8 Ways to Growth Hack Your Startup’s Email List

July 19, 2016

10:15 am

In some ways, getting traction for a startup seems like an impossible task. By its nature, a newly formed startup has little capital, team members, or resources. But the goal is to grow as much as possible as fast as possible. Getting rapid growth is such a demanding task that being a “growth hacker” is literally a full-time job. But plenty of startups can’t even afford that.

If you’re new to the game, it can be overwhelming. But that’s why you should narrow your approach. In the early stages, a startup can benefit from a great email subscription base. It’s easier to maintain than a website, and it converts far better: Email ROI is 3800%, according to one stat provided by Campaign Monitor. Here’s how to do email right.

1: Figure Out How to Get Rid of Unneeded Opt-in Forms

From Brennan Dunn, of Double Your Freelancing:

“I keep my email marketing app in total sync with my website. This means that people on my list never see opt-in forms again. Those who are subscribers but not yet customers are promoted my entry-level product. And those who are already customers are upsold my most premium products. This alone has been worth tens, and hundreds+ of thousands longterm, to my business.

The easiest way to get started is to pass a custom query string parameter both back to your confirmation page after opting in and whenever sending someone back to your site from an email. Write a cookie, and then replace out your opt-in forms with something more valuable in that real estate if that cookie is present.”

2: Rely on Social Proof

People love jumping on band wagons. Thanks to social proof, popularity is turns into exponential growth. The more popular your email list is, the more popular it will continue to become. Here’s Jacob McMillen of BuildFire to explain:

“According to Search Engine Journal, 63% of consumers say they are more likely to purchase from a site that has product ratings or reviews. In a series of peer-reviewed studies conducted in 2008, researchers determined that social proof had more of an effect on behavior modification than concepts like protecting the environment, personal responsibility or even saving money.”

3: Use Email to Become a “Fun Brand”

Devesh Khanal on how to best tweak your emails’ tone:

“I’ve noticed that masterful brands also include entertainment, fun, humor, and engaging stories in their emails. They include funny links, a personal story, a fun user story, a gif, or anything else to make reading the email pure fun. This is transformative and shifts the relationship ever so slightly from company & customer to ‘fun brand’.”

4: Cross Promote

If your brand’s email list has 2,500 subscribers, ask around to find another site with the same amount, give or take a thousand. Make sure their brand is just as high-quality as yours, and then recommend each other to each other’s email lists. There are plenty of ways to do this, from product discounts to giveaways to simple promotions.

5: Use Transactional Emails

From Campaign Monitor:

“Transactional emails are automated messages sent to individuals triggered by some sort of action or inaction. Think purchase receipts, confirmations, shipping notifications and password resets. Open rates for transactional emails are four to eight times higher than traditional emails because customers are usually asking for the information contained in them. Talk about relevancy and timing.”

If you put a message, a link, or even the sign-up for your main email list into the transactional email, you’ll see far more engagement.

6: Collect Emails in Person at Events

Don’t get caught up in the digital realm: People at real life events have already proven they’re interested in attending. Have a email list sign up sheet to nab them. Here’s McMillan again:

“These events are perfect opportunities for list building. You are interacting with not only people in your niche, but motivated people – people who were willing to pause their lives and maybe even travel an extended distance just to be there. Depending on the nature of the event, these individuals might be primed leads for your business.”

7: Resend to Non Opens

This brilliant email list time-saver is from Noah Kagan of SumoMe:

“Here’s how you can easily increase your email open rates by 30%. I call it ‘Double Opens.’

Step 1. Take an email you’ve already sent and change the subject line to something new

Step 2. Email it out a week later JUST TO YOUR NON OPENS

You might think you have a great email open rate – but the fact is, 50%+ of people are NOT opening your emails. With my first re-send, I got an extra 7,028 people to read my email, in just 1 minute of work.”

8: Don’t Forget to Nurture Your Leads

You’re not just building an email list for fun. Yet it’s easy to just focus on nothing but builing the list. Once you have a healthy list of emails, point them towards the product or service you offer. You’ll just have to study up on how to do that.


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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He’s based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state’s slogan: “sayWA.” In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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