Section 4:

List Building Strategies

People who see massive growth and results from their email list, live by these 3 list building strategies:

  1. 1

    Make it easy for readers to subscribe to the newsletter

  2. 2

    Create lead magnets to generate traffic and convert visitors into readers

  3. 3

    Segment and prune the list to avoid bounces and unsubscribes

You were expecting something more complicated?

The difference between poor and massive results in list building comes down to the detail in each step.

That is exactly what this chapter covers. The tools, the tips, the process and the detail of each step to achieve massive results.

List Building Strategies

How To Build An Email List From Scratch

The best place to start with your list building strategy is with what you already have. Most businesses have a an initial mailing list, even if it is just a database of existing customers, or close contacts that you have worked with in the past.

Ask sales and marketing for a CSV of all of the names and email addresses of customers on your databases, with information on what the database or list was used for.

Then create a master list with all of the relevant customer names and emails in.
Relevant is the key word here, only add people to the list that would get something valuable out of receiving your company newsletter. Most importantly make sure that they have been/are currently a customer or a close contact, as adding loosely related contacts or prospects will result in high unsubscribes or even possibly being blacklisted.

The golden rule for email marketing is to remember that getting into someone's inbox is a privilege, not a right. If they have not opted in or don’t already have a relationship with your company and you email them, then that’s spam, and not a good way to start your company newsletter.

If in doubt, leave them out. You can always send the people that you are not sure about a personal email. Letting them know that you are starting a newsletter and if they are interested they can join ‘here’ - sending them to a subscriber capture box.

List Building Software To Help Grow Your Email List Fast

A big part of your list building strategy is the tools that you use. There are now lots of services that can help you to grow your email list quickly, regardless of if you have a blog or not. From landing pages to pop ups, there are a host of options that will make it easy to collect email addresses and build your list.

Automatically Adding New Customers To Your Email List

Hopefully as a business you are aquiring new customers all the time. You might be selling high ticket industrial machinery, running a digital agency or own a SAAS business. Whatever the business, each new customer should be added to the email list as soon as possible.

This can get tricky depending on how you onboard new customers. For SAAS, eCommerce and other web businesses which new customers sign up for with their email address then this is much easier. But just because customers arent signing up to your business with their email addresses, doesn’t mean its not possible to set up an automatic process.

Start by figuring out at which point a customer actually becomes a customer, and where and how the contact details are being saved in your systems.

Then consider how to get those email addresses from your system to your email list automatically. Software like Zapier and IFTTT will help you to connect your systems to your email list. Even if it means getting sales to put a name and email address in a google sheet every time they sign a new customer.

To give you an idea of whats possible, check out these examples from Zapier;

How To Build An Email List: Zapier Google Sheets To Constant Contact
How To Build An Email List: Zapier Stripe To Mailchimp
How To Build An Email List: Zapier Intercom To Campaign Monitor

Making It Easy For People To Subscribe To Your Email List

There are a host of simple ways to make signing up to your email list seamless for new readers and potential customers. Here is a few of the core ones.

Email Service Providers (ESP’s)

Most email service providers like Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor, Constant Contact etc offer out of the box sign up froms and other ways for new readers to subscribe to your email list.

Strategy: Email Service Providers

Mailchimp for example, offers sign up forms that can be embeded on websites, added to a Facebook page, shared as a link on social media or in other email campaigns, embedded in a subscriber pop-up and even has a tablet form, so you can collect subscribers whilst at events or in store.

Lead Pages

Lead Pages is the number 1 landing page builder and lead gen software. You can use it to easily create a stand alone landing page to advertise your company newsletter and the benefits of subscribing to it.

Then you can share it anywhere online to collect more subscribers to build your list.

Strategy: Lead Pages

It also offers lead capture popups that you can embed on any website and lots of other lead capture options. A good combination with this software is to have a landing page that you can promote separately on social media, and embed the lead capture forms on your main website.


Everything you need in one tool for capturing subscribers from your website. From welcome mats to heat maps, Sumo is easy to set up and integrates with all major ESPs.

It will really help you to convert maximum web traffic into new email list subscribers. It also has a great free plan.

Strategy: Sumo


Upscribe is a handy tool that will help you to collect subscribers straight from your Medium blog/posts.

Simple to set up with an easily embeddable form that goes straight into your Medium posts. It also integrates with a ton of ESP’s so you can send email addresses automatically.

Strategy: Upscribe

Hello Bar

With Hello Bar you can add a simple scrolling bar to any of the pages on your website.

Again this one is easy to set up and will help you to add new email subscribers to your list.

Strategy: Hellobar

List Building Strategies: Using Lead Magnets To Grow Your List

A lead magnet is something that you can create for customers which is valuable enough for them to be willing to enter their email address in exchange for access. There are lots of examples, but here are a few of my favourites.

Your Blog

This isn’t a lead magnet in the true sense of the term, as visitors don’t need to sign up in order to read your blog content. But as far as list building strategies go, this is the most common. If we look at what a lead magnet is “something valuable that visitors are willing to exchange their email address for”, then the blog is actually one of the most effective.

Strategy: Blog

By continually providing high quality content on your blog, visitors will be motivated to sign up to your newsletter in order to receive the latest posts straight to their inbox.
You can easily add subscriber forms to your blog using any of the tools above. The most common locations are in the side column, within the post itself, and at the footer of the website. This is also a great place to set up welcome mats and scrolling bars like the Hello Bar.

Here are some examples of where Brian from has his key newsletter subscriber forms placed;

Strategy: Welcome Matt

Welcome Matt

Strategy: Side Column

Side Column

Strategy: Blog Footer

Blog Footer

Top tip: Increase conversion by offering subscribers something extra, that they wouldn’t normally get by just visiting your blog.

Like content before anyone else, or some other valuable content that you have created but not published on the blog.

Long Form Content

A great example of value exchange as a list building strategy, creating reports, eBooks, case studies, white papers, market stats, additional information etc. to capture email address is a very popular way to build your list. This is usually too long to be a single blog post, or of high enough value that people would be willing to exchange their email address to access it.

Strategy: Long Form Content

Place appropriate call to actions on your blog and website, so visitors can clearly see what they are getting and hand over their email address easily in order to access it.

A clear example of this can be seen at the top and the bottom of this post, where you can download the entire guide in PDF to read whenever and wherever you want. You may also have noticed these call to actions added straight into blog posts on a lot of the popular sites to try and encourage action at the point of relevance.

Content Call To Action Example 1
Content Call To Action Example 2

Top tip: Sending the downloadable resource by email will put people off from using fake email addresses, as they wouldn’t receive the file.

Online Or Email Course

Online courses are one of the more recent list building strategies and have seen a lot of traction over the last couple of years. They can be a great way of providing value to visitors whilst helping them to become more proficient. Which is particularly beneficial when your customers being more proficient means more success for you.

Strategy: Online Email Course

Creating a course can be quite an undertaking, depending on the topic and the content required to create each lesson. But, they can create high returns, as the perceived value is very high. If it is really good enough, it could even be something you charge for.

Once your course is ready, create a landing page using something like Leadpages and promote it heavily in relevant communities and social media to capture new subscribers.

Top Tip: To offset some of the burden of creating all of the content in house, try curating some of the content for each lesson.
It will save you from rewriting content that already exists, and add credibility to each lesson by including trusted sources.

Publicate is a great way to pull together curated resources for your lessons.


Hosting a regular webinar to showcase how to use your product, learn more about your business or to address key topics in the industry, is great way to capture email addresses and build your email list.

There are several tools out there that will take care of all of the logistics side of running a webinar, like embeded sign up and scheduling forms, as well as actually hosting the webinar on the platform.

Here are a couple of better known services;

Strategy: Webinars

Top Tip: This is a great avenue to get ideas for your content marketing.

Customers will ask all sorts of questions during a product or service webinar, this is great inspiration for creating new content and gives you topics to focus on for future webinars.

Curated Newsletter

I know what you’re thinking, why am I talking about creating a newsletter as a list building strategy to get more subscribers for a newsletter? Bear with me.

Think of a curated newsletter like a product that provides its own unique value, separate to that of a company newsletter, and as such can be promoted as a separate asset.

Strategy: Curated Newsletter

A curated newsletter provides readers with a lot of value, it saves them having to sift through endless content and sources to find the very best information on a specific subject.

By filtering the content, you are delivering a valuable summary of the very best, straight to their inbox on a regular basis. What’s not to love?

Top Tip: Being focused on a specific niche that is important to your customer is crucial.
If the information is too general or mainstream, then it won’t be valuable to readers. The aim is highly relevant content from quality sources, regularly.


Probably one of the most lucrative list building strategies if done well. A microtool is a simple solution that has been created to solve a problem. It’s not really something that you could charge customers for using, but definitely something that you could ask users to sign up for using their email address.

They are a really effective way of building a list. If it is a frustrating problem that a lot of customers have, but no business has bothered to tackle it yet, then there could be a lot of opportunity if you chose to solve it.

Here are a couple of examples;

Strategy: Microtools
Coschedule Headline Analyzer
Twitter RSS Feed

Top Tip: Understanding your customers in detail can really give you an advantage here. Knowing what their daily habits and frustrations are can give you an indication of which kind of microtool might be effective for you.

Just be mindful of dev time, and maintenance. You don’t want it to baloon out of control and drain resources rather then create them.

Resource Hub

One of the biggest issues online today is content overload, with businesses vying for our attention with more and more content. Subsequently readers spend a lot of their time trying to filter through the rough to find the quality.

By creating a resource hub of the best content you’ve found over time, on a specific topic, you can save people a lot of time and effort. Giving you a solid list building strategy, and helping them to uncover a treasure trove of only the best content. What can you get in exchange for the effort of creating a resource hub? Of course, it’s well worth handing over your email address.

Strategy: Resource Hub

Top Tip: If you are looking to create a resource hub to capture email addresses you might want to check out Publicate, it could save you a lot of time in the curation and creation side of things.

Overall when it comes to list building strategies and encouraging visitors to part with personal information like their email address, there needs to be a clear value exchange. Going back to section 1 of this guide, the only way to get that right is to understand your potential customers, so you can know what they will find valuable in the first place.

Quality over quantity is always the best strategy.

So now that we have the forms set up and some decent lead magnets in play collecting email addresses, let’s look at how to get the most out of your mailing list.

Email List Segmentation

Once you have your email ist and it is growing, the next effective list building strategy is how you actually manage that list. For best results, you’ll want to start segmenting it so you can make each newsletter more relevant and targeted.
Relevance is the name of the game with any marketing, if it is relvant, it’s nearly always valuable.

Email list segmentation gives you the best chance of being able to be relevant at scale. Heres how.

Email List Segmentation

How To Segment Your Email List

Start by thinking about your customers. What distinguishing factors could be used to segment them into clear groups?
Is it demographical, like buying power, job role or industry? Maybe it is by topic, or maybe it is behaviour and need led. Perhaps it relates to how they entered the sales funnel, where they currently are in it or how engaged they are with your business.

Prospect customers vs your best customers should be getting different content.
Prospects should be getting valuable articles and resources with your insight and opinion on to start building a relationship and showing your expertise. Existing customers should be getting the latest case studies and feature releases to try and upsell to them and build on the existing relationship.

Ultimately it’s about understanding potential and existing customers well enough so you know how to group them into relevant buckets, and then which communication is needed for each group. It will really help to ensure that your company newsletter and other email marketing activities yield a higher return.

Most ESP’s offer the ability to manage multiple lists within the same platform. So you can manually copy, move and tag subscribers depending on which bucket they should be in.

A little bit of effort here can really go a long way, as it makes mass email much more relevant and personal.

Managing Email List Unsubscribes For Improved Deliverability

Probably not classed as one of the typical list building strategies, but important for success nonetheless.

Make unsubscribing easy, there is nothing worse than receiving an email and not being able to opt out. If it’s not easy to opt out most people will just mark you as spam, which will damage your reputation and deliverability, some email services will also put a block on your account.

You should only be sending your company newsletter or any email marketing communication to people that actually want to receive it, not force those that don’t.

Email List Unsubscribes

Don’t take unsubscribing personally or try to stop people from being able to do it. Instead, figure out how you can make your newsletter more relevant so that less people need to unsubscribe.
This could be better segmenting, better content, or both.

Most email service providers won’t allow you to send out newsletters without an unsubscribe link at the bottom, and have useful forms to help you try and capture some information from readers that are leaving.

If you can edit this form, use it to ask customers what you could have improved. Perhaps even consider offering an incentive for their feedback, as most people won’t be forthcoming.
After all the customers leaving hold the key to how you need to improve your newsletter.

Here is a clever example from Buffer, that offers if you might like to manage your preferences, rather than just unsubscribe all together.

Email List Unsubscribe Example Buffer

If you’ve followed this section on list building strategies, and the other sections in this guide then everything for your company newsletter will be in place and ready to go. All that's left is to start creating the actual company newsletter itself.

In the next section we will look at exactly how to do that. From the different elements, types of media and design, you’ll find all of the best practices you need to create a company newsletter template that performs.

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