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13 Proven Strategies to Build a Massive Mailing List

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Here at 9 Clouds, we have long preached the importance of email marketing and created an entire course about that. We are, thus, very excited to welcome two email list building experts to share tips in today’s post.

Matthew Paulson is the author of Email Marketing Demystified and Rebecca McKeever works for MarketBeat.com, a digital publishing company that generates more than $2.5 million in annual revenue through email marketing.

Matt has a new book and you can claim a copy here: http://www.myemailmarketingbook.com/. I’ll jump in occasionally in italics. Enjoy!


Your company offers great products and services. Your website offers compelling content. Yet, you just can’t seem to get your users to regularly come back to your website, read more of your content and buy your products and services. more. Even with a modern website or a beautiful storefront, you are forced to wait for customers to come to you.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Through the power of email marketing, you gain the ability to instantly communicate with your entire audience on your schedule.

Email is one of the most powerful marketing channels available to any marketer and the numbers agree:

  • A business will earn an average of $43.00 for every $1.00 invested in email marketing. (DMA, 2013)
  • More than 2.5 billion people regularly use email and 2.8 billion will have email access by 2018. (Radicati, 2014)
  • Email is 40 times better at acquiring new customers than Facebook and Twitter. (McKinsey & Co., 2014)
  • 66% of consumers have made a purchase directly because of a marketing email. (DMA, 2013)
  • 72% of consumers say that email is their preferred way to communicate with companies. (Forrester, 2014)

If you want to leverage the power of email marketing, you are going to have to start building your mailing list. Here are 13 proven strategies to build a massive mailing list. Start implementing as many as you can into your business strategy today.

13 Strategies to Build an Email List

1. Optimize Opt-Ins On Your Website

The most obvious way to get someone on your email list is to have them opt-in on your website.

This is where search engine optimization and social media do come into play– the number of opt-ins on your website will be related to how much traffic your website gets. Place several opt-in forms on your website (hint: entry pop-up and footer opt-in forms are especially effective).

Make sure these forms have a good headline and description explaining what’s in it for your users. The value you provide to your users in exchange for their email address is the “lead magnet.” Experiment with one aspect of your opt-in forms at a time to figure out what’s most inviting to your users. Focus on gradually increasing the effectiveness of your opt-in forms while you also increase traffic to your website, and soon your list will be building itself automatically from your website.

You can see our sign-up form on the right side of the blog as an example.

2. Try Co-Registration Advertising

Co-registration advertising networks allow you to advertise on other websites’ “thank you” pages for a small fee per sign-up. After someone signs up for a mailing list on a website that is running a co-registration ad unit, they will be presented a list of offers from third-party advertisers. You can be one of those advertisers. This can be very effective because your ad will just be shown to people who have already shown an interest in your topic. 

3. Make Your Email Content Sharable

If you publish an email newsletter, place social media sharing buttons and a “forward to a friend” link in each of your newsletters. Then place a call-to-action at the bottom of your newsletter with a link to subscribe, which will encourage anyone who received a forwarded copy of your newsletter to sign-up for your mailing list.

4. Archive Email Content on Website

Consider adding the content of your emails to an archive on your website. This will allow viewers to see how valuable the information that you send is, and all this additional content can add SEO value to your website and help to increase organic traffic to your site.

5. Ask Your Real-Life Customers to Sign Up

If you own a physical store or have any other kind of retail location, ask every customer if they want to sign-up for your email list at checkout. You can ask each customer something like, “Would you like to sign-up for our mailing list and periodically get coupons in your email?” 

6. Leverage Your Email Signature                 

Add a link to your email signature and your employees’ email signatures that contains a call-to-action and a link to sign-up for your mailing list.

7. Run a Contest or Give-Away

Find something of high perceived value that you can use as a giveaway or a contest prize, like an iPad or a large gift certificate. Require everyone participating in the contest to sign-up for your mailing list in order to enter the contest. Promote the contest through your personal and company social media channels, as well as any other marketing channels that you might have available. Remember to add social sharing buttons to the contest page on your website to make it easily shareable.

8. Social Media Offers

Develop a high-value lead magnet or another offer, such as an e-book or free report, and share it on all of your available social media channels. Require that users enter their email address in order to access the lead magnet or other offer item.

Have a look at our research on email gating for more advice.

9. YouTube Annotations and Links

If you or your company has a YouTube Channel, add calls-to-action in your videos to subscribe to your mailing list. To do this, use annotations and your video description to include hyperlinks back to a landing page on your website where users can opt-in to your mailing list or respond to another offer.

10. Setup Google AdWords

If you have money to invest in your list building campaign, you can use Google AdWords to drive traffic to a landing page where users can enter their email address in exchange for a lead magnet or another offer. Make sure to use the conversion tracking pixel that Google provides in order to identify which keywords and ads are driving the most opt-ins. After your campaign has been running a while, you can use Google’s cost-per-action (CPA) bidding to optimize for email sign-ups.

11. Gather Emails at a Trade Show

If your organization is ever presenting at a trade show, you have a prime opportunity to gather new email sign-ups. Allow attendees to enter a drawing for a valuable prize by dropping their business card into a fishbowl. You will need to disclose to contest participants that by doing so they are signing up for your mailing list.

12. Put QR Codes in Your Print Marketing Material

If your business makes use of print marketing material, consider adding a QR code that users can easily scan with their phones. Use the QR code to redirect users to a mobile-friendly landing page on your website where you can ask them to opt in to your mailing list.

13. Add a Facebook Page Call-To-Action

If your organization has a Facebook business page setup, you can add a call-to-action button on the header of your Facebook page to attract email sign-ups. To do this, navigate to your business page and click the “Create Call to Action” button in the header of your page. I recommend choosing “Sign Up” as your call to action and linking to a page on your website where users can enter their email address to receive valuable content from you.

Start Building Your Email List

When you implement these list building strategies in your business, you will begin to build a mailing list and gain the opportunity to send content and marketing material to your mailing list on your own schedule. You won’t have to wait for customers to show up at your door. The email content you send out will turn website visitors into leads and leads into customers.

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