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Beginner’s guide to building your first email list

Jon Jo Krupski
Jon Jo Krupski

Published: December 1, 2021

Last updated: March 9, 2022

Table of Contents

No matter what line of business you’re in these days, you need a solid way to communicate with your customers. Having a simple solution to push a broad message is key to saving time, while efficiently delivering an emailed message to clients. Whether you want to promote a seasonal offer your business may be running, or just letting your customers know that the business will be closed bank holiday Monday – an email mailing list is the way to go and a platform to send the emails to certain customer groups is the perfect solution. 

Almost everyone has an email address these days – you can’t do much without one which makes email, arguably the most efficient way to deliver a message. It’s the cheapest way to get your word out there to a specific audience with the highest read rates. 

If you’re not sure what an email or subscribers list is, simply check your own email inbox and you’ll notice that many of the emails you’re receiving come from companies and organisations that have placed you on their email lists. Most email platforms will separate promotional emails in a folder for you.

why am I on a mailing list - list paper
How did you get on a business email list?

You may be wondering how you got on those lists? The chances are because you have purchased something online and provided your email address with your contact information or maybe you’ve downloaded a virtual product such as an ebook or voucher from a website and ticked the “for more offers subscribe to our newsletter” box. Sometimes these are automatically ticked so you may not have always noticed. 

As well as the above, here are a few more good reasons why you should create a mailing list:

  • You can automatically email your customers when you publish new content online, whether it’s a blog post, a case study or an ebook. Depending on the size of your email list, this can send a huge surge of traffic to your site.
  • You can let your subscribers know instantly as soon as you launch a new product for them to check it out or let them know important information such as opening hours.
  • You can notify subscribers when you’re planning a function or event.
  • You can send out discount codes and promotions with click throughs to your website or products.

Simply put – Asking a customer for an email address is much easier than asking them to purchase something from you because it doesn’t cost them anything, except a few moments to fill out a ‘subscribe now’ form in order to sign up to the mailing list. Once you have their email address added to your list, you can easily keep in touch with them regularly while sending out mass emails, letting them know how you can help them, why they should purchase from you, steadily building a rapport which will, (hopefully) if done right convert them into paying customers.

If you’re reading this article then you’re probably wondering how do you get people to sign up to your email list? Don’t worry, we’ll get right to it In this full beginner’s guide we will show you the fundamentals to getting started with building your first email list, along with a few tips on how  to get more people to sign up.

Getting started on your email list.

Sign up with an email marketing platform.

There are many email marketing services available with the majority providing you with all the tools you need such as getting new subscribers via an embeddable sign up up form, email list management dashboard, email campaign analytics among other handy tools.

A professional email marketing tool such as the Elite Email Marketing suite allows you to create attractive email marketing campaigns from start to finish with little stress. From building your mailing list or importing an existing one, creating and sending highly personalised emails depending on the specific audience you’re looking to attract, to tracking the success of your email campaigns in real time.

Other email marketing clients to consider are Mailchimp and Aweber, however both do the same thing as the Elite Marketing Tool but come at a premium price. 

Check out our Mailchimp VS Elite Email Marketing for a deep comparison and a breakdown of what other handy things you can do with an email marketing tool.

sign up here

Have a welcome email ready 

Make sure you have a welcome email ready to send out upon your customers signing up. Don’t overload it with words and make sure that it is friendly and about what you are doing for them. A small paragraph is more than enough with a good graphic, animation or image relevant to your business is more than enough. Every good email marketing platform will have an optional automated welcome email feature.

Make your list appealing

This next stage is an extremely important part of your email marketing journey so read it carefully! This is the part that will draw people in to sign up to your mailing list. You need to create an urgency to join your list that’s so irresistible that people will line up to sign up if given the choice. The first subliminal thought we ask ourselves is “what’s in it for me?” So we need to make it perfectly clear what’s in it for them when they sign up to your list – what sets you aside from your competition?

Here are some examples of how to entice people into signing up to your email list:

  • Make it clear what the selling point it i.e make it apparent what the subscriber will gain from entering their email address. This can be anything from discount codes, free trials and giveaways to sending them a notification email letting them know when you’ve published a blog or newsletter. If you’re in e-commerce then it  could be pushing a new product line or clearance sale. 
  • Always be transparent and let the subscriber know what you will be doing with their information. It’s important to point out that you will not sell their data to third parties or vice verse if you will and provide a link with clearly written information to clarify. Nobody likes to be spammed, so a little endurance goes a long way. 
  • Tell them how frequently you will be sending emails to them i.e mention weekly or monthly etc. 
  • If you have enough readers who have provided good feedback then why not showcase that too? A small testimonial slider under your subscribe form won’t hurt. 

Be truthful and as accurate as possible when it comes to what’s in it for the customer subscribing. The value of signing up will be relevant to the website that you’re asking them to sign up from i.e a typical example for the Elite website would be to offer discount codes on virtual products, yet on our free ‘How To..’ pages it would be more along the lines of “sign up to receive updates on the latest WordPress tips and tricks” and so on. 

How to embed a sign-up form on your website

There are many strategies to getting a mailing list but your website is the easiest place. You’ve already gained the clients eyes which means they are showing some form of interest in your business so it’s important to take advantage and ask them to subscribe to your email list. 

Every visitor should be given the opportunity to sign up so your form should be prominent. You will likely have an array of visitors such as; existing readers or new customers wanting to get to know your business before committing to a sale. An email sign up box can be easily embedded on your website by copying and pasting a script from your email marketing platform. Examples of placement are in Pop Ups, after checking out in your online store, website top bars/headers, sidebars of your blog or footers. You can embed these anywhere you like with an enticing message as to why they should enter their email address and hit subscribe. 

According to Harsh Agrawal Shout Me Loud, the following  are the 7 highest converting places to have your email subscribe form. Plus a little bonus number 8 from us shown below.

1. The Opt-In Feature

opt in feature used by

2. Lightbox Pop-Ups

Lightbox sign up form used by

3. After a Single Post

4. On Your Blog’s Sidebar

5. The Welcome Mat

6. On Your About Page

7. The Slide-In

8. The Top Bar

subscribe form in header used by

Test out different locations by making a different mailing list per subscribe box location – this allows you to see which mailing list is the most popular one, allowing you to spend more time adapting your strategy in weaker areas or focussing on stronger areas. A name and email address per subscription will suffice. A busy sign up form will likely put off your visitors into signing up.

Part 2: Let’s get you some subscribers.

You’ve got your subscription boxes embedded on your website which hopefully by now is gaining traffic, you have different mailing lists per sign up form so you can tell where they’re coming from so let’s go through some of the best ways to begin collecting emails from your customers and readers. Ultimately it’s all about having good content whether written, photographed or recorded. Research your market i.e if you have just started a WordPress Blog then you may want to read articles on how to write good blog posts. If you have something that makes people want to view more of your content then you are more than likely to get subscribers.

opt-ins into existing forms where you can.

Many forms on your website may allow mailing list integration such as WooCommerce for WordPress, Contact Forms which allow quote requests or registrations to your website – so if possible, add an opt in checkbox which make it even more convenient for your customers than having to put their details twice. 

Social Media 

Instagram, Linkedin, Facebook and TikTok to name a few big players in the social media world are excellent ways to gain subscribers. Of course you will need to build a presence on them first by posting relevant content to your business niche with top tips, advice and regular things that may be useful to your customers needs. Top Tip: Don’t push the sale immediately and frequently as you’ll be looked at as spammy. Ask yourself  “why should they buy from me or subscribe to my form?” Then simply work around that by using the following methods:

*Engage with your audience giving them advice on your niche to show them that you know your field well, are dedicated to your business and that signing up to your form will be helpful to them.

*Share some sneak previews of your content, products or something that you’re planning like an event etc which will likely entice a curious audience to sign up to your mailing list. 

*You can create competitions, big or small that require an email and first name sign up with ease. People like to win stuff or get things for free! More on that below.

Entice your customers in by giving away free stuff! 

I remember one of the first blogs I began to read was around the birth and rise of the digital nomad movement name Thrilling Heroics by author Codi McKibben – he managed to entice me into signing up to his mailing list with ease by giving away a free WordPress theme. So whether you have a video or valuable content to give away, early access to a product or service in beta or running an offer that will get your hand torn off – people love free stuff and an email address isn’t much to ask for in exchange. 

Paid online adverts to drive traffic to your sign up form

You’ve probably noticed by now that when using social media channels that you have the option to sponsor or promote a post. This doesn’t just have to be about the products that you’re selling and can easily link to a landing page with your sign up form instead – in fact gaining an email list of people that are genuinely interested in your products or services is a lot more cost effective when promoting the sale of a product than your advert simply showing to everyone where there is a low probability of all viewers being interested. Paying for ads on Google, Facebook, Instagram etc  to grow your list should be strongly considered because once you’ve gained your audience, you’re only job is to give a concentrated number of people what they want.  

Collect email addresses in person

One of the easiest way to gain email addresses is in person. Events such as trade shows, talks, concerts or festivals if your business type warrants them are a great place to interact with real people while asking them for their information by once again – enticing them with free stuff but in most cases a smile will do. If you have a static location based business like a shop then you can also ask customers to leave their information for offers and updates. 

Offer discount codes

Subscriber only offers are a popular way to gain more email addresses. As above mentions, people like free stuff! Create a discount code or offer in your welcome email that is exclusive to signing up to your mailing list. 

No junk mail
Nobody likes to be added to a list without their permission.

Don’t over send emails 

Email marketing is a great way to keep in touch with your sign ups. Over sending marketing emails can be annoying to most people cyphering through their inboxes in the morning. You don’t want your readers to receive updates so frequently that they form a habit of deleting them without reading them. Also continuously over offering will devalue your product so don’t have a continuous offer with every email shoot out. 

Legal Issues

Mail sign up forms have an optional double opt in where the person signing up will have to verify their opt in by clicking their email from the inbox of the email that they used to sign up with. This shows the email marketing platform along with spam filters that your are legitimate and are sending to people that want to receive your mail. Selling data without permission from the subscriber is illegal and now a well known fact since GDPR came into play and it’s for the best in our opinion. Be clear and concise on what your potential subscribers are signing up for from the get go. Make sure your email footer contains contact details for your business and a link which allows people to unsubscribe from your list. Make sure the unsubscribe link is working too or you will end up in spam boxes. 

The end.

We hope you enjoyed the post and have given you enough tips and advice on building your mailing list. It’s no easy feat and is a slow grower – it takes time and effort like all good things so start now and reap the benefits of having a mailing list later on.

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Jon Jo Krupski
Jon Jo Krupski
Jon aka JJ joined the Elite team in 2015 and helped build our product line until 2019. With a keen understanding of all aspects of marketing, from SEO to email, Jon now writes for the Elite blog. Previously, he worked in advertising and journalism, writing for local newspapers in the UK before pursuing his career in digital marketing. Jon is a huge fan of the MCU and is a keen advocate of the future of the web world.

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