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This is the second installment in a 5-part series on best email practices.

Last week we gave a bird’s eye view of building a winning email program with two important concepts for growing an email list. This week we’ll build on those concepts and talk about the secret to quickly building an engaged email list. Are you ready? The secret is this:

Create a compelling signup page (usually a petition) that asks for an email address and consent to be emailed then direct the sorts of people you want on your email list to the page.

What? That’s not a secret? Alright then let’s have a conversation on some of the finer points.

A Note on Signup Pages: As industry professionals, we know that providing our email address on any website means we should probably expect to receive email, but most people don’t think that way. A good signup page asks for permission and does not use deception or trickery to collect contact information. If your signup page is a flimsy pretext to ask for donations, people will probably mark your email as spam.

Remember from our first post that organic signups are the gold standard for building an email list, and purchased or scraped lists are a no-go. Our goal then becomes directing our hopeful signups to a page where we can collect their contact info. There are many tools that can help you find signups like ActionSprout, Care2, or NationBuilder’s built-in petition pages. Regardless of the tools we use, our signup page should give visitors a compelling reason to sign up by demonstrating the value you’ll provide. Giving people a compelling reason to join is the most important factor in building an effective signup page. If our ask is compelling and provides value to the visitor we should expect lots of signups. If our ask is boring or provides 0 value we shouldn’t expect many signups.

The question of what provides value is one to consider and answer before you create a signup page. If you’re a business, your value proposition might take the form of sales or discounts. If you’re a non-profit your value proposition might be the uplifting feeling people get from heartfelt stories of how your work has touched people. If you’re a candidate your value proposition may be the positive feeling a voter gets by fulfilling their civic duty.

How you provide value depends largely on your audience. A first-time presumably young voter is likely to be motivated by different factors than someone a bit older with a family. Likewise, that first-time voter might be more interested in volunteer opportunities for your non-profit than opportunities to make financial contributions. The point is that you can have multiple signup pages tailored to a specific audience and direct each audience to the page you think they’re most likely to respond to. Not only are you likely to have more signups, you’ll also know more about your signups because you took the time to tailor your message, which will be important for warming up your list and future sends in general.

This almost goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway - the emails you end up sending should follow through on the value proposition your signup page promises. A petition implies that the signatures will be sent somewhere, so it makes sense to follow up with signer on the status of your petition. If someone signs up to be notified of discounts or to hear stories, you should probably start out by sending the content they asked for and you promised. Your signup page should clearly set the expectations of your signups and your emails should fulfill those expectations.

Alright, we’ve got a couple compelling pages to collect contact info and begin a relationship with folks. A few thousand signed up so we’re ready to email them now, right? Not just yet. First we have to warm our list up. We’ll talk more about warming up a list in the next post.

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