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9 Genius Ways to Build Your Email List

Businesses of all kinds are taking advantage of email marketing--in fact, 82% of companies use email marketing technology, according to Ascend2. These businesses aren’t jumping in because everyone else is doing it. They’re using email because it brings results. Email is one of the oldest digital marketing tactics, but it’s also one of the most effective. Although there’s a lot of chatter about the importance of social media, you are 6x more likely to get someone to click-through to your website through an email campaign than through a Tweet, according to Campaign Monitor. Many businesses are using email to encourage leads down a sales funnel, as email leads directly to revenue. But you can’t leverage email marketing without building a list of subscribers. That’s why we’re sharing 9 genius ways to build an email list.

Why building your email list matters

Businesses use email to educate their audience, encourage prospective customers down a sales funnel, and educate existing customers about how to use products and services. Ecommerce businesses often use email to send out promotions, complete with discount codes. Here are some of the most common emails sent by businesses:

  • Confirmation emails
  • Product updates
  • Notifications
  • Welcome emails to new customers
  • Transactional emails
  • Upgrade emails
  • Reminder emails
  • Promotional emails
  • Newsletters
  • Educational emails

Businesses that have solid email marketing strategies gain customers from the channel, but they can’t do so without an email list. So if you can work on building a list, you’ll be well on your way to getting the results you desire. The people who have opted into your email list want to hear from you, making them the perfect audience for education and promotional emails. People are more guarded about their email accounts than their social media accounts, so email engagement tends to be higher. Additionally, Ipsos found that 85% of people use email, while only 62% use a social media site.  

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Tactic #1. Make it easy to opt-in

It sounds obvious, but many businesses don’t make it easy for interested parties to opt-in to their email list. If you want to build your base of followers, you need to make your subscription form prominent on your website. For example, Jon Morrow of SmartBlogger makes it easy to opt in to his weekly tips by featuring an offer prominently on his website. He doesn’t simply encourage visitors to sign up, but offers them something useful in exchange, which is a cheat sheet for writing viral blog posts. emaillist1 You can also encourage people to opt-in when they make a purchase. This strategy works especially well for eCommerce businesses that can remarket to those who are already happy. For example, American Eagle asks people if they want to receive email updates when they make a purchase. emaillist2

Tactic #2. Target the benefits that matter to your audience

Who is your audience, and why would they want to hear from you? Without explaining why it’s worth joining your email list, you’re not going to get anyone to sign up.  People want to know that they’re going to get educated, learn about new products, or get discounts. One of the best examples of targeting an audience is from Groove, which makes simple help desk software for small businesses. Groove has a blog dedicated to their startup journey, specifically their quest to reach $500K in monthly revenue, and it’s remarkably honest. emaillist3 Groove targets small businesses and startups, so their call-to-action is written with the audience in mind. Not only will the audience benefit from learning everything Groove has to share, but they’ll also get to go join Groove in the journey.  

Tactic #3. Create an asset that’s impossible to resist

Not only should you have email opt-in forms on your blog and website, but you should also create marketing assets that subscribers can only get if they join your list. This has been one of the top strategies used by HubSpot, and it’s worked well for the company as the assets have been perfectly targeted to an audience of marketers. emaillist4 The key to this strategy is to make sure the asset is something subscribers actually want, and to not oversell and under deliver. You also need to make sure that the email content you follow up with will resonate with the audience who signs up to get the material you previously promoted.  

Tactic #4. Hold a promotion, giveaway, or contest

One way to encourage email list sign ups is to hold a promotion, giveaway, or contest. If you’re able to promote something relevant, subscribers will get excited, and be willing to offer up their email addresses for a deal. One of the most buzz-generating campaigns came from The Girlfriend Collective, a legging company, which gave away free leggings to anyone who subscribed to their email list. Rather than spend their marketing budget on traditional ads, the team figured their best marketing asset was their product, so they decided to ship them out for free. emaillist5 Kate Spade, the designer retailer, encourages people to sign up for an email list by offering surprise sales. In order to shop the sales, which offer a hefty 75% off, people have to enter their email address, subscribing to get updates from the retailer. emaillist6

Tactic #5. Create content that hooks people in

Many businesses focus on building their email lists, but they forget about why people would want to receive updates. Most of the time, people subscribe to an email list so they can get great content delivered straight to their inbox. Help Scout, a help desk solution, has done a terrific job of creating long-form content that people really want to read. The content, which focuses on various aspects of customer service, has been so engaging that their email list grew to 30,000 new subscribers in the first 12 months. emaillist7 Not only is the content smart, easy to read, and genuinely helpful, but it’s also well-presented, and includes custom images. The effect is a professional blog filled with good advice that people want to sign up for.  

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Tactic #6. Host a free webinar

This tip is similar to creating an irresistible asset, but it’s a more tangible way to get potential subscribers involved in your business. If you host a webinar or training course, staffed by experts, on a topic that is near and dear to your audience’s heart, then they will willingly sign up to receive updates from your business. For example, Unbounce hosts webinars giving advice on how to optimize landing pages. The company promotes the webinars before they happen, collecting as many sign ups as possible. The nice thing is that when the webinar is over, the recording can still be used as a marketing asset. emaillist8


Tactic #7. Try pop-ups, pop-overs, slide-ups, and other subscribe forms

Many businesses use pop-ups to entice customers to join their email lists. OptinMonster uses pop-up forms to encourage readers to subscribe, usually touting various eBooks or other assets. emaillist9 Although these pop-ups may feel very in your face, they actually work. In a test by AWeber, popups drove 1,375% more email captures than a traditional sidebar opt-in form. Even so, you have to be careful when using pop-ups. Sometimes, people may subscribe to your list even though they aren’t that interested, resulting in low open and click-through rates. You might try different kinds of pop-ups. Many opt for a small box that slides up, rather than a full-on pop-up, or a bar that runs across the top of the page.  

Tactic #8. Build an email course

One of the best ways to encourage people to sign up for your email list is to offer an email course. You can use content you already have to create an email course which you send out via email on an automated basis. For example, Buffer has a few different email courses on how to do social media, including a 10-day course on becoming a social media expert. When someone signs up for this course, they’ll get 10 days of content to help them master social media, but they’ll also be added to Buffer’s email list. emaillist10

Tactic #9. Focus on what your audience wants

You’re not going to build an email list using one quick hack. Instead, you need to focus on creating great stuff that makes people want to stay in touch with your company. Ask yourself what problems your customers are having, and make sure your content helps them solve their problems. You need to create content-- whether it’s blog posts, eBook, videos, or webinars-- that truly resonate with your audience. You need to create assets that are not only well-written, but are unique and perfectly targeted to your audience. The more specific and targeted you can get, the better luck you’ll have building an email list. Once you have content that people actually want, you can employ any of the email list building tactics above, and see success.  

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