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15 Ways to Grow Your Email Subscriber Database Without Spending a Cent

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You know that email is an essential component of any marketing strategy, but your email subscriber list is small. Or, even worse, your subscribers are dropping like flies.

You might be asking yourself, “what am I doing wrong?” or wondering “how can I grow my list on a tight budget?”

It’s tempting to pay a company to simply give you a list. That’s the cheapest and quickest way to get new subscribers, right?


By paying for a list, you’re prioritising the number of subscribers you have over the value your content is providing to those subscribers. 

If you have more subscribers, but a smaller percentage are opening your emails because the content isn’t suited to them, you’re back to square one – and the money you’ve spent hasn’t actually affected your bottom line.

On the other hand, creatively promoting great content to the right audiences is free to you and shows your subscribers that you’re trustworthy and serious about offering them something that adds value to their inbox.

Always keep the focus on adding value to your audience. People won’t want to give you their email addresses if you don’t give them something in return. And besides, wouldn’t you rather market to people who want to hear from you and are much more likely to become clients and customers rather than a bunch of people whose email addresses you purchased?

Here are some ways you can naturally grow your email subscriber list and make sure your subscribers stick around.

1) Create quality content
Quality content is the secret sauce that differentiates successful and unsuccessful email marketing campaigns. If your subscribers feel that they’re wasting time by opening and reading your emails, they’ll be unsubscribing or clicking ‘delete’ before you know it.

Email blasts that merely promote your product will cause people to unsubscribe or redirect your emails to their spam folders faster than you can say ‘advertisement.’

You must create content that people look forward to receiving in their inbox. Great content will drive your subscribers to keep reading and even recommend your content to coworkers and friends, who can then become subscribers themselves.

2) Include a “Forward to a Friend” button at the bottom of your emails
If your subscribers make it to the bottom of your email, it’s more likely than not that they found your content useful. Make it as easy as possible for them to share it by placing a call-to-action (CTA) button that encourages them to share with their friends or colleagues.

Word of mouth is a powerful thing, and if you build up a reputation for your great content, your subscribers will start to grow naturally.

3) Create a lightbox subscription form that pops up when your readers get to the bottom portion of your blog post
Again, it’s all about making it easy for those who are already consuming your content to get more of it. Make it clear that if they like the content, you’re willing to deliver it directly to them — they don’t need to seek it out themselves.

Ensure you use certain criteria to ensure only people who have spent a certain amount of time on your blog see the pop-up, and make sure it’s never shown to existing subscribers. Pop-ups like these are intended to be useful, not annoying.

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4) Describe clearly exactly what your subscribers will get out of your emails. If you have a substantial subscriber base, include the number of subscribers to prove that people find your emails valuable.
Whenever you’re promoting your email list, make it crystal clear that your readers won’t be signing up for spam. Show them why they’re better off signing up.

The lightbox shown above, for example, is not only visually appealing, but also emphasises the value that experienced entrepreneurs add to their content. These entrepreneurs can provide expertise that readers won’t be able to find elsewhere.

5) Guest write for another blog. Include a link in your byline to a page where readers can subscribe to emails for more great content.
One of the best ways to reach an entirely different reader base is to partner up with another company or publication and have them host a piece of your content. You’ll reach an entirely new audience and broaden your company’s reputation for thought leadership in the process.

6) Promote your content via social media channels. If people end up on your site reading your content, they’re more likely to see those email subscription CTAs.
Promoting your content is just as important as creating it. Create accounts on every major social media platform that’s relevant to your business (usually Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn) to ensure that you’re amplifying your content as much as possible.

7) Mention influencers in your content and tweet that content to those influencers.
If you have great content, they’ll be flattered and may retweet it, which gets your content out to a totally new network of people.

8) Include subscription buttons on your social media channels.

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Once you have created a Facebook business page, add a button next to the ‘Like’ button that links to a landing page where users can subscribe.

Facebook makes the process of adding a CTA to a business page easy. Just go to your profile and click ‘Create Call-to-Action,’ located just to the left of the ‘Like’ button.

9) Create co-marketing offers like e-books or white papers with other companies and ask people to fill out a form to access the content. Then, exchange leads with the other company.
Most people won’t give up their email address for a short blog post or one-page white paper, but many would for longer-form content. Include an email address field on your landing page to collect emails from those who are interested in your content.

10) Create useful tools and offer them for free when users input their email address.
Offering a free but useful tool is one of the most powerful ways to show that your business is passionate about helping people. For example, HubSpot offers its email signature generator for free on its website.

A free tool that you’ve created with their needs in mind is like an unexpected gift to your audience. Simply ask users to input their email addresses to gain access to it.

11) Collect email addresses at events and with other direct marketing efforts.
If you’ve engaged with someone in-person at an event who is a great fit for your product, have them jot down their email address. Make sure you send them a personalised email that gives them a chance to opt-in to ensure you’re getting quality leads who won’t be annoyed that they’ve been added to a list without their consent!

12) Have people register for online webinars or offline events with their email addresses.
Webinars and events are great learning opportunities for attendees. Collecting their email address during the registration process means you can send them reminders and invitations to future webinars and events.

13) Have your employees include a link in their email signature to a landing page with an email list opt-in form.
The emails coming from your employees are likely personalised and relevant to recipients already. Putting a link in their signature to sign up for your email list gets the word out without being pushy.

14) Put a check box on all landing page forms that allows people to subscribe in one click.
The people who are on one of your landing pages are likely already interested in your content, and making it as easy as possible for them to subscribe will give you tons of new, high-quality subscribers.

Don’t make it checked off by default or else people will be surprised (and possibly annoyed) when they see they’ve been subscribed to an email list without their direct consent.

15) Don’t be afraid to let go of unengaged subscribers.
Again, the size of your email subscriber list is just a number. It’s better to have an email subscriber list of 2,000 people with a 20% open rate than a list of 4,000 people with a 5% open rate.

Quality over quantity.


About Lucy Alexander

Lucy Alexander works on HubSpot's APAC marketing team out of the company's Sydney office. Her primary responsibilities include creating content for Asia-Pacific audiences and spreading the word about the inbound methodology in the region.

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