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The Best Way to Build Your Email List (Without Spending a Dime on Leads)

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In our Email FAQs series, we answer your email marketing questions! In this episode, Daniel Kohn, the Founder of SmartMail, answers this email marketing question he gets asked all the time by online retailers: What’s the best way to build my email list?

Watch the video below to find out! You can also read the full article or listen to the audio at the bottom of the post.

Hey, welcome back to another episode of eCommerce Email FAQs. My name is Daniel Kohn, I’m your host. And today we’re gonna be looking at a question around how to build your email list and the best place to start, because there are so many options, right? There are so many things you could be doing to grow your email list. There’s a lot of blog articles on what you could be doing.

Use an Entry Popup to Collect More Emails

But, ultimately, the best starting point, surprise, surprise, is going to be to put a pop-up on the entrance of your website. Now, I know a lot of people might disagree, and a lot of people don’t like the idea of showing pop-ups, but let me talk to you a little bit more about how you can do it effectively so you actually cause a positive user experience and not annoy people.

But the whole idea of pop-ups, and, personally, I like to use the word “overlay,” pop-ups have a bit of a nasty connotation. At SmartMail, we use what we call behavioral overlays. So, if you wanna find out more about behavioral overlays, you can get in touch with us. But, basically, the idea is that you already have people on your website right now, and what you wanna do is leverage the traffic that’s already there, because you’ve already spent money driving traffic to your site, you might be spending money on paid search, you might, you know, be doing SEO affiliate marketing, you’ve already paid to get people there.

The first thing you wanna do on an entry to new visitors is to target them with some sort of, you know, promotion, encouraging them to put in their email address in exchange for whatever it is, the coupon code or the discount. And that really is the most effective way and the cheapest way to start growing your list right now, and it’s the most effective way to leverage the traffic that’s already on your site. So that would be my first suggestion.

Recommended Tools for Popups and Overlays

There are many tools you could use. There’s tools like JustUno, OptinMonster, WisePops. There’s a million of them out there. I like using JustUno. I think it’s a really great tool, and it’s built specifically for eCommerce companies, and they have all the different capabilities, all different types of pop-ups, and modes, and things you can do. There’s another one called OptiMonk, which is pretty good and we’ve used a bunch of times before.

But, really, what you wanna do is layer one of these pop-ups in, and the way you can reduce, like, friction with annoying people is by creating some rule sets. So one of the rule sets you wanna create is, you know, only display it two times ever, and you can do this inside a lot of these pop-up tools that I’m describing. So, if someone comes back to your site for the third time, and they still haven’t put in that pop-up, then you don’t wanna show it to them again, because that starts to get annoying, right? I guess that’s the first rule.

Creating Filters to Target Specific Shoppers

The second rule is only show to new visitors. Returning visitors, you know, they’re through the door, or they’re already familiar with your brand, or they might already be on your email list. Let’s just target new visitors. So that’s another filter you can create. Another filter we create is exclude traffic sources where the UTM tag contains the word email, meaning that if someone clicks on one of your regular newsletter links, and they come back to your website, you don’t wanna pop the box saying, “Hey, join the newsletter,” because they’re already on your newsletter, right? So you wanna exclude people coming from that traffic source, and usually that’s done through what we call UTM tags, which is the Google Analytics tagging structure.

And these are all things that are pretty easy to do and set up in tools like JustUno, or OptiMonk, or OptinMonster. If you are struggling, or you’re trying to figure out how to do this, feel free to comment below, and I’ll be more than happy to respond and try and help troubleshoot all the way through. We also have a course that we run called the ChimpExpress, which has a specific module that talks exactly about list growth, and how to grow your list, and how to use these specific platforms to actually do this.

So I think that’s probably without doubt the easiest way to start growing your email list, like, if you’re starting from scratch. A lot of people also ask, like, you know, “Should we do exit pop-ups?” There’s nothing wrong with doing exit pop-ups. My suggestion would be that, if you do an entry and an exit, what you wanna do is make sure the design of each of them look different, and you don’t wanna offer and say the same thing. They have to be completely different things, otherwise, what happens is people will train themselves, if they see something that looks remotely the same as a promotional thing, they’re just going to ignore it straightaway.

And so we’ve seen better opt-in rates and better engagement rates when you have two completely different-looking modes on the entry and on the exit. And so, sure, you can definitely do exit pop-ups, but you’re always gonna get more opt-ins on the entry, because they’re more engaged at that point in time and they’re more likely to show interest before they look through your website and figure out that there’s something else going on or they need somewhere else to be.

So starting with an opt-in on the entry is the fastest way to start growing your email list. If you’re not doing it, and most sites that I see aren’t doing it, go spend the next two hours just getting this set up. It’s really easy to integrate these platforms onto your website. It’s just like one piece of code. You put it on all the pages of your website. A lot of these tools, like JustUno, will have custom templates you can use as well, where you just have to change a couple of colors. Keep it really simple. The goal is just to start generating emails. And I guarantee you, if you put it up on your site, in the next two hours, by the end of today, your email list is gonna grow.

Build Your Email List Like a Pro

So, hopefully, this was helpful. Hopefully, it’s gonna motivate you to get out there and grow your email list. If you’ve got any questions, feel free to comment below. If you’ve got any questions that are more advanced around email list growth, also comment below, and I’ll be more than happy to make videos around that as well. So thanks for watching. Hopefully, this was helpful, and I will see you on the next video.

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Read on for more on how to use popups for your eCommerce business and listen to the full audio here:

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