Winning the Internet

4 quick tips for growing your email list

After a great run, the Winning the Internet blog has been retired. However, you can still keep in touch with New Media Mentors here.

For most online organizers, growing your email list is critical. More voices mean more power, and email is the most effective way to aggregate and activate our supporters. A bigger list can sometimes mean the difference between actually creating change or raising enough money and spinning our wheels.

One of the easiest ways to grow your list is also one of the most commonly overlooked—tightening up the signups on your website. It may not sound sexy, but it works! Here are four tips for making the most out of the work you’re already doing on your website.

1. Put an email signup on your homepage
If you don’t already have an email signup on your homepage, add one as soon as you finish reading this post. Website visitors are very fickle. If someone goes to your website because they’re interested in your organization and has to spend more than a couple seconds figuring out how to get on your email list, they’re probably not going to do it.

2. Make your email signup compelling
Every email signup on your website should be compelling—both visually and intellectually. Most of the time, your email signup is the single most important thing on your homepage because it’s the gateway to a relationship with a potential supporter. Your email signup should stand out from the rest of your homepage visually. It should be one of the first things someone looks at when they land on the page.

For most people, joining another email list is not an exciting prospect. You’ve got to really sell your organization if you want someone to signup. Instead of saying something dry like “Join our email list” or “Sign-up for updates”, consider running a compelling petition or asking supporters to stand-up for your cause.

3. Seal the deal and ask for more
When someone does join your list, first of all make sure they know they’re signed up. A simple thank you should suffice. Then, ask them to take another action. Sure, some people will bail, but I’ve seen 50% of people take a second action.

If it isn’t awkward, ask them to invite a friend to join the list. This works particularly well when someone has just joined your list by signing a petition or taking an action. They may have friends they know will be interested in signing too. If that seems awkward for any reason (like if someone just signed up on your homepage), consider asking them to follow you on Facebook or Twitter.

4. Make joining the list your default
Depending which action tool you use, a checkbox may appear at the bottom of your action pages that visitors can check as they take an action, if they wish to join your email list. If this is the case, you can usually get a pretty impressive boost in signups by pre-checking this box. If someone really doesn’t want to be on the list, they can always uncheck it.

If your tool doesn’t include a checkbox, you can usually add everyone that takes an action to your email list automatically. If you do this, just be sure to include a note on the page that lets visitors know they’ll be joining your list by taking the action. It’s totally fair as long as you’re up front about it. Worst-case scenario, if someone doesn’t want to be on your list they can unsubscribe. If you’re worried about this, just keep an eye on your unsubscribe rate.

These kinds of basic adjustments to your website can really add up over time, so don’t overlook them!


About Melissa Foley

Melissa is the Director of Training and Mentoring for Netroots Foundation and New Media Mentors. She aims to use her MBA + nonprofit background to teach organizations to use new media tools strategically.