Fresh into email marketing? Are you looking to build your first email list? You have come to the right spot. Let’s discuss some proven tactics to build an email list that counts.

The majority of marketers agree: email marketing is still the king! Even though many trendy social platforms and apps appear all the time, analytics show that email still has the most success, regardless of the industry.

Next to content marketing, email is still considered the marketing platform with the highest ROI which is proved by statistics. See this infographic by Litmus for example:

The ROI of Email Marketing - Building your first email list - Infographic by Litmus

While it’s evidently clear that email marketing is worth it, the real question is: how does a business start utilizing email? This is where the challenges begin. 

The cornerstone of running successful email marketing campaigns is to build a list of engaged readers, leads, potential customers and loyal customers. However, it can be quite hard to build a high-quality email list that will boost your sales, especially if you’re just beginning.

If you are still at the beginning of your journey and you are yet to start building your email list from scratch, we’re bringing you the best tips on how to get users to sign up:

Set up a fixed opt-in button on your landing page or website

Now, let’s start with the basics: the most common way users will sign up to your email newsletter is after seeing a call-to-action on your website or landing page. Therefore, your sign-up button should be prominent on your website and easily accessed from all pages.

The easiest way to make sure your email sign-up button is included on all your pages is to set up a designated area for it. This way, it will appear on the same spot everywhere, not just on your homepage. 

It’s also important to pay attention to the color, font, and size of your opt-in section. You can check out some of the rules for effective email opt-in call-to-action here.

The users you get to sign-up this way will be your most precious audience segment. According to Campaign Monitor’s studies, you are six times more likely to get a click from an email than a tweet. 

Organize a sweepstake

On many websites, landing pages, and online stores, you can see prize raffles and sweepstakes. The reason that this is such a widely-used method is that it’s incredibly effective: you will get tons of participants, while they will not see email sign-up as a hassle, but as a way of winning the prize.

A sweepstake (giveaway) is also something that’s very social media-friendly. Many marketers use it to increase their follower base or likes, by asking participants to like and share a post. However, in the case of building an email list, you should direct users to a landing page where they enter their data for the prize raffle along with their email.

If you manage to hit a home run and make your giveaway go viral, you can expect thousands of new email contacts in your list.

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Image source:

Invite and remind your social media followers

Even though many website owners believe that email and social media are two separate marketing channels, they can actually be significantly entwined. Namely, inviting your social media followers to sign-up for your email newsletter can result in high sign-up rates.

It’s the same the other way around when you invite email subscribers to like or follow you on social media. In any case, it’s definitely a valid and efficient method that you should consider adding to your social media workflow. 

If you’re just at the beginning of building your email list and you don’t have a social media follower base either, remember to connect the two further down the road. Social media followers and email subscribers are not two different worlds!

Use pop-ups to build your first email list

Some marketers refrain from using pop-ups and other aggressive CTA methods because they can have a negative impact on the user experience. However, the fact is that pop-ups generate a very high rate of email marketing sign-ups.

sumo convert

In Sumo’s study (above) of almost 2 billion pop-ups, they found that pop-ups have an average conversion rate of 3.09%, while the top ten percent of performers had a conversion rate of 9.28%. These numbers are quite promising when you take into consideration that the average conversion rate for calls-to-action on landing pages is 2.35%, according to WordStream.

To include pop-up prompting for email sign-up on your website, you can use plugins and widgets if you use WordPress. Even if you’re a development and design rookie, it’s very easy to implement a pop-up on your website, and you can deactivate it at any time.

Introduce widgets and games 

A similar method that you can use to directly approach your visitors with an email sign-up CTA is games and widgets. This is a method that’s less aggressive than a pop-up because the sign-up prompt is not so obvious but it’s actually embedded into the game.

A common strategy that eCommerce sites use is the “Wheel of Fortune” widget. When a user enters a website, the wheel with prizes is shown (and who doesn’t like spinning a wheel of fortune!). After a user lands on a particular prize (usually a discount), they have to enter their email to obtain the reward:

optin wheel

Another awesome opt-in game idea is the scratcher game:

Offer subscriber-only perks

A well-known fact that many marketers choose not to talk about is that it can be very hard to get users to sign-up for your email newsletter on their own. This can only happen if they’re absolutely thrilled by your website or online store, and even then, a huge majority wouldn’t think of signing up.

In reality, to get someone to sign up for your email newsletter, you have to offer something in return. For most users, one of the most enticing offers would be that they will get access to something only subscribers have.

For example, you can introduce subscriber-only discounts and even entire hidden collections. The concept of exclusivity is very attractive and it’s proven to boost sales and spark customer interest. 

If you run a blog or a digital services website, you can offer subscriber-only content that users will have access to only in their newsletter. This strategy is used by a variety of different businesses and brands, from fashion and lifestyle blogs and stores to podcast networks and advice websites.

Offer freebies

There’s nothing people love more than receiving free stuff. Especially if the only thing they have to do to get it is to provide their email address and click a button. 

If you run a content or a digital service site, you can offer free eBooks, PDFs, infographics and other types of engaging content in exchange for an email address. You can also do this by installing a chat service with a pop-up asking if the user needs help with something around the site. To do this, you can hire a customer service agent who will share the offer for freebies in the chat app with new visitors. 

Create a Survey

A survey is another subtle way of receiving a user’s email address. Many users like participating in surveys, either for the feeling of being able to express their opinion or to get access to the results.

Create a survey that’s relevant to your website content and offer sharing the results with participants who enter their email address. 

Another great thing about surveys is that you will get access to more detailed info than you would from a simple sign-up button. In their survey, you can ask the participants for information such as their age, gender, location, interests, and many other data points. Later on, you can use this information to segment your audience in your email newsletter program.

Add Share and Forward buttons

Now, let’s talk a bit about using the power of your present subscribers. Even if you only have a handful of email subscribers at this point, their recommendations can be very effective. 

In each of your email newsletters, remember to include a “Share” button so that users can easily share the content of your newsletter on social media or “Forward” to send the email to a friend. Of course, every email client will have a “Forward” option on its own, but it’s much more likely that users will actually do it if you remind them and give them the option of quick and easy forwarding. 

You can also set-up prize systems and affiliate programs for users who get their contacts to sign-up. For example, if you offer a 10% discount to your subscribers, you can offer an additional 5% for each user they get to sign up to your newsletter using their link. Just make sure that the math is correct and that you’re not losing too much of your margin!

Use Bloggers, Vloggers and Influencers

It’s a very well-known fact that influencer marketing is an efficient way to boost brand awareness and sales. However, many marketers ignore the fact that influencers can be used to promote email signups as well.

For this method, you will need to set aside more resources than for some other strategies on this list. A great way to achieve a high conversion rate is to find a blogger or a website that’s connected to your industry or niche. In partnership, you can get them to promote your email signup link, which will get you a relevant audience for your newsletters. 

To cooperate with bloggers, you can develop your own content that will work as a guest post on the blog you’re targeting. If you’re not much of a wordsmith, you can use one of the best paper writing sites with writers who can craft the texts for you. You can contact the site directly or find blogs that have a Guest Blogging section. Most websites will allow you to add a sign-up link to your guest article in exchange for a backlink to their site on your own website or for a fee. 

Offer a shopping discount

Discounts on products or services are the most commonly used way of building an email list. You simply offer a discount code to whomever after they sign up for your email newsletter, and then share the code with them after they confirm their participation.

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Image source: OptInMonster

If you don’t sell products or services directly, you can use shopping discounts from other stores (by agreeing to a partnership and affiliate promotion).

Of course, you should take these discounts and promotions into consideration when you’re doing calculations and projections of your sales, profits, and margin. 

Go Unplugged

Your email building efforts don’t strictly have to happen online, especially if you’re running a business that targets a local audience. There are ample ways you can organize live events and promotions that will result in email list building. Here are just some of the ideas:

  • organize educational seminars and conferences
  • organize networking sessions
  • attend business fairs
  • host a celebration for the brand’s birthday or other milestones

Automatic opt-in during the checkout process

A sure-fire way to get email subscribers is to include an email newsletter sign-up checkbox in your checkout process (if you sell products or services), and leave it automatically checked. This way, you will be granted permission to send emails to those customers that have already purchased something from your company.

However, keep in mind that some of the subscribers that you get this way might leave the box checked unintentionally, which can result in higher opt-out rates for your email marketing campaign. 


A general guideline that can help you get a big subscriber rate is to offer your opt-in subtly and shrouded in valuable content or offers. The least effective way would be to just offer a plain sign-up button on your website and wait for users to come to you without offering something in advance.

Therefore, when you’re building your first email list, think of the added value that you can offer customers in exchange for their email. 

So what tactics and strategies do you use to build your email list? Are you satisfied with the results you’re getting?

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