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How to grow your email list like a pro

How to grow your email list like a pro

Your email list is one of the most important tools in your marketing locker – but for many accountants, you’ve never had to bother with anything beyond a simple list of the clients you already serve.

But gone are the days when you can rest on your laurels and get business flowing in by referral.  You’ll still get the odd referral now and then, but most accountants are discovering that competition is high, and you want to have a larger email list to contact.

It’s tempting to focus on the little details of sending emails. What day or time is the best to send them out? What subject lines win over others? Image-heavy or text-heavy, or a combination of both? Link back to your website, or include all content within the email itself?

But when you sort out the growing of your list on a permission basis, so those who get your emails are the ones who actually want to get them, most of those details don’t matter a great deal.

We open emails that are from people we trust, about things that are relevant to us.

So how do you build that email list? When all you have is a few hundred clients (and even those emails are out of date and the list is not segmented properly), how do you get to the place of having thousands of people within your target market that want to hear from you?

Here are 8 ways you can grow your email list like a pro.

Oh – and bear in mind that these are the organic, long-term ways to grow.  If you’re looking for the instant, quick fix, such as buying a list or cold-emailing thousands of people who have never heard from you, you are better off using paid social media ads. The Social Marketer will help you there.

8 ways to grow your email list like a pro

1. Give things away

The more you give away, the more comes back to you in the form of new prospects, leads, and enquiries. It’s a proven formula used by the best in the business – Seth Godin, Jeff Goins, Peter Shankman, Hubspot, and many others use it to build a tribe and draw in those who are in the right target market. (Read why ‘free’ is your best marketing strategy” by Jeff Goins)


“People….value what gets talked about. It’s your job to get people talking about what you have to offer. The best way to do that is to give it away.” – Jeff Goins


2. Use calls to action on your blog

This presumes that you are writing good, educational content for your target prospects, and sharing it regularly on your blog (minimum of once a month, but ideally once a week or even 2-3 times per week).

The great benefit of this sort of content is that you have an opportunity to embed a call to action without being salesy. An example of this is the link to our Social Marketer programme which I included in point 1 above.  I didn’t set out to write this blog post with a goal of getting all of you signed up to the Social Marketer (although if you all want to rush over there, I won’t stop you).  But as I was writing, I thought, what if people want to do paid social ads but don’t know where to start? And as it happens our Social Marketer programme answers that question, so there you are.

Some of you will have challenges in this area, not having a host of calls to action available (ie downloads, PDF’s, guides, webinars, events, free stuff, etc).  But all you need to do is start with one.  Here are 27 ideas to choose from.

Once you have at least one solid call to action, you can either mention it within a blog post if it’s relevant, or even consider a pop up or sign up form.  Which leads us on to the next point!

3. Embed calls to action (even pop-ups!) on your website

Having loads of site visitors is lovely…but it doesn’t make much of a difference to your email list if you don’t know they visited your site.

Your goal and dream is to have a clear, relevant, helpful call to action (CTA) on every single page of your website – and ideally each CTA will be different, because each page is different. If every CTA is the same, your visitor begins to tune it out, and this reduces the opportunities for them to engage with your site, and with you.

Naturally this will take time as we noted above, but make it your goal to add those CTA’s throughout the site. If you have a landing page about your outsourced payroll services, your CTA might be to request a payroll quote. For a page on business coaching, perhaps a PDF or guide that explains what coaching really means, and your specific approach to it.  For your events page, an Eventbrite or Zoom or Gotowebinar link for your upcoming event.

When it comes to pop-ups, many of us are resistant.  “I hate those pop ups – they drive me insane! I’m never having them on MY site!” we cry. But before you throw the baby out with the bath, it’s important to recognise that regardless of your feelings, the overriding truth is that pop ups work. That’s why people use them. That’s why they appear on so many sites you visit.

Now, there is much work to be done with pop ups in terms of timing, wording, how the link works, integration with CRM, and more.  Pop ups don’t work across the board – they work when they are specific, timed perfectly, and organised in a way that overall does not annoy, but helps.

4. Provide specific offers via social media

We’ve talked about how content marketing and social media marketing work together to bring you the highest quality leads.

Social media is an excellent method for gathering in new contacts for your email list, and here are a few suggestions for how to do it:

  • Provide a link to your ‘free item’ or call to action (which, presumably, is a landing page or sign up form requiring email address). Make sure that your social post explains why it’s useful, and that your opt-in form doesn’t require too many fields.
  • Include a shortened link in your Twitter profile or bio to direct people to the most useful item in your marketing arsenal. Make sure it’s specific, such as “Profit guide for creatives” or “Purchase tips for overseas property owners”. Generic newsletter or download links will be generally ignored.
  • Run a survey and offer a useful report or guide as an incentive. Remember that especially with surveys, there needs to be a reason they fill it in. There are so many of these going about that it can’t be all about you.
  • Run a contest with a desirable prize, such as the newest iPad or iPhone, or some very cool tech, or the typical food, cake, wine, etc. Do not offer a ‘free consultation’ as a prize – everyone knows that’s free anyway, and represents a sales meeting.
  • Consider paid social media ads – read on, below!

5. Consider paid social media ads

When used properly, paid social media ads can be an extremely effective way to build your email list.  Remember that your ad needs to be specific, and include a link to something educational, valuable, and targeted to your specific audience.

Facebook advertising is becoming an extremely effective option for accountants, but you’ll need to get over your dread or avoidance of Facebook. It’s not for teenagers anymore (and neither is Snapchat, but that’s another post!). Most people are on Facebook, and when the ad is targeted specifically, it can be very appealing.

Again, more on this is covered in our Social Marketer programme, or get in touch to chat about whether this applies to your firm.

6. Accept (or request) speaking engagements

Speaking engagements are probably the most powerful way to build your email list.  You may not add thousands of contacts from one speaking engagement (depending on your level of fame), but even 10 or 15 new contacts who have heard you speak will be a powerful addition to your list.

You’ll want to prepare well before a speaking engagement, and plan for follow up (see point 7 below). This includes asking yourself the question, “What do I want them to do?” before you even plan your presentation.  That will have the double benefit of not only directing what you will say, but will help you prepare your follow up as well.

Consider a unique landing page to be sent to those you spoke to, with a link to the presentation slide deck, images or video from the event, and any other free resources you offered. Here’s a great example by my friend Chris Marr.

(Also, Andy Bounds has some great tips on presentations on his blog and in his book The Jelly Effect.)

7. Follow up with automated emails

Automation can be one of the most powerful ways to not only get people on your list, but to keep them there. When it’s done properly, your automated emails will encourage and help, not swamp or confuse.  (We’ve all experienced the download we thought would be useful, only to unsubscribe three days later after receiving fourteen emails and/or forgetting who the company is in the first place.)

You can also use automation to direct people to register or sign up for other items, or to share existing content with others (thereby building your list, again). Make sure to make it easy to share, or from time to time simply send out an email saying, “Do you know anyone who finds these tips useful?” or “Know any fellow freelancers who might like this guide?”

8. Send out offers through strategic partners

Strategic partners can help you build your email list as long as you build the connection with them in a way that is all about THEM, not about you.  The biggest mistake accountants (and other business owners) make when it comes to strategic partnerships is looking at the partner as a means of getting more business.  Trust me, they’ll feel that, and will back away.  Conversely, if it’s a solid relationship and you are genuinely looking for how you can help them, it will benefit you both in the long run.  Read more about strategic partnerships and how they are the holy grail of marketing.

The key is for the partnership to be of value to your clients. If they feel sold to, they’ll back away. If they see you are genuinely trying to help, they’ll be drawn in.

A few ways to enhance existing strategic partnerships (or build new ones) are:

  • Deliver a joint event – a seminar or workshop, training, webinar, recorded podcast, etc. Each of you can send out invites to your lists, and guaranteed you will both benefit from the resulting registrations, some of which will be new to each of you.
  • Offer something of value to your client base from the strategic partner – remember, this is not simply pushing their services to your clients. Make sure it’s clear to your clients what’s in it for them, and why it’s better to connect via your firm rather than directly with the partner.
  • Work together to build a free resource – This could be an app, an infographic, a video, or an online course. Then your contacts are benefiting from the dual expertise of each person, and you have something to share via social media or elsewhere that can draw in new contrast.

Be patient, be specific and focused, and look for how you can bring value to the strategic partner.

For 6 more tips on email marketing for accountants, read on.

Most importantly, stick at it for the long term.  When I set up the Profitable Firm, I built our list of accountants by contacting those I knew personally already – a few hundred on LinkedIn.  Now we have thousands of accountants getting these marketing tips, downloading free stuff, attending webinars, and engaging with us via our lists – but it didn’t happen overnight. The same is true for the accountants we work with. Accountants Tyrrell and Company have recently added several hundred contacts a month thanks to their social media efforts – but there was a lot of content marketing being done in the background before those results kicked in.

Keep sharing your valuable expertise in a variety of ways, and don’t give up!

-Karen