How to Build an Email List From Scratch (in 9 Easy Steps)

Email list building is the foundation of effective email marketing

When you have an engaged email list, promoting and growing your business feels easy.

When your email list is of bad quality, however, all you see are skyrocketing bounce rates and pitiful return on investment.

In this article, we’ll look at how to build an email list from scratch. But not just any list. We’ll look at how you can attract new subscribers who’ll engage with your email marketing campaigns and help your business grow.

Sound like a plan? Let’s dive right in.

How to build an email list from scratch (in 9 easy steps)

  1. Make your newsletter a valuable product
  2. Promote your newsletter like a product
  3. Create lead magnets
  4. Present the benefits of joining your email list
  5. Create a landing page for your newsletter
  6. Add subscription forms to your website and blog
  7. Create a survey for website and blog visitors
  8. Run a webinar for your target audience
  9. Create a list-building funnel

Editor’s note: Want to save these ideas for later? Then download our handy infographic summing up how you can build an email list from scratch in 9 easy steps.

How to Create an Email List the Right Way.

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1. Make your newsletter a valuable product

If you want new subscribers to sign up for your newsletter, you need to make it worth their effort and time. That’s why I recommend treating your newsletter like a product. First, you need to develop a great product and then communicate the benefits of using it.

There are a few rules to follow when it comes to newsletter design, but in my opinion, you can boil it down to the 3 following:

  1. Focus on your target audience 

Focus on the people who are likely to become your customers. Constantly learn about their information needs and develop the right content that corresponds to their daily challenges.

  1. Make it useful 

The content you share in your email marketing campaigns needs to be valuable for your target audience. Make sure it solves real-life problems and is easily accessible.

  1. Engage with your contacts and ask for feedback 

Use your newsletter as a two-way communication channel, e.g., send emails people can reply to, ask questions, run surveys, organize webinars, etc. Remember that the closer you are to your customers and potential customers, the more you know about their information needs.

An email marketing message using customer reviews.
A fragment of email from REUZEL presenting selected customer reviews 

As observed in the email marketing benchmarks, when you provide value for your contacts, you see higher conversion and engagement rates. 

Did you know? You can now build and manage your email list more easily with GetResponse Lead Generation tools, which include forms and popups, landing pages, webinars, funnels, and many other useful features. And if you’d like to learn how to maintain a healthy email list first, read our email list management best practices guide.

Once your newsletter is ready, you can advertise it and run promotional campaigns via the available channels (just like you would do with a product). 

  • Social media pages: Add your newsletter signup link or a banner promoting your lead magnet to your email signature and all your key social media profiles. Most platforms let you customize the description of your business page or bio in your personal profile.   

Here are some more ways how you can build an email list with Facebook and another on how to create a Facebook Landing Page

Here’s how a popular organizational psychologist, Adam Grant, promotes his work in his  Twitter profile.

Adam Grant promoting his work on Twitter.
  • Blog: it’s very likely that people who land on your blog organically represent your target audience. Use an opt-in form and invite your blog visitors to join your email list if they like the content on your blog.
  • Podcast: if you run a podcast, tell people about your newsletter and provide a subscription link. You can even create a separate email list for your podcast listeners and provide them with a VIP experience. 
  • Online conferences and events: in 2020, we moved our events online. This format means that we’re not able to talk and exchange business cards, but we can still add a slide about the newsletter to our presentation deck. 
  • Partnerships: finding a partner is not easy but crucial for our well-being 🙂 Think of the people to run cross-registration campaigns and write guest articles with. Create a list of potential partners and put outreach on your weekly agenda.
An example of a co-organized webinar.
An example of a co-organized webinar.
  • Ecommerce customer profile: make sure that people can easily sign up for your newsletter when they register with your ecommerce platform.
Screenshot of creating an ecommerce customer profile including a checkbox allowing visitors to sign up for an email list.
A checkbox allowing visitors to add their email address to an email list at registration. 
  • PPC campaigns: paid advertising requires a budget but at the same time gives you a lot of targeting options so you can reach your audience with unparalleled precision. Explore the opportunities like Facebook Lead Ads and retargeting campaigns to bring more people to your contact list. 

    Read more to learn how Infoshare Academy, a provider of IT programming courses, used Facebook lead ads to generate 1200 subscribers in 30 days.

  • Tools and software: a great way to grow your email marketing list is to build an online tool or software that your target audience will want to use. Rather than asking users to pay upfront, give them the chance to get limited access in exchange for their email address.
Screenshot of a headline analyzer tool.
Screenshot of an email signup form added into an online tool.

3. Create lead magnets 

A lead magnet is something valuable for your target audience that you offer in exchange for contact information. The goal of the lead magnet is to incentivize subscription and maximize the number of targeted leads captured via an opt-in form. 

Lead magnet examples:

  • Ebook 
  • Guide
  • Report 
  • Checklist 
  • Resource kit 
  • Framework 
  • Educational materials
Example of a free guide created specifically with the brand’s target audience in mind.
Example of a free guide created specifically with the brand’s target audience in mind.

There are, of course, other types of “freebies” or “opt-in bribes” you can offer. 

The key point here is that if you want to grow your email list, you need to create content that your audience will want to trade their email addresses for. 

This article will provide you with more ideas for lead magnets that’ll help you grow your email list fast. Plus, you’ll find valuable tips on what content you should create to generate the collect the highest number of subscribers. 

Editor’s note: Want to find out which opt-in incentives work best? Check our new report: Best Lead Magnets for Lead Generation.

4. Present the benefits or joining your email list 

Why should anyone join your contact list? I’m sure that at this point, you can quickly answer this question but do you communicate clearly to the people who haven’t heard about your brand yet? 

Go beyond the “sign up to our newsletter” by simply providing a few reasons to do so. 

Example of a popup with a signup form.
A pop-up inviting website visitors to enter a contest.

Come up with different incentives, like a loyalty program, discount, exclusive merch, or contest and test which one proves to be most effective. 

5. Create a landing page for your newsletter 

A landing page, also known as a “lead capture page” or a “squeeze page,” is a single web page designed to build a contact list. Create a landing page for your newsletter.

A short squeeze page form.
Example of a short squeeze page containing only two fields – name and email address – and offering a free ebook.

There are many ways you can build landing pages, but the most convenient one is to use a landing page creator. 

The landing page creator available in GetResponse comes with mobile-optimized free landing page templates, an intuitive drag and drop editor, and multiple other features. 

Here you can see it in action: 

Related posts: How to create a high converting landing page & best landing page examples 

Conversion tips: keep your landing page simple by providing a single call to action. Create A/B variants of your landing page. Run tests and see how content type, copy, or design changes influence performance. 

6. Add subscription forms to your website and blog

A web form, a.k.a. a signup form, is an HTML form that is installed on a website to enable visitors to sign up. There are different kinds of forms to choose from, e.g., a subscription form, download box, scroll form, fixed bar, lightbox, or an exit pop-up. 

Add a fixed bar or a pop-up form to the highest converting pages like the product page and about us. This way, people who are interested in your offer might sign up and receive more relevant information.

To build an opt-in form, you can either code it from scratch or use a Free Signup Form Builder, like the one built into GetResponse.

There, you’ll find various templates to choose from and an intuitive editor that’ll let you customize your web form to fit the style of your website.

Popup form templates available in GetResponse.
Examples of free popup form templates available in GetResponse.

When designing your opt-in form, think about the quality to quantity-ratio. If you want to reach a specific target audience (e.g., to generate B2B leads), you might need to create a longer web form asking for more details: company name, company size, position, etc.

A long signup form including multiple input fields.
Example of a long webform designed to collect email subscribers. 

Related: B2B email marketing guide

On the other hand, if your goal is to reach a broader audience (e.g., to reach potential ecommerce customers), you might ask only for basic information like name and email address. 

The rule of thumb is that the longer the form, the fewer people subscribe. The shorter the web form, the more subscriptions you get, but you can’t be sure how many people actually meet your criteria. The trick is to know your goal and ask only for relevant information to balance the quality/quantity ratio accordingly. 

7. Create a survey for website and blog visitors 

Your website visitors and blog readers already expressed interest in your products or content. Use surveys to jump in and invite people who enjoy your content to subscribe for more. 

Website popup survey example.
A pop-up survey with a question from Ada, GetResponse blog editor 

8. Run a webinar for your target audience 

A webinar, also known as an “online seminar,” “web conference,” or an “online meeting,” can serve as a great way to build an email marketing list with high-quality contacts. The idea is simple – you offer valuable information to everyone who signs up for your contact list. 

Carefully planned webinar content will certainly attract your target audience. You can promote your webinar via other online marketing channels to maximize outreach.

A webinar signup landing page.

If you’re interested in this particular list-building method, this article talks more about how webinars work

Pro tip: Partner up with people in your industry with same target audience. 

9. Create a list-building funnel 

Looking for a quicker way to generate leads? Check out the conversion funnel – a simplified way to create a list-building campaign. 

There are 2 kinds of a list building funnels: 

  1. Lead magnet funnel 

With lead magnet funnels you can host your lead magnets, set up landing pages, create autoresponders, and promote them with Facebook Ads — all in a matter of minutes. 

Pro tip: You don’t need a lead magnet to start collecting email subscribers with lead magnet funnels. They come with a set of pre-made templates and content upgrades you can use in your own campaigns.

Example of a lead magnet squeeze page.
Example of a lead magnet funnel squeeze page pre-built in GetResponse. 
  1. Standard opt-in funnel 

These list-building funnels can help you set up a full lead generation campaign even if you don’t have a downloadable opt-in incentive. Use them to promote your newsletter, an email course, a monetary incentive, or a resource vault. 

Read more to learn how to build a lead funnel

Grab our infographic and go for it!

You’ve got everything you need to start building your email list. Just follow the steps in this article and build yourself a solid revenue stream. Generate whole lotta leads with email marketing and make 2022 a great year for your business.

And in case you’re looking for a solution that can help you grow your list faster using tools such as forms and popups, landing pages, or webinars, be sure to check out GetResponse.

Start building your email list today with our free-forever plan!

Prefer to see it in action first? Check out this quick video tutorial to see how you can set up popups in GetResponse and install them on your WordPress website.

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