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February 22, 2016
Marketing  |  9 min read

5 Growth Strategies for Cultivating Email Subscribers

by Anati Zubia

Have you ever watched a nature documentary where they show all the animals gathered around the watering hole? Did you know that these animals return to the same watering hole over and over until they leave ruts in the ground?

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What does my email subscriber strategy have to do with animals at a watering hole you ask? It’s an appropriate analogy to describe a consistent, reliable source of sustenance that draws in new subscribers and causes them to return time after time.

This article will show you five key growth strategies that will help you start growing your email opt-in and cultivating subscribers into a healthy marketable database.

1. Make it easy

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Signing up for your email list should be one thing: Simple.

The average human has an attention span of eight seconds. If your purpose is to sign up more subscribers, then you have to be more than obvious with your web form. You can simplify the design of your opt-in form by considering the following: 

  • Minimalist: Create a web form that requires the minimum amount of information that you can logically use (i.e.: name, email). It’s even better if you have technology that enables you to prepopulate a user’s data. This makes the option quick and painless for the subscriber and they are more likely to hit the “submit” button.
  • Prime real estate: You wouldn’t put a gift tag inside the gift box, right? It’s the same thought with your opt-in form. Make sure it’s easy to locate on all forms of your digital presence—website, social media, email signature, and shopping cart are just a few examples.

2. Offer incentives

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Don’t leave subscribers asking, “What’s in it for me!?”

If there’s one thing that makes it easier for you to grow your list quickly, it’s to give away something valuable in return for the opt-in. Subscribers opt-in for a variety or reasons, but none of those is to receive a direct sales pitch. So how do you provide value to gain subscribers that still relates to your business? Here are just a few ideas on freebies to give away for opt-ins:

  • Educational content: An e-book, audio download, checklist, or workbook related to your industry. (Example: “Checklist: Winterize your Backyard” for a landscaping company.)
  • Promotional offer: A coupon or a discount code are perceived as almost as good as cash, especially if your subscriber plans on buying. (Example: “15% Off Coupon for New Subscribers”)
  • Free trial or membership: Depending on your industry, this could be the first step to getting them in the door. This is especially valuable if the membership is normally paid. (Example: “Free eBook: 15-Minute Daily Exercises” for a fitness company.)

3. Strategy matters

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Set opt-in subscriber expectations and be consistent following them. 

First impressions are everything—and that first email you send after an opt-in is that critical introduction to your tone, brand, and value—this sets your subscribers expectations. Here are a few things to consider when drafting the first email your subscribers will receive after opt-in:

  • Frequency: Make sure you tell your subscribers how often they will be receiving emails from you. If you send a monthly newsletter or a weekly blog update, then tell them that. Subscribers won’t be shocked or upset to get an email from you if you establish frequency in advance.
  • Content: Let your subscribers control the type and topic of content they receive from you with opt-in selections. 
  • Change: Need to make a change to your email strategy? Be up front and reestablish expectations with your subscribers. 

4. Don’t…

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Avoid making these common email subscriber mistakes. 

You should put just as much effort into growing your marketable email list as you are maintaining it. Here are three common pitfalls to avoid:

  • Don’t sell too early: “Always be closing,” says Alec Baldwin. The hard reality is that when all a subscriber receives from you are emails trying too hard to sell them something, your message is lost.
  • Don’t forget to segment: As you grow your email list, it’s important that you begin to segment that data based on more information you gain from your subscribers. Segmenting by purchase history, engagement type (download PDF, watch video, claim coupon), loyalty (new subscriber vs. veteran subscriber), and location are a few common ways to begin segmenting your data. Use this information to offer new ways of engagement or for creating direct campaigns with those segments in mind. 
  • Don’t be afraid of unsubscribes: The dreaded “Unsubscribe” button! There is always that percentage of unsubscribes from your new opt-in subscribers within the first few emails. Generally speaking, an unsubscribe rate of less than 1 percent means you are within industry norm. If your rate is more than that then don’t fret—just review your strategy in setting expectations, frequency, and content. Make minor adjustments and test them until you get it just right.

5. Utilize technology

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Technology is email marketing’s best friend.

If you want to grow and convert from your email subscribers, you need to get closer with your new BFF—marketing technology. Here are a couple things that technology can do to empower what you do with email subscribers: 

  • Automate: Get ahead by setting up your scheduled emails (monthly newsletter, blog subscription, etc.) and let marketing automation technology carry the load. Want to see what this looks like? Check out “The Automation Experience” from Infusionsoft.
  • Bubble-up: Want to alert sales when one of your email subscribers is highly engaged and would benefit from a phone call? Setup sales alerts and lead scoring based on your email subscription engagement so you can pass leads when they are ready for sales.
  • Analyze strategy: Don’t guess on open rate, click rate, unsubscribes, and engagement—make technology do the calculations and tell you where you need to improve your strategy.

You can see that growing email subscribers isn’t as simple as tossing fertilizer on the garden and watching seeds sprout up—but it is also not some expansive, calculated rocket science either. It’s all about knowing how to ask for that opt-in and following through with the expectation you’ve set.

So, what are you waiting for? Starting growing those subscribers!

Want some more insight on the state of digital marketing? Check out this SlideShare on small business marketing trends from Infusionsoft and LeadPages. 


Anati is the perfect blend of modern marketing guru and technology geek. She is currently developing demand generation and opportunity conversion strategies at Infusionsoft. Her knowledge about small business comes first hand as she built and sold her first small business, a photography studio in Oregon. When she’s not exploring the world of entrepreneurism, she can be found being a kid-at-heart at Disney Parks, being a crazy cat lady, collecting Star Wars memorabilia, and being an active philanthropist for local children’s and animal charities in Phoenix, AZ.

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