Jessica Best: Email List Growth 2.0: Why You Should Be-Friend the Media Team

Jessica Best: Email List Growth 2.0: Why You Should Be-Friend the Media Team

We know that email is a money-printing machine. (Flash to the hundreds of articles that quote the outrageous and unbeatable Return on Marketing Investment.) As I often say with clients and at conferences, “Why wouldn’t you stand in front of the email marketing machine and just put in all your money?”

And in a way, you should! We email marketers allocate budget where it can pay us back and email can. So, we invest in optimization, automation, integration and more to make sure we’re using it to the best of its power.

One of the biggest investments you can make in email marketing, though, is in growing your list. Eventually, your best boost will come from growing the audience of folks who see your now-nearly-perfect emails.

You need to capture everywhere:

  • Use website modals that result in 4x (or more) the subscriber growth of static forms on your website
  • Ask in your brick-and-mortar stores, via:
    • o A sign-up station or mounted iPad
    • o Pen + paper table-top or bill inserts
    • o Text-to-sign-up signage
    • o Cashier scripts that offer value in exchange for an email address
  • Register to win promotions on your website or at industry trade events

You have myriad ways to collect the data from those prospects and customers you’re already meeting. Once you’ve optimized everything to capture everyone you’re already talking to, how do you talk to brand new prospects?

That’s when I realized why I need to get close to the paid media team.

The media team can target the online behaviors, search terms, demo- and psychographics that we determine together. They can go fishing across the internet for prospects that look, talk, behave, search, and shop the way our best customers and subscribers do. When we use the data that both of our teams have access to, we can start to drive up our website traffic and – all other things being equal – subscriber growth, depending on the goals and CTAs for the placed media. 

An important caveat: You’ll want to be clear about the quality of those subscribers. When you pay to gain a new subscriber that wasn’t already visiting your store or website, they likely won’t be as invested as those that know you well. That isn’t to say that they don’t still have great value, only that you should track the return on investment or revenue per subscriber of those subscribers separately than the rest of your house list.

(In fact, you might want to be tracking the revenue per subscriber from every source separately, so you can continually evaluate the return on investment of each growth channel. But that’s a blog post for another day.)

bestjune1So how do you get started?

The easiest first step is to share your existing email subscribers list with the team that places paid media (usually online and social media) or search marketing and plot out how to find other prospects that look or act like those subscribers.

Most media platforms can target look-alike audiences: a demo- or psychographic that looks like what they know about your house list. Facebook is the easiest example: who else likes what these folks like? Who else is in the same region or is the same gender, etc.?

What we’ve learned, though, is not to just use the full list of email subscribers. Just like I use segmentation to send emails with our best offers to our best customers, I can use those same segments of my email database to help us target our media placement. Here are a few examples you can steal:

  • Engaged Subscribers: Those who have opened/clicked something in the last 12 months are more likely to help us create a fresher look-alike audience segment.
  • Top 20% of Customers: The eCommerce customers who spend more and buy more often can help us target not just more leads, but more highly qualified leads.
  • First-Time Triers: For one of our restaurant clients, we know that those that buy once love it, but those that buy twice become our lifelong fans. We can use a daily export (or real-time sync) of first time buyers – a.k.a. our “triers” – to place re-targeted advertising. Those ads work alongside our email nurture campaign to turn triers into second- and third- and fourth-time buyers.


The media buyer/ad network won’t be able to match the email subscribers file 100%. In fact, on average, we usually find about 40% of our email subscribers that use that same email address for a social channel and can be used for a look-alike audience.

Not sure how to start a conversation with a busy media person who is already trying their best to drive traffic to your website and landing pages? Start with what’s in it for them: you can help them target media based on a list of highly qualified and engaged leads, which is likely to make their efficiency of spend look pretty stellar.

My paid digital media team now knows that I’m swift with the list pulls of our juicy million+ email database to help them create custom and look-alike audiences for the media they place. I make them look gooooood. And in return, we all celebrate more inbound leads and subscribers.

Title: Email List Growth 2.0: Why You Should Be-Friend the Media Team
About: Email Acquisition
Audience: Email Marketers
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