Email marketing generates as much as a 4,200% return on investment.

That means on average, every dollar that businesses spend on their email marketing efforts becomes $42 in income.

Of course, in order to harness the power of email marketing for your business and take advantage of this fantastic marketing opportunity, you’ll need an email list. 

If you haven’t already got one, not to worry. This comprehensive guide will tell you exactly how to start growing your email list, as well as outlining some key best practices to make sure it stays in tip-top shape over time.

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Why build an email list?

Email marketing is one of the most valuable marketing tools out there. The best part? It’s accessible and powerful whether you’re a small business just getting started or a well-established multinational organization.

In order to start formulating your email marketing strategy and reaping the rewards it can bring to your business, you’ll need an email list. Without any subscribers, you won’t have any contacts to deliver your valuable email content to.

If we haven’t convinced you yet, here are just a few of the benefits a robust email list and excellent email marketing approach can offer your company:

  • Increased sales
  • Reduced advertising costs
  • High return on investment (ROI)
  • Easily measurable insights & analytics
  • Improved brand recognition & awareness
  • The creation of a community surrounding your brand
  • Deeper, more loyal customer relationships
  • Easy lead generation & nurturing opportunities
  • Increased website traffic
  • Ownership of your contact list
  • A direct line of communication with your customers

9 Strategies to build your email list

Building an email list from scratch is a big undertaking, but it’s absolutely essential to the success of online businesses. If you’re just getting started, follow this step-by-step guide and you’ll be on your way in no time.

1. Import any existing contacts (and make sure they opt in!)

You might not necessarily be starting your list from zero, even if you think you are. Make sure you add any email addresses you already have onto your subscriber list before you start thinking about capturing new ones.

For example, you might have existing email addresses:

  • If you previously had an account with another email service provider and are migrating to a new one.
  • If you have a brick-and-mortar shop or online business, you might have email addresses in your point-of-sale (POS) system.
  • If you have online documents or physical lists of people who are interested in your product or have previously purchased it.

Keep in mind that you’ll need to ask these kinds of contacts to opt into your email list, even if you already have their email addresses. This is important in order to stay compliant with privacy regulations and follow general email marketing best practices.

2. Make an eye-catching opt-in form

Now, let’s dive into the different ways you can start capturing email addresses for your subscriber list. One of the easiest ways to do so is by creating a stunning opt-in form that will make potential customers want to hear more from you by becoming a subscriber.

Opt-in forms are very flexible tools that you can use to build your email list. You can offer potential subscribers a discount code or a free eBook to motivate them to opt into receiving your content. You can also pique people’s interest by sharing the value you consistently deliver to your email subscribers.

If you’re not sure how to begin designing your opt in form, you’re in luck. Flodesk has a wide variety of gorgeous signup form templates that make it easy to put together a beautiful page that’ll get you more subscribers with minimal time and effort.

Flodesk opt-in forms are also simple to share via link so you can capture email addresses everywhere: in emails, on your website, on social media pages, on landing pages, in Facebook groups, and more.

If you need some inspiration to get started designing your opt in page, take a peek at our top signup form examples.

3. Add a tasteful pop-up form to your website

Pop-up forms are a fantastic way to turn website visitors into new subscribers, but it’s important to use them correctly. Be sure to keep these best practices in mind:

  • Only include one pop-up on your homepage. Pop-ups are effective ways to communicate information, but they can also become annoying and overwhelming quickly. Don’t add more than one pop-up on your website homepage and make sure that it can be closed quickly and doesn’t interrupt your visitor’s experience too much. If you’re focusing on growing your email subscriber list, your only pop-up should focus on that.
  • Ensure that your pop-up is consistent with your branding. Pop-ups done wrong can come off as spammy, so be sure that your pop-up is well-designed and consistent with your branding so it looks like an extension of your website.
  • Make your pop-up easy to close. Don’t “trap” your visitors with pop-ups. They should be easy to close or navigate away from if someone isn’t interested.

Flodesk has a built-in pop-up form builder, so adding one onto your website homepage has never been easier. Simply customize one of our stunning, ready-to-use pop-up form templates, copy-paste one snippet of code into your website editor, and you’ll be ready to start collecting your next visitor’s email address.

Click here if you want more information about adding a Flodesk pop-up onto your website.

4. Promote your email list on social media channels

If you’re just getting your business off the ground and don’t have an extensive website set up yet, not to worry. There are plenty of ways to collect email addresses and build your subscriber list without a website, and using your social media accounts is one of them.

The most straightforward way to promote your email newsletter on social media is by including a link to your sign-up form in your bio. However, your work doesn’t end there.

To really motivate paying customers to opt into your email newsletter, catch their attention by explaining why they should sign up. Be very clear about the kind of valuable content, advantages, and benefits they’ll get by becoming one of your email subscribers.

Social media is wonderful because it provides businesses with ample opportunities to connect with their target audience. For example, you can use Instagram stories to hype up your email list and motivate sign ups. Tease upcoming launches and promotions and hint that your email subscribers will have first access to all the details. You can even add Instragram story stickers that link directly to your opt-in form.

5. Relate blog post CTAs to your email list

If someone is reading one of your blog posts, they’re probably already interested in what your company has got to say. Why not leverage that interest and convert your readers into email subscribers with a powerful CTA?

Imagine you’re an investment expert who wrote an excellent blog post breaking down the basics of investing. Your readers would likely be inexperienced investors eager to learn more about it and access related resources.

That means that they would be fantastic new subscribers for your email list!

A great course of action would be adding a couple of buttons throughout your blog post, preferably one near the beginning and one towards the end. Then, make those buttons into calls to action to join your subscriber list.

Here’s an example:

“Want to learn more about investing for beginners? Join my email list for more valuable content just like this.”

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6. Ask customers to opt into your email list during the checkout process

Customers almost always have to submit their email addresses when concluding the checkout process at an eCommerce store. This is a great opportunity to ask them to opt into your email list as a subscriber and give consent to receive a wider range of email content.

Even though many companies automatically add their customers to their subscriber lists once they’ve purchased something, it’s best to ask them for express consent. This will result in fewer unsubscribes and complaints down the road.

It’s also a great idea to ask customers to specify their email marketing preferences at this stage so they can specifically opt into the kind of email communications they’re most interested in.

7. Offer leads something valuable in exchange for opting in

One of the oldest tricks in the email list building book is also one of the most effective. In order to motivate potential leads to join your subscriber list, offer them something of value in exchange for their email address.

Here are some of the most common examples:

  • A discount code (usually between 10-20%) for their first purchase
  • A freebie or other gift
  • Exclusive access to a new product launch or sale
  • A free product trial or session
  • Valuable content (that would otherwise be gated or not publicly available) like guides, eBooks, and white papers

8. Consider referral programs

Referral programs are initiatives where businesses reward their customers for recommending their brand to other people in their network. They’re a win-win-win situation because the customer gets access to some kind of perk, the business expands their audience, and the referred potential customer discovers a product or service that might be useful to them.

For instance, many businesses offer discounts to customers who refer their business to a friend or family member who makes a purchase.

This same principle could easily be applied to email list building. If one of your customers spreads the word about your business and gets people from their network to opt into your email list, offer them some kind of reward or benefit.

9. Run a webinar

Webinars are an underrated tool that can make a serious impact on email list growth. If you consider yourself an expert in your niche and have got information to share with your community, put together a webinar so you can share your knowledge far and wide while adding subscribers to your contact list.

Start collecting email addresses with your webinar registration list. Create a landing page or signup form and ask participants to enter their contact information in order to receive a link to your webinar when it begins.

Webinars also provide a great opportunity to market yourself to your target audience. They’ll be able to get to know you and understand the kind of value they can expect to receive from you if they stay on your email list.

Email list maintenance and best practices to keep in mind

Email lists are dynamic— you can’t simply collect a decent amount of email addresses and leave it at that. If you want your email list to become a key aspect of your marketing and sales strategy, it’ll require some upkeep.

Follow these key maintenance tips and best practices and you’ll continue to convert qualified leads and keep your subscriber list in great form for years to come.

Decide on the focus of your email list

Before you even get started collecting email addresses, establish your email list’s objective. If you don’t gain clarity on your email marketing goals before you put time and effort into building your list, it’ll be harder to be consistent with your content and market yourself to new subscribers.

Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What kind of value can I deliver to my email subscribers?
  • How do I want my subscribers to feel when they receive my emails?
  • What kind of email marketing campaigns do I like to receive as a subscriber?
  • What kind of email marketing content do my competitors send out? What would I like to replicate and what would I like to change?

Nail down your target audience and tone of voice

If you haven’t already nailed down exactly who your business’s target audience is and what your brand’s tone of voice sounds (ToV) like, there’s no time like the present to do so.

Clarity on who your target audience is will help inform what kind of email content will align best with your subscribers. A rich understanding of your ToV will guide how you talk to your email subscribers and help you stay consistent in your communications with them.

If you aren’t already familiar, here are some quick definitions for you:

  • Target audience: The group of people you envision would be most interested in your products or services. This is usually determined with demographic and social factors like age, location, profession, and interests.
  • Tone of voice: How your brand expresses itself through words. This relates to everything from how casual your communications are to the expressions and jargon you use. Most businesses put together a document outlining their ToV and update it as necessary.

Send a welcome campaign to new subscribers

When new leads sign up for your email list, they expect to receive some kind of welcome message from you. That’s why it’s so important to create a welcome email automation that sends out a welcome campaign as soon as someone opts in.

If you aren’t already familiar, a welcome campaign is a series of emails that introduces your brand to the new subscribers on your mailing list. They help your potential customers get to know your business and what you’re all about and usually provide some kind of value right off the bat.

Welcome campaigns can be as little as one email or as many as five emails, but they should get the following information across:

  • What makes you tick as a company. Share your brand mission, story, values, and objectives. Be enthusiastic, get buy-in early on, and explain why you’re so passionate about what you do.
  • There’s something in it for the subscriber. Be sure to appreciate the fact that your new subscriber joined your email community! Thank them with a discount code, exclusive access, membership in a private Facebook group, or content upgrades.
  • Build trust and rapport. Start things off on the right foot by letting new subscribers know they can trust you. Do this by being transparent about your brand, letting them know how they can reach you, sharing authentic reviews and testimonials, and talking to them in a personable manner.
  • Open the door for conversation. In order to build a mutually beneficial professional relationship with your subscribers, it’s important to keep the conversation going and be open to feedback. Let new subscribers know that you value their opinions and would like to hear from them should they have any questions, comments, or concerns.
  • Explain how you can help your subscriber. Whether you sell products or services, you’re providing your customers with something that can help them solve a problem. Make this clear in your welcome campaign. For instance, if you’re selling rain jackets, explain why your rain jackets will solve the problem of keeping them warm and dry in stormy weather better than any other option on the market.

Stunning, branded emails? Yes, please!

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Keep user experience in mind

Building an email list is important, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of user experience (UX). In this case, UX refers to your subscribers’ holistic experience with your brand from beginning to end.

An overly aggressive list building strategy can come off as spammy and easily lead to annoyed, frustrated, or even angry potential leads. This translates into negative UX and can unfortunately reflect poorly on your brand as a whole.

Here are a few key insights to keep in mind to ensure your email marketing efforts produce great UX for your leads and new subscribers:

  • If you’re using pop-up forms to collect email addresses, make sure their design is tasteful and that they aren’t overly intrusive for those browsing your website. Ideally, they should be easy to address or close in just a couple of clicks.
  • Go beyond sales. Email marketing is a key tool to drive sales, but you should be providing more than just sales-related content to your subscribers. Remember, it needs to be clear why they benefit from being on your email list. New subscribers may become irritated if you collect their email addresses and start bombarding them with sales content right away.
  • Make adjusting email preferences and/or unsubscribing easy. It’s never a good feeling when one of your contacts wants to unsubscribe from your list, but doing so should be easy. It’s also a good idea to allow subscribers to seamlessly adjust email frequency and preferences so that they’re always receiving relevant content they’re genuinely interested in.

Make email list clean up a habit

In order to maintain a high-quality email list, you’ll need to clean it up from time to time.

Email list cleaning refers to the process of organizing, updating, and optimizing your contacts.

A subscriber list full of unresponsive contacts simply won’t serve your business well. Ideally, your email list should be full of people who want to receive your emails and are generally engaged with your content.

A clean email list generally enjoys higher deliverability rates, lower bounce rates, fewer complaints, and lower costs. It also results in a better sender reputation overall.

Here are a few effective things you can do to clean your email list:

  • Send out a re-engagement campaign to disengaged and inactive subscribers.
  • Remove inactive subscribers who don’t respond to re-engagement initiatives if necessary.
  • If you’re experiencing higher-than-normal bounce rates, identify the cause and work to resolve it.
  • Make sure your audience segmentation is well-organized, working correctly, and doesn’t need any adjustments.

Use a premium email marketing software

By far, the best thing you can do to make list building and email marketing as straightforward as possible is by using a premium software like Flodesk.

Great email marketing platforms are fully equipped and ready to go with all the tools you need, including everything from marketing automations to pop-up and sign-up form builders to template libraries. These kinds of features make it easy to run excellent email campaigns even if you’ve already got a busy work schedule and limited time on your hands.

We don’t mean to brag, but Flodesk excels when it comes to email and newsletter design. You can rest assured that our templates will help you produce content that stands out, captures potential leads’ attention, and drives more sign-ups to your email list.

We’ve also got an affordable paid plan that businesses of any size can rely on. Just $38 per month gets you access to all our features and the price doesn’t increase—no matter how many subscribers you gain.

If you’re interested in giving our software a try, we’ve got a 30-day free trial that you can sign up for with no strings attached.

Watch your new email subscribers start rolling in

Building an email list can be a daunting task, but the hardest part is taking the first step.

Remember, email marketing is an invaluable tool in any business’s toolbelt, so you’ve got nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain by getting started with it.

If you’ve made it this far through the article, you should feel confident and well-equipped to start collecting email addresses and building out your subscriber list right away. Keep this guide as a reference, follow our step-by-step breakdown, and keep our best practices in mind. 

All that’s left to do is watch your subscriber count start soaring!

Frequently asked questions

1. What’s the fastest way to build an email list fast?

There’s no quick and easy way to build a high-quality email list. Nevertheless, there are several strategies you can use to speed up the process and start seeing your subscriber count go up. 

Put together lead magnets with high-value content that you know will align with your subscribers and start promoting them across your website and social media pages. You can also create a pop-up form that’ll collect emails to add onto your website as well as a sign-up form that you can share via link.
Last, be sure to promote your email list on all your marketing channels and be explicit about the kind of value it delivers to subscribers. Good luck!

2. How do I start an email list from scratch?

Starting an email list from scratch isn’t easy, but there’s no time like the present to get started. First, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve signed up for a premium email marketing software that aligns with your company’s needs. It’ll give you all the tools you need to start building your list and set up your email marketing strategy.

Once you’ve imported all the contacts you might have collected elsewhere, it’s time to get started building your list. Opt-in forms, signup forms, pop-ups, landing pages, social media promotion, exclusive discounts and other benefits, and referral programs are just some of the tools at your disposal to help drive opt-ins and ultimately increase your subscriber count.

3. How long does it take to build an email list?

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are email lists. All jokes aside, email lists are dynamic, so they can’t be built in a specific period of time. 

You’re never really “finished” building an email list-s you’ll constantly be cleaning, optimizing, and expanding your list over time. How quickly you can build your email list also depends on how consistent and intentional you are with your list building strategy.

Nevertheless, most businesses can get a decent-sized email list (relative to their size) together in 3-6 months when they dedicate a decent amount of time and effort to it.