How to Build an Email List in 2020

Want to grow your business through email marketing? Then the best way to start is by building an email list. Not sure how to do that? Keep reading and we’ll make it clear and simplified for you. In this article you’ll find a ton of ideas plus tips on how to build your email list from scratch.

We’ll start off with some theory on email list building and what tools you’ll need to run effective lead generation campaigns. Next we’ll move on to the main part — 43 email list-building ideas for you to try in 2020.

In a hurry?
Use the quick links in the table of contents below to jump to the section that
you’re most interested in.

Bonus: Want to learn and practice at the same time? Then join the GetResponse List Building Program and over the next 90 days, you’ll learn everything you’ll need to know to grow an engaged email list and increase your sales revenue.

Table Of Contents

Why is email list building important?

Your email list can be your most valuable business asset.

For it to be useful, however, you need to make sure you’re continuously attracting new contacts to join your subscription, and that you’re engaging and nurturing them with your email campaigns.

On top of that, make sure your email list is of high-quality. You’ll want to focus on attracting people who will benefit from using your product or service and can become your customers.

How to build an email list from scratch?

In email marketing jargon, building an email list from scratch is called organic email list building. This means you find ways of reaching your target audience and ask them to sign up for your email marketing program. An organic list building strategy is permission-based, which means that only people who have expressed explicit consent are added to your list. 

How to build an email list fast?

The fastest way to grow your email list is to run PPC ad campaigns and drive traffic onto your squeeze page. There, you’ll also need a lead magnet that’ll convince your website visitors to leave you their email addresses.

You can also partner up with other brands to co-promote each other’s content (e.g., ebook) or run a webinar together and share the mailing list afterward.

In this article, you’ll find plenty of ideas that will help you build your email list in no time. Thinking of buying an email list? Read our article before you do.

Basic email list building tools and resources

Web forms

A web form a.k.a. a signup form is an HTML form that is installed on a website to enable visitors to sign up. There are different kinds of forms to choose from, e.g., a subscription form, download box, scroll form, fixed bar, lightbox, or an exit pop-up.

To build a web form, you can either code it from scratch or use a list builder, like the one built into GetResponse.

There, you’ll find various templates to choose from and an intuitive editor that’ll let you customize your web form to fit the style of your website.

When designing your web form think about the quality to quantity ratio. If you want to reach a specific target audience (e.g., to generate B2B leads), you might need to create a longer web form asking for more details: company name, company size, position, etc.

a complex subscription form example – list building tools and ideas.
Example of a long webform designed to collect email subscribers.

On the other hand, if your goal is to reach a broader audience (e.g., to reach potential ecommerce customers), you might ask only for basic information like name and email address.

The rule of thumb is that the longer the form, the fewer people subscribe. The shorter the web form, the more subscriptions you get, but you can’t be sure how many people actually meet your criteria. The trick is to know your goal and ask only for relevant information to balance the quality/quantity ratio accordingly.

Landing pages 

A landing page, also known as a “lead capture page” or a “squeeze page”, is a single web page that is designed with a single call to action for high conversion. In email marketing landing pages are most often used for lead generation.

masala_body landing page example featuring a subscription form – list building ideas and tools.
Example of a short squeeze page containing only two fields – name and email address – and offering a free ebook.

Once again, there are many ways you can build landing pages but the most convenient one is to use a landing page creator.

Landing page creator available in GetResponse comes with mobile-optimized free landing page templates, intuitive drag and drop editor, and multiple other features.

Here you can see it in action:

Related post: How to create a high converting landing page

Webinars

A webinar also known as an “online seminar”, “web conference”, or an “online meeting” can serve as a great way to build an email list with high-quality contacts. The idea is simple – you offer valuable information for everyone who signs up to your contact list.

Carefully planned webinar content will certainly attract your target audience. You can promote your webinar via other online marketing channels to maximize outreach.

webinar landing page.

If you’re interested in this particular list building method, this article talks more about how webinars work.

Lead magnets

A lead magnet is something valuable for your target audience that you offer in exchange for contact information. The goal of the lead magnet is to incentivize subscription and maximize the number of targeted leads captured via a web form.

Lead magnet examples

  • Ebook
  • Guide
  • Report
  • Checklist
  • Resource kit
  • Framework
  • Educational materials
school of calisthenics lead magnet example for building an email list.
Example of a free guide created specifically with the brand’s target audience in mind.

There are of course other types of “freebies” or “opt-in bribes” you can offer.

The key point here is that if you want to grow your email list, you need to create content that your audience will want to trade their email addresses for.

This article will provide you with more ideas for lead magnets that’ll help you grow your email list fast. Plus, you’ll find valuable tips on what content you should create to generate the collect the highest number of subscribers.

43 Email list building ideas

1. Live webinars

Host a webinar talking about a topic that’s interesting to your target audience. Put it behind a registration form and add a checkbox so that your website visitors will get a chance to sign up for your email list. Then, you can promote it using all your marketing channels, like social media, PPC, or your website.

Find out more about using webinars and get inspired by these webinar landing pages.

2. On-demand webinars

Extend your webinar’s shelf life by turning it into an on-demand webinar. This way, the content you’ve created once can be used for months to come.  Plus, your audience will be able to access your content at the time that works best for them!

Pro tip: When choosing a topic for an on-demand webinar, pick one that’ll stay relevant for at least several months. The goal is to create content once and be able to use it for as long as it’s possible. You won’t be able to collect subscribers if your presentation will be of little use.

Here’s how you can start using on-demand webinars.

3. Squeeze pages

Create a squeeze page designed solely to capture new subscribers. You can place it as a separate page on your website, link to it from your social media profiles, and even drive traffic to it from a Facebook Ad campaign. 

Pro tip: You can create several variants of the same squeeze page and A/B test its different elements, like the headline, images, or social proof.

To learn more, read our beginner’s guide to squeeze pages.

Here’s an example of a squeeze page we’ve prepared to grow our blog newsletter email list.

How we’re building our blog email list with squeeze pages.

4. Videos on squeeze pages

Add a video to your squeeze page. Use it to build rapport and talk to your prospective subscribers. Tell them about what they’ll get if they sign up to your list and point them toward the web form.

5. Lead magnets, content upgrades, and other downloadables

Create lead magnets that your audience will find so valuable they’ll be happy to trade their contact details for them. Lead magnets come in all shapes and forms — written, video, audio, interactive — be creative and pick one that’ll work best for your target audience.

Here are 25 great ideas for lead magnets and tips on how to build a lead funnel.

6. Gated videos

Do you have an interesting video your audience would like to access? Then add a signup form on it. Choose whether you want to let your visitors skip the web form, or if you want to limit access to the full video to only those who provide their contact details.

Pro tip: If you’re not sure what kind of video will work best for lead generation, create several variants and post them on social media. See which ones generate the highest engagement and try gating them on your website.

Below is an example of a signup form we used in one of our videos in GetResponse Resources.

7. Podcast

Another list building strategy is to promote your newsletter to your podcast listeners. If you’ve got an engaged audience that’s always tuning when you publish a new episode, there’s no reason to ask them to join your newsletter. Be sure, though, to offer them something very valuable for their time and effort.

8. Tools and software

A great way to grow your email list is to build an online tool or software that your target audience will want to use. Rather than asking them to pay upfront, give them the chance to get limited access in exchange for their email address.

How to build email list with free tools.
How to build email list with free tools.

9. Online conferences and events

Think of them as webinars on steroids. Instead of having just one presentation, you get access to a whole bunch of them. Online conferences usually revolve around a single topic, like email marketing, but they can go far beyond that. Preparing an online event usually takes time, but it can be a very effective list building strategy, especially if you’re going to promote your event well.

Pro tip: Some speakers may want to get paid for their presentation. But others will be happy to do it for free, provided that they’ll get exposure or will be able to mention their offer during the event.

10. Interactive tools

Interactive apps like quizzes and self-assessment tools can be very effective for 1) building an email list fast, and 2) qualifying your leads. Think of them as robust signup forms/surveys where prospects provide you with a lot of data in exchange for a personalized report. Tools like that only rarely go viral on social media, but if you’re able to create an app that everyone in your industry will find valuable, you’re in for a winner!

Here’s one example of such tool created by Iconosquare.

11. Email signatures

Use a company-wide email signature that will either promote your newsletter or a lead magnet you’ve recently published. It may not generate a ton of new email subscribers for you, but those who sign up will most likely be your engaged recipients.

12. Monetary incentives

Offer incentives like product discounts, free shipping, and free samples for purchasers who subscribe to your newsletter. To maximize the results, add an expiration date to your coupons so new subscribers will be more motivated to make their first purchase.

13. Referrals from existing email subscribers

Ask your email subscribers to tell their friends about your newsletter. If they’re satisfied with your content, they’ll be happy to pass it along. You can also offer them additional perks like discounts or a chance to win something.

Here’s an example of how Timberland motivates their subscribers to refer their friends.

Refer a friend campaign from Timberland.

14. Loyalty program

Offer customers a VIP or loyalty program for signing up for your list. Make sure it’s clear what your customers need to do to earn points and what they’ll get in exchange.

15. Everyday communication

Collect email addresses at each point of contact with customers and prospects. Whether it’s via phone or a face-to-face meeting, odds are that they’ll be happy to receive updates about your company.

16. Web forms on your website

Add a web form to every page of your website. High-traffic pages like blog posts or your homepage work best but consider adding one to all the standard places, like your website’s footer.

17. Pop-ups

Use a pop-up form and incentivize the subscription — be clear, persuasive, and honest as to what your subscribers will receive and what your visitors will gain by subscribing. Be careful, however, not to annoy your website’s visitors with intrusive pop-ups that’ll take their attention away from your content. Consider showing them only to those who’ve engaged and stayed on your website for a reasonable amount of time.

Here’s an example of a witty popup from a brand called Shinesty.

Funny pop-up form from Shinesty.

18. Chat-bots

Many marketers think of chat-bots as a tool to build relationships and answer their users’ questions. While that’s true, they can work just as well for increasing the size of your email list. Just make sure not to show your pop-ups or chat bots too often. While they are useful, there’s a thin line between what’s effective and what becomes annoying.

19. Ecommerce customer profile

If you’re running an online store where customers can create their own customer profiles, consider using that as an opportunity to build an email list. All you need to do is to give your customers a clear explanation or an additional benefit for providing you with their extra marketing consent.

20. Ecommerce check out

As an additional step or an alternative to creating a customer profile, add the option to sign up for your newsletter in your shop’s checkout.

21. Partnerships with other publishers

Partner up with other newsletter publishers in your space and either a) mention each other’s newsletters, b) promote each other’s lead magnets, or c) run a joint webinar together.

Here’s one example of such collaboration carried out by two brands.

Example of a partnership webinar used  to build email list.

22. Cross-registration campaigns

Perform a cross-registration campaign with other newsletter owners by adding a link or banner to the other person’s newsletter on the confirmation page. Subscribers won’t see it until after they’ve joined your list.

23. Article directories

Submit articles to directories like GoArticles, SubmitYourArticle, or EzineArticles. Include a bio box at the bottom with a link to your website or a squeeze page dedicated to your subscription.

24. Q&A websites and discussion boards

Visit discussion boards, blogs, forums, Quora, and other similar sites to provide helpful answers and interact with people, and include a link to your newsletter subscription page in your signature or bio.

Take a look at this example of a bio written by one of the most popular writers on Quora.

Example of an optimized profile on Quora.

25. Guest articles

Write guest articles for popular blogs in your niche. In most situations, you’ll be able to link to your website, at least from the author’s bio. If you’re able to provide a couple more contextually relevant links, most blog editors will agree to include them, too. When linking to your content make sure it’s not gated. Blog editors, in general, don’t like to refer traffic to pages with an opt-in wall. That isn’t to say these pages can’t include an embedded or pop-up form that can be closed to access the content.

26. Your social media profiles

Add your newsletter signup link or a banner promoting your lead magnet to your email signature and all your key social media profiles. Most platforms let you customize the description of your business page or bio in your personal profile. 

Here are some more ways how you can build an email list with Facebook and another on how to create a Facebook Landing Page.

Here’s how a popular organizational psychologist, Adam Grant, promotes his work in his Twitter profile.

How to build your audience with an optimized Twitter profile.

27. Transactional emails

Place a link to your website in your transactional emails. If the local legal regulations also allow for it, consider adding extra information about your subscription and the perks that come with it.

28. Opt-in link on unsubscribe page

This one may sound counter-intuitive at first but let me explain a bit further. It’s a good practice to give your subscribers the option to easily re-subscribe after a) they’ve unsubscribed themselves, and b) you’ve removed their email address from your list, because they weren’t active. Chances are it won’t generate a ton of new leads for you, but every little bit counts.

29. Keynotes and presentations

Running an exciting presentation that people are lining up for? Let your audience know they can download your slides or receive similar content directly from your website. Just place a link to your newsletter subscription page on the footer of your PowerPoint or webinar presentation.

30. Lead ads

Social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Quora all offer an ad type dedicated to promoting lead magnets. These so-called lead ads are perfect for collecting email subscribers. Mainly because the platforms prepopulate forms so users don’t need to fill out their full details manually. They are simple to set up and you get a ton of targeting options to choose from.

Below is an example of a lead ad you might see on Facebook. And here’s a post on how to use leads ads with GetResponse.

Facebook lead ads example.

31. Lead magnet funnels

Looking for a quicker way to promote your lead magnets and generate leads? With lead magnet funnels you can host your lead magnets, set up landing pages, create autoresponders, and promote them with Facebook Ads — all in a matter of minutes.

Pro tip: You don’t need a lead magnet to start collecting email subscribers with lead magnet funnels. They come with a set of pre-made templates and content upgrades you can use in your own campaigns.

Example of a lead magnet funnel squeeze page pre-built in GetResponse.
Example of a lead magnet funnel squeeze page pre-built in GetResponse.

32. Lead funnels

Don’t have a lead magnet but still want to use an automated system to build your email list? List building funnels can help you setup a full lead generation campaign even if you don’t have a downloadable opt-in incentive. Use them to promote your newsletter, an email course, a monetary incentive, or a resource vault.

Read more to learn how to build a lead funnel.

33. Retargeting campaigns

Win back people who’ve visited your website but didn’t leave their contact details. With retargeting ads, you get a second chance to present your offer and build your email list. To maximize your conversion rate, make sure to a) only focus on those who’ve interacted with your page, b) exclude those who are already subscribed to your list.

34. Mobile apps

Most mobile apps require you to provide an email address to use them. However, this type of consent often isn’t enough if you want to send out marketing materials. Under GDPR, you’re better off asking for an additional consent that’ll let you send extra materials and try to upsell your users on the paid add-ons or other services that you offer.

35. Sponsorships

Want to reach a wider yet still highly-targeted audience? Consider sponsoring another company’s project or content. Whether it is an online event, banner ad, or a sponsored email — all of them open your door to a larger audience who, upon seeing your brand, may be interested in checking out your products and subscribing to your list.

Here’s an example of a sponsored email promoting another company’s webinar:

Sponsored email promoting a webinar.

36. Merchandise

You can also build your email list by offering free merchandise to your clients. So, make sure to put a link to your website on your mascots, pens, USB flash drives, keychains, clothing, and other accessories.

37. Point of sale

Selling products through an offline store? Got people standing in line? Make their waiting time more enjoyable — offer coupons to those who opt-in to your newsletter while at the cash register. This way you’ll build your email list and get happier customers.

38. Printed materials 

Advertise your email newsletter on all your printed materials including product shipping boxes, packing slips, leaflets, business cards, receipts, order confirmation forms, and direct mail cards.

39. Subscription form on paper

This list building idea often works well for places like hotels, where people sit in one place for a longer period of time. A small sticker, poster, or just a page in your brochure could be enough to communicate the fact that you have a newsletter subscription. It’s often useful to combine that with a loyalty program if you don’t have any alternative opt-in incentives.

40. Face-to-face meetings

Hand out sign-up forms promoting your newsletter when meeting your prospects in person or doing free one-on-one consultations. This is especially useful if you or your sales team are having a lot of in-person meetings, but not all of them lead to direct sales.

41. Contests and give aways

A quick and easy way to generate a high number of email subscriptions is to run a contest. The tricky part is convincing your audience to participate in your contest. Standard incentives like giveaways or discounts may work, but it strongly depends on the type of audience you’re targeting.

42. Snail mail

Who would know
you could grow your email list using snail mail? If you have a physical mailing
list from your offline business, send a postcard to your customers, offering a
special deal for opting-in to your email newsletter.

43. Customer referrals

Just like
you would do online, you can ask your customers to refer their friends to your
website. To grow your email list with this tactic effectively, provide your
customers with a squeeze page URL they’ll pass along to their friends.

Email list building strategies from our customers

Here are two
email list building scenarios our customers have tested and stand by them. These
real-life examples will help you understand the online lead generation process.
And, they’ll provide you with some fresh ideas for your own business.

Alex Terrier – 256 new
contacts in one month

The first
scenario comes from Alex Terrier – a jazz musician who also happens to be a skilled
music teacher and a creative online marketer.

Alex offers
a variety of online music courses, e.g., a Triads Mastery online workshop for anyone
who wants to learn how to improvise melodies. The course consists of a series
of videos and ebooks. That’s why he offers a few short videos and a pdf as a
lead magnet.

Alex uses Conversion Funnel and Facebook Ads to promote and sell his online course.

Contact list building assets

Alex used a free triads mastery workshop (6
short videos and a pdf)
as his lead magnet.

He also has a landing page with a web form, explaining why you should sign up for the free workshop (https://alex_494c.gr8.com).

Example of a squeeze page created by Alex Terrier.
Fragment of the Triads Mastery Workbook landing page from Alex Terrier

On Facebook, Alex runs a series of Facebook Ads targeting a specific audience.

Facebook ad example from Alex Terrier promoting a downloadable lead magnet
Facebook ad example promoting a free workshop

In just 30
days after creating the funnel, Alex got the following results:

  • 1571 unique landing page visitors
  • 256 new contacts
  • 518 unique sales page visitors
  • 22 completed orders
  • $351 in revenue

And here’s
how he describes his experience:

“Conversion Funnels are great for reaching new customers with one-time purchase products. You get revenue and grow your contact list at the same time”

– Alex Terrier

Family Wing Chun – 21 new
contacts and five new students in one month

Another list building scenario comes from Barry Wells, the owner of Family Wing Chun – a Leeds-based martial arts school. Barry is using Conversion Funnels to promote self-defense courses online and enroll new students.

Contact list building
assets

As his lead
magnet, Barry crafted a series of incentives for people who fill in the form:

  • early tickets for the first ten
    people at 60% off
  • a free uniform as a gift for the
    first ten people
  • access to a meal plan for the
    duration of the program.

He created
two landing pages. One describing the course (https://ladiesonly.subscribemenow.com), and one presenting the instructor (https://davina.gr8.com).

Signup page example from Family Wing Chun - GetResponse customer.
Fragment of the Family Wing Chun landing page from Barry Wells

Here’s why
landing pages are so important, according to Barry:

“First, a landing page is bespoke for a particular program or class, so you can immediately address your customers’ pain points. It’s designed for conversion, so it’s much more effective than sending prospects to your home page. Second, you get a database of people who were interested, but didn’t buy at that moment.”

– Barry Wells

The school’s Facebook profile contains different types of content, but is
always focused on building a community.

In just 30
days after creating the funnel, FWC got the following results:

  • 149 unique landing page visitors
  • 21 new contacts
  • 26 unique sales page visitors
  • Five completed orders
  • $295 in revenue

As you can
see, you can build your contact list effectively, regardless of the industry
you’re in. All you need to do is prepare your list building assets and test out
different channels for distributing them.

Webinar Recording – How to Build an Email List Faster with Lead Magnet Funnels

Still got your attention? Perfect! Here’s a little bonus for you.

Here’s the recording of our webinar – “How to build an email list faster with lead magnet funnels”.

Are you ready to apply this knowledge and start growing your email list? Then go ahead and join the GetResponse List Building Program.

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