July 11, 2022

How to Build an Email List (16 List-building Tactics That Work)

Reading time about 15 min

You’ve heard that building an email list is probably the first thing you should do as an online business owner. Maybe you’ve heard “the money is in the list,” or you’ve just learned enough about email marketing strategy to know it’s the best way to reach your customers. 

However, there’s a slight problem if you’re unsure of how to build that email list. You may know about email signup forms and lead generation. But you still need to know how to bring people to your signup forms and encourage them to subscribe to receive your email newsletter

You’re not alone. Everyone wants to grow their email list. After all, it’s the best way to reach customers. Read on for 16 proven tactics on how to build your email list.

At a glance:

How to Build an Email List?

List-Building Strategies

How to Build an Email List: FAQ

How to Build an Email List

First, here’s an overview of the steps to build your email list. Sticking to these best practices will only benefit your email performance and create a more valuable email list for your business.

1. Define Your Email Strategy

For starters, it’s not just about how to build an email list, but about how you’re going to use that list. Its purpose will determine a lot of the next steps.

Are you going to send just a monthly newsletter with company updates or frequent promotional emails? To be GDPR-compliant, ask for consent for the different kinds of emails separately. Any lack of transparency will backfire — people will unsubscribe en masse and you’ll be back to square one, having to build a new email list from scratch. 

2. Create Signup Form

Once you know what you’re going to do with the list, create the signup form to collect email addresses. This includes the design, copy, and necessary data fields.

Here, think about the following:

  • CTA and incentive for subscribers
  • Branding
  • Necessary information
  • Error and success message

Related: 20 Newsletter Signup Examples to Take Inspiration From

3. Connect to CRM

When creating your signup form, specify where you want new subscribers to be stored and managed. Usually, that’s an email list in a linked CRM. You simply have to embed a link or choose a list if the CRM is already synced. From there, you can filter and prune the list and monitor performance metrics. 

Brevo (formerly Sendinblue)’s Marketing Platform integrates natively with the free Sales CRM, combining signup forms, contact management, and email marketing for seamless list building and email sending.

4. Place Signup Form Strategically

After your signup form is ready, position it on high-traffic pages of your website to collect subscribers. Your blog homepage, exit pop-ups, headers, and footers are typically good places. 

To get even more eyes on your signup form, you can share it in your transactional emails, in social media posts, and even promote it with Facebook ads. 

5. Maintain Your Email List

How to build an email list is one thing, but making sure it continues supporting your business goals is another. It’s not just about amassing large numbers of subscribers. You want them to read your emails, too.

That’s why email list cleaning is so important. Inactive or disengaged subscribers impact your metrics negatively. Inbox providers like Gmail see subscribers’ passivity as a bad sign and deliver fewer of your emails as a way of protecting their users.

With only engaged contacts on your list, your deliverability and email newsletter performance will go up.

16 Tried and True List-Building Strategies 

What does your customer want? The #1 reason anyone subscribes to an email list is that they want something they feel is valuable. Your job is to create that valuable “something” and make it easy for your potential customers to see and opt-in to receive it. 

The following ideas are meant to inspire you to try something you may not have done yet and build your email list from scratch.

Read more: 8 Best Email List-Building Tools

1. Create an amazing incentive 

Let’s face it — the primary reason anyone will divulge their precious email address is that they want what you’re offering. What’s the last thing you signed up for? Maybe it was a shopping list for pantry staples and tasty dishes you can make with them. 

What’s something your customers want? And, how does it tie into what you’re selling? Maybe it’s a template for how to do something with your product or a timesaving checklist that will save your reader headaches. It can be a free ebook, or a physical freebie. Every successful list-building tactic starts with creating something your customer values. Without a lead magnet, there’s no lead generation. 

Opt-in incentive example from Sleeknote blog

Opt-in incentive example from Sleeknote Blog

2. Have an email signup form in your sidebar 

Once you’ve created your fantastic incentive, you need a way to let your potential email subscribers know about it and a way to opt in and receive it. That’s the purpose of the email signup form. It advertises the incentive, gives people a way to sign up, and connects to your email delivery service to deliver the incentive.

Sidebar sign-up form by Gimme Some Oven

Sidebar signup form by Gimme Some Oven

Related: The 5 Best Lead Capture Software Tools for Growing Your Email List

3. Have an exit intent pop-up

You know how sometimes you visit a website and a window pops up if you try to leave without buying or signing up for anything? While a lot of people don’t like them, pop-up windows are effective for building lists and increasing conversion rates. Take this statistic from Beeketing that says ecommerce companies can salvage up to 35% of otherwise lost visitors with exit pop-ups. 

Even if you gained just 10% more email subscribers, that’s a great deal considering how easy it is to set up.

Here’s an example from Pixelme.me.

Exit pop-up from Pixelme.me

4. Use the right words

Make sure visitors see the value of your incentive across your email opt-in forms. Whether you’re offering a discount coupon or a downloadable template, be clear about its value. Most of the time, this means paying special attention to the copy of your signup forms.

Experiment with CTA copy like “subscribe,” “download,” “get my ebook” to see which performs better. You can even make this part of your list-building strategy, trying out different graphics and language. Here’s a clever email list-building tactic from Spark Hydrate. You sign up to get a code which grants access to their presale.  

Spark Hydrate's sign-up form which gives new subscribers a discount code.

5. Install an opt-in bar at the top of your website

Screenshot of Create and Elate's website featuring a header linking to their sign-up page.

Opt-in bar example by Create and Elate

Having an opt-in bar show up at the top of your visitor’s browser window makes it easy for them to spot. It’s typically done via a plugin that you install on your website and can look elegant. 

If you have an email opt-in bar, a sidebar opt-in, and an exit popup, you’re in a great place to increase your subscriber count. 

6. Create a wait list

If you run a popular course and open it periodically, then you can have an opt-in to let people know when the course will open up again. Advertise the waitlist prominently on your website and in your emails so people can sign up for notifications. This email list-building tactic can work for product launches, freelancing and consulting work, etc.

7. Add a signup to your email signature 

You know how you send dozens of emails a day? It’s likely some of those people would love to be a subscriber. When you add a subscriber link to your email signature, you make it easy for them to see and sign up.

Screenshot of Yeah Write Club's email signature, which includes a link to sign-up form.

Example of a signup CTA in a signature by Kaleigh Moore (source)

8. Create a landing page on your website

The purpose of a landing page is to send people to “land” on it. For example, if you’re a podcast or webinar guest, you can mention your incentive and send people to your landing page to sign up.

This will be easier than sending them to your homepage where they have to find your signup form on their own. And it also helps with SEO, too, because someone might directly search for “sign up for X brand’s mailing list” on search engines.

Here’s a dedicated newsletter signup landing page from Backlinko.

Screenshot of Backlinko's sign-up landing page.

9. Have a related call to action (CTA)

If you write a blog post on the same topic as your opt-in incentive, you can mention it in the post and have a link to the opt-in form. 

This works well if you’re guest posting too. Just make sure you mention the value in the CTA. Again, tell visitors why they should subscribe.

10. Upgrade your content

If you invest the time in content marketing, why not use it for list building? When you write a detailed blog post, create a case study or cheat sheet at the same time to help your readers get even more value. Then, include a special signup form dedicated to that piece of content and include it within your blog post and promote it on social media channels. 

Screenshot of a sign-up form specifically-designed to be included in a blog post.


11. Promote signup on social media profiles

From Twitter and Instagram to LinkedIn and Facebook, you should include a “subscribe for more content” CTA in your bio. That way, every time someone checks out your bio, you have the opportunity to gain a new subscriber.

Did you know Facebook lets you embed a signup form as an additional tab on your profile? Here’s how to do it.

What’s more, use the header images on social platforms to promote the signup and incentive. A branded header image with a CTA will help your list grow.

Screenshot of Holland Bulb Farm's Facebook page which features a call to action in their biography.


12. Use quizzes

How can you incorporate a fun quiz into what you sell? For example, “what body type are you?” quizzes could work well for a nutritionist or weight loss coach. Interior designers might offer a “what’s your design style?” type of quiz.

People love taking fun quizzes and they’ll sign up to get the results. Plus, the additional insights you gather from a willing audience will help you with segmentation later on when you tailor your content to their interests. 

Screenshot of a sign-up form which appears users complete a quiz and allows them to view their results.


13. Conduct a survey 

Imagine a portion of your readers telling you exactly what they want to know more about. An interactive survey will give you ideas and material for future marketing campaigns. Then, you can publish your survey findings and share them with your readers (and your industry). 

This builds your authority, increases shares, click-through rates, and backlinks, which in turn attracts more readers and visitors. 

14. Use QR codes

QR codes are a convenient way to bridge the gap between offline and online and grow your email list

After the pandemic, they’ve become ubiquitous in shops and restaurants. Include one on your print materials at your physical location or at an event to drive visitors to your website. With Brevo (formerly Sendinblue), for example, any signup form can become a scannable QR code for easy sharing. Find out how to do it here.

QR code for joining an email list

15. Create useful and engaging social media posts

You’ve seen the posts where people share something of interest and then invite their audience to “raise their hand,” “drop their favorite emoji,” or otherwise engage? When they do, you can send them a message with a link to sign up for the thing you mentioned. Giveaways are done with the same purpose of referrals.

16. Offer a free trial

If your product lends itself to a free trial (like software), then invite people to sign up to see how it works. 

By now, hopefully, you’re getting the idea that list building is a mix of providing great value in your incentive and promoting it heavily so your potential subscribers know it exists. 

How to Build an Email List: FAQ

Should you buy email lists?

No. Over the years, many people have tried all types of list-building strategies. The above are some that are proven to work in all types of industries. Two that don’t work are purchasing email lists and otherwise adding non-consensual contacts to your list   — such as scraping a list or simply adding all the emails from business cards at that last event you attended. 

Here’s why these methods don’t work. 

  1. They’re not your target customer. They’ll quickly unsubscribe.
  2. They didn’t give you permission to add them to your list, which means they may flag your emails as spam. This can mean legitimate subscribers may not receive your emails. 

Buying email lists is also illegal thanks to GDPR and the CAN-SPAM Act. Basically, when you buy email lists, your email quality is compromised and it may lower your sender reputation. Double opt-ins are the way to keep your list clean and improve your deliverability rate. High-quality subscribers are the ones you want to reach.

Why are double opt-ins important?

If you’ve ever signed up for something and received an automation email that asks you to confirm your sign up, then you’ve experienced a double opt-in signup.

Screenshot of SkyScanner's double opt-in email confirmation.


In email marketing, it’s considered a good thing because it usually means you’re getting high-quality signups. You’re also protecting yourself by adhering to international laws about email marketing and giving yourself an opportunity to start your relationship on the right foot. 

Learn how to set up a double opt-in here.

Start Building Your Email List Today

Hopefully, this gives you lots of ideas on how to build your email list and kick-start your marketing strategy. With a little planning, you can build an email list for successful email campaigns.

Jumpstart your email strategy with Brevo

Our free plan lets you store unlimited contacts, send up to 300 emails/day AND create engaging email signup forms for your website and social media.

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