Doable Ways to Expand Your Email Marketing Subscription List

    September 30, 2004

While you brainstorm one last push to build business before the holidays are here, don’t forget your existing website and its email subscription form.

This year many email marketers are focusing on the growth of their in-house email subscription lists. Some marketers are now publicizing their use of email marketing “best practices”-such as diligently guarding email subscription lists and not sending frequent, irrelevant marketing messages-to reassure spam-weary customers that subscribing to their newsletter will not result in more unsolicited email.

Here are five easy ways to grow your in-house subscription email list using your website and your email message:

Where’s your subscription form?

The online email subscription form is your front line means for converting what would be indifferent website visitors into prospective customers taking specific action. If they can’t see the form, however, they cannot take action.

Keeping this in mind, where exactly on your website is your email subscription form right now? Is it on your home page, or buried on a page that’s several clicks away from your important product information or exciting premium content? Where on the webpage is the subscription form located? Is it at the very bottom, near the website’s disclaimer, or above the fold, where it is visible to whomever the page renders for?

The appearance and the location of your online subscription form should be handled with just as much attention to detail as any valuable customer feedback mechanism, if not more so. The message to the customers who see this form should be clear, its action should be concise, and its surrounding clutter should be minimized.

If you have no subscription email gathering mechanism on your website to send personalized email offers, you should start one. You can get a subscription email handling tool free at

Do you have customer trust?

Your email subscription form is prominent on your website, above the fold, on the pages with the highest unique visitor traffic. Customers can see it, and know what it is. The question now is: do they trust you enough to surrender their private email information to you for more information?

A 2004 Harte Hanks survey showed most Americans will usually shop at businesses that have earned their trust even if they tend to charge more than their competitors. The average agreement with this statement was 6.4 on a 10 scale. Conversely, at least 45 percent of the consumers polled recalled at least one retailer they no longer trusted, and 94 percent of those consumers said they spent less money with that company.

When a customer provides personal information to your company, you now possess insight your competition doesn’t have. It is important to your opt-in list growth to gain subscriber trust at the beginning of your relationship. If you are using email marketing’s best practices-outlined in the next growing subscription recommendation-your potential subscribers need to know this.

Make sure there’s a link to your privacy policy near your subscription form, and if your privacy policy is not clear (most are not, as they are typically written by lawyers instead of someone familiar with your customers) write a summary that is. Guarantee in writing that your email newsletter and/or service reminders are spam-free, and place this message as close to the subscription form as possible.

Are you using email best practices?

Email best practices are surprisingly simple, even the requirements for the federal Can-Spam Act. They mainly focus on the subscription process, the email message and the marketing behavior. You are already following email best practices if you’re doing the following:

Protecting subscriber email addresses by not selling, renting or otherwise distributing your lists to third parties

Your messages contain an unsubscribe mechanism that works

You unsubscribe email addresses within 10 days

Your email contains an address or phone number

The source of your email is not misrepresented

These are the main points of email best practices. Many email marketers already have these attributes in place because they are actively pursuing consumer trust. You should be also.

Is your subscription list clean?

A fresh, clean email subscription list free of missed unsubscribes performs much better by decreasing complaints and increasing response rates. To maintain list cleanliness, your email marketing software or service should be writing back to your database and “scrubbing” it by automatically removing email bounce backs and unsubscribes after each campaign. Your email marketing software or service should be doing this in almost real time.

Additionally, spreading customer information across multiple databases and legacy systems makes it harder to keep lists clean, and increases the risk of privacy breach, while a consolidated technical platform improves privacy management. When lists are segmented within several different programs, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep them “clean” by honoring the unsubscribe requests from each campaign.

Is your website optimized?

How’s your conversion rate, or the ratio between your website visitors and buying customers? If it’s too low, then you’re not attracting the right qualified traffic to your website.

To generate this traffic, you must optimize your website text with the appropriate keywords that will draw your specific qualified viewers to the website. The right visitors are defined as readers who find enough value in your products and services that they take action either by providing their private email addresses for a continued relationship or buying product.

Questions you should be asking yourself about your online presence include: What possible reason do my customers have for wanting to find my site? Are they looking for a specific product to buy? Are they looking for new products or services? What brings people to my website at present? What are they trying to accomplish, or are hoping to find?

Understanding these important questions is critical to not only presenting relevant information, but also for optimizing your website with the appropriate keywords your prospective subscribers and customers are going to use to find you. The more optimized your website, the higher your search rankings go. Subsequently, the more qualified your visitors are, the easier it is to keep growing your email subscriber list.

Are you serving market needs?

Even the most financially-backed start up in business history goes nowhere fast if it isn’t communicating messages to its customers that are relevant. The same goes with email messaging.

Make sure your content is strong. Again, put yourself in your customer’s position and ask what it is you are looking for in this site. Know the topic you are covering, and make sure it shows in your copy. Your email messaging should be processed with the same diligence as your website content, using the same keywords, to keep the new subscriber rate up and the unsubscribe rate down.

One advantage of email marketing: its delivery is immediate, as is the feedback. If your unsubscribe rate happens to spike one day for no apparent reason, check your email message. A sky high unsubscribe rate is a sure sign of weak content, and would indicate that a stronger, successful creative message is needed to re-establish trust in your offering.


Growing and maintaining your subscription email lists is directly related to the growth of your permission marketing, and thus your business. It should have just as high a priority as the privacy statement to regain customer trust and win new prospects.

Steve Delgado is marketing manager for Arial Software, a developer of email marketing software products for both introductory and enterprise-level subscriber communication. Arial Software ( is also the developer of the Zeop online subscription tool (< href=""> mentioned in this article. Delgado can be reached at 520-615-1954 or at