Monday, March 19, 2012

Growing email marketing subscribers

This was first posted to Power Retail.

Now that Sneaking Duck eyewear is up and running, a key priority is to grow our mailing list. We have found that many people love our products, but aren’t necessarily ready to buy right away. However, these potential customers are often very happy to opt in for the occasional, well-targeted email with product announcements and offers.

We’ve tried a few tactics to grow our mailing list. Some have worked well, some haven’t. What’s great is that it’s incredibly easy to measure your success – you can literally watch the email addresses arriving!

Email marketing is effective as a cost-effective way to tell people what’s new – our emails often get open rates of over 40%, and click rates vary from 18% to nearly 50%. Important stuff!

What Didn’t Work

Sign-Up Box on Our Homepage
We thought our sign up box was wonderful and appealing. We highlighted it, let people know what they could hear about, told them ‘they’d be the first to know’.

  • Result: Fail! It wasn’t so popular. We moved it to the top right of the page, but still only received moderate sign ups. Though what was interesting was that when we suggested people joined whilst talking on IM or the phone, they nearly always did – this persuaded me there was untapped demand for being on our list.
  • Self Diagnosis: With no clear reason to sign up, people were literally blind to the existence of the option. Interesting to learn that people, when prompted, were keen to share details.

Posting to Facebook
A couple of times I’ve posted messages reminding people that we have a mailing list, and the benefits of being on it.

  • Result: Fail! We had literally a handful of fans subscribe, despite a Facebook fan base in the thousands.
  • Self Diagnosis: Low virality post, so not widely seen and no reason to join. Facebook is about engagement, not trying to bend people to your will.

By this point, I realised this was something we needed to prioritise – people were happy to join . . . but that we hadn’t found the right way to do it.

What Did Work

Pop-up Mail List Subscriber Box
Our analytics told us that the most engaging part of our site is our virtual mirror page, where you can try our glasses online. A lot of our visitors go there, and it gives them value. Given this, I thought we should test the option of subscribing to our newsletter, while customers were clicking through to this page. We were all nervous about forcing people, so we put in a ‘speedbump’ where users see an easy to dismiss option to subscribe.

  • Result: Win! Around 6% of visitors to our site subscribe to our newsletter using the pop-up and there’s no discernible decrease in time spent on-site, with only a small increase in exits from this page.
  • Self Diagnosis: Good idea! We’re adding hundreds of email addresses to our subscriber database, and what’s great is that the more traffic we get the more subscribers we get!

Facebook Competition
We have a competition running on Facebook where you can win 10 frames. To enter, you need to join our Facebook community, tell us why you should win and share you email address. You also have the option – not the obligation – to opt-in to our mailing list.

  • Result: Win! Over 80% of people opt-in to the mailing list. It’s too soon to see if they are as engaged as the rest of our community, but expectations are high.
  • Self Diagnosis: We have a prize and brand combination that’s big enough to engage people, and persuade them that it’s worth sharing their email address to hear more.

So what’s next? We have a few ideas, but I’m very keen to learn from you what has and has not worked for growing a mail list of engaged potential customers.

Image credit


  1. Running a facebook competition or giving away free samples of our products produces a good response.

    Am just coding a pop-up subscriber window now, thanks for the tip.

  2. Nice post. Email marketing is definitely effective and its amazing when you can track the emails sent and see how many emails opened. I use email marketing and it really works.

  3. Thank you Costa - we've been trying to work out a way to do samples for glasses. A lens cloth seems too small, but I'm sure that there is something that can work.

    Thank you Web Design - we find this a good channel too

  4. who would have thunk that the much-maligned pop up works best huh. it also means that people only get annoyed when you're asking them to so something that it is irrelevant for them, and not quite how you ask. Also explains why almost every single discount site won't even let you continue if you don't provide an email address.



  5. Jorge - we umm-ed and ahh-ed for a long time about the pop up box, but the evidence speaks for itself. And we haven't had anyone complain directly. I think the key thing is to keep it genuinely optional.