Our email list recently passed the 15,000 subscriber mark (yay!). But it’s not the size of an email database that’s important – it’s the fact that it’s made up of high-quality contacts from our industry.
Growing our mailing list took several years and we made plenty of mistakes along the way. This article will help you avoid the same pitfalls and fast-track your list growth in no time!
In this article – we break down how to grow a targeted email list of industry professionals that drives leads and revenue.
Starting an Email List From Zero
Like many businesses, we started with zero email subscribers. We inched our way from 1 person, to 100, and then kept steadily growing from there. But how did we start the ball rolling?
We Offered Freebies.
Some people call them lead magnets, email opt-ins, or content upgrades. However you refer to them, these freebies incentive people to join your email list. It’s not enough to promise them a weekly newsletter, you need to offer them something of real value.
We offered a couple of different freebies in the beginning – cheatsheets, templates, and sales scripts worked really well. Our articles would explain how to do something step-by-step and then the freebies would provide a template to follow or done-for-you solution.
Since we were building a health and fitness email list, all of our opt-ins revolved around these business themes. This ensured we attracted targeted subscribers in our niche. Examples include…
- Where to find free fitness images (+ downloadable image bundle)
- Gym name ideas (+cheatsheet of steps and list of name ideas)
- PARQ guide (+editable PARQ template)
Top Tip – we noticed a strong appetite for templates among our audience. People found them really useful which is why we eventually created our Fitness Business Template Bundle. Pay attention to audience habits as this can spark new product or service ideas.
We used Mailchimp to start our email list for free – there are zero costs if you have less than 2000 contacts. By embedding a sign-up form in our sidebar and throughout articles, we were able to generate subscribers consistently. It was a trickle at first but grew steadily over time.
Test & Iterate
We’ve tested lots of different sign-up forms over time. In addition to the article embeds and sidebar options, we’ve tried Sumo pop-ups, hello bars, welcome mats, and exit-intent forms. Some worked better than others but it often depended on the specific page people were visiting.
For example, one of our pop-ups converted 50% of visitors into email subscribers. That’s insanely good in any industry but particularly online. Our bundle of free fitness images was what generated this – people were frustrated by visiting lots of different photo websites and our freebie provided a solution.
It took time and effort to find all these images. Most photos have copyright or usage restrictions so we spent a long time sourcing ones that were completely free. But it resulted in a truly valuable resource for our audience and generated lots of subscribers as a result.
What could you create that’s insanely useful for your target audience?
We also A/B tested sign-up forms to find out which ones were most appealing. Some headlines were more persuasive than others. Once we knew, we doubled down on the email forms that worked best.
We tracked which articles were performing best using Google Analytics and then created custom lead magnets. We looked at which ones had the most visitors and also which ones people spent the most time on. This enabled us to take full advantage of visitor numbers and engagement.
People who take the time to read an article to the end are likely to be interested in your emails too.
Provide Real Value
We put quite a bit of effort into creating truly valuable opt-ins. We didn’t scrimp on the information provided or under-deliver on promises – we made high-quality freebies.
Part of this is about integrity – it’s central to the way we operate and often sets us apart from other online businesses. There are so many shady websites making bold claims – we want to be different. So we don’t bate and switch on our freebies – we deliver what we say we will.
This approach also helps create a positive first impression of your products. Subscribers will think ‘if their freebie is this good, their paid product must be awesome’. So it’s worth spending the time to make something really good.
Deliver on your promise, whatever that may be. Include screenshots of your freebie so people know what to expect. A picture says a thousand words and can be more convincing than any text description.
You might also like… 3 Essential Email Marketing Tactics For Fitness Businesses
A nice side-benefit of this approach was that it also boosted our Google rankings and helped with SEO. When people saw that we offered downloadable templates or checklists with our articles, they were more inclined to click on ours than competitors. They also shared them with industry colleagues too which helped spread the word.
List Growth Best Practices
Once we’d established a successful process for collecting emails, we shifted gears to growing our list. Here are some of the lessons we learned along the way and best practices that will help with your own list building.
1 – Be Consistent
This is something we’ve struggled with and know it’s a challenge for fitness businesses too. Sometimes you’re so busy servicing clients that you don’t have time for your own marketing efforts! But being consistent is important for two reasons…
- It trains your audience to expect to hear from you
- It improves open and click-through rates so your emails are more effective
One way we do this is by preparing our emails in advance. We know we might be busy on the day it needs to go out so we try to draft it the week before. Scheduling the email ahead of time means we’re less likely to miss it.
The second trick that’s really helped is using an autoresponder sequence. Many businesses send a few welcome emails when people first subscribe. But we take things a step further with our 3-month autoresponder series.
Having this set up means new subscribers hear from us regularly no matter how busy we are. Plus it has additional benefits which is why it’s tip #2…
2 – Use Autoresponders
We use an autoresponder sequence with every new subscriber to our email list. It helps educate them about our website, directs them to useful resources, and promotes our digital products.
Our welcome sequence is made up of 15+ emails that are sent over 3 months, one every 3-4 days for the first two weeks and then weekly from then on. This helps them discover useful content and also drives visitors back to our website.
In order to decide which articles to include in our emails, we looked at the most popular ones. To identify them, we used Google Analytics to find articles with 1) the most visitors and 2) the longest view times.
Our assumption is that the more time people spend reading a blog post, the more useful they’ve probably found it (if it was rubbish they’d click off somewhere else pretty sharpish).
3 – Quality Over Quantity
We’ve built a targeted mailing list of industry professionals by focusing on the quality of our subscribers rather than volume. This is why we regularly remove people from our list who aren’t engaged. In fact, we’ve deleted 5000+ subscribers over the years to keep our list in tiptop shape.
Email cleaning ensures we don’t clutter up people’s inboxes who don’t want to hear from us. It improves the quality of the remaining list, which boosts open rates and improves deliverability. It also saves us money on Mailchimp fees since we’re paying for fewer subscribers.
The first way we do this is by getting people to opt in or out at the very beginning. People don’t have to subscribe to our list to get our freebies – they can choose to get the download and not hear from us again.
This helps us build a list of people who really want to hear from us instead of those who just want the lead magnet. It also establishes our integrity from the very beginning which helps to build trust.
We also clean our list regularly. If subscribers haven’t opened one of our last five emails, then we’ll send them a re-engagement email. It’s designed to tempt them back with some of our juiciest resources. But if they don’t engage, then we delete them.
This might sound extreme, but we’re trying to build a community of engaged fitness industry professionals. For us, it’s about quality rather than quantity. If people have had multiple chances to engage but aren’t interested, then it’s better to remove them from your email list.
4 – Encourage Two-Way Communication
Too often businesses use email as a one-way promo tool. They ‘blast’ recipients with their latest news or special offers. But email is a much more powerful channel than this, especially when you use it for two-way communication.
We use emails to ask questions, run polls, and gather feedback from our subscribers. Our emails invite insights from our audience by asking…
- What’s your biggest challenge right now?
- Why type of wellness business do you run?
- Are you interested in marketing, sales, revenue, or retention?
We don’t ask everything at once – just now and again throughout the autoresponder sequence. This helps us understand more about our audience and their needs, so we can create tailored content accordingly.
It’s the reason we found out that our gym email list actually included personal trainers, fitness bloggers, health coaches, and nutritionists. As a result, we developed new content for these professionals that addresses their specific businesses.
Email List Building Mistakes To Avoid
We’ve learned a lot on our way to 15000 subscribers and made plenty of mistakes too. As a marketing agency, we’ve also consulted for numerous fitness businesses so have insights into common pitfalls that they make too. Here are three that you can hopefully avoid…
1 – Not Utilising Connections
The first mistake was not utilising the business connections I already had. I’d worked in the fitness industry for 10+ years and had a stack of business cards from professionals around the world. But I didn’t email them…
They sat in a draw for several years. I always meant to upload them but somehow never got around to it. And then it had been so long that I’d missed the boat. They were influential industry experts – what a waste!
So be brave and tell others what you’re doing. No one wants to spam their friends and colleagues, but there’s no harm in letting them know what you’re doing business-wise. So send a short intro email and ask if they’d be interested in subscribing to future updates.
2 – Emailing About Everything
It’s important to curate relevant content for your emails – don’t just include everything you create (we’re looking at you RSS feeds).
Not every article we write ends up in our email auto-responder or fortnightly newsletter. We know we need to earn our spot in people’s inboxes so we curate content carefully.
Some of the articles we write aren’t relevant to all our subscribers – experienced gym owners won’t be interested in start-up tips for new businesses. So, we curate a selection of articles to ensure there’s something for everyone.
We also use segmentation to separate different types of subscribers and send them more relevant emails. It’s about balancing what’s useful to your audience with what you want to promote.
3 – Overcomplicating It
If there’s one tip we’d recommend when growing your email list, it’s to keep things simple. Don’t try to run before you can walk by overcomplicating your email funnel.
Start with a free email tool, one lead magnet, and build from there. Creating complex layers of automation can quickly lead to mistakes and a clunky experience for your audience.
So there you have a complete guide to how we built our targeted email list of industry professionals. You know the exact steps we took to get started, how we grew the list consistently, and mistakes that you can avoid. All that remains is for you to take action – go write that email now!
Email Templates & More
Looking for email templates and autoresponder sequences for your fitness business?
Our ready-made templates make it quicker, cheaper, and easier to promote your fitness business. They can improve the effectiveness of your sales and marketing campaigns. If you aren’t an experienced marketer, then templates also provide a useful guide for you to follow.
Whether you run a gym club, fitness studio, or personal training business, these templates will save you time and effort. They’ll help you to plan and organize your promotional activities so that you generate more revenue. You’ll get 40+ templates covering sales, marketing, and business start-up resources.