Resources Hub » Blog » How to Build an Email List From Scratch in 2020

Do you remember how to build an email list from scratch? It’s one of the first skills you hone as an email marketer. Good distribution list building habits and hacks are at the core of the profession. You can write the best marketing emails, but they won’t be effective without subscriber inboxes to receive them.

Growing an email list from nothing isn’t easy. Did you know that capturing a new lead is five times more expensive than nurturing one? An effective list-building strategy could mean the world to an email marketer on a shoestring budget.

Whether you’re an experienced marketer or a relative newcomer, it helps to know how to build an email list from scratch. Read on for a practical refresher on how to attract new subscribers.

What are the benefits of building an email list of your own?

Growing and keeping an email list in good shape means having an engaged and interested audience to receive relevant content through email, be it promotions and offers, product launches, a peek into life at your company, or anything else you can dream up.

Over 55% of marketers see their best ROI from email marketing. To this day, email marketing outperforms most social media platforms when it comes down to ROI. Marketing emails enjoy five times more visibility than organic Facebook posts. Compared to tweets, emails are six times more likely to get a click-through.

For your email campaigns to perform similarly, you need a healthy distribution list. You should never purchase a pre-collected list of email subscribers.

Rather, list-building must be intentional. Aim to attract people interested in hearing from you.

What other factors should you keep in mind when list-building?

Sometimes, you don’t need to know how to build an email list from scratch.

For example, you may inherit a distribution list from the previous handler of an email marketing account. In cases like this, you must still attempt to gain new subscribers while simultaneously cleaning the email list. Inactive addresses may negatively affect your campaigns’ performance metrics.

Whether you’re building a brand new email list or simply welcoming new subscribers, you should make an effort to get to know your audience. With over 290 billion emails sent across the globe each day, it’s easier than ever for your messages to get lost in the mix. Give subscribers a compelling reason to click on your email.

Personalization is key. Generic email campaigns can net much lower open rates, so make sure you get new signups over to a preference center as soon as you can. Once they’re there, subscribers can share information to help you send them more relevant emails.

What are the 4 things you need to grow an email list?

While access to all four of these isn’t strictly essential, having all four will help grow your email list much faster.

1. An interested target audience

Think of your ideal email subscriber. How old are they? Where are they from? You should know what type of person you want to receive your email campaigns. In marketing terms, this is a buyer persona.

This information can help your list-building efforts immensely. You’re less likely to attract new signups that’ll eventually go inactive or unsubscribe. You’ll know how to implement different tactics depending on whether you’re marketing to Gen Z or marketing to millennials.

Teen Vogue newsletter signup form popup appealing to a young audience

Source: Teen Vogue

In the Teen Vogue newsletter signup form above, the copy says “from Netflix releases to celebrity news.” While the two subjects aren’t all the publication talks about, they’re definitely within the top interests of Teen Vogue’s target audience.

2. A website with a landing page

You don’t need a website with all the bells and whistles; a single landing page will do.

Some businesses can rely only on organic or offline email list building. In fact, less than 75% of small businesses have a working website. That means no opt-in form and no easy way to subscribe to an email list.

Why make things so difficult for your potential customers? Having a landing page for new signups is more convenient and will accelerate your list-building process.

3. An offer your targets can’t refuse

A bare-bones opt-in form is great in a pinch. To pull in better numbers, though, you’ll need more than a serviceable newsletter signup page. You can describe what sort of content your subscribers can expect to receive from you and even provide access to exclusive offers and the VIP treatment.

To run a landing page that converts, you must have a killer CTA supported by a concise copy. You must also provide something your target audience wants. A lead magnet can be anything from a free trial or a free course sent via a drip campaign to a simple store discount.

ColourPop Cosmetics newsletter signup 10 percent discount offer

Source: ColourPop Cosmetics

ColourPop Cosmetics offers a 10% discount for new subscribers, applied to first-time purchases through the makeup brand’s online store.

4. A trustworthy ESP

New email marketers may not feel the need to move away from popular ESPs like Gmail or Outlook. However, you should consider enterprise-level options if your subscribers and your brand need high-end privacy support and more features.

Along with a change in ESP, you may also need a professional email marketing service (EMS) if you’re not on one already. Executing basic email marketing campaigns on your own may be feasible when you’re a beginner. Eventually, though, you’ll need help with processes like list segmentation and email automation.

If you’re interested in leveling up your email marketing games, you can try Campaign Monitor at no cost.

What are some basic techniques for building an email list?

Waiting for people to stumble upon your site or discover your brand organically isn’t the best tactic to grow an email list.

Increase the pace of your list-building process by aggressively marketing to potential subscribers. This is separate from marketing to customers because the main purpose is to get more signups rather than outright sales.

Remember that the former aids the latter. With a healthy distribution list, you can run multiple marketing campaigns to boost your brand’s sales.

 A signup form popup on the Loot Crate website

Source: Loot Crate

Here are some tips on how to build an email list from scratch:

  • Use popups on your website: If you’re maintaining a full website and not just a landing page, signup form popups—like the Loot Crate example above—will help remind visitors of your newsletter.
  • Display signup CTAs on each page: This, strategy, is particularly compatible with content marketing. Add boilerplate newsletter signup forms to the end of blog posts. You can also have it permanently appear on your website’s header, footer, or sidebar.
  • Take advantage of social media: If your brand also does social media marketing, you may run a campaign on that channel to encourage your followers to sign up for your newsletter.
  • Include opt-in forms in company emails: If most of your brand’s business activity happens through email, you may add a link to your signup page in employee signatures. Outreach messages to potential contacts and partners may do double duty and attract new subscribers.
  • Tell your customers about your newsletter: For retail brands, this could be a viable tactic for both online and in-person sales. Include a link to your opt-in form in purchase confirmation emails. You may even have store employees offer a small discount to brick-and-mortar purchases if a customer signs up for your newsletter.
  • Collect business cards: Here’s another one for brands with offline marketing arms or physical stores. Leave a fishbowl on your store counter or event booth. Entice people to give you their business cards for a hassle-free newsletter signup experience. You’ll need to input their addresses manually and send a double opt-in confirmation email. The Indiegogo email below is a good example of a brief double opt-in message.

Double opt-in Indiegogo email

Source: Really Good Emails

What if you don’t want to use a separate website to house your landing page? The decision can make several of the list-building techniques less effective or more difficult to implement.

However, you can manage this if you’re willing to use a brand social media account—such as a Facebook page—as the main way to capture leads. Set up a way to sign up to your newsletter through the social channel and use it the way you would a typical opt-in form.

Wrap up

Every email marketer should be familiar with how to build an email list from scratch.

To grow an email list the right way, work on having the following starting components at your disposal: a defined audience, a website with an opt-in form, a lead magnet, and an email service provider (ESP) that supports your needs. Having all four isn’t necessary, but the combination does make the process of building an email quicker and more efficient.

When building an email list, consider techniques that help you increase the visibility of your landing page.

Here are some tactics you can employ:

  • Using popups on your website
  • Displaying signup CTAs on each page
  • Taking advantage of social media
  • Including opt-in forms in company emails
  • Telling your customers about your newsletter
  • Collecting business cards

After building your email list from scratch, you’ll need to know how to greet your new subscribers! Prepare yourself for this step by reading our tips on crafting effective welcome emails.

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This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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