Introducing the Hollywood secret that will grow your email marketing list

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All email marketers want to keep growing their list. They understand that a powerful opt-in offer is the key to getting new people to sign up for it. They want one that shows why readers absolutely need to sign up for your newsletter.

The way to do that is by using the same technique that Hollywood screenwriters have been using for years: the open loop email opt-in.

It’s actually a proven psychological principle, where people feel anxiety because they don’t have closure on something. Some movie experts know it as the Zeigarnik Effect. Think about the season finale cliff-hanger of your favourite TV show. Or how all seems lost for the hero of the action movie, and you’re gripping that bag of popcorn so tight it’s starting to spill.

THAT’s an open loop. You’re feeling anxious and nervous about what will happen next, and screenwriters use it to keep you nailed to your seat.

Here’s how you can use the open loop effect in your email opt-ins and keep your B2B subscribers coming back for more.

1. What’s your goal for the email list?

The starting point for any good marketing campaign is the question, “What do you expect out of your email list?” That is, what are you hoping to encourage them to do? Engagement on social media and blog posts? Additional sales from existing customers? A single, one-time conversion? Understanding your goals for the list will shape the way you design and present your email opt-in.

For example, the length of your opt-in form can seriously impact your conversion rate. Are you willing to trade lower conversion numbers for higher quality leads? Or do you want the higher numbers? The answer depends on your end goals for the campaign. The open loop opt-in can help you with your goal, if you know what it is.

2. Scope the competition

Successful brands are winning it because they’ve zeroed in on what makes them unique in their market. The same goes for B2B brands. What is it that separates you from your peers and competitors? What can you offer via email that they aren’t already giving away?

A little research on your competition will help you determine that differentiator. Try tools like BuzzSumo and SEMRush to find out which blogs are publishing popular posts. Navigate to those sites and see what type of opt-in offers they’re using. Then analyze what they’re doing in those opt-ins:

  • Look at the content and copy they use. What words and terms do they use?
  • Check out the unique content and incentives they promise. Are they different from yours and others in your B2B market?
  • See where else online they’re advertising their email opt-ins. Is it on other social media platforms? Which ones? Are they buying ads in online publications? If so, which ones?

Use this competitive research to create an irresistible email opt-in for your B2B brand that really engages your audience and goes one-better than your peers.

3. Make it easy to say yes

The opt-in box design is also an important part of your email marketing campaign. BuzzSumo came up with a smart way to really catch the attention of your potential email subscribers, which they described in this post. (It’s the first item in the list.)

In a nutshell, you make the headline of your most popular business blog post the headline in your email opt-in box, then direct visitors to that post once they subscribe to your email newsletters. They’ll see what kind of B2B content you’re writing, and be excited to be getting it in their inbox on a regular basis.

BuzzSumo's opt-in page
BuzzSumo’s opt-in page

4. Write intriguing opt-in headlines

It all starts with the headline. An open loop headline is one that sets up an intriguing situation and leaves the reader wanting to know more. You’re creating momentum that carries them through the action you want them to take – in this case, sign up to your email newsletter list.

The headline used in #3 above is a great way to open the loop. Readers are intrigued by the 15 tools they’ve never heard of, and your opt-in box directs them to the blog post where they get the payoff of discovering those tools. That’s the key to a successful open loop opt-in box: closing the loop.

Those bookends of the set-up and payoff give an emotional power to your words, and can really touch your audience deeply. After all, just think of how well it works for Hollywood. You can do the same in your B2B audience too.

Think about how you can close the loop for your email opt-ins. What set-up and payoff works best for your B2B audience? Is it the secret tool that helps save time or money? The information that’ll give them better career options? Or perhaps something else specific to your B2B products? Dig deep to find the emotional power that works best for you.

Here are some great examples:

5. Give them more of what they love

Your own marketing successes will help you determine what information your audience is looking for. That insight will guide you in designing and crafting the type of newsletter that they’d be willing to opt in to.

Data to investigate includes:

  • Your social media shares: which messages are getting the most shares, RT, likes, faves on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.?
  • Your business blog posts: which ones have the most comments or shares?
  • What business topics got shared the most?

Use this data to design and craft the best email newsletter for your subscribers. Your unsubscribe rates will be low because you’re giving them the content they’ve already shown they loved.

This part of the process is all about the payoff. You’ve attracted the right B2B audience with your killer headline on the opt-in box, how it’s time to deliver what you promised. Make sure it matches what you’re offering, otherwise your audience will get turned off quickly and leave your list.

6. Do more of what’s working

The final step in creating more compelling email opt-ins is to simply do more of what’s working for you. To find out what’s working, you’ll have to dig deeper into your email newsletter metrics and see what your B2B audience likes and dislikes.

  • The popular content tells you exactly what topics they’re interested in, so tease those topics more in your opt-in boxes (#2 and #5 above.)
  • Test your opt-in box design and copy to see which gets more subscribers. Is it the one with the business blog post topic as the headline? Or the one offering a free giveaway?
  • Look at your email subject lines and see how they’re doing. Which has the highest open rate, and which has the best click-through rate?
  • High open rates mean you had compelling subject lines that sounded intriguing to your B2B audience.
  • Write more content on the newsletter topics that got the high-click through rates, either on your B2B blog or in the newsletter itself.


Pull it all together for an irresistible email opt-in campaign

The reason Hollywood keeps us wanting more is that they’ve unlocked the secret of the open loop. They know we’ll keep coming back to every sequel because of the masterful way they manipulate the audience through our psychological need for closure (see: Iron Man). We’ve just have to to know what happens next.

Using the same techniques in your email marketing will help you grow your subscriber list and keep them coming back too. It all starts with your email opt-in box. Make it engaging enough to pique their interest, and then deliver what you promise, just like the final sequence in that Hollywood blockbuster. Leave your B2B audience wanting more.

Also, read our article on the top email marketing software providers

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Julia Borgini

Julia Borgini

Julia Borgini is a technology writer, copywriter and consultant for B2B technology companies. She helps them connect with people and grow their business with helpful content and copy. Visit her website to see who she’s helping today:


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