To build a list of email subscribers requires two key things:
- Traffic (visitors) to a web page or form where they are asked to sign up to receive emails.
- That those visitors do indeed sign up to receive the emails.
The successful conversion of web visitors into subscribers is in turn dependent on 4 factors:
The inherent attractiveness of receiving emails
In other words, do they anticipate that the emails they'll receive will be valuable and interesting to them. This perception is based on the reputation of the business or person asking them to subscribe, any previous interactions they may have had with them, how valuable any previous resources they've had from the them have been (e.g. blog posts), and the way the emails themselves are described (e.g. calling them a "newsletter" (no implied value) vs saying they'll receive "our best business tips" or "regular money off vouchers").
Any incentives given to encourage visitors to subscribe
Typically most businesses will offer something of immediate value to motivate website visitors to subscribe to regular emails. For retailers that might be a discount coupon, for a consultancy business it might be a free copy of a valuable research report. To work as an incentive the thing given away must be perceived as valuable by the type of person the business is trying to attract on to its list, and the payoff must be relatively quick.
How easy it is to subscribe
If the subscription forms are displayed in multiple, prominent places on the website and they stand out from the rest of the content then it's more likely that visitors will notice them. If the forms have only a small number of fields to complete (e.g. First name and email address) then it will be easier and more likely that visitors will subscribe than if they're asked for a lot of detailed information.
The perceived risk of subscribing
Whenever personal details are handed over online there's always a concern that they may be abused. In the case of subscribing to receive emails, if the potential subscriber is worried that they may receive spam or other unwanted emails, or that their details may be passed on to others without their knowledge then they will be reluctant to sign up. The reputation of the business or person asking for the email and the impression of safety and professionalism given off by the website will influence this. An "anti spam" statement on the subscription form stating that the subscribers details will be kept private can help, but needs to be tested as it could be that the potential subscriber hadn't considered the possibility of spam beforehand and the message may worry them more than reassure them.