7 Best Ways to Build an Email List (From Scratch)

7 Best Ways to Build an Email List (From Scratch)

Email marketing can be one of the most beneficial marketing strategies for brands of all shapes and sizes…when it’s done right. 

If you manage to curate an email list of engaged and interested customers, both new and existing, then email marketing gives you a direct line to their inbox. If your email list struggles to get off the ground or is full of uninterested recipients however, then the ROI on your email marketing will be next to nothing.

So how can you build an email list that’s destined for success? Read on to find out…

What is an Email List?

An email list is a collection of the email addresses of anyone who has subscribed to your newsletter, blog, or website and has opted in to receive your email marketing communications. 

Your email list is made up of people who have actively decided that they want to hear from you. There are various reasons why people may decide to sign-up to an email list. 

They may be a regular customer and are hoping to receive a discount or they may enjoy your blog content and want to ensure they don’t miss a new post. 

Understanding why people have joined your email list is important if you want to keep them engaged with the content they’re looking for. 

The success of your email list is down to how “healthy” it is. The fuller your list the better but you also need to ensure it’s made up of people who are actively engaged with and interested in your brand. 

We’ve all found ourselves with an inbox quickly filling up with newsletters and email marketing that we are no longer interested in. You want your newsletters to be opened and want to avoid people unsubscribing.

There are tons of platforms out there that can help you to build and maintain your email list such as ConvertKit, Campaign Monitor and Mailchimp

Why is an Email List Important?

The main purpose of an email list is to increase your potential leads. 

Each person who signs up to your email list is a potential customer. If you manage to keep them engaged with your email content you can convert them into loyal and most importantly, paying, customers.

The potential ROI with email marketing is huge. According to research by DMA Marketer Email Tracker, for every $1 spent on email marketing, you can expect $42 in return. Figures that aren’t to be sniffed at. 

Growing a strong email list and undertaking email marketing is also a great way to access key stats on your audience and how they interact with your business. 

Data on activity such as open rate, bounce rate, and click-through rate is all readily available to help you target your audience successfully.

Further Reading: How to Measure Your Own Email Marketing ROI

7 Ways to Build an Email List

With all of this considered, here is our best advice to help you build an email list in an effective and successful way.

1. Build a Quality Website

First things first, if you want to start building up an email list you need to have a website. 

A good website will allow you to host the content that you’ll go on to share in your email marketing and direct readers to. 

As people land on your website and navigate through your pages, they will learn more about your brand and what you offer. This knowledge is what will convince them to sign up to receive emails from you.

Whilst you can also share your sign-up form on social media, it will need to be hosted somewhere which is where your website comes in. 

All of the tips and tricks you can implement to help grow your email list will be worthless if you don’t first build a high-quality website. 

Website builders such as Wix and Squarespace are easy to use with no need for coding knowledge.

Further Reading: 37 Tools for Blogging That Will Improve Your Writing and Increase Your Traffic

2. Use Pop-Ups

Pop-ups are one of the most popular ways of prompting people to sign up to an email list. A pop-up is a graphic box that will appear on top of the standard interface of your website. 

There are various types of pop-ups you can use on your website to try and convince people to sign-up to your email list such as:

  • Welcome pop-up: A welcome pop-up appears within the first 15 seconds of someone landing on your website. The pop-up will usually feature welcome text as well as a CTA, such as signing up to your newsletter. 
  • Promotional pop-up: A promotional pop-up can appear at any stage of the user journey and will include a special discount or offer if the user fills out the entry box and signs up to your email list.
  • Exit-intent pop-up: An exit-intent pop-up aims to capture users just before they are about to leave your website. This kind of pop-up needs to be enticing, what can you offer users to stop them bouncing off your website? This will often be a special offer or access to exclusive content if they sign up to your email list.

Pop-ups tend to play on users’ emotions. Generally speaking a visitor to your website will be much more willing to hand over their data and sign up to your email list if you make them feel something. 

That emotion could be guilt at leaving with a “please don’t go” message, excitement at a bespoke discount thanks to a “special offer just for you” visual, or intrigue at the promise of exclusive content via an “access exclusive content” pop-up. 

Remember to be careful when using pop-ups though. They can be intrusive and annoying so you must work to get the balance right. 

Some key things to remember about implementing pop-ups are:

  • Don’t use a pop-up that fills the whole page and is impossible to exit.
  • Make sure mobile pop-ups don’t interfere with a user’s ability to scroll through your website.
  • Only deliver a maximum of 2 pop-ups to each user during an individual session. 

Recommended Tool for Pop-Ups: OptinMonster

3. Don’t Underestimate a Sign-Up Form

An embedded sign-up form is one of the most obvious ways to undertake opt-in email marketing

The traditional sign-up forms can be placed on their own landing page or in the header or footer of high-traffic pages such as popular blog posts or product pages. 

The biggest perk to a sign-up form is that, unlike pop-ups, they aren’t intrusive. They don’t impact a user’s ability to navigate your website in any way and instead act as a subtle reminder of your email list.

Most website builders will automatically provide you with the option of adding a sign-up form to your website and there are also various plug-ins available if you want to enhance your data collection. 

Sign-up forms may seem a little boring but they can be fruitful, especially when they’re used in conjunction with other list-building tactics. 

4. Offer Incentives

Sometimes a little bit of bribery can go a long way. Offering customers incentives to sign-up to your newsletter can be one of the best ways to build your email list. 

Popular incentives include a unique discount code, special offers, a % off their next purchase, or free delivery for those who have signed up. 

If you want to convince users to share their data with you then you need to offer them some value in return. Often the promise of money off is more than enough to convince people to not only sign up but also to complete their purchase.

An incentive doesn’t just have to be monetary though. Offering those who have signed-up access to exclusive content or information on new products before anyone else can work just as well. 

The incentive you offer can be determined by the user too. If a user is a return customer then offering them exclusive content may be enough whilst offering free delivery to a customer who currently has an abandoned cart may work better.

5. Try Gamification

Gamification refers to the process of including traditional game dynamics in non-game settings. 

When it comes to building an email list, gamification can be things such as quizzes, surveys, online scratch cards, “spin-to-win” pop-ups, and personal tests. 

The gamification elements will offer users a prize such as an exclusive discount, free product, discounted delivery or pre-sale access which they can claim by signing up to the email list. 

Any gamification elements you add should be easy to “win”. Ideas such as a short quiz, or a “spin-to-win” interactive game appeal to users’ desire of accessing perks online as easily as possible. Any game element you add shouldn’t be too complicated or lengthy. 

6. Work on Your CTA’s

Your CTA’s (call to action) are one of the most important parts of building your email list.

After all, if a user doesn’t understand what it is you want them to do (aka sign-up) then how can you ever expect them to do so?

CTA’s can appear anywhere on your website including in pop-ups, at the end of blog posts, and in your header and footer. 

Writing an effective CTA requires thought, it’s not necessarily going to be enough to just opt for “sign up to our email list here”. The chances are that your rate of success with a CTA like that will be pretty low. 

Most people have already “signed up” or “subscribed” to enough newsletters to last a lifetime so try to avoid these words. Instead opt for words that will prompt emotion and suggest that there will be value in it for the user such as “access”, “exclusive” or “download”.

An exciting and engaging call to action is something like, “Access all of our exclusive offers and discounts”. This is much more appealing to your audience than a simple “sign up to our newsletter”. 

7. Create Content That’s Worth Signing Up For

You can implement all of the tips in this list but if you aren’t producing quality content then your email list will never get off the ground. Even if you do manage to prompt sign-ups, if your content isn’t up to scratch users will simply unsubscribe. 

The content that you choose to send out as part of your email marketing strategy differs depending on your business and the aims of your email marketing strategy. 

Showcasing recent blog posts and new landing pages is a great way to direct traffic to your website whilst featuring exclusive articles or behind-the-scenes information can be key to ensuring your subscribers feel like they are gaining added value. 

You also need to think carefully about the frequency of your communications. Nobody wants to be bombarded with five emails a day from the same company, that’s a sure-fire way of convincing people to opt-out. 

Create a content plan and schedule your emails in advance, giving you enough time to plan your emails around major dates and company landmarks. 

Final Thoughts on How to Build an Email List 

Email marketing continues to be one of the best ways to communicate directly with your audience and allows you to see a valuable ROI. 

Building your email list from scratch takes time, it’s not going to happen overnight, but by implementing these ideas you’ll be able to grow a list that’s healthy and valuable. 

Some key things to remember when building your email list are: 

  • Don’t be tempted to buy your email list. Buying user’s emails and data is illegal and is a guaranteed way to have your emails end up in the spam folder.
  • Send a welcome email once people have signed up to give them an idea of what they can expect from future communications.
  • Make sure you’re offering value in exchange for a sign-up.

Whichever methods you use to build your email list it’s important to regularly review and report on their success for you to always be in the best possible position to grow your list naturally.

Further Reading: How to Grow Your Email List: 10 Best Practices to Follow

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Author Bio

This guest post was written by Owain Williams. Owain is a professional copywriter, speaker, and digital marketing agency owner based in the UK. In his spare time, he enjoys reading and spending quality time with the family. You can contact him on LinkedIn.

Hero photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

Email marketing is one of the most powerful digital marketing tools but how can you build an email list from scratch with success?
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