Increase Email Signups with Content and Features


Having an easy-to-navigate blog will build your email list signups. What about the content?

Content marketing is the mainstay of any marketing strategy, however, many businesses find themselves laden with content work that is taking up too much time and creation. While traffic

Drive-by traffic can come in swarms from all over the web, but it isn’t sustainable if no effort is made to convert one-off visitors over to email.

That’s why in this chapter, we will highlight some key ways marketers and entrepreneurs can revamp their strategy content and off-site features. Instead of a small bump in Google Analytics that quickly dissipates, you’ll be ready to get people on an email list to extend the communication.

Even if you don’t have a content marketing strategy in place, this chapter will position you to be more prepared than 90 percent of startups out there, so get ready to take some notes!

Integrate email into your product

One of the smarter ways to gather email leads online is to simply integrate email into your product’s usage. The most basic technique here is requiring an email to sign up (which most companies do), but this is also an opportunity to get creative.

Ruben Gamez, founder of Bidsketch proposal software, integrates email into his product by requiring your email address to see a sample copy of an assembled proposal.

This results in qualified leads signing up via email, thereby capturing an audience that has already shown interest in the product’s capabilities.

The important thing to keep in mind here: Be straightforward with your potential signups. This means being completely honest and transparent about what handing over their email means for them.

If you plan to include them in your newsletter after the signup, notify them. Many people will not object to this, but if you try to sneak them into an email campaign when all they wanted was to sign up, you’ll create a lot of discontent (not to mention kill your credibility).

Integrate email into your offering

Email leads are most effectively captured through landing pages. Since landing pages focus on a single outcome, they are fantastic for conversion rates in general. This also applies to acquiring more email addresses, so don’t get skimpy on creating them!

Create a landing page for each downloadable resource to explain why your newsletter is worth signing up for.

If the desired outcome of any webpage is an email signup, the structure of the content should be styled as a landing page; in other words, no sidebars, no footer, a subdued header, and plenty of single-column copy that dives right in to what the page is about.

If you need more advice on creating landing pages that work, check out the advice featured on Unbounce.

Create free downloads

Downloadable resources can be an incredible source of new email leads. They also provide prospects with useful information that helps them get more use out of your product — so they’re a win all around.

The reason to put them behind an email opt-in (besides the obvious benefit of growing your list) is to qualify the people signing up; only the most interested customers will bother with an email form to access the content that suits their needs.

These resources can come in a variety of formats, for example:

  • A video series
  • Downloadable ebooks
  • An archive of content
  • An audio download
  • A free template

Founders and marketers always ask what these guides should be about. The best answer we can give you is to create resources based on your customer personas and your “affinity” interests.

Promote your resources far and wide

Resource-style content such as white papers, ebooks, and infographics is made for promotion. While blog posts and traditional articles are a great way to reach out to people (“Hey, thought you might like this recent piece we did on…”), you can get a lot more mileage out of a broad set of evergreen resources.

One way to promote this content is to take an already existing resource and transfer it to a new medium.

Slideshows are pretty much the perfect platform for this. For example, we took our “75 Customer Service Facts, Quotes, & Statistics” ebook and created a set of slides for use on SlideShare.

The call-to-action at the end of the presentation leads to our resource page where visitors can download the ebook in exchange for their email address. This process is effective because it lets you work with content you have already created and turn it into something that generates leads on an entirely different platform.

Additionally, there’s always the old-fashioned way to promote your resources: Reach out to fellow entrepreneurs, bloggers, or even journalists and shoot them a personal email with your latest resource attached.

You provide them something for free, which starts the process of reciprocity, and in turn, they may write about your latest creation and drive new visitors to your site.

Guest post with a purpose

Guest posting is always benefited by a laser focus on generating new email signups.

You’ve heard how great companies like Buffer have benefited from guest posting (especially in the early days), but what many entrepreneurs and marketers don’t realize is readers are suffering from byline blindness — the result of an over-saturation of guest bloggers.

Since so many guest posts are now floating around the web, bylines are getting ignored. So in order to maximize the return on your guest post, you need to get strategic.

The best way to do this is to integrate step #2 (landing pages everywhere!) with your guest blogging efforts. In other words, create a landing page for each “big” guest post that you write.

For the readers who do click through on your byline, seeing something like “Welcome (Guest Blog’s Name) Readers!” is surprising in a good way. This headline is personal and attention getting, and now that you’ve captured their attention, they’ll likely read on to see what your site is about.

Srini Raos, founder of BlogcastFM, does a great job with this technique following a recent feature he guest wrote on Copyblogger.

You don’t have to dip your toe into custom graphics, but you should be liberal in creating these pages for all of your notable guest posts.

Maximizing newsletter engagement rates

Building an email list is a fruitless exercise if your subscribers aren’t responsive. A six-figure newsletter distribution list means nothing if nobody is opening your emails!

Newsletter engagement is best measured by open rates and click-through rates. I’ve worked with some of the best lists out there: The Help Scout newsletter regularly reaches over 21%+ open rate, a tough number to crack in our industry.

So how do the most engaged newsletters keep their open and click-through rates so high? The secret boils down to using proven psychological principles that invoke curiosity, grab the reader, and compel them to take action.

Below, we analyze five different studies that offer proven tips for helping you improve engagement.

  1. The information gap

All marketers should be familiar with the work of George Lowenstein, a neuroscientist at Carnegie Mellon University. Lowenstein’s research on information gap theory reveals powerful insights for creating email broadcasts that people will actually read and click through.

His findings show that when we encounter things that pique our interest but don’t reveal “the goods,” we have a strong desire to delve further in so that we avoid the dissatisfaction of not knowing the outcome.

We’ve all encountered this before; it’s really just a scientific take on suspense. Research in this area (such as those studies around the Zeigarnik Effect) show that human beings hate leaving things incomplete if they’ve had a strong start.

According to one study, when subjects were interrupted while doing brain-buster tasks that they were making progress on, nearly 90 percent carried on working on the puzzle anyway!

The takeaway: Creating suspense in your newsletter will make readers want to see it through to the end, which means clicking through to wherever you are sending them.

Do not use suspense in the subject line, though!

This creates a subject that is too vague — and one that might be construed as spam. Instead, be sure to create this need to “close the gap” early in your broadcast through the introductory paragraph by revealing the ending first (“We tripled our sales!”) or by creating intrigue (“There are 5 common diet mistakes that…”).

  1. The less-is-more approach

Columbia University psychology professor Sheena Iyengar made waves with her research on why choice is demotivating, which was later expanded into her book, The Art of Choosing.

Her famous study shows how people react to an abundance of choices and explains why action paralysis seems to occur when we are presented with a lot of options.

Iyengar conducted the study by selling jam at an upscale supermarket, testing shoppers’ interaction with jams while displaying six types on some days and 24 types on other days.

While she noted an increased interaction from customers with the 24-jam display, only around 3 percent of customers actually BOUGHT the jam, whereas more than 30 percent purchased from the 6-jam display!

Having more options increased engagement, but FEWER people actually made a choice and purchased a jar of jam! So if people who are overwhelmed with choices often opt to do nothing, what is a marketer to do?

You can specifically apply this to email marketing by following the one email, one goal rule: Each email should only have one desired outcome (view a blog post, see a new feature, hear about an update, etc.).

If you are asking for multiple things, you are really asking for ZERO things, because multiple choices often cause people to take no action.

  1. Using urgency the smart way

Social psychologist Howard Leventhal conducted a study on urgency by testing how people responded to pamphlets of information about tetanus. His goal was to see how he could convince more people to get vaccinated.

He tested two types of pamphlets:

  • One pamphlet just had information about the dangers of tetanus.
  • The other pamphlet had the same information and minimal instructions on where subjects could get vaccinated.

Leventhal found that even though the follow-up information in packet #2 was minimal, around 23 percent more people who received packet #2 got vaccinated. He concluded that when urgency is invoked without instructions, we tend to mentally block it out by convincing ourselves, “Well, I don’t need to worry about that anyway.”

Thus, it is harder to ignore the warning signs when you’re armed with information on what to do next. You can use this information in your newsletter by creating a crystal-clear call to action after you’ve invoked a sense of urgency.

We use phrases such as “Click here to read XYZ.” This may seem obvious, but we’ve found that trying to be less clever with calls-to-action and speaking more directly to subscribers has really boosted click-through rates in newsletter broadcasts.


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