What email newsletter sign up incentives work best?

9 Mailchimp experts share their advice

A perfect fit | Chimp Answers

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An email list is a must for any successful marketing strategy. It doesn’t have to be massive, but you do need one (in my opinion)…email marketing is still one of the best ways to communicate with your audience directly about the things they love and want to hear about (including any products/services you have that will help them).

“How do I build an email list?” is a regular question within the Chimp Answers FB Group and with my clients. A common marketing tool to encourage sign up is to use an incentive.

For me though it’s not so much about the incentive….it’s about the target market. For any incentive to work, it needs to be relevant to your audience and a “first step” on their journey to be a customer. Also, signup incentives aren’t just about getting a subscriber, they are just as much about knowing what that person is interested in – so you can be more specific in future emails.

I’ve spoken to 8 other industry experts to get their opinion on what makes a good incentive when it comes to encouraging email newsletter sign up.


What about freebies?

Offering freebies as an incentive to sign up to a mailing list is a common thing, but what do the expert panel think about giving away goodies?

Doug Dennison – CEO & Co-founder of  MailNinja 

Free and discounted stuff works really well. I wouldn’t use email to sell your high ticket items, but use it as a hook to get people into your list, then nurture them over time to build brand trust.

Nick Beuzekamp – CEO and Founder Online Marketing Bonaire

There are a few:

    • Discount coupon
    • Free (e)Book or tips and tricks
    • Free access

Amy Hall – Email Marketing Strategist and Certified Mailchimp Partner and Consultant Amy Hall

I like email courses or challenges with live videos. I think the little bit of live interaction really boosts the urgency and engagement of the incentive. It does take more time and effort to pull these off but the people that show up to the live streams are really interested and invested in the incentive. They are likely to buy when they see, in person how you can help them and solve their problems.


Discounts are a great driver for increasing email newsletter sign ups


Glenn Edley – Director & Email Strategist Spike

Sign up incentives range from $250 off furniture vouchers to 5% off your first order. If someone has come to your website and want to sign up to hear from you they’re interested but might not want to buy straight away. So, you don’t need to give away your margin straight away. 

Testing here is best and there is software to make that easy. I would look at what the best in class are doing in your industry and test that out for you. We’ve seen great sign ups from well-written sign up form copy and no offer. One way to work out what to use is to think about what it takes for you to sign up and start testing with that.

Emily Ryan – Co-Founder and Email Strategist Westfield Creative

Discounts. Let’s be real, if I’m purchasing something online and I see there is a 10% off coupon for signing up, I always do. You don’t need to give a huge discount – 10% works great! Or $5 off. People love any sort of discount. And if you don’t offer discounts, giving a free PDF download or some sort of lead magnet in return for signing up, is a great incentive. Subscribers just want something in return for giving you access to their Inbox. Reward them with something in return.


Know your audience and your message

Freebies are great for increasing email newsletter sign up and they have been working well for businesses for many years….but they aren’t right for everyone.

MaryAnn Pfeiffer – Digital Marketing Strategist 108 Degrees Digital Marketing

The obvious answer here is “whichever incentives yield subscribers”, and the only way to truly know what your audience will respond to is to try a few different options and determine which ones provide the best results.

In B2B email marketing, knowledge sharing is a sure-fire way to build a list. Incentives can include ebooks, white papers, videos and webinars, among other assets a business might have to share. Consumer email marketing that focuses on ecommerce can test one-time deep discount offers, or bonus items included in a first order to see what really motivates the buyer. Whichever incentives you try, take note of the ones that produce both the highest number of sign ups as well as those that produce the best QUALITY of subscriber.

In the end, a large low-quality list will not help meet your goals, but even a small growth with high quality audience members will provide excellent long-term results

Alessandra Farabegoli – Digital Strategist, Co-Founder, Digital Update and Freelancecamp Italia Alessandra Farabegoli

Short-term incentives like discounts of a free ebook can raise subscription rates, but for a long-term relationship, the key is to give a clear view of what kind of newsletters one is going to get and how often they’ll receive emails. So, folks, better to have a plan to deliver relevant content, be it information or really good deals, and make people want to get them on a regular basis.

Adam Q. Holden-Bache – Director of Email Marketing Enventys Partners

It’s better to go for quality versus quantity when acquiring new subscribers, so pick an incentive that is in line with your business offerings. If you make it something that will solve a problem and only have it available to those that sign up, then you’ll have a good chance of attracting high-quality subscribers.


It’s not a one size fits all kinda thing

It’s clear from the varied opinions that marketing isn’t a “one size fits all” kinda thing….as I said at the beginning….it’s about the target market. For any incentive to work, it needs to be relevant to your audience and a “first step” on their journey to being a customer.

Robin Adams

Robin Adams

Robin Adams is a business owner who is passionate about helping businesses build effective marketing systems that work and don't waste money. Having a lifetime of Marketing experience (he's got a degree in Marketing before there were degrees in Marketing!) and having worked for big and small businesses and both client and agency side, he understands not only the theory, but the systems that are required to underpin everything.
51% marketer and 49% Chimp, Robin is the main man behind chimpanswers.com and the Mailchimp Answers Facebook Group - the world's biggest Mailchimp User Group. Connect with him on Linkedin.

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