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How to Build an Email List From Scratch

How to Build an email list from scratch

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If you want your business to succeed, then these are the people you will need to keep around and find more of: customers, clients, and readers. The best way to do this? Learn how to build an email list.

You actually may have been passively collecting emails as you go – from clients, as people comment on blog posts, etc. – but more than any other form of growth strategy, learning how to build an email list is where you’re going to start making some big wins for your business.

This is because of two very important things:

  1. Your email list belongs solely to you.
  2. The ROI is huge – earning an average of $38 for every $1 spent

You aren’t competing with anyone’s algorithms (hey Google and Pinterest), and you aren’t out of business if you lost all of your followers from a company like Facebook deciding to shut down tomorrow. You own your list, and your list is your lifeblood.

The people who have subscribed to your list are people who want to hear from you. They want to hear from you so much so that they are trusting you with their email address. They are your followers in the truest sense of that word.

Once you learn how to build an email list, you can send them the type of content they want – little nuggets of wisdom, special offers, new products, affiliate links – all good things.

Putting money into your list (you will have to spend a little to get something back) is going to yield some huge returns, but even with those returns, we know several big bloggers who have been neglecting their lists until recently.

Maybe there is a perceived level of difficulty? Maybe it’s the cost?

That last one clearly shouldn’t deter you with the type of ROI an email list will show you.

Is it really that difficult then? Nah, and that’s what we’re going to cover today, taking you through the process of learning how to build an email list.

Your email list basics

Starting your email list really only requires that you do two insanely simple things – finding an email service provider and creating an opt-in form.

If you’ve already done these things, you’re more than welcome to jump ahead to the next section, but we like when you read everything, so stick with us.

Find an email service provider (ESP)

There are lot of different email service providers on the market right now, and they all perform the same basic functions you’ll need from a provider – templates, a way to test campaigns, and list management tools.

There are different pricing structures for ESPs, from prices per number of emails sent to a flat fee for up to a certain number of email subscribers.

Convertkit is really popular with online business owners, especially bloggers, and they charge per number of subscribers. The pricing starts at $29 a month for up to 1,000 subscribers. For up to 5,000 subscribers, you’ll be looking at $79 per month. You can find pricing beyond that on their site.

Here’s a really in-depth review of Convertkit if you’re interested in seeing how they can help as you learn how to build an email list.

Another one (and the one we use around here at Laptop Empires) is ActiveCampaign.

On a first read, Active Campaign is a little clunkier than Convertkit, but you'll quickly find that it's much more powerful and allows you to do some really crazy stuff with your email automations.

And then, of course, there is MailChimp. The biggest draw for MailChimp is that it's free up to 2,000 email subscribers (which is nice for a new online business owner). You'll likely find that it won't suit your needs as your business gets more complex, and many people opt to go to a paid service like the two we mentioned above after surpassing the 2,000 subscriber limit.

Give your readers a place to sign up for emails

We could have listed this one in the next section, but we’re going super basic here to make learning how to build an email list as foolproof as possible. We just don’t want you to miss anything.

The ESP you decide to go with is going to give you an opt-in form to put on your website. First things first, put it on there even if you haven’t figured out the next steps, like really growing your list by creating a compelling offer, a personalized call to action, and more.

Your opt-in form shouldn’t ask for too much – all you really need is an email address. If you can get their first name, then you can personalize emails even more, but you really don’t need to go beyond that.

Asking for too much information in your opt-in form can be off-putting and bring potential subscribers to a full stop. You want to make signing up as easy as possible.

Optimize your email list sign ups

Now that you know the basics of how to build an email list, it’s time to start growing your list. This is probably where you’ll have the most fun experimenting with what will and won’t work. You’ll get to know a lot more about your readers or customers during this process too, so pay attention to what they like – it will help you in the long run.

Create a personalized call to action

A call to action (CTA) is telling your readers to sign up for your list and why. Your email service provider may have some generic CTAs to use, but you want something that speaks specifically to your potential customers about your business.

You’ve probably scrolled past our opt-in form by now, so here it is again, and as you can see CTA is “Become a profitable blogger.” That speaks to directly to the type of customers we want and what our business can offer. You’ll also notice there’s an offer in there, and we’ll talk about why this is so important in a second.

Laptop Empires email opt in with call to action and lead magnet

Your CTA should tell readers why they should sign up for your email list, and the reason you give them should relate to your business.

If you are a vegan food blogger, you could write something as simple as, “Get delicious vegan recipes delivered to your inbox!”

Running an online store? Your CTA could be something like, “We’d hate to see you miss a sale!”

As you learn how to build your email list, you’ll find that you might need to get creative with how you entice subscribers. For example, you could use more inspiring language, such as “exclusive” and “access” instead of just “subscribe.”

Some of the best CTAs will show your readers what they can expect from your brand and/or voice, and here’s one of our favorite examples, from our very own Millennial Money Man:

Millennial Money Man email opt in with call to action

Bobby uses simple language, tells you what to expect, and then throws in his personality for good measure. If you’re in his target audience, then this is someone you’ll remember and want to hear more from.

Give them an offer they won’t be able to refuse

You probably noticed the offer in our CTA – a free, 8-day course that teaches you how to become a profitable blogger. That offer gives potential subscribers a more tangible reason for signing up for our list.

Your offer can be any number of things, and it will take a little work and time to develop a compelling offer, but if that work seems daunting, just remember the returns you will get in the end from your email list.

Here’s an example of a great offer from The Minimalist RD:

Minimalist RD email opt in with lead magnet

If you’re a blogger seeing this, then it’s doing two things for you: telling you exactly why you should sign up for her email list, and then immediately answering that need. This CTA also matches the aesthetic and voice that Erin Hendrickson, who writes The Minimalist RD, uses throughout her site.

A downloadable guide, a mini-course, an eBook, etc., are all things that give your readers even more of a reason to sign up. This might surprise you, but many of those offers will sit unopened or unread, but you are still showing them value from the very beginning.

Interested in creating a lead magnet to grow your list and sales? Say no more, listen to Episode 58 of the Laptop Empires podcast.

Put CTAs and opt-in forms all over your site

Learning how to build an email list means optimizing your site to do so, and one of the best things you can do is to make sure every page has an opt-in form.

When people find your website, they aren’t always going to land on your homepage. They might even spend a decent amount of time on your site before even thinking to go to your home page. If they’re going to hang around for any amount of time, then there is a good chance you’ll be able to capture their email address – an opportunity you’ll have to create.

Don’t let that opportunity pass!

You should have an opt-in form or call to action on every page of your website. It can be located on the side bar, at the bottom of each blog post, be a floating window, etc.

Use your social media accounts to gain subscribers

While your social media followers are an important part of your audience, they aren’t entirely yours. They come to you via social media, and you want people who don’t need an intermediary.

The other thing is that those social media followers might not even subscribe to your email list yet. Heck, they might not even know you have one!

Use the suggestions we’ve given you above, a compelling call to action paired with an offer they can’t refuse, and you’ve got a social media post ready to grow your email list.

How to build your email list – next level tips

You’ve got the basics covered now, and we know it took a little bit of work to get here, so nice job. But, we’re ready for you to take it even further and reach even more subscribers.

Hold a giveaway or contest

People get really excited about free stuff – we all know this already. Use that enthusiasm to your benefit and figure out how to grow your email list even more.

Say you’re a fashion blogger doing a sponsored post for a shoe company. Depending on the company, you might be able to hold a contest that gives away a coupon. It would bring potential customers to the company’s site, which they’ll like, and you’ll get some new email subscribers along the way.

If you’re a blogger, look for guest blogging opportunities

As a blogger in a specific niche, use your community to gain new readers by guest posting on other blogs. Good bloggers know that other bloggers aren’t competition – they are a community that presents networking opportunities for more readers and subscribers.

Work on your copywriting skills

To make your website stand out, you’ll want to grow your skills as a writer. This means getting more creative, writing compelling stories, and giving readers and customers a reason to subscribe to your list.

Another reason to work on your copywriting skills is to keep the subscribers you already have and to keep them clicking over to your site after reading an email. To learn copywriting tips for emails that people can’t help but open, listen to Episode 44 of our podcast.

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