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Email continues to one of – if not the most – effective digital marketing tactics available. And while the recent focus has been on improving subscriber engagement amid declining click rates, list growth is obviously also a huge priority (and challenge). In its latest monthly report [download page], Ascend2 takes a look at the tactics that are perceived to be the most effective – and difficult to execute – for list growth.

For its study, Ascend2 surveyed 255 marketing influencers around the world, evenly split between B2B and B2C channels, asking them which of 7 list growth tactics they found to be most effective.

Topping the list is social media advertising, cited by almost half of respondents as being among their most effective tactics. That’s a very interesting result, and comes at a time when consumers are also ascribing more and more purchase influence to social advertising. Social media, it seems, is becoming more and more important in driving product awareness, email signups, and purchases.

Close behind social ads in the Ascend2 survey is content marketing, presumably from form conversions (see benchmarks here). As the volume of content continues to surge, marketers are apparently benefitting through email signups, though there is a fairly vibrant debate about the merits of gated versus ungated content.

Beyond social ads and content marketing (each of which are slated to see increased spending this year), marketers are also finding some success in growing their lists through SEO and social logins, with slightly fewer mentioning co-marketing/partnerships and paid search/remarketing.

Some of these tactics, of course, are easier than others to perform – and the Ascend2 survey contrasts perceived effectiveness with the effort required to execute the various tactics. Worth noting here is that content marketing takes the most effort – which isn’t too surprising considering that it takes B2B marketers a week on average to create a blog post and almost three weeks to product a white paper.

SEO also takes a fair amount of effort, as does social media advertising, per the report. Interestingly, the three most effective tactics also double as the three most difficult to execute, though social media ads win out on both counts (most effective, least effort of the three).

On an encouraging note, these tactics seem to be working in the aggregate, as one-third said the effectiveness of these list growth tactics is increasing significantly and another 55% said it’s increasing marginally. If you’re keeping count, that’s about 9 in 10 respondents who believe their list growth tactics are increasing in effectiveness.

As far as strategic objectives go, the survey results show that increasing sign-up conversion rates is the most important goal of a list growth strategy. That’s to be expected, as is a focus on improving content relevance and value, which should generate further content-driven signups.

Somewhat surprisingly, relatively few respondents said that reducing their list unsubscribe rate is a key goal. In fact, fewer than half as many count this as a strategic objective as do increasing conversion rates. It’s true that in general marketers tend to focus more on customer acquisition than retention, so this may simply be a reflection of that tilt. Or perhaps unsubscribe rates are low enough that they’re unlikely to move the needle as much as focusing on growth. But with churn being an obvious element of list size, it may be wise to pay more attention to unsubscribe rates.

About the Data: The results are based on a survey of 255 respondents, almost half (46%) of whom come from companies with more than 500 employees. Some 36% are primarily B2B-focused, while 39% are primarily B2C-focused and the remaining 25% target B2B and B2C equally.

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