10 Foolproof Tactics to Grow Your Email List in 2020

10 Foolproof Tactics to Grow Your Email List in 2020
Artem Tiulnikov
Artem Tiulnikov on Jan 14, 2020 9 min read

Will it surprise you to learn that email has an 3x greater reach than Facebook and that it covers a whopping 15x more audience than Twitter?

According to Campaign Monitor, one of the leading email marketing software providers, email is even more than alive and kicking in 2020. It’s a prime marketing channel that you simply cannot disregard.

However, to benefit from email marketing, you need to grow your email list first. And growing an email list is not always smooth sailing – you probably already know that if you’re reading this post.

To help you with that pain point, we’ve collected 10 email list building techniques. Most of them are easy, newbie-friendly tricks you’ll be able to implement within a day or two.

To inspire you even more, we’ve reviewed over a dozen websites that use those techniques – to show how they work for real-world businesses.

10 Email list building techniques you should try out

Ready to read about the ways to grow your email list this year? Let’s do it.

1. Offer lead magnets to draw subscribers

A lead magnet is an “ethical bribe” you offer in exchange for an email address. It can be a piece of content, a discount, an exclusive deal – practically anything, as long as it’s relevant, valuable, and enticing.

As a good example, consider Health Journeys giving away a $13-worth meditation audio file to new email subscribers:

Health Journeys gives away a free meditation audio file to grow their email list

Once you fill out the form, you’ll receive an email with a link to download the file. And that’s how most lead magnets work.

If you want to offer a lead magnet to your visitors in a similar way, you can create an email subscription popup using tools like Getsitecontrol. After a visitor subscribes, you can deliver the lead magnet automatically in a welcome email – be it a link for a file download or a coupon code.

Your Guitar Academy takes a similar path by giving away two books on guitar lessons in exchange for an email subscription:

Your Guitar Academy offers two digital books on guitar lessons in exchange for an email address

And since beginner guitarists are a large portion of their audience, this offer is quite enticing. Great job choosing the right incentive, Your Guitar Academy!

If you think this strategy might work for you, check out this guide to creating a lead magnet and learn how to build an email newsletter popup exactly like the ones from the examples above.

2. Use value-driven calls to action

A call to action (CTA) is a piece of text that encourages visitors to take action on your website. A good CTA reflects the value a visitor gets from taking the action.

For example, if you want your visitors to sign up for an email newsletter, your CTA should clearly show the value they get from subscribing. And this is exactly why using the plain “Subscribe” on the email signup button is a bad idea – it communicates very little value.

Here are two examples of how the right words can make an irresistible call to action.

Toms, an apparel company based in California, is known for its philanthropic nature, and their vision is reflected in their CTAs:

Toms’ smart call to action helps the company grow an email list

Buying from Toms means donating to charity – and even a single purchase makes you a part of the movement. “Join the movement” makes you feel that you’re joining something bigger than just an email list.

NerdFitness also treats their clients in a very special way. They’re not actually clients – they’re rebels. These are the people who have what it takes to break free from an unhealthy lifestyle and embrace hardcore fitness. And NF makes hitting that “Count me in” button feel like a great feat of strength already! That’s what their CTA looks like:

NerdFitness offers a bunch of free stuff in exchange for an email

The bottom line is that email signup CTAs matter a lot, even though they may seem to be an insignificant piece of copy at first.

If you want to grow your email list faster, your calls to action should be written from a visitor’s point of view. Need more ideas? Check out our guide to using the best call-to-action words for an email sign up button.

3. Gate some of your content

Gated content is a larger portion of your website’s content that remains locked until after a visitor subscribes.

Content gating promotes curiosity and raises product quality expectations. This is what will ultimately drive visitors to subscribe, and what makes gating a powerful lead generation tool.

Check out how The New York Times makes use of gating. They thank you for showing interest in their articles first, and then they incentivize you to read more through creating an account.

The New York Times gates their content, asking visitors to subscribe

Medium gates their content in a slightly different way: when you reach the limit of free content as a non-member, you can sign up and get an extra article to keep the story going. It’s like at Medium, they view your reading experience on the platform through the lens of a seamless ongoing story that you can be a part of at the cost of a mere email subscription.

Medium resorts to content gating, urging visitors to join the platform

If you decide to go with the content gating strategy, you might need to ask your website developers for help or look for third-party apps such as WordPress plugins for premium content.

4. Start a loyalty program

Loyalty programs drive more sales by giving customers redeemable points for making purchases. If you own a store, implementing a loyalty program is one of the best ways to grow your email list and attract repeat customers.

You don’t need to be tech savvy to start - just check loyalty program apps available for your ecommerce platform.

The most popular type of loyalty program for ecommerce stores is a point-based system. Ulta Beauty, one of the largest beauty retailers in the U.S. uses a program just like that for growing the community. Ultamate Rewards members get points for each dollar spent. Points can then be redeemed for products and extra benefits. It’s simple, transparent, and quite enticing.

Ulta highlights their cumulative loyalty program and ways to spend points to entice people to join the email list

Wine Chateau’s loyalty program works similarly, but apart from purchasing, you can earn points for other website activities like writing reviews and referring friends.

Wine Chateau showcases their loyalty program and ways to earn points

Having a loyalty program is a win-win situation from any point of view. While customers get the benefits, you get a chance to reach them in their inboxes and boost your ecommerce store sales through email marketing.

5. Offer visitors to subscribe after they interact with your website

Another way to grow your email list is to suggest subscribing during website interactions: filling out a contact form or checking out, for instance.

Sharing your email at checkout is standard practice. This is how customers get vital information on their purchase – the shipment notice, the tracking number, the refund policy, etc. So, why not go the extra mile and provide the option to sign up for special offers?

The Sill, online potted plant store, does exactly that. And they are very transparent with customers, too. Subscribing to their newsletter is optional, and they make it clear what you’re in for if you decide to opt in.

The Sill offers customers to subscribe to the newsletter before checking out

6. Use exit-intent popups

An exit-intent popup is a popular technique that prevents visitors from abandoning websites, and it can help you grow your email list, too. Because exit popups spring up right when a visitor is about to leave, you can guarantee they will see the message you place there.

Use this moment to offer a lead magnet in exchange for an email, and chances are that instead of leaving those visitors will become subscribers.

Take Dip & Doze’s discount exit-intent popup as an example. Not only does it offer a 10% discount on the next order, but it also serves to remind visitors about the company’s unique selling points, the trial period, and free return policy. Well done, Dip & Doze!

Dip & Doze exit-intent discount popup helps to grow their email list

The way Fresh Menu approaches their exit-intent popup is of interest as well. They did a great job using fewer words and the attention-grabbing creative:

Fresh Menu shows an exit-intent popup with a solid copy

And the “Whoa, Whoa, Whoa” title sounds almost as if they’re surprised to see you leave when there’s just all this good food waiting for you out there.

7. Create a sense of urgency

Urgency tactics are meant to push your prospects into taking immediate action – buying, downloading, joining, subscribing.

And while this tactic is typically used in ecommerce, you can apply it in other niches as well. For example, you can use the sense of urgency to quickly build an exclusive community – just like Microsoft did in the example below.

Microsoft uses alpha testing to grow an email list and build the community

This subscription form encourages fans to join the Microsoft Flight Simulator alpha test and – although not indicated in the copy here - the tests are only running between October 2019 and January 2020.

Subscribers will get to play the game for free, report bugs, help the devs improve the game, and more. By the time the game is out, Microsoft will have a decent-sized email list of people looking forward to hearing about the updates.

8. Run giveaways

Giveaways work wonders if you want to grow your email list fast because even in 2020 people love getting free stuff.

Here is what you should keep in mind about giveaways though. While they can attract a lot of new email subscribers, a large chunk of that audience won’t be as engaged with your brand as those who would subscribe on your website for other reasons.

The trick with giveaways is keeping it simple. Most times, participants are only required to enter their email addresses, and then the winner is chosen randomly via a special app.

Here’s what Baby Earth are doing. They’re giving away a $300 gift card that you can use to make purchases on their website. Notice how they conveniently placed the “Details” link at the bottom of the popup to keep the form clear and concise.

Baby Earth gives away their $300 gift card during the winter giveaway

Marshalls, a well-known retail giant, have recently started promoting their online store using giveaways among other methods to grow an email list. As soon as you land on the website, up pops a window with a tempting offer.

Marshalls runs a $1,000 gift card giveaway to build an email list for the online store

Notice how Marshalls explicitly tell you that you’re automatically subscribing for the e-list and the new arrivals alert right below the email capture field.

9. Set up floating email opt-in forms

If you want to be a little less aggressive when inviting your website visitors to subscribe, you can choose to add embedded subscription forms or floating bars. They appear as a part of a webpage but look less obtrusive in comparison with other tactics.

Because such subscription forms are so unobtrusive, they probably won’t show the highest conversion rates, but they’ll definitely capture the most engaged audience.

Here is an example of a floating email subscription bar on Crazy Egg’s website.

Crazy Egg uses a bright color email subscription bar

While many would choose a design that looks cohesive on the website, deliberately using bright colors is not unusual. Notice how pink makes it impossible to miss the bar. Plus, the jiggling button animation serves as a “Don’t forget to subscribe!” reminder every few seconds you spend on the page.

Another trick to ensure you grab visitors’ attention without using ultra-bright colors is by making the email subscription bar larger. Look how The Shoe Company does it:

The Shoe Company features a huge email subscription bar at the bottom of the page

With more real estate available on the widget, you get a chance to clarify the terms of subscription and collect explicit consent.

You can create a floating bar or a newsletter popup using the Getsitecontrol email subscription form builder. It lets you fully customize the design and control targeting so that you could display exit-intent popups and other forms triggered by user behavior on a webpage.

10. Add social proof to your website

Social proof is evidence that your product or service has an active community willing to share their positive experience with the brand. Ratings, user testimonials, and embedded reviews nudge your website visitors into making a choice in your favor.

Social proof works for growing an email list just as well as for selling more products or services.

Hiten Shah, the author of The Content Marketing Playbook at Hitenism offers its digital version in exchange for an email address. To prove that his content marketing strategy works, he has embedded a page view counter to his website showing over 83 million visits as of December 2019.

That gigantic number of people Hiten managed to attract to his website (presumably through content marketing) is a good enough reason to download his book.

Hitenism uses social proof to accelerate email list growth

To top it off, Hiten showcases a testimonial by Dharmesh Shah, the co-founder of HubSpot. And this winning combination makes every marketer and online entrepreneur want to get the book immediately.

Another example is brought by World of Books, an online store for second-hand books. To encourage visitors to subscribe to their mailing list, they’ve placed the form right below the testimonials - so even if someone isn’t ready to buy today, they’ll certainly join the list to stay updated.

World of Books places their email subscription form next to the user testimonials

Start growing your email list today

If you were completely new at email list building - now you know how to approach it.

Remember, it’s a process that takes time and dedication. Ideally, you want to have multiple channels generating new subscribers rather than rely on a single email opt-in form. Yet even with the latter, there is plenty of optimization ideas to try. Consider A/B testing your copy, creative, CTAs, or lead magnets to see what triggers your audience. And once you figure that out - amplify.

Good luck with growing your email list in 2020!

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