105 ways to build your email list | Tips, tactics, and best practices


by Tori Tsu One of the first steps in any email marketing campaign is pulling together a list of addresses from people likely to be i...

by Tori Tsu

One of the first steps in any email marketing campaign is pulling together a list of addresses from people likely to be interested in what you have to say or promote.

That said, building a list from scratch can seem a little overwhelming at first. After all, newbies are in a bit of a catch-22 situation: They can’t start a campaign without addresses, but they’re often so dependent on email that they don’t know how to ask customers to opt in without emailing them. So how do you build an email list without email addresses? Once you have addresses, what do you do with them? How often should your send emails? What can you do to ensure your emails are delivered and not lost in spam or junk filters?

Find the answers to these questions and more in our free eBook, Guide to Email List Management. Download it today to learn the tricks and tools to managing a successful email list.

Still need to gather more email addresses for your contact list? Fear not! With diligence and a little creativity, you can build a solid list of interested addressees through a variety of methods. Here we’ve compiled by category 105 strategies, tips, tools, and ideas to help you find viable, interested consumers to add to your email subscriber list. 

General tips to keep in mind

  1. Only use email addresses you have gathered with permission. Buying a list of consumer names is a bad idea since it heightens the risk of complaints, bounced addresses, unsubscribes, or accusations of spam. 
  2. Experiment with new methods – ranging from pen and paper to online forms – and maximize the most effective ones.
  3. Methods borrowed from others may not work for you, depending on your industry or business.
  4. Once your list grows, segment audiences to increase strategy effectiveness.
  5. Avoid being pushy; if you offer value, loyalty will follow.
  6. Consider automation tools that can handle your busywork.

Fine-tune your opt-in form

  1. Make signups less invasive by initially requesting only addresses.
  2. Offer subscription options addressing content and intervals.
  3. Leverage testimonials from satisfied recipients.
  4. Mention subscriber numbers if they’re substantial.
  5. Promote exclusivity by offering subscribers something only they can get.
  6. Give away something valuable to all subscribers.

Optimize email addresses you already have

  1. Gather your addresses from transactional business communications.
  2. Share email lists with complementary businesses (with permission from your subscribers).
  3. Include a signup link in all your personal emails.
  4. Place forward-to-a-friend links in all emails.

Use your website as a portal

  1. Promote your email by social media, website, and blog. There is no limit to where you can include a signup form for your email list.
  2. Design a separate landing page specifically for signups.
  3. Treat your blog home page like an email capture form.
  4. Use Leadboxes from Leadpages in author bylines used on your site.
  5. Conduct a heat map test to identify best places for opt-in buttons.
  6. Test-drive CTA locations including your 404 page, sidebars, headers, footers, pop-up boxes, slide-ins that appear halfway down a page, or “sticky” forms that move down with scrolling.
  7. Require commenters on your own blog to provide addresses.
  8. Offer opt-ins to anyone “liking” comments on your blog.
  9. Exchange opt-in links with other businesses’ newsletters.
  10. Incorporate opt-ins within online forums your prospects might visit.
  11. Buy paid ads on websites your customers are likely to frequent.
  12. Offer subscribers free downloads of your business app.
  13. Offer subscribers a free eBook or informational guide.
  14. Establish a riveting blog that ends in an opt-in request.
  15. Post limited content on your site; offer upgrades upon subscription.
  16. Launch a viral competition in which subscribers benefit by recruiting others.
  17. The SumoMe List Builder app launches opt-in ads toward visitors about to leave your site.
  18. The SumoMe Scroll Box app launches ads toward visitors who scroll down.
  19. Custom poll creator Qualaroo can ask visitors about subscribing.
  20. Establish a highly visible confirmation page on your site that reiterates subscription benefits.

Promote signups on social media

  1. Incorporate opt-in links to your promotional YouTube videos.
  2. On Pinterest, attract subscribers via Pins leading to your signup form.
  3. Add opt-ins to your business and personal social media profile sections.
  4. Email opt-ins to anyone mentioning your business on social media.
  5. Publish opt-ins on your LinkedIn company page and within LinkedIn discussions.
  6. Create compelling images to post on Instagram; include opt-ins.
  7. Stage sweepstakes and require entrants to provide addresses; Rafflecopter runs Facebook giveaways.
  8. Create a contest inviting minute-long videos on why customers like your product. Post results on social media, asking voters to submit addresses in order to vote.
  9. Run paid Facebook ads touting you email newsletter.
  10. Online tool Woobox sets up quizzes related to your brand; participants share results on social media and provide addresses.
  11. Online tool Binkd gathers addresses from participants who tweet about your brand in exchange for entry in a prize drawing.

Capture in-store customers

  1. Print opt-in information on your receipts.
  2. Gather business cards/addresses for a weekly or monthly prize drawing.
  3. Place signs and signup sheets in highly visible places.
  4. Make opt-in by smartphone effortless by displaying your QR code.
  5. Ask all callers if they’ll opt in.
  6. Use a sandwich board to request emails.
  7. Ask for email addresses as customers sign receipts or business agreements.
  8. Add opt-in invitations to shopping bags.
  9. Gather addresses during in-store promotional events.
  10. Offer customers discounts or free products for referrals.
  11. Gather emails from customers responding to your Groupon, LivingSocial, or similar promotions.

Don’t forget snail mail

  1. Mail postcards offering incentives for subscribing.
  2. Include opt-in invitations with invoices.
  3. Include inbox requests inside every shipped package.

Look for other opportunities

  1. Use your smartphone to log addresses at business networking events.
  2. Feature opt-in offers on your business cards.
  3. Bring signup forms to trade shows, chamber of commerce events, and other business gatherings.
  4. Text customers about your pending newsletter and invite them to opt in.
  5. Place ads in local publications that prospects are likely to read.
  6. Solicit addresses when your business appears at fundraisers, festivals, artisan markets, etc.
  7. Tout the benefits of your subscriber birthday or anniversary club.
  8. Pay employees commission for securing viable addresses.
  9. Offer discounts to customers providing others’ addresses.
  10. Stage daily deals at your business, requiring participants to opt in.
  11. Book speaking engagements; offer subscribers free consultations.
  12. Gather addresses of those who mention your business on Foursquare.
  13. Justuno can automatically provide subscribers a relevant coupon code.
  14. Set up a WordPress community for your business, then post opt-ins.
  15. Use BuiltWith.com to discover tools competitors use to build their lists.

Build repeat business through credibility

  1. Create a comprehensive year-long email marketing plan.
  2. Optimize personalization tools to customize your campaign.
  3. Keep subject lines creative, clear, and urgent.   
  4. Develop a voice likely to appeal to your key audience.
  5. Keep messages brief and highly digestible.
  6. Create a not-to-be-missed email newsletter.
  7. Use variety, interspersing promotional messages with helpful information.
  8. Create emails informing customers of your latest and greatest inventory.
  9. Create emails explaining how to get the most from your business or product.
  10. Consider emails that share your company’s successes.
  11. Repurpose popular blog posts, videos, or other marketing messages into email.
  12. Ensure all visuals are crisp, high quality, and engaging.
  13. Use humor when appropriate.
  14. Optimize messaging opportunities centered around holidays and other events.
  15. Create and tout clever special events related to your business.
  16. Incorporate effective calls to action (CTAs) that are easy to respond to via link or button.
  17. Offer visually appealing, easy-to-digest layouts.
  18. Ensure all messages are mobile-friendly and easy to open on any device.
  19. Sign up for and evaluate competitors’ email campaigns and newsletters.
  20. Study industry trends and how they might work for you.
  21. Resist giving away valuable longer-form content without subscriptions.
  22. Use creative videos within emails to grab viewer attention.
  23. Tease recipients with hints about your next email(s).

Gauge your effectiveness

  1. Frequently employ A/B split testing to fine-tune audience preferences.
  2. Use surveys to ask audiences how you’re doing. Free services like SurveyMonkey, KwikSurveys, and SurveyPlanet can help.
  3. Measure your conversion rates, bounce rates, open rates, and unsubscribe rates relative to industry standards.  
  4. Constantly cull your list by deleting subscribers that haven’t interacted with your emails or brand.
  5. Include unsubscribe links allowing users to indicate why they’re unsubscribing.
  6. Listen closely to customer feedback and adjust accordingly.
Want to learn more about the nuts and bolts of using and implementing your email marketing list?



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#DIGITAL: 105 ways to build your email list | Tips, tactics, and best practices
105 ways to build your email list | Tips, tactics, and best practices
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