build-an-email-list

How to Build an Email List: 34 Simple Ways to Grow Your List Fast

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The new year is here, and that means a brand new decade of marketing techniques and growth strategies.

A lot has changed over the last ten years.

We’ve moved from cold calling and direct sales leaflets to social media and content marketing. Companies have gradually learned how to develop loyal and happy customers through a dedication to producing and sharing valuable information.

However, even as the landscape has evolved, email marketing has remained incredibly valuable year after year. 73% of marketers still rate email as the most important digital channel for ROI.

Additionally, even the younger generations still appreciate an email, with 58% of millennials saying it’s their preferred way to be contacted by a brand.

The only problem?

Every year, your email marketing list loses its value by up to 22.5%.

Contact email addresses are changed by employees that move from one business to another. People opt-out of receiving your communications, or even send your content to the spam folder.

If you’re not actively building your email list, then you could be losing out on crucial opportunities for growth.

What Do You Need to Build an Email List?

As a business owner or marketing expert, it’s your job to ensure that you’re constantly adding fresh new leads to your email marketing campaigns. That’s how organizations keep their numbers up and moving in the right direction.

An email list enables you to improve your chances of selling to customers by engaging with them through nurturing campaigns. Rather than expecting someone to land on your website and instantly buy what you’re selling, your list gives you time to develop endless opportunities for sales. Over time, the more your customers interact with your brand, the more likely they’ll be to make a purchase.

As of 2020, there are around 3 billion email users worldwide, meaning that you have a huge number of potential leads to connect with.

So, how do you make sure you’re on the right track to building your email list?

You’re going to need a few things first.

You’ll need some email list software

Building a successful email list and properly nurturing those customers is almost impossible without the right help. Even if you had a list of hundreds of people you could contact saved on your computer, you’d need to design your email templates yourself, decide when you should be sending emails to prospects, and deliver each piece of content personally.

Even if you did that, you wouldn’t be able to properly segment your audience and measure their responses to your emails over time.

An email autoresponder makes managing your email campaign much easier. Autoresponders give you templates for building professional-looking emails. They can automatically segment customers according to preference or background. And you can even set your email autoresponders to automatically send messages to customers when they buy a product, add something to their cart, or visit a landing page.

There are plenty of options out there to choose from, including ActiveCampaign, ConvertKit, AWeber, and others. Your choice will depend on:

  • Your budget
  • The features you need (templates, automations, and segmentation)
  • The reporting options available
  • The number of emails you plan on sending
  • Integrations with other software (CRM and analytics tools)

Your website needs to be able to collect email addresses

Once you have chosen your email software, you’ll need to prepare your website to attract and build your email list. This means placing branded forms and pop-ups strategically on your website to get people to join your list.

Many of the email marketing software solutions available today come with simple opt-in forms that you can customize with your brand identity and add to your website.  However, for best results, you can use a dedicated solution for adding opt-in forms to your site using products like Thrive Leads or Optin Monster.

Remember, today’s customers aren’t keen to give out their personal information online. They know that giving someone their email address means giving them access to them, wherever they are – particularly in the mobile age.

If you want to convince people to respond positively to your opt-in forms and pop-ups, make sure that they are:

  • Available to find easily: Include forms wherever you can on your website, including on your home page, product pages, and contact pages.
  • Short and sweet: Don’t ask for a lot of information up-front, an email address, and a name is all you need.
  • Targeted and valuable: You will need to offer your visitors something valuable in exchange for their email, like a free eBook, a download, or a discount code.

Landing pages work well too

Finally, as well as having numerous options to “opt-in” to your email list littered throughout your website, it’s also a good idea to build a landing page for each unique campaign you run. If you decide to try and expand your email list by offering people a free eBook, make sure that you have a landing page on your website that highlights the benefits of that eBook.

A targeted landing page will provide your audience with useful information that can help them to convert into future buyers. At the same time, it ensures that you can send traffic from outside of your website to your email list. You can get traffic to your landing page from social media, QR codes printed on physical documents, and even pay for ads on Google AdWords.

34 Ways to Build Your Email List

Now you have the three pillars in place for building your email list; it’s time to start exploring specific ways you can go about to build and grow your email list.

1. Design a custom landing page

As mentioned above, landing pages are one of the most valuable tools you can have in an email marketing campaign. According to studies from Hubspot, companies with 40+ landing pages get up to 12 times more lead to those with fewer than 5. Landing pages give you the option to capture customer attention and keep them focused on the value that you have to offer.

On your landing page, your visitor isn’t distracted by other navigation options and external pages. What’s more, you can use your landing pages as a central point for your external traffic-generation strategies on social media and other platforms.

The best tools for building landing pages are LeadPages, Instapage and ClickFunnels.

2. Offer content upgrades

Content upgrades help you grow your email list, by offering some sort of bonus download that’s specifically related to the article your reader is reading.

For example, a possible content upgrade to this article might be a downloadable PDF checklist that contains all 34 ways to build an email list.  This would make a handy reference for the reader, that they can easily refer to when they start thinking of ways to grow their own email list.

Content upgrades can be simple.  Checklists, cheat sheets, templates, short reports all make good content upgrades.

The key is to make them as targeted to the content as possible.  Do this, and content upgrades will become one of your highest converting ways of building your list.

For more mechanics on how this works, read this article How To Boost Conversions by 785% in One Day (The Content Upgrade) by Brian Dean.

3. Design a lead magnet

Content upgrades are just one flavor of a wider email list building strategy. A content upgrade is a kind of lead magnet – something that attracts customers to your website and gives them the extra push that they need to convert. People are often skeptical of giving their information out to any business. A lead magnet gives something valuable to your reader and builds trust in you.

With a lead magnet, you give your customers something of value in exchange for their information. That could be a digital download, a discount code, an eBook, or something else entirely. Whatever you choose, make sure your magnet is instantly accessible, capable of solving real problems for your customer, and specific.

For instance, Digital Marketer offers a copy/paste swipe file for companies that want to learn how to write a great headline:

Digital marketer email list building

4. Start a Contest or Giveaway

Contests are another great way to collect emails and build your list.

Especially if you are able to give away some prizes that are really targeted towards your audience.

AppSumo, which is a deal site for marketers, regularly runs contests to build their list.

Here’s an example of their Ultimate Hustler Giveaway contest where they gave away prizes like their favorite business books, free coaching call, a desk set, and $500 in App Sumo credit.

Now, you don’t necessarily need to go all out with your prizes as AppSumo does. But make sure your prizes are related to what your audience would want.

One tip if you do run a contest, is to use a contest platform like Gleam.io or KingSumo.  Not only will they help you build your list, but they will increase the virality of your contest so you will get even more subscribers, and they can help you grow your audience on other social media platforms as well.

5. Experiment with a Variety of Opt-In Forms

Even if you have a pretty reliable user persona to guide you into designing the most attractive offers for your customers, you’ll find that not all of your visitors act the same way. Some people will be tempted to sign up for your email list after reading a great blog post. Others will need a dedicated landing page to convert them.

Experimenting with different sign-up and opt-in form options gives you more opportunities to reach your potential leads.

Besides the standard opt-in forms and opt-in popups, there are other opt-in form types that may perform well for you.  These might include things like Welcome mats, ribbon bars, and slide-in popups.

Or you could even look into ideas for gamification. For instance, the WP Opt-in wheel for WordPress asks for an email address in an exchange for a potential prize or discount.

6. Create a Free Tool

Convince your audience that they can access something that will make their lives easier in exchange for an email address, and they’ll trip over themselves to join your list.

For example, Bryan Harris does this with his Drip Scripts tool.  Drip Scripts is a completely free tool that lets you customize proven email sequences that are specifically structured to turn leads into customers.

However, to access the tool, you will have to provide him with your email address.

It’s a really useful tool for email marketers, so most people will be happy to give their email.

7. Add an Exit Pop-up to Your Site

If your landing pages and excellent content don’t convince your customers to instantly convert and hand over their details – that doesn’t mean you should give up. Exit pop-ups are another way to capture your audience’s information before they leave your site.

The great thing about exit popups is that they’re often deemed less annoying than other pop-up tools because they don’t disrupt your visitor’s typical shopping journey.

Instead, they provide you with a final chance to remind your audience of how valuable your offer could be. Just remember, since your customer might be in a rush to leave, you’re going to need a pop-up that’s really eye-catching if you want to convince them to stay.

You can use a tool like Thrive Leads to easily add an exit popup to your site.

8. Pre-sell your product or service

Want to build your email list and increase your chances of going viral at the same time? You don’t need to wait until your product or service is ready to launch before you start telling people about it.

Pre-selling your product can be one of the easiest ways to gain attention for your brand. All you need to do is design a landing page describing what your product is going to be and ask people to sign up for your waiting list.

Monzo became one of the biggest tech success stories of the year in 2017 thanks to its pre-selling strategy. The viral waiting list created by the financial company asked people to sign up with their email list to a chance to get their hands on one of the first cards produced by the brand.

The waiting list attracted customers and made the whole idea of the Monzo service feel more exclusive and exciting.

Monzo exclusivity list building

9. Create a Facebook Group

Social media is one of the best platforms online for companies that want to grow their email lists. Join the right social platform, and you can instantly capture the attention of customers that want to learn more about your brand. As the biggest social media channel on the market, Facebook has numerous options that companies can use to find new leads.

The best option to get leads on Facebook is to start a Facebook group.

For instance, you could consider creating a group for something valuable in your industry. If you’re building a digital marketing company, you could start a group that’s all about sharing digital marketing guides and ideas.

Now, Facebook doesn’t allow you to capture email leads of your members at all.  But you can use a simple chrome extension called Group Convert to help you do this automatically.

10. Add a CTA to your Cover photo

If you’re using your Facebook Group to grow your email list, you should also think about how you can upgrade your profile to get more members inside. For instance, you can add a CTA to your cover photo (the image at the top of your profile) with a link to your group. Give people an incentive to join your group, and you will get new members joining every day.

11.  Create a “Tab” on Facebook

Another way to use Facebook to your advantage for your email list strategy is to add an “opt-in” form or tab app to your Facebook page. Adding a new tab with a third-party application is a little more complicated these days, as Facebook algorithms change. However, you can always avoid the hassle and just add the Shop now tab to your Facebook page instead.

Adding a “Shop Now” button won’t necessarily build your email list by itself unless you connect it to a landing page that offers your customers something valuable like a discount off their first purchase when they sign up. However, just selling products can help you to gain email addresses because most customers will need to create an account on your eCommerce site to pay for their goods.

Facebook profile

12.  Make the Most of YouTube End Cards

Facebook is far from the only social media solution on the web today for companies that want to access more subscribers for their email list. YouTube has quickly emerged as one of the most valuable and popular search engines in the world, particularly in the age of video. YouTube comes with plenty of engagement features that you can use to drive your marketing success forward.

For instance, YouTube end cards form part of the YouTube video, ensuring that you get 100% viewability on both mobile and desktop devices. You don’t have to worry about losing out on customers because of ad-blocking. Your end cards can include links to landing pages which you can then use to collect email addresses with lead magnets and valuable offers.

13.  Include links on Your Social Media Bios

Another way to earn more email newsletter sign-ups from your social media pages is to simply include a link to one of your landing pages from your social bios. Every social channel comes with the option to include a link in your bio.

Instagram only gives you the opportunity to add one link – but that’s still enough to drive more attention to your opt-in form.

On Twitter, you can even pin a tweet with your link to the top of your feed.

Facebook lets you include your link in your profile.

Figure out how the social profiles you are active on work, and make sure to include a link there.

14.  Show Your Thought Leadership on Quora/Reddit

Quora, Reddit, and other social forums have quickly emerged as one of the most valuable, yet underutilized marketing solutions for today’s companies. On these channels, you can instantly capture the attention of your target audience by answering their questions with links to your own content.

This ramps up your traffic and improves your position as a thought leader in your industry at the same time. Reddit even has various “subreddits” that you can follow to speak to niche audience members.

However, there is a caveat with Reddit.  Members don’t like it if you are overly promotional.  So you need to strike a delicate balance between value and promotion.

Quora, on the other hand, is much easier to add links to your landing pages.  If you have a lead magnet or guide that’s relevant, then you can easily drop it a link to it in your answer.

Quora for email list building

15. Guest Blog on Other Sites

Guest blogging is still a decent way to get leads and build your email list. There are tons of other websites out there in your industry that are always searching for content they can use to fill out their posting schedule. These publications have access to potential leads that you haven’t had a chance to reach yet.

To get the most out of guest posting, you’ll want to do some research first and find sites that get a decent amount of traffic.

Then, the content you write about needs to be packed with value.  If you write a crappy post, it’s unlikely to be accepted anyway.  And even if it is accepted and published, nobody is going to click on the landing page link in your author bio.

Finally, make sure you have a good call to action in your bio.  That way, readers who want to learn more about you, will be able to find you easily and click-through to become your lead.

16. Run Promotions on Partner Sites

Just like promoting your email list landing pages through guest blogging, partner websites also give you an opportunity to target new audiences that are relevant to your business. You can find countless companies that will be willing to work with you on shared promotions. For instance, if you’re selling a new cooking range, then you could partner with a food influencer to promote a giveaway with a free product from the influencer, and a cooking guide from you.

The upgraded lead magnet will pull more customers to your sign-up form, which you’ll share with your partner when you’re done with your campaign.

The best way to find partners is through networking.  Hanging out in relevant Facebook groups is probably the easiest way to build relationships with people.  Attending relevant conferences is also another way to find potential partners.

17. Write a Post on Medium

If you’re having a hard time finding a good blog to guest post on, then you could always consider Medium instead. Medium is a website that allows people from all backgrounds to publish content designed to reach a specific audience.

You can use Medium to share curated content from your own website and link back to your landing pages.  Or you can write original content as well.

One of the advantages of using Medium is that it has a really big audience that can lead to a lot of potential traffic.  The key is to get noticed by high traffic Publications on the platform who might share your content with their audience.

Neil Patel has a good article on getting traffic using Medium if you would like to read more.

Medium guest posting

18. Host a Webinar

People love attending webinars because of the potential to learn cool stuff from them.

However, webinars are also great for the host because they build authority and trust.  You get a chance to interact with your target audience and get the ability to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise in front of them.  Which makes it easier to sell them on whatever product or service you are promoting on the webinar.

There’s a secondary benefit to webinars.

They are a great way to build your email list because attendees will need to give their email address to reserve their spot to attend.  And when you sell, you can also capture leads to your product and service via a landing page as well.

A great example of this is Spencer Mecham’s Affiliate Secrets webinar, which he uses to convert his Affiliate Secrets course.

19. Create a Podcast

Today, over 70% of the US population say that they’re familiar with podcasts, and that number keeps on growing. In our busy lifestyles, it’s often difficult to find the time to read long articles, or even tune into videos. However, podcasts can be consumed at any time, anywhere.

You’ll need to have a relatively good reputation online to get people to subscribe to your podcast. But if you post new episodes regularly and demonstrate to your audience you have something worth listening to, then you’re sure to see your subscription numbers grow.

Once that happens, people will be more interested in signing up for your list for podcast updates which will help you grow your email list.  And you can also include a call to action to your landing pages in the intro and outro of each podcast which can also build your list.

20. Be a Guest on a Podcast

Don’t want to host your own podcast?  Perhaps an even more effective method would be to appear as a guest on various podcasts.

All you need to do is find a podcast that concentrates on your industry or niche. Fortunately, you can do this by browsing through the options on iTunes:

Podcasts are awesome because they allow the listener to get to know you.  And if you’re dropping value in your episode, then it quickly builds your brand and authority.

Usually, at the end of your episode, the podcast host will be more than happy to give you a chance to promote yourself.  So add a good call to action to a landing page so you can collect more opt-ins.  And make sure your host includes your link as well in their show notes.

21. Host a Live Event or Meetup

Just because the world is mostly digital these days, doesn’t mean that you have to stick exclusively to digital strategies of building your email list. You can also reach new contacts in the offline world too. If you have the chance to speak at an upcoming event, you can connect with people you meet while you’re there and ask them to join your email list or sign up to hear more from you.

You could even include a QR code on your promotional materials that people can take away with them to scan and visit your landing pages.

LeadPages’ LeadDigits feature is another cool way to collect emails offline.  You give people a code that they can text to get some cool bonus that you’re offering.  And when they text that number, you can automatically add them to your list.

22. Use QR Codes on Print Advertising

Speaking of offline opportunities to build your email list, don’t overlook the benefits of print advertising.

When you’re out at events and tradeshows, you can share company business cards with your audience that include a QR code that links to your landing pages.

Alternatively, you can send direct mail leaflets out to people in your local area, with discount offers that make them want to learn more about your brand.

There are many free QR code tools online that make it easy for you to connect the digital and real-world when building your email list.

23.  Make your Email Subscribers VIPs

Exclusivity is one of the biggest motivators in the sales and marketing world. People like to feel special, and if you can offer them that opportunity when they sign up for your email list, then you’re sure to see some great results.

In certain niches, offering your subscribers the opportunity to be the first to know about upcoming sales before anyone else works really well.

Alternatively, you could give subscribers free gifts and discounts that aren’t available to the general public. Not only will this attract people to your email list, but it could mean that they’re more likely to stay on your list for longer too.  Because it makes them feel like part of an exclusive club!

For instance, check out this offer from Julep:

Julep list building

24. Create a Referral System

Attracting new customers to your company isn’t easy. Even with a lot of social and digital promotion, you might find yourself feeling exhausted at times. That’s why it’s such a good idea to hand some of the work over to your existing clients instead. Ask your customers to promote your email newsletter to their own audience in exchange for a reward.

For instance, you could give your customers a free gift when they successfully refer a certain number of new customers. Alternatively, you could consider using a dual-reward solution, where both the person who’s already subscribed to your newsletter, and the new customer get a deal.

A tool like UpViral makes implementing something like this quite easy.

25. Include a Forward to a Friend Link

Offering exclusive discounts and gifts to people who refer new customers to your company is a great way to build your email list. However, if you want your customers to become your brand advocates, you also need to make it easy for them to send your content to other people. Adding a “forward to a friend” link to the bottom of your email is a great way to do this.

Campaign Monitor even gives companies the option to create pages where their clients can easily send information to multiple people at once:

Campaign monitor list building feature

If you don’t have a “forward to a friend” option in your email, make sure that you at least have a link to your landing page in your email signature. This will remind existing customers of your offer and help to attract new leads whenever someone shares the email.

26. Create a Survey or Quiz

Human beings are naturally curious people. You’ve probably noticed people on your social media feeds sharing links to their answers from certain surveys, quizzes, and polls online already.

Creating your own survey or quiz is a great way to entertain and engage your audience. Allow your followers to fill out the answers to the questions that you ask, then when it gets to the end of the quiz, ask for their email so that you can send them their results.

To make sure that your customers don’t end up feeling cheated out of their information, make sure that the quiz or survey information you’re giving is actually valuable to them. For instance, Forbes once created a quiz to help college students find the school that was right for them:

Forbes match quiz

Thrive Quiz Builder or LeadQuizzes are services that can help you do this quite easily.

27. Create a Resource Library

Speaking of giving your customers valuable information, you could also go beyond the quiz or survey solution to create a unique resource library instead. For instance, maybe your customers would benefit from a list of links to sites that accept guest posts on. Or maybe a list of the best high ticket affiliate programs to promote.

Alternatively, you could create a resource library that’s filled with some of the top-performing blogs and other content from your website.

That way, you don’t necessarily need to create any new material.  All you are doing is just organizing it in a way that’s useful to your audience.

One of the best examples of this is Blogging Wizard which offers VIP library of resources on their site.  To get access, you will have to provide your email.

28.  Create a Membership Site

Membership sites are a great way to build your email list.  Because they require a visitor to sign up in order to access the content inside.

You can create memberships filled with any type of content you want.

Examples include courses and training, case studies, interviews, exclusive content and downloadable assets.

Nowadays membership sites are fairly easy to create using tools like ClickFunnels or Kartra.

29. Create a free account of your software

We’ve mentioned before that people love any opportunity to get something for free. The free solution that you give you your target audience doesn’t necessarily need to be a physical item that they can hold in their hands. If you’re a software company, you can start by giving your customers a taste of your product offering.

For instance, Trello, one of the leading product management tools on the market today, allows people to sign up with their email addresses for a free-to-use version of the application. By collecting email addresses, Trello can then connect with leads to remind them of the extra benefits that they can get by upgrading to the business or enterprise-class options instead.

Trello list building demo

30. Give a Discount Coupon

If you don’t have something that you can give away for free, like a pared-down version of your software, then the next best thing is to help your customers save some money on whatever they can buy from you. Offer a free and exclusive discount coupon to anyone who signs up for your email newsletter.

This is one of the easiest and most popular ways for companies to build their email list. All you need to do is create a popup or landing page that lets your customer know that they can save X% or more on their first purchase when they sign up for a subscription.

If your audience is already prepared to buy, convincing them to hand over their email address should be easy.

31. Try a List Swap

A list swap is a bit of an old-fashioned way to grow your subscriber list, but it’s still something that works for a lot of different businesses. All you need to do is reach out to someone in your industry and ask them to share their email subscribers with you in exchange for access to your list.

Crucially, you’ll need to make sure that your customers agreed to allow you to share their information with third-party companies before you use this method, or you could risk losing their trust.

Additionally, it’s important to remember that if you’re connecting with EU citizens, then sharing information without their permission will get you into trouble with GDPR.

32.  Buy Online Ads

While there are plenty of ways to build your email list organically, sometimes it’s helpful to splash a little cash on your strategy too. Organic list-building can take a lot of time when you’re in a hurry, after all. Paying for premium placement on the search engines with Google AdWords is a great way to attract customers to your website and landing pages.

It’s not just Google AdWords that offers paid list-building opportunities, either. You can also consider using solutions like paid Facebook or Instagram marketing instead. These options will help you to specifically target the audience that you want to reach with a unique offer and a link to your email list opt-in form.

Google Ad

33. Recruit Affiliates

Affiliate marketers are people that will promote your products in exchange for a cut of the sales.

If you’re building your company, and you need a little help finding new customers and attracting people to your list, then affiliates can help. All you need to do is give them special links that they can share with their audience through blog posts and online content.

Whenever a customer earns you a sale or a subscription through one of their links, you’ll reward them with an affiliate commission. This is often a cheap and easy way to gain more sales and more leads at the same time.

34.  Offer a Product Warranty

Finally, in a world where customers are less trusting of brands than ever, one of the best things you can offer is peace of mind. Give your customers access to a warranty that you’ll honor for a certain period in exchange for registering their product.

Of course, this works only for physical products, not digital ones.

Make sure that you have the personnel in place to actually deal with warranty claims as and when they happen, however. You’re likely to end up with at least some people trying to get their money back or access a free repair.

Final Thoughts

Building an email list can take quite a bit of work. However, it’s something that you can’t afford to ignore. Although other forms of communication have developed over the years, email continues to be the leading form of business connectivity, and the best way to reach your clients.

If you want to ramp up your chances of sales and nurture your customers in the years to come, you need to be willing to constantly test and improve your email marketing strategies.

And to do that, you will need a continuous stream of leads.

So, try to implement as many of the tips as you can.  And use them to build your email list faster then ever.

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