If I had to choose ONE marketing activity for any industry, one that you MUST invest time and money in (to launch and grow your online business), my answer would always be the same: list building.

To get people who want to give you their emails (instead of feeling forced to do so), 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 capture your first emails today.
  • Have some list-building experience? You will get inspiration and ideas from amazing case studies to accelerate the growth of your email list.

What Is List Building?

List building means every activity that’s targeted toward adding new subscribers to your email list.
On a strategic level, think of list building as an exchange of value.

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).

Why Building an Email List Is the Single Most Important Way to Grow Your Online Business

Commentators love to talk about how email is dead, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

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.

Don't panic; this post is all you need to boost your game.

Download This Entire List Building Guide

Want to save this for later? Get the PDF version of this guide and go through it at your own pace.

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How to Use This Guide

circledownarrow.svgDon’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, read the content in chapter 2, then implement it; come back later for the next steps.

circledownarrow.svgDon’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.

circledownarrow.svgGet creative. Since every business is different, some of the strategies in this guide might not work for your 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 list.



Choosing an email service provider


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.



Creating content upgrades


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. 

quote-orange.svgIt 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



Capturing emails


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



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. 

quote-orange.svgWe 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.”



How to build an email list with giveaways


I've found this as possibly the most effective way to gather a lot of email subscribers in a very short period of time. Giveaways are a great tactic that leverage network effects to increase the reach of your message. 

quote-orange.svgWhen 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



How to build an email list 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. 

quote-orange.svgWebinars 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 + video medium. Hands-down the best (and most FUN) list-building approach!”
Adrienne Dorison, adriennedorison.com



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. 

quote-orange.svgFree 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 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. 



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. 

Your turn

Are you dying to get started? Download this guide and go through each step at your own pace.

Download the List Building 101 guide

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Eduardo Yi

Written by Eduardo Yi

Eduardo Yi is a content marketer at Teachable, the platform that allows anyone to teach online, where he gets to work on the intersect of his four passions: education, digital marketing, and incomplete lists.