11 Actionable Ways of Building an Email List From Scratch

by Nedim Talovic · Updated 09 Jul 2021

Thinking about email marketing as the best marketing channel may not look so real. You might see it as a deprecated technology that nobody uses. That’s not true.

Email marketing is here to stay. The main reason why you should invest in it is ROI. For every dollar invested in email marketing, you can expect $40 in revenues.

Email Marketing ROI

Comparing to SEO email marketing is 1.79x better.

Here, I’ll show you different ways of increasing the number of subscribers. 

#1 Write an eBook

This way of converting visitors to subscriptions is something you should try. Writing a book isn’t so easy. 

Firstly, you have to find a topic which is usually the easiest part. You can use Quora, where you can see what consumers are searching for.

Digital Marketing Feed

For example, you could write an eBook about top SEO tools, and interview other businesses as a bonus part. 

As I said, picking the topic is easy, but creating is the tough part for two reasons: writing the content and designing a book. 

Writing will take the most of your time, and here, you can write the content on your own, or hire someone to do it. I think you shouldn’t hire anybody for this unless you have enough money to hire top writers, but hiring someone who charges $5 - $10 per hour is something you need to avoid. 

As for cover design, you can consider hiring someone at Fiverr where for $10 - $20 you can buy an amazing book cover. Fiverr Book Design

Finally, creating a powerful landing page is the key thing. Present your book as the top book on your landing page, and tell people what they get for an email.

#2 Collect Leads Through Facebook Lead Generation Ads

Collecting leads through Facebook Ads will give you fast results. Here, I’ll show you how to do it. Firstly, open Facebook Ads and can pick Lead generation as your marketing objective.

Lead Generation Objective

The first step is selecting your Facebook Page. I just created an imaginary online store called Harley’s World. After that, the next step is targeting an audience, choosing placements (News feed, Right-side, Instagram), and selecting a budget & schedule.

I won’t explain this for now because I’ve already written an article about advertising on Facebook. Once you set all the above, you have to create an ad, which is again the same step as in creating normal ads.

Creating Lead Generation Ad

Notice that there’s a Call To Action drop-down list where you can choose different CTAs.

Lead Generation Call-to-Actions

Next, you have to create a form that appears whenever someone clicks on your CTA. Here are some questions you can ask.

Create Form in Lead Generation Ad

If the fields you can see above aren’t enough for you, you can always add a custom question.

Finally, publish your lead generation ad and see how the number of subscribers increases. Of course, you can test different variations and see which ad has the best lead rate.

#3 Upload a YouTube Video

YouTube is an untapped source of traffic. It’s the second-largest search engine in the world.

Uploading a YouTube video can increase your traffic a lot, and after that, the list number will increase. Google tends to display YouTube videos when you search the following:

  • How-to videos
  • Reviews
  • Tutorials

How to make an American pie

This is how you get video views, and when you achieve it, here’s what you can do. In the video & description, just paste the URL of your eBook (e.g.), and see how numbers increase.

Next, you can offer SECRET videos in exchange for an email. If you create top-quality content, people will always ask more.

As you can see, there’s almost impossible to capture emails without the traffic.

#4 Create a Content Upgrade

Adding an extra piece of content for visitor's emails will lead to a big number of new subscribers. 

People will give you an email address whenever you provide them a great piece of content, and after that, offer something more. 

Here at Jellymetrics, I created the article about content marketing quotes, so I let my visitors downloading the best sentences in a PDF document.

Content upgrade example

When visitors click on DOWNLOAD this what they see.

Content Upgrade Dialog

This way, I’m able to capture more emails than a simple modal dialog. For example, Brian Harris says that he normally experiences 20-30% opt-in rates. 

That’s an incredibly huge number compared to modal dialogs. I don’t see such high numbers, but I can experience something better than in other ways.

#5 Make a Contest

People love contests on social media because that’s a chance to prove their knowledge or share something valuable with everyone.

Worth prizes are also the reason for participating in the contests. For example, the baby store can make the contest - choosing the most beautiful baby.

Parents usually think that their kids are the most advanced, beautiful, smartest, etc. That Baby Store created a contest this year, and the main prize is a $75 gift certificate.

That Baby Store Contest

This is a great idea, but I think they should use Facebook only for promotions because this way they can’t capture emails.

It’s a fact that people were telling Mark Zuckerberg that his project will fail because why would someone share private photos with the world.

Today, everything is changed. People are sharing everything - what they eat, where they go for the vacation, which movies they watch in cinemas, and so on.

Now, let’s go back to the example - how to convert content into an email capturing machine.

Creating an app where parents have to sign up, upload a photo, share the photo on Facebook and let other people vote which baby looks the best is what you have to do. Why?

Firstly, parents will register on your site and they will be 1-step away from purchasing something. This group of subscribers is the most useful Next, they will ask other people to register on your site and VOTE.

However, you need to label those users as voters and some of them probably aren’t parents, but they might buy something as a gift, and they might become a parent in the near future.

This way, you’ll collect a huge number of emails that can be used for remarketing on Google AdWords and retargeting on Facebook Ads.

#6 Organize a Conference

This is a mix of offline and online life of capturing new emails. The idea is to organize a conference that will bring a big number of experts from the particular industry.

For example, with a few Google searches, you can find similar conferences. MozCon is one of the best SEO conferences in the world.

MozCon

There, you can browse and who are the speakers so maybe you can contact some of them. Furthermore, you can find other industry conferences and check the speakers list.

When you create the list of potential speakers, you need to outreach them and ask if they’re interested. If you don’t know how to find someone’s email - no worries.

However, the biggest challenge is to pick the right date since top speakers are usually very busy. Once you set all, you need to promote the conference and make sure that as many as possible people attend the conference.

The registration of new attendees will be on your conference site. This way, you’ll capture new subscribers.

Please don’t forget to calculate all the costs. You have to know much one email acquisition costs you.

#7 Organize a Meeting Between Consumers and a Top Industry Expert in a Shopping Mall

If I decide to open an online baby store one day, here’s what will be one of the first steps. I will hire a pediatrician which will be some sort of my content marketer.

I’ll create a small meeting in the most visited shopping mall in the town. A pediatrician will do the basic practice, examine babies, and give bits of advice.

In the meantime, parents will take a survey where they will need to answer a couple of questions.

Doctor

One of the questions will be - an email address. The rest answers I could use for creating graphs, new blog posts, and infographics.

All these staffs I mentioned would be also great for building new backlinks which are still the most important Google ranking factor. Furthermore, I’d give a discount code with a 30% off for all parents.

As you can see, collecting emails offline is also possible. However, hiring a pediatrician isn’t so cheap but anyway I think that combination of online and offline is more than welcome.

#8 Host a Webinar

There are many reasons why hosting a webinar is always a good choice. Apart from establishing brand trust and authority, leads and conversions are surely the most important.

Neil Patel claims that he was able to generate 518,399 visitors and 16,394 leads from 77 webinars. He says that if you assume that you can close at least 1 out of 20 leads, which is a low rate, and each customer worth at least a few thousand dollars, then you’re looking at generating more than a million dollars.

How many webinars you’ll host depends on our capacity. Companies often run more than 1 webinar a month.

Most companies run more than one webinar a month

In the beginning, you should go with 1 or 2 webinars a month because when you start with a new blog, it will take some time to achieve traction.

The biggest challenge is, of course, to drive traffic to your website. The best way is to email your subscribers, but here we’re talking about acquiring new subscribers so that’s not the option.

If you don’t have enough money to pay ads on Facebook or Google, then your blog should be your second best-converting channel.

For example, you can open Google Analytics and see which landing pages are the most visited.

Once you find them, you can show an ad on those sites, or even you can link the webinar page on every single blog post.

#9 Create a Free Tool

HubSpot Website Grader is unquestionably a big source of subscribers. Lots of marketers are searching for free tools that let them grade the site they have built.

You can do the same thing. Create a free tool that requires entering an email address for getting the results. The photo shows how it looks.

HubSpot Grader requires an email

Some visitors will be lazy to enter the email address, but lots of them will be curious. They will ask themselves: What if I have errors on my site, and my search rankings could be better if I just improve the site?

If you enter this tool’s URL on Ahrefs, you’ll see that the tool has a total of 348,000 backlinks from 12,100 referring domains.

HubSpot Grader - Ahrefs Data

In other words, it’s not only about emails - it’s also about backlinks.

Next, SimilarWeb shows that this grader has 344K visits per month. HubSpot Grader - SimilarWeb Data

If you assume that 5% of visitors take the tool, you’ll see that HubSpot can acquire 13,760 new emails per month.

The truth is that some visitors are returning, so the tool doesn’t have 344K unique visitors, but the number of acquired emails should be still great. Heck, maybe 10% or 15% of unique visitors enter the email. Here at Jellymetrics, we’ve created a Readability Tool.

Redability Test Tool

It doesn’t require an email address because when I created the tool, the site has a total of 0 backlinks, so I didn't care about email subscribers.

We created it as a good way of getting new backlinks. The tool is very simple. You just have enter the text and it will return you a couple of grades:

  • Automated Readability Index
  • Coleman-Liau Index
  • Dale-Chall Score
  • Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level
  • Gunning-Fog Score
  • SMOG Index
  • Spache Score

Grade Levels

If HubSpot and Jellymetrics can do it, why wouldn't you?

#10 Give Testimonials

Marketers usually think that getting testimonials is more important than giving because showing great quotes will lead to more customers than helping someone else with your testimonial.

When you see Crazy Egg testimonials page what do you think?

Crazy Egg

This is incredible, such a great companies use their tool and they must be great. I will try it.

Marketers are too lazy to give testimonials and they forget to say that testimonials might be a great source of referral traffic.

Here’s the testimonial page of BuzzSumo.

BuzzSumo Testimonials

Noah Kagah’s site probably gets lots of new visitors thankfully to this testimonial since BuzzSumo has more than 1,800,000 visits per month.

BuzzSumo SimilarWeb Data

Lots of them will open a testimonial page and click on Noah’s link. Once you get the traffic you’ll have to capture those visits.

#11 Create a Quiz

No matter if you work in B2B or B2B, this works well for both business models. If you work in Digital Marketing you can create an SEO quiz with 10 - 15 questions.

The quiz must take only a few minutes because if it's like 60 minutes, you won’t see a big complete rate.

You might be wondering how do you capture new emails? When someone spends a few minutes of his life, he’ll probably be interested to see the results. You have to make sure that a visitor can’t see the results without giving you an email address.

Quiz Results

Tell your visitors that giving an email address is required for getting the results. I know that’s not nice, but it is what it is. That’s the only way of acquiring new subscribers.

After you create the quiz, you have to promote it aggressively.

Nutrition Secrets Quiz

The photo above shows how Nutrition Secrets capture emails through quizzes.

Conclusion

As you can see, it’s hard to acquire new emails without the content. The content is what makes your site visited and what allows you to capture emails.

If you don’t have website traffic, you can try Facebook Ads which will cost you. Also, I haven't mentioned that answering on Quora can be a good source of traffic.

Don’t forget content upgrades because they are the most advanced way of capturing new emails.