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The Definitive Guide to Building an Email List

Written by:

Charles Camisasca

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The importance of building an email list

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Why do digital marketers and eCommerce store owners focus so heavily on building an email list?

What’s so important about showing up your subscriber’s inbox?

What are the best strategies for growing an email list?

How should you NOT grow an email list?

We’ll tackle all of these important questions and more in this post. 

The Importance of Building An Email List

Why put in the effort to capture email addresses at all? 

For one thing, if you can legitimately build a list of subscribers, you can convert those subscribers into customers. We dive into Subscriber marketing in detail in >>> this post. 

And once you have customers, email marketing is your most effective tool in creating repeat customers. 

Did you know it costs five times more to acquire a new customer, as compared with keeping an existing one?

Email Marketing has been said to have the “highest ROI” in all of digital marketing. That’s because once someone gives you their email address, you can send them as many messages as you want, for free.

Of course, you have to be mindful not to spam your subscribers into oblivion. They will unsubscribe. 

But the Email Inbox is an intimate place. You’re far more likely to convert an email subscriber into a customer than, say, a social media follower. As a result, building an email list should absolutely be one of the primary goals of any business.

How to Build an Email List 

1 – Get the Systems in Place & Produce Great Content 

In order to create an email list, from a technical perspective, you will need to sign up for an Email Service Provider (ESP) such as MailChimp, MailerLite, ActiveCampaign, etc. 

The Email Service Provider market is constantly changing, with powerful new automations being made available to marketers all the time. 

I won’t make a value judgment on any of the providers in this post, but I will say that I’ve used MailChimp and MailerLite. I’ve had generally positive experiences with both.

Functionally speaking, in order to build an email list, you’ll need to have a website, a product/service, and/or expertise in a particular field.

The first key to building an email list is producing content that people want to see in their inbox every day.

From a mechanics standpoint, these most common places on your site where you’ll capture email addresses:

  • The cart page, when a customer makes a purchase.
  • Pop-up forms.
  • Embedded forms in the header, footer, or sidebar of your blog.
  • Landing pages that contain a free offer in exchange for an email address.

2 – Create Lead Magnets to Earn Email Addresses

The operative word is earn.

Prospects are at times wary of giving their email address to strange companies. 

You have to demonstrate value in order to prove to your prospect that you are worthy of appearing in a place as intimate as their inbox.

The best way to grow an email list is to create a free, irresistible offer and then present that offer to interested consumers. 

We call these free, irresistible offers “Lead Magnets”. Here are some of the best Lead Magnets you should try using:

  • Free eBook
  • Discount Code on First Purchase
  • Free Report or “How-To” Guide
  • Product Catalogue / Price Sheet (for B2B and high-ticket)
  • Free Shipping Deal
  • The Promise of Exclusive Promotions
  • Exclusive weekly newsletter
  • Free Templates / Tools (For Information Products & Coaching Businesses)

The idea here is to make it a no-brainer for your website visitors. You want to get them saying, “Please. Take my email address.”

3 – Present Your Lead Magnet to the Right People

OK, quick recap. 

The first key to growing an email list is creating great content that is worthy of appearing in someone’s inbox. 

Packaging this content as a Lead Magnet is the best way to earn the email address of your website visitors. 

The next step is to get the right eyeballs looking at your irresistible offer. 

This requires some pre-work: defining and identifying your target consumer and figuring out where they congregate online.

Most successful marketers, once they’ve done this pre-work, present the offer to their target consumer through the following tactics:

  • Paid Ads
  • Blogging for Search Engine Optimization
  • Sponsored Posts on Social Media
  • Guest Blog Posts / Audience Sharing
  • Other Content Marketing (social media content production, e.g.)

See how this is all working together? Once you have the right systems in place, create great content, and place that content in front of your idea customers, you will begin to see results in growing your email list. 

How NOT to Build an Email List

You should absolutely NOT grow an email list by purchasing a list that you did not earn.

Even if the list is comprised of people in your industry.

For one thing, your subscribers will not be engaged with you content. They never agreed to allowing you into the safe space of their inbox. You are violating them. 

Beyond the moral scruples, you also run the risk of your subscribers flagging you as spam. 

Just don’t do it.

Wrap Up: Email List Growth Tips

Thanks for reading! I’ll leave you with some industry best practices you need to know in order to grow an email list:

  • Create an irresistible free offer. I know, I know, I keep harping on this. But it’s crucial. Don’t be afraid to “give too much away” with your lead magnets. This creates reciprocity with your subscribers and positions your brand as a trusted partner and an expert.
  • Pay for it. An email has real, monetary value to your business. Do the math and figure out what each one is worth (Revenue from Email Marketing / Total Subs). And then pay to run ads to drive people to your irresistible offer.
  • Design many distraction-free landing pages. An image, headline, short description, and an email form. That does the trick. Don’t tempt the viewer to navigate to your Blog, About Me page, or anywhere else. And create lots of them. Test. Revise. Figure out what works.
  • Create Personalized CTAs. Hub Spot is a big advocate of this strategy. Create unique lead magnets depending on the blog post (for example, I might give away an Email List Building Checklist to the people visiting this page). The results: almost double the subscribe rate.  
  • Use Social Media. Drive people to your landing pages and newsletter using your social media accounts.
  • Encourage your subscribers to share. Imagine you got every subscriber to share your newsletter with just one other person. Too many brands ignore the “word-of-mouth” growth strategy when it comes to their email list.

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