Top 5 tools to grow your email list in 2017
I’m sure I’m not the only blogger out there to look at their blog in the last few months and think, I wish I had more traffic.
We all want more engagement from our audience, but it can be difficult to actually achieve. So over the last few months, I’ve tried countless different ways to improve the amount of engagement I got with my site.
So what is the quickest way to grow your readership?
Improving your website traffic?
Well, you can try improving your website’s traffic (this, of course being the amount of people you have visiting your page). So I tried all sorts of different methods to improve my traffic.
- SEO optimisation using back-linking strategies – you can view my blog post on how to do this here.
- Social media traffic through Pinterest – You can use social media to drive traffic using websites such as Pinterest. Pinterest operates as a search engine, unlike most social networks, so your pins can be located with strong keywords and appealing images. You don’t need a strong following to get success with this. You can view a fantastic guide on the best ways to use Pinterest to drive traffic here.
- Social media traffic through Instagram – Again looking at using social media, I posted regularly to my Instagram account (check out my Instagram, if you’re feeling cheeky), which is linked to different feeds all related to my niche of location independence and digital nomads.
What I realised is that although I saw improvements to my website traffic, the site engagement wasn’t improving at the rate that I wanted it to, and it can be difficult to quickly improve.
So next I thought about what else I could look at doing to improve engagement on my blog.
Improving the quality of your pages?
I looked at all of the pages on my blog and I thought about it from a business point of view. My Start Here page is basically a sales page getting people to read other posts on my blog. So if I rewrote all of my Start Here and About pages, as well as any sales pages I had on my blog, would it improve my engagement and in the future the amount of sales my pages make?
Well the truth was, when I started doing this I quickly realised something: I hate re-writing content. Once I’ve written a page or a post once, I don’t want to touch it again! So it took up a lot of time and energy to rewrite my posts and once I had done this, I didn’t see any real significant difference in my engagement.
Next, I did a little research online and listened to Clay Collins, the mastermind behind Leadpages, one of the top lead generation platforms online.
Improving the percentage of people opting into your email list? YES
What I realised was that the fastest way to improve engagement and grow my readership on my site was to improve on the amount of people opting in to my email list.
What I realised was that when I improved the percentage of people opting-in to my email list, I received more engagement and my traffic levels improved dramatically.
So how did that happen?
- More people receiving emails about latest posts – The more people that signed up to my email list, the more people received an email about the latest posts that I was putting online and that in turn improved the amount of people commenting on the posts.
- More sign-ups meant a larger pool of people who would share content – By having more people exposed to my content, I noticed an increase in social shares which created a domino effect. More shares meant more visitors, more visitors meant more opt-ins, more opt-in meant more exposure.
Why is growing an email list important?
As you can see in my examples above, before I started growing an email list I was relying on my readers to decide to come back on their own, or I was hoping that I would catch their attention on social media.
A recent survey by HubSpot and Eventbrite revealed that the most effective marketing channel that organisers have at their disposal is email. Now we all know more subscribers = more sales. You can understand why growing an email list is so important.
These are the top reasons I believe it’s important to grow an email list:
- You are in control of your email list – When you have an email list you can choose when you want to remind your readers of content, you can choose when you want to sell a product and you can take your email list with you even if your website goes down. You are in ultimate control.
- It’s your direct access to your audience – Your readers may pop in from time to time, but how do you get in contact with those readers when they aren’t there to read your content? By having them on your email list it gives you the chance to get in contact with them whenever you need to.
- It’s the perfect place to build a strong relationship with your tribe – I love email as it allows me to ask my readers questions and they can respond directly into my inbox. Not only does this allow us to grow a deeper bond and relationship but it can also help for me to better understand how to serve my audience. It can be a great opportunity to categorize your readers into different groups depending on experience levels or interest. (Would you guys be interested in a blog post about some of the best ways to categorize your email lists? Let me know in the comments)
- Once you are ready, it’s a great place to sell your products – I know right now I’m not at a stage where I have a product to sell to my audience, I haven’t developed anything that will be helpful to my readers and also I want to focus on giving free content first. But once I do get a product, my email list will be a good place to pre-sell my product to my audience.
If you haven’t got an email list started already, you need to start today!
This is my #1 bit of advice and almost every online entrepreneur will tell you their biggest regret is not starting an email list sooner. I’d be willing to bet that it will be your most valued asset.
What list building strategies are there?
If you are interested in learning about some of the best strategies to building your email list, then click on the link above where I detail 9 actionable strategies to building your email list.
I’ll include the easiest ways to get started, how to break through your plateau and also the #1 Tip on how to create a killer Opt-In that will smash all other Opt-in offers into the ground. Oh, and you’ll be able to create this world beating Opt-In in under 20 minutes. Get stuck in!
Now onto the main content.
5 best tools for email list building
Below I will list the top 5 tools that I’d recommend to build your email list in 2017. These tools are ones I’ve either personally used or have received a recommendation on using and are the ultimate when it comes to list-building.
By using a combination of these different tools you should be able to easily increase the conversion rate of your email sign ups.
I’ve been using the free version of SumoMe for the last 3 months and I can honestly say the amount of tools that are available is amazing. SUMO has a free suite of marketing tools to help grow your email list, get traffic and a lot more.
Sumo was founded by Noah Kagan, an online entrepreneur with a fantastic history of success. He started his career as Facebook employee #30 before getting fired and losing $185 million in company shares. From there Noah then did what he was best at, growing small businesses. He was director of marketing at mint.com, building the startup’s first 100,000 customers. Now he has created the SUMO Group (Sumo-Me, AppSumo, KingSumo) and developed this suite of tools to help other small businesses get off the ground.
Here’s a list of some of the features I’ve found useful:
- List Builder – What I would consider SumoMe’s piece de resistance, List Builder is the #1 tool I use in SumoMe’s extensive suite. When you go into List Builder, once SumoMe is installed, you can select to create a new form. The easy-to-follow guide asks you the purpose of the form: collect emails, call to action or get social shares.List builder also guides you through the design of your form, with a choice of popups, a scroll box that follows the reader down the page, an inline form or simply just a click trigger link, that pops up once selected.List builder also can sync with your chosen email provider (a paid for feature) to provide a seamless transition between clicking and automated emails being sent out.
- Contact form – Easily create a contact form to display on your contact page. This feature includes design options to easily change the look of your contact form. You can change the layout of your contact form, so you can pick the perfect place for your form to be displayed. You can even program an auto-response sequence so that the inquirer knows you’re going to get back to them.Another interesting (paid for) feature is that you can set up a tracking pixel for your contact page, so you can setup a specific response. For more information on how tracking pixels work, send me a quick email or get in-touch in the comments.
- Highlighter – This feature allows anybody viewing your website to highlight text and then automatically share it on social media, a great tool to drive social sharing on your site.
- Heat Maps – Set up heat maps on your site to see where the most heavily clicked areas are on each webpage. This feature allows you to set up individual campaigns for specific pages, since you can see which areas of your site are getting the most attention, and what links your readers are actually clicking on.
- Content Analytics – This feature works in a similar way to heat maps, it shows you what sections of the page your readers make it up to. Working in conjunction with heat maps this can help you establish how engaging your content is and which posts need improvement.
- Google Analytics Integration – One of the features that surprised me in how much I use it is the Google analytics feature. At a glance it shows you on your page what the views for the day are, how many active users there are and also the bounce rate off that page. It also gives you some great 7 day and 31 day graph options which help to see what levels of engagement your site is getting.
Overall I’ve been a big fan of SumoMe, and for anybody who is starting out and doesn’t have a large budget to invest in different forms of email marketing tools I’d highly recommend it.
Some of the paid features are a welcome addition to the free package, such as no Sumo branding, Professional insights, Pro display rules, VIP support and integration with email providers. If you have under 5,000 monthly visits it can cost you as little as $29/month paid annually.
For starters though, get stuck into the free version!
I’m a big fan of Leadpages, and am currently in the process of testing out a free trial of Leadpages with the intention of purchasing a full license at the end of it. Leadpages is one of the leading landing page software options available on the web to date, and its aim is to turn your web traffic into leads and sales. As well as creating impressive landing pages it also lets you build effective popups, microsites, sales pages and much more.
Leadpages was Co-founded by Clay Collins, Tracy Simmons and Simon Payne. Together they built an incredible company and have together up more than 120,000 recurring customers, raised over $38M, and have built up a team of more than 160 employees. Not many people know that the company that eventually became Leadpages started out selling marketing services and training. Clay has come a long way since he was 15 and raised $120,000 for his first entrepreneurial endeavor, and Leadpages is now one of the leading software conversion platforms on the internet.
What makes Leadpages so good? I’m glad you asked:
- Includes hundreds of high performance templates – Leadpages doesn’t just leave you to figure it out on your own; for every type of page there are a wealth of different templates which are all completely customisable, allowing you to easily change every aspect.
- Drag and drop system for page design – I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent more time than I’d care to admit in the past trying to move an image from one side of a webpage to the other. The great thing about Leadpages is every single aspect of the pages can be customised with ease.
- Easy A-B testing & analytics – You can easily see how your pages and opt-in forms are performing at a glance, then optimise the content by setting up an A-B split test. This allows you to trial small design tweaks to see what is more effective on your page.
- Integration with email providers – Link your existing email service provider with Leadpages to make your content more powerful. Send new contacts direct to your email service provider, webinar platform, CRM or all of the above.
- Webinar hosting including SMS Opt-in codes – Not only does Leadpages allow you to create a dedicated webinar landing page with count down timers, email sign ups and hosting the webinar itself, but it also includes SMS Opt-in support. This allows you to capture opt-ins wherever leads carry their phones. Leads can sign up for new email lists and webinars direct from their text messages. Hosting webinars via Leadpages also cuts down on costs in comparison to having dedicated software for hosting webinars, as this can be pricey.
- Allows you to easily create professional looking pages, which are proven to convert readers to email subscribers – The proof is in the pudding. There are hundreds of bloggers out there who have dramatically improved their follower email subscriber count by using the tips and techniques that are shared with the Leadpages software. This includes everything from custom 404 pages, to creating amazing, high converting opt-in pages or using creative ways to make your website both more engaging and ultimately higher converting.
After considering for a long time where would be best to spend my money I have definitely decided that Leadpages would be a fantastic investment, and is what I will be using to create and develop my landing pages and Opt-ins in the future. I’ll keep you in the loop with how successful this is and I will feature an article in the future with the best ways to use Leadpages to increase your email conversion, based on my trials and successes in the coming weeks.
If you want to check out Leadpages check out the link here.
3. Thrive Leads
Thrive Leads is part of the Thrive Themes family, which is a conversion focused set of themes and plugins for WordPress that are designed to grow your email list in 2017. The tool I am going to focus on is Thrive Leads, which I know a lot of my friends and colleagues in the location independent community use over other platforms like SumoMe or LeadPages.
Thrive Leads was developed by Shane Melaugh, who is a WordPress user himself. Coming from a conversion optimisation background, he would often get frustrated when everything was design focused. Shane specialises in writing copy and creating the sales pages. He believes that design alone will not sell a product. Thrive Leads aims to specialise in the speed of their development. Shane claims it’s rare that a week goes by where they don’t add a major new feature or improvement. They also have what they call a ‘True Conversion Focus’, with a very sophisticated A/B testing engine built into Thrive Leads. They’ve spared no expense in making sure they measure the right kind of data and provide real results.
Here’s what Thrive Leads has to offer:
- Feature rich platform and a WordPress Plugin – Unlike many of the other tools on this list, Thrive Leads is a WordPress plugin. Because of this it can feel very familiar to a WordPress user, as it integrates straight into your site.
- Pull customisation and creation offers – Although its alternative Leadpages is very highly rated and has lots of templates to choose from, you cannot create a product from scratch like you can in Thrive Leads. If you want to create your own designs and have complete customisation, Thrive Leads offers this.
- No monthly subscription cost – You can buy a single site license for Thrive leads for $67 or 5 sites for $97, however if you do wish you can get a full subscription to the whole Thrive membership for $19 a month.
- SmartLinks – SmartLinks allow you to customise your pop-ups and Lead magnets so you can show them to New visitors/ Email subscribers/ Customers differently. This allows you to clean up your user interface and enjoy your content without distractions. It also helps you replace your usual opt-ins for upsells and special offers to display to your customers. This tailored engagement to your customers tends to improve the site engagement.
- A/B split testing as standard – As opposed to Leadpages where you have to pay for a pro license at $45 a month to get A/B split testing, Thrive Leads gives this to you as standard. This allows you to test your campaigns and accelerate your list growth.
- SmartExit+ – Want to catch your visitors before they leave your site? Break the traditional exit intent mould with this feature. Exit intent pop-ups have really bad conversion rates. SmartExit+ allows you to trigger the exit intent only when certain conditions are met. It also allows you to grab mobile readers by using a time based trigger for mobiles.
- Ultra precise targeting & trigger options – Thrive Leads allows you to group your Opt-in offers by targeting things like categories or tags. You can also link offers to specific posts, or specific pages. Trigger options allow you to customise when you want your Opt-ins to appear on your site, choosing from timed triggers, scroll triggers, exit triggers or click triggers.
Overall the Thrive Leads aspect of Thrive themes adds a great host of features, which you could partner with the Thrive suite of other features or even alongside Leadpages. In my opinion, if you were not opting for a free option and were deciding on a paid for option instead, I would recommend Thrive Leads over SumoMe. SumoMe’s free features are fantastic and its paid for features are good but overall, considering that Thrive Leads is just a one time payment as opposed to SumoMe’s monthly platform, it seems like a no-brainer. Thrive leads also has a 30 day money back guarantee, so if you use it and its not for you, you can request a refund, the same as Leadpages.
For me OptinMonster was the first plugin I was exposed to in WordPress, back when I was first starting out. I found it to be very easy to use and is a perfect alternative to SumoMe, if you prefer the layout. It uses the same principle of creating Opt-In forms to convert your readers into subscribers.
Syed Balkhi is the Co-Founder of Optinmonster and is also the original creator of WP-Beginner, one of the largest free WordPress resource sites. But in 2013 he teamed up with Thomas Griffin (original founder of Soliloguy, the fastest WordPress slider plugin) and together they built Opt-in Monster with the core values of putting their people first. They claim to reach over a billion people through OptinMonster every month.
Here are some of the key features of OptinMonster:
- More than just a WordPress Plugin – Where it initially started as a WordPress plugin, OptinMonster is now a full on list building suite. You can choose to deploy Opt-in forms within the WordPress plugin, or take a snip of code and deploy it on a website using full HTML.
- Create Opt-in Forms fast – One of OptinMonster’s best features is how easy and fast it is to create responsive Opt-in forms. You can select from a range of different designs, similar to other suites, such as: Lightbox, After post, Floating Bar, Slide-In, Mobile, Sidebar and Canvas. Each design has its own benefits and features, but it does give you this much customisation so that you can display the right opt-in form for the right situation.
- Less intrusive popups with OptinMonster – Sometimes I find popups annoying but the reality is the stats don’t lie; popups work. The conversion figures on popups are much higher compared to standard Opt-in boxes. OptinMonster understands this, so it has made their popups less intrusive using a number of features such as: Exit intent, only displaying popups when people are leaving your page. Scroll triggers, this is when a popup only appears after a reader has read a certain amount of the page, great if you want your reader to enjoy the content first and then offer them relevant content further down the page. It also allows you to hide popups from your email subscribers, a feature lacking in SumoMe’s free edition, allowing you to not frustrate and hinder your existing mail subscribers.
- Feature rich dashboard including A/B Split testing – Working in a similar fashion to other providers, OptinMonster provides A/B Split testing, but what is really fantastic is how easy the dashboard is to use. You can run split tests easily within a few clicks, and it also allows you to integrate your dashboard with Google Analytics much the same as SumoMe, so you can easily and quickly see how much traffic your site is getting and focus your opt-in efforts on specific pages.
- MonsterLinks – You can use the MonsterLink feature to add into your opt-in boxes a clickable popover, within your content. This can help you to easily add in links to your opt-in boxes to add content upgrades.
In conclusion, it’s the little things in OptinMonster that makes it stand out from the crowd. A lot of the features I’ve listed above also feature in other opt-in suites, so what’s different about OptinMonster? To be honest the whole suite feels very well put together and the ease with which the opt-ins can be made does help your productivity. Alongside this is the fact that the content produced can look very professional, which makes it understandable that it’s one of the most popular tools out there to use.
I’d recommend this suite to anybody who is just starting out but wants something a little more polished than the free options. With prices starting at $9 a month for the entry level content, that seems like a pretty good price point for me to.
What’s the use in gathering up hundreds of emails from your site if when you then have those email addresses, you do nothing with them?
If we are truly to believe that email is the single most effective marketing tool at our disposal ,then we need to use a tool to harness that power to improve every aspect of our site, from traffic to engagement!
It’s for that reason that the #5 Tool in my list may just be the most powerful tool in your whole arsenal when it comes to converting your subscribers into customers. In other words… the monitization part. Actual dollar bills or pound notes. ConvertKit is an email suite which comes highly recommended throughout the industry and is one of the most powerful available to consumers.
It was developed by Nathan Barry, a powerhouse in the online world. Previously Nathan has been a designer, author and blogger but when he discovered the power of email marketing gave up his blogging career to build ConvertKit. Nathan had previously had a lot of success with his blog, in September 2012 he launched his first book, ‘The App Designer Handbook’, which made $12,000 on its first day. In December the same year he launched his second book, ‘Designing Web Applications’, which made $26,000 on launch day. For that year alone his books made him more than $85,000, so to say they were a success would be an understatement. Although a success, the e-book format was all just a 1-time purchase, so in 2013 Nathan began working on a recurring revenue model and within 6 months ConvertKit was born. Today ConvertKit has a monthly recurring revenue of over $750k, you can view those metrics here.
So let’s get into exactly what ConvertKit can do for you:
- Simple, easy to understand format – One of the best things about ConvertKit at, least for me, is that it makes the whole process of managing your email list a breeze. It may be easy with 50 subscribers to manage your campaigns with a free platform like mail-chimp (which is my current provider, so trust me I know) but once you start to have a higher number of contacts in your list you will find it much easier to engage them with the tools provided in ConvertKit’s software.
- Attractive Opt-in Forms & Trackable data – ConvertKit allows you to create simple, easy-to-embed opt-in forms for your site, converting casual readers to repeat customers. What’s great about ConvertKit’s homepage dashboard is that it keeps all of your trackable data there, so at a glance you can see exactly what is happening with your subscribers.
- Simple, powerful automation – What’s the best way to get people opening your emails, and clicking on the links and content inside? By growing a relationship with your reader. You have to imagine your email list as actual people. So if you have 30 people, imagine them sat in a classroom with you speaking, if you have 100 people imagine them all sat in a lecture hall listening to a presentation. If you have 400 people imagine a full gymnasium with you speaking and if you have over 10,000 people imagine your centre field, singing out the national anthem to a football stadium of your audience. No matter how many people are in your audience, if they are not engaged, you’re missing an opportunity. ConvertKit’s automation feature allow you to send out autoresponder sequences to your readers which feel personal. This increases conversion and with ConvertKit is made easy. They have created simple but powerful automation that does all the tedious hard work for you to send targeted and well-timed content to your subscribers.ConvertKit allows you to do this with a very simple format. A trigger, and then an Action.
This allows you to tag customers who buy products, tag people who subscribe to your list and also tag people on your email list who are great responders as just that.
- Tagging and organising / understanding your subscribers – Perhaps my favourite feature of ConvertKit is the ability to easily tag and organise your subscribers. The powerful automation in ConvertKit allows you to segment your list into different types of subscribers without duplicating or complicating your list. This can allow you to split your list into different categories such as: Paying customers, highly engaged readers, low engagement readers, not opening emails. You can then target these particular types of subscribers with different emails, i.e. with paying customers you might want to offer them a free product for purchasing which follows up with another product offer or a discounted product offer, highly engaged readers you may want to email to get feedback about what products they would like to see (validating an idea via your email subscribers can be a great way to pre-sell before launching a product). You might also want to do a relationship building email to your readers who aren’t opening your emails or even look at removing them from your list if they are no longer engaged.All of this combined is what makes ConvertKit stand out from the crowd compared to alternative email providers, and allows you to not just grow your email list but grow a much deeper relationship with your readers. All of this will help your site engagement, as well as your product engagement when you come to selling.
- Text based Emails – ConvertKit has done lots of market research into the best ways to get customers to engage with you, and they found that simple text based emails that look like they are coming from a normal person often have the highest engagement scores. ConvertKit’s plain text emails not only give you a personal feel in your marketing efforts, but they also help to stop any spam filters avoiding your posts or segmenting you into a ‘promos’ folder on your reader’s email platform. This should lead to higher open rates from your readers, and ultimately more engagement.
Personally I love the way ConvertKit makes the whole email subscribers format a lot easier. I believe that if you are engaging with your readers in the right way, using an email provider like ConvertKit, you would be better to have 1000 highly engaged email subscribers than 10,000 unengaged subscribers with a different email provider. As soon as I have the funds available to dedicate to this, I will be switching my email provider across to ConvertKit.
If you want to check out some of ConvertKit’s features and pricing click here
Now you have the tools, let’s see some results!
If you’ve made it this far I know you’re going to get stuck straight into some of the awesome tools that I’ve talked about today, so for a quick link to each one of the tools click below:
Please let me know in the comments which tools you’re most eager to get started with, and what you’re planning on using them for. I want to hear about your plans so that I can help!
Also let me know in the comments if you’ve used any of the above tools and share your experiences with the rest of the community, so they can make a more guided choice. The more opinions the better! I’ve always found that helps my decision-making process.
Whatever tool you choose to use, I wish you every success in growing your email list in 2017, and if there is anything I can do to help please let me know. Even if you commit to just one of the above tools I guarantee you will start to see improvements in the growth and engagement of your email list.