Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, How Does Your Email List Grow?

It’s important for all small businesses find importance in growing an email list.  Did you know it can be a lot like gardening?

After moving to Portland last year, I decided it was time to finally take after my mother, and grow a beautiful garden.  In the past, I’ve been known to have a bit of a “black thumb,” finding a way to instantly kill any plant that I touched. Well, that’s over now!  I’m in Portland, where my husband informs me that “things just grow,” so it’s time to plant!

As I’m digging in the dirt in the hot Portland sun (yes, there is hot Portland sun, that wasn’t a typo), I see the similarities

growing an email list
Growing an email list is like gardening!

between this project and what I do for my customers every day.  Growing an email list, has a lot in common with gardening.  Here are 5 reasons gardening is the perfect metaphor for growing an email list.

1. Strong Foundation

As I ventured into my nearest gardening center, I figured I could use some “fertilizer” but actually ended up coming out with not only fertilizer, but some organic top soil and slug killer.  Wow … who knew you couldn’t just dig a hole, put a plant in and say a prayer?  The clerk at the gardening center informed me that it didn’t matter what else I purchased, but I had to make sure my soil was good.  If I did that, I would have a really easy time growing anything I wanted.

It’s the same for building and nurturing your email list. Before you even start building a list you need to have an amazing opt-in.  Something your website visitors will salivate over. You also need to make sure your audience sees this opt-in with pop-ups and reminders on your site.

If you have these things in place, your foundation is ready to start some killer list building.

List Building Quick Tip To Build A Strong Foundation

If you are a WordPress users install the following plugins:  Jetpack (for stats), ThriveThemes (for collecting email addresses and making pop-ups.)

2. Design

Did you know you shouldn’t plant peas next to onions, or potatoes next to tomatoes, and you should but make sure your squash and corn and cucumber and cabbage are planted next to each other.   At first, all these rules of “garden design” were a bit overwhelming.  I sat down and mapped out which veggies to plant and where and double-checked the rules.  Yes, it did take a while to make sure that my garden design was just right, but now I am confident I will have some beautiful veggies come fall.

List building design is the same.  When folks enter your funnel via an opt-in… then what?  The entire point of email marketing and auto responders is not just to get your opt-in into to the hands of the requestor, but it’s to be able to have their email address and nurture and love them until they are ready to buy from you.  That being said, don’t just willy-nilly give your users an opt-in, but make sure there is a design in place to nurture them for the long haul.

List Building Quick Tip For Design

Here is my typical flow for beginning email marketers.

  • Entice visitors to download irresistible offer.
  • Send them a customized 10 part email sequence giving them a ton more information.
  • Let them know during the last few emails you will be adding them to your weekly email blast.
  • Make sure they are added to your weekly email blast and continue to hear from you at least once a week.

3. Measure

In my past gardening failures, my main problem has been over watering.  I mean, after you are all done planting, there isn’t much to do in the garden but water, right?  Come to find out, there is such a thing as too much water, so this time I decided to go in scientifically and purchase a moisture meter.  I stick this bad boy into my soil and it tells me if my veggies need watering or not.  With this kind of scientific data, there will be no cases of drowning or dehydrating plants in my veggie garden.

List building requires tracking of a lot of data.  Lucky for those of us who aren’t into maintaining complex Excel spreadsheets, a great deal of today’s inexpensive and free tools will let us know important stats on our list building techniques.  These stats allow us to test different theory’s and try to improve.

Growing an Email List – Quick Tip For Measuring

For clients who are just starting, I highly recommend MailChimp as the backbone for growing an email list.  MailChimp will give you so many stats on who is opening your emails and how they performed.   The other critical piece is getting people on your list and making sure you are doing that in the most efficient way.  Pop-ups are critical and there are several pieces of software that can help you with that.

  • Free for WP users: SumoME
  • Great Popup software for non WP users who are growing an email list: Optin Monster
  • The best pop-up lead gen software of them all: ThriveThemes

4. Patience

You knew patience was going to make the list didn’t you?  In all the gardening metaphors you have read, patience is number one.  You aren’t going to be enjoying fresh vegetables right after you plant your garden.

The same goes for growing an email list, and I am constantly having to remind my clients of this.  You aren’t going to see returns on list building and email marketing in a month or two, and maybe longer.  But if you’re consistent and continue providing great content, emailing and building your list, in the future you will have an unbelievable asset.

5. Persistence

Along with patience, you aren’t going to have a good garden unless you are willing to keep up all of this maintenance and nurturing for the long haul.  If you let other things in your life pull you away from your project, then the next time you go to your garden, you’ll be met with a box full of weeds and withered potential.

My email list was a thing of beauty, a lush garden from which I knew my business would always be fed with new clients.  Well, four months ago, my husband and I got pregnant with our third child, the holidays rolled around, and it became hard to focus on nurturing an email list that was flourishing on its own.  And so, as my focus shifted and my email list sat.  Now I’m in for a long few months of nurturing and weeding to get my list up to what it was before.  Thankfully, my email list was nurtured for a long time, and has continued to provide, but had things been different, my company might be starving as I rushed to reinvigorate my list!

6. Clean Up

Finally, gardening isn’t all about pretty veggies and beautiful top soil.  All gardens will have their fair share of weeds, insects and dead veggies.  These items aren’t pleasant to deal with, but in order to have a flourishing garden, these unpleasantries must be addressed!

When you are email marketing and growing an email list, you will have your fair share of subscribers that aren’t engaged but are taking up space in your garden.  You want your list full of engaged subscribers, so you need to clear your list of the “weeds” often.  I recommend going through your list and clearing out those that aren’t opening your emails at least once every six months.  Yes, it’s painful to delete email subscribers and see your email list go down, but just know your open rate will improve and your list will produce a more bountiful harvest.