How to Build an Email List: 9 Proven Strategies [+Examples]
The most effective way to grow your business?
Email marketing, hands down.
Emails connect you directly with your current and potential customers. They give you a lot of choice of what offers to promote and when.
So, there’s just no getting around it—you need to build an email list. And here’s good news: email list building is something you can start easily (even if you’re a beginner).
Read on to learn:
Email list building: where to start?
Email list building can be challenging.
But you can build an email list quite fast even with no experience. You just need to take care of a few things before capturing emails. In other words, prepare to make sure you’ll hit the ground running.
Those preparations are:
Choose a bonus for signing up. What’s in it for people (discounts, interesting content, special offers, etc.)?
Create the first email campaign. No need to wait until you’ve collected a huge email list—start communicating with subscribers right away.
Set up helpful automations. Example: have your popup software send emails straight to your email app automatically—you’ll save hours of manual work.
Once you’re done—
You can create an email capture campaign and start building your email list. Let me give you an idea of how fast that can be.
In this video, you’ll see how to make an email capture popup in seven minutes.
Feel free to practice making this campaign here:
Let’s go over the best ways to build an email list.
How to build email list from scratch
Embedded signup forms
Gated content & lead magnets
1. Website popups
Let’s be honest: people don’t go to websites to see popups.
You know, they call them “annoying” and the like.
But here’s a thing—many folks don’t mind popups. In fact, they expect them to get discounts, offers, and coupons. That’s why popups convert up to 15% of visitors and build huge lists of emails for marketing.
And that’s how you can capture emails, too. Let’s look at the best popups you can use.
A welcome popup is a campaign that appears shortly after visitors arrive at the website. It’s a chance to offer them some encouragement to shop with some kind of an incentive.
For instance, online stores use a welcome discount for new customers to convert traffic into sales.
Example: Empire Skate offers 10% off the first order.
Newsletter signup popups
Needless to say, many folks visiting your website will be glad to subscribe to your newsletter (in fact, 83% of businesses send newsletters). After all, they’re there to see if they can buy something.
The catch here, as always, is that you need to ask them to sign up.
Most businesses use popups for newsletter signup campaigns—mainly by displaying them on homepages. But you can have it on any page to capture more emails from visitors.
Here’s an example of this email list building strategy—Le Creuset invites us to sign up with a good-looking popup.
Le Creuset used Wisepops to create this popup ☝️
See more: 10 Examples of how businesses build email lists with Wisepops
Those are popups that appear only when visitors try to leave the website.
Online stores often use exit popups to encourage subscribing. They’re often their last chance to convert visitors, if you will.
PRESS Foods, for example, gives 10% off as a friendly nudge. Also, note that the discount is valid for one day—so there’s some urgency involved as well.
One more thing about popups in general—
If you’re serious about building your email list with them, you need to try different campaigns. That means different discount sizes, campaign designs, or pages where you show popups.
Experimenting can really make a difference: too many times, folks make only one popup with a “template-like” design, just to get a few emails (or no emails at all).
On the other hand…
Those who experiment (even a bit) get results—
Ben from Asphalte managed to convert 6.6% of his visitors (that equaled 4,000 emails) thanks to testing different designs.
Want to try a popup to capture emails?
Here’s a campaign idea:
Offer a 10% discount. That’s a safe amount (but feel free to choose another size)
Show it 5-10 seconds after visitors arrive. This way, you’ll lessen the intrusion (here’s how to adjust timing)
Use the colors of your website. They’ll make the popup look very natural
Instructions 👉 how to make a discount popup. Also, add one of these 18 discount ideas to aim for a specific conversion goal.
2. Embedded signup forms
An embedded signup form is a form that’s also a static part of a website. It’s an essential web design part—and a must-have, non-intrusive way to build an email list.
Most signup forms are placed at the bottom of websites. Like in this example, CANN invites visitors to subscribe to emails after they viewed the homepage in full.
A common way to build an email list is to combine embedded signup forms with popups. Not all visitors will scroll down to the very bottom + popups focus attention more effectively.
To generate emails with embeds, embedded signup forms need to:
Have a clear message (“sign up”)
Fit naturally into the website design
Give real value (discounts, content, updates, etc.)
If you’re wondering if adding embeds to websites is difficult, have a look at this video below. Spoiler: design takes more time (from the technical standpoint, all you have to do is add a line of code to the website’s HTML).
💡 Pro tip
Try placing your embedded signup in different locations on your website.
Example: add a form somewhere halfway on a page in addition to the website’s footer. This way, that form will get more visibility.
3. Gated content & lead magnets
Simply put, gated content that you have to unlock to view.
By unlocking, I mean giving your email, of course.
Gated content is an effective way to build an email list for businesses that have some expertise to share. Lead magnets fall into this category, too (a lead magnet is a valuable resource leads also have to “unlock.”)
There are many ways to build an email list with gated content.
Like that, for example—
It’s a locked article on the Backlinko blog containing tips on getting to the first page of Google.
To get access, we just need to click Unlock Now.
Once we do that—
A popup appears with a signup form, inviting us to engage.
Leads magnets are especially worth doing because they also help build and promote a brand’s authority. For example, if your business helps target customers to get something done thanks to lead magnets, they will be more likely to engage with you.
For example, you can offer a guide with tips…
You can share a cheat sheet like this one…
Why not try books if you can…
You can also generate emails with free tools.
Your chosen lead magnet should make sense for your business and potential clients. If it helps them to achieve something they need, then it should add many new emails to your list.
There are more lead magnets out there—
Check out these 20 examples of lead magnets to find a good one. There’s also a tutorial on how to create and promote them in that guide.
4. Notification feed
What do I mean by “notification feed”?
I’m talking about social media-like notifications for websites.
Sounds cool, right? Indeed, the onsite notifications are a unique new way to engage visitors—and a fantastic way for building email lists.
Here’s onsite notifications on Pedego Harlem store 👇
As you can see, you click on a “bell,” browse the feed, and click on a message to get more details. In most cases, websites add products, news, and of course, forms to get emails in the feed.
Here’s a closer look at the notification signup form.
This brand has a pretty straightforward message to convince visitors to join their email list.
But you can create your notifications differently. For example, add discounts and any other bonuses you might want to use to build your email list.
Because every notification is 100% customizable—
Meaning you can easily change headlines, texts, and images 👇
But there’s more—
You can personalize the design of onsite notifications even more. Cabaiia, an online store, made some customizations to make a cool feed like this 👇
Here’s what happens when you click the message.
As you can see, the brand announces new products through the feed. That’s an easy way to focus the attention of visitors.
And you can make your onsite notification feed truly yours thanks to customizations.
That’s why onsite notifications are a great tool to a) build email lists and b) announce products in a unique way.
5. Spin-to-win contests
Here’s the deal:
Most websites are static. Some might even say boring. (Can’t blame them for that.)
And that’s why game elements have direct and positive effects on engaging online shoppers. As far as email list building is concerned, those could be contests and giveaways.
The trick is simple: shoppers enter their details to get a chance to win something. It’s easy, it’s fun, and effective (especially when the reward is nice).
Faguo, a clothing store, chose a pair of expensive sneakers to give away. They created a spin-to-win wheel (a good-looking one, too) and invited visitors to participate.
The results were quite impressive.
Faguo converted 17.5% of their visitors with the wheel and added 48K new emails to their list. Take a look.
Learn more: Faguo email list building project
Next email list building strategy—
This simple strategy can also land you thousands of emails. Pick something your customers would consider valuable, create a campaign, and choose winners.
Here’s Pela Case’s gift card giveaway as an example.
6. Website bars
A bar is a horizontal text field at the top or bottom of a website.
Although folks mostly use them for announcements, website bars can be a great way to build an email list, too.
Here are a few advantages of website bars:
You can add them to any page
They’re highly visible
See for yourself—
PDPAOLA, a jewelry store, captures emails with a bar containing a 10% discount 👇The campaign fits the overall website design perfectly.
Also, note the bar at the top—the black one announcing a sitewide sale.
The placement of the two bars is something to keep in mind—this way, you can display important messages without taking up too much screen space.
7. Referral programs
Referral programs can be a way to build an email list fast.
They let you take advantage of a fantastic promotion strategy: personal recommendations. Research shows that most people are likely to buy something recommended by someone they know 👇
To capture emails with referral bonuses—
Create a program where you give existing customers some incentive in exchange for bringing in new ones.
Example: Chubbies gives $10 off to both.
Besides discounts, you can also try:
Before you decide to try this email list building method, know that referral programs require some work. You’ll have to create a dedicated landing page + get a referral program app to get started.
👉 Examples of loyalty programs (including Chubbies, Dollar Shave Club & Starbucks)
If you’re building an email list for an online store, consider this idea.
Wishlists work like this:
People register at an online store and make a list of products they love. (Of course, the products come from the same store). Then, they sign up for a giveaway to win that list.
Next, you choose the winner and give away a gift card covering the cost of all products on that list.
That’s exactly what BrüMate does 👇
If you’re interested in learning more about this promotion, here are the conditions 👇
As you can see, the goal here is to have more people sign up. Doing so is very easy—wishlists don’t require any purchases or pre-payments.
This way, you can generate plenty of emails and potential customers. Also, note that BrüMate is a store that sells products that are often gifted—this also helps to get more participants.
This email list building strategy works for SaaS businesses and bloggers.
A webinar is a live online event hosted to teach or inform the audience about a specific topic. Webinars are often interactive, with participants asking and answering questions and completing surveys.
You could have webinars pretty much about anything.
Shoppable social media…
About how to sell more on Black Friday (this one is our own webinar).
Webinars like this can help your business stand out and establish credibility.
Besides, those who go through the trouble of signing up are likely to be interested in what you’re doing (or selling), so those leads will be more engaged and of high quality.
A large, active email list.
That’s the best way to quickly grow your business.
Now you know where to start and how to continue building your email list.
Although this project will take some time and effort, it’s a must-do for getting a customer base and becoming a real business. I hope this post helped you to get a good idea of where to start building your email list.
Have more questions or some suggestions? Tell me your thoughts in the comments!
Oleksii Kovalenko is a digital marketing specialist and a writer with a degree in international marketing. He has six years of experience helping ecommerce store owners to promote their businesses.