How to nurture email list to skyrocket engagement

How to nurture email list + 7 smart ways to segment your list

How do you build a high quality email list using engagement and nurturing strategies that actually work?

You’ve heard it before: it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. I’ve seen it many times over: marketers with small, but engaged and quality email lists do amazing things in terms of sales. So while you should always be collecting (the ABC rule of email marketing) and growing the list, you should also put the time and effort into cultivating a truly personal and trustful relationship with your subscribers. Since email might be the highest leverage marketing activity you can do (see why here), you need to find time for nurturing your list. It takes time, it takes effort, but it pays off in the end.

Email nurturing is simply communicating with people who’ve trusted you with their email address, i.e. permission to visit their virtual home. To go back to the dating analogy, just because they’ve given you their home address doesn’t mean they are ready to marry (= buy from you). You need to take the time to show why you’re worth their attention before your relationship blooms and you make any proposals.

List nurturing is the time to let subscribers get to know you and your brand, and for you to learn about them. Do try different ways to engage with them, and track everything. Then analyze, iterate, track again, and be ready to change your ways to do what’s working for your audience.


Why people join and stay in email lists

We all love feeling special. The reason why people join email lists and stay in them is that they love the feeling of being on the “inside”, members of a private club. Knowing this psychological trigger, you can cultivate that feeling by:

  • making them the first to hear new announcements
  • distributing exclusive content that’s not available on your blog
  • offering special deals to your subscribers


Top Rule of List Nurturing

Give more than you ask for.

Think of list nurturing as nurturing relationships with your friends. It should be guided by generosity and inclusion, and you should always be a good listener.

On practice, this means starting off your relationships with subscribers by being the giver. Give your subscribers generously: your time, your know-how and anything else on your giveaway list. Continue in this manner by making sure the majority of your communication is for their benefit. This approach will result in loyal readers, trustful customers, and enthusiastic advocates.


6 strategies for nurturing your email list


1. GIVE A Warm welcome

The moment someone signs up for your emails is the moment they’re most interested to hear from you. Make sure you deliver on that expectation. Set up an automated welcome message that introduces you and your brand and delivers the freebie you promised (you’re using lead magnets, right?). You’ll find that the welcome emails get a much higher open rate than your regular newsletters, so utilize that attention. Give your subscribers something extra, introduce yourself and your brand in a catchy, authentic way and ask a question (but be prepared to reply to each and every one).

Also, realize that many will have signed up just for the freebie, or on a whim because they particularly liked something you said. Give those folks reasons to stick around right away, not waiting for the usual flow of content to persuade them. The way to do that is to set up an automated email series for a couple of weeks (see a point on automation below), where you provide additional perks, showcase your best content from the blog, offer support and advice and wow them by adding more and more value. Returning to the top rule of nurturing — it’s best not to do any sales pushes during this period. Give more than you ask for.

2. Segment YOUR LIST

One of the most common overlooks marketers new to list nurturing make is lumping all subscribers together in one campaign. Instead of sending the same email to every reader who fills out a signup form, you can segment your subscribers based on lead intelligence and tailor messages to each group to maximize your value to them (& their engagement).

Lead intelligence is simply data about your subscribers, and you can start in the analytics (or reports) tab of your email service provider (ESP). Look at stats like what kind of emails did this subscriber open in the past? What links did they click? What webinars of yours did they attend? Which content upgrades did they download? If they filled out a few forms for content on a specific topic, nurture them with more of that type of content.

Want to learn more ways to segment your list (even if you’re only collecting email addresses)? I’ve prepared a special guide just for you, over-achiever 🙂 Download it here. (it’s free)

7 Smart Ways To Segment Email List | How you should be nurturing your email list — a list of engagement strategies

Segmenting can get overwhelming, so if you’re just starting out, perhaps it’s best to return to this strategy later. However, knowing the basics in advance will give you a head start on what to consider when you’re collecting email addresses and brainstorming your content.

3. Automate but still be personal

There’s been a lot of talk about email automation lately, and for a good reason. Smart email marketing takes a TON of work. Automation takes your communication to the next level: it’s more targeted (i.e. personal), efficient, and frankly, better quality, because it eliminates human error. Automation does not mean “robotic” or “general”, though. You can automate and still be personal.

“Automating” email simply means mapping out messages that will hit your subscribers’ inboxes automatically as they meet a trigger or sending criteria that you set. You still control 100% of the “mapping out” process, so you can be strategic by choosing relevant triggers, such as a purchase, a click on a particular link, webinar completion, etc. You also still control 100% of the content, so you can deliver relevant information based on the segmentation criteria, and flavour your message by being authentic and honest.

To start automating your email campaigns, head over to the “automation” tab of your email service provider, and create your first workflow.

4. Choose The Right Frequency

“How often should I email my list?” is always one of the first questions among email marketers. It’s important to find a “golden mean” that’s unique to your brand. An optimal solution for most bloggers would be once a week. Emailing every day gets annoying, while if you choose to email any less than once a week, you risk being forgotten and not recognized the next time you connect with them. However, if the nature of your blog requires that you email more often (and you set that expectation when they sign up) or you’re doing a series of emails (that are truly good and fascinating), then sending emails more frequently will work for you.

If you’re still not sure, test it! Start with what you think is most suitable and then decrease or increase frequency depending on the open rate, click rate, and unsubscribe rate. When you finally find your “golden mean”, stick with it and be consistent.

5. Don’t Forget They’ve Received Your Other Emails

Make sure that each of your emails doesn’t look like it’s the first message that a subscriber received from you. For example, if the first email had a link to download a freebie and a short intro to your brand, the second email that subscriber receives from you should take that conversation forward, and talk about something that relates to your first message, but doesn’t repeat it. For example, you can begin the message with “Last time, I told you the story about my struggle with Y, and I received an overwhelming response. This time I want to talk about X…”

Your email campaigns need to feel coordinated, which is why it’s good to have an editorial calendar. Make sure you diversify the types of emails you send, not just the content in them. For example, one week you can share a personal story with readers, the next week you send a list-based mini blog post, the following week can be a how-to, a case study, or an infographic, and so on. Alternate, but also mention your previous emails, so that your communication with the subscriber feels like a deep and continuous relationship vs. a series of one-off messages.

6. Make use of your evergreen blog content

Chances are you already have a few phenomenal posts on your blog: content that never gets old and (statistically) gets most traffic. Or maybe, you have an old but amazing blog post that nobody seems to notice anymore. Make sure you reuse that content by sending it to your new subscribers. They probably signed up for the current freebie, or one of the recent blog posts, so make sure they get a chance to read some of your best work.

Unsubs aren’t always bad

Unsubscribes are a natural part of email marketing, and you shouldn’t obsess over them. You don’t want to waste efforts on folks who are not interested in your work, so you should thank them for allowing you to concentrate your efforts on readers that do care about your content.

Average unsubscribe rates depend on the industry, but all tend to be within 0.2% — 0.5% range. If you’re within that range, don’t sweat it. I would recommend making the unsubscribe link prominent in all your campaigns, as hiding or obscuring it will only lead to irritation and spam complaints. People will be thankful for the easy way out and will leave with a positive impression about your brand.

Taking it one step further, it’s advisable to “clean” your list every 4-6 months by deleting subscribers who haven’t opened any of your emails in that time period. “Losing” subscribers in bulk can be scary, but it’s the right thing to do, like extracting your wisdom teeth. If they are not functional, they don’t belong. Cleaning your list will reduce your costs, increase engagement level, and send a positive signal to ISPs (improving your chances not to end up in the spam folders).


Final word

For all of the points above, I repeat: TEST IT. Email is a great channel for a whole bunch of reasons, one of which is that it’s highly trackable. Track it, test different approaches, and do what works for you and your audience, and results will follow.

Download the free supplement to this post:

7 Smart Ways To Segment Email List | How you should be nurturing your email list — a list of engagement strategies

Got questions / comments / jokes? Let’s chat down below!