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How to Build an Email List: 16 Effective Tactics

How to Build an Email List: 16 Effective Tactics
Last updated: July 12, 2024
Reading time: 14 minutes
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Did you know that email marketing channel remains a timeless champion when it comes to lead generation and sales? 

In 2024 email marketing revenue surpassed a staggering $10 billion. Furthermore, it consistently delivers an exceptional return on investment (ROI). This compelling statistic underscores the lasting power of email marketing for businesses. 

But here’s the catch for success with email marketing: you need an email list – a loyal tribe of subscribers eager to hear from you. But how to build an email list from scratch?

We’ll go over 16 tried and tested tactics to build an email marketing list.

What Makes a Great Email Addresses List?

But first things first, what are the elements of a good email list? 

Well, your ideal email list isn’t just a collection of random names and addresses. It’s a carefully curated community of engaged subscribers who eagerly await your emails. These are the people who consistently open your messages, click on your links, and (fingers crossed!) turn into loyal customers.

So, how do you get the email addresses of these people?

Offer value! This could be a free guide, an exclusive discount, or early access to new products. 

The key here is to understand your target audience’s pain points and desires and then tailor your offerings to solve their problems or make their lives easier.

Also, remember that while email marketing boasts a proven track record, maintaining a clean and engaged subscriber base is crucial. This means you must validate your list of emails. The good news is that the best email verification tools allow you to quickly perform the authentication. 

Regular email verification helps ensure your messages reach the intended recipients, maximizing campaign effectiveness. What’s more, regular email list cleaning removes invalid or inactive addresses, ensuring your messages reach real and active recipients.

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How to Create an Email List

Now that you understand that a quality email list is the cornerstone of any successful email campaign, let’s have a look at the top 16 email list building tactics.

1. Choose an Email Marketing Tool

How to Create an Email List: Choose an Email Marketing Tool

It is crucial to choose a reliable email marketing platform before starting to build an email list. While free email services like Gmail and Outlook can handle basic communication, they lack the features required for effective email marketing campaigns. These features include subscriber list management, email automation, detailed analytics, and much more.

You may want to learn how to create an email list in Gmail, but we recommend you consider email marketing platforms that offer advanced features that can help you streamline your entire marketing process. Some of the popular options include Dripify, Mailchimp and Constant Contact. Don’t worry, most platforms offer free plans to get you started.

Remember, your email marketing is your email list’s home base. It’s where you’ll store your precious subscriber data, design newsletters, and track your email marketing success. But choosing the right tool goes beyond just knowing the basic functionality. Consider factors like ease of use, scalability, and integrations with your other marketing tools.

A user-friendly interface will save you time and frustration, while scalability will ensure your platform can grow alongside your email list. Plus, integrations with other tools like your CRM or website builder can streamline your email marketing process. 

2. Use Lead Magnets to Attract Subscribers

Imagine this: someone visits your website. They’re curious about what you offer, but not quite ready to commit. How do you convince them to hand over their precious email address? 

Lead magnet is a free, downloadable piece of content offering real value to your audience. It could be an ebook, a cheat sheet, a video tutorial – anything that addresses their needs and problems. 

A good lead magnet provides actionable insights and solutions. It requires the visitor to give their email address to access the resource. 

Let’s say you’re a cybersecurity company. Your lead magnet could be a downloadable whitepaper titled “5 Critical Steps to Securing Your Remote Workforce.” 

Your whitepaper addresses a common pain point for businesses in today’s remote work environment (data security) and positions your company as a thought leader in the cybersecurity space. It also offers a valuable piece of content that potential clients can immediately put into action.

Remember, the best lead magnets offer immediate wins, whetting your audience’s appetite for more and encouraging them to join your email list.

As your marketing strategy matures, consider “content upgrades.” These are bonus pieces of content specifically tailored to a particular blog post. 

Let’s say you have a blog post on “The 3 Biggest Challenges Faced by Marketing Teams Today.” Now, you could offer a downloadable checklist titled “The Marketing Manager’s Toolkit for Overcoming Common Challenges” as a content upgrade. This in-depth resource provides even more value to engaged readers, incentivizing them to subscribe for access.

Here are more tips for creating irresistible lead magnets:

  • Align your lead magnet with your overall brand and message. Don’t offer a free guide on astrophysics if you run a bakery!
  • Gate high-quality content. Don’t make something readily available on your website. The lead magnet should be exclusive and provide a taste of your premium content.
  • Promote your lead magnet across multiple channels. Don’t just stick it on a lonely corner of your website. Instead, promote it through social media, your blog posts, and even offline materials.

3. Put Pop-Ups on Your Website (But Do It Right!)

How to Create an Email List: Put Pop-Ups on Your Website

Pop-ups get a bad rap, but they can be incredibly effective for email list building, as long as you use them strategically. 

Make sure not to be that annoying website that bombards visitors with a pop-up the second they land. Instead, consider a timed pop-up that appears after someone engages with your content for a while, say 30-60 seconds. This shows you respect their time, increasing the chances of them opting in.

Also, keep in mind that people don’t like feeling pressured. As such, you should offer a clear incentive in exchange for their email address. 

For example, you could highlight the value proposition of your lead magnet – is it a free downloadable guide, exclusive discount, or early access to new content? 

It is also a good idea to personalize your pop-ups to resonate more deeply with your audience. 

For instance, if a visitor is reading a blog post about healthy recipes, your pop-up could offer a free meal plan download. This targeted approach demonstrates that you understand their needs and interests, making them more likely to convert.

  • A/B Testing is Your Friend: Don’t settle for the first pop-up design that comes into your head. Instead, do A/B testing to experiment with different headlines, visuals, and CTAs (calls to action) to see which combinations resonate best with your audience. This data-driven approach helps you optimize your pop-ups for maximum impact.
  • Exit-Intent Pop-Ups: Exit-intent pop-ups appear when a visitor shows signs of leaving your website. Use this as a last opportunity to capture their attention with a compelling offer.

4. Create Compelling CTAs (Calls to Action)

Wondering how to build an email list fast? Well, a strong call to action (CTA) helps convert a website visitor into a loyal subscriber quickly. It’s the clear, concise message that compels them to take the next step – in this case, joining your email list. 

The point here is to avoid bland CTAs like “Subscribe” or “Sign Up.” These generic pleas often get lost in the digital noise.

A good CTA uses a strategic mix of clarity, benefit, and visual appeal. 

Here’s how to make your CTAs shine:

Speak the Language of Action

Start your CTAs with verbs that leave no room for doubt. Words like “Get,” “Download,” “Unlock,” or “Start” create a sense of urgency and excitement. 

Imagine the difference between “Subscribe” and “Download Your Free Digital Marketing Ebook Now!” The latter not only tells visitors what to do but also entices them with a specific benefit.

Focus on the Benefits

In your CTA, don’t just tell them to take the next step but also hint at the benefits. Is it a free guide that solves their biggest pain point? Exclusive discounts on their favorite products? 

Keep it Short and Sweet

People shouldn’t have to decipher a cryptic message to figure out what you’re offering. As such, you should aim for 3-5 words that pack a punch. A concise CTA is easier to read and understand, increasing the chances of visitors converting into subscribers.

Visually Appealing Design

Make your CTA button stand out! 


Use contrasting colors that complement your website’s design. Also, experiment with button shapes, sizes, and hover effects to make it visually appealing and encourage clicks. 

Match Your Brand Voice

Ensure your CTAs align with your overall brand voice. Consistency in brand voice builds trust and makes your CTAs feel like a natural extension of your brand identity.

Is your brand voice playful and informal? Keep your CTAs light and friendly. Are you professional and authoritative? Create CTAs that convey confidence and expertise. 

How to Create an Email List: Place an Opt-in Form in Your Navigation or Footer

This is a low-key approach that keeps the option to subscribe readily available to your website visitors. Just keep the form simple and make sure it’s mobile-friendly. Also, include only the essential fields, like name and email address. A long, complicated form will scare people away.

Here are some additional tips for using navigation or footer opt-in forms:

  • Experiment with different placements. Try placing the form in your main navigation bar, footer, or sidebar to see what works best for your audience.
  • Use clear and concise copy. Briefly explain the benefits of subscribing, like “Get exclusive offers and expert tips delivered straight to your inbox!”
  • Offer a mini incentive. Consider offering a small bonus, like a free checklist, for signing up through the form.

6. Tap into the Power of Social Media

Social media is a goldmine for building your B2B email list and fostering connections with potential subscribers. If you’re already doing social media marketing, you can use the same platforms to build your email list.

First, it is vital to make it easy to join your list. For this, you could include a clear and prominent sign-up button or opt-in form directly on your social media profiles, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This eliminates unnecessary steps for potential subscribers, allowing them to join your list with a single click. 

Second, create and run targeted social media campaigns to promote your email list. Social media platforms offer immense reach and increased visibility, making them the perfect breeding ground to spread the word, regardless of the size of your business.  

Next, share engaging posts on your social media profiles, highlighting the value of joining your email list –  exclusive content, special offers, or industry insights.

You can take your social media marketing a step further with targeted advertising. The good news is that platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter allow you to create targeted ad campaigns to reach your audience based on demographics and interests relevant to your business. 

You can use these ads to offer exclusive discounts and coupons to people who sign up for your email list. This targeted approach ensures you’re reaching the right audience while incentivizing them to join your email community.

7. Create a Results-Oriented Landing Page

When building your email list from scratch, don’t rely solely on your website homepage. Landing pages, specifically designed web pages linked to your ads, offer a more targeted and effective approach.

Let’s say you’re running a Facebook Ad for an exclusive free shipping offer. Instead of directing users to your homepage, which might overwhelm them with information, a dedicated landing page will convert their interest into an email sign-up.

Research suggests that landing pages are conversion champions. They’re free of distractions, presenting a clear value proposition and a single call to action – typically, signing up for your email list in exchange for the free shipping offer, exclusive content, or limited-time sale.

What’s more, this streamlined approach creates a “frictionless” experience for users. The transition from the ad they clicked on to the landing page is smooth and relevant, eliminating confusion and keeping them engaged.  

Remember, the easier and more focused the sign-up process, the higher the chances of capturing their email address.

Here are some key elements of a high-converting landing page:

  1. A compelling headline: The headline should clearly communicate the value proposition of your lead magnet.
  2. Benefit-driven copy: Explain how your lead magnet will solve their problems or make their lives easier.
  3. High-quality visuals: Use images, videos, or infographics to break up text and make your landing page more visually appealing.
  4. A strong CTA:  Make it clear what you want visitors to do (sign up for your email list!).
  5. A minimized form: Don’t ask for too much information upfront. Your form should have only essential fields
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8. Add Humor or Sarcasm to Your CTAs

Let’s face it, we’re all so bombarded with generic “Yes or No” offers online that we barely register them anymore. These generic CTAs disappear into the digital abyss, failing to capture our attention or entice us to take action.  

So, how can you break through the noise and turn website visitors into enthusiastic email subscribers? The answer lies in infusing your CTA copy with a dose of personality.

A dash of humor or sarcasm can make your CTAs stand out and be more memorable.  Just be sure it aligns with your brand voice and doesn’t alienate your audience. 

Imagine scrolling through a travel website and seeing a CTA that reads: “Yes, send me travel hacks and secret deals!”  Below it, in a tiny font that seems to whisper defiance, sits a second button: “Nah, I prefer overpriced vacations and jet lag. Sign me up for none of that.”

This unexpected twist does two things. 

First, it sparks a chuckle – there’s a real person behind the button, not just a faceless corporation. Second, it subtly creates a mental hurdle. Clicking on the second button now feels like a rejection of awesomeness, a state most of us would rather avoid. 

This playful approach makes you pause and reconsider, increasing the chances you’ll opt into the email list.

9. Put a Subscription Option at Checkout

How to Create an Email List: Put a Subscription Option at Checkout

This is a familiar tactic for most marketers. While shopping online, you might have noticed that little box at checkout asking if you want to receive emails from the seller. Yes, that’s a sneaky way stores build their email lists, and guess what? It can work for you too!

People who check “yes” to store emails at checkout are already interested in the offer. They’re practically halfway to becoming fans, meaning you can capture these super-interested folks as email subscribers. Just add a similar box to your shopping checkout process and you’re good to go. 

But remember, honesty is key. 

Don’t trick people into signing up. Instead, be clear about what they get for joining your email list. Maybe it’s special discounts, early access to new products, or just cool industry tips. Give them a reason to say “yes” and watch your email list grow with happy, engaged subscribers!

10. Hold Viral Contests

People love competitions and this presents you with a great opportunity to build your email list. 


You can host a contest or giveaway that requires signing up for your email list to enter. This fun way allows you to generate excitement and attract new subscribers. 

These contests incentivize people to share them with their networks, spreading the word like wildfire. For example, you can offer bonus entries for each referral who signs up. And since each new signup requires an email address, it means you can instantly boost your subscriber base.

But the benefits go beyond just email capture. Viral contests encourage participants to create user-generated content (UGC) – think photos, videos, or social media posts related to your brand. 

UGC is gold for several reasons:

  • Authenticity: People trust recommendations from real people more than traditional advertising. UGC showcases your brand through the lens of your audience, fostering trust and connection.
  • Engagement: UGC is inherently engaging. Your target audience is more likely to stop and take notice of content created by their peers than standard marketing messages.
  • Brand Advocacy: When people participate via UGC, they become mini-brand ambassadors, spreading the word organically and encouraging others to join the fun.

Here are some tips for running a successful email signup contest:

  1. Your giveaway should be something your target audience would genuinely want and use.
  2. Promote the contest across multiple channels, such as social media, your blog, and even paid advertising.
  3. Make it easy to enter. Don’t ask for too much information or create a complicated entry process.
  4. Clearly communicate the contest rules and how the winner will be chosen.

11. Use a Scroll Box

The next tactic of building an email list for marketing has to do with the use of a scroll box. 

You see, timing is everything in marketing, especially when it comes to capturing leads. Suppose you have a website brimming with valuable information, but you wait until visitors are about to leave to ask for their email address. By then, their attention might be elsewhere.

This is where scroll boxes enter the scene. 

Scroll boxes are small pop-ups that appear at the bottom of your website as a visitor scrolls down. But unlike pop-ups that appear right away, these boxes activate strategically as visitors delve deeper into your content. This makes them a less intrusive way to capture email addresses compared to traditional pop-ups.

It is a good idea to experiment with different scroll box triggers to pick the most effective one. You can set it to appear after a certain amount of time on the page or after a visitor reaches a specific point on the page. 

Plus, keep the design clean and simple because you don’t want your audience to squint to read your message. Finally, use a clear and concise CTA, letting visitors know what you want them to do and hint at the benefit for them.

12. Try a Referral Program

How to Create an Email List: Try a Referral Program

Another great tactic is to incentivize your existing subscribers to spread the word about your email list. How? Through a referral program.  

This could involve rewarding your existing subscribers with discounts, bonus content, or even cash rewards for each new subscriber they refer. Discover how to ask for referrals properly.

Here are some factors to consider when setting up a referral program:

  • Make it easy to share: Provide your subscribers with referral links and pre-written social media messages they can use.
  • Offer a compelling reward: The incentive should be enticing enough to motivate people to participate.
  • Track your results: Monitor how many new subscribers you’re acquiring through referrals and tweak your program accordingly.

13. Consider Hosting a Giveaway

Next on our list of how to build an email list is the giveaway strategy. 

Giveaways are a fantastic way to generate a quick burst of excitement, attracting new subscribers to your list. The allure of a free prize creates a buzz that spreads quickly, especially on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. 

However, remember that the giveaway prize itself holds immense importance. This means you shouldn’t settle for generic gifts. Instead, select a prize that’s highly relevant to your target audience and can attract the right kind of leads.  

For instance, if you sell high-end athletic wear, giving away a top-of-the-line fitness tracker would be a perfect fit. This way, you’re not just collecting email addresses but also acquiring qualified leads – potential customers with a genuine interest in your products or services.

How to Create an Email List: Add a Newsletter Signup Link in Your Email Signature

Did you know that you can even use your email signature to collect email addresses? Yes, that’s true. Simply include a link in your signature for visitors to subscribe to your email list. 

In doing so, keep it simple and professional, with a clear call to action like “Subscribe to our newsletter for exclusive offers!”

15. Use Offline Methods

While digital marketing dominates our landscape, don’t underestimate the power of offline methods to build and grow a free email list. Here are some ideas you might want to try:

  • Collect email addresses at events and trade shows. Offer a lead magnet or incentive for people to sign up on the spot.
  • Include a signup form with your business cards, making it straightforward for potential subscribers to join your list.
  • Run print ads with a call to action to subscribe to your email list. It is a great way to reach your audience who might not be active online.

16. Tap Your Network

Building an email list doesn’t have to feel impersonal. One often-overlooked strategy is to leverage your existing network – your personal contacts!  

Think about it: within your email address book and social media circles, there’s a good chance some people will genuinely be interested in your offer. 

Just send your contacts a friendly email explaining your new email list and the benefits of subscribing. And don’t be shy about asking your contacts to share the news! A simple request at the end of your email, encouraging them to forward it to anyone who might be interested, can significantly expand your reach.

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Building an email list takes consistent effort and a commitment to providing valuable content to your subscribers. However, the rewards are well worth it. A highly engaged email list can become your most powerful marketing asset, driving sales, boosting brand loyalty, and fostering long-term relationships with your customers.

So, put these tactics into action, experiment, track your results, and refine your approach.  With dedication and a bit of creativity, you’ll be well on your way to building a thriving email list that fuels your marketing success!

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