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How to Build An Email List in 2024 (+ Best Practices)

Email marketing connects you with your target audience, and knowing how to build an email list for your business is vital.

But wait!

Isn’t email marketing dead? 🤔

Nope. 🎉

Fact: Most of your sales will probably come from your mailing list.

If you’ve never built an email list, it might sound intimidating. But building your list doesn't have to be complicated.

Here's what you need to know about building your email list for maximum impact and results.

How to Build an Email List

1. Choose an email marketing platform.

Many email marketing software options are available, each with different features and pricing levels.

Here are a few tips to help you choose the right email service provider for your email marketing strategy.

Consider your budget.

Some providers offer free plans with limited features, while others charge for their services from the beginning.

You’ll also want to look at what they offer regarding templates, responders, and marketing segmentation.

Some email marketing services provide these for free, and others have these features as add-ons to their basic plans.

Make sure the email marketing software is compatible with your business.

Some email marketing platforms limit the number of emails you can send daily. You may need a bigger plan to accommodate your list if you send lots of emails.

Review the different plans each provider offers and choose the one that best fits your needs.

2. Use the boring (but effective) opt-in/signup forms.

You may notice that most people place signup forms in all the same places on their websites. There’s a reason for this. Those spots are very effective for capturing signups.

how to build an email list - infographic about signup forms
Source: 10 Elements of Successful Email Signup Forms by Campaign Monitor

Consider adding signup forms in the following areas on your website:

  • In the announcement bar at the top of the page
  • After the header
  • Inside blog posts
  • At the end of blog posts
  • In the website footer
  • In the sidebar, if your site theme has one.

And you can have signup forms outside of your website.

For example, your email signature is a popular place to add a link to your signup form.

You can also run Facebook ads on your signup forms.

3. Entice signups with incentives.

Very few people will sign up for your list to get an "email newsletter subscription." You need to give them a reason to sign up for your mailing list.

Offer an incentive to your audience for their email address.

Make it valuable so it’s hard to resist. The best offers will vary from niche to niche, but here are a few ideas of what you can offer your customers:

  • EBook
  • Webinar
  • Free gift with order
  • Free trial
  • Discounts
  • Templates
  • Checklist
  • A giveaway
  • Exclusive content
  • Free consultation
  • Product or content upgrade

If your offer is relevant to a new subscriber and will help them ease a pain point, they’ll gladly give you their email address.

4. Use pop-ups.

Email opt-in pop-ups have a bad rap because they interrupt the user experience. But this doesn't mean they're ineffective; they convert surprisingly well.

To get the best conversion rates, follow these two pro tips:

  • Keep it simple A popup that converts well doesn't need to be flashy or oversized. Keep it simple and limit yourself to asking for just a name and email address to cut back on visitors bouncing away from the opt-in form.
  • Use the right timing Timing is critical for pop-ups to be effective. Pop-ups shown too early in the potential customer journey deter website visitors from converting. Exit intent pop-ups and scroll boxes work better.

5. Create personalized CTAs.

Create calls-to-action (CTAs) that are personalized to your target audience.

Personalize your subject line.

Your subject line matters. Address your target audience by name executive managers, horse enthusiasts, stay-at-home parents, etc.

Personalize the copy.

Personalize your copy to your visitors and include something they can relate to. Mention the pain points your opt-in offer addresses.

Make the CTA button fun.

Customize your CTA button.

Yes! I want the free checklist of steps to help my baby sleep all night!
Or, no thanks, I prefer not to sleep again until my child goes to college.

Use landing pages.

Sometimes a customized landing page works better than traditional forms. Speak directly to your target audience and their pain points. Skip the generic "sign up here" messaging.

6. Build landing pages.

To build an effective landing page, follow some best practices.

Use actionable words in your headline.

Entice the user by promising a solution to their problem. Include actionable words in your headline, such as get, discover, learn, or use.

Optimize your landing page for conversions.

Design your landing pages with conversions in mind.

  • Keep your copy concise and compelling.
  • The layout should be easy to navigate and read.
  • Request minimal information just a name and email address.
  • Make the call to action obvious.

Make your landing page mobile-friendly.

More people access the internet using a mobile device than a desktop or laptop. Be sure your landing pages are mobile-responsive.

7. Leverage social media.

Use a social media strategy to promote your opt-in incentive on your social media platform.

You can share the link to your opt-in incentive on your social media channel and ask your followers to share it with their friends.

Add an email opt-in form to all your social media bios. This way, anyone who likes or follows you on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn can subscribe to your email list.

When you publish a new blog post, share it on your social media accounts. If a website visitor likes your post, they can subscribe to your email list.

Use social media to connect with influencers in your industry. Build relationships where other people are willing to share your content with their audience.

8. Implement gamification.

Gamification is applying gaming elements to non-game contexts.

You can use gamification techniques to create fun and engaging email signup forms that will boost your marketing emails and make the process interactive for visitors.

Here are simple gamification design ideas that you can use to create a gamified email signup form:

  • Use a progress bar Show users how far they are from completing the signup form. It’s a fun way to track their progress.
  • Use rewards Give site visitors a bonus once they complete your signup form. This can be something like an ebook or product discount.
  • Host a quiz Give your target audience a quiz relevant to your niche and offer to send the results via email.

9. Host killer giveaways.

Create a unique, valuable, and relevant giveaway for your website visitors. The giveaway should also be easy for you to promote.

how to build an email list - picture that says "giveaway" in cartoon format

To effectively build your email list, follow these tips:

  • Choose a platform Choose the platform you’ll use to host a giveaway. Rafflecopter is a popular option.
  • Choose a prize The prize will depend on what your visitors want. For example, if your target audience is interested in reading, eBooks would be a good prize.
  • Create your giveaway Use a creative and engaging title for your giveaway. Write your giveaway rules clearly using bullet points. Include details like your giveaway's start and end dates, the entry requirements, and the number of winners.
  • Promote your giveaway You can promote your giveaway using social media, your blog, or email newsletters.

10. Give a scroll box a try.

A scroll box is a pop-up form that appears after visitors have scrolled a certain percentage down your website page.

Adding a scroll box to your site can help increase email signups.

The scroll box pop-up form only shows up to visitors leaving your site, so it's more likely to convert than a traditional pop-up.

And it's less intrusive than a pop-up that appears the second a visitor lands on your site.

11. Embrace referral programs.

Referral programs are a great way to build email lists.

Encourage your existing subscribers to suggest their friends and family sign up for your list. In return, give a reward to the referring party.

how to build an email list - picture that says "refer a friend"

The referral program you create should incentivize your existing subscribers to invite their friends and family to join your list.

For example, you can give your current subscribers a $10 Amazon gift card for every 10 friends they refer who sign up for your email list.

Create a sense of urgency to generate interest in your referral program.

Give your subscribers a limited-time offer. For example, they get a 10% discount if they refer their friends within 14 days.

Include social media sharing buttons in your emails and on your website.

Your existing subscribers should be able to share your referral program on social media to get their friends to sign up for your email list.

12. Use a survey.

An interactive survey is an excellent alternative to the standard opt-in form if you want to grow your email list. Make sure the survey applies to your target audience.

Creating a survey requires a bit more effort than creating an opt-in form.

Still, it's a great way to get to know your website visitors and target a specific audience that is more likely to sign up for your email marketing.

You can create a survey using tools like Survey Monkey or Typeform.

13. Build anticipation with a waiting list.

Have people join your mailing list in anticipation of your upcoming digital product or service launch.

This type of email list building is effective if your offer has limited availability.

Create a countdown timer to let visitors know your offer will launch soon and that they need to sign up to be one of the first people to get the offer.

Create scarcity by giving potential subscribers a deadline or a limited number of spots. For example, create a waiting list where only the first 50 people to sign up can access your offer.

Or, instead of scarcity, you could offer visitors an incentive to sign up for your list, like bonus content or early access to your product or service.

14. Use QR codes.

QR codes are an innovative way to gain new email subscribers. You can place QR codes on:

  • business cards
  • billboards
  • flyers
  • posters
  • brochures
  • packaging

Or anywhere your targeted audience can see and scan them.

QR codes are also great for collecting leads from conferences and events.

Once someone scans your QR code, their browser opens up a landing page where people can subscribe to your newsletter.

You can also create a QR code that links to a survey or contest for your customers to engage with you.

If you’ve never created a QR code, HubSpot explains how to create one.

15. Offer free trials.

Offer a free trial of your product or software. You can collect your prospects' email addresses in exchange for access to your product.

The benefits of email marketing by providing a free trial of your product or software are:

  • You can easily collect email addresses as potential customers sign up to test your product.
  • ​​You can email new subscribers about the product's features or upcoming sales and promotion events.
  • You can gain valuable insights into your prospects' needs and interests by monitoring how they interact with your product or software during the trial.

Offering a free trial is a great way to build your email list and increase sales. People feel more comfortable buying a product or service from someone who's already given them something for free.

16. Try some offline methods.

Try email marketing in your real life. Join community events and have an old-school signup sheet where people can sign up for your email list.

Use those QR codes at your town fair or jazz festival.

Partner with another local business and host an event where you can collect emails.

If you're a B2B marketer, visit your chamber of commerce or other organizations for local businesses to see how you can get involved.

Networking can help build your list.

Create a B2B marketing strategy with a business whose product or service is complimentary to your own and ask if they'd be willing to promote your list to their followers and customers.

Email List Building Best Practices

Email marketing takes time and effort. Don’t let your hard work go to waste by following bad practices.

1. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER buy an email list!

You should never buy an email list.

how to build an email list - Harry Potter GIF

First, it's unlikely that email lists you buy from someone else contain your potential customers.

Second, buying email lists in many countries, including the US, is illegal. There are legal repercussions to emailing people who didn’t consent to receive emails.

Finally, those people are not expecting to hear from you. They will mark your emails as spam, damaging your sender reputation and hurting your list-building efforts.

Focus on building your email list organically using the email marketing strategies we've discussed.

2. Maintain a healthy email list.

A healthy mailing list is the lifeblood of any business. Here are a few things you can do to keep your list in optimal shape.

Run re-engagement campaigns.

As a general rule, you want to run a re-engagement email campaign for inactive subscribers every 6 to 12 months.

Inactive email subscribers result in poor digital engagement metrics, hurting your sender reputation, and negatively affecting deliverability.

Require a double opt-in with every email subscriber.

A double opt-in requires email subscribers to go to their email and click on a link confirming their subscription to your list.

If they don't click on the link, they're not subscribed. This extra step helps keep your list healthy.

Incorporating an SPF checker in your email verification process can further enhance email deliverability, ensuring that your double opt-in confirmation messages reach subscribers' inboxes.

Make sure your automations are working correctly.

Marketing automation is a great way to optimize your processes. However, when automations go awry, they can lead to messy situations that hurt your sender reputation.

Monitor your automations to ensure that they function correctly and that your subscribers get your intended messages.

3. Focus on quality content.

To build your email list, there are two things to keep in mind.

how to build an email list - Bugs Bunny GIF "content is king"

Create quality content that is useful to the reader.

Be consistent in creating interesting content. Engaging and informative emails will capture and keep your readers' attention.

Optimize for search engines.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a method of increasing the visibility of a website in search engines.

You can increase traffic and visibility by creating SEO content for search engines.

And the leads you generate through SEO are typically high-quality leads, i.e., people who are more likely to be interested in what you offer.

Now You Know How To Build an Email List

Knowing how to build an email list can be a challenge for digital marketing and small business owners.

But your email list is your most valuable asset, and getting started doesn't have to be complicated.

Follow our tips, and you’ll have engaged email subscribers with just a few simple strategies.

It's time for you to begin your email marketing campaign.

Jennifer Ayling is a prize-winning SEO website copywriter. She specializes in helping business owners get their thoughts and ideas out of their heads and onto their websites.