How We Grew Viget’s Email List 135% In A Year
Ben Travis, Former Marketing Manager
How Viget used articles, social media, webinars, ebooks, & events to more than double its email list in a year.
Around this time last year, we completely revamped our email strategy, including the way we cultivate our email subscriber list. Over the past twelve months, we’ve used a variety of content marketing tactics to grow that list 135% and have learned quite a bit along the way. Want to know more? Let’s get started.
Email Design + Content
At Viget, we’ve always had a culture of sharing and transparency (as evidenced by our open source contributions and articles), and our newsletter has always been a way to share news about Viget, work that inspires us, recent projects, and career opportunities. We’ve been using email marketing for over a decade, but in order to grow our list of subscribers, we needed to start with the newsletter itself.
Our old newsletter was sent roughly on a monthly basis, focused mostly on Viget-related content, lived solely in inboxes, and wasn’t particularly shareable. Based on competitive and user research, we knew that we weren’t putting our best foot forward, so we transformed the design and direction of our email content. Now, our newsletter is shipped on a weekly basis, highlights content both inside and outside of Viget, lends itself to social distribution, and is also publicly archived. A staple of our newsletters is the “Community Thoughts” section, where we feature 4-5 peers who have influenced our opinion on the newsletter’s theme.
It’s now an opportunity to share what makes us tick, showcase related work, and spread Viget news. We’ve also added custom illustrations to each edition!
Yes, content marketing still works. We have thousands of articles on our website that bring in curious readers from around the world. While we’ve always had some kind of call to action that invites users to sign up for our email list, many visitors didn’t even realize that option existed. We love testing here at Viget, so we devised a number of alternatives and split tested them.
The winner? A slide-in scroll box that appeared after a user was halfway through an article. After testing more than 30,000 visitors, we found this new strategy to work a whopping 383% better than our previous CTAs. Using a minimally invasive and dynamic callout, we were able to successfully engage visitors who were already invested in the content they were reading. Since we were in the process of redesigning our article pages, we used our research to create a solution that highlighted the ability to opt into our list without significantly interrupting their reading experience or confirmshaming.
Note that we did test a lightbox on all articles, as well. However, despite the small increase in email signups, we saw no increase in content engagement and also received negative feedback from users. It wasn’t a good tradeoff.
Cross-promoting our newsletter between social media platforms has been an easy and low-effort method to grow our audiences. Since our newsletter archive lives on our website, we simply share a link to individual newsletter editions or the main newsletter library. While social media is a great way to interact with audiences, it’s easy for posts to get lost in newsfeeds and timelines. By inviting our audience to our email list, we promise regular communication that they’ll never miss.
With our updated newsletter format, specifically our “Community Thoughts” section, we’re able to spotlight others in our industry who’ve inspired us. Each week, when we share our newsletter via social channels, we also tag those individuals to let them know they’ve been featured in our most recent edition. It’s a straightforward way to inform them that they’ve had an impact on us and also introduce them (and potentially their audiences) to our newsletter.
In the past year, we’ve held numerous webinars, both as a partner and by ourselves. They’re a convenient, informative, and engaging kind of content marketing that also provides a public speaking outlet for those hosting.
One of the benefits of partnering with another organization for webinars is the ability to cross-pollinate audiences. If you find a partner with a sizable audience that would likely be interested in your services and content, consider throwing a joint webinar. Especially for our first webinars, we found it helpful to work with those who do webinars on a regular basis. We were able to then establish best practices to guide us.
Once we felt comfortable, we held our first official Viget webinar. We needed a quick and flexible landing page, so we tried out Unbounce, which worked well. We then connected that page (using Zapier) to our GoToWebinar webinar account to gather all signups and communication in one place. After about 100 hours of prep, we pulled off our first webinar and all agreed that it was worth the time and effort spent.
Some lessons learned:
Publicize the webinar early and often
Schedule enough prep time for the team
Have at least one full-on dress rehearsal
Check all mics & stay muted when not talking
Create an appendix with easy-to-understand visuals to answer questions that arise
Take questions from both GTM text & Twitter (don’t forget to make a relevant hashtag)
Learn to pause the screen when needed
Have a backup plan for technical failures including a presenting computer in a different location, an ethernet cord, and a nearby phone.
In addition to sharing valuable content and gaining new email subscribers, we found that webinars allowed us to test speaking ideas before submitting to conferences.
We’ve thought about publishing an ebook for a while and recently released our first one. We wanted to consolidate content around a topic that we’ve already written about extensively, eventually settling on CMS selection (based on our Content Management expertise). After our first draft, we spent weeks gathering feedback from all teams and making edits.
The result was The Viget Book of CMS, which grew our email list by roughly 10%. Much of the content was already written, though we filled in gaps and also added a section highlighting relevant case studies. As a shareable PDF, we made accessible offline content (something that could be used on paper or during transportation) that also served as a brand asset and print design template.
To ensure a successful launch, we created an in-depth marketing plan, enlisted the help of a top Product Hunter to feature it, raised awareness on community sites like Designer News, emailed contacts we thought would be interested, and shared on our existing social and email channels.
Because of the focused content, we were able to really focus the audience, making these particular email signups immensely valuable. More on our ebook launch here: Announcing the Viget Book of CMS & Breaking Down Our Ebook Launch Strategy.
If you’re looking to create your own ebook here are a few things to keep in mind:
Develop and keep in mind a target audience throughout writing
Write about what you know
Gather feedback throughout the process
Design for easy reading and consider an existing template
Plan for a launch well ahead of time
It’s easy to overlook in-person events as opportunities to grow your email list, but they’re a great way to add subscribers. Since attendees will meet you during an event and then decide to share their contact information, the relationship is more personal than many digital methods. Most meetups, conferences, and even tradeshows allow for sign-up sheets in some capacity, usually in return for presentation slides or contests. It helps if you’re hosting, sponsoring, and/or speaking at events.
Fortunately, we’re able to regularly host monthly events at our offices. Here’s a quick example of a message we might send out:
Thanks for attending last week's meetup! As promised, I’ve attached the presentation and a quick recap. Since you expressed interest in hearing more from us, I'm going to add you to our weekly newsletter. However, if you've changed your mind and would prefer not to receive communication from us again, send me a message or unsubscribe when you see your first edition.
Thanks again for attending, and feel free to connect with us on any of our social media accounts!
Growing an email list can be useful, but it doesn’t mean much if you’re adding the wrong people or your email marketing efforts don’t result in conversions. What are your email marketing goals, and how are you measuring them?
Using the above strategies, we’ve added (and retained) thousands of new subscribers and learned plenty of lessons along the way, though we’re certainly not done learning. We continue to experiment with personalized lists, timing, visual design, and audience surveys. I encourage you to try many different tactics, determine which work best, and optimize marketing efforts accordingly.
We’d love to hear your email list strategies and lessons learned – please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Of course, I’d be remiss not to invite you to join our newsletter list after reading this far: