When I first started my web design/development business, I thought that I would do client work all day long and that would be it. I figured my time would be spent building new websites, tweaking existing pages, reworking content and layouts, and creating cohesive visual brands for my clients.
And, for a while at least, I was totally on the mark.
But it didn’t take long before I started reading blog posts from other web designer/developers and online business owners (in a variety of different niches), and I noticed that they all seemed really focused on building their email list.
To be honest though, I wasn’t sold on this. Who was I to have a newsletter? Weren’t sleazy marketers the only ones who had email lists? Was there any value for regular freelancers, online service providers, or business owners in having an email list? Would I annoy people by sending them a weekly email and turn them off my business forever? These were just a few of the hesitations I had before I started my email list.
Fast forward a few months, however, and I figured that if enough people were telling me that a certain action had a positive impact on their business, they probably aren’t all wrong. So I figured "what the heck", I’d give it a shot and start my own email list.
The verdict? It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for my business.
This post is Part One in a series about building and growing an email list. Over several posts, we’ll be covering a variety of topics related to email lists and newsletters and how you can use them to support your business, website and online presence.
I’m going to share my own experience in starting and growing an email list because I truly believe that they are an invaluable part of running a business, in any industry.
Let’s dive right in!
Who should start an email list?
Anyone and everyone should start an email list!
If you run any sort of business, you should have an email list. If you have products or services as part of your offerings, you should have an email list. If you run a personal blog or website that has ads or affiliate links to generate revenue, you should have an email list.
I’ll explain more below as to why it is a smart business move to start an email list, but at the very least you should understand that having an email list is helpful on a personal level as well.
Believe it or not, you have something valuable to say and no one else has your point of view or life experiences. Don’t you want a tribe to share that with? Think of all the people you could help and reach if you started an email list! You don’t need to be an expert either - people like learning and hearing from people closer to their level just as much as they like connecting with people who are leagues ahead of them.
Your email list will start off super small and that’s OK! When I first started building my email list, I put a few email opt-ins around my website and that was about it. A few people signed up but my list hovered around 10 people before I thought “I can do better than this!” and started taking real steps to build my email list. I reached out to about 30 people (mostly friends and family) and asked if I could add them to my email list and if they’d be willing to give me feedback on my first few emails. Every single one of them said “yes”, even if they weren’t particularly interested in web design/development or technology, and to this day they’re all still kicking on my list! Turns out people like hearing from you on a regular basis, who’d have thought?!
My email list has grown a lot since then and I’m so glad I took the first steps and just started.
Here's why it's important to start growing your email list
You own your email list
A social media platform might be super popular one day and gone the next (RIP MySpace). If you build a following exclusively on one platform, it might not be around in a few months - let alone a few years. Or, the platform might still exist but a huge chunk of your users might jump ship for a competitor - see: Instagram and Snapchat.
When you build an audience on a social media platform, you don’t own those followers. Email lists, however, give you full control. You keep those followers forever unless they unsubscribe or you remove them manually.
Establish a direct line of conversation
Once you have an email list, you’re not waiting for someone to passively visit your website and interact with your business. Instead, email has real calls to action (CTAs) where people can reply directly to you and keep the conversation going without any extra steps. People aren’t too picky about who they follow on social media, but they definitely limit who they allow in their inbox! If someone has given you permission to email them, then they are engaged with you and your brand and want to hear from you.
Best way to communicate with an audience
How often do you check your email? If you’re anything list most people, it’s several times a day. But when it comes to checking out websites or social media profiles? Yeahhh that number drops a whole lot.
This means that if you post on social media or update your blog, most people won’t see it. Either because they just aren’t logging into social media or because a change in algorithms has switched what content is presented to them, people won’t see all your posts. While social media and search should not be ignored, email has higher conversion rates than these two tactics combined (source).
Email is super powerful because people will see your updates if you notify them this way! Whether you’re looking to share your work, make an announcement, or show off your brand/personality, email is the way to do it. Past clients, prospective clients, and soon-to-be-fans will read your emails and hop back over to your website at a much higher percentage than through social media.
Your email list is a great way to stay in touch with past clients, but it’s also an incredibly useful way to nurture leads and build relationships with potential clients.
Research conducted by Forrester has shown that marketers see an average 20% increase in sales opportunities from nurtured vs non-nurtured leads. Furthermore, the research also reveals that companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales at a 33% lower cost (Source: Forrester, 2014).
Many website are monetized either through ads/affiliate links or through products and services, but not everyone will buy from your right off the bat. People who join your email list want to receive updates and learn from you. They’re curious about what you’re up to and are keen to hear from you on a regular basis. This means that they are more engaged than someone who simply visited your site and as your relationship develops over time, they’re more likely to turn into a client.
Think of your email list as an integral part of your online business strategy and sales funnel. Once someone signs up for your email list, you can kick start a great relationship over time that familiarizes them with your brand, introduces them to your offerings, and prompts them to do business with you.
If you want more clients today or in the future, you need to start an email list to start developing and nurturing those relationships.
Get to know your subscribers
It’s one thing to build an emotional connection with someone via email, but did you know that you can actually learn a whole lot about your subscribers by the way they interact with your emails? Data FTW!
When you start an email list, you can see exactly what a subscriber is attracted to or wants to learn more about. For example, if someone opts into my free email course “Launch Your Best Site”, I know they’re interested in DIY website design/development. But if they join my email list through an opt-in about creating an alternate logo using Canva, I know that they’re more interested in branding. I use Convertkit as my email service provider and through them, I’m able to easily segment my list based on their interests. Also, did you know that 83% of companies use at least basic segmentation for their emails (Source)? If they can do it, so can you.
You can also use your new email list to get feedback (either active or passive) from your subscribers. These people are loyal followers of your brand/business so they will give you a solid insight into their interest level in the products or services that you offer. By tracking click-throughs and looking at other data, you can see what type of content resonates with your audience, what purchases they are making, and also what’s a total flop.
This is different from social media where a follower is “just a follower” and you can’t break down your followers based on particular interests. Having an email list takes the guesswork out of why people follow you and lets you send them content that they’re actually interested in.
Follow up with first timers
Time to drop a “bad news bomb” on you: many people who visit your website or social media page will not return very often.
The truth can hurt but it doesn’t have to! Instead of losing out on these visitors and their potential business, you can keep up with them much easier if you have their email address. By encouraging people to sign up for your email list at various points on your website or within blog posts, you’re keeping them interested in your brand & business. And over time, these casual visitors could become true fans and actual clients.
RELATED: Understanding your website’s bounce rate
Increase page views
Your email list as another powerful way to drive traffic back to your website and get more people in front of your content, products, and/or services.
If you sell products on your website, you can send out an email to your subscribers letting them know about the holiday sale you’re putting on and I guarantee that you will see sales from that one email alone. It might not be on the exact item you advertised in your email blast but once people are on your site, they will peek around and might buy a totally different product!
This applies to services too : often when I mention the services that I offer in my email blasts, people will click over to my website to learn more and eventually we will work together.
Higher page views are also valuable for any website that advertises or includes affiliate links because more visits = higher potential ad revenue.
BONUS: Email lists are fun!
Crazy thought it sounds, I have a lot of fun writing my email newsletter! I can goof around and show off a bit of my personality in these emails because I know people want more insight into what makes me ME. I keep my website professional but when it comes to my email list, I love to joke around while also providing interesting or useful content. I also get way more email newsletter replies than I do blog posts so that also makes them more fun to write!
If you’re on the fence about starting an email list, I wholeheartedly encourage you to give it a shot today! Email lists work for any type of business in any industry. My email list is focused on a pretty small niche (Squarespace and web design/development) and I’ve still been able to grow it at a solid rate. If I can do it, you can do it.
There numbers don’t lie either : starting an email list is a smart business move and it’ll help you to grow your website and online presence. Social media is great but it shouldn’t be the only way you connect with your audience.
Don’t forget that this post is part of a series on email lists so be sure to check out the other posts as they are published over the next few weeks.
Until then, you can see for yourself how I approach my email list by signing up right here. Simply enter your name and email address and you’ll be instantly added to my list!
Now it’s your turn to tell me, do you have an email list already? What’s been holding you back from starting one? Are you skeptical that they could work for you or worried that they aren’t going to pay off? I’d love to know so leave me a note in the comments below!
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