As inbound marketers we know that the days of buying a lead list, loading the contacts into our CRM, and blasting out emails are over.
However, the concept of building a completely opt-in database from scratch can be a daunting task.
That's where inbound marketing shines, by attracting prospects through relevant and helpful content, rather than interrupting with unsolicited outreach.
So the question becomes how do you quickly scale your database so that you can start nurturing a list of opt-in prospects as soon as possible?
In this post, we'll explore what opt-in email marketing is, strategies you can use to grow your opt-in database, and tools to help you do it. Let's dive in.
What is opt-in email marketing?
Opt-in email marketing is the process of sending marketing materials to an email list of prospects who specifically subscribed to your content. You can send email newsletters, promotional materials, or nurturing email campaigns. Opt-in means prospects or leads are aware you're adding them to your email list.
Some marketers even choose to use double-opt in protocols. Kayla Carmicheal, a blog writer for HubSpot, explains in this blog post that "double opt-in offers an extra confirmation step to verify each email address added to your contact database. When this setting is enabled, contacts who are created will receive a follow-up email with a link to confirm their email subscription."
She adds, "This extra step could be useful for generating higher-quality leads for your email campaigns. By using double opt-in, you're ensuring each site visitor wants to subscribe to your newsletters."
Now that we have a better understanding of what opt-in email marketing is, let's review how to build an opt-in email list.
How to Build an Opt-in Email List
Attract prospects with valuable content.
Ask people to subscribe.
Offer gated content.
Become a thought leader.
Use your other email lists.
Suggest customers subscribe during checkout.
1. Attract prospects with valuable content.
The most important part of growing your database is creating original and valuable content for your buyer persona. Let's examine how to use content creation and varied marketing channels to grow our database of opt-in prospects.
Premium Content Offers
By developing top-of-the-funnel premium content offers like: industry reports, e-books, and guides you can effectively attract new subscribers to your database.
Blogging is another great way to increase your marketing subscriber list. By consistently creating blog content that is valuable to your buyer persona you establish yourself as an industry thought leader who is adding value to the community. Interested prospects that need to advance their skill set, and who would like to stay abreast of new industry trends and best practices will subscribe to your blog.
Social Media Content
By establishing a company presence on social media platforms where your prospects are spending their time you can effectively move interested strangers to engaged prospects. You can use different types of content on social media like: slideshares, videos, infographics, blog posts and even new premium content offers to attract new visitors to your website.
2. Ask people to subscribe.
By promising to deliver relevant industry news, promotions, discounts and freebies you can get visitors to opt into your marketing communications.
When asking prospects for their demographic information and email address, it's important to place forms in highly visible places on your website like: your homepage, your blog page or in the header or footer of your website.
Additionally, by adding social proof terminology to your forms like “10,000 subscribers” you also increase the likelihood that people will opt into your database.
3. Offer gated content.
Another popular method is to “gate” premium content offers like industry e-books, reports and customer case studies.
Gating content refers to requiring a user to submit their email address through a form to receive content. This is a very effective way to increase your database, especially if you have premium content offers.
4. Become a thought leader.
People are more likely to subscribe to your emails if they consider you to be a leader in your industry.
For example, many people follow Oprah for her monthly book club picks because they view her as an authority in the space. They want to know what she recommends.
If Oprah wasn't a thought leader, people would be less inclined to sign up for her several newsletters.
Oprah is a great example because she's a thought leader in several spaces and has different email newsletters for each industry -- lifestyle, television, books, and inspiration.
To become a thought leader, you should be active on social media, guest blog for other sites, and post your own valuable content.
5. Use your other email lists.
If you're like Oprah and you have several newsletters, you can advertise a new email list in one of your current newsletters.
For example, before Oprah started her book club email list, she could have promoted it in her lifestyle email newsletter.
Using your current email lists is a great way to build a new opt-in email list.
6. Suggest customers subscribe during checkout.
When you run an ecommerce store, it might seem more difficult to gain email followers.
However, it doesn't have to be. You can include a box that customers can check off during their checkout process that offers to subscribe them to your newsletter list.
When users are already filling out a form, adding a little checkbox for your email newsletter is a great way to build your list.
To get started with your email marketing list, you're going to need an email marketing software. Below, let's review some of your options.
Convert Kit is an email marketing software for online content creators. This means that this software makes it easy to share your content, connect with your audience, and convert leads.
You can build and use the sign up form tool to start building your opt-in email list.
Additionally, you can enable double-opt in so your subscribers can confirm that they want to sign up for your emails.
Opt-in Email Marketing Best Practices
As you construct your database of opt-in prospects you want to follow a couple of best practices that will increase your ability to scale your list quickly while minimizing opt outs and database denigration.
1. Use small or "short" forms.
When you're asking prospects for their information, keep the form as simple as possible.
Do your best to pair down the forms to the bare minimum information, like: first name, last name, and email address. When designing forms for your website “less is definitely more”.
2. Utilize progressive profiling.
Many marketing automation programs have functionality that let marketers gradually advance their knowledge of a prospect over time.
Meaning the first time a prospect fills out a form on your site they will be asked questions like: first name, last name and email address. The next time they come to your website they will be asked company name, job title and phone number.
Then, each progressive time they re-convert on your website they will be asked different questions. This allows marketers to expand their knowledge of the prospect over time without asking too many questions at one time.
3. Develop a subscription center.
Allow prospects to manage their communication preferences in a subscription center. In this page, the prospects can manage the frequency of the communication they receive. Additionally, this subscription center will help minimize opt outs as prospects can opt down instead of strictly opting out.
By creating relevant and valuable content for your buyer personas, you can quickly and economically build your database of opt-in prospects.
It's important to promote your content through different channels like social media, blogging and your website. This content distribution channel will allow you capture email prospects in many different arenas.
Finally, utilize best practices in form creation, progressive profiling and subscription preferences to simplify the opt-in process. By implementing these processes you will build an opt-in database of prospects who anticipate your marketing communication messages.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in February 2014 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Jun 16, 2020 2:00:00 PM, updated December 15 2023