How to Build and Grow an Email List From Scratch Fast in 2022

Updated Aug 3, 2022.
How to Build and Grow an Email List From Scratch Fast

As a marketer or business owner, your email list is one of your most valuable marketing assets.

Think about it this way. If Facebook wakes up one day and decides to suspend your brand’s social media accounts, you’ll instantly lose access to all the audience you’ve painstakingly built over the years. 

The same applies to other platforms like YouTube, SnapChat, TikTok, Pinterest, and so on.

With an email list, however, no one can take your audience away from you. You have total control over your audience and can get in touch with them whenever you want, without having to worry about algorithms that limit how much of your audience you can reach.

This is what makes email marketing such an effective marketing channel. According to Smart Insights, marketers rated email marketing to be more effective compared to all other digital marketing channels.

Effective digital media channels Ratings
Source: Smartinsights

To take advantage of email marketing, however, you first need to build an email list. 

In this guide, we’re going to teach you all you need to know about building and growing an email list that is interested in your products and services, one that will have a positive impact on your bottom line.

What Is An Email List?

An email list, also referred to as a subscriber list, is a database containing the email contact information, as well as other personal information (such as name, company, and so on) that businesses use to send marketing emails to customers and prospects.

Businesses generally build their email lists by collecting email addresses from their site visitors and customers.

When someone deliberately shares their email with you, they are confirming that they are interested in receiving content from you – which means that they are more likely to interact with your business and purchase from you.

Best Practices – The Do’s And Don’ts Of An Email List

Here are 6 things you need to keep in mind before you start building your email list. Implementing these best practices will allow you to build an email list quickly, while at the same time improving the overall quality of your list.

Do: Have A Website

It is possible to collect people’s email addresses from third party platforms such as social media, and even through offline efforts, such as getting people to write down their email address in a physical sign-up sheet.

While the above methods work, none of them is as effective as collecting emails on your website. A website makes your business come across as more professional and helps build trust, which is important when you want people to share their email address.

In addition, a website gives prospects a chance to check out your content before signing up on your email list. This way, you’ll end up with higher quality leads who are really interested in what you have to offer.

Fortunately, building a website is not a difficult thing to do. You don’t even have to build a massive website. You can simply create a landing page, which is basically a one-page website whose sole purpose is to help you collect email addresses.

Here are some of the best landing page builders that you can use to get your landing page up and running within a matter of minutes.

  • LeadPages: Best landing page builder for those looking to sell products to their email list.
  • Unbounce: This is a popular landing page builder that comes with a ton of features. Unbounce also allows integration with your most email service providers and CRM tools.
  • Instapage: This is your best option if you’re interested in building multiple landing pages. Instapage makes it very easy to quickly build a landing page, with over 100 landing page templates to choose from.

Don’t: Forget To Add A Visible Lead An Opt-In Form On Your Website

To collect emails from people visiting your website, you need a lead capture form on your website.

However, simply having an opt-in form on your website is not enough. You have to make sure that the opt-in form stands out and is clearly visible. It should be clear to all your site visitors that they have the option to join your mailing list and receive content from you.

SurfStitch provides a good example of how to make your opt-in form highly visible. Soon after visiting the website, you get a popup asking you to provide your contact information in exchange for a $20 discount on your next order. 

SurfStitch provides a good example of how to make opt-in form highly visible

Do: Have A Lead Magnet

The average person sends and receives about 126 emails every day. Asking someone to share their email address means you’ll add more emails to their already clogged inbox. 

It is therefore understandable that a lot of people are reluctant about sharing their email address on every website.

So, how do you get people to overcome this reluctance and share their email address with you? The key is to use lead magnets. A lead magnet is something valuable that you offer to your site visitors in exchange for their email address.

Lead magnets turn the interaction into a win-win situation for both parties. You get the email address, while your visitor gets something of value.

Examples of lead magnets include discounts, eBooks, videos, free email courses, webinars, checklists, free consultations, free trials, and so on.

Don’t: Ignore The Importance Of An Email Marketing Service

Building an email list is only one part of the equation. Once you’ve collected people’s email addresses, you’ll need to regularly send marketing emails to these people.

When you have only a couple of email addresses in your list, it’s possible to send emails to your entire list using your regular email client.

Once your list grows to hundreds or thousands of subscribers, however, sending emails to all these people using your regular email client would be very hectic and time consuming. What you need is an email marketing service.

An email marketing service allows you to organize and segment your email list, create multiple email marketing campaigns, run email campaigns on autopilot, track the performance of your campaigns, and so on.

Some of the best email marketing services you should consider using to manage your email list include…

  • ConvertKit: This email marketing service is best suited for authors, bloggers, and people selling digital services and products.
  • Constant Contact: If you’re a small business that is just starting out and are looking for an email marketing platform that is easy to use, Constant Contact is your best bet.
  • Sendinblue: This email marketing platform is a great choice for those looking to send beautifully designed and highly persuasive marketing emails.

Do: Understand Your Audience

Before you start building your email list, it’s a good idea to start by thinking about the people you want in your email list. Who’s your target audience?

Having a clear understanding of your target audience will make it easier for you to target them on online platforms where they spend most of their time. 

It will also make it easier for you to create copy and lead magnets that are most relevant to them, thus increasing their chances of signing up to your list.

Don’t: Purchase An Email List

As a marketer, you might be tempted to purchase an email list rather than building your own from scratch. We do not recommend doing this.

When you purchase an email list, the people in the list have never heard of your business before and don’t care about your products and services

You’ll therefore be wasting your time marketing to people who are very unlikely to convert into customers.

Getting Visitors To Your Site First

You might have a perfectly placed lead capture form, and a highly valuable lead magnet, but if there’s no one visiting your website, you won’t get any email addresses to add to your email list. 

You first have to drive traffic to your website before you start thinking of how to convert these visitors into subscribers.

Below, let’s check out some highly effective strategies that you can use to get visitors to your site.

1. Create Engaging Content

The best thing you can do to attract traffic to your website is to ensure your website contains engaging, highly valuable content

People don’t come to your website to look at your cool website design or flashy effects. They come to consume and gain value from your content.

Every time you create a piece of content for your website, aim at making it the very best piece of content on that topic. Ensure all your content is original, easy to read, and actionable. It’s all about helping your readers.

2. Perform Keyword Research

You might be creating the best possible content, but if the content is about topics no one cares about, people won’t visit your site to read it.

To avoid such situations, always start your content creation process by performing keyword research. Keyword research helps you identify and understand the kind of content that your target audience are interested in and actively searching for.

Once you identify the keywords people are searching for, you can then create content that targets these keywords. This will increase the likelihood of your content being found by your audience, leading to increased traffic on your website.

Some of the best keyword research tools you can use to perform your keyword research include SEMrush, Ahrefs, Moz, and Long Tail Pro.

A lot of people find content on the internet through search. If you want your site to show up in search results, you have to ensure that both your website and your content are optimized for search.

Some of the things you can do to improve your site’s search engine optimization (SEO) include…

  • Publish new content regularly
  • Appropriate use of keywords in your site content and metadata
  • Develop and implement an appropriate internal linking strategy
  • Use image alt tags
  • Improve your page load speeds
  • Build backlinks from high authority websites
  • Ensure your site is optimized for mobile

4. Take Advantage Of Paid Ads

If you have the budget for it, promoting your website with paid ads can be a highly effective way of quickly driving traffic to your website.

The beauty of using paid ads is that they allow you to target a well-defined audience. Your ad will only be shown to relevant people who are likely to click through to your site. 

In addition, some paid ad channels, such as Facebook Ads, are relatively affordable. You can quickly drive traffic to your site without breaking the bank.

Finally, it’s quite easy to measure the ROI of paid ads. You can measure and track the number of site visits each dollar you invest in paid ads drives, which makes it easier to scale your marketing efforts.

For instance, if you are getting 10 clicks for every $1 invested, this means that to drive 1,000 people to your site, you need to invest $100. To get 5,000 visitors, just increase your ad budget to $500.

5. Write Guest Posts

Guest posting is another great way of getting visitors to your site. Guest posting basically means reaching out to established bloggers within your niche and offering to create high quality content to be published on their blogs, under your name.

There are several reasons why guest posts are very effective for driving traffic to your site. 

First, guest posts introduce you to the other blog’s audience. When you write highly informative, highly engaging posts for other blogs, some of their audience will visit your website to check out more of your content.

Second, guest posts provide you with an opportunity to build your brand and credibility. Being featured on high authority blogs in your niche shows you are quite knowledgeable about the niche and helps establish your brand. 

Generally, the more you build your brand, the easier it becomes to attract traffic to your site.

Finally, guest posting allows you to build backlinks to your site. When you publish a guest post on another site, the site will include a backlink to your site, usually in the author bio section.

These backlinks go away in boosting your site’s SEO, leading to higher search rankings and more organic traffic to your website.

Email List Building Tactics

Now that you know how to drive to your site, here are some high-quality tactics that you can use to convert this traffic into subscribers and grow your email list.

1. Standard Pop-Up Form

Standup pop forms are one of the most popular tools for collecting email addresses on websites. The standard pop-up form is a lead capture form that appears in the middle of the screen when a visitor opens your website.

A lot of people consider pop up forms to be a bit aggressive and intrusive. There’s one reason, however, why they are still around – they are highly effective.

According to Aweber, a popular email management service, using a standard popup can lead to 1,375% more subscriptions compared to placing your opt-in form on the sidebar. With such a success rate, it’s no surprise why standard popups are so popular.

When designing your standard pop-up form, we recommend ensuring that it matches the rest of your website in terms of style and color scheme. 

This way, the pop up will feel like part of your site’s user experience, rather than something that is meant to interrupt your visitors’ browsing.

At the same time, don’t make your standard pop-up form too similar to everything else on your website. While you want it to feel like a part of the general experience, it should still be distinguishable from the rest of your site content.

Making the pop-up form slightly different allows it to capture your site visitors’ attention and get them to take the action you want them to, which is sharing their email address.

Here’s an example of a standard popup form from ThinkFinance.io

An example of a standard popup form from ThinkFinance.io

2. Exit Intent Pop-Up Form

Exit intent pop-ups are a special kind of pop-up form that are only shown to your visitors just before they leave your website. They provide you with a last minute chance to convince your site visitors to subscribe to your email list.

When you set up an exit intent pop-up on your site, the site tracks your visitors’ behavior on the website, and when they move the cursor outside the page borders (signifying that they are about to leave the page), the pop-up gets triggered.

Exit intent pop-ups are typically more effective compared to standard pop-ups. The reason behind this lies in their level of intrusion.

Standard pop-up forms appear soon after a visitor lands on your website, before they’ve had adequate time to browse through the website and find the information they were looking for. This makes them annoying, since they interrupt your visitor’s browsing.

Exit intent pop-ups, on the other hand, only appear when a visitor is about to abandon your site. Since the visitor is on their way out, the pop-up doesn’t interrupt their browsing.

Instead, it gives them one final thing to focus on before they leave. If they loved the content on your website, they have a higher chance of signing up to your list.

What’s more, you can make your exit intent pop-ups even more relevant by personalizing them based on the page the visitor was browsing through.

For instance, if a visitor was checking out a product page, you can show them a pop-up form with a discount for the product. 

If they were browsing through your blog, on the other hand, you can show them a pop-up encouraging them to subscribe to get more interesting content about your niche.

Here’s an example of a highly effective exit intent pop-up from OptinMonster.

An example of a highly effective exit intent pop up from OptinMonster

3. Powerful Lead Magnets: The Power Of Incentives

Today, very few people will share their email address with you simply because you are asking. If you want people to share their email address, you have to give something in return. However, a hastily thrown together eBook won’t work either.

To convert your site visitors into subscribers, you need a lead magnet that is powerful enough. You need to make your site visitors feel that you actually care about them and their success, not just trying to profit off them.

So, what separates a powerful lead magnet from a poor one that drives no results? Below are the characteristics of a great lead magnet…

  • It provides real value: If someone can get what you’re offering on your lead magnet from a quick Google search, they’ll have no incentive to sign up for your list. A powerful lead magnet should provide your visitors with knowledge, information, or insights that they are unlikely to get elsewhere.
  • It solves a problem: A powerful lead magnet should provide actionable knowledge or advice that can solve real problems for your subscribers. It should act as a bridge between where your readers are, and where they desire to be.
  • It is highly targeted: Your lead magnet should be highly targeted to the audience you are trying to attract to your email list. This means that it should cover something that your audience cares about. For instance, if your target audience is digital marketers, your lead magnet should be something digital marketers care about.

Here’s an example of a great lead magnet from AdEspresso. It is highly targeted, and provides an overview of the value that someone will gain from downloading the eBook. 

An example of a great lead magnet from AdEspresso

4. Interactive Sign-Up Forms And Wheel Of Fortune

Another effective way of getting more people to sign up to your email list is to make the sign up process interactive and gamified.

People love games because they are fun and interesting, and by incorporating a game into your subscription process, you’re tapping into this aspect of human nature. 

Gamification also gives your site visitors a chance to win something, which provides added incentive to sign up to your list.

One of the best ways to make your sign up form interactive is to use a Wheel of Fortune. This is an interactive wheel that your site visitors can spin for a chance to win various prizes, such as discounts, free shipping, free gifts, and so on.

Interactive Sign Up Forms and Wheel of Fortune
Source: Omnisend

The Wheel of Fortune comes with a catch, which is what makes it so effective. Before being allowed to spin the wheel and try their luck, the user has to submit their email address. Since they want the prize, they have no other choice but to join your email list.

According to Modern Marketing Partners, Wheels of Fortune are one of the most effective opt-in forms, with an average conversion rate of 10%. The only other opt-in form with a higher conversion rate is the targeted landing page, which has a 23% conversion rate.

You can easily add a Wheel of Fortune sign up form on your website using the dozens of available Wheel of Fortune plugins.

5. Targeted Landing Page

Setting up a dedicated landing page is the most effective tactic for converting traffic into leads. 

A landing page is a distinct web page that is created with one single objective – getting prospects into your sales funnel.

You can drive traffic to your targeted landing page from multiple sources – social media, Google Ads, other pages on your website, and so on.

A landing page that is well optimized for conversions can significantly boost your email subscriptions, while lowering your lead generation costs.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when designing your landing page.

  • Keep it simple: Don’t cram too much information on your landing page. This will only push your visitors away without signing up. A few sentences explaining why someone should join your email list are enough, accompanied by some social proof from those who have already joined your list.
  • Have a value proposition: Give people an incentive for signing up to your list. What’s in it for them? If your visitors are not gaining any value from joining your list, they won’t sign up.
  • Have a clear CTA: Your CTA should be the most visible element on your landing page. You should also play around with words that are more likely to improve conversions. For instance, instead of “subscribe”, you could say “claim your discount.”
  • Add visual components: Visual elements such as an image of your eBook, embedded videos, countdown timers, and so on can help capture people’s attention and increase the likelihood of signing up.

Here’s an example of a well designed landing page from Shopify.

An example of a well designed landing page from Shopify

6. Host A Free Online Webinar

Webinars are a great way of gathering email addresses to add to your email list. You are offering to teach people something they’d love to learn, and all they need to join the webinar is their email address? It’s very hard for anyone to reject such an offer.

To use free online webinars to build your email list, here’s what you need to do…

  • Pick a great topic: The more interesting your webinar topic is, the more likely people are to sign up for the webinar. You should make sure that your topic webinar is relevant to your target audience. You don’t want to get sign ups from people who are unlikely to ever buy your products or services.
  • Promote your webinar: After picking a great webinar topic, the next step is to make as many people as possible aware of your webinar. Promote your webinar on your blog, on social media, and if you have the budget for it, consider paid ads. As people sign up for the webinar, they’ll be automatically added to your email list.
  • Reuse the webinar: Even after the actual webinar, you can continue using the webinar content as a lead magnet. Offer people who missed the webinar a chance to view the webinar content in exchange for their email address.

To host a great webinar, you’ll need access to a good webinar platform. Here are three of the best webinar platforms you should consider using to host your free online webinar.

  • WebinarJam: This webinar platform is great for webinars with large audiences. It comes with powerful in-built marketing features and is highly compatible with third party tools.
  • Demio: Demio is best suited for those looking for an intuitive, easy-to-use interface, powerful analytics, and ability to easily interact with the audience during live webinars.
  • WebinarNinja: This webinar platform is a great option for those looking for dynamic landing pages, email automation, and a modern, easy to use interface.

Here’s an example of a great webinar registration page by Nvidia.

An example of a great webinar registration page by Nvidia

7. Free Giveaways And Online Contests

Giveaways and online contests are a great option for anyone looking to massively grow their email list within a matter of days.

The idea behind giveaways and online contests is quite simple. You basically ask people to take a simple action, such as providing their email address and sharing the contest on their social media profiles, in exchange for a chance to win something that is of value to them.

Here are a couple of reasons why free giveaways and online contests are a great way of building your email list…

  • Running giveaways is usually more cost-effective compared to other marketing methods, such as paid ads.
  • Well designed giveaways and contests will only attract high quality leads – people who are actually interested in the kind of products and services you offer.
  • Since giveaways run for a limited time, they push people to take action immediately so as not to miss out on the giveaway.

One key consideration when creating a giveaway or online contest is your choice of prize. A good giveaway prize is one that will only attract the target audience you are trying to reach.

If you’re offering a cash prize, for instance, this will attract just about anyone. Most people will not turn down a chance to win free money. However, most of these people probably don’t care about your products or services.

Compare this to offering a more specific prize, such as a year’s subscription to select SEO tools, you’ll attract a very specific audience – people who are interested in improving their websites’ search rankings.

8. Referral Incentive Program

If you already have some subscribers in your email list, you can leverage these subscribers to help you grow your email list even further with a referral incentive program.

The idea behind referral incentive programs is pretty simple. You basically give your current subscribers a reward or other incentive to forward your emails to their friends and acquaintances and get them to subscribe to your list

The reward could be a discount, a coupon code, free gifts, free shipping, and so on.

Referral incentive programs are very effective at driving new subscriptions. For instance, The Morning Brew grew their email list to 1.5 million subscribers from just 100,000 subscribers in a year and a half using a referral program.

Similarly, in just a couple of months, The Hustle used a referral incentive program to grow their email list by over 300,000 subscribers.

There are two things that make referral incentive programs successful. First, they rely on word-of-mouth marketing, which is the most trusted form of marketing. 

Think of it this way… If you come across a product on a Facebook ad, you might still be wary about the product. The company could be lying about its benefits just to get you to buy.

However, if a trusted friend recommends the same product, you are more likely to purchase the product. After all, your friend has no reason to lie to you, and they already know what you like, so it’s very likely that the product is suitable for you.

The second reason why referral incentive programs are highly effective is because they create a viral loop. Your subscribers invite their friends, who then become subscribers and invite their friends, and so on. This keeps your email list growing exponentially.

9. Offline List Building

While email marketing is a digital marketing channel, this does not mean that you cannot use offline tactics to collect emails to add to your email list. Here are some offline tactics you can leverage to grow your email list…

  • Whenever you exchange business cards with people, add their email address to your mailing list.
  • Whenever you are participating in events and in-person fairs, have a registration sheet where people visiting your booth can provide their name and email address.
  • If you have a brick and mortar store, have a sign-up sheet and encourage customers who walk into your store to write down their details, including their email address.
  • Customize your physical receipts and create a field where customers can write down their email address.

With these offline list building tactics, you’ll need to manually add the email addresses you’ve collected to your email database. Despite the extra work, however, they can still be an effective way of adding some extra emails to your list.

10. Create A Free Online Tool Or Calculator

Online tools are automated pieces of software that perform a particular service for your site visitors, such as analyzing the quality of their website, analyzing user behavior on your visitors’ sites, helping them calculate something, and so on.

The beauty of online tools is that they provide great value for your site visitors. For instance, if you have a tool that helps a user analyze people’s behavior on their site, this user can then leverage these insights to improve their website.

In doing so, your online tool solves a problem for them, and they’ll be happy to share their email address in exchange for such insights.

Here is an example of an online tool from HubSpot. Known as Website Grader, this online tool grades your website and gives it a score based on its performance, SEO, mobile friendliness, and security.

An example of an online tool from HubSpot Website Grader

Below is another example of an online tool by Neil Patel. Once you submit your website, the tool analyzes your website’s search engine optimization and provides recommendations on how you can improve your site. 

To receive the report and recommendations, you have to submit your email address.

Example of an online tool by Neil Patel

With this tactic, you create high quality blog posts and offers, and then lock them behind a gate that can only be unlocked by some action on the user’s part. In this case, the user has to submit their email address in order to access the gated content. 

The gated content tactic is particularly common among online newspapers, such as the New York Times and Washington Post. Here’s an example of a content gate from The New York Times.

Example of a content gate from The New York Times

With this tactic, you can either make your content fully or partially gated. Fully gated content means that readers have to submit their email address before accessing any part of the content.

Partially gated content, on the other hand, makes some part of the content – usually the first paragraph or two – accessible to all. However, one has to sign up to access the rest of the content.

If you are going to use gated content to get people to sign up to your email list, you have to make sure that you are offering exclusive and high value content.

Locking low quality content that is readily available elsewhere behind a content gate will make people feel cheated, which might push some of them to unsubscribe from your list.

12. Guest Blog And Share A Call-To-Action

Guest blogging is a great way to build your brand and drive traffic to your website. However, it can also be used to grow your email list.

To use guest blogging as a list building tactic, start by identifying relevant blogs within your niche and pitch relevant content ideas to these blogs. Once your pitches are approved, go ahead and create a high quality guest post.

At the end of the guest post, close the article with a call to action asking readers to subscribe to your email list, with a link to a landing page where they can sign up

Provided your guest post offers great value, some of the readers from this blog will sign up to receive more content from you.

13. Host A Co-Marketing Offer With A Partner

Sometimes, partnering with other businesses that share a similar audience with your own can be a great way for both of you to grow your email lists while reducing the work each of you has to do.

Let’s say, for instance, that you have a business in the content marketing niche, while someone else has a business in the search optimization niche. These two businesses have overlapping audiences – website owners and marketers looking to drive more traffic to their websites.

These two business owners can partner and develop a co-marketing offer, such as an eBook, a webinar, or a free email course. 

Since they are working together, they can split up the work and come up with a high quality marketing offer in less time and with less effort.

After developing the content, each partner then markets the offer to their audience, allowing both to reach more people than each would have been able to reach on their own.

Ready To Build And Grow Your Email List?

Building an email list is crucial if you want to build a profitable online business. An email list provides you with an opportunity to nurture your leads and move them along your sales funnel until they convert into paying customers.

An email list also allows you to retarget existing customers with new deals and offers, thus effectively increasing your customer lifetime value.

In this guide, we have shared with you 13 tactics that you can use to build an email list fast. For even faster results, we recommend using a combination of tactics to grow your list.

For instance, you might have an exit intent pop-up for new visitors, a wheel of fortune opt-in form for people checking out your product pages, and online contests to collect emails from your social media followers.

Anastasia Belyh

Editor at FounderJar

Anastasia has been a professional blogger and researcher since 2014. She loves to perform in-depth software reviews to help software buyers make informed decisions when choosing project management software, CRM tools, website builders, and everything around growing a startup business.

Anastasia worked in management consulting and tech startups, so she has lots of experience in helping professionals choosing the right business software.