By Brandon Harris
My largest online store has an email list with over 140,000 people, over 90,000 of whom are customers. It wasn’t always that way. It took a consistent investment over several years.
Through testing, we learned how to go from slowly adding emails to adding thousands a day at less than 25 cents per email on average, with highly valuable customer emails coming as low as $3 each. Not only was is this a major daily sales driver, it gives us a conversion without variable cost, which allows us to dump money right back into acquisition.
When your email list is strong, it’s substantially easier to scale. You have a sales driver without variable cost and you have customers who come back time and time again. You can create scalable systems to drive your email growth. Here are the primary ways we did it:
The easiest and most cost-effective way to get emails by the thousand when you’re starting out is to host a giant giveaway and amplify it with influencers and other boosted posts on social media. If the audience is cold and unfamiliar with your products, you can add a complementary product that is popular with your target audience to your giveaway to get more momentum and broader appeal.
There’s no need to get too complicated with your giveaway funnel. Create a flyer. Create a landing page where you can collect emails. Run targeted traffic to the landing page from the cheapest sources that are still targeted (think Facebook Ads and Instagram influencer buys in your niche). Collect emails and repeat.
You can even use viral marketing platforms like gleam.io to incentivize sharing and get your giveaway entrants inviting their friends to gain additional entries.
Extremely Low-Cost Offers
This part makes many people uncomfortable, but when you’re starting out, don’t sleep on acquiring customers with discounts. Sure, you could be training them to wait for discounts. Or even worse, you could be only attracting sale-hunting, low lifetime-value customers. There absolutely is a fragile balance.
It's easy to segment these customers based on order values if you use any major cart. Treat your new customers however you wish, and serve them whatever sequences and offers you want.
An example of a low-cost offer might be 50 percent off your first purchase, free (just pay fixed, per item shipping and handling) or a huge markdown on a specific product or category. Basically, the game is to find your item(s) with the largest range between your actual cost and the perceived value to the customer. In apparel, free tees do really well (and we set the shipping cost so it's still profitable before marketing costs). Sometimes, we see up to 10 times the traffic on these promotions, just because of the word "free."
The Bottom Line
A previous customer is worth many times more than a giveaway email, and a giveaway email is worth many times what cold traffic is worth. Some of these email recipients, if you treat them right, will buy over and over again once they've tried your brand out. If they’re indoctrinated, these customers will be worth several times their initial purchase to your business. Give them an excellent experience with the first purchase and watch them return for your higher margin products as you email them out.
You may even be able to make a profit on their first purchase!
Brandon Harris (@BrandingHarris) is the President of NuMedia Agency, an agency with an owned network of over 15 million followers and e-commerce stores generating multiple millions in online sales.