Newsletter Signup Strategies: A How-To Guide With Examples

So you want to encourage more newsletter signups and grow your mailing list? Well, there are better ways than annoying overlays and buying email addresses.

Depending on your audience, encouraging newsletter signups is one of the best ways of building a long-term connection with your users. While people fail to visit your website regularly and may easily miss your updates on social media, many audiences (especially in B2B) check their email regularly.

However, growing your mailing list can be frustrating and so many end up resorting to extreme approaches such as full-screen overlays and manipulative text. Many even buy in lists. However, although these approaches will grow your list, they will irritate many people and result in a low-quality list which is regularly reported as spam.

In this article, I want to give you an overview of the critical things you need to consider when developing your newsletter signup strategy.

Let’s begin by looking at where you can promote your newsletter.

Newsletter Sign Up Promotion

The opportunities to promote your newsletter are only limited by your imagination. Just a few of the approaches I have used myself or with my clients include, promotion through:

  • Email signatures.
  • Regular updates to social media.
  • At the end of webinars and speaking engagements.
  • Advertising on Facebook, Google, LinkedIn etc.
  • In guest posts.
  • Physical marketing material.

The list goes on, but my favourite method is newsletter swaps. In other words, I approach other list owners who have the same audience I wish to reach, but are not direct competitors and suggest an exchange. I promote their newsletter in my mailings and they do the same.

Of course, the most obvious place to promote your newsletter is your website. Many of the above techniques will require you to send people to your website to signup.

However, before we can promote our newsletter anywhere, we need to be clear on what exactly we are promoting.

Create a Compelling Offering

If we want people to sign up to our newsletter, we need to offer something compelling. I am shocked at how many sites simply invite people to sign up to their newsletter with no reason as to why people should bother.

Creating a compelling offering consists of two parts:

  • The benefits of the newsletter itself.
  • An incentive to encourage signups.

Let’s look at the incentive first. That is often known as a lead magnet.

Decide on a Lead Magnet

A lead magnet is something you can give to all new subscribers to your newsletter. That can range from ebooks to free courses. The possibilities are only constrained by your capabilities to deliver.

5 Tools to Encourage More and Better Newsletter Signups

If you signup to my newsletter, you will get instant access to a guide introducing you to the five tools I use to grow my mailing list.

I will email you once every 1 to 2 weeks with advice like you find in this post. You can unsubscribe in a single click, and you can see examples of previous emails here.

If you are looking for some inspiration, OptinMonster has an extensive list of lead magnets that you might want to check out.

That said, I would share three pieces of advice when selecting a lead magnet.

  • Make it relevant. Your lead magnet should relate to your offering. Ideally, your lead magnet would vary depending on the context. For example, this blog post has a guide to newsletter signup tools, because that is relevant in this context. Other posts have different lead magnets.
  • Make it digital. Physical incentives are going to be expensive. They also fail to provide instant gratification when people sign up. You want something people can immediately make use of.
  • Make it useful. Your lead magnet should help your audience overcome a pain point or achieve a goal.

However, your lead magnet is not enough by itself. You also have to be able to demonstrate that the newsletter is of value.

Identify the Benefits of Subscribing

If you do not demonstrate that your newsletter has value, then people will unsubscribe as soon as they have received your lead magnet. Also, by demonstrating that the newsletter is useful, you further encourage people to sign up.

Your newsletter has to be primarily focused on providing the subscriber value, not you extracting value from them. Anything less and you will lose subscribers faster than you gain them, and those who do remain will not engage with your mailings.

Therefore, as with your lead magnet, your newsletter has to be relevant and useful. That means it has to be more than product promotions and discount codes. Discounts can be useful if somebody is ready to buy, but they will provide no value to anybody else.

Example of newsletter sign up offering discount.
Offering discount codes has its place, but it is not normally the most effective way of encouraging newsletter subscription.

Ask yourself what advice and support you can provide to your audience. How can you help users address their pain points or reach goals they have?

Once you have a picture in your head about what benefit you are providing, you can turn your attention to communicating that.

Communicate Your Offering Clearly

Communicating your offering is tough because there is a lot to cover. Ideally, you want to:

  • Focus on the benefits of signing up.
  • Cover the specific features of your newsletter.
  • Address any concerns the user might have.

We have already discussed benefits, but features and concerns are worth further mention.

When a user is considering signing up for a newsletter, they have a lot of questions. Questions such as:

  • What if they sell my email address to a third party?
  • What if the content is rubbish?
  • What if they make it hard to unsubscribe?
  • What if they send me too many emails?
  • What if they pressure me into buying?

Ideally, you want to answer as many of these questions as space will allow. In particular, let the user know:

  • That you will not share their email address.
  • How often you intend to email them.
  • What kind of content the emails will contain.
  • That you make it easy to unsubscribe.
Boagworld Newsletter signup
My newsletter sign up form works hard to explain what subscribers will get, while also addressing any concerns they may have.

I realise this is a lot of information to convey, in addition to the benefits of signing up. How much of this you can cover will depend on when and where you are promoting your newsletter signup form.

Presenting Your Newsletter Signup the Right Way

There are many different ways of presenting your call to action that encourages users to signup. On my site alone, at the time of writing this post, I utilise five different approaches:

  • An exit-intent overlay.
  • A ‘sticky’ side column signup form.
  • A newsletter option in the navigation.
  • A call to action in the body of many posts.
  • A newsletter signup form in the footer.

That may seem like overkill, however not every call to action will be visible to every user, and each offers me opportunities to communicate in varying levels of detail.

For example, my sidebar leaves little room to communicate anything other than the basics, while the link in the navigation leads to a landing page entirely dedicated to the newsletter.

Boagworld Newsletter Landing Page
It is worth creating a landing page entirely dedicated to explaining the benefits of signing up to your newsletter.

Which approach you adopt will depend on your circumstances. However, I would recommend that you do create a newsletter landing page. That is because you can link to this when promoting your newsletter.

Another piece of advice I would offer is to pick your moment carefully. Many websites display a newsletter signup overlay the moment a user first hits it. In most cases, this makes little sense as the user has had no opportunity to decide if the site is relevant to them.

When the right time to ask for signups will vary for different sites. However, I would encourage you to inject calls to action for your newsletter into the user’s journey, rather than to interrupt it with an overlay. The only time I consider using overlays is when a user is about to abandon the website, which is why you will see an exit-intent overlay on this website.

Exit intent overlay on this website
Overlays can be irritating so use them carefully. I only favour their use on exit intent.

Yes, overlays are an excellent way of drawing attention to newsletter signup. However, you risk alienating your audience, and there are other ways of drawing attention to your newsletter call to action.

Drawing Attention to Your Newsletter Signup

Drawing attention to a newsletter signup form is much the same as any other call to action. I have written extensively on call to action design already, and so I won’t repeat myself in detail here.

However, a few techniques you can consider when drawing attention include:

  • Position. Avoid the right-hand side as people often ignore right-hand columns. Instead place your call to action where you know people are looking, like in the content of the page.
  • Subtle Animation. Although you will want to avoid anything too irritating, the subtle use of animation is useful for grabbing attention. For example, my ‘sticky’ sidebar draws the eye because it behaves differently to the other elements on the page.
  • Colour. Using contrasting colour makes a call to action stand out. However, be aware that a significant proportion of the population is colour blind, so don’t rely on this technique alone.
  • Imagery. From arrows pointing at a call to action to pictures of faces that grab people’s attention, there are a plethora of subtle and not so subtle ways of using imagery to focus people on your newsletter signup form.

There are many more approaches you could adopt, but these should be a good starting point.

An A/B testing comparing the different positioning of content.
Avoid placing newsletter signups in the right hand column. They will perform better in the main flow of the content.

At this point, you know how to grab the user’s attention and encourage them to sign up. However, you are not done. We need to consider what happens when the user signs up.

Consider What Happens After Signup

What happens after somebody signs up for your newsletter is critically important because it is easy to lose somebody who has expressed an interest.

In most cases, the user will need to confirm their newsletter signup. That means after clicking subscribe they will be sent an email asking them to confirm, and they will receive a message in their browser telling them to check their email.

Unfortunately, many subscribers are lost at this stage either because they don’t realise they need to confirm their subscription or because the email is lost in their spam folder.

To overcome these problems, I recommend creating a dedicated page user are redirected to after submitting their email address that can provide specific instructions and contact information if they cannot find the confirmation email.

My newsletter confirmation page
Provide users with specific help to confirm their subscription. Also, provide them with contact information if they cannot subscribe.

But even that is not the end of the process. There is one final important thing to consider. You have to deliver on the promises that you have made.

That process starts with your onboarding sequence which the user receives immediately following sign up. It consists of a welcome email followed by several additional emails introducing the very best of what you have to offer. Every one of those has to provide real value and not just sell your products and services.

The best way to grow your mailing list is to provide value to your subscribers consistently. Not only will this prevent people from unsubscribing, but it will also lead to recommendations.

To be successful growing our mailing list we need to really be sweating every nuance of the experience from what goes into our emails, to what email template you use.

Continually Test and Optimise

If you follow the advice in this post, you will build your mailing list faster than you ever have before. However, there will always be room for improvement. That is why testing needs to lie at the heart of your approach.

It is vital to experiment with different lead magnets and different wording on your calls to action. Slight variations can make all of the difference, so you are never done optimising your newsletter signup.

Boagworks Boagworld