How to Build an Email List: 16 Proven Strategies for Beginners

How to Build an Email List for Business: 16 Proven Strategies

How to Build an Email List for Business - 16 Proven Strategies

An email list is essentially a collection of email addresses you gather from people interested in your brand or services. It’s a crucial tool for email marketing, allowing you to directly reach and engage with your audience.

Building an email list from scratch can seem intimidating, but it’s integral to the success of your email marketing campaigns. The challenge lies in not just building an email list but building it right. A well-crafted list ensures you’re connecting with potential customers who are genuinely interested in what your business offers.

How to Build an Email List from Scratch: 16 Ways to Collect Emails

1. Select the Most Suitable Email Marketing Software

Choosing the right email marketing software is a crucial first step in building and managing your email list. This choice is pivotal because it determines the efficiency, reach, and impact of your communication with subscribers.

Here’s what to look for in an email marketing software:

  • Contact Storage and Management: A good software will offer robust storage options, making it easy to organize and manage your contacts. This includes adding new subscribers and updating their information as needed.
  • Email Marketing Automation: Automating your email campaigns ensures timely and relevant communication with your audience. It helps in sending targeted messages based on customer behavior and preferences, increasing the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.
  • Gathering Customer Behavior Insights: Advanced software provides tools to track and analyze customer interactions. This data is invaluable in understanding what content resonates with your audience, helping you tailor your future campaigns.
  • Performance Tracking: Monitoring the success of your campaigns is essential. Look for software that offers detailed analytics on open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates.
  • Access to Subscription Forms: The ability to create and customize subscription forms directly from the software makes it easier to grow your list across various platforms and touchpoints.
  • Segmentation Tools: Segmenting your email list allows for more personalized and relevant communication. This can lead to higher engagement and conversion rates.
  • A/B Testing Capabilities: Testing different elements of your email, like subject lines or call-to-actions, helps in understanding what works best with your audience, optimizing your campaigns’ performance.
  • Integration with Other Digital Marketing Channels: Seamless integration with your website, social media, and other digital marketing tools ensures a cohesive and efficient marketing strategy.

Trusted Email Marketing Tool Providers

  • Mailchimp – Known for its user-friendly interface and versatile features.
  • Constant Contact – Offers extensive automation and integration options.
  • Brevo – A good choice for combining email and SMS marketing strategies.
  • GetResponse – Excellent for its advanced automation and analytics capabilities.
  • HubSpot – Ideal for those looking for an all-in-one marketing platform.

2. Use an Opt-In Form

A standard opt-in form is a basic form on your website where visitors can sign up to receive emails from you. Place this form in areas like the footer or sidebar, where it’s easily visible but not intrusive. The form typically asks for the visitor’s email address and may include a name field. It’s a simple, yet effective way to collect email addresses from people who are interested in your content or products.

Quicksprout effectively positions its opt-in form above the fold, making it immediately visible to visitors without overwhelming the page. The form’s design harmonizes with the site’s overall aesthetics, and it features an engaging call-to-action, “Get our hard-won secrets,” enticing visitors to subscribe.

Opt-In Form Example from Quicksprout

Opt-In Form Example from Quicksprout

2. Use a Surprise Pop-Up Form

In addition to a standard opt-in form, using website pop-ups is an effective strategy for collecting emails. This method grabs the visitor’s attention at key moments, increasing the chances of email sign-ups for your business.


On average, email popups convert 3.8% of website visitors. But, the best-performing email pop-up campaigns achieved an average conversion rate of 23.67%. This indicates a significant potential for pop-ups to increase email sign-ups across various websites.


Email sign-up pop-up forms can be set to appear based on different triggers, such as:

  • Entry Pop-up - when a visitor first arrives (known also as a welcome pop-up)

Entry Pop-up Example

Entry Pop-up Example from &OtherStories

  • Exit Pop-up - triggered by an exit intent, when the visitor is about to leave the page (know also as an exit intent pop-up)

Exit email pop up example

This exit email pop up example with a discount code helped to recover 53% of abandoning visitors who clicked on the button to sing up and get the discount. Read more about this Oliver Braithwaite’s case study on

  • Scroll on Pop-up - triggered when a visitor scrolls through a certain part of your site (know also as a Scroll Box). This solution is particularly recommended for websites with extensive reading material, like news sites or those featuring longer articles.

Scroll on Pop-up Example

Scroll on Pop-up Example. Source: MailerLite

  • Time-triggered Pop-up - activated after a visitor has spent a specific amount of time on your site. Research from Wisepops suggests that the best time to show a pop-up on a website is approximately four seconds. Campaigns displayed within this timeframe had the highest conversion rate of 3.88%. You might like to read more about best practices for pop up timing here.

3. Offer Incentives


Simple newsletter promotion pop-ups without incentives have an average conversion rate of only 5.10%.
Source: Optimonk

Incorporating incentives into your newsletter sign-up process can significantly boost success rates. Popular incentives include:

Pop up with a discount code - an exampleThis pop-up example from not only offers a discount as an incentive but also cleverly collects information about user preferences. This strategy aids in the immediate segmentation of the collected emails.

  • Early Access to Sales: Creates a sense of exclusivity and urgency.

Pop up with early access to sales - an example


  • Free Shipping: An attractive offer for online shoppers.

Pop up example with a free shipping offer


  • Free Templates: Useful for B2B or creative services.
  • News and Updates: Keeps subscribers informed and engaged.

Remember: When choosing incentives for your email sign-ups, don’t just pick them randomly. It’s crucial to align these incentives with the character of your business and what resonates with your target audience.

4. Try Interactive Sign-up Forms

Interactive sign-up forms enhance user engagement and can lead to higher sign-up rates. These forms involve more than just asking for an email address; they might include quizzes, polls, spin-to-win wheels or sliders that make the sign-up process more engaging and fun.


“If we compare the average conversion rate of spin-to-win popups and the traditional email signup popups, the former perform much better: 30.33% vs 3.8%.”


Spin-to-win Pop Up Form Example

Spin-to-win Pop-Up Form Example. Source:

Businesses with a younger, tech-savvy audience or those selling lifestyle products often find these forms particularly effective. For example, this solution could benefit skincare brands offering a quiz to determine the best products for your skin type or a fitness websites using a slider to select fitness goals, both followed by an email sign-up prompt.

5. Create Dedicated Landing Pages

Dedicated landing pages are a strategic way to build your email list.

A dedicated landing page is crafted solely for the purpose of collecting emails, presenting incentives and conditions in a clear, concise manner. Unlike a homepage, it offers focused environment, free from distracting elements and diverse information. Plus, a dedicated landing page is shareable across various platforms which increases the potential reach of your campaign.

When designing a landing page for email collection, remember to include these key components:

  • Simple Message: Keep the messaging straightforward, focusing solely on the email sign-up incentive.
  • Persuasive Copy: Use compelling language to convince visitors of the value of subscribing.
  • Clear and Compelling Headline: The headline should immediately grab attention and convey the core offer or benefit.
  • Strong Call-to-Action (CTA): Your CTA should be prominent and clear, prompting immediate action. Lear how to write compelling CTAs.
  • Attractive Visuals: Incorporate visuals that align with the message and enhance the appeal of the page.

Example of a Newsletter Landing Page

Example: Search Engine Land’s Newsletter Page

6. Share Lead Magnets

Lead magnets are valuable resources offered by your business in exchange for email addresses. They are an effective way to grow your email list by providing immediate value to your audience. Common lead magnets include:

Example of a pop up offering an educational e-book for signup

Example of an email collection pop-up offering an e-book as incentive for signup. Source: ActiveCampaign

  • Webinars and Courses: Adding educational value.

A pop up example offering a free course for newsletter signup

Example of an email collection pop up offering a free access to a course for signup. Source:

  • Guides: Attracting subscribers seeking in-depth knowledge on specific subjects.

WordStream's Pop Up example

Source: WordStream

  • Industry Reports in PDF: Offering valuable insights for professionals.

Industry Report in PDF - an example from Litmus

“The 2023 State of Email Report” offered by

  • Exclusive Videos: Engaging, dynamic content, drawing in those who prefer visual learning.
  • Case Studies: Real-world examples of a product or service’s success, appealing to evidence-oriented customers.
  • Free Trials: Letting potential customers experience a product or service first-hand, leading to higher trust and conversion.

Moosend Free Trial Pop Up

Source: Moosend


58.6% of marketers said their short-form written content – like newsletters, checklists, or ebook samples – had the highest conversion rates.

Long-form written content, for example guides or reports, generated the best results for 41.4% of respondents who picked this type of lead magnets.

Source: GetResponse

When using lead magnets, ensure they are:

  • Relevant: Choose a lead magnet that aligns with your audience’s interests and needs.
  • Valuable: It should offer clear, tangible benefits to encourage sign-ups.
  • Promoted Effectively: Share your lead magnets on your website, social media, and other marketing channels to maximize their reach.

7. Offer Giveaways to Website Visitors

For eCommerce email marketing, offering giveaways is an effective way to increase email sign-ups. Organize contests or prize draws where visitors can enter by providing their email addresses. Your giveaways can include your products or exclusive services, tailored to attract your target audience.

Example of a giveaway promoted with a pop up


8. Use Referral Programs

Implementing referral programs is an effective strategy for your business to expand its email list. These programs encourage existing subscribers to refer friends or colleagues in exchange for rewards. Each referral results in new email sign-ups, growing your list organically.

Consider these tips:

  • Incentivize Referrals: Offer attractive rewards for successful referrals.
  • Make Sharing Easy: Ensure the referral process is simple and straightforward.
  • Track and Reward Promptly: Efficiently track referrals and deliver rewards to maintain trust and momentum.

Referral Program example - a screenshot from Clinique

Source: Clinique

9. Make a Free Interactive Tool

Creating a free interactive tool can be a unique way for your business to gather email addresses. Tools like calculators, quizzes, or assessments offer practical value and engage users. In exchange for using the tool, visitors provide their email addresses.

Key aspects to focus on:

  • Provide Value: The tool should offer genuine help or insights relevant to your audience.
  • User-Friendly Design: Ensure the tool is easy to navigate and use.
  • Email Collection Integration: Seamlessly integrate email sign-up within the tool’s usage process.

Such tools not only help in building your email list but also enhance user interaction with your brand, offering a blend of utility and engagement.

Vichy's Skin Consult tool - screenshot

Example: Vichy’s Skin Consult tool delivers personalized results by email. Source:

10. Add a Dedicated CTA for High Converting Landing Pages

Beyond standard sign-up forms and dedicated landing pages, it’s crucial for your business to implement a CTA for email sign-ups on all high-converting landing pages.

  • Customize CTAs: Each CTA should be tailored to match the user intent specific to each page.
  • Strategic Placement: Position CTAs where they are most likely to catch attention and inspire action.
  • Consistency with Page Content: Ensure your CTAs resonate with the message and offer of the page.

11. Use a Live Chat or Chatbot

Integrating a live chat or chatbot, powered by AI, on your website offers a modern approach to email collection. Using an AI chatbot allows for ongoing conversations with visitors. It can ask for their email to keep in touch, send them specific information they need, or update them later, making the whole process smooth and automated.

Chatbot example from

12. Collaborate with Other Businesses

By partnering with companies that complement your services or products, you can tap into a new audience base. Such collaborations create a mutually beneficial relationship, where both businesses gain access to a wider audience. Consider using the cooperation ideas listed below:

  • Joint Promotions: Engage in joint marketing campaigns where both businesses promote a shared offer, leading to shared email list growth.
  • Cross-Content Creation: Collaborate on creating content like webinars, podcasts, or e-books. Participants register with their emails, which both businesses can access.
  • Referral Incentives: Offer incentives to your partner’s customers for signing up to your email list, and vice versa.

13. Use Social Media Profiles

Social media platforms offer a vast audience and diverse ways to engage with potential subscribers. Some examples include:

  • Direct Call-to-Action: Use your social media bio sections to include a direct call-to-action for newsletter sign-ups, along with a link to the sign-up form.
  • Social Media Posts: Regularly create posts that encourage followers to sign up for your newsletter. For example, tease content available exclusively through your emails.
  • Exclusive Offers: Share special offers or content available only to email subscribers, creating a sense of exclusivity for your social media audience.
  • Social Media Ads: Utilize targeted ads on platforms like Facebook or Instagram, directing users to a sign-up page.

14. Run an Excellence Awards Survey on Your Website

Running an Excellence Awards survey on your website is an engaging way to build your email list. This involves asking users to vote for their favorite product or service provider, which competes for a yearly award hosted on your site. Here’s how it works:

  1. Create a survey where users can vote for their preferred choices in various categories. Examples include ‘Best New Tech Product’ or ‘Top Local Restaurant of the Year’.
  2. Make signing up for your newsletter a requirement for casting a vote. This can be integrated smoothly within the voting process.
  3. Offer voters an incentive, like a discount code or entry into a prize draw, to encourage participation and sign-up.

This method not only grows your email list but also increases user engagement and provides valuable insights into customer preferences.

Excellence Award Survey example


15. Add Newsletter Sign-Up Link to Your Email Signature

Adding a newsletter sign-up link to your email signature is a subtle yet effective way to grow your email list. This method capitalizes on the regular emails you send out in the course of business communications.

Include a brief, inviting call-to-action in your signature, along with a clickable link leading directly to the sign-up form. Your email signature might say, “Stay updated with the latest trends! Sign up for our newsletter here,” followed by a link.

Read a detailed guide on how it could be done here.

Newsletter Sign-Up Link in an Email Signature

Source: ConstantContact Knowledge Base

16. Use Offline Email Collection Tactics

Incorporating offline methods to collect emails can complement your online efforts and reach a different segment of your target audience.

  • Networking Events: Attend industry conferences, workshops, and meetups. Collect emails through sign-up sheets or during interactions.
  • In-Store Sign-Ups: If your business has a physical presence, encourage in-store customers to leave their email for exclusive offers or updates.
  • Printed Material: Use brochures, flyers, or business cards with a call-to-action encouraging email sign-ups.
  • Community Engagement: Participate in community events or sponsor local activities, offering sign-up opportunities in exchange for valuable information or offers.

8 Reasons Why You Should Build an Email List for Marketing

  1. Enhanced Customer Segmentation: A structured email list allows for detailed segmentation, enabling you to send highly relevant content to specific groups within your audience.
  2. Efficient Campaign Management: With a well-organized list, managing and executing targeted email campaigns becomes more streamlined and effective.
  3. Improved Engagement Tracking: A structured list makes it easier to track engagement and behavior patterns, helping you refine your marketing strategies based on data-driven insights.
  4. Increased Deliverability and Reduced Spam Risks: Properly segmented and maintained lists improve email deliverability and reduce the likelihood of your emails being marked as spam.
  5. Personalized Customer Journeys: By understanding the different segments in your list, you can create personalized email journeys that resonate better with each group.
  6. Cost-Effective Marketing: Targeting specific segments within your list ensures that resources are not wasted on uninterested parties, making your marketing efforts more cost-effective.
  7. Higher Conversion Rates: Structured lists lead to more tailored communications, which can significantly increase conversion rates.
  8. Long-Term Audience Development: A well-maintained email list aids in understanding and growing your audience over time, laying the foundation for sustained business growth.

What Makes a Great Email List?

To reap the benefits of email marketing, it’s essential to have a great, or healthy, email list. Here are the key features that define such a list:

  • Permission-Based: Your list should be built on the foundation of consent, where users have explicitly agreed to receive emails from you. This not only complies with legal requirements but also ensures a receptive audience.
  • Current and Accurate: Regularly remove inactive subscribers and update contact information to ensure your email list is current and accurate. This reduces bounce rates and improves the effectiveness of your campaigns.
  • Contains Engaged Users: A great email list comprises users who actively engage with your emails. This means they open, read, and click through the content, indicating genuine interest.
  • Relevant to Your Audience: The users on your list should have a clear connection or interest in the products or services your business offers.
  • Easily Segmented: Your list should be organized in a way that allows for easy segmentation based on criteria like demographics, behavior, or preferences, enabling more targeted and personalized email campaigns.
  • Keeps Growing: A healthy email list is one that continuously grows, reflecting ongoing efforts to attract new subscribers and expand your reach.
  • Easy to Unsubscribe: Make it simple for users to unsubscribe from your list. This not only adheres to best practices but also helps maintain a list that is truly interested in your offerings.

Email List Building Do’s and Don’ts

Do: Always Obtain Consent for Subscriptions

Always get explicit permission from users before adding them to your email list. This builds trust and complies with regulations like GDPR (in Europe) and similar data protection laws in the United States, such as the CAN-SPAM Act and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

Do: Use Email Marketing Automation

Implement email marketing automation tools. When building a list, automated list builders help in segmenting and targeting specific groups of subscribers within your list, making it easier to send the right emails to the right people.

Such functions are offered by Mailchimp, HubSpot, and Constant, among others.

Automation allows for timely and relevant emails, like welcome messages for new subscribers or personalized birthday wishes, which can be set up once and automatically sent at the right time.

Read more about Marketing Automation:

Do: Get Feedback from Unsubscribing Users

When users choose to unsubscribe from your email list, offer a quick and optional feedback form to understand their reasons for leaving. This feedback is extremely useful for figuring out what needs to be better in your emails, like the kind of content, how often you send them, or who you’re sending them to. Knowing why people unsubscribe helps you make changes to keep more of your future subscribers.

Don’t: Buy an Email Lists

Avoid buying email lists. They often contain contacts who have not given consent to receive your emails, raising privacy and ethical concerns. Using such lists can lead to high spam complaints and unsubscribe rates, damaging your sender reputation and potentially violating anti-spam laws.

Don’t: Overwhelm Subscribers with Emails

Sending too many emails can lead to higher unsubscribe rates. Find a balanced frequency that keeps subscribers engaged but not overwhelmed.


61% of consumers want to receive at least one email a week from brands they follow, indicating that a weekly newsletter is generally preferred by most audiences.

Source: Campaign Monitor

Don’t: Use Misleading Subject Lines

Be honest and clear in your subject lines to build trust and avoid spam filters. Misleading titles, like “You’ve won a prize!” for a general newsletter, can erode trust and often trigger spam filters. For instance, if you’re sending a weekly update, a straightforward subject line like “This Week’s Industry Insights” is clear and honest.

Final Word: Find the Perfect Balance for Your Email List

Building a successful email list for your business is all about balancing understanding your audience’s intent with offering relevant incentives.

It’s not just about gathering emails; it’s about connecting with people genuinely interested in what you offer. Consider your audience’s needs and preferences, then tailor your approach to match.

The right strategy for you is one that resonates with your unique audience.

Next Steps: What Now?

Learn More About Email Marketing

Frequently Asked Questions

How many emails should I have for email marketing?

The ideal number of emails for email marketing doesn’t have a set figure; it depends on your business size, industry, and audience. Quality matters more than quantity. Focus on building a list of engaged subscribers who find your content relevant. Even a smaller, well-targeted list can be more effective than a large, disengaged one.

Can you build an email list for free?

Yes, you can build an email list for free. Utilize methods like adding a sign-up form to your website, leveraging social media platforms to promote newsletter subscriptions, and offering lead magnets like e-books or webinars. These tactics can gather emails without incurring costs, making them ideal for businesses with limited budgets.

How do I create an automated email list?

To create an automated email list, start by choosing an email marketing platform like Mailchimp or Brevo. Set up a sign-up form on your website or social media pages. Then, use the platform’s tools to automate emails for new subscribers, like welcome messages or regular newsletters. This automation ensures consistent communication with minimal manual effort.

How do I make a paid email list?

Creating a paid email list involves purchasing a list of contacts from a provider. These contacts haven’t interacted with your business before and haven’t given permission for their information to be used. Using a paid list can lead to low engagement and is not recommended due to privacy concerns and potential violations of spam laws. Instead, focus on building an organic list through voluntary sign-ups.

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