According to Statista, there are 244.5 million email users in the United States. With Salesforce reporting an average return on investment (ROI) of 3,800 percent in email marketing, there’s no doubt that email is an effective marketing channel. However, to realize that opportunity, you first need to start by building a list of engaged subscribers.
Here are the top 25 tips on how to build an email list from the pros.
1. Let Your Subscribers Know What to Expect from Your Emails
Will Cannon, Founder & CEO, UpLead
The first step to successful list building is setting expectations. There are a few ways to do this. The first is with your content. If you create consistently high-quality content, your readers and subscribers will know to expect it straight in their inbox. We do this at UpLead with in-depth content such as our cold email templates guide. Another way of setting the “expectation of value” is to sell the newsletter itself. It can be something as simple as: “Once a week or so we send an email with our best content. We never bug you; we just send you our latest piece of content.”
2. Compile Information That Adds Value for Your Recipients
Edmund Zaloga, Founder & CEO, Responsify
Creating an email list of your most valuable audience takes careful strategy and research. Start by building a profile of the ideal companies you want to sell to and start looking for companies that match your target company profile through online directories, conference listings and so on. Then, build a spreadsheet of the company names and, for each company you find, search on LinkedIn for their name and copy paste the name and job title of appropriate individuals into your spreadsheet, separating first name and last name and title into columns. You can then use email acquiring services like SellHack to upload your CSV [comma-separated values] spreadsheet list of people with associated companies to then download their email addresses and phone numbers. Finally, clean up your list to verified emails only, and upload into your CRM [customer relationship management tool] for email distribution.
3. Only Include Individuals Who Opted into Your Email List
Steph Taylor, Founder & Director, Steph Taylor
Avoid buying an email list, scraping email addresses or doing anything else to obtain email addresses where someone hasn’t specifically opted-in. This will only result in brand damage, and in people reporting you as spam, which hurts your future email deliverability.
4. Make it Easier for Your Audience to Subscribe to Your Emails
Lisa Gundlach, Director of Marketing, NFC Forum
One of the best ways we grow our email list is by using the technology that we promote. By utilizing near field communication (NFC) enabled signage at our events people can automatically be directed to our opt-in page. With the simple tap method that NFC provides, NFC tags provide us with an inexpensive, interactive method of growing our email list. To increase our opt-in rates, we use special offers to encourage people to interact with our NFC-enabled signage. By utilizing our technology, we’ve been able to grow our distribution list to more than 5,000 contacts
5. Offer Unique Coupon Codes in Exchange for Sign-ups
Daniel Johnson, Owner, Hammocked
I always create a unique discount coupon for each product review and product comparison article. I write a quick blurb and highlight it in a box so that it stands out and say something like: We are always looking to improve our product reviews (or whatever the article in question is), and nothing helps us more than your feedback. Would you mind helping us out? In exchange, we’ll send you an exclusive X percent off coupon. Then, I usually have one question asking them to rate the article’s usefulness on a scale of one to five, with radial buttons for the numbers.
Underneath is a submit button. When they click submit, a popup asks for the email address where they would like us to send the coupon code. You get sign-ups and valuable feedback to help you improve the article (I always ask them why they gave the rating they did in the follow-up email).
6. Adopt an Alternative to Lead Magnet
Andrew Bull, Founder, Bright Arts Agency
Because of GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation], you can no longer use “lead magnets” to gain people’s email addresses. I suggest creating great content on your website and letting people know that the best way to catch your next useful content is via your newsletter — in the same way that TV shows tease the next week’s episode. You can also include a “share this email with a friend” prompt in the newsletters that you send to people already on your list — people on your list are bound to know other similar people in your niche.
7. Create a Course and Publish It in Your Email Newsletters
Christina Nicholson, Founder, Media Maven
Now more than ever, your freebie should be something of high value. I spent a lot of time creating an email course, and this works well for a couple of reasons:
- It is well thought out. It’s not a one-page guide that took me 30 minutes to put together. It is a series of emails with text and video designed to give people lots of value with action items as well. When you opt-in, you know you are getting something of value.
- It is something people want. My audience is small business owners. I don’t know any small business owners who don’t want more exposure in the media. That’s why this opt-in promotes, so it’s not just an opt-in to build my list. It’s an opt-in to give my audience something they want and, in turn, they begin to know, like and trust me.
8. Create a Gateway Through Your Facebook Group
Melissa Rina Profeta, PR & Co-founder, Social Media Academy
You may use lines such as, “Would you like to receive community updates and offers from the admin? If yes, leave your email address” in the questions you ask people before getting inside your group. I built a Facebook group called Social Media Managers and Growth Hackers and added questions. No answer means not getting inside the group. One of the questions is this: Would you like to receive community updates and offers from the admin? If yes, leave your email address. As a result, we were able to build a total of 5,000 subscribers and helped me and my team launch our course and signed up more than 600 students in three launches.
9. Add a Simple, Straightforward Pop-up on Your Website
Eric Hobbs, CEO, Technology Associates
Have a nonthreatening, non-shady, newsletter sign up form pop up within 15 seconds of being on your website. The key to collecting someone’s information is being clear in what you will be delivering: helpful articles around [your industry] every week around X in your business and be direct around expectation, “we will never sell your information, and you are more than welcome to unsubscribe any time.” Make these words the same size as what you’re offering — you have nothing to hide.
This helps build rapport and takes the “fear of the unknown” around signing up for yet another newsletter. Once you collect a prospect’s email, set up an auto-responding email thanking them for joining your community and immediately offer value to them.
10. Include a Strong First Order Offer
Jacquelyn Cyr, MBA, Chief Builder, JC+CO Growth Accelerants
If you can’t turn traffic landing on your site into an email contact, any work you’ve done to generate that traffic in the first place was for naught. You need to design your digital experience not only to convert sales but to warm up cold leads. For product-based e-commerce sites, the best way to get that prospect email is with a strong first order offer (sign up for 20 percent off) — I see the strongest performance with exit pop-ups on these types of offers. Often, high-value contests perform here as well (every month, we give away $500 in product to one lucky subscriber).
11. Share Engaging Content Consistently with Your Current Subscribers
Devoreaux Walton, Personal Brand Consultant, Distinct Personal Branding
One of the best tips of advice I give to my clients is to share interesting, engaging content to your email list. When you captivate your current email subscribers, they are more likely to stay on the list, continuing to receive the emails as well as share what they like with colleagues and friends. Retaining the email list you have is just as important as growing it. Consistency is important in online marketing, and email is no different. Keep your subscribers engaged by sending frequent, consistent content — perhaps the same particular days and times of the week, for example, Mondays at noon and Wednesdays at 4 p.m.
Whatever schedule you decide on, stick to it. Your email subscribers will come to expect and look forward to your emails – like a regular show they watch on TV each week.
12. Use a CRM or Email Marketing Platform
Mark Velarga, Head of Marketing, PakFactory
First things first, you’ll need to utilize an effective customer relationship management or email marketing platform. This will help organize your email list accordingly and give you flexibility on how to structure your campaigns monthly. MailChimp is a popular platform or, for more advanced tools, you can use Zoho CRM & Campaign and/or Drip. If you are selling products online, make sure your conversions are integrated into your CRM system. So, if you don’t track your customer data, you’ll be losing a big opportunity of reaching out to them through email.
For more information on how to run a successful email marketing strategy (from list building to conversions), read our ultimate guide on email marketing.
13. Monitor Your Conversion Rate Closely
Brian Carter, CEO, The Brian Carter Group
You need to watch your list building conversion rate. Of the people who visit the pages with your email list building offer, what percentage is opting in? Various authorities quote average email opt-in conversion rates from 2 percent to 13 percent, and the average depends on your industry, but we’ve seen very simple lead-generation offers to very warm audiences on squeeze pages convert as high as 60 percent. That means that your list building conversion rate can vary quite a bit, so you may need to try multiple content, offers and landing pages to find the best email list building techniques for your business and target audience.
14. Optimize Transactional Messages
Greg Zakowicz, Senior Commerce Marketing Analyst, Oracle Bronto
Transactional messages are those that are emailed to customers of yours. Examples would include an order and shipping confirmation message. These messages are sent to all customers, not just email subscribers. Including a call-to-action to sign-up for your email program inside of these highly read messages can be a powerful tool for driving list growth.
15. Include a Sign-up Form on Your About Us Page
James Brockbank, CEO & Founder, Digitaloft
If a user is viewing your About Us page, there’s a very good chance they’re doing so because they want to find out more about your business or brand. They’re the perfect audience to serve a sign-up form to and a simple yet effective message highlighting why they should subscribe. Don’t forget that these individuals are actively reading your About Us page anyway. They’re far more likely to sign up than general website visitors. You need to think smart when it comes to building an email list. However, by placing forms in front of an audience who are more likely to want to sign up, you’ll ensure you’re not missing out on these marketing opportunities and adding value to your audience.
16. Host a Giveaway of Your Product
Hernan Santiesteban, Founder, Great Lakes Web
Try hosting a giveaway. If you have a physical product to sell, this can be a great way to build a list. There are free and paid software tools available that will help you run the giveaway. One key aspect of these tools is that they create an incentive for sharing. Users that sign up for your giveaway can get additional entries by sharing the giveaway with their friends on social media. This can cause your giveaway to get popular. For example, users can get five extra giveaway entries by sharing on Facebook and five more by sharing on Twitter.
If you offer a service, then giving away a free consultation or a set of books on your profession can be a great way to host a giveaway.
17. Collect Business Cards During Events
Jennifer Schaus, Founder & Principal, JSchaus & Associates
I have built an email list from 0 to 10,500 during the course of a few years. The list began as I started a complimentary networking event for my industry in downtown Washington, D.C., at The John F Kennedy Center. At our first event, we had about 30 people, and I gathered their business cards to let them know when the next event would take place. Our event is now quarterly and draws 200-plus attendees. We upload the attendee list to the email/marketing list to capture anyone who was not previously on the list. We also capture business cards when attending other industry events. Then, we get a verbal OK to add to the list and then do so.
18. Create Free Online Tools Your Audience Will Want to Use
Mikey Moran, CEO, Private Label Extensions
One unique thing we have done to help capture a lot of emails that is a little different is create some free online tools. Private Label Extensions helps clients start their hair and beauty brands online. We created this free Logo Maker, and it has been amazing how many leads it generates daily. We can then reach out to them via email for future upsells like our website packages and branding.
19. Bring Your Own Sign-up Sheet When Networking
McCall Robison, Content Marketing Strategist, Best Company
Conferences and other networking opportunities are a chance for you to connect with fellow marketers. Bring a clipboard and encourage people to sign up for your blog/newsletter. You can go even further by sending out a welcome email to everyone once they subscribe. This way, it is more interactive and personalized.
20. Offer Updates of Custom Made Products Through Email
Jeff Moriarty, Digital Marketing Manager, Mother’s Family Rings
Our company designs custom mother’s jewelry in a variety of styles and metals. The average sale is more than $1,500 so, many times, these types of customers don’t want to sign up to receive emails. We incentivized them in a way that didn’t cost us anything. We offered the option to get updates during the jewelry creation process if they sign up for emails. We explained to them that they would receive emails with pictures of their jewelry during us making it for them and, of course, they also receive sales emails.
Since this additional offering began, about 99 percent of the orders we have received signed up for our email list. Now, this exact method won’t work for everyone, but it should help you brainstorm ways you can incentivize your customers to sign up for the list in a way that won’t upset them.
21. Make Sure Your Email Reaches Your Targeted Audience
Maggie Aland, Editor, Fit Small Business
A successful email marketing campaign requires quality leads that will convert by ensuring that your message reaches your target audience. Companies like Toofr make it easy to build email lists in particular industries and niches. It not only helps you find domains and email addresses but it also verifies email addresses to make sure you get the most out of your email campaigns.
22. Revive Non-openers in Your Email List
Ellen Perelman, Vice President of Marketing, GoodHire
One way to grow and build a better list and improve open rates is to revive non-openers. For your next newsletter distribution or email campaign, create an opt-in campaign with a catchy subject line and send it to subscribers who have not opened in the last five or six months. Encourage contacts to re-opt-in, and let them know you’ll remove contacts who don’t respond. By re-engaging “old” subscribers, and removing “unengaged” subscribers who are no longer interested in receiving your content, you’ll improve your deliverability rates and increase engagement. With a fresh email list of opt-in contacts, you can begin nurturing them with appropriate content to convert them into sales-ready leads.
23. Offer Exclusive Deals and Giveaways to Your Subscribers
Cory Sarrett, SEO/SEM Specialist, Online Optimism
By having something exclusive that only comes out of your email list, members are more likely to join and stay on it. You can advertise a special coupon for signing up on your website’s main page and social media accounts. You can also advertise automatic entry to giveaways by being a member of the email list on these same platforms. The types of promotions you can offer are endless. It might come at a small expense, but it’s a great way to get people to build your list and convert them into paying customers.
24. Start a Referral Program
Laura Madden, Senior Email Marketing Strategist, DEG
According to Nielsen, 77 percent of consumers are more likely to buy a new product when learning about it from friends or family. Clearly, people are looking for their friends and family to make recommendations, but are you even asking them to? This is where a refer-a-friend program comes into play. Especially great for services, refer-a-friend programs apply digital tactics to traditional word-of-mouth marketing by rewarding current customers for bringing on new subscribers. The keys to a program like this include:
- Providing a great product or service that people will want to recommend
- Appropriately rewarding current subscribers for the referral
- Making the referral personal, so the potential new subscriber feels special
Companies like Stitch Fix and theSkimm do a great job with referrals, incorporating their brand voices into the program and making it easy for current users to make a referral.
25. Collaborate with Other Brands and Influencers
Amy Lacey, Owner & Founder, Cali’flour Foods
My company recently wrapped up a countdown to summer campaign where we co-hosted a grand prize giveaway with seven other brands in the healthy food and wellness space. To enter the giveaway, participants had to subscribe to our mailing list and follow all sponsoring brands on social. We created a unique landing page and segmented list on MailChimp specifically for this giveaway and asked the other brands to share our sign-up link via social or their own email campaign. They were motivated to do so to benefit from the social media growth and exposure the joint giveaway offered, and we were able to acquire new email subscribers from their unique audiences.
The important thing to remember is to collaborate with complementary brands in your space who share similar values, and whose customer base aligns well with the profile and interests of your existing audience.
Over to You
Building a quality email list can take time and money, but with the right practice, your efforts can get you the best return on your investment.
Want to share your favorite tips on how to build an email list? Let us know in the comments!