How To Build An Email List – A Quick Start-Guide

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Last Updated on 19th December 2023

Email marketing is an essential part of running an effective business online. If you aren’t currently using it then you’re certainly missing a trick – and potentially also missing out on a lot of money.

It can seem daunting to think about building an email list but it is a lot easier than you might think.

Both businesses and bloggers need to harness the power of email; despite claims that this form of marketing is past its prime, it’s still a key part of online marketing strategy.

6 Crucial Reasons To Build a List

  1. Statistics gathered on email marketing in 2020 show that on average, for every $1 you spend on a campaign, you can get an ROI of around $42
  2. When you build and nurture an email list you are building a steady and reliable source of hot traffic that will be an asset to your business for years
  3. If you decide to sell your business at any point in the future, having an active email list greatly increases the value of your business
  4. Cost – compared to other forms of marketing like direct mail shots, you can get started and set up an ongoing email marketing campaign with platforms like Aweber or ActiveCampaign for very little money.
  5. Gets those leads – no matter what industry or niche you’re working in, email marketing only requires a simple opt-in to get started. If someone is willing to at least look at what you are saying, then chances are they’ll also be interested in opt-in to receive free info, a giveaway offer, or a special discount from you.
  6. Mobile users – nowadays most people browse the internet via mobile. Studies have shown that the average mobile user now engages with email more than ever before.

Email marketing is alive and well and is the key to grabbing your audience before your competitors do.

Here’s a four-step approach to help you build your email list. This method also works well if you want to know how to build an email list for affiliate marketing.

How To Get Started Building Your Email List

Email marketing is something that is seen as a huge challenge for people just starting out.

If you doubt how effective email marketing is then you’ll need to shift your perspective on this first.

When Facebook bought WhatsApp for $21.8 billion, it was the user base ie the list that Zuckerburg was interested in.

All successful businesses today build an email list or a user base. While most of us don’t operate on the same level as Mark Zuckerburg, this is still applicable to every business.

Check out your competitors – what are they doing to grow their email marketing lists?

Do they have an opt-in form on their landing page?

Are they directing people to opt-in for free offers via their YouTube videos and social media posts?

What sort of marketing are they sending out?

Sign up for it and find out.

When you read their emails, if any, in particular, grab your attention, save them to a dedicated folder in your email account and collect some examples that you can use as templates when you start to form your own messages.

Don’t rip off their emails or copy them completely, but study them to see how they’re structured, and what kind of message they are communicating. If the email is leading the reader to an offer, notice how they’re doing it.

Effective email marketing relies on well-known psychological triggers. However, you don’t need to spend years to become a professional copywriter.

I highly recommend reading the Copywriting Secrets book. It’s currently being offered for free here, you just pay for the shipping.

Considering it’s being given away for free, I was surprised at just how good this book is for teaching you effective copywriting techniques that are easy to apply.

So, to get a good email marketing campaign off the ground you just need to follow a few simple steps.

4 Simple Steps To Build Your List

Here are four simple steps to start building your email list:

Choosing The Right Traffic Source

When looking at driving customers to your email list you have to make the decision of whether to go for free or paid for traffic.

Each option has its advantages and disadvantages to consider:

Paid Traffic

Paid traffic mainly involves paying for ads. There are quite a few forms this can take, but some of the most common are running PPC campaigns on Google, Facebook, and other social platforms, paying for ads on YouTube, and paying for banner ads on other people’s websites.

Paid traffic has a big advantage in terms of speed – you don’t need to wait for a slow trickle of traffic, it tends to arrive all in one surge if you run a good campaign.

This can be appealing when starting from scratch when you don’t have the time or the patience to sit and wait for a list to develop organically.

The main disadvantage is, of course, cost.

Paid traffic can prove expensive and like with anything, the traffic doesn’t mean that every opt-in will convert to a sale.

Running new ads takes time as well as budget, so these things need to be weighed up against the potential advantages.

As simple as it sounds, there is a skill to paid traffic.

Unfortunately, a lot of newbie marketers are attracted to the allure of getting a quick ROI but instead end up burning through a lot of money.

If you know what you’re doing when it comes to paid traffic and you have the budget then this will certainly make sense to use this traffic source.

If you’ve never run paid ads before and you don’t know how well your funnel will convert then you’re probably better off starting with free traffic.

However, if you really want to go the paid route then I highly recommend learning how to do it properly from someone with experience and a good track record before jumping in feet first.

Another effective way to grow your email list with paid traffic is through solo ads.

Solo ads are basically when you contact a person in your niche who already has a large list. You then pay them to email your landing page with your free lead magnet to their list.

While this can be a good way to build your list if you find a good vendor, you also need to bear in mind that, if the people on the vendor’s list don’t know you then they’ll only be opting in to receive your free offer.

The key then, to turning these subscribers into your fans is to have a good follow-up sequence that nurtures your subscribers and offers them a lot of value over time, which you should be doing anyway.

Free Traffic

Free traffic is the organic traffic you get from the time spent putting out a lot of good quality content.

This content can be in the form of blog posts, videos, podcasts, and social media posts.

While paid traffic is a lot quicker, free traffic often is of higher value because those people are actively engaging with you. After all, they like your content.

Free traffic does not cost you money but it does cost you time.

For traffic to build organically it can take a while especially if there is no one else pushing people to subscribe.

So while having a slow steady trickle of new organic leads is what you’re aiming for, it is not going to happen quickly, certainly not overnight.

If you decide to go the free traffic route then it’s also highly advisable to choose just one source first. Once that source is well established then you can think about building a new traffic source.

If you particularly enjoy reading and writing then start a blog.

If you don’t like reading but love watching videos or listening to podcasts then think about establishing your first traffic source on YouTube or one of the popular podcast platforms.

If you don’t like any of those things but you enjoy networking with people then consider starting a Facebook group where you can build an audience.

Ultimately, it is best to use a combination of both paid and free traffic so you can strategically build your lists. However, your choices will depend on the product you’re selling, the niche you’re working in, and, of course, your skill level as a marketer.

If you have a solid on-site marketing funnel and some financial back up then starting with some paid traffic might be the way forward. You will then rely on the quality of your marketing to drive in both paid and organic subscribers over time.

Whatever you choose – paid or organic – you will need to set up an email opt-in funnel.

This is also a lot easier than it sounds!

an email marketing campaign

Create an Email Opt-in Funnel

There are several ways you can go about this and there are a number of tools you can use to get this done.

How you go about it will also depend on your traffic source, which is why I spent more time on it in the section above.

Option If You Have a Blog

If you’re a blogger and already have your blog set up then the simplest way is to use a tool like OptinMonster or ThriveLeads to collect email subscribers and add them to your list.

With these tools, you can build a simple opt-in form that offers your lead magnet to your site visitors in exchange for their email.

Two great ways to use these tools on your site that I’ve had success with are by using popups and doing content upgrades in posts.

An eBook is a great lead magnet to entice people to join your email list. You can learn how to create an ebook quickly in this simple 7 step guide.

Here is an in-depth video I made to show you how you can use ChatGPT (and 2 other free software tools) to make a high-quality eBook quickly.

Click the button below if you want to see my #1 recommended AI tool to create lead magnets like eBooks super-fast.

(Hint: It’s not ChatGPT)

Option If You Don’t Have a Blog

If you don’t have a website, you hate blogging, or you have no desire at all to build a site then don’t worry, you don’t need one to build an email list.

All you need is a landing page to send traffic to, and an autoresponder to collect your emails.

While there are quite a few landing page builders out there, one of the best ones I’ve used so far is Systeme.

Systeme’s landing page and sales funnel builder is very easy to use, and it even has a free lifetime plan.

Impressively, this free landing page builder’s free plan is comparable to the market leader, ClickFunnels.

In my opinion, you can build landing pages and funnels to the same standard as ClickFunnels by using the Systeme software. And, if you choose to upgrade to a paid plan, then it is a fraction of the cost of ClickFunnels.

You can get a free Systeme account here.

Connect An Autoresponder

So whichever method you’re going with above, you’ll then need to connect your opt-in form to an autoresponder.

An autoresponder is a service you will need to use to collect and store your email list. It is also the place where you will run your email campaigns.

Through your autoresponder, you can create automated email campaigns that will send emails to your subscribers for you at the time intervals you set.

While it can take a bit of time initially writing out a few emails, once you have it set up, it will run on autopilot for you, which will save you a lot of time moving forward.

If you don’t want to write the emails yourself then you can do one of the following:

My favorite two autoresponders for both newbies and experienced marketers are Aweber and GetResponse.

Both are newbie and affiliate-friendly, however, I’d say Aweber is probably the easier one to use. I also like Aweber’s simple “how-to” videos that show you how to get everything set up step-by-step.

Aweber is also affiliate marketing friendly so if affiliate marketing is your main business model then I’d recommend using these guys, especially if you’re a newbie.

ActiveCampaign is also a good choice, however, they are not very affiliate-friendly. They do allow affiliate marketers to use their platform but they are much more strict when it comes to affiliate marketing.

For example, they don’t like you to put affiliate links directly in your email content, but with Aweber, you can do this. With ActiveCampaign, you will first need to create bridge pages to direct people to first that will then lead to the affiliate offer you are promoting.

This is one reason I’d recommend Aweber over ActiveCampaign for newbie affiliate marketers.

If you want more options or if you’re already using an autoresponder but you’d like to switch to a different one, then check out my article on the best autoresponders to choose from.

So, once you’ve got your landing page set up with your opt-in form and you’re connected to your autoresponder, you’re ready to start bringing the traffic.

Offer Value

Most people will want something of real value if they are going to opt-in to your email list.

We’re all constantly receiving marketing messages nowadays. The amount of time and attention we spend on each is limited so you need to try to make yours stand out.

Making them a valuable offer is an important key to doing this.

But what can you offer?

Where will that value come from?

People love getting free stuff, especially if it’s got high perceived value.

So, you can use freebies to incentivize your target audience to opt into your list.

Of course, your offer will relate directly to your niche, but some ideas are:

Digital products – this is my personal favorite. Things like eBooks, a video that shows them how to do something, an audio recording that tells them something valuable, or other digital information that you can create are great freebies.

Samples and trials – if you have a product or service then you can give your potential customer a chance to try you out. This does take a little effort especially if you have a physical product that needs to be shipped. But showing confidence in your product can help you to seal the deal.

Physical freebies – Offering a free copy of a book in return for some personal info and a postage and packing fee is a good example of this.

If you don’t have time to create a freebie offer then there are other things you can do.

Here are two options:

  • You can buy the rights to an ebook or a digital course that you can give away from somewhere like or the
  • You can pay someone on to create something bespoke for you

When it comes to getting your subscribers, there are also other ways to increase the chances of them taking action and opting in.

A lot of marketing relates directly to psychology so it is worth considering some of the following methods that you can leverage to encourage your subscribers.

Some of the most effective techniques include:

Social Proof – success stories, testimonials, and reviews show that others have benefited from your product or service.

Exclusivity – makes your subscribers feel that you are giving them something that no one else has and are providing unique and exclusive information.

Urgency – Urge them to act quickly by emphasizing how wasting time or money can be detrimental to them. Tools like ThriveLeads, OptinMonster, and ClickFunnels give you the ability to add countdown timers to your forms and landing pages, which can encourage people to take action now.

4. Use Email To Nurture Your Relationship With Your List

To have the most success with your email campaigns you need to keep communicating with your customers and try to build a good positive relationship over time. This can’t be done with one-off messages.

Autoresponders are great to automate the whole process and will send out emails for you at the time intervals you set.

But what should you be emailing your list about..?

Newbies often make the mistake of just bombarding their list with offers regularly. This is not an effective strategy as your subscribers will feel like you’re only interested in selling them something.

Doing this will get a lot of people to unsubscribe 

Yes, you can and should send them offers that they will likely be interested in, but that’s not the only thing you should be emailing them about.

A more effective strategy is to offer a lot of valuable help and information, especially in your first several emails. Then, when you do present them with an offer they will be much more likely to be receptive to it.

Here are a few things you can email them about.

Useful info – add links in your emails to blog posts or other useful info that could help them out.

Storytelling – you can tell them about your own story and how you grew your business as well as any other stories that they may relate to.

Questions – ask them questions about what they’re struggling with or share some insightful Q&A’s you had with other subscribers (don’t mention the person’s name you had the Q&A with unless they’ve permitted you to include it)

Be creative but keep it short and sweet.

Be personable in your messages and write like you’re talking to a friend.

If you’re collecting their name when they first subscribe, then personalize the emails by putting their name in the subject line and at the start of the email.

When you do present an offer, use calls to action and make sure the link goes to the right landing page. It’s wise to send yourself a test email to make sure everything’s working properly before sending it out for real.

Building an Email List – Final Thoughts

Email traffic is highly targeted and so it makes sense that it’s also highly valuable!

It’s wise to get started building your list sooner rather than later. Although it can seem intimidating at first, it’s a lot easier than most people think to get it all set up.

Don’t just spam your list with a load of offers or you’ll burn your list out pretty quickly.

Nurture your list, treat them well, and give them loads of valuable info for free. Build rapport with them and get them to look forward to opening your emails.

Then, when you do send your offers you’ll have a much better conversion rate and you won’t piss off your subscribers.

Looking For More Articles On Email Marketing?

I’ve written several other articles that can help you build your online business, including email marketing. You can find them on my Entrepreneur Nut homepage.