By John Stevens

Email marketing will be the most effective marketing tactic of 2017.

Email is so powerful that the Direct Marketing Association says that you can expect a ROI of $38 for every $1 you invest in email marketing. Similarly, Monetate research that analyzed over 500 million shopping experiences found email to be the single most powerful marketing tactic when it comes to conversions — email traffic converted more than both search and social traffic combined. That’s not all, but research shows email to be just as powerful during holidays: 25.1 percent of all sales during Black Friday 2015 was attributed to email, compared to just 1.6 percent of sales attributed to social media.

That said, email marketing isn’t often as easy as it is purported to be. For many, the single biggest struggle with email marketing is that of gaining subscribers. Here are five proven list building strategies that you can employ in 2017 — each backed up with case studies and research:

Offer an Incentive to Subscribers:

This could be in form of a coupon, a discount, or the popular option: an ebook or ecourse. As basic as it seems, a lot of email marketers still don’t offer an incentive to encourage people to subscribe to their email list. The result is a significant loss in subscribers they could have otherwise had.

Exactly how powerful is offering an incentive to subscribers? Very powerful. Offering an incentive is so powerful that Flyte was able to increase monthly subscriptions by a whopping 5,000 percent simply by going from offering nothing to offering people an incentive for joining their newsletter.

When offering an incentive, it is important to:

Ensure that your incentive is very relevant to your site and the subscribers you are trying to attract.
Ensure you carefully communicate that people will be getting regular emails from you when they sign up for your incentive.
Deliver the incentive as soon as people sign up, and again remind them that they will be hearing from you frequently.
Run a Viral List Building Giveaway:

Meet Josh Earl. In an attempt to rapidly build his email list, Earl decided to run a viral giveaway. He offered people a popular paid software in his niche, and the condition for winning was to share his giveaway and subscribe to his newsletter. I mean, how seriously will people participate in a giveaway for free software? Apparently, overwhelmingly! Earl got 482,044 visitors to his blog and 187,991 subscribers to his email list within 11 days, all thanks to the giveaway.

If done right, a giveaway can be very massive for your list building. There’s a right and wrong way to do it, though. Here are some tips:

First make sure the incentive you offer to your audience is relevant and in high demand. Many people offer gadgets, but if you run a health website how likely are people to be interested in your emails after they sign up for the gadget giveaway? The more relevant your giveaway is to your target audience, the better.
Make it a requirement that people join your newsletter to participate in your giveaway — that’s the point of all this in the first place.
Incentivize people to share your giveaway; give them bonus points for sharing your giveaway and inviting their friends.
Run a Challenge:

A challenge is very powerful for list building for two reasons:

It can massively boost the size of your email list
Due to the nature of the challenge, it creates a bond between you and subscribers — making them much more valuable than if you had gotten them from other means.

Running a challenge was exactly what Natalie Sisson did to give her email list a boost and help her book launch. The challenge was so successful that Sisson reported it to be the most successful initiative she has done on her blog. It resulted in over 1,000 new subscribers to her email list, her book becoming a #1 bestseller and a 100 percent increase in traffic.

Survey your audience to see what their major struggle is, and run a challenge around this — make it a requirement to join your email list to participate in the challenge. You will be surprised to see how successful this will be.

Content Upgrades:

The content upgrade became really popular a while back, but you can be rest assured that it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, content upgrades will be even more effective in 2017 for two reasons:

It allows users to get relevant offers — someone interested in getting traffic won’t get an ebook on making money. This makes the second benefit much more powerful…
It allows you to segment people. In fact, this is so powerful that many email service providers now actively include automation in their package. Research from MarketingSherpa shows that you can get up to a 208 percent boost in conversion rates by segmenting your email list and sending targeted emails to subscribers.

When you consider the above two factors, you can clearly see that content upgrades are the future of email list building and they will become more prominent in 2017. Brian Dean famously reported a conversion boost of 785 percent in one day simply by implementing content upgrades.

Expanded Guest Posts:

Similar to the content upgrade is the expanded guest post: it is basically you offering a content upgrade inside your guest post on another blog. The only difference with an expanded guest post is that your content upgrade is offered inside a guest post, instead of directly on your blog.

Expanded guest posts have been so successful for a lot of influencers: Bryan Harris reports getting 500 subscribers from every expanded guest post.

There are a few things you should keep in mind to make expanded guest posts work for you:

Put great work into your guest post; the more comprehensive and practical it is, the better. Not only will this increase the number of subscribers you can get, but it also reduces the chances of the host blog removing your content upgrade.
Make your content upgrade a resource if possible — a lot more people will want to download a resource that complements your post.
Hint at your content upgrade early in the guest post; this will create desire and massively boost conversions.
When you finally introduce your content upgrade, make sure you direct people to a landing page specifically customized for the blog your guest post will be published on.

Just as it has always been in the past, email will still be very important in 2017. Hopefully you’re able to record a massive increase in the size of your email list by implementing the above techniques.

John Stevens is a marketing consultant and the founder of Hosting Facts.

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