One Woman Shop Experiments: Growing Our Email List

Welcome to One Woman Experiments, where daring business women experiment with different parts of their business in order to find best practices. We hope these mini-experiments help improve your business and inspire you to test-drive new strategies. Have an experiment you want to test out and document? Check out our ideas and guidelines!

A few months ago, we decided that we were truly committed to growing our email list. The reasons are many (here are just a few), but essentially, we realized that we were missing out on HUGE opportunities to connect with our target individuals by only engaging with them on social media.

We love social media (especially Twitter!), but we felt that adding subscribers to our email list was the best way to ensure that we have direct access to them.

Think about it: we currently have about a 50% open rate on our email campaigns (which is an awesome percentage!), while only a fraction of the people who follow us on Twitter or like our page on Facebook see each post or tweet we send out.

We were already doing a variety of things to build up our email list: a visible email opt-in on our homepage, occasional posts about our email list on social media, asking anyone who contributed if we could add them to the list, etc.

What we hadn’t done was make a giant list of all of the women we wanted to connect with and actually taken the time to reach out directly.

Sounds simple, right? It is, but how many people do you think are currently doing it? Not many is our guess!

Here’s what we did and how you can do it too:

    • Keep a running list of anyone you think would be a great addition to your community, network, client base, partnership roster, referral roster, etc
    • Consider hiring a VA to do a bit of online stalking research on them to be sure they fit your ideal customer/partner/collaborator avatar. For example, we were only looking for female solo business owners, so businesses run by two women would be out
    • Find the person’s contact information and shoot them a brief but informative email about what you offer. Directly ask them if you can add them to your email list
    • Follow up if need be

Our results after 47 days:

    • We contacted 103 women through email or their website contact form. We followed up two weeks after our first email if we hadn’t heard back
    • 5/103 women responded back letting us know that they would check out the site but were not interested in being on the email list (most cited overcrowded inboxes)
    • 31 women said they would love to be on the email list
    • 67 women did not respond at all

So, 65% of individuals didn’t respond, roughly 5% opted out, and 30% opted in- these might not seem like awesome numbers, but think about it this way: if you add 30 individuals to your email list and just one of them converts into a paying client, you’ve probably more than made up for the time you spent (depending on the cost of your services or your hourly rate).

Also take into consideration that marketing efforts generally amplify naturally. For example, in our email, we asked that the women forward our email to any friends who run solo businesses. In addition, once you bring new people into your community, you'll probably experience more shares of your content, which extends your reach organically.

The bad:

    • It can be demoralizing to not hear back from so many people, but it’s worth when you get a great response (in our opinion!)
    • One woman said anything slightly rude, but hey- it’s only 1/103!
    • It’s very time consuming to do so much research, which is why we recommend enlisting help if you can

The great:

    • It was AWESOME that we added so many relevant women to our community!
    • Numbers aren’t everything! We also found several women to curate our Weekly Finds, got interviewed on multiple blogs, and struck up tons of interesting conversations
    • We got quite the ego boost when we heard back from women who were genuinely pleased that we had taken the time to reach out

A few notes:

    • We starting reaching out to people on March 21 and originally planned to do the experiment for one month. We decided to keep it up because we were excited about the results
    • We actually had quite a few unsubscribes during this experiment. We began sending emails more frequently, which led individuals who were on the fence about our site and offerings to unsubscribe
    • We found that it took about 4 minutes to send each email, including research time

The lesson:

Want to know more, like:

    • Where and how to actually find individuals to add to your list?
    • How you can save time with effective research?
    • What tools you can use to best track your results and stay on top of your outreach efforts?
    • What we said in our emails to get a 30% sign up rate?

Get on our list to get more information about our Building Your Online Community e-course! (You'll also get our 28 Secrets to Growing Your Community with tips from business experts like Sarah Von Bargen, Ashley Wilhite, Amanda Genther, April Bowles-Olin, and Nikki Groom).

  1. Elizabeth says:

    This is an awesome experiment and there is a lot to learn from it. For us we’ve found actually using social media ( mainly facebook) with a good call to action or guest posting is the best way to grow newsletter subscribers over cold emailing. However, when selling services I’ve found my clients have the best luck ( apart from referrals) with cold emailing, or to get press.

  2. Thanks for sharing this experiment! I really appreciate your honesty and it’s great to see something a little outside the box instead of the usual opt-in offer suggestions. Like Elizabeth, I have also found guest posting to be a great way to build lists for my company as well as for my clients. We also use polls to generate interest, too. Thanks again for a great post!

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