:Marketing / Email marketing

List building 101: How to rapidly build an email list

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If we had to choose one marketing activity that anyone in any industry should focus on while growing an online business, it would be list building. The goal is to make potential customers or students actually want to share their email with you. Building an email list requires a combination of skills: content marketing, design, copywriting, sales, and paid acquisition.

This post is designed to be your go-to guide on how to build an email list.

  • Just getting started? You will learn all the fundamentals of list building allowing you to start growing your mailing list today.
  • Have some list-building experience? You will get inspiration and ideas from amazing case studies to accelerate the growth of your email list and marketing strategy.

Email list building strategies

List building simply means whatever marketing strategies you use geared towards adding new subscribers to your email mailing list. On a strategic level, think of list building as exchanging valuable content for contact information. When you share exclusive blog posts or downloads, that can be accessed by a sign up form for your email list, then you’re offering valuable content in exchange for contact information. If you want website visitors to give you access to their inboxes, you have to give them something that makes it worthwhile.

On an execution level, activities to build email lists can range from small and quick tactics like adding a popup to your site, to more comprehensive strategies like hosting evergreen webinars. All of these strategies can be used to create an email list you can use long term for promoting your business or courses.

The art of growing email marketing lists

Commentators love to talk about how email is dead, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, building an email list is the single most important way to grow your online business.

These are just a few reasons, based on a recent consumer survey:

  • 72% of U.S. adults prefer email (over postal mail, TV ads, newspapers, magazines, text messages, social media, and in-person communication) as a channel of communication with companies.
  • 91% like to receive promotional emails from companies with which they have a relationship.
  • 69% of the respondents made purchases influenced by promotional emails.

If you haven’t built an email list yet or you don’t put much effort behind it, you’re probably missing an opportunity to take your business to a whole new level. Luckily, this post is all you need to boost your list building game.

How to use this guide


Don’t read everything at once. There is a lot of great information in here, but it’s easy to feel overwhelmed after reading through all of the content in one sitting. Instead, take incremental steps. For example, if you want to find out where or how to ask people for their emails on your site, or pitch your email list, read the content in chapter 2. Implement it, then come back later for the next steps.


Don’t feel like you have to do everything on this guide. If you already have an email service provider and are happy with it, you can skip over chapter 1. Invest your time on other things that will generate value for your business. If your email service provider becomes an obstacle, you can revisit this later on.


Get creative. Since every business is different, some of the strategies in this guide might not work for your online course business if you implement them exactly as described. However, most of what’s described can work for a large majority of businesses with just a few tweaks. In some cases, you might even get greater results than the people who wrote these posts.

How to build an email list: the ultimate guide

From choosing the right email service provider to sending a welcome email to your subscribers, this is the only guide you need to build an email newsletter list.


 01   Selecting email service providers  

 02  Creating content upgrades  

 03  Capturing emails  

 04  Building your list rapidly

 05  Using giveaways  

 06  Using webinars  

 07  Using free courses  

 08  Using social media  

 09  Sending emails


Choosing an email service provider for your mailing list

If you’re new to list building and email marketing, look around and see which services will allow you to do these important activities: segmenting subscribers, tracking email marketing metrics, broadcasting emails, customizing email messages, and building automated funnels.

Consider your email needs now but also the needs you’ll likely have as your audience grows too. You don’t want to get used to one marketing tool only to have to switch to a different one later on. So take into consideration your future needs.


A definitive review of the top 7 email marketing services (2017)


Creating content upgrades for valuable content

Content upgrades will be your most powerful tool to get email subscribers. Also known as lead magnets, these are premium pieces of content you can freely offer to website visitors in exchange for their email addresses. You can use a single content upgrade to grow your list by thousands.

If you have a particularly popular blog post, consider updating it, or turning it into downloadable content. Then you can use it to offer as exclusive content for those who sign up for your email list. You can create guides, worksheets, or checklists that your students or customers would find particularly useful. Then use that to pull them in as leads.

marketing funnel computer work marketing funnel computer work

“It used to be you would have only one lead magnet on your site and that was sufficient. However, today your content and nurture sequence need to be highly relevant to the exact solution the person is actively looking for. By creating a content upgrade that is specific to a highly-targeted piece of content that is getting lots of attention helps you to raise that relevancy and turn more visitors into email subscribers.”

-Jason Van Orden, jasonvanorden.com


How to boost conversions by 785% in one day (the content upgrade)  

The definitive guide to content upgrades: What we learned analyzing 100,000 opt-ins

Offer lead magnets your audience wants

Content upgrades: The secrets behind 10x-ing your conversion rate


Capturing emails for your mailing list

How can you implement ways for people to give you their emails once they’re on your site? Independent of which tool you choose, you should know how to use them in the right way to provide an amazing experience while asking visitors for their emails.

If you’ve got video content, or a launch coming up, you can add a pop-up to your site teasing it. You can promote it and prompt users to sign up for exclusive access. Then you’ve got more people on your list, and more people aware of your great content or new launch.


How to create a squeeze page that converts at 21.7% (case study)

Pop-ups aren’t dead: What we learned analyzing 2 billion pop-ups


How to build an email list fast

Are you taking advantage of low-hanging fruit? Leverage your existing audience and grow your email list using easy-to-implement methods, starting today. Offer some sort of referral incentive, or have content on social media that requires referrals or tagging a friend to gain entry. You could even offer your students a future discount for their friends if they get them to sign up.

marketing funnel marketing funnel

“We couldn’t launch our product or run evergreen programs without email. We could run good launches without webinars and even without long-form sales pages — but we couldn’t without email.”

-Joanna Wiebe, Copy Hackers


How to build an email list with giveaways

We’ve found this as possibly the most effective way to collect emails in a very short period of time. Giveaways are a great tactic that leverages network effects to increase the reach of your message. Have students or customers share your page or post about a contest to get them involved and have more eyes on your work. This is a great way to expand your audience to the audiences of all of your followers.

“When participants have the option to share the giveaway for more entries, a lot of the time, you’ll see them have a ‘viral’ effect too.”

-Jess Catorc, DIY Website Academy, Head of Partnerships at Teachable

using laptop for charts marketing using laptop for charts marketing


How to use a giveaway to get 2,239 email subscribers in 10 days


How to grow newsletter subscribers with webinars

Webinars offer people a great opportunity for a closer interaction with you and your business at scale. If done correctly, webinars can skyrocket your email signups. A great way to broaden our audience is to have guests at your webinar too. You can each promote it, and then you get access to one another’s audiences.

“Webinars are a great way to go deeper on topics than you can through other list-building tools and really give a robust training, and cohesively introduce an offer to them, while also building real connection with your audience via the audio and video medium. Hands-down the best (and most FUN) list-building approach!”

-Adrienne Dorison, runlikeclockwork.com

person working at laptop person working at laptop


How and why you should be using webinars in your business


How to build an email list with free courses

Free courses are great for list building for three reasons: They are easily created, they can be reused many times, and audiences perceive them as highly valuable assets. This is one of the valuable content opportunities. You can offer something for free, at no risk to your audience. Then they become members of your email list, and maybe become paying customers down the line.

“Free courses provide an incredibly high-value incentive to attract new potential customers. It stands out wholly amongst the sea of free eBooks that are used to attract attention, and because it provides so much value upfront, the likelihood that someone will continue to want to learn from you increases exponentially.”



How to create a mini course to build your business [checklist included]

[46% more subscribers] how to create an automated free trial funnel

How to create an email course that converts like crazy


How to build an email list with social media

Social media platforms are still in the very early stages of rolling out methods for businesses to capture email addresses. In other words, using social media is far from being a proven method to build your list. However, new platforms are usually full opportunities for new movers, so these resources might help you venture into new waters.


8 reasons why you should be using LinkedIn lead gen forms

LinkedIn’s new lead gen forms vs. Facebook lead ads

How to create Instagram lead ads


What to do after you capture an email

Even though this guide focuses on building your email list and not on email marketing strategies (more on that soon!), these helpful resources can get you started on the right foot after capturing an email. Be careful about not spamming anyone after you get their email. They shouldn’t regret signing up for your list.


6 amazing welcome email examples (and how to write yours)

The 15 types of emails you need to send to your email list

6 retention email examples to reduce your customer churn

If you follow along these tips and suggested reading lists, we have a feeling you’ll be ready to start list building like a marketer in now time.


What is list building? 

List building is the process of adding new subscribers to your email list. You can do this with several different strategies, some of which you can use all at the same time. Usually, you would offer some sort of content or value in exchange for an email address from the people who visit your website. So you could offer a content download in exchange for an email address to help build your email list. Or you could simply have a popup on your website that lets visitors know that to stay up-to-date with the latest from your blog or business they could subscribe to your newsletter or email list. 

Why is list building important?

List building is important because it’s a great way to help you scale and grow your business. The larger your audience is, the easier it will be for you to reach a large group of people when you’re ready to create your course or sell your online services. Email is a great way to keep in touch with your students or customers and to let them know when you have a new product or launch. Having their emails is especially useful when you’ve got a promotional offer for them. Plus, it’s not expensive like paid ads for your business would be.

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