How To Build Your Email List From Scratch

By AdStation | October 6th, 2016 | Categories: Email Marketing, SEO & SEM, Social Media
Email List

According to a report by McKinsey, “Email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter.” Plus, Campaign Monitor states: “You are 6 times more likely to get a click-through from an email than a tweet.”

So what do statistics like the above tell us? Sure, prospects may be hanging out on social media sites in large numbers, but the odds are overwhelmingly in your favor that prospects will respond and interact through email marketing.

The most Important interaction on your website beyond the “BUY NOW” button, is the “SUBSCRIBE” button. (Although we certainly will be giving them better titling than that!) Building an engaged and sizable email list is the most profit-generating and best long-term investment any company with an online business or presence can make. In today’s marketplace, if you don’t have an email list, you aren’t running an online business. At least not effectively…

In this article, you’ll learn how to build a list of engaged subscribers, ones that matter. That is to say, build an audience who are the right kind of subscribers, who will help you propel your business forward. You’ll learn specific techniques for effective list building, including tips and tricks for nabbing sign-ups and keeping subscribers hooked.

Sharks in the Water

The most difficult challenge you face is getting prospects to subscribe to your list in the first place. People are wary about signing up for an email list these days. There is an overabundance of emails being sent – including spam. People are not only reluctant to sign-up, they are afraid to sign up. They have legitimate concerns such as: Will you spam the heck out of them? Will you sell their email address to a thousand other spammers?

You Can Trust Me

An effective method for getting around a potential subscriber’s hesitance is to gain their trust. One way to do that is to offer them something of substantial value in return for their email address and subscription.

Lead Magnets

One of the most compelling and effective ways to attract subscribers is by offering them something of value. In the jargon of the marketing world, this is often referred to as a “lead magnet” or “carrot content.” Simply put, you are giving them something they want (usually for free) if they will perform an action you want – which is to sign up for your email list.

I will go into the specifics about which types of things to offer for email sign-ups shortly, but first… Let’s dispel a common myth about email lists:
Myth: The bigger your list is the better.
The Truth: Bigger is not always better.

Outdated information is all over the Internet which tends to make companies believe that the larger their list is – the better. Thus, companies start trying to grab all the email addresses they can, thinking this will give them more opportunities to sell. Nothing could be further from the truth…

It’s the quality of your list that matters most.

You don’t want to sign up everybody that you can. You can give away all kinds of things for free and people will sign up to get them – but that doesn’t mean they are really interested in you or your products. They only signed up to get the freebie. You need to offer the right thing to the right subscriber at the right time.

While having more prospects can certainly be beneficial, having engaged and interested prospects is ideal. What’s the use of having 10,000 subscribers if only 1000 read or respond to your emails? In fact, having a large majority of your subscribers not open your emails is a problem for your email delivery. Email delivery is a subject for another article, but it’s worth mentioning for you to understand another reason quality matters when it comes to subscribers.

What Makes An Ideal Subscriber?

Attracting subscribers has similarities to dating. In dating, you want to build a relationship with someone who is genuinely interested in you. Translating this thought into an email subscriber: The right kind of subscribers are those who are interested, even enthusiastic, towards receiving your emails and using your products or services. They respond when you contact them, meaning… they are going to open and click a link.

You don’t want subscribers who ignore you – who do not open or click links in your emails. Inactive subscribers are useless and should eventually be removed from your list, as they do more harm than good.

The ideal subscriber is one who not only opens and reads your emails, but is one who also buys your products or services, and/or tells others about your products and services. Either way, this subscriber is helping you sell products or services. Therefore, to start building your email list from scratch, you have to know how to attract the ideal subscriber.

How do you attract the ideal subscriber?

It starts by knowing your customers. You need to be able to stand in their shoes and identify their problems, wants, needs and desires.

The key is to provide your customers with strong solutions. You need to anticipate the questions they will ask, then show them how your product or service as a solution is the answer. To attract ideal subscribers, you need to provide your prospects with solutions that exceed their expectations.

When you can clearly articulate and demonstrate how your information and products or services will solve your customer’s problems, meets their needs, satisfy their wants, and fulfill their desires – you’ll have people who are eager to subscribe.

Lead Magnet = EPIC Content

Your customers want helpful information and resources to help solve their problems. Email marketing to customers is most effective when you can provide them with EPIC content, which translates to excellent solutions and information. The goal is to create content they not only want to read but will eagerly await to receive in your next email. The content they will want to share with others.

Epic Content does all these things:

– It solves your customer’s problems and offers solutions.
– It shows that you are the expert they can go to for help.
– It helps you earn their trust.
– It gets shared with others and talked about.

When you are doing all of the above correctly, it propels your business forward. When you don’t do email marketing correctly, people do not read your emails or unsubscribe and you lose potential customers.

How to encourage people to join your email list:

As I covered earlier, people need enticement to take action. The best enticement is usually a reward. It needs to be a good reward. To coax prospects into submitting their email address – you’re going to have to offer them something they can’t resist. Most importantly, you have to offer people something of significant value in order for them to give you their email address.

The keyword here is: value. Junk is junk. You have to give them something that is worthwhile. As I said earlier, you have to greatly exceed their expectations. Give them something way beyond what they would expect. Totally blow them away. This is going to give people a massive, positive first impression of you or your company.

The impression you are aiming to plant in your prospect’s mind is:
If your company gives this much away for free, how much greater is your product or service going to be?

How much more eager do you think these kinds of subscribers are going to be to get your next email? I’d say very eager.

Some people may be uneasy with the notion of giving things of value away for free. You might even wonder why it is necessary. With everything in life, each party’s concern is: “What’s in it for me?” Email subscribers are no different. For you to be able to get your email in their inbox, there has to be something “in it” for the subscriber.

Using the dating analogy again: you wouldn’t try to get a first date to commit to signing a mortgage loan on the first date, would you? Of course not. On a date, you ease into things. You start slowly. You go to dinner or a movie. You get to know one another and trust each other first. Things build over time. That’s the whole idea here.

Be willing to give before you get. Help your prospects get to know and trust you first before you start pressuring them to “go all the way” and buy your product. In the beginning, your aim is to be extremely helpful and give as much value as you possibly can to your prospects.

Techniques : How to Hook  Subscribers

Let’s look at some specific techniques that you can use to encourage subscribers to sign up for your email list and to keep them coming back for more, every time.

Instructional Series:

This is a series of emails, (it could be from 3 to 4 or more) that address a particular problem and teach subscribers how to solve it over the course of the emails. Because the information is spread out over several emails, they are more likely to read each following email.

In the last or last two emails, you could begin a soft-sell approach towards getting them to buy your product or service or at least encourage them to check out and/or try your product or service. A soft-sell might be mentioning how your product solves these types of problems or how others have used your product to solve their problems. Then you would have a link to learn more or to the sales page that has your buy button.

Instructional videos:

If your product or service is one that benefits from people being able to view a hands-on approach, there’s nothing better than video for doing this. Even if not hands-on, visuals make a strong impact. It can give you or your company, your product or service a “real” identity they can connect to.

Further, video can be circulated and shared beyond just your email list. This expands your reach and increases awareness. For that reason, it is a good idea to ask people to join your email list at some point in your video, preferably in the middle or near the end. You should also encourage them to visit your website.


These are handy, quick and easy reference lists of “tips” that provide multiple answers and solutions in one place. Ideally, these are created as single sheet PDF files that can be printed or downloaded. The bottom of the checklist should point to your website and include your contact information.


These can be short or in-depth articles, PDF files or e-books that can give subscribers highly valuable information for assisting them with solutions to their problems.

Depending on the topic of your guide, it may be appropriate to work on your product or service solution and suggest how it can help. It may be appropriate to ask for the sale or make a sales pitch within the guide.

The last page should contain a link to your website and your contact information.

As some of these guides can be of very high value, those that are can be part of a content upgrade. A content upgrade is where certain subscribers will sign up for a special VIP mailing list that includes your most engaged subscribers.

This is where you’ve created a segment or sub-section of your list that is mailed separately from your main list. These are likely to be your super fans, the ones who routinely read and click links in your emails. The ones that spread the word about you. They are likely to be your repeat or best customers.

Other Ways to Engage Subscribers:

There are many other types of content and media that can provide useful solutions for your prospects and customers. Some of them are:

– Webinars
– Podcasts
– In-depth tutorials
– Guest blog posts
– Your personal story
– Client success stories
– Case studies
– Stories of mistakes or failures (and how to turn things around)
– Questions and answers
– News about your niche
– Research about your niche
– Community stories
– Before and after stories

As you can see, there are many ways to provide your prospects with useful information. Varying these methods will keep your subscribers interested and engaged.

It’s worth mentioning that it is okay to mix things up once in a while and provide your subscribers with something entertaining or humorous. Not being all business, all the time, puts the human touch in your marketing.

Giving your subscribers epic, useful information and solutions serve the dual purpose of helping them overcome their problems, while firmly placing you in the position of the go-to expert.

In a future article, we will show you how to provide your email list with the right content at the right time. That is a topic in itself and beyond the scope of this article.

Where To Hook Your Subscribers

Equally important to building your list is how you present your “lead magnet” to your subscribers. We will look at three of the most prominent ways of encouraging sign-ups on your website. They are as follows:

– Sign-up Buttons
– Single or Two-Step Boxes
– Landing Pages


Sign-up buttons need no explanation, we’ve all seen them. That said, the biggest mistake that is made with buttons is leaving the typical default message of: “Submit.” The other weak message routinely found on buttons is: “Sign-up.” Even a slight modification such as: “Sign-up now” prompts them to take action. Using first-person statements like: “Sign me up” or “Send me updates” are even better.

Make it more engaging by using active language that also touts the benefits with your button messages such as: “Get started now” or “Give me access” or “Start discovering today.” Second-person messages also work well. Prompts such as: “Get your e-book” or “Lower your bills,” speak directly to the benefit for your viewer.

It is crucial to give some thought to what the ultimate result is for your prospect. Let’s say your products are plumbing fixtures that conserve water. The message on your button might read: “Lower my water bills now!”

Think about what your prospects need and direct your message towards that. In other words, your message should reflect what people are really getting for signing up – not being on an email list, but the ultimate payoff.

Sign-up boxes

Sign-up boxes are areas on a web page, typically designed in a manner that makes them stand out or separates them from the rest of the page in their own defined area. They might have a border or a defined area of a particular color (typically bright) that makes them stand out.

Sign-up boxes also contain a sign-up button. The advantage of these boxes over simply having a button alone is that you can put more information in the area. They are also more attention-getting than a button alone.

Single or Two-Step Boxes

These are sign-up boxes and single or two-step refers to the action the user takes. Single-step boxes are where the user takes a single action. The user enters their email and clicks the button. Once they click the button they will either be re-directed to their reward or instructed to check their email for their reward.

Two-step boxes require the user to take two actions. The user has to opt-in twice before getting their reward.

In the first opt-in, the user enters their email and clicks the button. That opt-in generates an email and the user is instructed to check their email for a confirmation email they need to read.

In the second opt-in, the user opens the email delivered by the first opt-in and clicks a link to confirm they signed up for the list and want to be on the list. Once they click the confirmation link, they will receive another email (2nd email) that contains the reward or the link to their reward.

The advantage of two-step boxes or double opt-in is that:

(1) It ensures the user input a valid email address.
(2) It tends to ensure that the subscriber is one that is genuinely interested and engaged. In other words, it tends to help you sign up better subscribers.

Landing Pages

A landing page, like the name implies, is a place for visitors to land on your website.

Most often, online advertisements direct visitors to landing pages rather than the homepage of the website. The homepage of a website usually has multiple messages and features and is not a suitable place to direct prospects.

The advantage of a landing page is that its content can be focused on a single core message. There are no unrelated distractions on a landing page. All the content on the page is aimed at enticing the user to perform the desired action. In the case of building an email list, the desired action is for them to subscribe in return for what you have to offer them. Therefore, in creating a landing page, make sure your message is focused and clear. Keep it simple, using one call to action that echoes the benefit the visitor will receive by signing up.

Landing pages, within their call-to-action for signing up, will use either single-step boxes, double-step boxes, or only buttons.

Landing pages give you the advantage of being able to craft perfectly tailored messages to the type of visitor you expect there. Different landing pages can be created for different types of prospects.

For example, one landing page can target a prospect that has a problem but doesn’t know your solution exists. Another landing page can target a prospect who doesn’t even realize they have a problem (but will realize it after they read your content). While another landing page can target a prospect that knows about your products but doesn’t know why they should trust you and your solution. Different messages for different people, yet all aiming for a sign-up by offering what that particular type of prospect needs.

Additional Methods

There are other types of website techniques for sign-ups, such as entry and exit pop-up boxes, Yes/no buttons, in-line forms, short forms at the end of an article, and the old standby the stand-alone sign-up form. New tools are developed all the time for marketers that allow you to do things like insert forms overlaying a video, slide down or slide out boxes, and the list goes on.

No matter the method for presenting visitors with the opportunity to sign up, what remains the same is this:

– Deliver a compelling and clear message that strikes right at the visitor’s pain point.
– Remove their pain point with an irresistible offer that promises (on-going) relief and benefit (or reward) when they take action and sign up for your list.

The Take Away Points Of This Article Are:

– It is not enough to build a large email list. What’s most important is that your list contains subscribers who are interested, engaged and active.

– People need a compelling reason to join your email list. It has to provide them with something they need and want. Useful content that helps people find solutions to their problems is the best way to entice them to subscribe.

– To capture the initial sign-up, you need to offer subscribers something of significant value. This may be an instructional series, a guide, an e-book or other type of offer. Whatever the “reward” is, the higher the perceived value it has, the more likely it is that people will subscribe.

– In order to retain subscribers to your email list you need to provide relevant, useful information on a consistent basis.

– Once you have earned their trust, your subscribers won’t mind you asking for the sale because they know you are the expert they can count on for solutions and assistance.

– There are multiple places and methods to display offers on your website for visitors to sign up to your list. Each method has advantages over the other.

– Opt-In Boxes help to make your sign-up offer stand out and separate it from the rest of the page.

– Landing Pages help provide a focused message without other distractions. They aid in being able to focus your content on one particular visitor type. Different landing pages can be used for different visitor types. They are more effective than sending visitors to your home page. They are best used when you need to provide more information than you can fit in an opt-in box.

– Requiring a double opt-in helps ensure that those who sign up for your list have a higher degree of interest.

– Don’t use generic messages on your buttons such as: “submit” or “sign-up. Make your call to action message text on the button reflect the benefit to the visitor.