New technology, marketing tools, and communication methods appear on the market nearly every month, but email has continued to remain the universal, most widely used platform to conduct business online. Despite the growing importance of social media, email still remains at the top of the pyramid. An Ipsos study shows that 62% of Internet users use social media, but 85% use email. The ROI for email is also much higher than other marketing strategies, generating $40 for every $1 spent. For financial advisors and insurance agents providing a service to professionals, families, and business owners, email is a must-use marketing strategy.

But before you can start converting leads into clients, you need leads. And to get leads, you need a strong email marketing campaign. And to see results from a strong email marketing campaign, you need an email list. And to get an email list, you need…okay, you get it. Your email list is the foundation of your entire email marketing strategy. Without a solid one, your campaigns will falter and your results will be measly at best. By taking time to strategically build your list with qualified leads — emphasis on the word “qualified” — you can generate incredible results.

Ask for Email Addresses

Anytime you meet with a new referral, prospect, acquaintance, or potential business partner, ask for their email address. Let them know you’d love to send them some interesting and educational materials via your newsletter. When you host an event or seminar, have a signup list requesting an email address. People are often more comfortable sharing their email address than their phone number, anyway.

Be Discerning

When it comes to email lists, it’s about quality, not quantity. You may have a long list of contacts, but not all of them need to be added to your email newsletter list. If 90% of your email list is current clients or family members, you’re not going to generate new leads. You can include current clients on your email list, but focus on adding prospects, referrals, and leads.

Regularly Clean

We said it before, but we’ll say it again: email lists are about quality, not quantity. Every six to twelve months, clean your email lists. Take a look at your email analytics, including open rates and click-thrus. Which contacts are opening and clicking on your emails? Run through the list and remove contacts who haven’t engaged with (opened) your emails in the last six months. Send these contacts a final email that asks them to confirm if they want to continue receiving your emails. If they don’t respond, permanently remove them.

Add Opt-In Forms on Your Website

It’s hard to build a list if you don’t make it easy (or possible) for people to sign up. Your website should include email newsletter signup forms on every page. Ask for minimal information — just their name and email address. The more form fields required, the fewer form submissions you’ll receive. Website platforms, like FMG Suite, make it easy to add a simple newsletter sign up form for email newsletters. However, if you want to grow your list more aggressively, consider using a third-party program and website plugin.

Include an Incentive to Sign Up

It’s not enough to ask someone to sign up to receive your email newsletter. They need a reason. What will they get out of it? Tips on retirement planning? Informative financial videos? And how will your emails help them? New financial knowledge? Retirement confidence? Within your email form, don’t just use “Sign Up” for your email button text. Try something more enticing, such as “Gain Financial Knowledge” or “Send Me Financial Planning Tips.”

Offer Something in Return

Giveaways are a great way to encourage more email signups. For a financial advisor or insurance agent who doesn’t have products to giveaway, offer visitors a free whitepaper or eBook on a topic of interest to your ideal clients, such as “10 Steps To Take Right Now for Your Future Retirement,” or “5 Ways to Lower Your Auto Insurance.”

Give a Warm Welcome

Anytime someone signs up for your email newsletter, send them a welcome email within 24 hours. Some programs allow you to set up an autoresponder that will automatically send an email. If you don’t use such a program, send out a personal email to your new email contact thanking them for signing up and letting them know they’ll be receiving great, informational content in the future. Your contacts will appreciate the personal touch and be more likely to open and engage with your newsletters.

Encourage Forwards

Just as referrals often make the best clients, forwarded recipients can also make for new and engaged email contacts. At the bottom of your email newsletters, include a short blurb asking recipients to forward the email to a friend who may find the information useful. We’ve seen several advisors find success through this method.

Add a Facebook Call-to-Action Button

Facebook allows Business pages to include a call-to-action button on the top header of the page. On our Facebook page, our button leads to a newsletter signup landing page.

If you don’t already, update your button to direct visitors to your email newsletter signup. There are two different ways you can do this. The simplest way is to direct people to your website and hope that they see your newsletter signup form. The more strategic option takes a little more work. Create a landing page specifically for newsletter signups. You can make this look as simple as possible — with just the signup form — or more complex with other information and visual elements. We keep ours pretty simple.

By improving your email lists to include engaged and qualified clients and leads, you have a much better opportunity for building and maintaining business. Start making a few simple changes today and, over time, implement more strategies for building your list. Every few months, evaluate your results to see what is working and what needs improvement.