Building a quality email list is the first—and arguably, the most critical—step to launching an email marketing campaign.
That’s because the people who subscribed to your email list are those that want to get product offers, discounts, updates, and other information about your business. This is why, out of all the different marketing strategies, email marketing continues to bring in the highest ROI for every dollar you invest.
It’s also the most challenging step to complete. Even with the most sophisticated and expensive email marketing platforms, many marketers and business owners struggle with building an email list filled with people they can convert into customers.
In this blog post, I’m going to teach you tips and strategies on how you can build an email list from scratch that you can start using today.
Why is it so hard to build an email list?
1. You’re not giving your visitors a compelling reason to sign up.
If you’re relying on a cookie-cutter invitation to subscribe to your email list, I got some bad news for you: These no longer work!
You’ve got to give them something more because your visitors treat their inbox as a sacred place. For you land a spot here, you need to provide them with a good reason to do so.
2. You don’t direct your visitors to a landing page.
Another reason why you’re not having any luck when it comes to building your email list is that you don’t have a dedicated landing page for your offers.
People get easily distracted when they go online. If they find a lot of options other than subscribing to your email list, they will.
3. You’re pushing way too hard.
Shoving a bunch of popups nagging your visitors to download your content offer to get them in your email list or having a 20-point questionnaire for an opt-in form won’t get your visitors to subscribe. On the contrary, it’s enough reason for them to leave your website and never return.
4. You assume too much.
Just because someone gives you a business card during a local networking event or buys something from your website doesn’t automatically mean that they want to be a part of your email list.
If you’re using this tactic to grow your email list, STOP!
Otherwise, you’ll run the risk of getting people not only to unsubscribe but also report you as a spammer. So when you run an email marketing campaign, all your emails will be diverted to the Spam or Junk folder, even among those that want to be part of your list.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s now learn the different strategies to build an email list from scratch the right way.
1. Tap into your personal network.
This was the strategy that co-founder Stewart Butterfield used to promote Slack long before it went public. By the time that it launched, they not only built a massive email list but also populated it with people itching to get their hands on their product by the time it launched.
What’s great about this strategy is that it’s extremely easy to do, and you don’t need any fancy tools to get started. All you need is a spreadsheet.
First, write down 10 people that you personally know. And then reach out to them as you’d normally would, whether it’s through email, Facebook messenger, or by texting on your mobile phone.
Here’s a sample message you can send them:
Hi [First Name],
I’m going to be launching my website where I’ll be [insert some details about your product or service]. It’s going to be up by [Date]. Would this be something that you’re interested in?
Then wait for their reply. Don’t worry! It doesn’t usually take them long to do so, especially if you’re always in touch with them.
If they say yes, then that’s the time you can ask them for their email address. If not, then ask if they can help spread the word about this to those in their network and refer them to you.
Repeat the same process every day. Assuming you do this every day for 30 days and only half give you their email address, that’s 150 people that you can now add to your email list!
2. Create an offer that they can’t resist.
I mentioned earlier that if you want people to sign up, you’ve got to give them something that they want or need.
To do this, you’ll need to review your business’ buyer persona. Pay close attention not just to what topics they are interested in, but also the content format that appeals to them.
Take vlogger Amy Landino’s content offer, for example. Those that sign up for her email list will get an audio training that’ll teach her subscribers 7 steps on how they can reach their goals and live the life that they want.
Creative Market’s offer is another excellent example. Each week, their email subscribers can download up to 6 visual elements that they select from their extensive library for free.
Other things that you can offer to your visitors to help you build your email list are:
- Free Tools
3. Personalize your call-to-action.
The people who are visiting your website or reading your blog posts have specific needs they want to be filled with. Personalizing your call-to-action that promises to meet those needs can increase the likelihood of them signing up by as much as 42%.
When crafting your call-to-action, focus on explaining to your visitors why signing up for your email list would be extremely valuable. Share with them the topics and types of content that you’ll be sharing once they’ve joined the list.
Tell them also how often you would be sending them an email. That way, they won’t feel that they’re receiving too much or too little correspondence from you.
4. Only ask the basics in your opt-in form.
Would you share your entire life story with someone you just met?
Well, that’s what filling out a long opt-in form feels like.
If you want to get more people to sign up to your email list, stick to only asking the essential information.
For most marketers, that means asking for their first name and email address. However, a recent study published by GetResponse shows that even this format may be asking too much from your visitors.
This approach is still debatable. After all, if you don’t your email subscribers’ first name, you can’t personalize your email content, which is an effective way to nurture them into becoming customers.
On the other hand, sending an email to them that’s “personalized” with a fake name or a phrase like “I don’t want to give that” in your email’s copy is going to be detrimental to the success of your email marketing campaign. That’s because instead of getting them to open and read your email, it’ll give them a reason to click on the “Unsubscribe” link.
The best way to find out which one would work best for you is to review your current email list. If you find many subscribers with questionable first names, then you may be better off taking out the first name field and only ask for their email address.
5. Add your opt-in to your About Page.
Next to your homepage, your About page gets the most views from your visitors for the simple reason that they want to know who you are.
As they read through the content of your About page, they’ll begin to learn more about why you decided to start your business, your values, principles, and your goals. When they resonate with you and your story, it’s going to be a lot easier for you to convince them to sign up for your email list.
Intuitive Professional Coaching’s About page is an excellent example of how to put this technique into practice.
Notice how Margaret smoothly transitioned from telling her readers why she decided to start her business to how signing up to her email list will be the quickest way to get in touch with her and also get quick tips and advice on how to improve the quality of their lives in their inbox.
It’s just like bumping into a friend on the street who tells you that they got a huge problem, and you invite them to have coffee to talk more about it.
6. Tap into your social media accounts.
Your social media accounts are a gold mine of potential leads for your business. The only problem is that you’re not able to engage with them on a more personal level here. On top of that, you got to abide by the rules of the social media channel. Otherwise, your account can get suspended or deleted.
The solution: move these followers into your email list.
Facebook, for example, lets you create lead forms that you can push as an ad to those that matching your ideal customer profile so they can sign up and join your email list.
On social media accounts like Instagram that don’t allow you to add clickable links to your post, you can use a tool like Lnk.bio to create a separate landing page where you can include a link to your opt-in form so they can subscribe to your email list.
7. Create a landing page for your offers
Did you know you can build your email list by up to 55% by having anywhere between 10 and 15 landing pages?
Unlike the other pages of your website, a well-designed landing page gets rid of any of the different elements that can distract your visitors. By doing this, you’re now helping them to focus on the task at hand: subscribe to your list.
Another reason why landing pages work is that you can add more details to convince your visitors to sign up. For example, you can add testimonies and feedback from those that have downloaded your content offer to highlight further the value they’ll get.
Plus, having a landing page means that you can link several related blog posts to it. That way, you get to provide them with additional value to what they already received.
And if your content offer is precious, other blog posts will link directly to it. Social Media Marketing Examiner’s annual industry report is a perfect example.
As you can see, this landing page generated lots of backlinks and referral traffic to their website. More important, they’re also able to build their email list because this is the only way how you can get your hands on their industry report.
8. Write and submit guest posts.
This has been one of my secrets (and personal favorites) in building my email list. In fact, it’s THE strategy I used to increase my traffic and fill up my email list with qualified leads.
That’s because guest posting allows you to get in front of your target audience and share your expertise on a website or a blog they already respect and consider as an online resource. Because they equate this site with quality and helpful content, they would consider you as a reliable source of information.
When they find your guest post extremely helpful to their situation, these readers tend to learn more about you and check out other pieces of content they’ve written. So, they’ll check out your bio attached to your guest post and click on the link there.
The problem here is that many who submit guest posts would include a link to one of their long-form blog posts or their homepage. While that’ll bring you lots of referral traffic, you’re missing out on the chance to get these visitors onto your email list.
The next time you write your author bio, include a link to a landing page of one of your content upgrades that’s most relevant to the topic you’ve written. This is the technique that Sarah Peterson uses whenever she submits a blog post.
Not only does her website, Unsettle, receive lots of referral traffic from these guest post posts, but she’s able to quickly get many of them to subscribe to her email list. Her very first guest post published in FastCompany, for example, added 500 new people onto her email list.
Not bad, right?
9. Host a giveaway.
If you got an engaged following on your social media accounts, this is a great way to move them into your email list.
The reason is simple: People love getting free stuff!
To make this work, your giveaway should be something that you know your target audience wants. At times, that’ll mean being open to the idea of giving away something that’s not your product or service.
Take the giveaway that Process Street used to get their readers to sign up to their email list, for example.
This startup’s product is a workflow management platform. But when they launched a giveaway as part of their list building strategy, the winner was going to get a Google Drive premium plan for free.
Choosing to give this away instead of a free subscription to for their product is brilliant!
They understood that not many people still know about them or their platform because they’re a startup. But they know that their target customers know Google Drive. They also understood that their customers need reliable cloud storage with lots of space. So the idea that they can get a chance to win this for free is compelling enough to sign up.
10. Challenge your target customers.
If the idea of hosting a challenge sounds excellent, but you don’t have the means to afford something enticing that your customers would want, hosting a challenge is an excellent alternative.
People want to improve themselves. Online challenges help them do that.
What’s great about challenges is that it allows you to get your visitors to try out your product or service and get them into your email list at the same time.
Simple Green Smoothies, for example, offers a 7-Day Green Smoothie Challenge to its visitors.
They can join the challenge for free just by signing up. For the next 7 days, those that entered the challenge are sent green smoothie recipes they’ve created to whip up to replace one of their daily meals. They make it even easier to do by giving them access to a Facebook community to connect and share their challenges with other people doing it.
11. Add popups (and use moderately)
I know what you’re thinking: Popups are intrusive and pushy.
That’s true, but only if you overdo it.
However, when done in moderation, popups are an effective way of getting your visitors’ attention to their lead magnet and opt-in form.
Social Media Examiner, for example, revealed that 70% of people subscribed to their list through their popup.
Crafter and blogger Nikki McGonigal of Nikki, In Stitches grew her email list by a whopping 1375% by adding a popup to her blog.
Timing and frequency are crucial to make this work (and not make it look too intrusive and pushy).
Think of it like when you go shopping. The sales clerks are there, but will only approach you when you stop and inspect one of their items a bit more closely. And when you tell them that you’re just looking around, they’ll back off and allow you to continue browsing.
Same principle with your popups.
When setting up your popup, allow a few seconds for your visitors to browse the page or read through your blog post. This gives them the chance to get to know a little bit about you first.
If they sign up, great! If not, don’t keep on showing your popup until they do because they won’t. In fact, it’ll give them a good reason to leave.
12. Tap into offline events.
If your company’s active in attending local conferences, trade shows, and expos, these are fertile ground for you to build your email list.
One is good old-fashioned networking. Strike up a conversation with other attendees, and when you find an opening, you can personally ask them if they’d want you to include them to your email list to learn more about what you do.
If you’re hosting a local event, you can include a field to ask for their email address to your registration form (online and offline) and then add an option for them to say whether or not they want to be included in your email list.
Build an email list from scratch and start growing your business today.
You’ve read or heard the saying, “the money’s in the list.” And it’s true!
The people who subscribed to your email list are those that showed interest in learning more about what can offer on a more personal level. When you’re able to nurture them properly, they’ll eventually convert into paying customers, even repeat buyers. You can learn more about lead nurturing by checking out these additional resources:
- Email Marketing Made Easy: The Complete Guide + Examples
- 10 Effective Lead Nurturing Tactics to Boost Your Sales
- The Ultimate Lead Nurturing Guide to Align your Marketing and Sales Efforts
The common denominator in all the email list building strategies I shared here is to provide them with something they’ll find extremely valuable. And the way how you’ll know this is if it can solve one specific problem or challenge they’re facing.
Combining two or more of these strategies will exponentiate your results. But if you’re starting out, focus on applying one strategy to your website and monitor the results.
Building an email list from scratch isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon. So be patient and consistent in providing value to your readers. Soon, you’ll start seeing your email list growing.
Now over to you!
What’s the one email list building strategy shared here that you’ll start using on your website today? Share it in the comments below.