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4 Ways to Build Your Email List

(plus a bonus idea!)

“Out of all the channels I tested as a marketer, email continually out performs most of them.” Neil Patel, Co-Founder KISSmetrics, CrazyEgg, and QuickSprout

If you spend any time reading business and marketing blogs, or researching tips to build your business (tell me I'm not alone over here), then it’s been pounded into your brain that having an email list is essential. We're going to talk about building your list, but just in case you're not as much of a nerd for this stuff as I am, let’s first recap why an email list is so important. Then we can dive into actually building it.

Build your email list

  1. Greater Lifespan: You spend way too much time creating quality content for it to disappear into the abyss that is social media. With email, you’re not just a status update or item on a newsfeed that’s there and gone, you’re right at home in their inbox. Emails wait to be read and are easily searchable to refer back to.

  2. Branding: When you create your own email templates, you control the visuals – meaning instead of Facebook or Twitter’s branding - fonts, colors, etc. - it’s yours. You can also personalize your messages by using metatags to display the recipient’s name. Email lets you connect with your customers in a creative, personal way that blog posts or tweets can’t.

  3. It’s Yours: “Can’t build your content on rented land.” I second this statement by Joe Pulizzi, Founder of Content Marketing Institute! Building an audience on social media certainly has its place and can be extremely valuable, but you don’t own those platforms, the media companies do. Google, Facebook, and all the others can (and do) change their algorithms regularly Protect yourself by building a list that you own, and no one can take away from you.

  4. Engage with an engaged audience: People are less picky about who they follow on social media, but the email inbox is sacred – it’s like being invited into their home. When someone gives you their email, you know they are open and ready to engage. Send them your blog posts, let them see what you go through in building your business, you can even feature current customer success stories – and all roads (or rather, all buttons) lead back to your website where your sales pages are ready and waiting to close the deal.

  5. Drive new business: Because you are reaching an audience that is already interested in hearing from you, email has a high conversion rate. It is the most scalable way to make sales with new customers and build deeper relationships with existing customers. You can monetize it by pitching products, running sales, or announcing new product launches (but do so with intent and don’t drown them in sales pitches…unless you want to get kicked out of their inbox real quick).

“Email gives marketers a creative outlet to prove that we understand a prospect’s problem, we can provide a solution and we can do it in a delightful way.”

Corey Dilley, Marketing Manager Unbounce


Ready to get started? First, we need to lay the groundwork.

Choose an email marketing platform

There are a ton of choices out there, but Mailchimp and Constant Contact are always going to be top of the list. ConvertKit is also really popular with bloggers. Give yourself 30 minutes to do some research – make sure the platform you want to use will integrate with your website, so you can create contact forms, make sure it allows you to create campaign automations (because you don’t want to switch platforms when you are ready to start automating email series!), and make sure you like the way the platform functions. Paid platforms often have 30-day free trials, so you can play around with the features, and others like Mailchimp are completely free up to a certain number of subscribers.

Start with who you already know

Once you’ve chosen a platform and set up your account, add the emails of anyone you already know – past or current customers, business acquaintances and any friends who might be interested – or be willing to share!



Curate a great blog and invite people to subscribe

If you like to write, or can afford to hire a writer, a blog can be a very successful avenue for building your email list. The key, of course, is going to be consistent, quality content creation and promotion. A well written blog will portray you as an authority figure, which helps to gain customers’ trust and can lead to sales as well as email subscribers. It also means your website is being consistently updated, which is great for SEO and improving your Google listing. Blogs also provide you with content to share on social media sites. However, the key word is consistent. If you aren’t going to be writing at least once a week or even every couple of weeks, you won’t see nearly the same results.

Don’t forget to include an email opt-in on your blog and post pages. You can even include a link to subscribe in the emails you send to make it easier for folks who receive an email forwarded from a friend.

Add an opt-in incentive

Also called a lead magnet, an opt-in incentive is something you offer your customers in exchange for their emails. I’m sure you’ve encountered this technique yourself plenty of times – the free workbook you wanted to download, or the quiz you took but couldn’t see your result until you competed the form. Lead magnets should have high actual value as well as high perceived value and should deliver their value within the first 5 minutes. Common formats include mini-ebooks, cheat sheets, workbooks, handouts, quizzes and surveys, or (if you offer a subscription-based product) a free trial. You can include lead magnets on your website pages, like your home page and sales pages, as well as right in your blog posts.

Create an email mini-series or challenge

Email challenges are often very successful because they promise an actual step by step technique to achieving the customer’s desired outcome. (The desired outcome is the improvement in lifestyle or status that the customer receives when they buy your product or use your service). Customers sign up and receive a welcome email, followed up by 3-5 additional emails, anywhere from 1 day to 1 week apart. The timeframe will depend on how time consuming each step in your series is – you’ll want to make sure the customer has time to complete each assignment. Email challenges differ from instructional blog posts or handouts because the customer is only given one step at a time, but in more detail. For example, if I was to create a “Build Your Email List Challenge” I would write a full-length post on each of the four techniques, rather than a single paragraph, and each would be filled with actionable steps rather than guidelines. The challenge is often followed up by a sales pitch, but if it's functioning as a lead magnet, then it doesn't have to (and customers would probably be pleasantly surprised that you weren't selling to them right out of the gate!)

Call to Actions on your website and social media

Call to Actions (CTAs) are exactly what their name implies – they’re a specific action that you want your audience to take. For example, buttons or promo ads with text like “call to learn more,” “register here,” or “sign up now” are all call to actions. This is the least aggressive of all the list building techniques, but it is no less important. If a visitor on your site decides to sign up, you don’t want them to have to search for a contact form. At the very least, your home page, sales pages, contact page, and blog (if you have one) should all have CTAs asking visitors to do something - which requires filling out a form, which adds them to your email list. The footer of your website is a good place to add a mini-contact form too, as it will show up on all your pages.

Social media posts are also ideal for an email list CTA. It’s not uncommon to see posts asking you to visit a website, leave a comment, or respond to a question. Most of the people who see your posts, though (especially if you’ve nailed your #hashtags) aren’t going to be on your email list, so why not make it really easy for them to sign up?

Bonus: Share buttons: include share buttons on all your blog posts, emails, and social media posts. It’s out of your hands who clicks it, but at least you’re making it easier for customers to refer their friends to you. And if the content they’re sharing has an email challenge sign up, incentive to opt-in, or a simple CTA, it’s even more likely that you’ll gain some new subscribers.

What technique has worked best for you? Which one are you most excited to try?

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