How To Build Your Email List From Scratch - Expert Advice

How To Build Your Email List From Scratch- Expert Advice

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It may seem odd to think of any form of digital marketing as old school, but did you know that email marketing just celebrated its 40th birthday in 2018? Email marketing traces its origin way back in 1978 when the very first mass mail campaign was sent to around 400 recipients for Digital Equipment Corp campaign. It’s 2019 and everyone is still learning and relearning best ways on how to build an email list because email marketing has stood the test of time.

By the end of 2018, there were predictions of over 3.8 billion email users worldwide with more than 281 billion emails sent each day, and this number is expected to rise to 347 billion by 2023.  It’s these kinds of numbers that companies ride on to reach potentially huge audience numbers. In spite of the rise of social media, email marketing continues to be one of the best and efficient ways to generate leads at a reasonable cost. It works on every phase of the customer journey, prospecting, lead, nurturing and retention.

How to build an email list - number of mails sent daily statistics


What’s an Email List?

This is a collection of email addresses that you can build by engaging with potential customers through lead - generating campaigns.

Why Is an Email List Important?

Because it worth more than all your social media platforms and followers combined. How? Because you own it, it’s all yours and not dependent on any other platform (that can shut down or change rules any time). Remember MySpace? Or the most recent, Google Plus?

How to Build an Email List - Benefits of Building Your Email List

i. Email is personal

An email address is closest to a phone number, it’s as personal as it can get. So, if anyone gives you their email address, they’re simply allowing you into their personal space. They’ve already handed you a piece of their trust, so you have an advantage of communicating your ideas directly and any time. They also can ask whatever they wish in the privacy of their inbox and get response privately. This is another reason why they’re highly effective in building familiarity and a connection.

ii. Email is targeted

By offering you their email address, the users are simply showing that they have an interest in your product, service or content. This therefore means you already know what they like and can deliver only what’s very relevant to them for best results because so far they’ve shown to be receptive.

iii. You own it

As said earlier, any other subscribers you have on other platforms are not really entirely yours. Your efforts on these platforms pretty much depend on their policies and algorithms. However when you own your list with subscribers, you will not be controlled or influenced by anyone else except yourself. Your efforts for campaigns will not be dictated by anyone else but you.

iv. Emails are direct

It’s possible to miss a post on Facebook or YouTube or any other social media platform. But it’s not possible to miss an email in your inbox. Email allows you to engage your audience without missing them, and also with their granted permission.

v. It’s cost effective with a high ROI

Email marketing is the cheapest marketing strategy you can employ in today’s digital world. Statistics show that for each dollar invested, you get an average return of $38. It is therefore worth your time and effort, if you will do it the proper way.

How to Build an Email List from Scratch

A great email marketing campaign starts with a great list. But creating a great list requires the following conditions:

Know Your Audience

Before starting to build an email list, you must have an understanding of who your target client/reader is and where they hang out. This is because you’ll first need to find people who will give you their email addresses. Today social media has made that easy for you, you can identify where your audience hangs out socially and this can help you in getting their addresses.

Know Your Goals

Every good marketing strategy starts with a goal. This is no exception, you have to be clear about what you want to achieve. Some email marketing goals may include:

  • Boosting engagement

  • Welcoming new subscribers to build relationships with them

  • Nurturing already existing subscribers

  • Segmenting subscribers for better targeting

  • For conversions

Choose an Email Service Provider (ESP)

You will need a platform that can enable you send emails in bulk. Some of these platforms also help you manage your email database, offer campaign services as well as customizing email templates. They also ensure that you’re compliant with the CAN-SPAM laws.

Be sure to select the ESP that will best suit your list size and growth projections because different email services will offer varying pricing models. These days I am a great fan of MailerLite, this is the email service provider I use and that for various reasons, it has a decent price and it’s free till you reach 1000 subscribers, it has drag and drop templates for forms, landing pages and emails. In my view it is very easy to use and very intuitive as interface. And I am pleased with the design of layouts (even if they might suffer improvements).

Give MailerLite a try. You will not regret it. I promise!!

So, with these important details, here’s how to build an email list fast.

  1. Propose an Irresistible Offer

We live in a world where spamming has been the order of the day, so people are more cautious about whom they give their email to. So, to be able to get these emails, you must offer them something that they really want and can’t say no to. This could be an access to a webinar, a free eBook, discounts or such deals.  Whatever you decide to offer, ensure it’s something they will recognize as holding true value.

Here are some examples:

How to build an email list fast - opt in example
Email list free optin


Or here is a live one 😊:

2. Create an Opt-In Form

Most reliable Email Service Providers will provide you with the necessary tools to conceive opt-in forms for your site. As always less is more, and in terms of asking for personal information, that’s crucial. The less information you ask particularly in this initial stage, the better and you will appeal to more people. If you ask for too much details your prospects may not be willing to complete all that process and will simply skip it.

So, it’s best to ask just for the email address. And you could also ask for the name in order to be able to personalize your emails, if you do not prefer to be extremely minimalist.

How to create an email list - freebie


3. Place the Opt-Ins on Your Site

Placing this form on your site is as easy as copying and pasting a bit of code given by the email marketing service. Most websites place the form on the right sidebar because it has been proved as being one location with higher conversion. That said, feel free and try placing it in a feature box, at the top of the side bar, in the footer or on the about page or as a pop-up.

Each of those placements may perform differently depending on a few factors such as your niche, your site or even the audience. Test out all the locations to identify the one that works best.

Example of opt-in in footer:

How to get email lists for marketing footer optin

Example of opt-in in top bar:

Email list free - place optin in up bar

4. Use Giveaways

This is another great way on how to build an email list free and gain leads. It works best especially if you have an existing following on social media. You can offer something valuable to your target audience e.g. a gift certificate, info-graphics, templates etc.

For giveaways to gain new subscribers, you can involve influencers or collaborators in the industry and request them to help you promote the giveaway, or you could guest post and have your call to action at the end asking people to enter the giveaway, alternatively you could pay a small amount for ads on Facebook or other social platform, etc.

5. Leverage on Your Social Networks

Social media can be such a trickster, all that great following that brands and  marketers fall in love with mean nothing if they don’t do anything for your sales. But if you can find a way to get their email addresses, then that will be a step closer to another conversion.

Some tactics you can use include Twitter Chats, promotion of gated content, use of YouTube Tutorials and other similar lead generating activities.

6. Content Upgrade

A content upgrade is ideally a lead magnet/freebie related to a certain specific content you’ve previously shared on the web. You essentially boost the main article by providing more expertise on your niche. This may be in form of:

  • Cheat sheet

  • Case Studies

  • Extra tips

  • Checklist

  • Templates and so on.

The best way to approach this is by adding content upgrades to your most popular content first.

7. Welcome Email Sequence

After users subscribe to your emails, you can send a thank you note or a confirmation email welcoming them. You can use your ESP to create a sequence of these emails that can be sent to your reader at predetermined intervals.

The sequence emails can include discounts or one-time offers to keep the subscriber interested and looking forward to more emails. Another way this can boost your email list is by using your confirmation/welcome page as a subscriber-generating page. You can run a recommendation campaign and offer valuable stuff to people who get someone to subscribe. You could also offer bonus content if someone takes it further and shares it on social media.

8. It’s All in the Call to Action

CTAs are the inspiration that persuades the visitors to take some action. This action could be to buy an item, fill out a form or just to keep reading. In most situations a successful completion of this action is a conversion through your email list where you will invite them into your sales funnels. Now if you zoom out a bit you’ll then realize how vital a CTA is.

Therefore create an uncluttered design that can strategically lead your subscribers into your desired action. Research has shown that placing the CTA on the right side of your page is more effective than the left. An effective CTA must be:

Classy - If you bombard your readers with pop-ups that won’t go away, they’ll get frustrated and leave.

Prominent - If users can’t find your CTA you’ll miss the opportunity to interact with them. Be visible in both color (in case of buttons) and language (if you’re not using buttons).

Relevant - It must stay tied to the focal point of your content.

Need-Focused - It must speak to the needs of your readers; must offer them the solutions they’re looking for.

Diversity - Be diverse with each email, don’t use the same CTA for all emails.

9. Killer Subject Lines

You have done it too, scanned through the subject line to see if it’s worth your time. Well this will make or break your email marketing. So, for your subject line to be effective, it must:

  • Tell a story - People want something they can relate to. Make it human and add a splash of emotions

  • Must highlight the call to action - people don’t want to spend too much time guessing, give them an idea of what you want upfront.

  • Convey urgency and relevance.

Remember for your welcome email, your subject line must be sufficient to pique your reader’s curiosity enough for them to open the email. If you stay consistent with the quality of your content you won’t have to deal with un-subscriptions.

Source: YouTube

10. Make the Most of Email-Preview Text

This is often ignored yet it plays a key role right next to the subject line. Preview text is often cited from the main email message. But you can curate a unique preview text for a more captivating introduction.

So, if you’re not able to sensibly squeeze everything in the subject line, you can leverage on the preview text because it works as a short summary of the email. You can skillfully combine the effectiveness of the call to action and subject line to prompt the reader’s next action. Again, you want to engage your readers, not give them a reason to unsubscribe.

11. Great Email Landing Page

This is another great way on how to get email lists for marketing, an email landing page is where traffic is funnelled to when they click on a CTA. Here users are able to get more information, more images and purchase details for whatever you’re offering or selling. It’s therefore important to have a specific page for this traffic rather than using you general homepage.

You can have more than one landing page; they’re easily customizable and super effective especially when made to match the offer. A properly done landing page that aligns with the referral source will capture the readers’ attention leaving them with no choice but to give you their email address.

12. Partner with Influencers

Influencers are not known only for big brand endorsements, by partnering with someone who has the kind of clout that can expand your audience, while still remaining relevant to your current subscribers is absolutely valuable.

What this partnership with the right influencer will do is garner trust and credibility as you connect with their audience to boost your brand. They advocate for your brand and this helps you grow in numbers that eventually reflect on your email list. The influencer you pick must be someone who is an expert in the relevant field and a thought leader in the market.

Guest posting, testimonials, reviews and webinars are some of the ways you can engage with the influencer, again depending on your business. You will know it’s working when the overall traffic to your landing page boosts.

Now that you know how to create an email list with all the effective ways listed above, what else is there to know?

Common Mistakes to Avoid While Creating an Email List

Buying Email Subscribers

This may seem like an easy root but it sure leads nowhere. Subscribers who haven’t expressed interest in your content or product will most likely not engage with your emails and these unsolicited messages will end up in the spam folder. Don’t waste your time or money.

Lacking Consistency in Sending Emails

Don’t send one email today then another one ages later. Be consistent because it shows commitment in what you’re doing. Lack of this will get you forgotten and next time you may just end up in the spam folder. Be consistent with days, and time as well.


Building an email list is the best thing you can do for your business. There are many ways on how to get email lists for marketing and they do come with mighty benefits. What you need to remember is that when learning how to build an email list, it’s more about the client than it is about you and your business. You need to establish what’s in it for them, you need to understand their needs, you need to establish how they will sign up and finally you need to know what they will be expecting from you.

This is what must go hand in hand with your objectives as you create the list. In the end the more connections you make the more opportunity you have to succeed.

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