How to Generate a Steady Stream of Highly Engaged Email Signups
Use four rules and a Facebook campaign for this zero-maintenance workflow
Have you been trying to grow your mailing list recently? Then like most people, you’re likely to be seeking ways to deal with what seems to be the hardest part of this process: actually getting people to subscribe.
In fact, you may have noticed that the hardest part consists of two equally frustrating parts:
- Finding subscribers who are genuinely interested in what you’re offering
- Getting these people to eventually subscribe at a steady rate
Since you’re reading this, chances are you’ve probably had a go at one or more methods for attracting a constant flow of newsletter subscribers.
Search no more! I’ve got a solution for you.
I’ve been designing and implementing marketing strategies for businesses for more than a decade now. I’ve dealt with clients from any industry you can imagine, and I’ve come across all kinds of systems that eventually fail to attract subscriptions.
They all have one thing in common, which may be what’s also been preventing your own mailing list from growing:
Nearly every method that claims to grow mailing lists lacks the appropriate strategy and tactics that will attract the right leads.
Now the good news is that you can apply a very specific method for attracting a steady flow of genuinely interested subscribers. This method can be taught, and by the time you’ve read this post, you’ll know how to set everything up.
If I can give a brief outline of the process, it can be summarized in these four rules.
- Offer to send people stuff they’re already familiar with.
- Offer to send people stuff that aligns with what you do best.
- Invest in a growing audience.
- Make your Facebook ad “invisible.”
Take care to follow these rules to the letter, and you’ll be able to set up an evergreen, self-sustaining system that gets you high-quality signups on autopilot.
That’s right. You won’t have to do a thing once it’s up and running. The system literally takes care of itself. I do it for clients regularly, and it does work like a charm.
All you need is a single Facebook campaign, some budget to keep it running, and a lot of common sense.
Here’s an example of the sort of results my clients usually see.
Sample results of a Facebook Lead Campaign for attracting newsletter subscriptions
In this particular case, the Facebook campaign attracted 211 signups, at a cost of €0.69 each (which was $0.78 at the time of writing). The more budget you can allocate to such a campaign, the faster you’ll get the results coming in.
Incidentally, you may have noticed our example campaign also resulted in 26 purchases on the client’s website, but that’s beside the point. It’s a welcome by-product, but we were aiming for leads, not sales.
If you’re pursuing leads, then leads and how much they cost you should be the main metrics that matter to you.
Please note that I’m going to explain all you need to know so you can set up this evergreen subscriptions system. But if you feel that you need further instructions at any point, check out this excellent video tutorial on creating a Facebook Lead Generation campaign.
Meanwhile, let’s focus on the important stuff that Google won’t give you.
Let me show you how it’s all done.
First things first. Making the right strategic decisions ensures that you reach out to people who are likely to subscribe to your mailing list and, indeed, likely to eventually buy what you’re selling — otherwise what’s the point of all this?
So this is what I would suggest you consider.
Rule #1. Only offer to send people stuff they’re already familiar with
You’re going to be using a Facebook ad to invite people to subscribe. You can target anyone on Facebook who may have a potential interest in your products, but please, don’t be tempted.
If you’ve ever invited people who don’t know what your business is about to sign up to your mailing list, then you know it doesn’t work. Instead, you should only target those who are already familiar with what you do one way or another.
Wondering who these people are?
You’ve got them right in front of you, I’m talking about those who have visited your website recently. Or your Facebook fans, if you think they are better informed about what it is that you do. It’s your call.
Targeting people who already know you will make your invitation to subscribe highly contextual. After all, context should always be your #1 priority. This will increase the chances of them noticing your subscription prompt in the first place — and now you have their attention.
But more on that in a minute, because what follows is really important.
Rule #2. Only offer to send people stuff that aligns perfectly with what you do best
The type of content you share with your email recipients is crucial. Most businesses offer something along the lines of “exclusive offers and the latest news,” but we all know nobody ever opens those emails.
Let’s not keep doing what ensures our emails are never read, and let’s put your money and effort to good use.
There’s a better way.
The question you should really be asking yourself is What is it that people actually appreciate about me or my services?
Think about your typical customer for a minute. Why do they keep coming back to your physical store or your website? Why do they read your stuff? Some of them keep buying your products or services. Why?
Are discounts and offers the main thing that brings you repeat customers? Then great, ask people to sign up to receive special offers.
But unless you’re widely known as a discount company, please avoid offering discounts. Your customers won’t buy it, and it will also do you more harm than good in the long term.
Here are a few examples that may get you thinking.
Do people love the unique design of the kitchen utensils you’re selling?
Then offer to send them unique cooking tips and recipes tailored to their specific profile and lifestyle.
Are you a consultant?
Then offer to send people answers to the most common questions your clients tend to ask.
Do you sell cinema-related merchandise?
Then send your customers Hollywood news and movie trivia.
Are you in the luxury fashion business?
Give them style guides and the latest fashion trends.
You get the point.
No “company news,” no “exclusive offers.” Everyone else is doing that, and you need your invitation to stand out.
This is where you need to take care of a couple of details, which are quite literally the gears of the system you’re setting up. This is where you put the whole thing in motion.
Rule #3. Invest in a growing audience
At this point, you have the most crucial requirement that must be met if you want your new subscriptions system to be self-sustaining.
A target audience that constantly grows in size is essential, because your campaign must have new people to target over time. Otherwise, it won’t be evergreen — which means it will probably stall sooner or later.
There is an alternative. You could manually renew the audience yourself once in a while. This is also very low maintenance and only takes a few minutes of your time, maybe once every couple of weeks. It’s definitely not the end of the world.
But I promised you a self-sustaining subscriptions system, so this option is no good. We need to have it working without your input.
This shouldn’t be a problem, though.
Every business has at least one such audience that grows over time.
For example, if you own an ecommerce website, or any type of website with decent daily traffic for that matter, your website visitors are a perfect growing audience.
In fact, if you have enough visitors who get at least as far as the shopping cart (in the case of ecommerce, that is), then that’s your ideal audience. These people already trust you enough to consider or actually make a purchase.
Alternatively, if you have an active Facebook page with new fans on a daily basis, then these people are your growing audience. If your fan count isn’t growing fast enough, then those who engage with your posts or visit your Facebook page may be a better choice. Or those who interact with your profile and posts on Instagram. There are options.
You may come up with other groups of people who are a suitable audience in your case and can be targeted in Facebook with an ad. As long as such a group is familiar with what you do and grows in size at a steady pace, then great. You’ve got yourself a growing target audience.
Rule #4. Make your Facebook ad “invisible”
How often do you come across submission forms that require you to fill out what seems to be a thousand boxes, spread out over a couple of pages, while clicking a few buttons in the process? Do you ever even get to the Submit button on such forms?
I know, me neither. But we’re lucky to have Facebook to help us because a lead ad is the exact opposite of the never-ending subscription form from hell.
A Lead Campaign is a wonderful minimum-friction tool. Its power lies in the fact that people can input and send you their email in a total of five or six seconds, without ever even leaving their Facebook feed.
In fact, Facebook already knows their email address, so the corresponding field will be pre-filled. They won’t even have to type anything.
Now, this is where you need to think about tactics again. Let me explain.
As we established earlier, the people you have chosen to target are already predisposed in favor of what you do or sell. However, by running this Facebook campaign, you are basically interfering in this relationship by putting something else in the way: an ad.
And most of us are not particularly fond of ads, because we simply don’t like to be sold stuff.
A chameleon changes the color and pattern of its skin to match the background — so use your ad’s limited real estate to show people what they’re going to find on the other side. Show them how they will benefit, and don’t forget to make your message friendly and conversational.
Don’t make this a hard-selling ad, but rather a casual reminder of why they are already attracted to your brand.
Consider the following two alternatives of a sign-up invitation.
Alternative 1. The usual, hard-selling type that will probably turn people off, for example:
Sign up to our newsletter to receive home decoration tips and exclusive news.
Alternative 2. A casual reminder alternative that makes your ad “invisible” and relevant, for example:
Looking for fresh ideas for decorating your home? Maybe you need tips for an upcoming renovation?
We’ve done the hard work for you! Our decoration experts have some excellent ideas and advice we can’t wait to share.
If you want, we can send you inspiration right in your inbox once a month ;)
You can sign up here, it only takes seconds.
Both versions ultimately convey the same message: Sign up for decoration tips. But there’s no doubt which one works best. Don’t be afraid to experiment with friendly copywriting; it always pays off.
You’ve also got space for an image, so use it to show people the product, the feature, or the information they’re after, in its best shape.
Can you take a picture of a real, smiling person who gives someone home decoration advice? This will resonate with your audience even more, because it gives them an easily recognizable image to relate to.
An “invisible” ad is as friendly and unintrusive as possible and makes it dead easy for the user to submit their email in a matter of seconds.
You’ve just taken the biggest potential obstacle out of your subscriber’s way.
The Nuts and Bolts
Once you’ve got your strategy and your tactics sorted out, it’s time to get down to work. This is how you go about setting up the actual components of this system.
What you need to know to make your campaign work
In Facebook’s Ad Manager, create a new campaign. Choose the Lead Generation objective.
In regard to your advertising budget, there’s no restriction. Try a few dollars (or euros, or pounds) per day, and see what happens. The more you can afford to allocate to this ad, the more subscriptions will come in.
1. Create an ad set and pick the right audience.
This campaign will have one ad set. Make sure you’ve already made an audience of anyone who visited your website in the last 180 days (Facebook’s maximum allowed audience life for visitors).
If you have a high traffic website, make an audience of the visitors during the last 14 days, as these people will have your website and your brand fresh in their memory. If your traffic is not particularly high, or if you try the 14-day audience and you’re not satisfied with the results, try a 30-day, 60-day or 90-day window, until you find the sweet spot where you get enough subscriptions.
Just remember, the smaller the audience life, the better your chances of these people being keen to subscribe. Keep experimenting until you find the right balance.
Now, if your website visitors are not a growing audience, i.e. you’re not getting a decent number of new visitors daily, worry not.
Try targeting your Facebook fans, or people who have engaged with your Facebook page, or those engaged with your Instagram account — in that order. All these groups are familiar with your business, so find out which one works best for you.
Try targeting different audiences to see which one works for you.
So, create your ad set, pick your audience and select Facebook Feed as your ad’s placement.
2. Create an ad and a Lead Form.
On the ad level of your Facebook campaign, the important bit is the form that will collect your leads. You set one up by clicking the Create Lead Form button.
Click the blue button to build your Lead Form
The instructions here are pretty straightforward, so you just fill in the fields provided and upload a relevant picture. To reduce friction on the user’s side as much as possible, the key is to include as little information as you can in the form itself, and only ask for people’s email address.
Your finished Lead Form should look something like this (personal data on this photo has been blurred to protect privacy).
Make sure the information is clear and accurate. You only have space for a few brief phrases within the form, so I would suggest you focus on quickly reminding them again of the promised benefits if they sign up.
That’s it, you’ve got your campaign. Now, let’s finish off.
Link your Facebook campaign to your email platform
To make the subscription process completely automatic, you need to send the emails you collect directly to your mailing list. For most of the popular email platforms, such as Mailchimp, Facebook provides direct integration.
This is very easy to set up. Just follow these steps.
- Go to your Facebook page, and select Publishing and then Forms Library. You will see a list of all the Lead Forms you have created.
2. Click the Download link next to the form you want to link.
3. In the next step, you need to click Connect your CRM (that’s your email platform).
4. On the next screen, type the name of your email platform in the box (e.g., MailChimp) and click the blue Connect button.
Again, everything in this whole process is pretty straightforward. If you feel that you need more help, however, take a look at the Facebook Lead Ads tutorial.
You’re all set.
Would you sign up to your own mailing list?
Now, let’s quickly go through the signup process we’ve been describing, as seen through the eyes of someone in your target audience.
This person is already familiar with your activity and they enjoy what they read on your website or blog. Maybe they’ve even bought from you. They go on your website every now and then to look for new content; it’s a pleasant little habit.
They’re happily scrolling away on Facebook one day when they come across a post from your company kindly asking if they’d be interested in receiving inspiration right in their inbox.
Are you kidding me? I can have this stuff sent to me? Yes, please!
They tap on the link, and the box is pre-filled with their email address. They tap Next, then Submit.
Done. Five seconds. They’ve never left Facebook.
If this was an invitation to a company’s mailing list, would you have signed up?
I know, me too. Many people actually would. Good luck, and please let me know how this works out for you.