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How to Build an Email List From Scratch Fastest? All-in-one Guide

Written and researched by experts at AvadaLearn more about our methodology

By Sam Nguyen

CEO Avada Commerce

Drive 20-40% of your revenue with Avada
avada email marketing

If you are an eCommerce business owner, you need to stay in touch with your visitors, no matter what. The reason is simple: The money is on the list - the better you build a connection with your audience, the more customers and revenue you can gain. And since almost everyone has an email address, having an email list is a super-efficient way to communicate with consumers.

Study after study has proved that email marketing is one of the cheapest and cost-effective marketing channels for businesses. With more than 290 billion emails sent daily, you can see the popularity of emails in the modern world. But, if you don’t create an email list, all of the email marketing benefits won’t make any difference.

The only way to maximize your email marketing value is by building a good email list.

It can be hard to do that from ground zero with no knowledge, so I will help you with this guide on how to build an email list for every beginner out there. The steps below will give you a detailed and actionable plan to start building a relevant email list and start strengthening your relationship with the customers.

Why do you need an email list?

Why do you need an email list?
Why do you need an email list?

First, if you are still not convinced that your business needs an email list, read this section then decide to continue or not.

Email marketing is, in short, the activity of sending marketing messages to recipients via email to connect, build loyalty, educate, or promote. Email is an owned digital marketing channel, which means you can control what to write, who to connect, when to send, with full result data.

Through recent statistics, we know that:

  • The number of email users will be about 4.3 billion in 2023.
  • The average ROI of email marketing is $42 for every $1 spent.
  • 9 out of 10 marketers use email marketing
  • 49% of consumers are willing to receive promotional emails from their favorite brands
  • 81% of small businesses use email as the primary customer acquisition channel, while 80% use it for retention.

As you can see, email marketing has more impact than just sending messages into someone’s inboxes. And if you want to tap into the power of email marketing, you need an email list for the following activities:

  • Notify your subscribers immediately when you launch a new product or feature and encourage them to try it.
  • Inform your list subscribers every time you publish new content, whether it’s a blog post, e-book, or a case study. Depending on the size of the list, you can send a large amount of traffic to your website and content.
  • Email promotions and encourage recipients to take advantage of your offers.
  • Let your subscribers know when you’re planning an exciting event.

Besides the obvious advantages of connecting with customers and increasing sales, emails are also more accessible for your audience. Think about it; giving an email address is way easier than buying a product at first encounter. Because it doesn’t cost a thing, and a prospect needs about five seconds to sign up. For your business, once you have an email list, you can follow up regularly to build trust, and eventually convert subscribers into customers.

At this point, I think we can all agree that having an email list is a powerful tool for a business to use email marketing efficiently with all of its benefits.

Read more:

How to start building an email list?

How to start building an email list?
How to start building an email list?

To start creating an email list and having subscribers, you only need to take these five following steps. At a minimum, you will have basic resources for the next email marketing campaign. At a maximum, you will find out the best way to send emails and receive excellent responses from your subscribers.

The potential is huge, so let’s get excited and start creating!

Understand the audience

Who are you targeting? In the first step, it’s helpful to know who your target audience is. What you need is to create a marketing persona that represents your ideal customers and their characteristics.

A basic persona would include information about Age, Gender, Salary, Location, Education, Family, Work role, Goals and Challenges, Values and Fears, Appropriate marketing messages, and How you can help. Give the persona a fictional name, too, like Rachel or Joe, so you can start addressing your audience as a real person.

The more you know about your audience, the better!

But why is creating a personality so important to building an email list? Because you need to find out where your audiences are to ask for their email addresses. If you can discover the places your audience hangs out on social media, you’ll be able to earn their email addresses more easily. And for each channel like a website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest, a suitable approach will lead to more subscribers.

Have a website

Next, you need a website - where your potential list members can gather and sign up for your email.

Creating a website can be a terrifying big step, so let me explain how to make it as easy as possible. You don’t need a whole website to create an email list. All you need is a landing page, which is a single-page website that contains an opt-in form. There are many services available, and you can build a beautiful landing page in just a few minutes.

Most landing pages have some key features, such as themes, images, headings, and sections. What is most important to your landing page is the opt-in form - where subscribers enter their email addresses.

Quick note: if you use a paid advertising channel like Google AdWords or Bing, you should ensure that your site complies with all of their rules.

Some advertising channels require you to have a multi-page website that has pages such as Terms of Service, Contacts, and Privacy Policy. In this case, making a full website is better. I recommend using Shopify as an easy online-store builder, which can help you set up an eCommerce business in just over thirty minutes.

Learn more:

Sign up an email marketing service

An email marketing service will provide all the tools you need to build the email list, get new subscribers, create and test campaigns, and control the email marketing requests.

AVADA Marketing Automation platform allows you to create stunning email marketing campaigns from start to finish without a big learning curve. You can learn building mailing lists, creating and sending highly personalized emails depending on the specific audience, or tracking the success of your campaigns in real time quickly.

There are many tools to collect your list on AVADA such as Newsletter popup, Spin to Win, Add-t-cart popup or Inline form. As your email list grows, you’ll get more done with your email marketing service in more advanced techniques. However, if you are a beginner, just focus on collecting email addresses safely and legally.

Free popup, spin to win - build your list right now!

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Know what you have to offer

Whatever you are offering or selling, people need a relevant reason to join your email list.

Think of yourself as an example. If you came across a landing page asking for your email address, you wouldn’t do it unless you can get something in exchange. So you need to know what you have to offer to make sure your potential customers would want to hear from your emails about it.

What does your target audience really want? The best offers are often completely free and from your own resources. You can give them access to your software, e-books, reports, blogs, or something else that offers real value.

For the opt-in design, you should show an amazing offer with benefit-oriented copy, images, and call-to-action.

Decide opt-in funnels

Speaking of opt-in, in the last step, you should decide your opt-in funnels for the best ways to connect with your audience and gain subscribers. Visitors on your site are already invested in your offering, whether they are researching or having purchased from your store in the past, so you should take advantage and ask them to sign-up for your email list.

You need to ensure that your opt-in option is easy and inviting for your site visitors, which means bold sign-up forms, popovers in the headers, pop-ups and standing out call-to-action. There are many ways to do this, but there are basically four opt-in funnels for your website:

  • Pop-ups: You can use pop-ups on many stages of the customer journey - like exit intent, first visit, product checkout, and more. With the right message, it is one of the best ways to attract subscribers.
  • Subscription box: Option placed near the end of a website, a subscription box is a section where visitors can sign up with their email addresses. It is always there so visitors know where to find it if they want to subscribe.
  • Spin to win: Making subscription exciting by including a spinning wheel on your website for surprise gifts once a visitor input the email address. The method is highly effective and fun.
  • Sweepstakes: Sweepstakes are basically time-limited events that visitors can join with their email address to win prizes or discounts. You can even ask for more information like name, address, age, and more.

With your email marketing service, these four opt-in funnels will work magnificently to attract new subscribers to your email list, while you can use the data gathered to keep improving your process. All of these four funnels are available with deep customization in our app – AVADA Email Marketing.

With the 5 steps above, you can start building an email list by gaining subscribers from your website’s visitors. But, there is more. In the next section, let’s look at the best tactics to grow your subscribers fast and have a great email list.

Tactics to build an email list and grow subscribers fast

Email marketing is about sending the right message at the right moment. So, for each stage of the customer journey, you can have different tactics to make visitors subscribe. With the right approach, even as a beginner, you can see new email addresses from the audience coming in every day.

With that in mind, let’s see the best tactics to build your email list and grow subscribers fast.

Collect email addresses with Ads

Collect email addresses with Ads
Collect email addresses with Ads
Collect email addresses with Ads
Collect email addresses with Ads

The biggest challenge facing many small businesses is reaching people. When you can’t spend a lot of money and want to quickly generate sales, there aren’t many advertising options. Ads provides a quick, simple, and effective way to target people who might be interested in your product. It’s a really popular way of acquiring leads and gathering email addresses.

Here are the steps:

  • Create a piece of content that solves problems for your target audience
  • Use Facebook or Instagram Ads to send people to your landing page, where they give you their email
  • Send new subscribers the content, along with a series of welcome emails that can sell them your product/service.

For some products, ads can send people directly to your store, which can both increase sales and get more subscribers.

As in the above example, you can see how SalesForce leads people to the landing page with helpful content, while their opt-in can receive information of the visitors.

Sign up button on your Facebook business page

Sign up button on your Facebook business page
Sign up button on your Facebook business page

This one’s really easy to use, you just need to add a newsletter signup form to your Facebook page. You may not get too many subscribers from doing this since it is at the first phase of the customer journey, but it is still worth doing. Because this is the easiest way to collect some email addresses for your email list.

If someone is actively looking for a way to subscribe to you, they can find it easily right at your homepage.

Have a captivating lead magnet

Have a captivating lead magnet
Have a captivating lead magnet

A lead magnet acts as anything you give your audience in exchange for their email address. It’s one of the most tested and best-resulted email list building tactics.

There are many examples of all the different types of large lead magnets, like:

  • Courses
  • Checklist
  • Report
  • Video
  • Form
  • Ebooks
  • Spreadsheet
  • And more

When you make a lead magnet, here are the things to keep in mind to make it great:

  • It deals with a heavy and emotional problem (not the most important one, just the heavy and emotional one).
  • It solves the problem quickly (choose a short-term solution for the problem, even if it’s not what everyone needs in the long run)
  • It solves a problem that is relatable (people need to see themselves in the problem you’re solving).

Easier said than done, but that’s the foundation. A lead magnet that can attract people to subscribe to your email newsletter is what people think will help them win quickly. If you want to collect email addresses, you need to address the issues.

In the example above, Backlinko.com gives visitors the option to enter their email addresses and receive a free PDF version of the ebook. The ebook has over 11,000 shares on Twitter and Facebook, which makes the deal even more attractive.

Use pop ups to attract users use your forms

Use pop ups to attract users use your forms
Use pop ups to attract users use your forms

Do you have a signup form on your website? How easy is it to find? Pop-ups can sound annoying, but they do work as an effective opt-in funnel. Here are some studies from Sumo, which show that average pop-ups have a 3.1% conversion rate.

Sumo’s pop-ups
Sumo’s pop-ups

If the idea of adding pop-ups makes you uncomfortable, don’t worry - you can add pop-ups that aren’t deceptive or overly annoying, like:

  • Activating pop-ups after 30 seconds, instead of immediately
  • Activating pop-ups after 50% scroll (so people only see them after reading some)
  • Activating pop-ups based on exit intent

Without using pop-ups, you’re missing one of the best ways to collect email addresses. In the above example, you can see how MVMT has a pop-up after I scroll on their homepage for about 30 seconds.

Share links on social media
Share links on social media

Social media is a great way to send traffic to your website, collect email addresses, and even go viral with your content. But it only works like that if you do it well. Sharing tons of links to your own blog posts without including a reason to click on isn’t a good way. If you want to share links that actually have visitors, you have to introduce links with great copy and visuals.

Here is how to share a link on social media and build an email list:

  • Participate in relevant conversations in the industry, and then share links
  • Share content from industry-relevant people
  • Post your perspective on recent and trending topics
  • Occasionally share links to your website with good content inside

If you check out Neil Patel Twitter, you will see most of his tweets are about connecting with followers and encouraging people on their work. Only a few tweets are about blog articles - which already receive huge traffic.

Reach out to people one on one

If you don’t already have a list of email addresses, you should focus on the people who are easiest to reach for you. It is easier to connect with people who already know you. So, don’t be afraid and reach out via email or messenger, including a link to your landing page or sign-up form.

One email at a time, and soon you will reach a critical mass to move on to tactics for bigger audiences. You may not want to bother people around you, but asking once isn’t a big deal and it’s how many email lists get started. Try it out!

Create amazing email content

The number of emails sent every day really does not equal the quality of them. Many emails go on for too long with words, have boring format, or don’t really solve any problems they claim to be able to. And that is your opportunity to create amazing email content that people want to share with their friends.

Start with a deep understanding of the audience’s problems. They won’t be hard to find, and your products are the solutions. Next, use a compelling angle and an interesting hook to prove your point. Even better if those two things seem unrelated, because you can really create an impact. Your content needs to knock someone’s socks off.

Add a link to your email signature
Add a link to your email signature

This takes almost no effort. It probably won’t get you hundreds of email subscribers overnight, but it’s easy so there’s no reason not to. Anytime you send an email, you have a chance to promote your content by adding a link to your email signature.

The email signature is great because it’s the space that is often overlooked. There are even business software designed to make it easy to change their email signature at the same time. A link to your newsletter (or a particularly great piece of content) is an easy way to gain more subscribers for your email list.

Host an event

Host an event
Host an event

Nobody is saying that you can only build your email list online. Offline networks and live events are two of the most overlooked methods for collecting email addresses. But they are great - if someone is motivated enough to leave home and attend your events, they are more likely to become an interactive email subscriber. With the current global situation getting better day by day, we can see events coming back very soon.

Platforms like Meetup can help you create live events, some examples are:

  • Teaching an offline classroom: Even small businesses can have industry speakers to run small and fun workshops.
  • Speaking: If you are going on stage, including a call to action at the end of your presentation.
  • Networking events: There are so many types of regular meet-ups out there, and you can make more friends while collecting an email list.

Ask people to share your emails

When you have amazing content, you have the right to ask people to share it. Also, they’re more likely to actually share it when you ask. When your content is amazing, you have the right to say things like “If you like it, I would really appreciate it if you could forward this email to someone you think it might be helpful.”

People share content because it’s worth sharing. And that kind of sharing is all you need to build an email list. And you have many moments to ask too, like after the first email, or after several emails and you can see that the subscriber opens your emails all the time. Make sure you include a link so people can easily subscribe.

But how do you know if your content is awesome or not? People will tell you by replying to your email.

Create content on a platform like YouTube or Pinterest

Create content on a platform like YouTube or Pinterest
Create content on a platform like YouTube or Pinterest

Sometimes a blog post is not the best way to deliver your message. If video or audio are important parts of your content, creating your content on other platforms (like YouTube, Pinterest, and podcast sites) can make sense.

At the same time, you won’t want to depend too much on those platforms. If they suddenly decide to change the algorithm, you could lose views and connections. So what you can do is send the audience from your content to your email list.

If you are on Youtube, have a call to action in the videos or attach a link in the description for viewers to join the email list. If you are on Pinterest, link your content with an opt-in funnel like the landing page. If you are on podcasts, simply tell people how to subscribe.

When you have an active distribution channel, you should always find a way to get viewers’ email addresses and keep the conversation going.

Add a subscription bar to your website

Add a subscription bar to your website
Add a subscription bar to your website

Adding a subscription bar like this to your website is pretty straightforward. You can use an email collection tool to add this bar to any page you prefer. While the clicks won’t be overflowing, it’s still worth doing.

Because people who fill out this bar are the most motivated subscribers. They subscribe not only because you provide some good offers, but because they are actively searching for more of your content. You just need to set up once to get more email addresses, what is not to like?

Partner with industry’s influencers

Partner with industry's influencers
Partner with industry's influencers

One of the fastest ways to collect email addresses is to partner with ones who already have an audience. If someone has subscribed to content that is similar to yours, they may be interested in your content as well. In addition, word of mouth is powerful - if someone the audience trust recommends content, chances are they’ll actually see the content.

There are a few things that you can do to start connecting with influencers even if you are just starting out:

  • Create extremely good content that is worth sharing. Influencers won’t share bad content.
  • Share content of influencers and tag them
  • Interact with influencers on social media without promoting yourself
  • Mention and quote influencers in your content

After a while, you can confidently connect with influencers and ask for a partnership. You can co-host a webinar, appear on their podcasts, write guest blogs, co-promote each other’s content, and more. There are endless possibilities not just for building an email list but also for building your company’s brand.

Learn more:

Optimize your form design

Optimize your form design
Optimize your form design

Last but not least, you need your form and opt-in funnel to actually collect email addresses and get more out of your website’s visitors. By understanding your audience and testing the content, you can get more subscribers through time.

Some tips for form improvements are:

  • Get specific. The more specific your offer is the better your conversions.
  • Be clear. People should understand your offer within 5 seconds.
  • Use the right words - like how your audience would say.
  • Add emotion. Emotion is what drives people to take action.
  • Keep testing. It is what will help you get better results

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Final tip

With the steps above, you should be able to start building your email list. But there are still more you can do, like giveaways, webinars, live streams, etc. The more strategies you can test, the greater your email list will grow.

But remember, it is not just about growing a list. It is about building a relationship with your audience. You should build a list of people that want to receive your high-value content, exclusive offers, and helpful information. If you still have any questions, let me know in the comments section and best of luck on building your email list!

Sam Nguyen is the CEO and founder of Avada Commerce, an e-commerce solution provider headquartered in Singapore. He is an expert on the Shopify e-commerce platform for online stores and retail point-of-sale systems. Sam loves talking about e-commerce and he aims to help over a million online businesses grow and thrive.