If you’re interested in starting and growing an email list, you probably already know how valuable email marketing can be to nurture leads. After all, consumers who purchase products through email spend 138% more than those that don’t receive email offers.

To start and grow your email list, you only need to take 3 steps: (1) Create opportunities to sign up, and (2) Attract traffic to capture leads, (3) Test your processes. Here’s how to do each.

Step 1: Create opportunities to sign up

Assuming that you’ve already picked your favorite email marketing tool to build your list, you need to create opportunities on your website, social platforms, and elsewhere for your audience to sign up. Here are some of the most popular/effective ways to do this:

Subscribe CTA

The first and simplest way to get email signups is by creating a call-to-action asking your audience to sign up for blog updates or your regular newsletter.

Maximize visibility of your CTAs by placing them strategically around your website:

  • In a sidebar on your blog
  • In your site footer
  • As a banner in your site header
  • As a popup when people show exit intent

Incorporate a CTA everywhere your business has a presence on the web, such as your social media profiles. If you have a Facebook business page, you can create a custom CTA inviting visitors to sign up for your newsletter:

Checkout sign up

If you run an ecommerce store, checkout is another opportunity to capture emails. If you get the contact information of shoppers as they check out, you can market similar products to them later on through email.

Make creating an account an option when people checkout from your online store, but don’t make it mandatory. You don’t want to put up too many barriers to purchase that shoppers abandon their carts. Just offer a small CTA explaining the benefits of creating an account while also presenting the option to checkout without it.

Social media contests

Social media contests are a great way to generate buzz about your business online, grow your social following, and capture leads in the process.

The simplest social media contest you can run is a sweepstakes/giveaway. Your audience enters to win a prize (or one of several prizes). All they have to do is sign up on your landing page to enter:

You can also run a contest asking your audience to create something, such as a branded video, photo, or essay. Create a landing page for them to submit their entries and offer up their contact information. This is a great way to gather user generated content related to your brand and get signups.

Whichever you choose, just make sure the prize you offer is relevant to your target audience. If you give away something that just about anyone would want (e.g. a new iPhone), you’ll get a lot of signup entries from people who aren’t a part of your target audience.

Referral contest/incentive

There’s another kind of contest you can run on social media or off called a referral contest. This is a competition — whoever refers the most friends to your business during a set period of time gets a grand prize.

This strategy is definitely a way to get viral attention, but keep in mind that the list you build might not be full of quality, target leads. To get around this problem, you can offer a simple referral incentive instead of a competition. For example, if someone refers a friend, they and their friend get $10 off their first purchase.

ReferralCandy is a helpful tool you can use to create a referral incentive:

Lead magnets

The last and most popular way to build email lists is using lead magnets. Lead magnets are premium resources beyond your regular content that you offer in exchange for your audience’s contact information.

There are many different kinds of lead magnets you can create to grow your list. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Content upgrades

Create an epic piece of blog content, then offer some kind of gated related content your readers would want to access. For example, if you created an ultimate list of 25 tips on a topic, allow readers to download 5 bonus tips if they sign up.

  • White Papers, books, or reports

Create a whitepaper or ebook that offers value beyond your regular blog content. For example, you can conduct your own industry research then publish the results into a gated report.

Here’s an example of a free report offered on Digital Marketing Empire to attract leads:

  • Worksheets/spreadsheets

Worksheets and spreadsheets are simple resources you can create to offer extra value for your audience. Try to pair them up with related blog content to attract traffic. For example, a mom blogger writing about the challenges of getting kids to help out around the house could provide a kid’s chore calendar as a related lead magnet.

  • Free tools

Free tools are a great way to build an email list. Many online businesses simply create a free tool to attract traffic to their website, then ask users to sign up to access results. Coschedule Headline Analyzer is a good example of this.

Even if you don’t have the coding skills to create your own tool, you can easily hire someone who does. Free tools are an underutilized and worthwhile lead magnet that can help you stand out from the crowd.

  • Free trial/freemium service

If you work in SaaS, offering a free trial or freemium service is a great way to capture and nurture leads. A free trial gives users access to your tool (for a week, 30 days, etc.) in exchange for contact information. A freemium services gives users access to certain features of your tool indefinitely in exchange for contact information. Then you can market the benefits of the paid features to them via email.

  • Promotions/discounts

Offering shoppers an incentive to provide their contact information is a great way to build your list and encourage them to convert. For example, create a CTA on your site inviting visitors to sign up for your newsletter. Offer a 15% discount on their first purchase, $15 off a purchase of $100 or more, etc.

Bed Bath and Beyond builds their email list almost exclusively through discounts:

Step 2: Attract traffic to capture leads

It doesn’t matter what great strategies you use to encourage email signups, if you don’t attract traffic to your blog, lead magnets, contests, etc., they’re useless. Here are some ways to spread the word about your content, attracting traffic back to your site for list building:

Search engine marketing

Optimize your content for relevant search keywords as a long-term promotion strategy. You’ll need to build links and improve other SEO rank factors before this really starts to pay off.

In the meantime, you can get more search engine visibility using paid campaigns in AdWords. Use dynamic ads to automatically create relevant ads based on your site content.

Promote to your social audience

Every time you create a new lead magnet, spread the word about it on your social platforms. You can do this through regular posts and/or include it in your bio/descriptions.

You can also used paid promotion to boost your posts and get more reach for your content, like this promoted tweet from Union Metrics:

If you’re running a social contest to get email signups, you can broaden your reach by using relevant related hashtags that people search for:

  • #Contest
  • #Sweepstakes
  • #Freebies
  • #Giveaway

Create a sense of urgency with your social audience by regularly sharing updates about the contest’s progress. (E.g. Only 3 more days to sign up for our sweepstakes!)

Answer questions on Q&A sites

If you created a helpful tool or industry resource as a lead magnet, Q&A sites are a great place to market them. Quora and Yahoo! Answers are some generalized ones to target, or you can find niche forums with a more relevant target audience.

Find questions/threads that your lead magnet content would truly be valuable for. Provide a professional, accurate answer to the question and then offer your lead magnet as an external resource to check out. You can also suggest relevant blog content on your site that includes a CTA for your lead magnet.

Just make sure the advice you offer on Q&A sites is genuine and helpful. It’s pretty easy for people to spot when users are just looking to promote their own stuff, and you can get banned for spam posting your content.

Here’s an example of a marketer doing a good job of this for a Quora question: How can I get started with influencer marketing on Pinterest?

Work with influencers

Influencer recommendations are a powerful tool to attract new traffic to your website and instil confidence in your business. According to a Collective Bias study, 70% of Millennials prefer to receive endorsements from peers.

Here are a few different ways you can work with influencers:

  • Sharing your lead magnet/promotion on social media
  • Creating content on their blog featuring your business
  • Creating branded content together

You can build influencer relationships naturally by identifying powerful industry players with an audience that would be interested in what your business has to offer. Get on their radar by sharing their content on social media, commenting on their blog, engaging with them in social groups, etc. Then you can reach out to them about creating an influencer partnership.

Or you can work with micro-influencers (regular people who have an engaged audience) to spread the word. Boat shoe brand Sperry does just that to gather user-generated content for their Instagram account:

Another simple way to find influencers is by using an influencer marketplace, such as:

Here you can find many relevant niche bloggers and social personalities with engaged audiences to work with.

Share discounts on couponing sites

If you offer a special discount on your products in exchange for contact information, you can spread the word about it by posting on couponing sites around the web. Groupon and Coupons.com are examples of sites with a huge audience you can reach with your promotions. You can also explore the web and identify niche couponing sites that make sense for your target audience.

Step 3: Test everything

If you made it through steps 1 and 2, you know how to start building your email list. If you want it to really grow and flourish, you need to optimize and test the conversion process.

The best way to do this is using a tool like ClickFunnels to create a squeeze page funnel. Instead of creating landing pages for your lead magnets on your own, use their pre-designed funnels that are already optimized to help build your email list. The tool also has built in features that make it easy to split test page elements.

You’d be surprised how even minor changes to your landing page can have a huge impact on signups. This company, for example, simply added a photo to the background of their landing page and increased conversions by 7.46%.

To optimize your lead capture funnel, you should test all your landing page elements, including headlines, CTAs, and the lead magnets themselves. Over time you’ll discover which marketing message leads to the most sign ups for your list.

Wrapping up

That’s really all you need to know to get started and grow your email list. The key to success is using a variety of strategies together to attract traffic and encourage people to sign up. Just remember to:

  1. Develop many opportunities for your audience to sign up on your blog, through your checkout process, with discounts, and lead magnets.
  2. Attract traffic to these touchpoints by sharing your content around the web, using social media marketing, enlisting the help of influencers, etc.
  3. Test these processes to see which content and platforms bring the most valuable signups to your list.

Repeat these three main steps to continuously develop a powerful, optimized list building strategy catered to your audience’s interests.

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