Hook, Line, and Sinker: 7 Email List Building Strategies To Help You Reel in New Customers

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on January 24th, 2017. Emily Riedy has updated it to reflect current insights and data. 

Email marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways to sell your products. Studies have shown that for every dollar invested, email has an average return-on-investment (ROI) of $38.

With stats like that, who wouldn’t want to develop a stellar email marketing strategy? But before your email marketing campaigns can take off, you first need to invest in the foundational components. 

Besides writing compelling content and deciding on a clear call to action, email list building is an essential part of any email marketing strategy. 

Whether you’re starting from scratch or have been actively building your email lists for some time and are simply looking for new inspiration, read on to discover: 

What’s an email list?

Email marketing may be an essential part of your marketing strategy, but your success heavily depends on your email list. 

An email list is a collection of email addresses your business can send marketing communications to. In simple terms, it’s the number of subscribers you have—either to your general branded content or to something more specific, like your newsletter.

Similar to the old adage, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” if you create compelling content and you have no one to send it to, does it make an impact?  

It doesn’t—although that probably doesn’t come as a huge surprise. Without an audience to send your emails to, your email marketing campaigns are essentially null and void. 

How does email list building help you reach new customers?

Building an email list allows you to share information about your business directly with the people who want to receive it. 

With a strategically built up email list, the world is your oyster—your messaging and brand voice has a much stronger reach. 

You can inform your subscribers about your business (i.e., new product launches, special or seasonal promotions, VIP programs), increase your conversions or sales by encouraging subscribers to make their first purchase, and re-engage past-purchasers with targeted messages. 

Email list building is an invaluable part of your business’s growth. The more people you can reach and dazzle with your content, the more potential customers you could have knocking on your door—or in this case, clicking on your ecommerce website.

Develop good email list building habits from the beginning

Practicing good email list building habits helps ensure that you comply with the laws and regulations that govern email marketing. 

Laws such as CAN-SPAM, CASL, and GDPR establish requirements and standards for commercial messages and protect the rights of email recipients. 

Commercial messages are defined as any electronic mail message with the primary purpose of advertisement or promotion of a product or service. This includes your business’s browse abandonment emailsabandoned cart emails, welcome emails, or newsletter emails—to name a few. 

The regulations you need to follow when building your email list (and subsequently sending emails) depend on the country of the recipient, as well as the location of the server sending the emails. 

If you’re sending marketing emails from your business in the United States to customers in Canada, you’ll have to follow the US’s and Canada’s laws regarding email marketing.

How can you remain compliant as you begin the process of email list building? 

First and foremost, use a double opt-in as your first line of defense. The process of double opt-in requests that your new subscribers confirm their email address, ensuring that their sign-up was intentional and that they entered their email address correctly. 

Also, include your business contact information and clear opt-out instructions. 

If, for whatever reason, one of your customers no longer wants to receive communications from you, providing an easy opt-out experience can help you maintain a positive buyer relationship. 

Also, cleaning your lists regularly will help to ensure that as your list grows, customers who have opted out aren’t accidentally continuing to receive messages from your business. 

Why is that important? Because sending communications to customers who have opted out will hurt your sender reputation and negatively impact your email deliverability.       

As you build your email list and continue to grow it, following good list building practices from the beginning increases your likelihood of getting your emails into your customers’ inboxes and consequently generating substantial revenue from your email campaigns.   

Email list building strategies

Email list building is an essential part of your business’s growth strategy—there’s no question about it. But what are some tangible ways you can build your list? 

I’ve curated a list of seven strategies to help you tackle the process. 

1 | Facebook lead ads

Many brands use creative Facebook ads to reach new consumers. Some ad types can be used to sell your products with a call-to-action (CTA), while others can entice shoppers to sign up for your email list. 

Using Facebook leads ads is a quick way to add subscribers to your email list. When a user clicks on your Facebook lead ad, a form pops up and they’re automatically prompted to submit their information (i.e., their first and last name, email address, and phone number) in exchange for additional product information or a special promotion. 

Some marketing automation platforms make it easy to set up an integration between your Facebook lead ads and your email lists, so that all of that customer data seamlessly syncs with your existing system.  

2 | Embed a signup form to your homepage

Your homepage is the first page that shoppers see when they visit your website, so it’s a good place to embed your newsletter or promotional signup forms.

Different companies go about it in slightly different ways. Travel website, Nomadic Matt, displays their signup form above the fold in a prominent and clearly visible place:

signup form on Nomadic Matt

While GymShark has theirs just below the fold (you need to scroll down to see it):

gym shark signup form

And Summersalt has theirs in the footer of the webpage:

summersalt signup form

Are you unsure of where your embedded signup form should go? Try testing out different placement options to see what works best for your business and which one resonates with your audience.

3 | Use social media

Did you know that Instagram has over a billion global active users?

That’s a huge potential audience pool (and customer pool) for your brand to tap into. You can use social media platforms to your advantage by adding email signup options to your business profile or directing shoppers to a landing page through a link in bio or swipe up link.

If a potential customer discovers you on social media and decides they want to stay in the know with your brand, give them the option to easily do so!

4 | Leverage order confirmation emails for email list building

When you allow your customer to check out as a guest, you’re not legally allowed to use their email address for anything other than sending transactional emails, or emails that pertain to their order, unless they explicitly consent to marketing emails in the process. 

But that doesn’t mean you have to sit out on the sidelines. Encourage your customers to subscribe to your email list by including signup information in your order confirmation and shipping confirmation emails

Chubbies does just that. In the bottom section of their order confirmation email, the apparel brand encourages customers to subscribe to their rewards program.

Chubbies order confirmation email

chubbies order confirmation email

chubbies rewards program

That way you’re giving your customer the information they need about their order, while also maximizing your opportunity to build your email list.

5 | Use out of stock messaging for email capture

For shoppers, seeing that the item they want is out of stock can be a headache. You know the situation I’m talking about—you’re eager to buy a product from a brand you love, you attempt to place that item in your shopping cart, and then BAM! You’re hit with an out of stock notification. 

But clever ecommerce marketers use those back in stock messages to their advantage. 

When you notify a customer that an item is out of stock, give them an option to receive notifications when that item comes back in stock. You’ll potentially gain another subscriber, and your customer has the option to purchase that item in the future.

6 | Set up a loyalty program

A loyalty program is a rewards program offered by a company to their customers who frequently make purchases. In exchange for signing up to your loyalty program, your customers can receive free merchandise, specialty rewards or coupons, early access to newly released products, and more.

A unique component of loyalty programs is the “refer a friend” campaign. When your customers “refer a friend”, they invite their family and friends to sign up to your company’s loyalty program in exchange for coupons and other rewards. 

Harry’s used the “refer a friend” campaign when they launched a new product line. They advertised that the more people you referred, the better your rewards would be. And it worked! 

harrys referral program

Seventy-seven percent of all email addresses collected during their pre-launch loyalty program campaign came from referrals—20,000 subscribers referred about 65,000 friends. Talk about an effective email list building strategy.

7 | Use popups

Here’s the thing about popups: They work, and they work well.

On a website, you may encounter a popup that looks like this:

ilia beauty popup

Or like this:

ua signup form

Popups come in all different shapes and sizes, and different user actions can trigger them to appear. Some of the most popular ones include:

  • Time-based popups: Your pop-up will appear after a user on your site is active for a predetermined amount of time. For example, you might want to trigger a popup after 30 seconds or a minute depending on how long you want shoppers to browse.. 
  • Content based popups: This popup will show when a user visits a specific page or product. You can set up different pop-up offers to appear for different product categories or pages.
  • Scroll based popups: These popups will appear when a site visitor has scrolled a specific percentage down your page (think 15 or 30 percent down a given page). 
  • Exit intent popups: An exit intent popup will appear the moment a shopper is about to leave your website. These popups can be especially useful on checkout pages if you offer a percentage or dollar amount discount off your customer’s order.
  • Opening offer popups: This popup shows up when a user first arrives on a page on your site as a kind of “thank you for visiting my business” gesture.

There isn’t one type of popup that’s guaranteed to bring in the most subscribers. It all depends on your audience and the type of products you sell. So, the best advice I can offer is to test out different styles of popups and stick with one that works best for you.

The same goes for the offer you advertise on your popup to entice new visitors to subscribe.

Brands have had success with offering a percentage or monetary amount off their shopper’s next purchase, offering free shipping with their first order, offering product updates, or simply offering to join a newsletter. 

So again, test different popup offers and stick with the one that works best for your business.   

Take every opportunity to invest in email list building 

Your business has something special to share with the world. But if you have no one to share it with, then there’s nowhere to direct all your hard work. 

Email list building is a way for you to effectively spread the good news about your business, convert new potential customers, and ultimately, drive sales. 

If you take the time to outline strategic and thoughtful ways to build your email list, you’ll make sure that your content gets in front of the people who want it most and who are most likely to buy from your brand, time and time again. 

Want to learn more about growing your email list? Check out these website optimization tips that can help!

Design and manage your signup forms like never before.

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