7 Ways To Build Your Email Marketing List

Despite the never ending hype around social, ‘breaking the internet’ won’t always lead to conversions and you don’t have to be ‘she who shall not be named’ to understand that.

If you’re surprised, read the industry reports.

Here’s one from Kissmetrics that we like.

It spells out 5 simple reasons why email marketing – yes that old chestnut – absolutely CRUSHES social media on conversion.

Here they are in a bullet-point format we know you love:

  • The numbers. There are 3 times as many email users as there are Facebook and Twitter combined (around 3 billion). That’s a lot of people who might not know who a certain attention-shy socialite might be.
  • Email can be personalized. Which helps it to reach a far bigger slice of your demographic. Word on the street is that most people anywhere north of 40 won’t conduct business on messenger or Instagram. Ever heard the phrase ‘email me’? Thought so.
  • Email means business. Like we said, I’m not getting into a serious business chat on any type of social medium. Email is by far the most serious social media there is. If I’m reading one, I’m much more likely to be thinking money.
  • Email gets more attention. On social media you’re one of thousands of other people screaming obscenities on crowded timelines cluttered with baby pics, social justice warriors and unwanted reviews of restaurants you’ll never go to. Stop it already.
  • Email is transactional. Unlike its social counterparts, where the objective is to hang out, catch up or follow news stories, email is where people are most likely to be in the buying frame of mind.

graph showing all the different investment channels and their return on investment

Digital marketing group Econsultancy confirmed the above in their  2016 Email Marketing Census:

“Almost three-quarters (73%) of company respondents rate email marketing as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ when it comes to ROI. This is up from 66% in 2015. Only 5% rate email poor for ROI.”

A much smaller 39% of the same respondents ranked social media ‘excellent’ or ‘good’.

Hold up though, we’re not hating on social media for the sake of it; we love a good Facebook video or Instagram story as much as the next person, we even love those Snapchat filters after one too many green teas.

Social should be part of your strategy – an engaged customer is a good one – but for the 7 reasons we’ll discuss below, you’d be wise to focus on building your email list if you want to build real revenue, waaay before you start growing your Instagram or Facebook follows.

It all begins with a list – but how do you build it?

How to build your email list cartoon drawing

Once you’re ready to move forward with your email marketing plans, you need to start building a list, but don’t rush.

Take the time to think things through. This list will be the start of a relationship that will hopefully last a long time.

The cornerstone of email marketing success is a qualified and constantly growing email list, so to help you build one, here are 7 road-tested methods which will deliver a healthy* list of prospects.

Bear in mind that when we say healthy, we mean NOT bought, rented or quite frankly stolen from other sites!

This might give you an impressive list number, but it’ll be of dubious quality, and you quickly run the risk of your emails being labeled spam, something that might take years to recover from.

Just Don’t Do It! Nuff said ok?

If you need more convincing, check out SendGrid’s article on the practice here.

On with 7 ways to build your most valuable marketing asset – your email list!

1.Make your opt-in form highly visible and be creative with your placement

You opt-in forms should always be well designed and well placed.

Make your opt-in form highly visible

Don’t beat around the bush, you’re trying to achieve something here, don’t hide your opt-in in the cheap seats – make it easy, not hard.

That said, try not to blast your audience immediately, give them a chance to breathe, take in your site’s content and then enter their deets.

Here’s some best practice we recommend:

  • Don’t ask for too much information.

There’s a reason most opt-in forms don’t often go past 2- 4 fields.  One might not be enough, but 12 is definitely way too many. Grab a name, their email, maybe one other fact and everything else (once you need it) should be part of a user-friendly onboarding process.

graph showing average number of fields to fill out registration form

  • Use a feature box on your home site.

Yes, it is your most valuable web real estate, so use it to full effect.  Here’s an example of one that offers value:

feature box of a real estate website by erin blaskie

  • Tell your new subscribers what to expect.

newsletter email optin form on website

Transparency is so refreshing and your potential new customers will thank you for it. Not only does it build trust, it means these people are giving you real permission to market to them. Never underestimate this.

  • Inspire action with your copy.

newsletter email optin form on website

Just saying ‘subscribe’ is lame. Sounds like another subscription we won’t end up using. Try to do something different, remember who your audience is and what will appeal to them.

  • Include some Social Proof

email optin form with social proof in the copy

Social proof is valuable. Who uses this service? What are they achieving? Don’t be afraid to blow your own trumpet in this important call to action. It’s still called marketing, not order-taking.

That’s it for now on that one, but there are many other ways to optimize your email opt-in. For even more examples check out Pinpointe Marketing’s 13 Best Practices for a Killer Email Marketing Opt-in form

Other sites like Brian Dean’s Backlinko have also conducted extensive analysis on the role of position, color, and various other factors.

Listen to the experts, but don’t be afraid to experiment to see what works best for you. Little changes can yield big results.

Also, before we move on despite what you might have heard about POP-UPs, they do work!

Sure, a lot of them are ugly – and you can see a few of them here in this article by Lemonstand, but the truth is, when luminaries like Neil Patel recommend them, we tend to agree.

Despite Google telling website owners that they would suffer in organic search if their site included ‘obtrusive’ pop-ups, Neil Patel said it’s all about TIMING.

In short, try not to bombard your audience with aggressive pop-ups as soon as they enter your site. In particular, Mr. Patel rated pop-up’s success once a visitor showed ‘exit intent’.

Have a look at the example below. It includes a free value add, clean design and non-aggressive copy. If I was on this site for a reason, this would keep me engaged just long enough to part with my precious details.

email optin form pop up
Also, why not check out Neil’s video right here.

Dan Zarrella, has also done some research that indicated that although pop-ups created a little difference in bounce rate (leaving from the same page visitors enter a site), subscription rates DOUBLED when there was a pop-up.

Hello, brain? Oh wait, I don’t need you for this decision.

The Daily Egg provides a list of approaches to the pop-up that we tend to agree with.

Again, please TEST what works for YOU on YOUR site. It’s up to you to find the right mix of design, message, timing, and usability to achieve YOUR goals.

2. Give them an offer to cough up their email they can’t refuse

Give them an offer to cough up their email they can’t refuse

Now that we’ve discussed how to go about creating that killer opt-in – it’s a very good idea to offer something. You know, the big V – Value.

Let’s say your reader’s landed on one of your blog posts. Result!

You follow best practice to get their email and prominently place sign-up forms in a couple of places; within the post itself and maybe in the header or sidebar.

You also offer an enticing and compelling content upgrade in exchange for their email address. No question, you’re covering all the bases.

But not so fast.

Unless your blog post grabs them and keeps them involved, they’ll see no reason to trade their email address for whatever incentive you offer them in exchange: additional information, access to a newsletter, YouTube channel, or special promo notifications – it won’t matter.

Which means that the success of your site always boils down to the fact that your content needs to be A-grade: unique and shareable.

If not, they’ll simply assume that any further information they can get from you will be equally underwhelming.

Remember, everyone’s vying for your reader’s email address, not just your snowflake.

Unless your native content, in this case, your blog post stands out, any attempts to get your visitor’s email address are futile.

a cow standing out from the crowd

So how do you stand out from the crowd?


  • Provide quality information.

Answers and solutions to the questions that brought your reader to your blog in the first place!

Zero in on your reader’s top concerns, challenges, and obstacles.

Once you know their hot buttons and can offer a solution, invest the time and effort to produce focused, high-quality posts which will make them thirsty for more!

The internet is filled with sites and sources which can quickly allow you to pinpoint your prospect’s pain points.

Here’s one we like.

  • Present your information in a way that’s easy to digest.

We’re all visual creatures.

It’s not just the content, the layout and the design of your site also draw readers in.

Pore over sites you admire. How have they effectively incorporated bullet points, headings, images, infographics, video and other elements that make their content irresistible?

Here’s some inspo to get you started.

illustration of standing out from the crowd

Be sure not to ignore other high probability – aka ‘low-hanging fruit’ – opportunities to ask for email addresses.

Let’s say you have a new product release, a new clothing line, or a big event in the works.

Build a campaign toward these events. These are perfect occasions to solicit sign-ups.

As we’ve said before, everyone craves special treatment.

If you make offers the right way, you’ll make your reader feel special and they’ll be much more likely to hand over their email address.

3. Nothing beats a newsletter for ongoing contact

black and white cat staring out to the distance

Newsletters are one of the most cost effective and best ongoing communication investments you can make.

To find a format that works for you, study different newsletters and don’t be afraid to branch out and use unconventional formats.

Look how Swiss Miss, a Brooklyn-based designer uses a curation model to quickly put together a weekly newsletter for her readers.

swiss miss newsletter showing a girl holding a bag

Her weekly newsletter offers several unique selling points:

◦       It covers a broad range of topics

◦       It’s link-heavy

◦       It’s media rich

◦       It includes Amazon links – earning her affiliate income

◦       She promotes others – good partnering karma

◦       Her Friday Links is a weekly special her readers come to anticipate

Newsletters don’t have to be too time-consuming, but if you’re going to send it, we recommend you invest the time to deliver what your readers want, whether it’s news, links, inspiration, or other content specific to your niche.

Don’t try to be everything to everyone though – hone in on your audience.

You can easily include additional content, like PDFs, content upgrades, specials or other exclusive offers which require an email address.

Don’t forget to give your newsletter readers the opportunity to get social with your content too. Include those ubiquitous share icons for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and whichever sites work best for your company!

Never miss an opportunity.

a websites heat map

Check out some more ideas on how to fully engage via newsletters from Big Commerce and please consider the below scan from Campaign Monitor on where people’s eyes spend the most time once they’ve opened.

For the record, they recommend the following when it comes to your newsletters:

  • Keep it short (this keeps popping up doesn’t it)
  • Optimize your headlines
  • Get to the point!
  • Focus the message
  • Make it scan friendly
  • Align to the left

4. Partnership marketing

Partnership and Marketing

Partnering with other brands is a perfect way to grow your email list.

Choose a partner whose product complements yours. As long as your product line or services don’t cannibalize theirs, you can easily increase your reach while benefiting your partner at the same time.

White papers are a perfect medium for partnering. These are persuasive, authoritative, technical reports that present a problem and then offer solutions.

huawei website showing the p9

Huawei is a master at them. It partners with a broad spectrum of software and hardware developers whose products easily connect and extend the credibility of its own line.

How does Huawei benefit?

By authoring the white paper, they control the message. They can present their angle and hand-pick client examples, all the while showcasing their partners’ contributions to their customer’s success.

In their own marketing efforts, their partners provide links to the white paper and as a result, Huawei picks up new visitors including (as often as possible) their email addresses. It’s a tactic Huawei uses often.

The company’s recent release of the Huawei P9 mobile phone above is an example.

The phone’s camera incorporates Leica optic and so Huawei has created a library of materials to encourage Leica’s niche fan base to visit the Huawei site, offering the company another opportunity to harvest new email addresses.

Check out a list of other successful examples of partner marketing from Sideqik

5. Where does social media fit? (and yes, it does)

graph showing actively monthly users of all social media

Social media is critical.

Depending on your offer, you might choose Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn as your preferred medium.

Any of these or other channels can be used to point readers back to your blog post, article, or website and an opportunity to collect an email!

Check out some of the most effective social media campaigns of 2016 here.

Social media channels build awareness and establish trust and authority, but it’s critical to remember that unless they yield a reader’s email address, they’re worthless.

So how do you do solve that problem? Why would a reader who’s already “liked” your page or become a fan go the next step and give you their email address?

Why would a reader who’s already “liked” your page or become a fan go the next step and give you their email address?

Apply the same thought process you used for your website or blog. Entice them with content. Offer value that requires an email signup.

Always ask social media users to share your content. Why? Because every share opens the door to potentially expanding your email list and there’s a reason share buttons appear on so many sites – they work!

Check out Kissmetrics piece on what type of content gets the most shares here.

motivational quote

To get shares, you need to reciprocate as well as promote the opportunity on your website and blog.

Each piece of real estate, whether it be a website, blog, webinar or social media site offers unique opportunities, as well as the chance to grow your email list.


Check out some of Forbes handy social growth hacks here.

The fact is, social media isn’t going away.

It’s here to stay and will likely continue to grow and evolve, presenting new opportunities to grow your list. Don’t be afraid to use them.

 6. Video.

Know who this guy is?

famous youtube vlogger casey neistat

According to Macrumors, people watch 1 billion hours of video on YouTube every. single. day.

Wyzowl’s Video Marketing on Social Media Statistics for 2016  reveals the following:


  • 55% of social media users had watched branded ads
  • 43% subsequently went on to ‘like’ that brand
  • 76% visited the brands website after watching one of their ads
  • 69% are more likely to watch an ad their friend had shared

All of which means video is an opportunity you have to consider.


Because they’re a perfect way to engage audiences for longer, increasing your chances of:

  • Growing your email list
  • Converting on the spot
  • Developing evangelists

HubSpot gives us two stats:

“…including video on a landing page can increase conversion rates by 80%”


92% of mobile video consumers share videos with others.”

They also say that:

“including video in an email can increase click-through rates by 200-300%”

In terms of execution, BigCommerce gives us this article about effective ways to use video, which elaborates on the following steps:

  • Tell a story
  • Keep it short (once again)
  • Stay human

It’s good advice.

Dollar Shave Club are a great example of a brand that launched their company by being a disruptor in this space.

By telling a story, offering a clear point of difference and staying human in a short space of time, they took on the established competition and became one of the biggest ecommerce success stories ever. It’s no joke.

man giving a thumbs up to say his product is great

7. Contests and surveys

Contests can be a quick win for your email list.

festival crowd

Enticing new subscribers with a contest is as old as the hills, but a simple strategy that works!

Because they are so common though, the competition needs to be of value or the perception of your brand can sink pretty quickly.

Shopify suggests any ‘giveaway’ competition have;

  • Well defined goals
  • An exciting prize
  • Partnerships with influencers

Kickoff labs offer 7 case studies of revenue boosting contests.

diamond candles optin form with chance to win a prize

Surveys are another way to interact with prospects and grow your email list quickly.

People love being asked their opinion and if they can be rewarded for that, the opportunity to capture their email is there.

Crowdfunding sites are a perfect example of survey usage and email harvesting.

Let’s say you’re a designer who’s come up with an idea for a unique camping stove. There are several communities where you can reach your intended audience, places like Reddit for example.

There you can find a discussion on almost any niche; in this case camping forums, cooking threads and people looking to buy a stove. The next step is to simply put together a form that solicits input on your intended product.

reddit icons

How can this grow your email list?

Here’s the thing. If you put together an intelligent, focused survey you’ll likely get high value, interested respondents. Exactly the type of people you want on your email list – people who are obviously interested in your niche product!

Surveys can also be a great source of feedback on future product development and can be used at the exit stage as pointed out in this piece by qualaroo

We suggest treading carefully with these types of requests though, you definitely don’t want to overburden your customer.

Remember, all of these email addresses are yours forever, so always email your respondents judiciously and conform to anti-spam laws!

Once you have that email address, you’ve opened the door to your next and possibly most valuable LTR – long-term relationship.

Welcome it, nurture it, treat it like gold and don’t gorget to have some fun!

Final Thoughts

We know the 7 steps outlined above will help you grow your most valuable asset — your email list— and can be used over and over again, segmented and personalised to build a reliable revenue stream for the long term.

As we said, treasure these relationships. They are not to be taken for granted.

However, don’t think because you have a huge list success is a guarantee.  Size isn’t everything and complacency is a killer, so keep testing, talking to you audience and pretty soon you’ll find that sweet spot called control over your business and your life that we’re all looking for.

heart shaped hands

We hope this article has been useful, now get out there and make it happen. There’s never been a better time to grow you email marketing list than right now!

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  • getfoundmadison

    A few other things: first of them being the opt-in form. Make it visible and simple. An average number of fields is 2-4 and you should stick to this number, as too many fields can drive your potential subscribers.

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