Dogwood Adventure Play is a magical place for Dogs. Founder Katie Guastapaglia offers dog training, walking services, and private secure fields that include adventure play equipment and a sensory garden with dog-friendly plants.

Dogwood Adventure founder Katie Guastapaglia

Due to social distancing rules, Dogwood Adventure Play had to pivot their business when they could no longer offer their dog training services in person.

While other businesses transitioned to paid online programs, Dogwood Adventure Play didn’t feel this was a good option. They had a small, disengaged email list, which would make it difficult to sell an online program.

Guastapaglia knew she needed to come up with a creative solution to stand out in the inbox and build her list. So she decided to create a 30 Days of Dogwood Challenge to help her audience train their dogs and keep them active during COVID-19.

Her new email challenge was a huge success, growing her email list by 110% and earning average open rates of 70%. Armed with a highly engaged, larger email list, her business now sells an online experience package — Scentventure a new online dog training program.

Learn the simple steps she took to create her email challenge and see the strategies she used to get an average open rate on her emails of over 70%.

9 strategies to grow your email list and increase email engagement.

Strategy 1: Test out a concept by focusing on your audience’s pain point.

Dogwood Adventure Play has two customers: dogs and their owners. During the lockdown, Guastapaglia realized that dogs needed to keep moving despite being in a limited space, and their owners needed a structure to provide activities for their canine.

So she focused on the pain points her customers were experiencing and created a free 30 Days of Dogwood Challenge to help her customers and grow her list.

She used an AWeber sign up form on her blog to promote the free challenge and collect email subscribers.

30 Days of Dogwood Sign Up Form

Strategy 2: Consider creating a theme to make it entertaining.

To make her content more entertaining for humans, Guastapaglia creates a new theme every month for her email challenge. For April, she used an Easter egg hunt theme.

Club Dogwood email

Strategy 3: Include additional valuable content with your emails.

For the 30 Days of Dogwood Challenge, each email contains links to content hosted on Guastapaglia’s website for users to complete their challenge.

If you create your own email challenge, your content doesn’t need to be elaborate. In her challenge, Guastapaglia includes simple PDFs her audience can download, shares video on YouTube, and connects with her audience on Facebook Live and webinars. All of these tools are inexpensive and easy to use.

30 Days of Dogwood guide

Strategy 4: Create a reward system for engagement.

In the 30 Days of Dogwood Challenge, participants are encouraged to share their challenge successes for a reward.

To make it easy for users to post their successes, Gustopaglia created a private Facebook group.

Dogwood Wags point image and details

Strategy 5: Add bonuses that allow you to connect directly with your audience.

Consider adding a bonus that lets your audience connect with you. For the 30 Days of Dogwood Challenge, Guastapaglia invites her audience to join her on a webinar so participants can ask her questions directly and discuss the training and challenges in greater detail. She even includes a pop quiz on the theme of the month to keep the event entertaining.

Dogwood webinar invite

Strategy 6: Give subscribers multiple opportunities to engage with your content by sharing it more than once.

At the bottom of her challenge emails, Guastapaglia includes links to her previous YouTube video challenges to remind subscribers of past content and to give them another opportunity to participate if they missed a challenge.

AWeber allows you to structure your emails however you feel will most benefit your audience.

Guastapaglia has found that a roundup at the bottom of the email works well for her and her audience.

Roundup email example

Strategy 7: Cater your email content to your audience’s unique needs.

Everyone learns differently, so Guastapaglia includes multimedia options in her emails: written content, videos, and tasks to do off-line.

“I think it’s the best way for people to learn. To give them options based on their learning style. There’s hopefully something for everybody,” says Guastapaglia.

Strategy 8: Personalize your email content.

Another strategy Guastapaglia uses to get high open rates is adding subscribers’ first names to the emails they receive. She alternates between personalizing the subject line and the body of the email. She only uses personalization in emails that are particularly important so as not to dilute the impact.

“I love using the customizable field to drop somebody’s name in the email. I have found my open rates are better when you can do that. it really makes a difference,” says Guastapaglia.

Dogwood email

Strategy 9: Vary frequency based on the circumstance.

During the height of COVID-19 and when Guastapaglia was testing out her free 30-day Challenge product, she emailed her contacts daily. She felt people needed her support a lot more, and she was trying to help everyone through the crisis.