How To Build An Email List (For Free!)

by | Mar 19, 2021 | Email Marketing | 0 comments

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Email marketing is one of the best kept not-so-secret tricks of the trade for small businesses. With a click of a few buttons, you have the potential to increase your revenue, extend customer lifetime values, and seriously improve your ROAS all for pennies on the dollar. But before you can dive into the nitty-gritty of segmentation and drip campaigns you need to have an audience to send those emails to first. And because there are few words as intimidating to business owners as “from scratch”, we’ve compiled 7 ways to build an email list for free regardless of what industry you’re in. 

1. Offer an E-book

A great rule of thumb for any marketing strategy is to ask yourself: Am I providing value to my customers? People are constantly being “sold” something everywhere they look: mobile ads, YouTube ads, display ads, pop-ups, and their own inbox. Offering them knowledge or other types of useful content can be a great incentive for them to take the plunge and subscribe to your newsletter. The trick to this is positioning yourself as an industry expert and convincing users that you have valuable information they can’t get anywhere else. You can do this by having a dedicated blog on the subject, or an eBook if it’s obvious that you specialize in a very niche topic.

2. Give a Discount

Money is a language that everyone speaks. Offering any sort of discount or coupon is one of the most tried-and-true ways to build an email list. The trick then is getting your new subscribers to stick around once they’ve gotten what they wanted from you. To do this, we recommended putting them in a workflow for new subscribers that puts your best content forwards. This will give them a taste of what to expect from your emails and who you are as a business.

3. Offer Free Content or Product

There’s only one thing people love more than a discount and that’s something totally free. This method of building an email list is great for businesses that offer digital content like printable templates, webinars, or virtual counseling that are otherwise hidden behind a paywall. If you don’t already have any testimonials it can be difficult to convince someone that your services are worth shelling out money for off the cuff. Offering a freebie not only increases the likelihood that they’ll convert later on, but you now have the contact information of people who are highly interested in what you’re offering.

4. Offer Exclusive Perks

Do you want to create an air of exclusivity or urgency? Use your newsletter to create a community around your brand that promises newsletter subscribers worthwhile perks: like early access, sneak peeks, exclusive deals, and more. Creating a sense of inclusion can improve customer loyalty as well as conversion rates. This method is frequently used in customer loyalty programs in retail and e-commerce but it’s applicable to virtually any industry and any business model.

5. Giveaways

If you’re starting out from scratch and need to build an email list quickly, a giveaway can help get the ball rolling. Whether you offer a product or service, the key to using this method effectively is combining it with a quantitative limit. This could be something like anyone who signs up for an email by a certain deadline or the first 100 people who sign up. By creating a sense of urgency, you can get lots of people clamoring to get into your virtual door.  

Pro-tip: You don’t have to stick to the quota you set, users won’t know if they’re the first or the hundredth. 

6. Website Popup

Are your website users even aware that you have a newsletter? This is an easy way to rectify that. Popups might have a pesky reputation, but doing them the right way can minimize the annoyance they cause while maximizing their efficiency. Several CMS platforms allow for the management of popups directly through the site. The key is to only use a popup after users have exhibited behavior to show that they’re interested. This could be a time distinction (like if someone’s been on your site for 30 seconds), a page-specific trigger, or after a set number of page interactions.

7. Be Upfront

This isn’t necessarily an incentive, but telling users precisely what you’ll be emailing them about and how often can make them more willing to give you their email address. Nowadays we are constantly connected to our inbox and bombarded with emails on a daily basis. If they know what to expect, there’s a much lower chance that they’ll rage mark you as spam or unsubscribe. 


The #1 Rule of Building An Email List Is…

To have patience. Building an email list from scratch is a challenge that every business owner has had to face. While certain industries naturally lend themselves to email marketing, others will need to get a bit creative. Unlike social media or content marketing, email is not a medium where you can take the “If you build it, they will come” approach. If you find that you’re struggling to build an email list, it could be an indication that your site isn’t compelling enough, your value proposition isn’t strong enough, or that your current audience isn’t targeted enough. Focus on improving your overall brand presence and email subscriptions are sure to follow. 

Written By: Tyler F.

Tyler is an SEO Specialist at Buzzbait Consulting whose specialties include branding, email marketing, link building, and all things copywriting. With a degree in both Marketing and Sociology, she sees SEO as an ongoing experiment of understanding consumer behavior and using marketing touchpoints as an opportunity to connect with users - not just sell a product.

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