How To Build An Email List For Marketing: A Practical Guide

How To Build An Email List For Marketing: A Practical Guide

By JoAnne D. | Blogging

how to build an email list for marketing

If you’re determined to make money from your blog, building an email list is crucial to your success. Today’s article will guide you through the basics of how to build an email list for marketing. Learn how to attract leads via a lead magnet, how to create opt-in forms for your blog, what to look for in an email marketing service, and how to write your emails.

Why Should You Build An Email List?

If you’re serious about making money from your blog, building an email list is one of the most fundamental things you need to do.

But first, what is an email list, and why should we even bother?

Quite simply, an email list is a database of names and individual email addresses that you have permission to send general communications, updates, and promotions to.

But why is building this database important?

    • 1. Email is still the preferred method of communication.

Before we had messaging software, before social media, we had email. And it doesn’t look like it’s waning anytime soon.

man typing on laptop

People can stop checking their social media feeds, people can stop logging on to their messaging software, but they’ll rarely neglect their email inboxes.

    • 2. Email allows you to build deeper relationships with your audience.

No other way of communication allows a more personal and direct access to your audience. That your reader allowed you into their inbox means they want to hear from you and trust you and your content.

In addition, your audience knows on some level that directly replying to your email gives them a better chance of being heard than replying to a tweet, or commenting on a Facebook status update. That way, the intimacy isn’t just one-directional.

The opportunity to have one-on-one conversations, whether or not they take advantage of it, helps build trust and connection.

Furthermore, making them part of your blogging journey will foster a connection to your blog that you simply can’t build with social media. There’s something about being part of a community and watching it grow that gets them more committed to you and your blog.

    • 3. Email enables you to learn more about your readers.

Once you’ve built that trust and connection, you can survey your readers about their demographics (gender, age, location, occupation) and problems or struggles within your niche. That way, you’ll know if you’re reaching the people you were targeting to reach. More importantly, this will give you an idea of what content, as well as products and services, will benefit your audience the most.


In the same way, you can survey your readers about what they like and don’t like about your blog. You can ask them what they want to see more of, as well as what they want to see less of. They might have suggestions about what you can improve about your blog.

    • 4. Direct traffic back to your blog.

Every time you send an email with a link back to your blog, be it your most read blog post or your most recent, that’s an opportunity to drive traffic back to your blog. As you know, increased traffic to your blog also increases your chances of making money from your blog, be it from affiliate marketing or selling your digital products.

    • 5. Your email list is YOURS.

Google search can someday tank, and Facebook and Twitter can both go the way of MySpace. If, heaven forbid, that happens, and you don’t have an email list, all your SEO efforts and your social media campaigns to get more followers go down the drain.

But if you have your email list, that’s yours.

Your ability to reach out to your list is not controlled or dependent on another company’s whims. Your audience, your rules.

    • 6. Email lifespan is dependent on your readers.

Once your email is in your subscribers’ inboxes, it’s there until your subscribers do something about it. They can either read it, delete it straight away, click or don’t click the links inside, or even unsubscribe. It’s entirely up to them.The more empowered your subscribers feel, the more trust they’ll have in you, and the more likely they are to read your emails.

    • 7. Email subscribers are more likely to be customers.

Whichever monetization method you choose for your blog, your revenue will be more likely to come from your email subscribers. Various marketing studies have found that it’s easier to sell to your existing customers than it is to attract and sell to new ones.

These are all fantastic reasons to start building your email list today. So let’s get right to it!

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What Is The Difference Between Email Newsletters and Marketing Emails?

You’re probably subscribed to some blogs and websites right now, and probably receive promotional emails as well as newsletters from various sources.

Wait. Newsletters are different from promotional emails?

Yes, they are.

It’s a common misconception probably because businesses tend to blur the lines between email newsletters and marketing emails, and now it’s become confusing. But let me clear this up for you before we go further because they are different and will help you achieve different things.


Email newsletters are emails that contain news, hence the name. They’re published on a regular schedule (usually weekly or monthly) and contains mostly high-value, relevant, informational articles from your blog as well as other blogs and websites in your niche. The idea here is to get you positioned as a source of high-quality, up-to-date information about your niche that your subscribers are likely very interested in.

It’s up to you to include calls to action or marketing messages, but I don’t recommend doing this. The goal of your newsletter emails is to provide helpful information and earn your subscribers’ trust and respect while keeping your blog and your brand in your subscribers’ minds.

Remember: The primary goal for email newsletters is engagement.

Marketing emails, by contrast, are emails that attempt to persuade your recipient to take some sort of action, which is usually to make a purchase. Although that’s the ultimate goal, you don’t have to sell them anything in the beginning. Further down this article, I’ll give you some tips on what to email when you’re just starting.

For now, your goal is to convince your leads that you have the knowledge and skills to provide a solution to a problem.

Remember: The primary goal for marketing emails is sales.

Note: Just to reduce confusion, I’m going to refer to those readers who opt in through your lead magnet as “leads” and those readers who subscribe to your updates as “subscribers.”

To be absolutely clear, what I’m going to discuss is how to build an email list for marketing purposes.

Now that I’ve explained it and it’s clear (hopefully), let’s go through the process.

How To Build An Email List For Marketing

Create Your Lead Magnet

When you give your readers an incentive, they’re much more likely to sign up to be part of your email list.

A lead magnet, also called an opt-in bribe, is something of value that aims to entice your target audience to provide their contact information in exchange for that bribe.

magnet customers

Given its purpose, you’ll need to ensure that this lead magnet is attractive to your target audience. So what makes someone want to get a lead magnet enough to provide you their email address? Some of the reasons are listed below.

  • It solves a specific, pressing problem.
  • It inspires curiosity.
  • It makes their lives easier.
  • It saves them time and effort.
  • It is ready for use immediately.

When your reader sees an item that fulfills one or all of them, it’s likely to be attractive enough that their objections to give you their email address is overcome.

The usual bribe is an ebook, but depending on your audience, it doesn’t have to be a big, multichapter book right away. Here are some ideas for lead magnets you can use:

Content Offers

    • Checklist

A checklist is a one-page summary of a piece of content. It’s an actionable list such that when you’re done with an item, just check it off and you’re done. Just about any “how-to” blog post can be adapted to a checklist.

    • Cheat sheet

A cheat sheet is a simple outline of valuable data and shortcuts. It could be a summary of the important points of an especially long-form piece of content.

    • PDF Version

Your most information-packed, valuable posts can be made into a downloadable PDF version. It doesn’t look like too much effort on your end, but for the right post and the right reader, this can be valuable enough for them to give you their email address.

    • Template

A template is anything that can serve as a pattern so your readers don’t have to make something from scratch. Some examples of templates include Excel templates for productivity, email templates for job-hunting or marketing, and workout sheets for fitness blogs.

    • Resource list

This is a collection of links that your reader can use as a reference. This can be a list of links to your blog posts that are related to a specific topic. For example, if you run a food blog, you can compile links to your blog posts about the best Mexican restaurants in your area.

    • Workbook/Worksheet

A workbook or worksheet is a collection of exercises/questions your reader has to fill out and answer designed to improve knowledge or to serve as a guide in doing a task.

    • Infographic

An infographic is a visual representation of data that can include charts, diagrams, or icons. It’s meant to be a simple, at-a-glance way of presenting information. If you can condense a content-heavy blog post into a beautiful infographic, that should be valuable enough for the right readers.

    • Self-assessment/Tests

There’s a reason Buzzfeed quizzes are all over social media: people just can’t get enough of them. Take a page from them and create a test or self-assessment that your audience will want to take and ask them for their email in exchange for the result. Tests that usually work include “What type of ___ are you?” and “What ___ fits your personality?”

    • Email course

An email course explores an important topic over weeks or months. It’s bite-sized information that’s more manageable for your reader compared to an ebook. This kind of contradicts the part where I said your lead magnet should be available immediately, but this could still work if your niche has a specific problem and there just isn’t one simple solution. Plus, if you send the first email lesson right after they sign up, then that’s still going to satisfy the instant gratification requirement.

    • Short video course/webinar

A short instructional video can work if text or infographics aren’t enough. It can be a demo video of a process, or a walkthrough of a process.

Noncontent Offers

    • Discounts

If you’re already selling your own digital products, discount coupons can be a valuable lead magnet. For your readers, because discount, and for you, because if they’re interested in a discount coupon, that means they’re ready to buy or at least thinking about it.

    • Exclusive access

It’s like a mini-membership area, but free. Essentially, your blog posts are available to the public, but you have some higher quality, higher value content that you’re only making available to your mailing list. If your readers already love your content, they’re going to want in on higher level content.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but just some ideas to get you started. Get creative with them. You can also use your minimum valuable product if you’ve already started making your digital products.

The key here is to get your readers curious with relevant offers that they can immediately consume.

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Build A Landing Page For Your Lead Magnet

When you’ve created your lead magnet, you can now start building a landing page for it. I’ve talked briefly about how to make a sales page previously, but a landing page is different because it has a different purpose and leads to a different action. A sales page leads to a purchase while a landing page leads to a sign up to your mailing list.

Granted, your readers’ email address is less of a commitment than an actual purchase, but it doesn’t make your landing page any less important. Here are the essential elements of a landing page.

Essential Elements Of A Landing Page

1. Headline

You want an eye-catching headline that sums up your offer as clearly as possible. If it’s an ebook, say it’s an ebook. If it’s a template, say it’s a template.

It can simply say:

Your Blog Post Checklist: Download for FREE!

2. Subheader

Here, you can provide a little more information about the benefits and value of your lead magnet. Following the example above, your subheader can be:

This Blog Post Checklist can help you create awesome blog posts to help you increase your traffic and revenue from your blog!

3. Benefits

As straightforward as your headline and subheader are, they may still not be enough for most of your readers. Bullet points are great here so you can be punchy without leaving anything out. Use boldface and italics to emphasize key phrases.

Briefly state what they can expect to receive (a one-page pdf? A printable Excel file?) and more importantly, what they’ll gain (knowledge? Skills? A reference?), and what your offer will help them do or achieve (help them become more productive? Easily create recipes? Make valuable information more accessible?)

You can even take the extra effort to make this part SEO-friendly by plugging in some keywords, but be careful not to sound mechanical here. It’s more important that your reader is convinced of the benefits of your lead magnet than it is for search engines to find your landing page because your goal here is conversion; that is, you want your casual reader to sign up to your mailing list.

4. Visuals (Image or Video)

Including a visual of what your reader is getting is always a great idea. It reinforces your promise of what exactly they’re going to get. You said they’re going to get a checklist? Here’s what it (more or less) looks like. If you do use an image, make sure it’s related to your offer. You don’t want a picture of an ebook there if you’re giving away a checklist.


The same goes for video, if you decide it’s better than an image. Make sure it explains your lead magnet precisely. And turn off the autoplay feature; if they want to watch the video, they’ll play it. Don’t assume; they may be at work, or their internet speed may be slow. There are many reasons for not wanting to play your video, so don’t automatically assume they want to watch it.

5. Lead Capture Form

This is where your readers enter their information so they can get your lead magnet and sign up for your mailing list. Basic information to ask here are their first name and email address, so you can at least address them personally when you send your communications.

Higher level lead magnets can justify asking for more information, but as a general rule, more fields result in fewer sign-ups.

6. Privacy Policy Link

Your readers’ information is precious; they tend to guard it from spammers. Display a link to your privacy policy so you can assuage their doubts about giving you their email address. Have it open on a separate tab so they can easily go back to your landing page after they look at your privacy policy.

This can work even better if you have a privacy message indicating you won’t spam them and you won’t share or sell any of their information (e.g., “We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe.”).

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7. Call to action (CTA)

Readers who don’t click your CTA don’t get your lead magnet AND don’t get on your mailing list.

The purpose of creating your lead magnet and your landing page is to get your readers to click this button and become leads.

I’ve previously discussed tips for creating effective CTAs, but here are some additional tips for the copy you can use in your CTAs in your landing page.

    • Personalize your CTA copy.

Generic CTAs aren’t going to cut it. Personalizing the copy, i.e., using the first person instead of the second person, will be more convincing. For our blog post checklist example, “Give me my free checklist!” can be effective.

    • Focus on the outcome for the reader (i.e., don’t use the word “Submit”).

While “submitting” their information is exactly what your readers are doing when they click on this button, as a general rule, don’t focus on the fact that they have to give you something. Focusing more on what they’re going to get after they click the button will be a better experience for your reader.

You can also reinforce the headline by using the word you used there in your CTA as well. Following from our example headline, you can use something like “Download my free checklist!”. This focuses on what the readers get, as opposed to what they have to do to get it.

    • Use the main benefit.

Another approach you can take is take the main benefit of your lead magnet and use that as your CTA. Still following our example, you can use “I want to start writing great blog posts today!”

8. Persuasive Design

Designing a landing page is a bit different from designing a blog. What you want is to direct your readers’ eyes toward completing a single action; in this case, it’s your lead capture form and CTA. Here are some design principles to apply to your landing page.

    • Remove navigation links.

The fewer actions they can take beside signing up and closing the page, the better. Increase the chances that your readers will stay on the page.

    • Ensure that your landing page displays properly in all devices.

Test how your landing page looks in various devices.

    • Keep everything “above the fold.”

I know I just said to ensure your landing page is responsive. But you want your readers who are using computers to see all the essentials, especially your CTA, the moment they look at your page.

The phrase “above the fold” actually came from describing the content on a newspaper’s front page. Anything that’s above the fold is visible to the reader even when the paper is folded horizontally. Thus, the headlines and the lead stories are all placed above the fold.


Newspaper on the day of the moon landing. Notice how the headline and lead story is above the fold, while the secondary stories and are below the fold.

Follow this principle when designing your landing page. Your reader shouldn’t have to scroll down to see your lead capture form.

    • Frame your lead capture form and CTA.

Your lead capture form and CTA button are the most important parts of your landing page. Draw attention to them by framing them. You can do this by placing them inside a box separate from the other elements in a page.

    • Use whitespace and directional cues.

Whitespace is also an excellent way to draw attention to your lead capture form and CTA. Directional cues, such as arrows and pointing fingers, are more obvious and “sales-y,” but effective when designed correctly.

  • Highlight your CTA button.
    Clicking on your CTA button is the ultimate action you want your reader to do. It makes sense, then, to make sure that the button stands out. Here are some button design best practices.

      • Use a contrasting color.

    It’s not the actual color of the button that matters, but how distinct it is from the background and all the other colors you’re using on the page (for more about colors, read this).

      • Make it look clickable.

    A button needs to look like a button