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How to Build an Email List: Get Your First 500 Subscribers Fast

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Email might seem a little bland and outdated in a world dominated by social media but, when it comes to marketing a business, email still rules. According to a study from McKinsey, email is nearly 40 times more effective for acquiring customers than social media. In fact, during Black Friday sales in the United States, email is the biggest marketing channel to drive sales, accounting for a quarter of all transactions.

Given these stats, it's easy to see that a strong email marketing campaign can have a significant impact in your business. But, how do you get started with your first campaign, attract your initial subscribers fast, and begin growing your email list?

That's exactly what we address in this article. Learn strategies on how to build an email list, with pro tips to help you bring in your first 500 subscribers quickly.

Building an email list get your first 500 subscribers
Get your first 500 subscribers

If you're just getting started with building an email list, then you may need an email marketing template to begin with a quality design. We have many professional choices on Envato Market. Now, let's get into these tips.

1. Optimize Your Opt-in Form Placement

The strategy that will give you the biggest returns with email list building is picking the proper placement and format of your email opt-in forms. 

But before you get to picking your opt-in form placement, it's best to declutter your site. By removing unnecessary elements from your site design, your visitors can focus better on your calls-to-action and find the content they are after. Basecamp, a project management software company, found that by decluttering their homepage, they saw an increase in conversions, leading to 14% more visitors to their sign-up page.

When it comes to form placement, however, most businesses have multiple opt-in forms, often found in the following places:

Keep in mind that placing opt-in forms in these sections isn't a "set it and forget it" type of deal. Using site analytics tools, you'll get feedback on which forms work best over time. You'll also be able to test which email subject headlines, offers, and calls-to-action convert more of your visitors into subscribers. Still, just by setting up your forms in the best places to capture emails, you're already starting on the right foot.

2. Offer Something Your Readers Can't Resist

Once your audience can actually find your opt-in forms in the right places, what can you do to make sure they sign up? You'll have to create an attractive offer that they wouldn't want to miss.

According to a survey conducted by Ascend2, a marketing research firm, the most effective tactics that marketers use for growing their email list is to provide subscribers with access to restricted areas of a website or access to content downloads. 

With these survey results in mind, it's best to offer potential subscribers access to exclusive content. If you've ever subscribed to email newsletters yourself, you'll notice that some common offers come in the form of ebooks, whitepapers, reports, or tutorials. While this exclusive content usually comes as downloadable PDFs, some of them can be in video or audio format.

But any kind of bonus content won't do. It has to be something that your target subscribers wouldn't want to miss out on. Understand how they think and what their needs are, then tap into these needs when you create your offer.

It also helps if your subscription offer can be considered "premium content" — of a higher quality than most of the readily available content on your website. For example, if it's an ebook, make sure it's longer and more comprehensive than your blog posts. Or, if it's a weekly email newsletter subscription, you could re-frame it as free weekly lessons on your topic. 

It's this exclusive, premium element that will make your readers want to take the extra step of subscribing to your email list rather than just regularly returning to your site. Another term for this premium content is a buzz piece. Learn more about how creating premium content helps you with building an email list:

3. Focus on Just One Main Social Network

Social media can be an excellent way to reach out to your audience, especially if they haven't discovered your website yet or haven't subscribed to your mailing list. However, according to the same Ascend2 survey, marketers find that social media sharing is the most difficult tactic they use to build their email list. 

This is no surprise since demographics, user behavior, and marketing strategies tend to vary depending on the social network you're using. Given the difficulty of implementing a comprehensive social media strategy, it's best to focus on just one network when planning to grow your email list via social media. 

Pick the social media site that your target audience is most likely to use and promote your mailing list there. This means that you should be aware of a social media site's demographics. For example, LinkedIn is used by professionals from 25 to 44 years old, while Snapchat is typically used by people under 25 years old. 

It will also help to take note of any site-specific features you can take advantage of. Facebook Pages will allow you to add a specific call to action on your pages. You can use this button to direct visitors from your Facebook Page to your email signup forms. 

Alternatively, there are apps that will allow users to get access to your exclusive content by "paying" with a Tweet or Facebook Share. You can then redirect these users to subscribe to your mailing list after they've shared the exclusive content you've promised. This approach means that your new subscribers also get to share your content to other potential subscribers, broadening your reach. 

If you've built a social following, then you can direct them to your email list. Learn how to engage with your fans on Facebook

4. Leverage Your Most Popular Content

Another email list building tactic you could use is to take advantage of the content on your site that generates the most amount of traffic. Find your website's most popular pages or blog posts and create a more prominent email capture form in those pages. 

This works better if you can create specific offers that are relevant to each post, so that visitors who are already reading about a topic are given the option to dig more into it. 

Brian Dean, the founder of digital marketing blog Backlinko, found that this simple tactic gave him a 785% increase in opt-in conversions. These new opt-in forms also accounted for 30% of all of his new subscribers. By pairing your already-popular content with an additional downloadable resource, you can attract more subscribers.

5. Hold Contests

If you want to generate more interest in your brand—and therefore bringing more visitors to your site and email opt-in forms—holding contests is a great way to attract attention. In exchange for a chance to win a prize, your website visitors have to send in their email address and subscribe to your newsletter. This is the tactic that blogger Rob Young used to attract 500 additional subscribers to his list. You can also use social contests to grow your email list.

But contests aren't just great for attracting new subscribers. A case study from Marketing Sherpa also found that contests can also reignite the interest of inactive subscribers, with contest emails generating a 20% open rate among inactive subscribers. Though active subscribers had a higher email open rate at 60%, it's still good to see your more stagnant followers interact with your business again.

6. Host a Webinar

If you've ever attended a webinar, you'd know that submitting your email address is a crucial part of the process. Email opt-ins help webinar attendees access the webinar, get reminders before it starts, and receive additional post-webinar content such as recordings, PowerPoint presentation decks, or the presentation text. As an entrepreneur, you can be on the other side of the screen and create your own webinar—and capture email addresses along the way.

One disadvantage to this approach is that hosting webinars can be a lot of work. Apart from planning the presentation, you'll have to promote the webinar, plan for all the hardware and software you'll use, present your webinar live, and perhaps answer viewer questions in real-time. With proper planning, however, you can repeat or automatically replay your next webinars, as well as repurpose your webinar's content over time. 

7. Guest Post on Popular Blogs

It might seem like an impossible task to gather your first few hundred subscribers if you have a small audience to begin with. If this is the case with your attempts at growing your email list, why not tap into the audiences of websites and businesses that are more popular than yours? 

This is where guest blogging comes in. Through guest blogging, you can submit informative, engaging articles to popular blogs and redirect at least a fraction of their audience back to your site. It's through strategic guest posting that Bryan Harris, a business coach, attracted 323 new email subscribers within the first 3 days of publishing his guest post.

To get started guest posting, look for the most popular blogs in your niche and study them. See if there are articles you can contribute that will be a good fit for their site. Then pitch your guest post article idea professionally. Of course, make sure that any article you submit can redirect the reader's attention to your own email newsletter in the process. 

Keep Optimizing

After your email list reaches 500 subscribers, it's time to step back and optimize. Review the tactics you've done so far and keep doing what works, as well as testing different types of forms and offers to see if you can get your conversion rates a little higher. 

Also, as you send more emails to your list, you'll get to know your subscribers' activity. This will take you a step further and will help you learn how to keep them on your list, how to come up with emails they'll actually read and open, and what it takes to turn these active subscribers into actual revenue for your business. 

Discover what your email subscribers really want, and learn how to to maximize your clickthrough rate, and more in our multi-part email marketing jumpstart guide, or get started with forming your email marketing plan in the featured tutorial above.

Also, grab an email marketing template from Envato Market, so your emails look professional, and your new subscribers connect the quality of your email designs with your business message.

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