An email list is the closest thing you can have to a money-printing press. Online, your list is everything.
In case you didn't already know, building your email/lead list is one of the most important tasks for your business. Also known as lead capturing, it's how you bring people from other audiences into yours.
If you sell products on Amazon/Facebook, those are Amazon/Facebook's customers; NOT yours. Whether you utilize or sell on Instagram, Etsy, LinkedIn, YouTube, or anywhere else, those companies retain the customer contact information, so the customers are theirs (NOT yours). In these situations, you're also at the mercy of these channels changing their algorithms or randomly banning your profile.
Building your list is how you build your very own, safe and secure community to do as you please (kind of). Email marketing remains a pillar of not only online marketing, but marketing as a whole. It is also heavily utilized throughout almost every step of your sales funnel.
Given that building your list is one of the most important things you can possibly do, here is a list of 29 great ways to build yours. Good luck and happy hunting.
29) Have The Right Tools
Complete your arsenal
While we will explore some offline methods, we will primarily focus on generating online leads and managing them within software.
At the top of your necessary-tools list is your email service provider (ESP), which is a software that allows you to collect and manage email subscribers, aka leads or prospects.
You'll also need plenty of valuable content to send your leads throughout their buying process. This means that you'll need whatever equipment and tools you need to create that content.
You can get fancy and add a million more tools, but the basics are your ESP, your content, and whichever extras you want to use.
28) Have a Website
When you own a website, you are accessible to millions.
The Millionaire Fastlane
Technically, you don't NEED a website to build your list. You also don't NEED to wear shoes to run a mile, but they sure help. The point is that your website can play a pivotal role in the success of your business, so it's more than worth your time to build up that real estate.
Nowadays, your website can replace or even improve upon "in-store" experiences. Websites now offer a virtual showroom, live chat, content silos, a self-paced buying process, and many more benefits.
We'll talk more about this later, but just keep in mind, that your website will/should play a HUGE role in building your email/leads list.
27) Create a Lead Magnet
Everyone will eventually leave your site, so understand this – if they leave without opting in to your list or buying something, then the odds of them returning are slim to none.
Ok, so you have your website and your email service provider (ESP). Now what?
Next, comes THE MOST IMPORTANT step in your list building, and maybe even in your entire business. That step is creating a compelling lead magnet to exchange for your visitor's contact info.
Check this out to learn a lot more about creating effective lead magnets. Remember that your bait directly affects which "animal" you attract. So carefully craft your bait to attract exactly who you want.
26) Lead Magnets EVERYWHERE
So now you have your carefully crafted lead magnet. Now what to do with it? Luckily, the answer is clear and simple; put that puppy EVERYWHERE. That's right.
You can get as creative as you want here. You can place links to your lead magnets in your email signature, on your business cards, all over your website, on your business's Facebook page, in your personal social media bios and posts, in your book, on your brochures, and anywhere else you want.
This might seem like over-doing it, and maybe it is, but keep in mind that your lead magnet is the first official step that prospects take onto your buying path. It's your job to fill that path as you see fit.
Remember that your goal is to make it as easy and frictionless to opt in to your list.
Bake lead magnets into your website’s menu, header, footer, pop-up messages, and EVERY blog post.
The Conversion Code
25) Create a Landing Page
Literally, a page you land on
I just mentioned including a link to your lead magnet everywhere you can. But where exactly does that link take them? You next step is to have a dedicated landing/squeeze page for your lead magnet.
A squeeze page is a web page where the visitor is guided toward taking a single, specific action.
Of course, their other option is to leave. This means don't include any links or other distractions that could lead your reader away from taking the action you want them to.
Your landing page is simply where your lead magnet lives and entertains visitors. Make it count.
For online lead generation and conversion, landing pages are a much better option than websites...Content is not king if your goal is capturing and converting leads – design, being purposeful, and landing pages are king.
The Conversion Code
24) Publish Consistently
While your landing pages are definitely important, there's a good chance that most of your subscribers will never see it, because they will sign up elsewhere on your site, which is a good thing.
Choose a platform (or two) and publish CONSISTENTLY. It doesn't matter if it's your blog, or YouTube channel, or Instagram account or whatever, but fresh content brings in fresh eyeballs.
Each post adds another link to your content into the universe, and also creates (online) real estate that didn't exist before. The point is that consistent publishing is quickly followed by consistent leads.
As for your existing contacts, seeing your content builds trusts and inches them toward buying.
At the end of the day, you attract followers by publishing relevant interesting content about your topic/niche. It can either be content you create or curate.
23) Ask Them To
So that's what that's for
I'm not sure if this counts as a tactic, but it's worth mentioning that you must actually ask them to do what you want! This is not the time to be shy; your lead magnet is your baby and it needs promotion.
This may seem obvious, but you'd be surprised at how many lead magnet offers (and even primary offers) end with a weak, timid, shy call-to-action, if any, out of fear of seeming "sales-y".
People need your help to know what to do. Do them the huge favor of telling them what to do next. Like I'm telling you now, tell them exactly what to do. "Sign up for [lead magnet]!" works great.
People are busy. If you leave them wondering what to do, they are not going to do it.
Shoot a Video That Doesn't Suck
22) Repurpose Content (Or Don't)
If you have ALREADY published content of any kind, then you're in luck, because then you can sift through to find out what resonates most with your target customer.
Getting a lot of engagement and sign-ups on your content about email marketing, or podcasting, or whatever? Then bundle up your best content on that topic and make it your lead magnet!
Many people spend weeks, or even months, racking their brain for lead magnet ideas, when often, their best-performing content can just be combined, summarized and reformatted.
Exclusivity: On the other hand, you can also choose to strictly NOT re-use content. For example, if you want to position your lead magnet (or product offer or social channel) as the exclusive, go-to source of great topical content, then it might be best to NOT reuse and "re-post" content from that channel.
You can turn it into audio too
Consider this as general marketing advice...USE VIDEO in any way you can. Use YouTube or Instagram videos or Facebook live or webinars or many other options, but whatever you do, use video.
Why? Because the world has shifting towards video for a long time now. I believe we're in the last years where businesses can survive without a video presence. Especially now that the world has gone virtual, even brick-and-mortar stores would benefit from virtual video tours or product videos.
You can use YouTube to drive traffic, or a free video training as your lead magnet. The fact is that people consume video and they're being programmed to now EXPECT video from your marketing materials. Pretty soon, you won't have a choice, so you'd be wise to get started before that happens.
A great video can increase conversation rates on a landing page, better convey your message in a Facebook ad, and even drive up your email open rates.
The Conversion Code
20) Interact (Online and Offline)
As you might expect, one of the best ways to build your contact/leads list is put yourself out there!
This means find, join, and contribute to relevant communities where your prospects and peers hang out. You could join Facebook groups, or attend conferences, or answer questions on Quora, or a million other things, but the important thing is to get "out there" and meet people in any way.
You could also comment on popular blogs, or join your local Toastmasters group, or join a group coaching program. The point is to immerse yourself into your industry and get your name, business, social profiles, and lead magnet (link) out into your world.
This doesn't mean plaster your link (or business card) everywhere, but that for things to change, or for your business to grow, you have to shake things up, meet new people, and make your value clear.
Once upon a time, before the internet
In today's internet-crazed world, there is actually a goldmine being ignored which is to collect leads and build your list OFF-line. Remember that building your list is much more about lead quality than quantity, and offline methods allow you to find and sign up some of your hottest leads.
Admittedly, offline leads are slightly harder to get than online leads, but that little inconvenience is actually a good thing because most of your competitors are too lazy to go there.
Let's put it this way; even almighty tech giant Google uses old-fashioned direct mail marketing to promote their ad platform. If tech-centered Google can benefit from offline marketing, then so can you.
Other offline tactics include in-person networking, trade show booths, hosting live events, as well as some of the following tactics below.
18) Write (Publish) a Book
It's easier (and better for your business) than you think
Sticking with the offline list-building tactics, one of the best things you can do for your business for MANY reasons, but also to build your list, is a write a book. Yes, I know that sounds terrifying.
Or maybe not. Most people believe that they "have a book inside them", so here is your sign from the universe to get started on it. For those who don't write often, writing an entire book can seem like a mountain of a task, but as with everything, getting started is often the hardest part.
There are many great books and talks on the benefits and relative ease of writing a book, so for now, just know that it's easier than it sounds, it will benefit you in many ways, and it builds your list.
Not only can your book get you leads, it often gets you the highest quality leads. And remember:
You shouldn't be selling your book; your book should be selling you.
The free book offer in lead-generation advertising very often outperforms and other kind of lead generation...Your book is not just a book; it's a foundation to build your business.
Book The Business
17) Host Events / Webinars
I know that COVID put a damper on in-person events, but know that throwing live (real-time) events works great to build your list. In-person events work great if you have the stomach and resourcefulness to make them happen, while live virtual events like webinars are more scalable.
"Live" (real-time) EVERYTHING is making a strong comeback in the 2020s, partially resulting from the explosion of "self-paced" courses and coaching in the online and offline marketing worlds.
Many people are realizing that they like the "live" factor, so they are gravitating toward real-time marketing such as Facebook/Instagram live, live webinars, live coaching calls, and more.
People love attending events, so give the people what they want, and build your list in the process.
There are a lot of benefits to creating your own automated webinars. There are a powerful tool that can be used for many different applications such as list-building, lead-generation, or converting sales.
No BS: Presentations and Webinars
16) Public Speaking
Learn a valuable skill
Public speaking is another offline list-building tactic, and it also involves live, real-time events.
There are many stages that need a confident, warm body to deliver value to a pre-assembled crowd. With a small amount of effort, you can find speaking opportunities at local colleges, MeetUp groups, conferences, libraries, corporate events, chambers of commerce, and more.
Yes, you probably won't share a stage with Tony Robbins (at first), but public speaking is not only a great skill to learn, but depending on your type of business, you can also find high-quality local leads.
Not to mention this will also establish you as an expert in your community, AND provide you with a ton of raw marketing material from the video of your presentation (that you should always record).
Speaking engagements are one of the few traction channels that can quickly cement your place in an industry...Speaking at small events can improve your speaking abilities, give you some early traction, and spread your story or message.
15) Wi-Fi Marketing
Effective despite the popularity of unlimited data plans
This is a clever, sneaky option for in-person events and brick-and-mortar businesses. Wi-Fi marketing simply means requiring users to opt in to your list to gain Wi-Fi access wherever you are.
Similar to how airport Wi-Fi makes you log in, it serves as a strong somewhat-offline lead magnet. Not much to say about this one. It works well for live events, brick-&-mortar businesses, and more.
14) Pop-Ups and Banners
Now we're getting to the standard tactics, so let's get the things everyone loves; website pop-ups. And banners. Love 'em or hate 'em, pop-ups and banners have survived for decades because they work.
You may not have noticed, but there are actually many different kinds of pop-ups such as those that are timed, or arrive when you (try to) "exit", or when you reach a certain section of a web page.
Preferably, you can find a way to use smart pop-ups, where you don't repeatedly ask existing leads to re-sign up, but in any case, use pop-ups and banners to effectively build your list.
Here's an example of a great pop-up.
13) Quizzes & Surveys
Whether you personally like filling out quizzes or not, the numbers are in, and people love them.
On one hand, meaningless quizzes such as "What kind of pizza are you?" or "Which Harry Potter character are you?" work great. However, quizzes can also be used for list-building purposes if re-titled something like "Which social platform should you commit to?"
The point is that people LOVE getting analyzed, diagnosed and prescribed a customized solution. So give your leads what they want and let them pre-answer your sales/discovery-call questions for you!
Surveys serve a similar purpose by giving participants the chance to have their opinion "heard".
People love taking quizzes online...the popularity of interactive media, including online surveys and quizzes, is only growing.
The Digital Marketing Handbook
12) Contests and Challenges
Competitiveness is powerful and dangerous like dynamite
Similar to quizzes, something about human psychology draws people to challenges and contests. Maybe it's the competitive part of it, so give them plenty of chances to better their chances of winning.
Whether it's a contest or a challenge, participants are "competing" against 1) you, 2) themselves, or 3) other participants. You can make the prize "real" such as a book or iPad, or you could make it less tangible such as a free service, coupon, or maybe most importantly, PUBLIC ACKNOWLEDGEMENT.
11) Be My Guest
I mentioned earlier that the world has many stages that need speakers. In the same sense, every blog and social channel needs an endless supply of content, so use this to your advantage.
Message others in your and related industries, and see if you can organize becoming a guest on their podcast, or blog, YouTube channel or whatever. Even better if you can supply the entire article or video, so that you leave your host with very little work to do.
Of course, this takes some finesse and some relationship-building, but do your best to strengthen your online image, build some authority, and offer to be a guest on other people's platforms.
If you already have your own platform, then you can always invite or host guests as well.
Safety in numbers
In addition to guest appearances, there are actually many more ways to collaborate with others in your space. For one, we've already touched on creating content together. This can be a guest post, or an interview, or a series of videos on a certain topic.
More importantly, you can also team up with others to create OFFERS. If you're a Facebook Ads expert and you're friend is a Google Ads expert, maybe you can team up to launch a course or training.
You could co-write a book, co-host an event, or co-create a mastermind group. These are just a few ideas but the possibilities of how you can team up with people is endless.
You also gain "double power" by promoting to you and your collaborator's audiences.
9) Paid Advertising
Advertising is multiplied salesmanship.
Now let's get to the most obvious and expensive way of building your list, which is advertising. Of the 19 ways we've listed so far on how to grow your list, this option can provide the fastest results.
Facebook is the big fish in advertising land right now, but whether you use Google, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn, or whichever other ads, paid ads can fast-forward your results.
Keep in mind that advertising is not the easy ticket to success that some businesses hope it to be. Advertising is just a tool that accelerates your results, for better or worse.
Every list-building tactic on this list can "make" a business, but paid ads offer a unique opportunity to quickly scale your reach and revenue, if you do it right.
Still on the advertising topic, there is one type of advertising that can be particularly useful for many businesses, and that is re-marketing, AKA re-targeting.
Remarketing is basically when visitors view, click, visit, scroll over, or take some kind of (online) action, and then you follow them around the internet with ads, based on that action they took.
Use retargeting. Just because you don’t close on your first try, doesn’t mean you won't close on your 2nd...Retargeting can provide one of your best sources of traffic and leads without ever capturing any info.
The Conversion Code
Search Amazon for toys for your niece and you'll start seeing parent-targeted ads everywhere. This is not by accident. You can trigger ads to "follow" people around for all types of actions they take.
If you don't believe me, just TALK (or even think) about a type or brand of product when you're near your phone, and then watch as Instagram and Facebook magically show you ads for that. The phone-always-recording-your-voice thing isn't exactly the same, but you get the point.
Focusing on retargeting (paying) just to build your list may seem like a luxury, but this can be more than worth it for high or recurring-revenue business such as agencies, software, or home remodelers.
They say people have to "see " a brand or product 10 times to remember it. Retargeting helps.
7) Personal Social
This is a very interesting, simple, and effective tactic, yet most marketers and entrepreneurs are too scared to use it. That tactic is using your PERSONAL social profile "walls" for lead-generation.
For example, your Facebook or LinkedIn may have your job title listed somewhere, but is a link to your lead magnet in your personal bio? Have you posted to allow leads to identify themselves?
Every once in a while, you can explicitly discuss what you do, that you're open for business, and that those interested leave a comment, or take some kind of action (to identify themselves as leads).
The common excuse against using this very effective tactic is that people don't want to "sound desperate" to their network. There are many reasons why this shouldn't stop you, but here are a few:
1) You'll probably never see in-person, most of your Facebook or "online" friends
2) The rest are family and close friends who won't judge you
3) What matters is that they'll remember you the next time they, or someone they know, needs a dating coach, or motorcycle mechanic, or video editor, or whatever.
6) Web Push Notifications
You know how the apps on your phone can send you reminders/notifications (unless you've turned them off), which need to be swiped away? Imagine that power over someone's web browser.
While your Instagram feed and even phone screen get bombarded by marketing messages, your lead's laptop and web browser "screens" are relatively virgin and untouched. Until now.
For one, allowing your web push notifications is as easy as a single click. This builds a new list altogether, which you can funnel back to your email list.
5) Text to Join
So far, leads have signed up through their email and web browser, but there's another touch-point we haven't utilized yet, which is their phone.
With Text-to-Join campaigns, you can tell your audience to "text 'join' to 56884." This now gives you access to a third universe, which includes their email inbox, web browser, and now, their text inbox.
If your business has a phone-heavy sales process, then it may be especially worth it to start with Text-to-Join. The point is that you want to give leads every which way to receive your messaging.
You must also use automated emails and text messages...You’ll likely get more REPLIES to an auto-text, than OPENS to a drip email.
The Conversion Code
He looks nice
Website chatbots have emerged as a hot topic in the 2020s, and for good reason. Chatbots allow your website to have a 24-hour concierge to guide your visitor around, and answer any questions.
Once they type in a question, you can respond with "Thanks for the question! Please input your email in case we aren't available to answer right away..." And boom, you're building your list.
List-building aside, chatbots have many uses and are great to answer common questions. You can even think of chatbots as "advanced quizzes", given they both analyze inputs to prescribe a solution.
3) Incentivize Referrals
This is more of a unilateral tactic, in that you should try to incentivize referrals however you can. The obnoxious example is an iPad giveaway where they get extra entries into the drawing for every extra person they sign up, or for every time they share or re-post something on their social feed wall.
The more polite, effective, and sustainable way to incentivize referrals is the old-fashioned way of asking for them. Carefully craft messaging to your current clients/customers flat-out asking them for referrals of someone that could maybe "use your help".
Of course, you should make the process of referring people to you as easy and rewarding as possible for them. Most importantly, ALWAYS say thanks when they do refer someone to you.
You always have the option of monetarily incentivizing referrals, which is fine, but I think of my network as a community, so I generally give (and expect) simply a solid thanks or sign of appreciation.
Referrals are a prime source of lowering labor intensity and increasing margins, since they entail virtually no cost of acquisition...If you’re not asking for referrals daily, then you’re not serious about marketing.
Million Dollar Consulting
2) Start Before Launch
Many people delay from starting to build their list because they don't have a completed offer or product to ship, but this isn't as big a hurdle as it appears to be.
You could simply have a 1-page website that says "coming soon" and allows visitors to opt in for future release information. Yes, you'll have to do more work to generate quality traffic, but the point is that you CAN build your list, and even take orders, on offers that are not finished or even created yet.
Think of just about every product on Kickstarter and/or Indiegogo. These products don't even exist yet, and forget opting in; many people fully pre-BUY these yet-unfinished products.
The point is that you can start building your list before your product/service/offer is ready to go.
1) Keep It Clean
Scrub a dub
As one last suggestion, do your best to keep your email list clean. This suggestion takes two forms:
1) Every so often, delete your unresponsive (uninterested) subscribers
2) DON'T EVER BUY SUBSCRIBERS OR LISTS
One, these are bottom of the barrel, low quality leads, regardless of what the salesperson tells you, and two, buying subscribers is the fastest way to get you flagged for spam, and shut down.
This isn't meant to sound so negative because it's really simple. Keep your list clean. That's all.
The success of an email marketing campaign isn't measured by the number of subscribers; rather, it's measured by the quality of the subscribers on the actions they take as a result of your email.
The Digital Marketing Handbook
This post contains affiliate links