7 Proven Strategies to Build an Email List from Scratch

by | Jul 1, 2021

Email marketing is the most time-tested and proven way to build trust with readers, sell products and keep in constant communication with your customers. Unfortunately, the art of email marketing is often overlooked – especially with beginner bloggers. What most don’t realize is that building their email list will end up becoming one of the most valuable assets of their business.

An email list is a collection of visitors or user addresses from people who sign up for subscriptions to get added value from your brand or business. This database empowers future communications while keeping leads warm when they aren’t ready to convert immediately.

Almost 60% of consumers say that marketing emails impact their purchasing decisions. When you can provide value without asking for anything in return, there’s a direct correlation to improving your customer retention figures.

Although you could grow without an email list, your brand would never reach its full potential.

Businesses benefit from an email list because it allows for each brand to shape its story. It has a better reach than paid media while costing less. You don’t even need to worry about algorithm penalties with this option.

It’s a direct communication channel to potential customers. It takes time and patience to build an email list, but the effort is worth making when you implement an effective strategy.

Why Your Business Should Invest in Email List Building Today

When businesses invest $1 in email marketing, the average return can be up to $42. That figure is 24 times higher than what is expected through pay-per-click advertising.


Email Marketing Statistics

Source: Hubspot.com


That high ROI makes email list building too valuable to ignore.

Businesses of any size can participate in email marketing by working on their list-building skills. The analytics alone are worth the investment, ranging from the open rate to conversions. This helpful information allows you to understand your target audience more while creating messages that hit the right pain points.

All these benefits sound great, but how can your business achieve these valuable outcomes?

That process begins when you have a strategy in place to start building an email list from scratch.

What Are the Best Ways to Build an Email List from Scratch?

We live in a society that expects instant gratification. This expectation extends to the business world when investing in marketing opportunities.

You cannot produce a comprehensive email list in less than 24 hours. Every method takes time to reach people interested in what you have.

Here are some things to consider implementing for your brand and business today.

  • Offer discounts and deals.
  • Provide exclusive notifications.
  • Implement squeeze pages.
  • Create a referral or loyalty program.
  • Have conversations on social media.
  • Use exit-intent pop-ups.
  • Offer content upgrades.
  • Give away stuff from free

An email capture campaign can generate new revenues with remarkable speed. If you can give this investment time to work, you’ll find the dividends are often far beyond what you could have imagined.

Here are some ideas to help you begin building your first (or next!) email list from scratch to accomplish your short- and long-term goals.

Use the traditional embedded signup form.

This traditional strategy is still seen on most websites because it works. It helps to place the forms on your high-traffic pages in the most visible areas. That’s why they appear in the header and sidebar, but you can also try a splash page or the footer.

You can even place a signup form in the middle of a popular blog post or page.

At MoonlightJo, we offer free courses to help jumpstart our reader’s journey into starting an online business.   Below is an example of what a traditional embedded signup form looks like.

This option works because it provides each visitor with a gentle reminder of the reason why they visited your website. Adding their email to your list reinforces the positive energy that came from the initial click.

When you’ve fulfilled your value promise and solved a problem or offered relevant advice, the positive impression makes the individual want to get more information from you.

Use pop-ups and overlays to your advantage.

Pop-ups with an email list request have an average conversion rate that hovers around 4%. When you take only the top 10% each year, that figure reaches nearly 10%. Although the benefits of trying this methodology are clear, you must also follow the interstitial ad guidelines from Google.

Those rules communicate what Google perceives to be the correct use of pop-ups. That means they shouldn’t cover the primary content after the user hits the page from search, display standalone interstitial that must be closed before accessing the material or have the above-the-fold content appear like the standalone component.

A welcome pop-up is a common choice because it offers a natural greeting. Many businesses use this option as an opportunity to deliver their first call to action. It’s common to provide a discount, discuss your brand story, or offer something else that visitors could see as valuable.

Another option is the exit intent pop-up. About 10% of potentially lost visitors can get saved with this choice. The goal should be to enhance the visibility of your most valuable assets in case the visitor didn’t spot what they wanted with their initial search.


7 Proven Strategies to Build an Email List from Scratch


1. Create powerful lead magnets and opt-ins.

Content upgrades offer gated content that businesses provide in exchange for an email address. This option can cover everything from an exclusive eBook to a members-only sale during specific times of the year.

Two common lead magnets you’ll find online today are how-to and buyer’s guides. This content provides immediate value because it shows someone how to accomplish a specific goal or find the best item to meet their needs.

Although the content is an investment, the email leads can get nurtured until they’re ready to convert.

2. Personalize your call to action.

People shop more on the relationships they have with brands than the product or service. That’s because trust forms when someone feels connected to your company. You might even charge more than a competitor, but the customer stays with you because of the trust and loyalty that’s been established.

Since leads don’t have this connection, it is up to you to provide it through your call-to-action. Try to show people how you can address their issues. What pain points can you solve?

This approach can be challenging because it requires empathy. Since you’re creating the content without knowing who will visit your site, it helps to step into the potential reader’s shoes.

What would you like the content to say if you were reading it? What problems would you expect to exist for that person?

When you can answer those questions honestly, you’ll get better results because you’ve taken the time to personalize the experience.

3. Included opt-ins during the checkout process.

Most transactions today require an email address for order communication. If you add a simple checkbox for people to click that lets the customer receive offers and promos, the list-building work can expand quickly.

It doesn’t feel like any work to check that box. They’ve already typed out the email address to get what they want. Why not expand on that value?

People must opt-in with this technique for the email list strategy to work. Not only does pre-checking it violate GDPR rules, but it also removes ownership of the process from your lead. Since they didn’t decide to become part of the community, there’s no investment in the messaging. 

4. Use waiting lists and exclusivity to communicate opportunities.

It can be helpful to have your product or service readily available to consumers. That strategy can also be harmful because it eliminates scarcity from the equation.

When you limit time and supply, your email list can generate urgency that prompts people to act.

If you promote your items early, leads will give you their email address to inform them of when it is available. Invitations and waitlists are another way to create results in this area.

Foundr.com is notorious for this strategy.  Even with their initial opt-in, they have a clock counting down until their “training” starts.

Foundr.com Email Optin Example

Many businesses extend this concept further to add deadlines to the response time. If something “sells out fast,” you’re communicating to potential customers that they need to act quickly if they want what you have.

5. Have social media drive traffic to your landing pages.

Social media is everywhere. Most platforms have millions or billions of people who stay active daily because it is easy to use and usually free.

When you optimize landing pages for SEO, the ranking you get is usually not very high. That’s because there isn’t much value to that content. Google recognizes that the goal of what you upload is to create a sale.

If you’re on social media, people can get the links for your landing pages differently. They give you a click when they’re interested, which means your content needs to close the deal instead of rank.

Even if someone changes their mind after clicking on a social media link, email signup can help them feel like they’ve accomplished something by their actions.

Social media can also drive traffic to your site for building email lists through paid advertising.

6. Take advantage of guest blogging opportunities.

Although guest blogging takes your brand outside of its comfort zone, that action can also improve interest in your email list. These posts generate instant exposure to your targeted audience. [7]

You can see significant improvements to your conversion rate when you optimize your calls to action, landing pages, and other site elements after having this content post.

Guest blogging also expands your personal network. If you’re active in the community, engaging in conversations with potential leads, your expertise can generate more interest in your email list.

7. Use referral and loyalty programs to build lists.

A loyalty program is a straightforward way to build an email list and encourage repetitive transactions. Most people are more included to work with companies that offer a rewards opportunity.

This option can drive people away when it isn’t implemented correctly. Nearly 40% of customers say that they don’t join a loyalty program because it doesn’t seem valuable.

If you want to use this option for your email list, it should be easy to enlist in the program. The benefits should be eye-catching and noteworthy, such as free events, gifts, content, or experiences.

Once someone signs up for the program, you must take steps to personalize the experience.

Your subscribers stay excited because they want to know how close they’re getting to the next reward. If you send out quick reminder messages when they get close, you can drive revenues quickly.

A referral program offers similar results. If you deliver high-quality outcomes to customers, they’re more likely to refer friends and family to your company. When you advocate for this behavior, you’ll be more likely to build trust throughout an extended network.

Although this option might cost a little more than organic email list-building efforts, the investment is still significantly cheaper than other forms of paid marketing.

What to Avoid When Email Marketing

When creating an email marketing list from scratch, the biggest mistake you can make is to try to take a shortcut.

Some people offer to sell you email lists that they promise will reflect your industry or business. How can you verify this information? Unless you contact each person directly to see if the address is active and engaged, this technique is often a waste of money.


What to avoid with Email Marketing


You also want the email messages sent to each person to be personalized. Although you can still create a generic note that goes out to everyone, it shouldn’t feel that way. When you take the time to code the content to provide names or other specific information, the visitor feels that you’re taking extra time to form a relationship with them.

When your email list can develop relationships consistently, your efforts will build trust within your leads. That outcome leads to more sales.

A Final Thought on Building an Email List from Scratch

It could take 6-12 months before your email list is firing on all cylinders. Instead of rushing through the process, take the time to get your message right.

This database of potential leads is an invaluable resource that can increase revenues dramatically.

Each brand and business is unique, which means any or all of these strategies could be helpful. Think about how your leads communicate, match your message to that technique, and make it easy for everyone to sign up.

You’ll find that the time it takes to achieve results is worthwhile once those revenues start climbing.

Did you find this helpful?  Please share your thoughts below! We look forward to hearing from you! Until next time…

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