A Beginner’s Guide to Creating an Email List from Nothing

For some business owners, email may seem like an archaic form of marketing.

After all, email technology has been around for nearly four decades and is commonly perceived as a marketing medium reserved for Nigerian prince scammers and dubious pill peddlers.

With the popularity of social media increasing over the past decade, along with the introduction of dozens of new messaging apps, the traditional email format seems to feel like an outdated channel for engagement.

However, even today email still remains as one of the most powerful forms of marketing. In fact, it is even more potent than any social media platform or blog.

That’s why just about every social media platform today asks for your email, and every blog wants you to sign up for their newsletters.

The average person gets 121 a day. The human race gets around 193.3 billion, and business emails account for 108.7 billion.

These are huge numbers that you just can’t ignore as a business.

This article will look at the benefits of email marketing, why you need to build your email list, and how you can create one from scratch.

For most business owners, just owning an email list can produce massive rewards for their bottom line.

Why Email Marketing Is Still Effective

1. You have control over it

Social media is absolutely crucial for anybody looking to grow a profitable business online.

With social media, your business can connect to potential customers, allowing you to share relatable pieces of your content and drives engagement towards your brand.

But there is one major flaw in social media: You can’t control it.

While you do have control over what sort of content you want to share, the problem is you can’t control things like how long your content is going to stay there, who has access to your content, and other factors.

Because you don’t own Instagram or Facebook, that means you will forever be subjected to the mercy of their Terms of Use and other policies.

Facebook could easily decide to flip a switch one day and change everything forever. In fact, we’ve seen it happen over and over again on many similar online platforms.

Recently, Facebook tweaked its Pages algorithm to force businesses to fork out money just to promote their post if they want to extend their reach beyond their own communities.

At the end of the day, you don’t own Facebook. Facebook owns Facebook.

On the flipside, you do control everything within your email newsletter.

So even if tomorrow Twitter decides to changes their policy to that only 10 people can ever see your tweets, you can still fall back on your email list full of your dedicated followers who still open and read your emails regularly.

2. Email subscribers are more likely to become buyers

An email list is a must-have if you ever sell any product or service on your business website.

To put things in perspective: The email inbox is a like a person’s home. If someone grants you permission to send them marketing emails, he or she is essentially inviting you to come into their virtual homes and sell them.

While most folks hate getting junk in their inbox, but they’re willing to scroll through an endless Instagram feed full of photos of people they’ve chatted with twice in their lives.

What does this tell us? Most people aren’t selective about who they “follow” on social media, but when it comes to subscribing emails, they become much pickier.

So if someone subscribed to your email list, it’s a clear indication that they mean business.

These are real and engaged and are highly likely to be considering what you have for sale.

And because of this, it’s incredibly important to take good care of your email subscribers. They are going to be your most engaged and loyal followers than any social media platform or blog.

To you, this is your brand’s tribe. And to your readers, your email list is their community.

3. It’s the simplest and most effective way to get in touch

Sending an email blast is the quickest way to share big announcements and keep in touch with your followers.

While not everybody spends their entire day trawling through Instagram or Facebook looking for updates, but chances are do check their email every single day.

Not to mention the fact that social media platforms are choked full of distractions like memes and cat videos, that your audience will most probably miss out any announcements you post there.

So, whenever you have something important to tell your audience, and you want to be sure that they receive it loud and clear, sending your message through email is the surest way to get it across.

The Secret to a Successful Campaign: A Great Email List

Now that you understand how essential an email list can be for your business, you need to start building one.

But you can’t just start sending random emails cold and expect an increase in your sales.

Every successful campaign begins with a great email list, therefore building a highly targeted email list should be your top priority.

Even with brilliant email design, engaging email headlines, and calls to action can fall short if your email list isn’t up to snuff.

In every good email list, there should be 3 main traits:

  • Quality – You want real people with real email addresses, who read your emails frequently.
  • Relevance – These people should be genuinely interested in you or your business, or your niche
  • Volume – Ideally, you’ll want to have as many people on your list as possible, but focusing on the first 2 traits should take top precedence.

You might think that the faster you build a gigantic email list, the better.

You may be tempted to buy email subscribers or ‘solo ads’ (email based ads) from other list owners, with the promise of reaching thousands of email subscribers.

In most cases, you shouldn’t be doing these things.

Buying email lists from anyone else is a bad idea almost 100% of the time because you don’t get what you are paying for.

Firstly, most of these subscribers will be using an outdated or fake email address, and secondly, these people have no idea what your brand or business is all about, so they’re most likely aren’t going to be interested in what you have to offer.

The 3rd most crucial fact is that you are very likely to be flagged as an email spammer if you start sending emails without permission to random lists, as this will create a high bounce rate.

It’s infinitely much better idea to build your own email list from scratch on your own.

How to build your Email List

1. Understand your audience

Just as with any marketing endeavour, it begins with knowing your audience.

Who is your target audience? To build your email list quickly, you should have an intimate understanding of who are the people you want on your email list.

The best way is to start creating a buyer persona — a made-up person that represents your ideal customer.

A complete persona would allow you to understand your customer more, which is the first step in finding the right people who will give you their email address.

One of the most valuable places to find your first followers is through your social media channels. Finding where your audience hangs out socially online is the key to beginning success, and allows you to acquire their email addresses much more quickly.

2. Build a website

When you’re ready to build your email list, you need to have a place where potential email subscribers can gather and sign up for your emails.

In other words, you’ll need a website.

Creating a website for email signups isn’t difficult. You don’t even need a large or flashy website to collect emails.

In fact, all you need is just a single landing page — a webpage that contains your email opt-in form.

Fortunately, there are a ton of solutions available that lets you create a beautiful landing page within minutes, such as Wix, Unbounce, Leadpages, and Hubspot.

Most of these solutions offer done-for-you or templates that you can simply drag-and-drop your own images, fill in the blanks, and you’re done.

Most landing pages include a few key features, such as an image, a headline, and bullet points. But most importantly, it must contain an opt-in form.

An opt-in form is a page where subscribers can enter their email address.

You can choose to use paid advertising media such as Google AdWords or Facebook Ads to drive traffic to your opt-in page, but always ensure that your site website complies with the advertising channel’s regulations.

For example, some channels require that you have a website that has more than a single page, such as Contact Details, Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service.

3. Sign up for an email marketing service

To be able to send out emails in bulk, you will need the help of a reliable email marketing service.

Fortunately, these aren’t hard to find either. Since you are a beginner, you can just start simple with a service like Mailchimp (which is free if your list is below 500 subscribers).

There are also other more high-end solutions such as Infusionsoft, but these are too advanced for beginners, and you can always upgrade when you need more advanced features.

All email platforms have 2 simple purposes:

  • Organise your email list
  • send emails

As your email marketing campaign starts growing in size, you’ll find yourself doing a lot more with your email list, such as planning email sequences, running email drip campaigns, and more.

If you’re starting from scratch, forget about all these advanced activities, and just focus on collecting those addresses legitimately.

4. You need a lead magnet

Your email subscribers need a reason to join your list. That’s what a lead magnet is for.

Nobody wants to offer something for free without anything in return, especially for something private such as an email address.

Think back about your customers. What do they want?

Your best resources usually make the best lead magnets. Give it to your audience for free, such as a free software demo, a PDF report, an infographic, or something that provides real value to your audience.

To learn more about lead magnets and how to create one, read my article about lead magnets here.

That’s it. You’re now ready to collect email addresses and build your email list!

Building your email list using your existing resources

Sometimes, what you already have access to can be the quickest way to build up a robust list of emails.

What sort of resources do you already have?

For example, If you’ve already collected emails from your past customers in your past transactions (such as through eBay or from in-store survey forms), you’ve already had something substantial you can work with.

Can you just add these emails to your email list? Technically you can, but you shouldn’t, as you didn’t get their permission to email them.

Since you don’t have permission, email these folks personally and send them to your email opt-in landing page.

You don’t need any fancy email templates, just a simple email asking the recipient asking, “Want me to include you in my email list?”

Sending these people to your landing page is a better method to add them to your email list. Because this way, you don’t need to input every single email address manually.

Here are some other places to find subscribers to your email:

Social media

If you are already active on your business’ social media page and have a broad base of followers, why not ask them to join your email list?

You can post the link to your landing page on your Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram and Instagram. Include the link in your social media profile page or ‘About us’ page to ensure new followers can always sign up.

You should also make use of the right hashtags to increase your reach on social media.

Another powerful social media method is to join relevant groups community where your target audience hangs out.

As long as you aren’t spamming, and actively contributing ideas and opinions, most groups allow you to post your own links, allowing people to sign up to your emails.

Spend about a week or two to harvest email addresses on social media, sometimes you might be pleasantly surprised by the results you get.

As long as you are offering a valuable lead magnet, your email list may grow exponentially within a matter of weeks or even days.

Paid Ads

So far, we’ve covered most of the methods that let you grow your email list organically. But there is a faster (but not necessarily better) way to do so.

You can jumpstart your email list by purchasing ad traffic, such as:

Facebook ads.

Facebook ads have some very compelling segmentation features, that lets you quickly target your ad towards a very narrow demographic. It may cost you a few dollars to acquire each individual email address, but you’ll likely see returns in the long run.

For more information on Facebook ads, check out my Facebook Ads guide here.

LinkedIn Sponsored Ads.

Linkedin ads provide a similar level of targeting. But they will cost even more than Facebook Ads since LinkedIn touts itself as a channel that targets explicitly business professionals and executives.

A LinkedIn audience is going to be different from that on Facebook, but if they fit right into your business niche, it will be a worthwhile investment.

To learn more about advertising on LinkedIn, click here to read my LinkedIn Ads guide.

Twitter ads.

Twitter ads promote your tweets to the massive base of Twitter users, driving traffic to your landing page and potentially earning more loyal followers, too.


With Adwords, you can potentially grow your list quickly AdWords gives you access to an enormous influx of highly targeted traffic from Google, allowing you to expand your bottom line exponentially.

While all these paid ads will cost you money, don’t shy away from them just because they aren’t free.

Remember, the money is in the list. All the money you spend today to gain new email addresses will pay off many times over in terms of business revenue.

Using content marketing to get more email subscribers

There’s one more powerful strategy to grow your list, and that is using content marketing.

As I’ve mentioned several times on my blog, content marketing can be a powerful force for your business.

Content marketing can build your list indirectly by first attracting regular readers, and then welcoming them to join your mailing list.

Don’t underestimate the power of content. Content marketing continues to be a formidable marketing method, and things aren’t looking to change anytime soon.

Write a couple of highly targeted articles with strong SEO to grow your traffic, and soon you will see more subscribers joining your list.

Final words

Is it possible to build your email list with just these methods mentioned above?

Of course, you can. But these methods are just the tip of the iceberg.

In fact, there are many more creative strategies to grow your email lists, such as offering an online webinar, freebies, lucky draws or even coupons.

Don’t be afraid to test out new strategies and see what works best for your business.

Lastly, remember that growing your email list isn’t just about collecting email address. It’s about building a friendship with your subscribers.

Building an email list isn’t just something you do today and forget about it the next month. You need to carry out the efforts to nurture and cultivate the subscribers into loyal followers (and buyers) using high-value email content, exclusive offers and more.

So start building your list today. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll reap it’s many, many rewards.

As always, if you need help to start growing your email list, let me know by contacting me using this form.

About Murray Dare

Murray Dare is a Marketing Consultant, Strategist and Director at Dare Media. Murray helps UK businesses find better ways to connect with their audiences through targeted content marketing strategies.