How to Grow Your Email Marketing Audience

Expand your audience to boost your business.

Email marketing can be a highly effective way to keep people engaged with your brand. However, the best email content in the world is useless without an audience to receive it.

Per the GDPR and email marketing best practices, building an audience requires the full consent of each and every subscriber. This means that contacts should only be in your audience if they personally signed up for it.

This is a good thing for businesses. People who subscribe to your marketing are already more engaged and invested than those who could be added to an audience through less consensual means. However, it’s important to retain that initial interest and build upon it over time.

Subscriber data is usually gathered via signup forms, often embedded in a website. However, the ways in which these forms are presented and brought to customer attention can make all the difference when building an audience.

Provide your audience with relevant, valuable email content

For someone to subscribe to a business's emails, that brand must offer something worth receiving. 43% of consumers in the UK say irrelevant emails are 1 of the primary reasons they unsubscribe. What is relevant and valuable to each contact can be assessed based on how they interact with your emails and other marketing across channels. But even without substantial contact data to drive your email content, there are several kinds of email content that tend to succeed, regardless of each contact’s history with your business.

  • Exclusive content: Treat your email subscribers like VIPs. Notify them first about new products and services. Provide them with exclusive content that’s shared only on your email marketing audience. People are more and more inclined to expect this kind of content—40% of people say they sign up to receive email marketing as part of joining a loyalty scheme. This is exclusivity at it’s finest, and it’s a great way to reward your customers.

  • High-quality content: Growing an audience doesn’t stop at signup. It’s important to send your audience high-quality, relevant content. It’s vital to keep subscribers engaged to maintain their relationship with your business. Often, new subscribers want to learn about your business, what you offer, and how that will add value to their lives. A welcome series is a great place to share that information. You could also share meaningful testimonials, relevant industry information, or tips on how to make the most of what you sell.

  • Giveaways: People like big rewards for little effort, and giveaways are a good way to provide this. Time-sensitive giveaways for new subscribers are effective at growing audiences quickly. However, it’s important that new subscribers understand what it means to subscribe. Responsible, respectful businesses provide a pathway for people to sign up only for the giveaway and to choose whether they’d like more contact than that.

  • Anniversary bonuses: Many of the best marketing efforts are about starting conversations and building relationships with your audience. As with real life, an effective way to do this is to acknowledge things like the anniversary of their signup, their birthdays, or other important dates. Offering bonuses, discounts, gift cards, and the like on these days can also be a nice touch. Some of these dates can be captured in a signup form, others will be collected automatically as part of your campaigns.

  • Subscriber discounts: Offering a discount on goods or services is an effective way to bring in subscribers—more than 50% of consumers say this is a key reason they join an audience. However, as with giveaways, do so with caution. If you always provide an offer, your subscribers will learn to expect it.

Grow your audience ethically and effectively

Opting in is not just important; it’s necessary. In order to grow an audience, a brand needs people to actively sign up and opt in to receive their marketing content. And that won’t happen if signup forms and options aren’t visible.

There are a number of ways to enhance the visibility of a signup space. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Call to action buttons (CTAs): Putting calls to action with a link to signup pages in prominent positions on things like blog posts, product listings, and your website homepage is a simple and effective way to encourage new contacts to join your audience.

  • Promote across every channel: It’s important to cover all the bases when raising visibility. Every channel can and should be used regularly to bring email (and an invitation for people to join your audience) to people’s attention.

  • Pop-ups: Certain kinds of pop-up forms can be effective in nudging people to sign up. For example, some pop-ups are triggered by a customer abandoning their shopping basket on your website or before a visitor leaves your website (called browser abandonment pop-up). But if a pop-up repeatedly displays, it’s likely to interrupt the visitors and compel them to leave your site. If you use pop-ups, make sure that they are relevant, undisruptive, and well-timed.

  • Thought leadership: Raising the profile of your brand in general can help you expand your audience, particularly if CTAs are used appropriately. Thought leadership content like blog posts, articles, and consultations can help raise the profile and credibility of your brand, so your email content should rise with it.

Provide a top-notch user experience

Often, visitors don’t subscribe because the user experience (UX) doesn’t work for them. Signup pages that ask too many questions, are slow to load, hard to reach, or otherwise clunky will frustrate people. And, in this competitive marketplace, it doesn’t take much to compel people to seek a competitor with a better UX.

To make your UX as smooth as possible:

  • Make sure that your links work. Check to be certain that links work correctly and take users to the right place. People won’t search the relevant page if the link is broken, and they won’t want to click too many times before reaching and completing the signup process.

  • Enable autofill. Most form or signup formats come with autofill. But if it’s optional, enable it. The less effort required to subscribe, the more likely people are to do so.

  • Start by asking for a small amount of data. Ask only for the data you really need at first. A form that asks too many questions will take too long for many people, and they won’t subscribe.

The key takeaway in creating your signup form is to reduce the number of hoops a customer has to jump through. It should be as smooth and easy for contacts to join your audience as possible.

Transparency and quality

There's a fine line between a smooth UX and cyber-safety, but it’s worth finding. The modern consumer knows how valuable their data is, and they’ll share it with businesses that safeguard it responsibly. This means putting in appropriate cybersecurity protocols and informing potential subscribers about these measures. It also means being completely transparent about where the data will be stored, how it will be protected, and how it will be used. Include a link to your privacy policy on your signup form or any page that asks for someone’s email address.

This leads to ensuring that you capture quality data. No one wants to build an audience full of invalid email addresses. For the same reason, you can also activate a double opt-in procedure to all signups, which involves asking your subscribers to validate their email address before they are officially added to your audience. By activating this approach, the email address is also tested to ensure it is correct and valid. If the subscriber doesn't validate their address, it could be that they changed their mind, or the email address doesn't exist.

Beyond the form

Relevance, value, visibility, and consent are all key to growing an audience. Once an audience is established, however, it’s all about building and maintaining relationships with subscribers.

Written by Jenna Tiffany for Mailchimp. Jenna is an expert in digital marketing strategies.