Advertiser Disclosure

How to Build an Email List: 15 Easy but Effective Tactics

Editorial Note: Fundera exists to help you make better business decisions. That’s why we make sure our editorial integrity isn’t influenced by our own business. The opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations in this article are those of our editorial team alone.

Snapchat, YouTube, and other social media channels may get all the buzz these days, but for most small businesses, the most effective digital marketing method is still email. Now, you’re probably wondering how to build an email list to boost traffic, sales, and build an engaged audience. 

More than 90% of people like to get promotional emails from companies they do business with, according to MarketingSherpa, and 865 want to get these emails at least once a month.

But building an email marketing list is a challenge for many small businesses, whether they’re launching their first email marketing campaigns, or have been using email marketing for ages. People change their email addresses, lose interest in your product, or drop off your list, so you need to keep getting new subscribers to keep it fresh.

Here’s how to build your email list using 15 easy—but effective—tactics.

How to Build an Email List: 15 Tactics

1. Keep it simple.

The less information you request from subscribers, the more likely people are to join your email list. This is because, for every question you ask, you’re increasing the barrier to entry. So, the first rule of how to build an email list—just ask for an email address.

2. Make it easy to find.

Put an email sign-up box on your website homepage and make sure it stands out. The top right-hand corner of your site is where most people look first.

3. Create a landing page for email signups.

Links to sign up for your email list should go to this page. A standalone page is a great way to get emails and build your list.  

4. Use pop-ups on your website.

For best results, pop-ups shouldn’t pop up immediately—who wants to sign up for emails when they haven’t even seen what your site has to offer? Instead, trigger the email pop-ups to appear when a user is midway through a blog post or has visited a certain number of pages—something that shows interest in your site.

5. Partner with a complementary business.

For example, a pet groomer could work with a local veterinarian. Create a joint marketing email and send it to your own lists. This way, you introduce the other business to your customers, and vice versa.

how to build an email list

6. Use guest Wi-Fi to build your email list.

If you own a store, restaurant, auto repair shop, or other business where customers frequently want to use your Wi-Fi, make providing their email part of the login process.

7. Offer special content in exchange for email addresses.

B2B businesses use this tactic a lot, but it can work for B2C companies, too. Offer customers a free ebook or ask them to sign up for a webinar—but require that they provide their email address first.

8. Promote your email list offline.

Put signs up in your store, restaurant, or other physical location encouraging customers to sign up. (Make it easier by letting them text you their email address to do so.)

9. Put it in print.

You can print email signup info on your invoices, include it in the packaging when you ship orders, or put it on your receipts.

10. Ask in person.

Always have your salespeople, waitstaff, or other employees who interact with customers ask if they’d like to sign up to receive emails.

11. Use your email.

Put a link to your email signup page in your email signature, and include a link in transactional emails such as order confirmations or shipment notifications.

12. Make it a VIP thing.

Hold “daily deals” at your business or offer special promotions, but only to customers who sign up for emails.

13. Hold a contest.

The classic “business card in a fishbowl” drawing still works, but you can also hold contests on social media and require email sign-ups. Bonus: Encouraging entrants to share the contest on social media can get you even more subscribers.

14. Put “forward to a friend” links in all of your emails.

Ask recipients to share the email with anyone they think might be interested in subscribing.

15. Take advantage of any opportunity.

A trade show, your booth at a 10k race, an event you’re sponsoring—all are opportunities to build an email list. A clipboard and sign-up sheet are all it takes.

how to build an email list

How to Build an Email List: The Final Word

The last, but most important, tip on how to build an email list is to be sure you follow FTC regulations regarding emails and spam. For example, if you’re asking people to provide their email address to enter a contest or get a discount, you must also communicate that by providing their email, they’re agreeing to receive emails from your business in the future. (The disclosure can be in fine print, but it still needs to be there.)

Misleading customers and sending them emails they don’t want will cost you. To learn more about how FTC CAN-SPAM laws apply to your business and how to comply, visit the FTC website.

Building an email marketing list can seem like a daunting task, but they are a small business’s best friend when reaching out to customers. Hopefully, now that we’ve reviewed these steps, you can stop wondering how to build an email list—and start building one!

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is a small business contributor for Fundera and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company. She has spent 30+ years covering, consulting and speaking to small businesses owners and entrepreneurs.