Email Marketing
7 min

21 Powerful and Effective Ways to Create a Robust Email List from Scratch


If you’re in the business of marketing, there’s an old saying that you must have heard many times: “The money is in the list”.

Like most old sayings, this one is quite true. How well your email marketing initiatives perform is critically dependent on the nature of your email list.

After all, studies indicate that 80% of business professionals believe that email marketing increases customer retention. And 59% of respondents say marketing emails influence their purchase decisions. To discover email engagement best practices, click here.

But how do you build an effective and powerful list, to begin with? That’s exactly what we’re going to tell you.

To make it simple and actionable, we’ve broken this guide down into three steps: what you can do with your website and existing email list, the other online methods you can use, and what you can do offline.

Create A Robust Email List 

Using Your Existing Website and Email List

1. Pop-ups and smart bars

Many valuable emails can be collected by using simple pop-up bars for visitors to your website. Using a clear benefit and a call to action will give you the best results. Eye-catching visual devices and short copy are good techniques. Smart bars, which rest on top of the website, are also effective for this reason. Remember, though, that these should not be unnecessarily intrusive or hard to remove. You should also ask people to register on your website for continuing benefits.

Pop-ups and smart bars

An American Express website notification that includes bonus points for applying with email


2. Incentives: e-book giveaways, subscriber-only offers

Again, you can get emails of visitors to your website by asking them to sign up for a variety of relevant incentives. A free e-book that is relevant to their interests is a great way to do this. Then, there are subscriber-only offers such as invitations to webinars, and these could be available to those who sign up with their email. Depending on your needs, a variety of promotional offers can be devised.


A website email sign-up for Marco Polo WorldSchool


3. Mobile app banners

It’s also convenient to use your mobile app to capture emails. These can be done via banners, for example, giving users a chance to sign up for a newsletter or other information. The process should be clear and straightforward, as you don’t want to interrupt their browsing experience too much. Just a simple request and offer should be enough.

4. Email-only offers

On your website and on your existing emails that can be forwarded, you can include special offers only for those who sign-up with their emails. This offer could take many forms. It could be free content, it could be a price-off, or it could be a timed promotional offer, for example. When properly segmented, this can be an effective way of gathering leads.

5. Email signatures

You and your employees must be using email every day for a variety of reasons. For all your official emails, you can make use of your email signature to build your list. This should be no more than a few lines of text, perhaps with a small visual. It could have a link to your website or a landing page where visitors are prompted to type in their email addresses.

Using Other Online Methods

6. Social media engagement

Given the growing importance of social media, you should leverage every method possible to grow your list via these channels. In such cases, the nature of the specific social media channel should be your guide to relevance. You could create a lead-generating Facebook ad, host Twitter chats, and insert call-to-action cards on YouTube videos, for example. Contests and free downloads are other tried-and-tested methods.

7. Blogs

Blogs are, in any case, a powerful tool in online marketing, and you can also use yours to build an email list. There are many ways to do this. For example, you could offer extra and advanced content that visitors can access by submitting their email addresses. Guest blogging for expert websites also helps you expand your list, with links to your landing page.

8. Create online communities

People love to share their expertise and to gain knowledge from others online, and you can use this to build lists. Creating a community around a shared and relevant interest on Facebook is one way, for example. On LinkedIn, too, you can create professional groups for information exchange. Several other platforms encourage community-building, depending on the nature of your business.

Adidas - online communities

The cover image for Adidas’s Facebook community, with millions of subscribers


9. Push notifications

Asking people to opt for push notifications is always a good idea, as only those already interested will respond. Though push notifications on their own are a good way to communicate with consumers, they can also be used to direct them to your landing page, where you can request an email.

10. For e-commerce, make use of checkouts

If you have an online retail site, you can collect customer emails from your checkout page and use these to send marketing emails. Customers can agree to this by checking a box during the checkout process. Based on the information received, you can segment and then send effective, targeted emails for repeat or associated purchases.

11. Conduct a survey or a quiz

Online surveys and quizzes are great ways to engage consumers and to gain their trust so that they fill in an email box. These can even be light-hearted, topical, and fun, as long as there is some amount of relevance to your product or service. There are many examples: “What kind of shopper are you”, “tell us your favorite color, and we’ll tell you a secret”, or “answer these five questions to understand your personality”. Make sure to use online quiz maker software to create fun and engaging quizzes and share them through email.

12. Free trial periods

If you’re in publishing or the SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) industry, you already know that free trials are an excellent way to gain potential consumers. For service-based businesses, such free trials are also an effective way to build a list. With further information, you can create a targeted email program for those who are still on the fence.

Offline Methods to Build Lists

13. Business cards

Business cards are a surprisingly effective way to build lists. At every consumer touchpoint, be it an office reception or a trade fair, you could place an empty fishbowl asking for cards that most people will be happy to share. Often, the cards contain other information such as seniority, profession, and location, that can be used for segmentation.

14. Print ads

If you make use of newspaper or magazine ads to communicate, do make sure to include a call to action that tempts the consumer to come to your landing page for email collection, or even a generated dynamic QR code for more information. These can be placed at the bottom of the ad, once the main message has already been communicated.

15. Networking events

As a professional, there must be many industry events that you attend. During this time, ask the organizers if there are means of email collection, or if they are willing to share the names of invitees. Also, if you are giving a talk or a presentation, you could include your landing page on the last slide. The advantage of this is that you gain access to emails of those who are specifically interested in your field.

16. Packaging

Brick-and-mortar stores can ask customers to join their mailing list by including inserts and QR codes in their packaging material with instructions as well as incentives for consumers to provide emails online. Receipts, too, can be used for the same purpose.

Nespresso packaging with a QR code for consumers to scan, visit their website, & enter their details

17. Offers and incentives

Gift cards, coupons, and advance information about sales and discounts can tempt consumers into providing email addresses when they’re in-store. The Paradise Pen Company, for example, incentivized their sales staff to do this. The result: 80% of their customer emails were collected on their premises.

18. Ask employees

Your employees and sales staff can also be a valuable pipeline when it comes to collecting emails. They can ask those they know and come in contact with for their emails and over time, a robust list can be built up by using this method alone.

19. Telemarketing

If your business makes use of telemarketing to contact consumers, you can instruct callers to always politely ask for emails at the end of the call. They could even provide the customer with a few reasons why this would be a good idea.

20. Direct mail

Digital offers can also be included in direct mail campaigns. This gives consumers who have already opted for receiving your messages an added incentive to be contacted by you via email.

21. Host an event

Events come in various forms: they could be for industry forums, fundraising, or introducing new products and services. Hosting any of these is a good way to build your corporate profile. When doing so, encourage people who step in to add their email addresses to a special list. Often, a kiosk with a touchscreen is also a convenient and engaging way to gather emails. Giveaways and incentives can also be used at the event.

Using the above steps, or a combination of them will yield a valuable and robust list. Then comes the right content based on segmentation, personalization, and other ways that marketing automation can deliver. You can then lead consumers through all the stages of the marketing funnel.

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