List Building & Retention

A Beginner’s Guide to List Building

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A Beginner’s Guide to List Building

Most organizations want to grow their online audience. Some of us rely entirely on our supporters to fuel actions and fundraising—the organizational mission depends on it. In this case, list building is literally mission critical. You can find plenty of companies ready to offer you access to high volumes of questionably-aligned contacts for a price. But if your team has any web dev capacity, then you can do much (much) better. Here’s how to get started...

Define your goal

If you think the ultimate goal of a list building strategy is to grow the size of your list, stop right there. Unless your organization exists to win popularity contests, then you’ll need to identify a better goal than ‘growth’. Choosing a mission-aligned list-building goal will allow your list building strategy to bring real value to your organization. It will also help you identify meaningful measures of success, and know when your strategy may be going off-track. Not sure what your goal should be? Here are some ideas.

Attract the right supporters

Your list-building entry points are like the welcome mat to your email list. These are the forms or web pages that you will use to capture the contact details of new subscribers. Choosing the right entry points will enable you to attract mission-aligned supporters who will bring long-term value to your organization. That’s a big deal. So, before you do anything else—learn the difference between active and passive entry points and identify which will best serve your organization’s needs. Getting this right can save you days, weeks, perhaps months of work (and headaches).

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Map out your plan

Your organization is unique. Your audience is unique. That means your list building strategy should be unique, too. Consider your goal, your strengths, and how much energy you can realistically invest long-term. Are you in need of some quick wins? Do you have access to web development expertise? The answers to these questions will help shape your approach. Then check out these 12 proven list-building strategies that should form part of your plan.

Keep it current

Even the best list-building strategies will underperform without regular care and attention. Think of your plan as a living document. Track your success and challenge yourself regularly to identify ways to increase, optimize, and promote your list-building entry points. Embed analytics into your digital culture so that monitoring your list health becomes second nature. You’ll get the most value out of every new contact if you invest in a retention strategy early on.

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List Building & Retention

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Do You Know Why You’re Building an Email List?

Serious question. Success is more than a number. It’s an outcome. An increase in list size isn’t an end-goal; 1,000 inactive contacts are worth less to your cause than one engaged supporter! Your aim...

2 minute read

Serious question. Success is more than a number. It’s an outcome. An increase in list size isn’t an end-goal; 1,000...

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Karen Nilsen

Hi there! I’m Karen. I’m on a mission to reach my former self. Had I known 10 years ago what I know today, I could have achieved more good, made fewer mistakes, and had more weekends. Every time we share what works, we win faster. Let’s create digital experiences that move people — that grow our base and fuel our movements. Are you with me? Please share this with someone you know who wants to up their digital game!

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