Building subscribers

After an initial burst of enthusiasm many of us who start eNewsletters do nothing to build the number of subscribers. This is dumb as it takes no more time to prepare an eNewsletter for a database of 3000 people than for a database of 300 though you suddenly have 10 times more opportunity. Here’s some advice on growing your database:

1. Export all the names with email addresses from your fundraising software – lock the fundraising manager in a broom closet if needed. 

2. Round up and upload all those stray Excel spreadsheets – events organisers can be a good source of these. 

3. Add databases of staff, vollies, board members, bureaucrats, local, state and federal pollies, sponsors, clients and more. Work around fools who say this cannot / should not be done.

4. Many databases and mailing lists have no email addresses. Get a volunteer to work the phones and get the email detail. Every call will save you time and money. The volunteer should tell those she calls that you want to keep in touch at no cost and that their email is private and that they can always unsubscribe themselves with the click of a button. DO NOT let people say no.

5. Export the contents of colleagues Outlook contact books. Give colleagues the option of deleting people who they absolutely know aren’t appropriate and upload the rest.

Remember – anyone wanting to unsubscribe will be able to do so with one click so you’re not imposing too greatly on anyone. If anyone on your database kicks up a stink upon receiving your email just shrug it off and think of the hundreds who didn’t.

Building subscribers using a pop up

They really work.

6. Install and deploy a pop up on your website to proposition every single visitor to your site. This is really a non-negotiable. 

7. Promote subscribing in various ways. “Every new subscriber in February goes in to the draw for a…” really works. Even better would be promotions that encourage people to forward to a friend – that way you have friends marketing to friends on your behalf. NEVER underestimate what people will do for an iSomething.

8. Change your forms to ensure that you always ask for an email address.

9. Can you promote your e-newsletter to the people who call up your helpline?

10. Clipboards at the ready, have recruiters working at your events to sign on new subscribers members.

11. Promote the e-newsletter in your current printed communications.

12. Do the same on your signage, on-hold messages and on work-related emails. Think of all the emails your organisation sends – they can all have a direct link to your subscription page.

business cards for eNewsletters

The most cards wins a prize. Monkey cards worth double.

13. Have a business card muster. Every staff member pops any and all appropriate business cards into an envelope and writes their name on it. Details are duly uploaded and the staffer supplying the most new subscriber wins a prize.

14. Want to skyrocket subscriptions? Simply have your receptionist ask every caller to subscribe. If he sounds positive about it you will gain dozens of subscribers a day. Do this and you will prosper.

Remember: if you gain a massive amount of new subscribers in one job lot we recommend sending a special edition eNewsletter, explaining who you are and what your eNewsletter is all about. Emphasise the low cost to you, the benefits to them and the ability to unsubscribe if they want.

3 Responses to Building subscribers

  1. Alex White says:

    Re: some of your suggestions – especially the “business card muster” – potentially get into the realm of unsolicited mail. If someone gave you their business card without their express permission to receive email marketing from you, that’s spam. Same goes for the “import contacts” option and harvesting databases – if there’s no permission, you shouldn’t add them to your email list.


    • Brett says:

      I disagree Alex. So does the SPAM Act 2003 which says this about consent:


      In Australia, commercial electronic messages sent to you must be sent with your consent. The Spam Act provides for two types of consent – express and inferred.

      Express consent means you have deliberately and intentionally opted-in to receiving electronic messages from the message sender. Some examples include:
      ticking the box next to a statement seeking permission to send you marketing messages
      entering your mobile telephone number on a website to opt-in to receive regular ringtones and games on your phone, then replying to a subsequent SMS to complete the opt-in process
      entering your email address on a competition entry form and ticking a box next to a statement that says you wish to receive regular updates on the activities of the business
      contacting a business directly, in writing or on the phone to ask for information to be sent to you on an ongoing basis.

      All of these examples demonstrate that you have been informed that providing your consent means you will receive electronic messages and have had the opportunity not to receive commercial electronic messages.

      Inferred consent relies on a relationship you have with the message sender. The Spam Act provides that consent can be inferred from your conduct or relationship that a message sender has with you. The message sender may decide that because you have an existing relationship, you would be interested in receiving electronic messages about similar products and services. For example, if you subscribe to a magazine or newspaper, it could reasonably be inferred from your ongoing relationship with the publisher that you would be amenable to receiving electronic messages promoting other services the publisher may offer.

      Clearly someone handing you their business card or emailing you entirely proves a relationship which provides inferred consent.

      Also Alex – the SPAM act also states that all emails absolutely must offer an unsubscribe function. Does your email offer this?

  2. Alex White says:

    Hi Brett – yes, my emails do have an unsubscribe function, which comes built in from MailChimp.

    While the definition of spam in Australia has one meaning, my reference was to the commonly used best-practice standards from the email marketing industry.

    Business cards that were collected with an understanding that the person would be receiving email is ok – such as saying “thanks, and I’ll add you to our email list.” Collecting the business cards lying around the office and adding them, in my view, is not ok.

    The example given in inferred consent (buying something and being added to an email list as a result) is a much stronger inference than handing over your business card without any business actually taking place.


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