The 11 Best Ways to Build an Email List for Your Small Business

How to build and email list.

When you ask experts what’s the best way to grow your business, the answer is almost always the same: build an email list. And there’s a good reason for this.

On average, email marketing generates an ROI of 4,200%. That means for every $1 you invest in your email list you can expect to get $42 back. Even with all the new marketing channels available to you, email is still at the top of the list.

So, how do you build an email list from scratch? Here are 11 tools that will help:

  • A quality email service provider
  • Lead magnets
  • Pop-ups
  • Alert bars
  • Blog CTAs
  • About page CTA
  • Email signature CTA
  • Social media
  • Contests
  • Referral program
  • Paid ads

Keep reading to learn more about each of these strategies and how they can help you build a profitable email list.

Choose an email service provider

The first step you need to take is deciding where you’re going to store your email list. A good email service provider (ESP) will help you store, segment, and stay in touch with any leads you collect, so setting this up is critical before starting to build your list.

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Luckily, there are plenty of excellent ESPs available that make building and organizing your list easy. Do your research and find the one that best suits your needs. Plus, if you’re a Leadpages user your website and landing pages will integrate seamlessly with all the most popular email marketing tools, such as MailChimp, Aweber, and Drip.

There are two things you should do within your ESP to make your email list even more effective:

  • Segment your list: Create different segments within your email list, depending on how your leads subscribed to you. That way you can send people more personalized content that’s relevant to the offer or promotion they responded to.
  • Create a lead nurture sequence: Once you start building your email list you’ll need to start reaching out to your leads. Use an automated email sequence to get in touch with people as soon as they join your list to keep them engaged.

Use lead magnets

In most cases, people are going to need a little extra incentive to hand over their email address. So, you should come up with something to offer them to sweeten the deal.

Lead magnets are a free item that you give away in exchange for an email address. There are a number of things you can use as a lead magnet, including:

  • An ebook
  • A checklist
  • A webinar
  • A discount
How to build and email list.

Make sure whatever you’re offering provides value while also not giving away all of your secrets (depending on your business model, you may need to save some information for your paid products).

Once you have your lead magnet, build a landing page to promote and deliver it to your audience.

Pop-ups

Okay, so you’ve set up your ESP and have an awesome lead magnet to entice people to sign up for your list. The next step is to let people know about your free offer. One of the easiest ways to do this is to use pop-ups on your site.

There are three types of pop-ups you can utilize:

  • Trigger pop-ups that appear when someone clicks a button, image, or text link on the page they’re reading.
  • Timed pop-ups that appear after a visitor has been on your website for a certain amount of time.
  • Exit-intent pop-ups that appear when someone is about to leave your site.
How to build and email list.

Use these pop-ups to promote your lead magnet and direct visitors to your landing page. Include email sign-up forms right within your pop-ups to make the process even easier for your prospects.

Leadpages makes it easy to add pop-ups to your website. You can also use the Leadpages plugin to put your pop-ups on a WordPress site.

Alert bars

If you want to use something a little less intrusive than a pop-up, try an alert bar. This is a colorful bar that appears at the top (or bottom) of your pages that you can use to promote your lead magnets and special offers. Alert bars stay visible even as visitors scroll down the page to keep your offer top of mind.

How to build and email list.

Just like pop-ups, alert bars are easy to implement with Leadpages. You can either install them on your Leadpages sites and landing pages, or publish them on your WordPress site using the plugin.

Blog CTAs

Many of your website visitors will likely find your website through your blog. So, it’s a good idea to use your articles to promote your email list.

While the main focus of your blogs should be to provide value and answer the readers’ questions, there’s nothing wrong with inserting a few calls to action to help convert visitors into leads. These CTAs are even more effective when they’re relevant to the topic of your blog.

How to build and email list.

For example, if you have a blog on how to build an email list, you could include a CTA to encourage people to download your free email list building checklist (and of course, people would have to submit their email address to get it). We call these “content upgrades,” and they’re a fantastic way to build your email list.

You can include CTAs early in the blog text, in the sidebar, or at the end of the post.

About page CTA

Another page where you can promote your email list is on your About page. This is generally one of the most popular pages on your site, especially for people who are new to your brand or products. So, it doesn’t hurt to include a short CTA for your email list.

You could simply include something like “if you’d like to learn more about me and what I can do for you, subscribe to my email list.” Or you could take this opportunity to promote one of your lead magnets. Because it’s not always clear what problems people on your About page are trying to solve you might simply choose to advertise your most popular lead magnet here.

Email signature CTA

One more place you can include a CTA for your email list is in your email signature. For example, say someone fills out your contact form and asks you a question. When you respond to them via email you could have something in your signature like “for more digital marketing tips and tricks sign up to my email list.”

Adding a line like this to your email signature only takes a moment, so it’s definitely worth it if it helps you snag a few more leads.

Social media

Make sure to promote your email list on your social media channels. If you already have a big audience on those platforms then this could be a way to grow your list quickly. And even if your following is small, if you consistently post quality content word will spread.

Again, simply asking people to subscribe to your email list likely won’t produce the results you’re looking for. Instead, take the opportunity to promote one of your lead magnets, or a blog that happens to have a CTA for your email list in it.

Use your bio or profile to showcase a link to your most important landing page instead of your website homepage. 

Another way to grow your email list through social media is to…

Run a contest

If you want to generate a lot of leads quickly then running a contest is a great strategy. Simply offer a prize that you know people will want, promote it on social media, and require people to subscribe to your email list to enter.

Choose a prize that relates to the product or services you offer (or even better, your prize could be one of your products or services). Otherwise, you might get the wrong kinds of leads.

For example, offering a free Macbook would certainly result in a lot of leads, but if your business sells bath bombs then those probably aren’t the type of leads you want. So, whatever prize you offer should attract your ideal customer.

You can have people simply enter their email for a chance to win a prize or you can have them complete a specific task. For example, photo contests are a popular contest format and a great way to encourage engagement.

Start a referral program

No matter how much trust you build with your audience, a recommendation by one of your customers will always hold more weight.

When you offer amazing value people will naturally start recommending your brand to their friends. But if you want to give people a little extra nudge you can always start a referral program. Offer your subscribers a discount or prize for referring people to your list. Keeping track of this could be as simple as adding a “where did you hear about us field” to your sign-up form.

Similarly, you can also offer a reward for sharing your content on social media, as more social shares should eventually lead to a bigger email list.

Paid ads

Having trouble driving traffic to your lead magnet landing pages? Then you might consider running a paid ad campaign. Facebook ads and Google Ads are two of the most popular ad networks and are great at generating traffic.

How to build and email list.

Just remember, simply getting someone to sign up to your email list doesn’t immediately generate a profit. You’ll need to make sure you have a high-converting sales funnel in place to turn those leads into customers. If you do this consistently you’ll easily make back what you spend on your ads and then some.

Frequently asked questions about email lists

How do you get started with building an email list?

If you’re just starting out with a brand new business, focus on building out your website and content first. This is what’s going to attract people to your site and make people want to sign up to your email list. Once you have some content in place:

  • Choose an ESP.
  • Create one or more lead magnets.
  • Promote those lead magnets throughout your website.
  • Drive additional traffic to your lead magnets with social media and paid ads.

Do you need a website to build an email list?

Not necessarily, but it certainly helps. Having your own website allows you to attract new visitors through SEO, publish content that builds trust with your audience, and offer lead magnets that encourage new email signups. 

What’s a good email list size? 

It’s not about how many people are on your list. It’s about how much money your list makes you. You can build a really big list, but if none of those subscribers convert into customers it’s not worth much. Conversely, a small list can be very profitable if it has a high conversion rate.

So, you should be less focused on simply adding people to your email list and more focused on adding quality leads who are more likely to become customers and sources of more referrals.

Ready to build an email list?

Leadpages is a website and landing page builder that’s designed to help you get leads for your business. Create high-converting landing pages for your lead magnets and integrate your site with your favorite email marketing tools to build your email list.


Want to give Leadpages a test drive? Try it free for 14 days to see if it’s right for you and your business.

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