How to Build an Email List


Despite the significance of social media in the everyday lives of today’s consumers, email is still considered to be the most rewarding and most cost-effective medium among popular ecommerce marketing channels. Its value lies in its ability to deliver highly targeted and personalized messages, converting subscribers into actual paying customers, and maintaining customer loyalty. But the only way you can gain these benefits is if you have a robust email list in the first place.

The Real Value of an Email List

Although email is generally touted as one of the most cost-effective marketing platforms, it won’t provide much value to your business if you don’t have a solid subscriber list. On the surface, your email list might seem like a simple collection of email addresses. However, placed in the hands of a savvy marketer, that list can be the key to your profitability.

Keep in mind that we may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our comparisons and recommendations. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you.

From the sales and marketing point of view, every person that subscribes to your marketing communications can be considered a solid lead, because they’ve already an expressed interest in your company and the openness to hear from you again. Consequently, they’re easier to convert into paying customers than casual visitors.

Although generating sales from new subscribers should be profitable enough, the value of email marketing goes even further. If you consider how you can segment your lists and nurture every subscriber with personalized messages so that they become loyal customers, you’ll begin to appreciate how a properly built and well-maintained email list can potentially lead to a lifetime of sales.

Why You Should Never Buy an Email List

Every digital entrepreneur has likely come across several offers to acquire a “high-quality” email database for a significant yet seemingly reasonable investment. No matter how tempting, never fall for that trap. Success in this platform can only be achieved by following some generally accepted email marketing best practices. Perhaps the most critical one is to build your email list yourself using a double opt-in method.

But why wouldn’t you buy a ready-made email list that immediately gives you access to thousands of subscribers? Because they wouldn’t be subscribers at all. Nevermind that some sellers claim to offer lists that are targeted for your industry and guarantee an impressive delivery rate. None of that matters if your recipients didn’t specifically sign up for your messages. In the end, you’ll be doing your business more harm than good by sending out spam.

Spamming leads to a poor email sender reputation, which could eventually lead to the termination of your email account. If you have contacts from the EU, you might even face severe penalties for violating GDPR.

In addition, keep in mind that you don’t buy exclusive rights to use ready-made email databases. Several other businesses might use the same list, which reduces its value. It might even be a spam trap, which is a fraud management strategy that ISPs employ to identify and blacklist spammers. Given all these pitfalls, your best bet really is to build your own email list.

How to Build an Email List

Building your own subscriber list from scratch will undoubtedly bring much value to your business. And it’s definitely worth the effort. Here’s a step-by-step guide for building an email list that converts:

Step 1: Choose an Email Marketing Tool

build an email

Powerful email marketing tools have easy-to-use content editors that enable you to create all the digital assets you need to build and maintain an email list. Image source: Omnisend

Email marketing tools are now much more powerful than they used to be. Many are capable of managing larger parts of your digital marketing campaigns. But despite their more complex functionalities, they’ve become more intuitive and user-friendly. Indeed, because of the development of such robust email marketing tools, you can be a novice and still use this platform effectively.

When choosing a tool, favor those that go beyond creating and sending emails. Select one that will also help you collect subscribers through opt-in forms and landing pages. Once you’ve built your email list, the same tools should also help you communicate effectively with your customers through targeted messages with a personal touch, triggered email campaigns, and more.

Step 2: Prepare Your Forms & Pages

spin the wheel

A wheel of fortune form gamifies the subscription process and incentivizes sign-ups with a chance to win unique offers. Image source: Omnisend

Once you have an email marketing tool in your arsenal, it’s time to prepare the assets that are essential to capturing leads. The most critical of these are your opt-in forms and your landing pages. Thankfully, some of the best email marketing software will make it easy for you to create these through customizable templates and easy-to-use form builders.

Forms should appear in strategic places within your website and exactly when your visitors are most likely to opt in. Standard subscription forms, like exit-intent popups, signup bars, signup form in the footer, are still very useful, but you should also explore other options to boost your opt-in rates. In many cases, a properly timed pop-up form can be incredibly effective. You should also explore interactive or gamified forms (ex., wheel of fortune) for even better conversions.

For external campaigns (ex., social media, search, display) that drive traffic to your site, you can make landing pages designed specifically for conversions. Best practices for creating effective landing pages are generally the same between industries. For example, creating a real estate landing page involves the same essential elements as one for sports apparel. You’ll need compelling copy, relevant and high-quality images, and a clear call to action.

Step 3: Develop Irresistible Incentives

email opt in

An offer of free shipping or a discount is enough to compel visitors to sign up. Source: Omnisend

While your brand might be compelling enough to subscribe to, there’s nothing like a good stimulus to get visitors to subscribe. When you’re coming up with incentives, consider the lifetime value every subscriber could bring to your business. Don’t think of it as a giveaway, but as an investment. In most cases, a discount on the first order is sufficient.

Depending on your business, lead magnets might also work wonderfully in your favor. Popular lead magnets include gift guides, video tutorials, and other types of exclusive content. These digital assets also serve a secondary purpose, which is to prime its recipients for purchase.

Step 4: Take Advantage of Other Opportunities

When used with a powerful email marketing tool, well-built forms and compelling offers are enough to build a valuable email list. But don’t let that keep you from putting your other marketing assets to good use. Evaluate all your customer touchpoints and determine how you can use them to grow your email list.

Referral programs, for example, are an excellent way to gain more subscribers. Offer incentives to subscribers who share your offers to their own networks. You can also engage in offline list building activities if you maintain physical locations, join fairs and industry events, or even when you meet people in a professional capacity. Every business activity can be a worthwhile list-building endeavor if you just approach it correctly.


Alastin offers giveaways for the sign-up. That’s a great extra incentive to sign up for a newsletter. Image source: Omnisend


As a beginner email marketer, building an email list from scratch might seem daunting. It helps to take things a step at a time. Here’s a summary of what it takes to build a solid email list for your business:

Step 1: Sign up for an Email Marketing Tool – Take advantage of available software to do your email marketing efficiently.

Step 2: Prepare Your Forms & Pages – Create opt-in forms and landing pages that facilitate and encourage sign-ups.

Step 3: Develop Irresistible Incentives – Give your audiences a reason to subscribe, whether it be through exclusive offers or powerful lead magnets.

Step 4: Take Advantage of Other Opportunities – Consider your other consumer touchpoints and determine how each one can contribute to your email marketing goals.

Ultimately, your email list is much more than your database of email recipients. If you make an effort to do it right and build solid relationships as you collect subscribers, your opt-in list will prove to be your most valuable digital marketing asset, as it is useful throughout the customer journey—from lead generation to customer retention. Paired with the right email marketing tool, a solid email list will inevitably lead to sustained profitability and excellent branding.

Do you know of digital entrepreneurs whose businesses are ripe for email marketing? Share this article and be instrumental in their development of a valuable email list and their eventual ecommerce success!

Schedule a free call

Just a few more details