Email marketing is, has been, and will continue to be one of the most powerful ways to build an audience for your business.
Another way of saying audience is potential customers. And potential customers can turn into customers. Customers, well, those are what make a business an actual business. You know, the kind that makes money.
But you probably know that already. At least that’s what we hear from our customers every week: “I know, I know, email marketing is important. But how do I get started building an email list when no one knows who I am and all I have is a fledgling business idea?”
There are many strategies and tactics to growing an email list, but at the heart of all of them is making sure visitors to your site know how and why to join your list. That’s our focus in this post.
Note: we’re not going to cover incentives for joining your list, how to generate traffic to your site or what to send to your list once you’ve built it. Those are posts for another day.
Forms are how people can go from being interested in your business to joining your email list. Having a clear way for potential customers to give you their contact information is the most basic requirement for growing your list.
We’ll talk about a number of places around your business website where you can place forms, as well as a few off-site locations to take advantage of.
Here are the 10 places to make sure you’re using email forms to grow your list:
A hello bar is a form that appears as a thin graphic across the top of any page. As Derek Halpern outlines, this small form can create a big boost to the number of email subscribers you’re bringing in. You can use it either as a way to subscribe directly, or as way to send people to a landing page.
Here’s an example of a hello bar form that Fizzler Marianne Sundquist is using over at Mess Hall Cocktail:
And here’s how Pat Flynn is using a hello bar to send visitors to a landing page for his free toolkit at Smart Passive Income:
Your site footer is another great (and often under appreciated) place to add a subscription form. When people are willing to scroll to the bottom of your site to see what else they can find, it often means they’re curious about your business. Capitalize on that by giving them an easy and compelling way to learn more.
Here’s an example of how we did it at the first company I started:
Slide-in and pop-up (coming up next) email forms have costs and benefits, but one thing is clear: they perform. When people implement pop-ups and slide-ins, their email list grows faster than it did before.
Slide-in forms are the less intrusive and more tasteful of these two attention-grabbing options for your site. These forms appear in the corner of the readers’ screen based on triggers, which you can set when you implement the form.
Some examples of triggers include: how far a reader has scrolled, how long a reader has been on a page, or it could appear immediately when a reader visits a page.
Here’s an example of a slide-in from Vanessa van Edwards over at Science of People:
A pop-up interrupts a reader’s experience by displaying a form on top of the main site content. The form requires the reader to either subscribe or “x” out of the form before they can continue what they were doing.
We’ve seen case studies showing a 1,000% increase in subscribers after implementing a popup form. Again, you can use different triggers to make the form appear to a reader.
Here’s an example from Marie Forleo:
When you’re thinking about what kind of forms to use and where to put them, a good principle to keep in mind is this: Design for the best reader/customer experience. Or, in other words, design the kind of site you enjoy visiting.
If you feel that slide-ins or pop-ups balance the reader experience with your business goals, then by all means, go to town. At a minimum, try not to implement slide-ins and pop-ups on the same pages.
Your home page is one of the best places to have a prominent opt-in form. It’s the most visited page on your site, which means a well-designed form with a clear call to action can be very powerful for your business.
One of the most common ways to do this is through a feature box. A feature box is a full-width email opt-in form that focuses your reader’s attention on one clear call to action.
The best feature boxes offer something to the reader, like a toolkit, ebook, email course, or video series. Each person who considers joining your list has many alternatives to your business… make sure to capture their interest by being valuable.
Here’s an example of a feature box from Steve Kamb over at Nerd Fitness:
On many websites, the about page is one of the most visited pages on your site, just behind the home page. It’s where many of your first-time website visitors will go just after reading one of your blog posts or visiting your home page for the first time.
When people land on your about page, they have a few questions:
– Is this site made by a person? A business?
– What do they do?
– What do they believe in?
– What’s in it for me?
Outside of any forms or calls to action, the actual words on the page are by far the most important part of your about page. Copyblogger has a few great tips for improving your about page copy.
Your copy should end with a very specific call to action. Just as you have people nodding their heads about why your business matters to them, you want to communicate something along the lines of: “Now that you know you’re the kind of person who has been looking for a site like this, sign up for my email list so you don’t forget about us.”
After the call to action, simply include a form, like this one from Fizzler Andrew Fiebert over on the Listen Money Matters about page:
Whether you’re a physical products business or a freelancer, you’re almost certainly using some form of content – blog, podcast, or video – as a marketing channel.
All of those readers, listeners, and viewers show up on your website because they’re at least somewhat interested in what you have to say. Your job is to give them an easy way to continue reading, listening, and watching your content by surround your content with easily accessible forms. The sidebar plus the next two options are great for turning readers into subscribers.
If your site has a sidebar, it’s a classic place to have an email form available. The sidebar often appears next to every post, so site visitors will always have a chance to snag your giveaway when they visit a blog post of any kind.
Here’s an example of a sidebar form from our friends over at Minimalist Baker:
When you read an excellent blog post or watch a great video on a site, what’s your first reaction?
I don’t know about you, but I usually react with surprise, then delight, and then we consider whether it’s worth subscribing to get more high quality content in the future. In that moment, you want it to be very clear that your reader or viewer can get more of the same by subscribing. Having an opt-in form at the end of every post makes it obvious how to do that.
Here’s how Caleb Wojcik does it over at DIY Video Guy:
Just like on your home page, your blog page is another great chance to implement a feature box.
If you have a feature box on your homepage, then you might want something a bit different or more subtle on your blog page.
Or, if your homepage is your sales page, like ours at Fizzle, you can add a feature box to your blog page:
It’s too often that we only think about where we can add forms to our own site. Meanwhile, a portion of your audience is only getting updates from you by social media.
Just like website visitors, you want your social media followers to become email subscribers as well. Adding a form to your Facebook page means you can help subscribers skip the step of visiting your site by directly joining your list.
One challenge with Twitter is that the timeline is always moving. At any given time only a fraction of your followers are active on the app, so they most likely won’t see your Tweets.
Similarly, text-only tweets can be easier to miss than tweets with media in them (quoted tweets, images, etc).
So, ss a part of their advertising offerings, Twitter created something called a Twitter card. They’re an engaging way to get your followers to take some sort of action.
The beautiful thing is that you can use a Twitter card to create a one-click email signup. Usually, that wouldn’t be very helpful because most of your followers would miss it. But, if you pin that Tweet to the top of your Twitter profile, then everyone who checks you out on Twitter has a chance to join your list directly.
Here’s how to do that with Mailchimp.
Let’s be clear: adding forms to your website and social media outlets is not going to change your life. It’s not going to lead to explosive email list growth overnight. In fact, it might not change anything for your business in the short term.
After you’ve done an audit of your site and added new forms where appropriate, you’ll still have plenty of work to do. Email form placement is one component to building your list. But at the same time, it’s the foundation. Without forms, your list will never grow. With them, it may not grow, but at least you have a chance.
The real challenges come next: how to create a giveaway that’s valuable enough to make people want to subscribe; how to create valuable content that makes people want to come back to your site; and how to drive enough traffic to that content so your email list has a chance to grow.
But you’ve taken the first step, and it’s an important one. Your email list is the greatest asset in building an independent business. Make it a priority by adding these forms to your site.
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