If you have an email list, you probably have one big goal on your mind: Growing your list. There’s no shortage of “tried-and-true” techniques for exploding your list — spend five minutes on Twitter, and I’m sure you’ll see at least five different techniques that people claim doubled their list overnight. The problem with these “tried-and-true” techniques is that our business may not look like theirs. We’re busy entrepreneurs, and we don’t have time to waste on techniques that don’t work, or maybe don’t even feel right, for our business. And overnight success is never guaranteed.
The good news is that slow and steady growth for your email list is achievable — and surprisingly simple. The formula is two parts: To communicate your value and to provide that value consistently. In other words, your job is to make people aware of what you can give them and then deliver that in exchange for their opt-in. People will gladly opt-in to your email list if you’re giving them something they need — but they have to know that your gift exists. That’s where this post comes in. We’ll go over how to get people to opt-in to your list, where you should put opt-in forms so people are aware of your list, and what tools you can use to add forms specifically to WordPress.
How to get people to opt-in
Step 1: Determine your audience
Before you can invite people to opt-in, you need to know who you can serve best. After all, growing your list isn’t going to get you anywhere if the people on your list aren’t engaged with your content — and willing to buy from you now or in the future. By speaking directly to your dream audience, you’ll make them that much more excited to join your community, and those who aren’t a fit will go elsewhere.
Step 2: Define your value
Now that you know who you’re speaking to, think about the problems they have and the solutions you can offer them. That’s your value. Consistently giving your subscribers solutions to their problems will keep them happily on your list, and they’ll be willing to share with their like-minded friends. This also builds trust over time so that when you’re ready to introduce a paid offering, your subscribers are more willing to buy from you.
Step 3: Communicate your value
Writing opt-in copy can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’ve been listening to your audience, they’ve already told you, in their own words, exactly what problems they have in your field of expertise and the kind of solutions they’re looking for. Use their words in your opt-in copy, and they will feel like you’re inside their head — and you won’t have to spend hours trying to come up with something clever.
Where to put your opt-in forms
As I said before, people won’t opt-in if they don’t know your list exists. Think about where people interact with you and the paths they take on your website. If you only have an opt-in form in your site footer, your blog readers may click through to your next blog post before they scroll that far down. If you only have a form on your home page, some people may never get there if they visit from a link on social media. If you want to grow your email list, you have to give people plenty of opportunities to see your offer. Here are a few spots to consider.
Your home page
Think of your home page as a sign letting people know if they’re in the right place or not. If they like what they see, the next logical step is to opt-in so they can stay in touch — so make it easy for them to do so.
After a blog post
If your blog content is similar to your email content, then blog readers will likely enjoy your email list as well. Plus, anyone who has made it to the end of one of your blog posts is more likely to be an engaged subscriber. If your email list is a top priority, be sure to feature it prominently directly after your blog post content so readers will sign up when they are most excited to do so, before they get distracted by related posts or comments.
On its own page
If you do nothing else, create a dedicated opt-in page for your email list so that you always have a direct link to share. Bonus points if you can remove all other distractions, like your site header and footer, so that when you share your opt-in page, people are forced to make a decision — opt-in or close the page. Minimizing distractions will help people focus on your offer and decide whether or not it’s right for them, so the right people will join your list.
Share your direct link on social media, in profiles, in guest posts, in your email signature, even on business cards if you really want to get serious. Sharing a direct link is much easier than telling people to go to your website and look for the opt-in box in the middle of your sidebar, that’s for sure!
Need more ideas? Here are 7 spots for your opt-ins.
How to add opt-ins in WordPress
Now that you know what to add and where to add it, let’s go over the technical stuff. I’m going to be sharing tools specifically for WordPress since that’s the platform I use, but you can learn more about syncing MailChimp with Squarespace on the Elle & Co blog.
If you know a little bit of code, your best bet is to use embed (or HTML) code directly from your email service provider. With a little bit of CSS magic, you can style the code to match your site and really customize it to your needs. There are three ways you can add embed code to your WordPress site:
- Paste the code into a text widget to add a form to any widget area.
- Switch to the Text tab in the Visual Editor of any page or post and paste the code there.
- Add the code to your theme files (for advanced users — I recommend accessing your template files through an FTP client like Filezilla).
If you’re interested in seeing CSS magic in action, sign up for my upcoming free video series over here (and download my free plugins guide in the meantime!).
If you find embed code a bit intimidating, the Newsletter Sign-Up plugin is a great free option that integrates with most email service providers. It comes with a widget that you can add to your sidebar or other widget areas, a shortcode you can insert in any post or page, and a template tag you can add to your theme files. Plus, you have the option to add a checkbox to your comment form so readers can opt-in when they leave a comment.
Gravity Forms is a premium drag-and-drop form builder for WordPress that also integrates with a number of email service providers, so you can create a truly custom opt-in form without coding, or easily add an option to your contact form for people to opt-in to your list. You’ll need the $99 business license or $199 developer license for email list integration, but it’s worth considering for its many other uses (I also use it for surveys, client questionnaires, and more!).
Despite the name, PopupAlly Pro does so much more than popups. You can create any kind of opt-in form imaginable with this premium plugin, including squeeze pages, after post boxes, sidebar widgets, and site header or footer forms, all without coding. The visual editor gives you full control over the design and layout of your forms as well. It’s worth the $97 investment if you want to add a number of styled forms to your site without messing with code (you can even use it for contact forms). There’s also a free version available with limited forms and features.
Do you have any opt-in tips or favorite tools I haven’t mentioned? Let me know in the comments! After all, list building is really about experimenting — your tips might be just what someone else has been missing.
About the Author
Lisa Butler believes big dreams start with your website. As a web developer, she’s built more than 100 websites on WordPress. She’s also the author of Make WP Work and Get Your Email List Together. When she’s not coding or writing like crazy, you can find her at the dog park with her little house elf Dobby or catching up on the latest Game of Thrones or Scandal. Her new ecourse, Get Your Website Together, is launching soon to help people design and code their own website. Keep up with the latest from Lisa and learn how to build a better website at Elembee.com.