How I Grew My Small Business Email List to Over 1k Engaged Subscribers in 6 Months

As a small business owner, one of the key steps for a successful marketing plan is to utilize your email list efficiently. Your database is your money-maker, it’s truly your core revenue generator, and a critical component to any marketing strategy that will help you grow. However, so many service-based small businesses are not utilizing email marketing to grow their business. 

In 2019, AMP’D had just gotten started. Having worked with service-based businesses on the agency level to help them grow and launch marketing initiatives, we also had a database of past, current and prospective clients. However, all our email lists were spread out across multiple platforms, with no segmentation. We were not utilizing our email lists to keep our audience engaged and therefore, we weren’t generating any business from these lists. 

A bunch of emails, sitting on an Excel spreadsheet, being used for Holiday hellos or quick announcements – does this sound familiar?

We knew after we launched the AMP’d Conference (and successfully gathered 100s of small business owners together to learn strategic marketing tactics to grow their business) that the best next step was to utilize email marketing in order to provide value and educate our audience. 

For AMP’d the first step was to compile all the emails we had to create a database. We started with….

  • Everyone that we had previously worked with 
  • All current clients 
  • “Leads” or prospective clients 
  • People who attended our events (i.e. AMP”D Conference)

Next is the most important step that we took in order to create a “positively engaged” subscriber list. The problem with the first set of people was that it was composed of everyone we’d done or were doing work for. This is important to note because that set of contacts did not want to learn how to do the technical stuff or strategy themselves. In fact, they’d already indicated they wanted to hire out that work, and many did so by hiring our agency to do those things (serve kind of as a chief marketing officer + implementation team). So, very few people on that list were actually a good fit for the AMP’D content we wanted to share. 

Understanding who is in your database is critical and segmenting them appropriately will help reduce spam, unsubscribes and ensure that you are providing the most value to your audience at all times. Using tags, labels, or creating some sort of “status” that helps you identify who is on your list will help guide your marketing efforts. You can then choose who exactly you are creating content for and who will be most likely to engage and convert. 

In May of 2019 we had a couple of hundred people in our list once we completed the bullet points above, but most of them were labeled as past or active clients. We knew now that we needed to attract more subscribers from our target audience in order to have an engaged database . Here’s what we did to aggressively grow our list:

  • Encourage Sharing: We made the ask at the end of every email to forward on to someone who might benefit and added a subscribe button so that person could easily get on our list, if our email was forwarded to them. 
  • Create New Content: We created a lead magnet and shared on our social channels, asking people to subscribe to download. 
  • Make It Easy To Subscribe: We added a subscribe feature to our website. We also added a pop up to our website that teased a piece of content and invited people to subscribe to download.  
  • Paid Advertising: We started running paid ads via Facebook. Then we used our growing contact list from Mailchimp to create a lookalike audience to attract subscribers that were more likely to engage in our content. 
  • Remarketing Paid Advertising: We took that last step even farther with remarketing measures on Facebook – anyone who had visited our site recently was then served one of our ads on Facebook. 

Now our list is over 1,000 people and growing every day!

This is still tiny in the grand scheme of things, but the list is such an asset now. Instead of throwing generic offers and seemingly random information out into the great unknown, we’re able to first share with people who have basically raised their hands and said, “Yes! We want to hear from you.” Better yet, the list has grown enough to allow us to see valuable patterns in demographics and behavior. Which, to our joy, allows us to create more meaningful content and offers to those that have subscribed and more meaningful offers to those that are yet to subscribe.

Now that we’re able to do this, we’re also able to crowdsource our people, ask for suggestions on resources they would find helpful, current challenges on what’s going on in their own service-based small businesses. This, again, allows us to create better content, which services our audience. And also pulls them in to buy more. 

Importance of email list building for service-based small businesses… 

  • Growing your audience allows you to better understand your audience.
  • Understanding your audience means that you can better serve them.
  • Pitching add-ons or upsells becomes easier when you understand your audience.
  • Likewise, re-engaging clients that have gone quiet can be easier as well. If your list is sorted and tracked well, you can do this without sending the same offers to your customers that are still engaged.
  • Many service industries have slow seasons, having a list of engaged users allows you to create offers that help fill the gap when things are slow.

Leave a Comment