An effective acquisition strategy can help marketers map out a plan for success. When you want to increase the impact of your marketing and sales activities, building a quality email list is an essential component. The challenge is to expand your reach considerably, while at the same time keeping an eye on quality.

Email marketing has always been about reaching the right people, but this is an evolutionary concept, as email marketing continues to be  re-invented. Growing a quality email list means growing an audience of directly addressable contacts. Marketers recognize that it is important, but thinking beyond tactics isn’t a given. According to the Email List Strategy Survey from Ascend2, the lack of an effective strategy for building an email list is a significant barrier to success for 50% of small to midsize businesses (SMBs). However, while half of SMB marketers say it is important, they still struggle to create a plan.

Important qualities that make a strong email list

 Before we delve into some tactics to build upon, let’s first define what quality looks like for an email list for marketing. Here are some examples:

  • Subscriber profiles match your target audience or have the potential to match in the future
  • There is enough profile data to allow you to segment and personalize messaging
  • List churn is stable or decreasing
  • The audience is engaging with your messages
  • Conversions can be tied to individuals and email campaigns

Your campaigns will have a great influence when it comes to determining the durability of your lists. It is important to have enough mass and enough subscribers that will allow you to do interesting campaigns, while still being efficient and generating an attractive email marketing ROI. (Yes, I said it, size is a part of quality. Translated: Size matters!)

So what are high-quality list sources?

By far, your current and fresh new clients are prime audience quality #1. Especially if your sales cycle and products permit, they are much more likely to be attracted to your messaging and take some desired action as a result.

If yours is an ecommerce business, be sure to include an opt-in as part of the purchase and checkout processes. The primary reason this works so well is that the new customer or subscriber already has a mental momentum. The person clearly likes what you are selling, and by weaving the signup into that primary process, you get to take advantage (in a positive way) of that state of mind and action mode. It’s like the natural next step in a relationship, and an easy, intelligent way to build your email list.

Most likely, a portion of your customers have not yet opted in, or have unsubscribed. Sending sweet reminders along the natural touchpoints is a must. From special offers and perks, to email receipts and re-targeting, these are all opportunities to both more meaningfully connect with your customers and get them into your email database. In-store visits are especially under-used. You can offer to send a receipt via email as a convenience, or a coupon for discount on the customer’s next visit to stimulate signups.

One thing to keep in mind is that many companies have some kind of a loyalty program or customer community. It is easy to see that those customers represent the biggest value. So there is always a way for customers to “grow” to a next level of engagement and for marketers to tease them into doing so. If a customer responds to one offer, keep making different offers and continue to change and fine-tune the nature of your relationship, business and otherwise.

Reserve website real estate to promote your email program

Never forget that your own website is a premium source for email sign-ups. Website visitors have alreadyshown interest, which is a clear marker of quality. So be sure to develop your website architecture in such a way that it offers a multitude of opt-in options. These include a variety of tactics, including newsletter signup calls to action (CTAs), special subscriber-only content offers, an incentive (discount) offer, white papers, how-to guides, or other types of valuable downloadable resources.

Another strategy is to use content upgrades on your site. With a content upgrade, the blog or article is used to drive topical traffic to your site and is “extended” through an additional asset like a cheat sheet, checklist, PDF download, or some other value-added asset. In exchange for the visitor’s email address, they get access to the extended content. That’s good for them and good for you. Want to try it? Here is a list of 30 content upgrade ideas that you can experiment with.

Make sure you reserve website real estate for opt-ins, and know that location can have a big impact on how many people join your list. For instance, far too many websites have their email signup CTA located only in the footer of their site. That’s a big mistake, as most visitors won’t even see it. Make sure you test the location, design, and wording of your email sign-up CTA. Then test, test, and test some more!

Webinars and on-demand video content

Webinars are another very effective tactic for email list growth. The beauty of this technique is that you can also invite your current list members to participate in the webinar event, and build into the email campaign and/or webinar polls or surveys that allow you to ask that audience relevant questions. This will allow you to engage in a lead-scoring effort and provide additional research about your target audience as a whole. You learn more from the subscribers and webinar participants, and can trigger a smooth follow-up. Another tip is to offer the webinar recording as an on-demand video (also after registration) to keep it generating more data and subscribers.

Increasing value of your list

Remember the characteristics I shared at the beginning of this article? All those are indicators of the potential value that your addressable audience represents.

The value is not in the email list itself; it is through the list. A nurtured email list can deliver value in a myriad of ways, for a long period of time. The quality of the list and audience is defined in large part by the completeness of the subscriber’s profile. Why is that important? Because that is where purchase intent and targeting options are found.

What are you doing to grow your email list this year? These tips should help you to expand your reach considerably, and increase the impact of your email marketing and conversion to sales.

Email marketing is just one piece of a successful marketing strategy. Learn how to create a top-notch integrated marketing strategy for your business. Download the All-in-One Digital Marketing Handbook for Small Teams here.

Blog originally published on SAP Digital.