6 Strategies to Build Your First Email List

Email list building

Email is the best converting traffic source. I am sure you know this already. But in case if you don’t, here are two pretty heavy stats:

The average percentage of traffic arriving at a shopping cart from email is 56.8% whereas the percentage of conversions from the channel reaches 67.37% (SeeWhy report 2012). And sure, this data is 2 years old but I have no doubt that these numbers have only increased.

The thing is though; you won’t get anywhere near those numbers unless you manage to first get people onto your list. Before you even think of launching your campaign you’ll have to build a considerable mailing list of people willing to receive your stuff.

And email subscribers are the lifeblood of your business. There’s data to prove that too. 44% of consumers made at least one purchase last year based on a promotional email they received (Convince&Convert). Moreover, when asked which medium consumers would like to receive updates from, 90% preferred email (NielsenNormanGroup). And lastly, only 18% say they never open commercial emails (ExactTarget).

But with the average customer receiving approximately 416 commercial messages a month, it is not hard to understand their reluctance to sign up for yet another newsletter.

To help you overcome this, I compiled a list of strategies that should help you start gaining your first subscribers.

Invite your clients and existing contacts

Clients and your other connections are the most obvious people to start with. Send an email to everyone who has worked with you explaining how joining your mailing list is going to benefit them. Are you going to help them get better at their jobs? Or show them tricks that will help them to grow their business? Explain that in detail presenting 2-3 benefits of signing up.

Not all of your connections will do so but asking existing contacts first is the easiest way to start building your list.

Offer discounts or other benefits for signing up

Did you know that 72% of consumers sign up for email newsletters because they want to get discounts? In comparison, only 8.2% do so because they love the brand. (source: BlueHornet). This means that you can bribe your customers to join your list by offering or promising discounts or other perks.

Email list building

(MarketingSherpa promises access to knowledge but promotions as well)

Email signup tips

(Burning Shed offers access to free music downloads by artists from their catalogue in exchange for a sign up)

Swap their email for a knowledge they lack

You can also try to entice your visitors to sign up by offering access to knowledge resource covering topics they lack. Create a downloadable eBook, report, whitepaper or anything else your audience might want and be willing to surrender their contact details for.

Creating downloadable resources is a common way to generate leads and signups for email list.

free downloadable content

(Copyblogger gives access to an entire library of downloadable content)


(FreelanceFactFile offers a free guide to most common freelance challenges in return for newsletter signup)

Launch an online or email course

An similar idea is to launch an email course teaching your blog audience the very skills they lack. In case of B2B audience, people who first and foremost want to be educated, this is a highly effective strategy to get them to sign up.


(Quicksprout offers a 30 day website traffic course)


(Copyhackers offers a free CRO copy course in return for a visitors email address.)

Create a dedicated sign up landing page

Create a landing page dedicated entirely to email signup and drive traffic to it from your blog, your website, social media or any other source you want. You can tie this with a downloadable resource or email course we spoke about earlier.

If you’re interested in implementing this strategy, check this guide by Marketing Land, it includes a lot of useful advice to get you started.

aweber landing page

(Aweber features a dedicated landing page dedicated to reasons for signing up to their newsletter)

Place newsletter signup at the checkout or registration

Personally I don’t agree with tricking users to sign up. Many companies however see no problem in doing so and thus I decided to include this method on the list.

You can try to attract customers who purchase from you or register on your site in any way to sign up for your newsletter. Some companies include an option to do so on their checkout, right before a customer completes the purchase or in their signup form, to target people buying or wanting to try their products.


(88Miles software includes an option to join their newsletter on their sign up page. Note how the option is ticked by default).


Email is the best converting traffic source, fact. But building a qualified email list isn’t as easy as it may seem. It requires time and effort. The rewards however are plenty, making it more than worth to invest in email marketing.

Creative commons image by Howard Lake / Flickr

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *