25 Ways to Build an Email List

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Chances are if you have a website, you have a form somewhere allowing customers to sign up for a newsletter or another email list.  If that’s the case, you probably also know that hardly anyone ever willingly signs up for that newsletter.  That may be because you don’t really think that capturing emails is a vital part of your business.  For many businesses it may not be, but not finding ways to build and email list by leverage site visitors is a lost opportunity.

That’s because email marketing is one of the most effective forms of marketing out there when it comes to return on investment.   In fact, there are multiple studies that put the return at over $30 for every $1 invested in email marketing.

So let’s assume that last number just made you perk up a little bit, your next question is “how in the world to I build an email list?”  The short answer is there a lot of ways, and with some work, you can easily start to benefit greatly from email marketing campaigns.  Let’s look at some of those marketing opportunities, and how you can start to build that list.

There are two things that will help you in building your email list.  One is maximizing the number of visitors you convert when they find your site.  We’ll call that “Direct” list building methods.  But we’ll also discuss “Indirect” methods a little further down, which consists of ways to get more traffic to the site.  More traffic should equal more conversions, especially if you employ some of these tactics.

Direct Ways to Build an Email List

Run a Contest

For this one you need to have somewhat of an audience already, but it’s one of the most effective way to get people engaged.  You can run an effective contest either on your website if you have visitors, or utilizing social media is also a great mechanism.  Either way, part of winning that contest needs to be handing over an email address so you can inform them of their big win.


The reality is that free stuff just works.  Think about how fast those free donuts leave the coffee room at work.  Now, it needs to be something that people value, so do your homework.  If you have Google Analytics on your site, use that data to tell you what people are searching for, and what pages they’re interested in.  You should be able to highlight something that can be offered that would be valuable to this group.  If you don’t have that data at your fingertips, there’s no shame in trial an error.  Try a few different giveaway campaigns, and you’ll start to see what gives you the best conversion rates.

Product Discounts

Discount Offer for Email
Bed Bath & Beyond

If you sell a product or service, this is a no-brainer, and one of the most successful methods of incentivizing action.  When someone finds your site, chances are you have something they want.  If you can figure out what that something is, offer them a discount for purchasing, and you have a very effective tactic in getting sign-ups.  This is often most effective for businesses with subscription models (or recurring services of any kind).  You can offer a discount on the first few installments, and once your service is proven, customers often continue with you at full price.


This could be considered a “giveaway” but it’s worth mentioning separately because a well done ebook can yield great results.  In todays world of information seeking, people are always looking to learn before they buy.  If you can provide them an in depth ebook about a topic they’re interested, your chances of them signing up to your list just went up exponentially.


A whitepaper is similar in some instances to an ebook, but it often takes more of a scholarly tone.  The goal here is to provide and authoritative article on a particular subject.  Most whitepapers are simply accessible via a PDF that a user can download after signing up to your list.  A whitepaper, while it needs to be researched, is often easier to put together than an ebook.

Content Upgrades

Going along with our last two ideas, you can offer an upgrade to the content a user is accessing for free on your site.  If you have a lot of in depth knowledge on a topic, go ahead and put a free piece together that gives a user good info.   But don’t give up all your knowledge  right away.  At the end of the article or blog, you can let them know there is even more great information on the subject if they sign up for your list.

Landing Pages

Landing Pages for Email List Building

If you’re serious about getting customers to take an action on your site, then landing pages are something you should use.  A landing page is a page on your site with one goal, and that’s getting a customer to take the action you want.  In this case you can set up a landing page to get them to sign up for your list.  This page might even contain some of the before mentioned strategies.  The point is that a landing page is a more effective way to influence a customer’s action than say, a sidebar advertisement.

Pop-up boxes

These are undoubtedly annoying to some (ok most) people.  But the reality is they are so common today, that people are desensitized to seeing them.  In other words, you may see some unhappy people bounce from your site, but it probably won’t be that significant.  And there are lots of other pop-up case studies out there that show an enormous up-tick in sign ups when a pop-up box is used.  So it’s well worth the risk.  As long as you don’t go overboard, typically only showing the popup box once, you’re not likely to see any backlash.  One technique site owner’s are now using very effectively is exit-intent popup boxes.  That means the user sees nothing until they decide to leave the site.  At the point they go for the back button, you can trigger your pop-up with a special offer.

Offer an Online Course

If you have valuable expertise in a particular subject, offering an online course can help you in many ways.  Not only can you capture email addresses, but this gives you an opportunity to sell any product or service you’d like.  Of course, first and foremost make sure the course delivers great value, but after that, you’re free to make a pitch.  Not to mention you’ve already have that email address and can continue nurturing your relationship with this group.

Build Emails with Online Courses

Engage Old Customers

If you have an existing business with emails from past customers, this is something you can use.  You do need to be cautious, and send an email outside of your email campaign manager.  That said, you can send them an email reminding them about your business, and ask them to sign up to your list again.  Just include a sign-up link for the list you are working with, and you may find some people would like to hear what you have to say.

Detailed Guides

There are lots of guides out there.  Some are great, and some not so much, so try to create one of those that is fantastic.  Often times people are looking for someone to walk them through something step-by-step (i.e. The Basics of Setting Up a Gmail Account).  And you’d be surprised how many things that are second nature to you, that others really would value a guide to help them with.  Leverage this knowledge, and turn it into a way to build your email list.

Create a YouTube Channel

If you can master the art of being a Youtuber, there’s way more brand building opportunity here than just capturing emails.  In fact, if you can garner enough views, you can even make some money by having people watch ads before your videos.  But that’s not until you got some serious volume, so focusing on converting Youtube viewers into email subscribers.  Once you have that email, you can start to build a relationship, and ultimately a sale.

Create Surveys

People like to be engaged.  Somewhat like a contest, but this one leverages the natural desire of people to see how they stack up.  That’s why you should create a survey that allows the user to see their results as compared to everyone else who’s taken it.  Another alternative is to show those results against what experts in the field say.  Either way, make sure you are offering the user something they value after taking the survey.  Then just ask for their email so you can send over the results.

Indirect Ways to Build an Email List

Before building any email lists, you need visibility to people in the first place.  Theoretically the more people you get in front of, the more sign-ups you should get to your emails.  That holds true for any actions you’re looking for people to take on your site.  So these next few email list building ideas are indirectly related to your efforts (but critical nonetheless).

Create a blog

Create a Blog With Wix

This method is going to take some time, but if you have the conviction, it can yield a lot of new visitors.  Employing good on-site conversion practices is also necessary this case.  In fact, many of the ideas we talked about above are perfectly coupled with a blog that is able to leverage peoples interest on a certain topic.  If you don’t already have a blog, you can easily create one with a website builder like WordPress or Wix.

Social Shares From Current Subscribers

One of the best ways to utilize social media these days is by getting your current customers to share your stuff.  This is one of those instances where you might run a contest.  For instance, having customers who share their favorite article entered to win the contest.  That can translate into you brand getting out in a big way if a lot of your current customers participate.

Forums and Online Communities

It’s time consuming, but being a good participant in the online social world can translate into benefits.  Today there’s a forum for everything (probably ten forums for everything), and you should use your knowledge to contribute.  Now don’t go out spamming these places with your business info, but be a truly valuable contributor.  Many forums will allow you to identify who you are and possibly your business in signature lines.  If readers truly like what you have to say, they may find their way to your site.

Guest Blog

This is another one that most people don’t think of, but there are a lot of bloggers out there, and they don’t always write all their own content.  The good ones have people looking to write for them, and in return the blogger will often allow a link to your site.  If it is a well-travelled blog, you’re likely to get some visitors, and some street cred at the same time.

Partnerships With Other Companies

Not one of the easier things to do since the other company needs to buy into your business.  But if you can find another complimentary business, this can be an effective means of getting visitors.  Your best bet is finding a company that can mutually benefit from you as well.

The Bottom Line

Building an email list is hard.  Anyone who tells you differently just isn’t telling the truth.  But there are ways to do it regardless of your current audience.  It really is one of those tasks where getting creative is key, along with not giving up.  As with any campaign, trial and error is going to be part of the process.  What works for one company’s audience, most certainly will not work for another, but chances are, there’s something that will work for your business.

Try out some of these ideas, and use the resources your email manager has for you.  These businesses have now been around for quite some time, and have a lot of data they provide at no cost.  They’re incentivized to see you do well, since that leads to success for them too.


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