Sign up

Grow Your Email List: How to Get Subscribers, Organize Lists and Follow Spam Laws

By Nathaniel Eliason · February 16, 2015

Email matters.

"People don’t change their email addresses," notes New York Times best-selling author Jon Acuff. "Facebook, Twitter, Google+, people join and drop that pretty often. But changing your email address is a hassle. That’s why you still have friends with AOL and Hotmail accounts."

Acuff goes so far as to call his past lack of attention to building his email list the "biggest social media mistake" he's ever made. It's for good reason, too: email proves again and again it's the best way to engage customers, blog readers, fans and others. Even with the deluge of social media options, email maintains the best response rates.

That's why you need to start an email list, grow it, and optimize it for your needs. Here's everything you need to get started.

The Email Advantage

email 12 days

One of the reasons for this is the amount of time your followers have to engage with email. According to research by social media analytics company Wisemetrics, the total life of a Facebook post is only around four and a half hours, and the life of a Tweet is just over an hour.

But email? Email takes 12 days for its open rates to drop off that much.

Moreover, engagement as a percentage of your audience is much higher through email. When you put a Facebook post in front of 5,000 people, 75% or more of them won’t see it at all unless you're paying for a promoted post. It’s even worse on Twitter, where less than 10% of your audience is likely seeing each Tweet because of the number of tweets in their feed each day.

Email marketing is your best bet. So if you're not already, it's time to take advantage of this effective marketing channel. To help you do so, this post breaks down 12 ways you can utilize an email list, the simplest steps to start building a list, and 17 ideas for rapidly growing that list. Let's get started.

12 Ways to Utilize an Email List

Email lists can easily be boring if they only feature your company updates or holiday sales. Plus, they're far too much trouble if you have to write an extensive newsletter each time you want to send out an update.

Emails lists can be far more versatile than that. Here are some of the best ways you can use your email list to engage your audience and keep them excited that they signed up for your emails. Each of them may not work for your business, but even a few of them can go a long ways towards making your emails interesting and easier to send.

1. Share New Content

Zapier Updates email

Your audience want to hear from you. That's why they subscribed to your email list in the first place. But you don't have to create content just for your emails; you can send them the content you're already creating.

So if you have a blog, YouTube channel, or anywhere else that you're publishing relevant content, consider sending it to your subscribers. For example, you could send them your latest blog posts, infographics about your industry, videos of your product walkthroughs or conferences, or case studies about how people are using your product. Or, if you have new helpful documentation, consider sending it as well. And if you have too many things to share, you could bundle them together in one email, or spread them out over time.

Here at Zapier, the majority of the marketing emails we send out fall in this category. We've se tup email lists for our blog and app updates page (pictured), and send out messages whenever we publish something. That way, our fans can keep up to date with the latest things at Zapier and hopefully learn something new, while our team makes content that's great for everyone—not just for our email audience.

2. Provide Company Updates


If people took the time to sign up for your emails, they want to know about any major changes in your product or service. This is especially true if you’re working on anything that’s evolving rapidly, like a software startup with an app that has notable changes and improvements from month to month.

Sending occasional updates to your subscribers about what you’ve recently changed and improved is a good way to keep them in the loop and engaged with your company, and keep yourself accountable to your users. It doesn't even have to be that hard; the Pushbullet team, in the example above, just sent a simple email out to let people know about their latest app releases.

3. Give Access to Exclusive Content

Ryan Holiday Email Newsletter

Instead of sending out content that you’ve publicly published, try sending your email subscribers content that’s exclusively for them and isn’t found anywhere else.

By doing this, you create a special bond with your readers. They know that they’re getting content special to them, and that you aren’t just giving it away to the masses. In addition, you have an attractive offer on your site—visitors should sign up not only to be alerted of new posts, but to get special access to content that you don’t share elsewhere.

One popular writer who’s built a massive email list this way is Ryan Holiday, who has over 35,000 people signed up for his monthly reading recommendations. It’s a simple plain-text email, as in the screenshot above, with the best content he's read that month paired with short summaries of what you’ll get from each piece. He only sends this to his email list and doesn't publish it on his blog or anywhere else.

By doing this, Holiday builds his brand as someone who reads a lot, and as someone who cares about others’ self education through books.

4. Collect Product Feedback

It’s impossible to predict what will succeed in the market and what won’t. That impossibility is what’s made The Lean Startup approach so popular, since it emphasizes constant testing and getting feedback as you develop your product to make sure it’s aligning with consumer desires.

You can use your email list to move through product ideas quickly without ever having to invest in building them. To do so, put together a document outlining what you plan on building, and then send it to your email list. This strategy will work well your first year in business—as your email list will likely be smaller—but beyond that, you’ll need to segment it into different groups in order to connect with your most dedicated users.

Marketer, blogger and founder of Videofruit Bryan Harris used this tactic to validate an idea of his and make over $40,000 on it. Instead of building something and trying to force people to buy it, he simply asked his email subscribers what they were most interested in and then he delivered.

5. Source Content Topics

Beyond figuring out what type of product would be best for your followers, you can also determine what type of content they're most excited about. This could be future blog posts, videos you record, eBooks and PDFs you put together, or even podcasts.

Tim Ferriss, creator of the "4-Hour" book series and author of a popular self-improvement blog, uses his email list to figure out the best guests for his popular podcast "The Tim Ferriss Show." When he emails his readers about a new podcast release, there are two calls to action:

  • Listen to the podcast:

Tim Ferriss email
  • or Tell Ferriss who you want him to interview next:

Tim Ferriss email CTA

By doing this, he makes sure he’s interviewing individuals his audience genuinely wants to hear from and discussing topics that are of interest to his listeners.

6. Help Launch a Product

You don’t have to stop at the ideation phase. After you’ve validated an idea with your email list, you can also use that same list to help you launch a product by putting it in front of as many people as possible.

Your email subscribers already like what you’re creating, and they’ll be the most likely to buy from you. Don’t be afraid to try to sell them something that they could benefit from, especially if you were involving them in the ideation and testing phase of developing the product.

Brennan Dunn, founder of Planscope and creator of Double Your Freelancing, used this technique to re-launch his already successful book "Double Your Freelancing Rate" and make over $31,000 on it. A big part of that involved segmenting his email list based on his most engaged readers, giving them a ton of free content, and then making a hard sell at the end.

7. Strengthen Loyalty with Early Access

Duo email

This method falls between sharing specialized content and sharing your existing content. A very simple way to prioritize your email subscribers is to give them early access to anything you post or create, and to give them an extra behind the scenes look at creating it.

To do this, publish your content, then delay promoting it until you’ve given your email list an hour or two to peruse it. On top of that, you can throw in some more information that’s not included in the post, such as downloads you’re employing as lead magnets, or transcripts of interviews. Or, if you're creating software, you can give your subscribers beta access to your app, as the Duo team did in the email above.

One example of this is the Groove blog, which is focused on the helpdesk software maker's journey from $0 to $500,000 a month in revenue. They write about all of their lessons along the way, and when you sign up for their emails you get access to posts an hour before they’re promoted to the public.

8. Keep Your Community Engaged

Product Hunt email

If your site operates primarily as a community, it can be hard to keep people coming back day after day sometimes. It’s no fault of yours—people just forget, which is why email is such a good way to re-engage them and let them know about important things they might have missed.

One startup that’s leveraging this is Product Hunt. Product Hunt encourages its community to post products they find, and then the members of the community vote up the products they think are the coolest. But here’s the kicker: a product can only be on Product Hunt for one day, so you need to check it frequently or you’ll miss something.

Product Hunt makes this easy, though. At the end of each day they send out an email with the top five or ten "hunts" from that day so you don’t have to keep checking the site. It’s information their users asked for, making it non-intrusive, and it’s a reliable way to keep their users engaged.

9. Kick Off Promotions

Zapier marketing email

Aside from your regular email marketing, you may have bigger promotions or marketing campaigns that you want to involve your subscribers in.

At Zapier, we did a "28 Apps in 28 Days" campaign last year where throughout the month of February we added 28 new integrations. By having an active email list we were able to quickly promote it to our existing fans, who in turn helped share it with other people they knew.

Another example is through giveaways. Giveaways have become a popular method for growing your email list recently, and that’s not without good cause. Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income, for example, grew his email list by nearly 200,000 people with a single giveaway.

One of the biggest contributors to having his giveaway go viral, according to Flynn, was the fact that he already had a good number of people on his email list, and those people helped spark the initial sharing.

If you want to run any sort of campaign or promotion, having a good starting point in your email list is important.

10. Build a Product Around an Email List

stratechery email

For some companies, the email list isn’t just nice-to-have: it’s the core of the product. These companies usually have fast moving inventory that they need to tell their customers about quickly, and people who are joining their email list are expecting to be sent opportunities that they’ll have a limited amount of time to act on.

One example of this is the startup Dollar a Day. The premise is simple: you sign up, they bill you $30 every month, and then they donate a dollar every day to a different charity in your name. They'll then email you with info about the non-profit your dollar went to that day.

Alternately, a popular way to monetize blogs is to offer an exclusive newsletter for subscribers. Stratechery, a site by Ben Thompson with analysis about technology, offers an email subscription with an in-depth look at the important tech trends of that day. The content that's on the website is free; it's the emails that people are paying for.

If you’re selling something that customers will only have a short time to act on, or providing time sensitive and quickly changing information, then building your product around a strong email list could be an advantage.

11. Distribute Special Offers

uber email

Whether you're selling physical goods, digital downloads, or services, having an email list is a powerful way to drive more sales from past customers by sending them coupons and special offers.

One way of doing this is to send out offers around the holidays. You could have different coupons or relevant goods that you put on sale during that time period, and then let the members of your email list know about it.

Or if you want to be more advanced, you can send emails to different parts of your email list based on what they bought in the past. If you have two products that complement each other, then you should let someone know about the other one once they buy one.

You could even have a special promotion setup for people who've signed up for your emails but haven't purchased anything from you yet, such as the email from Uber above. Just setup an email automation that waits long enough to give the user a chance to buy, and then send an email to tempt them to reconsider your products.

Related: "How to Segment Email Lists for More Opens, Click-Throughs and Conversions"

12. Promote Upcoming Events

airbnb email

An email list is also a great way to build an offline community. If you have a list of subscribers interested in something very specific, maybe you sell badminton gear, you can let your subscribers know about upcoming events, such as a national tournament, that might be relevant to them.

This also gives you a chance to meet your customers in person and get valuable feedback from them. If they’re passionate about your product or service, then they’re most likely excited to meet you, too. So speaking with them at an event can help turn them into even bigger promoters of your brand, as well.

3 Steps to Start an Email List

Now that you have some ways to use your email lists, it's time to start building your list so you can start sending marketing emails. If you’ve never set up an email list for marketing purposes, this next section will help take you from zero subscribers to collecting sign-ups as fast as possible. There are only three steps:

  1. Set up an email marketing tool

  2. Start collecting email addresses

  3. Embed an email signup form on your site

But before we get started, let’s define three terms you’ll be seeing throughout the rest of this post.

Key Email List Terms

Opt-In - This refers to the process of a reader or buyer to confirm that they want to receive your email newsletter, either by clicking a button—such as the "Let's Go!" button below—to sign up, indicating that they want to receive emails from you in a form, or checking a box to receive your emails when they're signing up for your app or service.

Opt-In example

Double Opt-In - This is the process whereby someone signs up on your site, and then they receive an email asking them to confirm that they want to sign up. Subscribers will only receive your emails after they click the link in that confirmation email. This email is important since it verifies that they do actually want to sign up with that email address, and it can help prevent you from getting in trouble for sending spam.

Double Opt-In example

Welcome Email - This is usually the final step in the sign-up funnel, where you send your new subscriber an automated email welcoming them to your list. If you’re going to send them a piece of bonus content or a special offer, this is a good time to do it, too.

Welcome Email example

With that out of the way, it's time to start your email list. Here's how:

1. Set Up an Email Marketing Tool

Email marketing software makes it easy to manage an email list as it stores your subscribers' email addresses, helps you segment them into different groups, and makes sure that the emails you’re sending are spam-law compliant. Popular email marketing apps are likely familiar names to you, such as MailChimp, Campaign Monitor and AWeber, but to manage your own list, you could use one the over two-dozen email marketing apps we wrote about recently.

For a short tutorial on how to get started, let's take a look at setting up an email list with MailChimp.

First, you need to register for an account which should only take a few minutes. You will have to provide a physical address that represents you and/or your business in order to comply with spam laws, which we'll discuss more later.

MailChimp list set up

Next you have to create a "list." A list is a collection of email addresses, and you need at least one set up before you can start collecting email addresses on your site. Just click "Create A List" or the corresponding button on your provider.

MailChimp create a list

Then add the information you want your list to contain:

MailChimp list details

Finally, if you already have some subscribers, you can import them directly from a CSV. Click on the tab at the top of your list to "Add Subscribers" then select the "Import" option.

MailChimp import from CSV

On this page you’ll be able to import existing subscribers from a CSV or TXT file, as well as from many other apps.

MailChimp import from apps

Once that’s done you’ll be set to get started. Now it’s time to start collecting email addresses.

2. Start Collecting Email Addresses

MailChimp and other providers give you an easy way to get started collecting email addresses using their sign-up forms. A sign-up form is a simple questionnaire that you can send or point people to so they can join your email list, or that you can embed right on your site if you want them to be able to sign up there.

First, you need to decide the information you want collect and then design your signup form. After you made your list in MailChimp in the previous step, you should have ended up on this page which has a link to "Signup forms".

MailChimp signup form

Click on the link, and you’ll be taken to a page where you can select one of a few different types of forms. Go with "General forms" for now.

MailChimp general forms

Here you can design the form, remove fields you don’t need, and add new ones with information you want to use.

MailChimp design signup form

Once you have it looking how you want, you can grab the URL at the top to share with your potential subscribers. You can just share this link on your site, social network accounts, or blog posts for the absolute easiest way to get signups on your list.

MailChimp signup form link

3. Embed an Email Signup Form on Your Site

If you want to go a step beyond just having a link to your signup form, then you can embed the form directly in your site.

MailChimp embed example

To do this, go back to the "signup forms" tab on MailChimp and select "Embedded forms" instead of "General forms." Other email marketing tools should have a similar option.

MailChimp embedded signup form set up

Here you can design the form just as you did before, but instead of designing it for its own independent page, you’re designing it as a block that you can drop directly into your site. With that in mind, be sure to choose complimentary color schemes and typefaces that will blend in with the rest of your site.

MailChimp embedded signup form configure

Once you have it looking the way you want, copy the code from the box at the bottom right and paste it wherever you want a signup form on your site. If you don’t have access to the code for the site, or aren’t sure how to edit it, you may want to ask a developer for help.

Now you can start collecting email addresses anywhere on your site. But before you start emailing your new subscribers, let’s make sure you’re not breaking any laws.

How to Avoid Breaking Email Laws

By now, you know how you're going to utilize your email list, you're using an email marketing tool, and you have an email signup form embedded on your site.

Before we move on to sharing other ways to grow your email list, you'll want to make sure you don’t get into any trouble with your newfound power.

Most countries, including the US, have strict laws determining what you can and cannot do with email marketing. In the U.S., the "CAN-SPAM" act dictates what you can and cannot do, and it’s important that you understand it so you can stay compliant.

Here's the most important parts of the CAN-SPAM laws, with an image showing how we follow these regulations:

zapier compliance
  • You must include a link to unsubscribe from your emails—it's common to include this in the email footer.

  • If someone submits an unsubscribe request, you must honor it within 10 days—your email marketing software should take care of this for you.

  • You cannot lie in the "From" line—so, no, you can’t pretend to send emails from the White House.

  • You must include a physical address representing the company or the sender—it's common to state this in the email footer, too.

  • You cannot send email to "harvested" email addresses—don't purchase email lists from a third party.

For a more detailed overview, read the FTC's article, "CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business." There are also separate laws for Canada, The European Union, Australia, and many other countries.

This is one of the great features about service providers like MailChimp and AWeber: they force you to comply with the law before sending any emails, so you’re protected. If you’re sending through a good email marketing tool, not lying about who you are, and not importing harvested email lists, you should be fine.

17 Ways to Rapidly Grow Your Email List

Now that you know how to start gathering email addresses and the laws you need to be following with your new powers, let's look at some more creative and advanced ways you can boost those numbers. We'll do this by breaking list building opportunities down by where they occur:

Increase Signups On Your Site

1. Add More Signup Forms

We covered the basic method for embedding a signup form in your site, so now the question is where else can you embed signup forms that would make sense? You want to have them appear on your site frequent enough that they’re hard to miss accidentally, but not so frequent that your readers are annoyed by them.

Here are a seven places you could add a signup form:

  1. The end of every blog post as a final call to action

  2. Page footer so that it’s at the very bottom of every page, as well

  3. Page header so that there’s a call to action at the top of post as well

  4. Sidebar

  5. About page

  6. Contact Us page

  7. Feature box or welcome bar at the top of every page or post

Another option is to use app integration tool like Zapier to start pulling in email addresses from other forms you already have set up. For example, you could add people who complete your "Contact Us" or "Sign Up" forms and also opt-in to receiving your marketing emails as part of that form. Just be sure you have a check box in that form to signup for your newsletters, or use double opt-in.

newsletter sign-up sample

Here are three Zapier integrations with popular online form software and email marketing apps that could help you grow your email list. To find your tool of choice, visit the Zapier app directory.

2. Add a Pop-Up Signup Form

The jury is still out on if pop-up forms are worth the annoyance or not, but it's clear they effectively yield signups. One way to get started with pop-ups is to install a tool from AppSumo called SumoMe, which will let you quickly add three different types of popups to your site.

Getting started with pop-ups, whether your site is uses WordPress or is custom built, is a quick process using SumoMe's tools.

  • If You’re Using WordPress - This only takes a minute. Log-in to your WordPress Admin, go to "Plugins" and then click "Add new." Search for "SumoMe," then install and active it.

  • If You’re Using Anything Besides WordPress - First, go to SumoMe’s Instructions Page and grab the code for putting in the of your HTML. Then either paste it into the section of your page yourself, or ask one of the developers on your team to do it for you.

Once it’s installed, go to your site’s homepage and click on the badge in the upper right.

SumoMe settings

This will let you manage SumoMe on top of your site, without having to log in elsewhere.

You have three options for adding list building popups:

  • List Builder - The typical email signup prompt that you’re used to

  • Scroll Box - Creates a more subtle pop-up as you scroll down the page

  • Smart Bar - Small call to action that stays at the very top of your page

They’re all effective at growing your list, but there are trade offs. List Builder is the most intrusive, but also the most effective. Smart Bar is the least intrusive, but also the easiest to miss. Scroll Box is right in the middle. It’s up to you how many of them and which you want to use.

Once you’ve picked one (or a few), you need to set it up with your email marketing tool. With the setting panel open, click on "services" on the left bar, select your email marketing tool, and then follow the instructions to get it set up.


And there you have it: you’re now building an email list passively as new people show up on your site.

3. Catch Visitors on the Way Out

When I visit a website that has a pop-up asking me to signup for their email list is, my first thought is "How do I know I want to sign up? You won't let me read your content."

What if instead of immediately showing someone a pop-up asking for their email, you did it on the way out? Services like Exit Monitor will watch your readers' mouse movements and when they get too close to that "X" at the top of the screen, Exit Monitor will bring up a call to action to sign up for your mailing list. Alternately, you can use the first tip and put a signup box at the bottom of your posts for a similar effect.

You have a much better chance of selling them at the end than at the beginning. Having a pop-up right away is like showing up at a first date and immediately pulling out your calendar to schedule the next one. You don't even know if you're into each other yet!

4. Show a Subscribe Page Before You Show Content

If you go to the blogs of Noah Kagan or Andrew Chen, you’ll notice something different. Instead of immediately taking you to their blog content, you’re greeted with a picture of them and a reason you should sign up for their mailing list.

According to Kagan, his signup rate increased to 14% on his homepage once he implemented that big call to action.

If you’re dedicated to building your list quickly and you have something compelling to offer to visitors, then you might consider changing your blog index page into a giant call to action. If you’re on WordPress, there’s a simple plugin that lets you do it. If you’re not, then you’ll have to custom build it.

5. Get Email Subscribers With Your By-Line

James Clear byline email

One option that can have a smaller but meaningful impact on your signups is to add a call to action directly to your author by-line. Your byline is the small line of text at the top of every post that tells the reader whose writing they’re reading. It’s going to be on all of your posts, so you may as well optimize it.

James Clear uses this on his site by have a subtle call to action right after his name, suggesting readers sign up for his newsletter.

When they click it, they’re taken to his dedicated newsletter page where they can sign up for his regular updates.

Doing it on your own is tricky, but Bryan Harris from Videofruit recorded a video that has a section explaining how to do it. Skip to 9:55 if you just want that part, but really, the whole video is valuable.

6. Lead Magnets: Use Incentives to Capture Email Addresses

Better than just asking someone to sign up is giving them a reason to do so. With so many sites asking for peoples’ email addresses today, many of us are protective of giving out our email address since we’re worried about getting spammed.

To reassure your readers that you’re providing high quality content in return for signing up, you can provide a "lead magnet" for their email address, which is just any bonus that they get in return for joining your email address.

Here are some commons examples of lead magnets:

Create an Email Course

Your readers want to learn from you, and what better way to help them and prove your value than a carefully built email course introducing them to the core of what you know and how they can apply it?

Brennan Dunn does this with his free "Charge What You're Worth" course.

You sign up, he sends you some very well thought out emails on how to boost your rate as a freelancer, and then at the end he asks you to pay for his much more in-depth "Double Your Freelancing Rate" course.

After providing that much good content for free, why wouldn't you sign up?

And setting one of your own up is fairly simple. Just create a new list in your email provider of choice, write an email series, then set it to run automatically for new people who join the course. If you want to learn more, you can read about it in our article on building drip campaigns and using automated emails.

Just make sure you have a good call to action at the end of the course.

Embed a Video

One effective method for incentivizing people to sign up for your email list is to give them access to a video in return. You can do this two ways, you could send a link to an unlisted video on YouTube once they sign up, or you could just host the entire process right within a page or blog post.

To do it the second way, you'll want to upload your video to Wistia, which offers two benefits:

  1. Your videos will be backlinked to your site when they’re embedded, which means that watching the videos helps your own site’s SEO. With YouTube, when people watch your videos, it helps YouTube's SEO.

  2. You can add a call to action at the end of the video to sign up, or better, you can add one to the beginning that they have to enter if they want to watch your video.

Offer PDFs, Spreadsheets and Other Lead Magnets

Another incentive you could give to your readers downloadable documents that expand on what you discussed in the post. For example, the PDF could simply be an easy-to-print version of the post. You could also take a few extra steps and create a spreadsheet template or in-depth how-to guide that would help your reader execute the tactic you outlined in your post.

To employ this method, you have a few options. You could get set up with Unbounce, which lets you create separate landing pages that you can use to offer a bonus when people sign up. Or you could host a PDF on Gumroad and then use their widgets tool to embed the sale right on your site, even if you’re giving away the PDF for free. Just remember to set up a Zapier integration to connect your email marketing tool with Gumroad.

A third option that’s especially good for WordPress users is Easy Digital Downloads which embeds in any WordPress site and lets you sell (or give away) digital goods on your site, without having to pay a dime.

Lastly, you could do something as simple as promising to send them a PDF when they join your list. To do this, create the PDF, put it in your Dropbox or Box folder, and then copy the sharing link. Then when someone signs up, include that link in their welcome email so they get it immediately.

Supply Coupon Codes

Another lead magnet that you can use to incentivize signups is to provide coupon codes that give your signups a discount on a service that would be relevant to them. This will vary based on your site, but if you can identify a highly-desired service that your readers would want to save money on, you could drive a lot of new signups. It could even be your own product.

For example, marketer Joshua Earl wrote one of the emails for the Email1k email marketing course led by Noah Kagan. In the email, Earl explains how to set up a viral giveaway using KingSumo, and then at the end of the post he tells you that you can get 50% off of KingSumo by joining his email list. It’s a perfectly timed incentive that earns him new readers, and saves his readers just under $100.

7. Host a Giveaway

Giveaways have become easier and more popular recently thanks to the WordPress plugin KingSumo by Noah Kagan and the others at AppSumo.

KingSumo incentivizes people who join the giveaway to share it with their friends by giving you two or more extra entries (usually three) per referral you get to the giveaway. So if Zapier is giving away something cool, and I find it, and then I get you to sign up for it too, my number of entries just went from 1 to 4 while you only have 1.

Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income did a giveaway when KingSumo was in its early days and he grew his email list by 200,000 people! And that was for a prize only worth $60.

The key to this is:

  1. Getting your giveaway in front of as many people initially as possible, either through an existing email list or through outreach

  2. Making sure that you're giving away something people actually want

All you need to do it is have something to give away, the KingSumo plugin, or to build a custom giveaway using something like Harry's open source referral contest code.

Increase Signups Off Your Site

So far we've offered ideas for ways you can collect email addresses on your site, but why stop there? These ideas will help you get started collecting email addresses from other sites as well.

8. Get Signups from a Tweet

Ryan Hoover Twitter card

The idea is simple. When someone shares your content on Twitter, you follow up with them immediately suggesting they sign up for your email list.

It works because they’ve already demonstrated that they’re interested in what you have to say, enough that they would share it with their followers. And since you’re reaching out to them personally asking them to sign up, it’s more effective than a generic pop up.

If you’re interested in setting it up yourself, check out a guide to setting up these Twitter Lead Generation cards for free on the Moz blog.

9. Guest Post and Offer a Bonus

Bryan Harris bonus

Guest posting is one of the best way to drive traffic back to your blog, but why stop with traffic? The marketing tactic can also be an effective way to generate new sign ups on other peoples’ sites, without readers having to come back to yours.

Bryan Harris demonstrates this in "A Tale of Two Launches: One Made $43,380 and the Other -$1,385" on the company blog of LeadPages. In the piece, he explains why email list building is important, then at the end he has a call to action telling you that he’ll send you a video on how he grows his email list if you sign up for updates.

When you click it that button, instead of taking you to his site it just gives you a popup right on the site so you don’t have to go anywhere, which LeadPages would appreciate since they don’t want to drive traffic away from their site.

Bryan Harris bonus sign up

10. Publish Slideshares

Presentations that speak for themselves are a fantastic way to convey large amounts of information, especially when it benefits from visual supplementation.

Once you've created a great looking presentation (or "deck") you can upload it to SlideShare and share it with the world. But that’s not enough—you also need the Slideshare to convert.

You can include hyperlinks in your presentation and SlideShare retains them. That means that you can include a call to action with a link to your site where they can subscribe; a great way to convert readers at the end of looking through your presentation when they’re already primed and appreciative of you.

For example, in Zapier’s Slideshare on the 35 best CRM apps, each tool has a link to read more about it on our site where the reader can also signup.

best crm apps

11. Subscribe Your Buyers

If you sell digital or physical goods with the help of a service like PayPal, Stripe, Shopify, or Bigcommerce, you want to make sure that your customers' email addresses are making their way onto your list so you can let them know about future products, sales, or info related to what they just purchased.

The easiest way to do that is through Zapier, which integrates with most eCommerce software and email marketing tools, and can send the email addresses of your buyers directly from one to the other.

To be safe though, you should check the option for "double opt-in" in the Zap, since only getting a single opt-in (from the sale) is not considered a good practice in email marketing, and could lead to spam reports against you.

Increase Signups Offline

12. Bring in Business Card Contacts

Contacts+ is an app that lets you take a picture of a business card, then have a person—not a computer—translate it into contact data, which is then added to your Contacts+ network management dashboard.

From there you can add them on LinkedIn, Twitter, or send them an email. But maybe you’re going to an event and collecting a large number of business cards which you want to add to your email list.

Instead of doing it manually, you can set up an easy integration through Zapier to send some or all of your new FullContact contacts immediately into your list manager of choice.

13. Pull in Event Attendees

Another situation you don’t want to miss out capitalizing on is making sure that all of your event attendees make it on to your email list so you can let them know about future events, as well as send them follow-ups from the event.

If you use Eventbrite, then you can set it up to push your attendees straight to your mailing list through Zapier, using an integration like the one below.

Or, check your email newsletter tool for a mobile app to add signups from a tablet at your event. Many email apps offer such tools. If yours doesn't, you could have a tablet open to your website's form instead, as an easy way to get signups at a booth or promotion display.

Increase Signups Elsewhere

14. Create Your Own Email List Additions With Zapier

So far we’ve covered ways that you can use parts of your site, and other peoples’ site, to add new email addresses to your list. But what about adding them from odd sources such as your email client or CRM? Here are a few ways you can use Zapier to build up your list.

Gmail Labels

If you have a certain label in Gmail that you want to use for adding people to your mail list, you can set up an integration between Gmail and your email marketing tool so that whenever you add a certain label to an email, the person who sent it gets added to your email list.

CRM Entries

Whether you use Salesforce, Zoho CRM, Podio, Pipedrive, or any of Zapier’s other CRM integrations, you can quickly set it up to add any new CRM contact to your email list, using an integration like this one between Salesforce and MailChimp.

Google Contacts

Another option is to add anyone who you record in Google Contacts straight to your email list. This works well for more personal email lists, or if you keep all of your work contacts within a section of Google Contacts. If you use MailChimp, here’s how you can have Google Contacts added automatically.

Webinar Attendees

If you’re hosting webinars, you want to either add those people to an existing email list or to a new one specifically to people who are interested enough to come to your webinars. If you use this GoToWebinar and AWeber integration (or an integration with any other email marketing tool) it’ll be taken care of automatically for you.

15. Email Referrals

If you’re trying to get someone to sign up for your email list, the sell will be much easier from one of their friends than from you. Whenever someone signs up for your list, you should take the opportunity to ask them to refer you to one of their friends who might also be interested in the site.

You can create a hyperlink using a mailto: link, which then links whoever clicks on it to a pre-filled email. Now instead of having to type out why their friend should sign up for your course.

If you're having a hard time understanding what I mean by that, just click here to tell a friend about Zapier. Cool, right?

To do this, you create a mailto: hyperlink, but instead of just putting in an email address, you put in an entire email. This URL will look like it’s written in a different language, but there’s a method to the madness.

Then, you can take that to the next level. Instead of just asking for them to email a friend, you could ask them to email a friend with you CC'd or BCC'd in order to get some bonus!

To do it, you just need to make a "mailto:" link that looks something like this:


You can change the "BCC" to be a "CC" or a "To" if you want, and then set the email address. Change the subject and body to whatever you want, but you’ll have to use the "URL encoding method". If you’re not sure what all the %s and numbers mean, an article from W3Schools explains it all and makes it easy to create.

16. Text Messages

If you have a user group that meets in person, or just are discussing your product with someone in public, you may end up wanting to add someone to your email list while you're out without a simple way to do it.

You can write down their email and add them later, or you can tell them to go to your site and hope they sign up, but there's a better way. For that, all you need is a mobile phone with SMS and a Zapier account.

This is the integration you'll be using—replace MailChimp if you'd like:

You can create any mail-to address you want:

Zapier email Zap

Then pick your email list, and put the body of the text as the email of the new subscriber.

Add this email as a contact on your phone:

email phone contact

And now anytime you text an email address to that contact, that new email address will be added to your email manager.

17. Your Email Signature

Last but not least, you can add a very simple call to action to your email signature that tells people in one line why they should sign up for your list, and is then hyperlinked to where they can sign up.

To do this in Gmail, go into your settings by clicking on the gear in the upper right.

email signature settings

Then scroll down to the signature section, type in what you want it to say, then add a hyperlink to your blog or signup form

email signature email list

Optimize and Segment Your Email Lists

email list segmenting

So far we've just dumped all of your new signups into one email list, but that actually limits your marketing potential. Most email marketing tools will allow you to create "segments" or "groups" that break up your subscribers into different categories based on where they signed up, their demographic data, what they’re interested in, and more.

Harnessing this segmentation can drastically increase your open rates, since you can send emails that are specifically targeted to your readers' interests. To learn how to do so, check out our guide on how to segment email lists.


"Your email list is the heart of your marketing strategy."

"Your email list is the heart of your marketing strategy," says marketer Greg Dineo on the Kissmetrics blog. "When you write a blog post, the people on your email list will be the first to read it. When you have a webinar, the people on your list will be the first to sign up. And, when you offer a new product, the people on your list will be the first to try it."

Your email list members have the potential to be your biggest fans, your most loyal buyers, and your most reliable sources of feedback and traffic. But you have to start collecting them now.

If you haven’t started building your email list, go back to the beginning of the chapter and follow the steps to get set up collecting email addresses. If you’ve done the basics but aren’t using as many strategies as you could be, start incorporating some of the ones we talked about later in the article and see how they boost your sign-up rates.

Image credits: Envelope photo courtesy Erin Nekervis; BlackBerry photo courtesy Ian Lamont.

Get productivity tips delivered straight to your inbox

We’ll email you 1-3 times per week—and never share your information.


Related articles

Improve your productivity automatically. Use Zapier to get your apps working together.

Sign up