be terminated by pop-up blockers.

Another key difference is that popovers are typically forms asking for an email address in exchange for something such as a coupon, ebook, or newsletter subscription. That’s where popovers come into play for email marketers, and Gilman says they’re a very effective tool.

“One of our clients, Barbour, used a popover to sign up 20,000 new contacts in just three months,” he says. “Combining the sign-up form with a compelling offer, like a money-off code, is a popular exchange for handing over details.”

Most email marketing software makes popover ads easy through a form tool, and you can set it up to send incoming email addresses directly to your contact database.

2. In-store collection

Email marketing best practices: In-store collection

If you look closely, you can see the pad of email request slips under the box of Sailor Boy Pilot Bread (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Even with new technology such as chatbots and virtual assistants, there’s still nothing like face-to-face, human interaction.

Assuming you have some sort of brick-and-mortar presence, you have an outstanding opportunity to cull new subscribers in a personable, natural way.

You can ask for email addresses during a purchase, set up a kiosk with tablets, or even set out a good old-fashioned stack of sign-up cards. If someone is already interested enough in your brand to make the physical trip to your store, there’s a good chance they’ll also be willing to share their email address and become a subscriber. Especially if you sweeten the pot with a coupon or chance to win a prize.

“Once you’ve got that email,” Gilman says, “you’ll have a database that allows you to see the customer’s offline purchases and online purchases, giving you a much fuller picture of what they like.”

3. E-receipts

Email marketing best practices: E-receipts

A sample e-receipt from Transaction Tree

Paper receipts—they get stuffed in wallets, tucked away in drawers, thrown in the trash… and what for? The ink fades after a few months anyway, and millions of trees are cut down every year to feed this dying practice.

The solution is electronic receipts, or e-receipts, or paperless receipts. They’re not only environmentally friendly, but they also give email marketers a great way to grow their subscriber list.

Of course, when someone makes a purchase online they get an e-receipt, but you should also set up your in-store purchases to offer this option. Customers still want a record of their purchase in case they need to make a return or exchange, or sign up for a warranty, and they can get this record electronically by simply providing their email address.

Gilman says that dotmailer client Fred Perry went from collecting around 100 emails per week, to 3,000 after introducing e-receipts at their stores.

“80% of Fred Perry’s customers are now opting for e-receipts in 32 of its worldwide stores,” he adds.

These e-receipts translate to lots of new subscribers, but it’s good practice to offer an easy opt-out so that you’re not bombarding customers with sales circulars when all they want is a receipt.

4. Surveys

Email marketing best practices: Extremely satisfied

It’s best not to fill out a survey while under duress

Consumers want to be heard. Especially when they’ve had a bad experience, but hopefully also when they’ve had a glowing experience.

You can make it easier for your customers to share their experience by offering surveys. It’s best to attach these surveys to an e-receipt, or as a popover when a visitor is leaving your website. You can gain subscribers by requiring an email address to fill out the survey, but surveys also give you the opportunity to learn more about existing subscribers.

Very few people (that I’m aware of) go around filling out surveys for fun, so you should attach some type of incentive, like a discount on a future purchase, or entry into a sweepstakes.

An added bonus to surveys is that you can use demographic information to acquire a deeper understanding of your customer base.

As Gilman points out, surveys are a versatile tool for email marketers.

“If you choose to send welcome emails to new people joining your list, this is a good point to collect information on the type of content they’re interested in receiving,” he says. “Or if you want to get your customers’ thoughts on your brand and products, to show you care and to tailor future communications, a feedback survey is perfect.”

5. Social media sweepstakes

Email marketing best practices: Sweepstakes

Even pre-social media sweepstakes wanted you in their funnel (Image via Flickr)

Now here comes the fun stuff. Everybody loves a sweepstakes, and they’re a great way to generate buzz while also growing your subscriber list. This works especially well if you have a large social media following and you’re looking to convert those social media followers into email subscribers.

Your sweepstakes could give away a prize package, a vacation, tickets to a game or concert, or anything desirable but difficult to obtain. The idea is to promote your sweepstakes on your social media channels, allowing followers a chance to win in exchange for filling out a form. To maximize outreach, encourage your followers to share the contest with their friends and followers as well.

Gilman suggests using sponsored posts—that is, posts that you pay social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to promote—to boost reach.

“You might want to do a simple sweepstakes via a promoted post to get likes, follows and email addresses,” he says. “Or you could run something like a photo competition to drive up engagement and collect user-generated content, as well as prospect data, to maximize your marketing.”

What are your email marketing best practices?

If you’re an email marketer, what are your best practices, and what methods do you avoid? Please let us know in the comments.

If you’re looking for more email marketing tips, follow our sales and marketing blog, and check out these articles:

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About the Author

Andrew Conrad

Andrew Conrad

Senior Content Writer @ Capterra, sharing insights about retail. Published in PSFK, Modern Retail, and the Baltimore Sun. Austin transplant. I love spending time outside with my dog or floating on the Colorado River in my inflatable kayak.


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