July 21, 2015 | John Goethert

3 Ways to Build Your Email List for Free

Well, I just received an email list to start a promotion and guess what—only 20 addresses. And I'm not even sure if they're still good. If you're starting from scratch, building an email list can seem like an impossible task. Plus, there really isn't a quick way to fill your lists.

Building your email list doesn't have to be a large, elaborate process. Start small by adding a simple one line form on your website that people can fill out. These emails can explain the benefits of your new product or be a newsletter promoting other products, announcing staff additions, or showing off finished company projects.

And if you’re creating regular content (and you should be), people can benefit from receiving your email updates.

But don't worry—we've got your back! There are many easy things you can do to keep your lists growing steadily from now on. Here are 3 ways to build your email list for free:

1. Build an Online Presence

Your social channels are a great place to start interacting and engaging your customers online. Sharing posts about what you have to offer can attract followers to sign up for email services.

Also, on your Facebook business page—at the bottom of your cover image—there's an option to create a CTA button. You can choose from Contact Us, Shop Now, or Sign Up, etc. This is a great way to send people to a subscription landing page on your site.

Online Contests

To build your email list, get creative and run an online contest using an app like Rafflecopter. Requiring people to subscribe to your newsletter in order to be entered is a common practice and gives them an opportunity to learn about your company. Just keep in mind that they may not be your ideal customer. Many participants may just want the prize—but it's still a good place to start!


People love to let their friends know about your awesome service. Which isn't a bad thing, right? Make it even easier for them by adding a “Refer a Friend” campaign to your site.

This can be a simple form asking people for their friend’s email or fancy plugins that work with Big Commerce or Wordpress. Just be sure to send an email to the friend explaining someone referred them to you (ideally listing the person’s name).

You can also let them know that they're not a subscriber—unless they want to be, of course! Properly “opting them in” will help keep everyone content and your spam markings to a minimum.

Don’t exclude people you're already interacting with. Think about how many business emails you send out every day. The postscript of those can include a CTA asking people to subscribe to your digital newsletter. HubSpot reports that when “P.S.” is included at the bottom of an email, it becomes the 2nd most-read part of the email. There is no reason not to use that valuable real estate to promote your business!

2. Build an Offline Presence

Remember, building your email list doesn't have to be limited to just online sources. Traditional marketing is still very effective. Be clear to people that they're signing up for your email newsletter. I know it may seem a bit “old school” but a fishbowl of business cards at the cash register still works.

Consider taking business cards with you to a convention or business conference. Having a fishbowl at your registration desk could get you a few more contacts. Think about it. After giving an awesome speech, people are more willing to drop a card in your bowl as they leave. Just make sure to let them know it's there during your presentation!

Also, whenever someone has to put pen to paper, there is an opportunity for them to fill out their email address. Store surveys, order forms, and anywhere there's space for a checkbox or line of text—there's a chance to sign someone up!

3. Follow Best Practices

You've worked really hard getting all those email addresses. Don’t be one of those companies whose email recipients ask, “Why in the world am I getting this?” Following the best practices for email marketing can help you achieve higher open and click-through rates.

Reach out to new contacts and remind them why they receive your email, how often they'll be receiving them, and how they can opt-out. Knowing up front exactly what they'll get will keep them happy.

How about buying an email list? Remember, there are no foolproof methods. Yes, you'll have hundreds of names, but how many will actually be someone that can use your service? Unless they're selling air, probably not many. What good are 10,000 addresses if not even one actually needs your product? Save your money!

Keep your email lists segmented and send content that's targeted to the right people. Blanket emails are a no-no. According to Marketing Sherpa, 40% of spam markings are because people don’t feel the content is relevant to their needs.

Be patient. Bulking up your email database can be a slow process. However, if you make it a priority to build contacts naturally, you’ll end up with a great email list that converts leads into loyal customers.

Want more tips? Download our email marketing checklist—it's also free.

Download our Email Marketing Checklist!



John Goethert

John Goethert

John Goethert served as VIEO’s senior inbound marketing project manager for many years and enjoyed using his varied expertise on behalf of our clients.

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