How to Grow Your Email List (from Easiest to Most Difficult)

How to Grow Your Email List (from Easiest to Most Difficult)
Priscilla Tan Priscilla Tan Apr 7, 2024 —  9 min read

Within a year, Urbankissed increased the size of its email list by over 250%. They did two things to achieve it.

First, they switched from an inline opt-in form to a popup. Second, they started offering a lead magnet. Their visitor-to-subscriber rate went from 0.9% to 2%.

Urbankissed has grown its email list by switching from an inline email opt-in form to a pop-up form with a lead magnet

Urbankissed has grown its email list by switching from an inline email opt-in form to a pop-up form with a lead magnet

As a website owner, this is the kind of result you want to achieve.

You’ve built an audience from scratch, thanks to ads and social media. Now you want to nurture them to engaged and hopefully, paying customers.

The problem? Your list is growing too slowly.

Fortunately, you’re in the right place.

This guide shares 10 tactics on how to grow your email list. By the end of reading, you’ll know which list-building techniques to explore and how to bump up your visitors-to-subscribers rate while you’re at it.

What is an email list?

An email list is a collection of subscribers who consented to receive emails from you. These emails often include general updates, seasonal newsletters, special offers, and promotional deals.

10 Email list-building techniques to explore

You need to lay the foundation before building your email list. Make sure you meet these prerequisites before continuing to the next section.

You’ll start right much faster this way.

  • “My website is generating healthy traffic from paid ads or social media.” Without traffic, any list-building efforts are unlikely to succeed.

  • “I understand my industry’s average email sign-up conversion rates.” A 1% conversion rate might be considered poor in ecommerce, but it’s not a bad result for an online media website.

  • “I’m ready to experiment with different techniques to grow my email list.” There’s no single right way. Most of the time, it’s a combination of tactics across multiple disciplines — copywriting, targeting, and placement.

Did you meet these prerequisites?

Great! Let’s get started.

These techniques are listed from easiest to most difficult.

1. Offer lead magnets your audience wants

New web visitors are unlikely to join your email list right off the bat.

They need a stronger incentive than regular news and updates.

That’s where lead magnets come in.

A lead magnet is an “ethical bribe” you offer in exchange for an email address. It can be a piece of valuable content (e.g., ebooks, white papers), a welcome discount code, or an exclusive deal.

Basically, any freebie that’s relevant, valuable, and irresistible.

Note how Marrow Fine, a jewelry brand, greets its visitors with a birthday discount offer:

Marrow Fine knows how to grow an email list by showing a timely, well-designed email subscription popup

This pop-up form doesn’t just help Marrow Fine grow its email list. It also helps tag new subscribers by their interests. This way, the company can increase email engagement rates by sending updates and offers their audience really wants to hear about.

Another company, Your Guitar Academy (YGA) drives email subscribers with a free student toolbox.

Your Guitar Academy grows its email list by offering a free guitar student toolbox to new subscribers

It’s an enticing lead magnet because beginner guitarists are a significant part of its audience. These free resources help them learn chords from a variety of popular songs.

Lead magnets are insanely effective. So much so that they increase sign-up rates by 155.43%.

To achieve similar results, you need to create lead magnets your audience really wants. A good place to start? Dig into your site stats and create a lead magnet relevant to your most popular content. You'll get results faster, and it’ll be easier to continue from there.

2. Gate your content

Ever felt riveted by an article’s introduction, only to discover the remaining sections are… well, locked?

That’s gated content.

It creates a curiosity gap and increases the perceived value of what’s behind the paywall, ultimately compelling people to subscribe.

You can gate your content by hiring a website developer, integrating your website with third-party apps, or choosing a publishing platform with this feature already built-in.

Check out how Narratively gates its stories through Substack.

Narratively uses content gating to grow its email list on Substack

Now, a heads-up.

While gated content can increase the number of email subscribers, it won’t get indexed by search engines. So if you want to try this technique, brace yourself for the potential loss in views and traffic.

Our advice: Run an A/B test.

It’ll help you see if your gated or ungated content attracts more subscribers.

3. Invite visitors to subscribe at checkout

Another easy way to grow your email list?

Allow visitors to subscribe to your marketing emails at checkout.

It’s standard practice for customers to share email addresses at checkout. That’s how they get vital information on their purchases: order confirmation, shipment notice, and tracking number.

So, why not use this opportunity to simultaneously build your email list and invite them to sign up for exclusive offers?

Note how The Sill accomplishes this. The online plant store invites shoppers to subscribe and shares what they’re in for if they opt in.

The Sill grows its email list by inviting customers to sign up for marketing newsletters at checkout

To start, add a sign-up checkbox in your checkout flow. Most ecommerce platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce offer this feature.

Non-ecommerce businesses, don’t worry. You can easily replicate this tactic, too! Consider adding an inline or a pop-up signup form to the contact page or a registration confirmation page.

4. Hype up on social media

With a built-in audience of 335.7 million users, promoting your email list on X (formerly Twitter) is a no-brainer.

Freelance writer Masooma Memon grabs a slice of the pie for Content Workshop, a newsletter read by over 2,000 content professionals.

See if you can spot the three prominent places she promotes it.

Masooma Memon grows her email list by actively promoting her newsletter on Twitter

Did you spot them?

Masooma draws attention to her email newsletter in the:

  • Header: The banner immediately captures attention with its soft blue hues and layout. Whereas the copy “weekly 2-min” shows it takes only a short time to read the newsletter. Which is great for time-starved professionals!

  • Bio: Being featured in a prestigious publication like Forbes adds powerful social proof. It instantly establishes credibility and entices clicks.

  • Pinned tweet: The pinned tweet of a marketing leader is a symbol of endorsement. It convinces users of Masooma’s track record as a content marketer.

Of course, X isn’t the only social media platform to promote an email list.

Your best bet?

Figure out your target audience’s favorite channels.

And get noticed there.

5. Target engaged visitors and turn them into subscribers

Web visitors rarely join an email list of their own accord. Many might also not be ready to join your list as soon as they arrive.

To increase the likelihood of them subscribing, invite them at the right moment — like when they’ve spent some time on your website or scrolled down a decent percentage of a blog post.

Another proven tactic is to approach visitors when they’re about to leave.

That’s precisely the purpose of exit-intent popups.

It springs up right when a visitor is about to abandon the site, coaxing them to subscribe with an attractive perk.

It’s impossible to miss.

Take Dip & Doze’s exit-intent popup as an example. It offers £10 off for first orders and communicates the additional benefits of joining its email list: new collection previews and seasonal inspiration.

Dip & Doze grows its email list using an exit-intent popup with a lead magnet

First-time customers looking to refurbish their homes are more likely to stay and say yes to this offer.

The way Fresh Menu approaches its exit-intent popup is noteworthy, as well. Check out how it prevents visitors from leaving with an attention-grabbing visual.

Fresh Menu grows its email list using an exit-intent popup with a first-purchase discount

The “Whoa, Whoa, Whoa” headline sounds almost as if it’s surprised to see visitors leave when there’s all this good food waiting for them out there.

6. Delight with giveaways

Giveaways tap into our desire for surprise…

…and free gifts. 🤩

The key with giveaways is to keep it simple. Most times, participants are only required to enter their email addresses, and then the winner is chosen randomly via a third-party app (e.g., Gleam).

Here’s what ZAMAT did previously.

It gave away three anti-wrinkle beauty pillows to celebrate International Women’s Day. To participate, shoppers had to login with their email address, X, or Facebook account.

To earn multiple entries, participants had to complete a series of actions: follow on Instagram, subscribe to the newsletter, submit their phone number, etc.

Zamat chose a giveaway as a tactic to grow its email list faster

Giveaways are not only excellent for driving email subscribers; they also do a fantastic job at growing your social media followers.

Just a heads-up.

While these contests bring in new email subscribers, most of them won't be as engaged as your higher-intent subscribers (i.e., the ones who downloaded your lead magnet).

7. Embed opt-in forms in multiple places

Many new website owners add only one email sign-up form at the footer, assuming visitors will spot it and subscribe on their own.

In our experience, that’s a dangerous mistake because visitors don’t always scroll all the way to the bottom.

Remember Urbankissed earlier in our post? It converted only 0.9% of store visitors into subscribers in its inline form.

A better approach is adding your opt-in form in multiple places — the footer, blog posts, and heavy-traffic pages.

Take a leaf from Bleame’s page.

Even if visitors close the popup, it remains on the bottom right screen as a non-intrusive and yet visible floating button. Visitors who unintentionally closed or missed the popup can easily click to subscribe.

Bleame uses multiple email opt-in forms and floating buttons to grow its email list faster

8. Encourage subscribers to pass it on

The most forwarded emails are 13 times more likely to include “share this with your network” calls to action.

Start encouraging current subscribers to forward your emails if you haven’t.

No one does it better than Harry Dry, the founder of Marketing Examples.

Note how the marketer appeals to our innate desire to help with the call to action below.

Example of using the newsletter sharing tactic to grow an email list

The phrase “Making this one took 18 hours” shows the value and laborious work involved. Whereas “It only takes 18 seconds” highlights it’s a quick favor, reducing friction.

The newsletter then ends with a sign-up link for potential subscribers.


9. Sponsor one or two newsletters

Sponsor a complementary newsletter to tap into a larger audience.

The idea here is to partner with a brand that sells different products or services but shares your audience.

Run a vitamin and supplements store for working mothers? Team up with a women’s lifestyle e-publication.

Built an SEO software tool? Sponsor an independent SEO consultant’s weekly strategy notes.

Own a small-group tour operator? Partner up with a freelance travel photographer to score a spot on their newsletter.

You get the idea!

Check out how Stacked Marketer sponsors Chartr, a data storytelling newsletter.

Stacked Marketer sponsored Charts’s newsletter to grow its email list

Since Chartr shares a similar audience—professionals who use data to inform marketing strategies—it makes perfect sense for Stacked Marketer, a digital marketing newsletter, to sponsor an issue.

To identify your best-fit newsletters, poll your audience.

Ask what newsletters they subscribe to or what their favorites are. Reach out to these creators to learn more about their engagement rates.

Only partner with those within your budget.

Sponsorship rates depend on a myriad of factors, including audience size, engagement, and niche. High Signal, for instance, is an indie startup newsletter of 1200 subscribers. With its 54% open rate and 8.4% click rate, it charges $200 for a weekly ad.

10. Reward customers in a loyalty program

Loyalty programs award customers for making purchases. The more they buy and participate, the more points they earn.

It’s another excellent way to convince shoppers to join your email list.

Not only do you increase subscribers, but it’s also one of the most effective ways to instill goodwill, attract repeat customers, and drive greater sales.

Oasis, an eco-friendly health and beauty store, uses a point-based system to reward customers and grow its community. Members get points for every dollar spent and activity they participate in.

Oasis uses a loyalty program to drive sales and grow its email list faster

Points can then be redeemed for discounts (100 oasis points = $5).

It’s simple, transparent, and ridiculously attractive.

Wine Chateau’s loyalty program works similarly, but with more ways to earn points. Besides purchasing, members can also earn points for reviewing products and sharing them on Facebook and X.

Wine Chateau invites customers to join the loyalty program and uses this tactic to grow its email list

Loyalty programs are a win-win.

While customers enjoy additional benefits from shopping with you, you reach your customers directly in the inbox and boost your eCommerce store sales.

10X Your Email List Today

These 10 tactics span across different disciplines—copywriting, social media, and targeting, among others.

To recap, here's what you've learned:

  1. Offer lead magnets your audience wants
  2. Gate your content
  3. Invite visitors to subscribe at checkout
  4. Hype up on social media
  5. Create exit-intent popups to prevent abandoned visits
  6. Delight with giveaways
  7. Embed in multiple places
  8. Encourage subscribers to pass it on
  9. Sponsor one or two newsletters
  10. Reward customers in a loyalty program

Try the easiest tactic.

Then work your way down.

Better yet, try a combination of these tactics.

And watch subscribers come streaming in.

Priscilla writes product-led and comparison posts for mar- and salestech companies. 36.7% of her articles rank on the first page of the SERPs.

You're reading Getsitecontrol blog where marketing experts share proven tactics to grow your online business. This article is a part of Lead generation section.

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