When you hear of organizations that have amassed millions of online supporters, the first question that often comes to mind is: where did they all come from!? (Followed by: can I have some?) Few organizations talk about their list building strategies, which can be confounding for new advocates. But often these strategies boil down to some fairly universal tactics. If you want in, be warned: what lies ahead will demand time, energy, and consistency. Let’s break it down.
Rushing into building your list without first identifying the right list entry points is like sending a rocket into space with slightly the wrong bearing. Things might look okay initially, but over time, small misalignments can send your strategy way off-course. If your organization relies on the active involvement of your supporters, you’ll need ‘ active’ list building entry points (not passive ones). Learn the difference and know how to make the right call. This decision will set the trajectory for your entire list building strategy.
Find ways to weave call-to-action (CTA) forms with contact capture into your content wherever you can. Pledges, petitions, and advocacies are great examples. Use SEO to increase exposure to your best performing pages. If you have an information-only page that attracts high volume search traffic, find a meaningful way to integrate a contact capture CTA into that page, too.
When there’s a choice to be made between promoting an information-only page or a page containing a contact capture form, preference the latter. Make contact capture a digital priority. Ensure that everyone who produces your online content knows the expectation, too.
Never fail to request your supporter’s first name. Without this, it will be challenging to communicate effectively with them. Along with your supporter’s contact information, also capture how they joined your list. Did they donate? Did they sign an action page for a specific campaign? Did they request recipes? Harnessing behavioral data like this will help you meaningfully segment your list.
Use social media to fuel actions on your website. This is an easy way to reach an engaged audience. Increase the exposure of your action pages by including prominent social share buttons as part of your on-page journey.
If you hope to build a direct mail or SMS broadcast list, selectively request permission to capture postal addresses and phone numbers on appropriate pages. Free ‘asset offers’, donation pages, contact pages, and more-involved action pages are great places to try this.
If you use a third party action platform (like a petition website), find out if they will share action contacts with you. If so, integrate those contacts promptly into your list.
When someone first joins your list, follow up with a prompt ‘thank you’ or ‘welcome’ email that acknowledges their action and subscription. If the first email they get from you after taking action is an off-topic impersonal mass broadcast, your supporter may struggle to recall how or when they joined your list. This erodes trust and risks your emails being flagged as spam.
You’ll never know whether your list building efforts are paying off unless you’ve defined the right measure of success. Think beyond list size. How does a larger list actually get your organization closer to realizing its vision? Here’s what you need to know about setting meaningful list-building goals that are relevant to your organization. This will keep you focussed and justify all the hard work required to see your strategy through to success!
Your list-building effort will come undone without a supporter retention strategy to back it up. Make retention part of your plan from the outset.
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