If you want your business to succeed, then you’ll need customers, clients, and readers who are engaged in your business. And an email list is a great way to keep up regular communication with your customers. You can tell them about special offers, share news about your business, give them information about affiliate offers, or just educate them on your niche.
This is different from building a social media following because you own your list. It can’t be taken from you if a social media platform decides you violated some terms of their platform (or just thinks you did) and you don’t have to compete with any algorithms to get seen.
The people who have subscribed to your list want to hear from you. They are your followers in the truest sense of the word.
Email List Basics
Starting your email list really only requires you do two simple things – finding an email service provider and creating an opt-in form.
Use an Email Service Provider (ESP)
There are a 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. It’s free for the first 1,000 subscribers, but then pricing starts at $29 a month for over 1,000 subscribers. For $59 per month, you have access to all the features of Convertkit.
Another great option is ActiveCampaign. This is a full-service ESP, and there are tons of features to the program, such as targeted and scheduled emails. You will find this is probably the only ESP you ever need, since it’s useful for both beginners and advanced digital media professionals.
Give Your Readers a Place to Sign Up for Emails
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 this.
Asking for too much information in your opt-in form can be off-putting and you want to make signing up as easy as possible.
Want to dive a little deeper into building your email list? Check out this video from Laptop Empires.
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 Opt-in Form
An opt-in form tells your readers what they will get if they sign up for your email list and asks them to take that action.
Your email service provider may have some generic text to use, but you want something which 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 the headline is “Become a profitable blogger.” This speaks 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.
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 headline 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 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 opt-in forms 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:
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.
Make Them an Offer They Can’t Refuse
You probably noticed the offer in our opt-in form – a free, 8-day course teaching you how to become a profitable blogger. This is called a lead magnet. It’s something for free the user will get in exchange for their email address.
This gives potential subscribers a more tangible reason for signing up.
Your lead magnet can be any number of things, and it will take a little work and time to develop a compelling offer, but if the 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:
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 the specific need. This opt-in form also matches the aesthetic and voice which Erin Hendrickson, who writes The Minimalist RD, uses throughout her site.
A downloadable guide, a mini course, an eBook, etc., are all things to 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 Opt-in Forms All Over Your Site
Building an email list means optimizing your site for this purpose, 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 of going 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.
Don’t let the opportunity pass!
You should have an opt-in form on every page of your website. It can be located on the side bar, in every blog post, in a pop up, 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 to move them to your email list when possible.
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
Once you’ve got the basics covered you’re ready for you to take it to the next level.
Hold a Giveaway or Contest
People get really excited about free stuff – we all know this already. Use this 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 to give 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.
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 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 people can’t help but open, listen to Episode 44 of our podcast.
Final Thoughts on How to Build an Email List from Scratch
Building your email list can take some work at the beginning — from signing up for an email service provider to creating your lead magnet.
But the benefits of putting in this effort can be huge for your business. You are collecting engaged customers into a format that you actually own. This is different from social media followers because you don’t have to compete with algorithm changes or worry about losing your entire profile due to policy changes or mistakes from the platform.