Key takeaways

  • Build an email list to engage potential customers on a platform they prefer
  • Email marketing tools can automate the email collection process and help you generate signups with opt-in forms and landing pages
  • Create a lead magnet or host a giveaway to incentive your target audience to sign up

A large email list can be a powerful marketing tool for your small business. Imagine having hundreds or thousands of potential customers you can reach just by hitting send. As email lists grow larger—especially as they exceed 500 subscribers—at least 40% of small businesses report significantly better results from their email marketing efforts.

Building an email list is a simple way to grow relationships and drive sales for your small business—even if you’re starting from scratch. Learn what it takes to grow your email audience in seven simple steps.

How to build an email list

Email list building is a key step in cultivating positive brand experiences. Nearly half of consumers prefer email above any other marketing channel. In fact, consumers are six times more likely to click through your emails than a brief tweet.

Once you have a solid list—ideally reaching 100 subscribers before blasting weekly emails—you can send email marketing campaigns to engage customers and stand out from the competition. Follow these steps to encourage your target audience to join your email list.

1. Create a lead magnet

People are bombarded with emails—the average office worker gets 121 each day—so they won’t opt in to more without good reason. Give users an incentive to sign up by creating lead magnets, or free offers given to consumers in exchange for contact information.

Lead magnets can take many forms, including coupons, free ebooks, instant quotes, webinars, and exclusive invites to local events. No matter what type of lead magnet you create, highlight the incentive wherever you promote your email list, whether it’s in-store, on your website, social media accounts, blog posts, door flyers, etc. Also, create a welcome email that includes your freebie so new subscribers instantly get what they signed up for.

2. Choose an email marketing tool

An email marketing tool can help streamline your email list-building efforts. Platforms like Mailchimp and Sendinblue—both of which offer free plans—automate the email collection process. Many of these platforms offer free email contact forms, landing page builders, and similar tools to make building your email list a largely hands-free process.

You can also create, schedule, and send email campaigns all within the same tool. To ensure your software continues to benefit you once you start to send email campaigns, choose a tool that offers features such as:

  • Email list segmentation: Divide subscribers into smaller lists based on shared characteristics (demographics, locations, or signup months) so you can send more targeted campaigns
  • A/B testing: Test two versions of the same campaign—for example, two emails with different subject lines—to see which one engages your target audience more
  • Email analytics: Track key metrics like your email open rate and email list growth rate to improve your strategy over time

3. Add an email signup form to your business website

How to build an email list: entrepreneur working by a window

An easy email signup process is key to maximizing your list of new subscribers. Embedding an email opt-in form on the homepage of your site—as well as on relevant landing pages—allows you to capture website visitors‘ email addresses before they leave.

Most email marketing platforms provide opt-in forms and embed codes that can be used on your website. Many platforms also allow you to customize your own opt-in form so you can personalize your call to action (CTA), which is the text that prompts users to sign up.

If your email marketing tool doesn’t offer embeddable opt-in forms, you can embed a form created with tools like Typeform or Formstack instead. When you receive a new submission, you can manually upload the emails you collect or let a free automation tool like Zapier do it for you. For example, Zapier can connect your Typeform and MailerLite accounts, so new subscribers are instantly created in MailerLite when someone fills out your form.

4. Build a landing page

To drive new subscriptions from other marketing channels, build a dedicated landing page for email signups. This page should include three simple elements, all visible before visitors scroll down:

  • An attention-grabbing headline
  • Engaging copy, including a CTA
  • Your email signup form

You can create your landing page from your website or with an email marketing tool that offers the feature. Once the landing page is live, link to it in your email signature, content marketing materials, and anywhere you’re promoting your business. Be sure to track your conversion rate—or the percentage of landing page visitors who sign up—to ensure your copy is actually driving subscriptions.

5. Attract email subscribers on social media

If your brand has an existing audience on social media channels like LinkedIn or Twitter, use your business profiles to promote your lead magnet and link to your email signup landing page. Many email marketing platforms, like Mailchimp, even offer integrations with Facebook so you can have a dedicated tab for email signups on your business page.

6. Create eye-catching pop-up forms

Entrepreneur working in his office

Adding a pop-up to your site is an easy way to grab your website visitors‘ attention and effectively capture emails

Some email marketing platforms, like Mailchimp, have built-in tools and templates for pop-ups. However, you can always use third-party pop-up creation tools like Sumo and Sleeknote that sync with your email marketing tool

These third-party tools often offer more advanced features that can help you increase email signups. For example, instead of displaying pop-ups when people land on your site, some tools can also cue pop-ups when they detect exit intent—behaviors that indicate a visitor is about to leave a site—so you can capture their email before they go.

7. Host a giveaway

Social media ads and other digital marketing tactics can jumpstart your lead generation. But to build your email list even faster, host a giveaway that features one or several big incentives. 

For example, if you run an online business, offer unlimited, free shipping for the whole year or a $100 gift card to your e-commerce store. With such a lucrative prize, ssubscribing to your marketing emails will feel like a much smaller request for potential customers—even if there’s no guarantee they’ll win.

Make sure to promote your giveaway on all of your marketing channels to get as many new subscribers as possible. Consider investing in online ads to spread the word about your giveaway to people who aren’t familiar with or following your brand.

Build a powerful email list from scratch

You don’t need to be a professional marketer to send effective email campaigns—and learning how to build an email list from scratch is easier than you might think. With the right tactics, such as creating lead magnets or pop-up forms, small business owners can grow sizable email lists that they can use to gain new customers or reengage old ones.

When you’re ready to add more tactics to your marketing strategy, try our small business email marketing tips to get even more out of your email lists.



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