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April 6, 2017
Email Marketing  |  9 min read

5 Lessons Learned Going from Zero to 50K Subscribers

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David Waring

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Everyone has to start somewhere.”

This is particularly true for growing an email subscriber list. Like most email marketers, we started out with zero subscribers at Fit Small Business, but were able to expand our list through trial and error. In the process, we learned what works and what doesn’t. Today, we have over 50,000 active subscribers.

Below, we’ll share with you five lessons we learned in the process of building our list. After reading this article, you will hopefully takeaway some new strategies you can implement yourself.

1. Use super targeted lead magnets

When we just started building our email list, we encouraged people to sign up for a regular weekly newsletter. Even though we had an awesome, free newsletter to share, we were lucky if 1 percent of our site visitors opted in via this method.

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Before: Generic lead magnet

We knew we had to change things up if we wanted to get more leads. It wasn’t until we started using hyper-targeted lead magnets that we were able to kick our email list growth into high gear.

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We decided to include a lead magnet that was specific to the post visitors were currently reading within the article. By doing this, we knew that the reader was interested in the topic (already reading something similar) and that they wouldn’t miss the call-to-action.

Below is an example of this type of lead magnet within our article about detecting counterfeit money.

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After: Targeted lead magnet

By customizing what we were asking people to opt into based on the topic of the article that they were reading on our page, we were able to increase the conversion rate to between 5 percent to 10 percent of visitors.

2. Pop-ups work

Contrary to popular belief, pop-ups actually workwhen used the right way. Not only have they worked for us, using targeted pop-ups is one of the biggest sources of email opt-ins for our site.

The key to effective pop-ups is to target based on the page the visitor is on, and that you use exit intent pop-ups. Exit intent pop-ups trigger only when a visitor is about to leave the site. Giving the user the opportunity to read the whole article first prevents them from leaving immediately after the pop-up is shown and is a better way to capture their interest in signing up for an offer.

Below is an example of an exit-intent pop-up we use in an article about Facebook advertising. Since the user is reading about Facebook advertising, we know that it is something they are interested in, and therefore they are more likely to opt-in to receive more content related to the topic.

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Exit intent pop-up

We now have pop-ups like the one above on almost all of our pages, and they tend to convert around two to five percent of all visitors. This has increased our number of email subscribers tremendously.

3. Segment your list

It’s not enough to just add emails to your list. If you want to grow, you need to keep your existing subscribers happy. When we started out, we had one email list and we sent the same emails to everyone on our list. Because of this, our open rates and interactions with emails kept dropping the longer someone was on our list (since we were sending them content they weren’t interested in). It wasn’t until we started segmenting our list and sending different emails to people based on what they originally opted in for (and eventually how they interacted with those emails) that our open rates and click through rates stayed consistently high.

For example, if a user opts in for a popup about coupons for Facebook ads, we segment them into our marketing list. We start off by sending them more information about Facebook, and then depending on if they are opening those emails, we send them other information related to marketing.

This is where a high powered email marketing software such as Infusionsoft can really benefit you. This type of software helps to keep your lists organized based on opt-in method.

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4. Keep your list clean

In email marketing, the quality of your list is more important than the quantity of your subscribers. Having a high number of subscribers doesn’t mean that they read your emails.

If one of our subscribers doesn’t open an email for two months, we send them a reactivation campaign specifically designed to reengage them. If they still do not open our emails after this, then we automatically unsubscribe them from our list. By keeping a high quality list, we have better data on what is working and what is not, our spam complaints are low, and our emails are much more likely to hit the inbox instead of the promotions tab or spam folder.

It’s important to keep email marketing best practices in mind so that your subscribers look forward to receiving your emails, instead of considering your newsletters spam or junk mail.

5. Lastly, test everything

You need to have a system and process in place where you’re constantly testing your opt-ins, emails, and offers to see if they are serving their purpose. Test what kind of content and what format is well received by your subscribers.

For example, we have an article about real estate marketing. The initial offer on our popup was to send them a “free real estate lead generation ideas guide.” Through this approach, we averaged two to three leads a day from that article.

Related Article:

We tweaked the tactic a bit and changed the CTA to test if the users would respond differently to another approach. We decided to offer a free copy of the exact same article that they just read in PDF form. We were able to increase our number of opt-ins to twenty to thirty leads a day just from the small change.

Bottom line

Growing your subscriber list takes a lot of effort, but once you master what works, it is easier to steadily grow your list.

To sum it up, here are our top tips: make your lead magnets targeted, not generic; segment your list and customize the materials you send subscribers; and finally, test and retest your tactics constantly to see what works and what doesn’t.

Remember, each business has their own lead generation techniques that work best for them. Customize these tips for your business and see if they can work for you, like they did for us.

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David Waring.jpg

David Waring is the co-founder and publisher of Fit Small Business, a rapidly growing website that reaches over 700,000 small business readers a month. Prior to starting Fit Small Business, David served as a top executive at Forex Capital Markets LLC, which he joined as an initial employee and helped grow to a publicly traded company with over 700 employees.

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