6 Tips to Grow Your Startup's Email List

So you're actively striving to build a targeted mailing list to deliver updates, information, and marketing materials to prospective customers? And take advantage of the high return on investment associated with email marketing?

Well, maximizing "the money in the list" goes beyond the numbers. You must build an email list made of subscribers who are eager to hear from you and convert. 

This guide walks you through six tips to do just that—grow your startup mailing list to connect with your customers effectively. 

But First, What's an Email List?

Have you ever read a blog post? And at the bottom, saw an invitation to opt-in for related content? Or saw a screen popup on a webpage prompting you to sign up for their newsletter?

Opt-in forms and popups are examples of how companies build effective mailing lists.

An email list is a compilation of email addresses from different sources. It could be a website, social channel, a mention on another website, etc. You can also regard a mailing list as a source of contacts for people who are somewhat interested in your products or brand. Or the first step in lead nurturing. 

Should You Buy Email Lists?


Buying email lists may have detrimental effects, such as:

  • Penalties by email providers
  • Tarnished reputation 
  • Getting flagged as a spammer 
  • Reduced response rates 
  • Violating the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (by sending unsolicited emails) and the associated consequences

Besides, a good mailing list goes beyond the numbers to prioritize quality subscribers. 

By quality, we mean someone who benefits your business monetarily. That is a subscriber who makes regular purchases or maintains their paid subscriptions. 

You can also measure the quality of a subscriber by how much data/insights you've on them. After all, the logic behind targeted email marketing is to send the "right" content to the "right" recipient. And the more data/insights you have on a prospect, the easier it'll be to send helpful and relevant content. 

Six Tips to Grow Your Startup Email List

To target quality subscribers, you'll need to add custom fields to your email opt-in pages to help send targeted and segmented email campaigns. Alternatively, use custom landing pages—to help divide up your mailing lists as per customer's interests and characteristics. 

But before we get way ahead of ourselves, let's explore six strategies you can use to encourage visitors to sign up to your email list in the first place. 

#1: Add a Sign-Up Form to Your Website

A signup form is a lead box of sorts. It comprises custom fields, such as name and email address. 

Why use an email signup form?

A well-designed, catchy opt-in form directly contributes to increased email subscription rates. It helps attract the right leads instead of chasing readers or web visitors who are not interested in receiving your emails. 

Signup forms also provide a chance for web visitors to welcome you to their inboxes. With permission-based signups, you'll have a list of people who are eager to hear from you—consequently lowering unsubscribe rates. 

Using signup forms to acquire high-quality subscribers

Make the opt-in form simple. Only include relevant custom fields to help segment and target your email campaigns. 

While at it, be strategic about its location. Having the signup form on the homepage is wise, but it's best to consider other locations, too—just in case your web visitors land on other pages. 

The secret is to place the form in multiple locations where web users frequently click. As such, use Heatmap services to visualize your visitor behavior on your site. Identify the spots that readers click the most. Then place your opt-in forms in those areas. 

You want to be strategic, though. 

Don't overdo it. Place the form on 2-4 spots on your website, such as:

  • The homepage
  • Bio page or About Us page 
  • The sidebar of a webpage (or blog post)
  • Site header 
  • Contact page 
  • Popups, etc. 

Strive to place the call to action besides the "right" information. 

Regardless of the form's location on your site, use a double opt-in process. That is, set your email provider to send a confirmation email to new subscribers to verify their willingness to be on your mailing list. 

The double opt-in approach is essential in permission-based email marketing. (To help boost email open and click rates.) It also prevents bots from adding irrelevant email addresses to your mailing list. 

When designing the 'signup' form,

  • Offer an incentive
  • Manage expectations (tell people the kind of emails to expect and at what frequency)
  • Match the opt-in form to the content 
  • Keep it simple (only include relevant fields)
  • Use social proof (like placing opt-in forms near customer reviews or highlighting the number of existing subscribers)
  • Use a clear call to action that reinforces the benefits of joining your list.

Example: Mad Fientist landing page 

What they're doing right:

  • Two-step opt-in (Visitors first click the Subscribe Now! Button. Then proceed to fill their details in the popup form.)
  • Social proof (Mad Fientist tout their over 88,000 existing subscribers)
  • Highlights clear benefits (subscribers access to exclusive content and software)

#2: Offer Gated Content (A Free eBook or Other Valuable Content in Exchange for an Email Address)

Gated content requires the visitors to input their email address to access it. For example:

  • Show notes and transcriptions for a podcast 
  • eBook, workbook, mobile application, or other resources 
  • Checklists or cheat sheet 
  • Templates 
  • Demos 
  • Exclusive newsletter 
  • Course series 

Why does gated content work?

People love free stuff. 

Be it content, gifts, discounts; you name it. It's human psychology.

So when you offer something tangible, it incentivizes singing up and helps grow your mailing list faster. 

Offering free valuable content also takes advantage of the Zeigarnik Effect whereby; your web visitors are likely to complete the subscription process seeing that they initiated it themselves. 

Using gated content to acquire high-quality subscribers 

The key to getting quality subscribers using this approach lies in making a compelling offer that converts. Laying more emphasis on your giveaway. Ensuring it's of real value to subscribers. That is, valuable, relevant, and immediately usable by the current reader. 

Today, prospects guard their emails carefully. They have been spammed too many times before and are too wise to let it happen again. 

To ace the giveaway game, strive to understand what your prospects want and give it to them. You may need to test different offers to find one with the best performance—but it's all worthwhile. 

While at it, match your gated content with the content page. That is, don't offer an eBook on sales when your post is about keyword research and vice versa. 

Here are a few guidelines to get you started

  • Ensure the giveaway is of high quality 
  • Use the gated content to fill a need that is not fulfilled by the current blog post. 
  • Match the giveaway to the content page 
  • Concisely describe what's in the gated content

Example: Bright Gauge whitepaper 

What they've done right: 

  • Including multiple fields to gather all relevant information about the prospect (This is acceptable seeing that the subscriber is getting something valuable in return)
  • Highlighting what the reader is getting in exchange for their personal information 

#3: Create Social Media Contests with The Opportunity to Win Prizes Such as Gift Cards or Products from Your Store

You can build your email list by hosting contests on your social channels that require email (contact information) to participate. Here, you can encourage your social media followers to click through to an opt-in landing page and subscribe with their emails. 

Why do contests work?

People love participating and competing with others. It's in human nature to crave winning. From restaurant raffles, scratch-off tickets to jackpot lotteries. People love participating in contests—even when the odds are against them.  

What's more? People tend to do what others are doing, partly because they are doing it. Thus, holding a contest is likely to create a snowball effect, helping reach many new users. 

In addition, contests incentivize immediate action. They create a sense of urgency laced with fear of missing out, making them irresistible to an average consumer. 

 (For best results, keep the barrier to entry as low as possible.)

Using contests to acquire high-quality subscribers

You may be wondering: people signed up to my mailing list to win a prize; what is to stop them from unsubscribing when the contest is over?

To prevent your contest from being scammy:

  • Be completely upfront
  • Give the participants the option to opt-in for your mailing list 
  • Implement a double opt-in approach to ensure the new subscribers are aware of what they're signing up for 
  • Strive to attract only the target customers to participate in the contest
  • Provide different ways for participants to enter the contests (but incentivize the email sign up)

Quick success strategies 

  • Know your audience (what type of content they'd participate in, where they hang out, etc.)
  • Set your goals (for running the contest)
  • Decide on the contest's entry methods 
  • Establish your budget 
  • Understand contest rules for each of the selected platforms (Facebook,  Twitter,  Instagram, etc.)
  • Announce your contest on the selected social media. (Run ads or cross-promote it on other platforms to increase its reach)
  • Announce the prizes and set the duration for the contest 
  • Measure the results in relation to your set goals 

Do contests work?

Yes. Many business owners have increased their mailing lists by running contests on various social media platforms. For example, Todd Giannattasio increased his mailing list by 254% by running a one-time contest on Facebook. 

#4: Host Webinars and Promote Them On Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, And Google+

Webinars are usually registered through email. So you'll have the audience's email addresses to add to your list. On top of that, webinars have a high perceived value, which boosts their conversion rates. 

Typically, webinars have a landing page to capture audience information, making them ideal for acquiring high-quality subscribers. 

They are also easy to promote across different social channels, increasing their reach.

Example: Kissmetrics webinar landing page  


What they have done right:

  • Asking for relevant information from the attendees 
  • Highlighting what the audience can expect in the webinar 

#5: Send Out Regular Emails About New Product Launches, Discounts On Current Items in Stock, And More

You can leverage personal emails to promote your products, coupons, newsletter and get your recipients to subscribe to your list.

Using regular emails to acquire high-quality subscribers 

  • Create unique email content that's valuable, informative, and entertaining (The goal here is to give your current subscribers a reason to forward your emails to their network. To help gain exposure and attract new subscribers.)
  • Encourage your recipients to share your emails (by including "Email to a Friend" and social sharing buttons)
  • Add an opt-in link to your signature (Hyperlinking your signature can redirect recipients to a landing page or email sign up form where they can opt-in to your mailing list)
  • Reinvigorate an older email list with a new opt-in campaign 

#6: Collect Customer Feedback by Asking Questions Via Email Surveys

When asking for customer feedback via email, you can either:

  • Send out an email including the questions, or 
  • Invite your recipients to a survey (where they'll have to opt-in to leave their feedback)

The latter takes advantage of the fact that people enjoy providing feedback on information that concerns them. 

Using email surveys to acquire high-quality subscribers 

  • Address the right audience
  • Keep the opt-in form short and simple
  • Design the opt-in form in a clean and straightforward manner 
  • Ensure the opt-in form is mobile-friendly (as most emails are opened on smartphones) 
  • Include an incentive if possible 

Build Better Email Lists 

Building an email list is an integral part of your marketing strategy. An exercise that should go beyond numbers to prioritize high-quality subscribers. As discussed above, there are many strategies you can leverage to grow your mailing list. (Keep your target audience and your email marketing goals in mind throughout the building process.)

Sendilio helps take your mailing list a notch higher by creating more engaged segments. We achieve that by monitoring audience behavior across your website and other platforms to determine their interests and characteristics. Get more engaged subscribers today


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