The Content Conundrum: It's The Toughest Way To Build Your Email List

Why bother with content marketing? New research by Ascend2 shows that it’s the most difficult way to build an email list. And it’s not even the most effective, according to survey coverage posted today by eMarketer.

The study shows that social media was rated as an effective list-building device by 45%. Content marketing was seen this way by 42%. Yet content was cited as the most difficult tactic by 50%, compared to 37% for social media. 

What’s the problem? Simply that content takes work — hard work. Many firms lack the staff and bandwidth to do it well.

Why is it second to social? It could be that people refuse to register for turgid, irrelevant content. Or it could mean that these marketers are also not very good at search or social, since those channels are the ones that will drive people to their content offerings.



So how do you build an email list (short of renting outside email files, a practice deplored as lazy and risky by Adestra’s Ryan Phelan)? Here’s the roster of possible tactics, as reported by Ascend2:

  • Social media advertising — 45%
  • Content marketing — 42%
  • Search engine optimization — 38%
  • Social login/signup — 36%
  • Contests and giveaways — 34% 
  • Comarketing/partnerships — 32% 
  • Paid search/remarketing — 31% 

Which ones are the hardest to do (in addition to content and social)? SEO is seen as challenging by 45%. And 34% are daunted by paid search/remarketing.

What we don’t see on this list is simple Web site registration, both of visitors and customers. Yet it’s a widely used tactic, judging by the number of subscription pop-ups we see. 

Here are some practical tactics, based on Web engagement with customers, from a recent article by Scott Heimes in Marketing Land:

  • Give customers multiple opportunities to sign up — on thank-you pages and opt-in pages.
  • Begin with a strong welcome email — First impressions are the usually the ones that last. “Send a welcome email that is thoughtful, personalized, and shares helpful tips or provides an offer,” Heimes continues 
  • Continue to deliver valuable content —  Okay, we concede that’s a problem if you’ve got a hobbled content operation. But it’s still a valuable tool when done right. “This year, 269 billion emails are expected to be sent every day,” Heimes writes. “There’s little chance for success with uninspired copy.”

But don’t give up on content — expanding your email list is only one of its many purposes. Content is also useful in moving prospects through the sales funnel, at which point you’ve already got their email addresses. Finally, despite the challenges, content still ranks as No. 2 in effectiveness. That’s not shabby.  


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