13 Ways to Grow an Email List

Email marketing only works if you have people to email. Whether you’re just starting out or attempting to grow an existing list, here are 13 things you can do to encourage more subscribers.

  1. Offer an exclusive report – write a white paper on an important topic in your field and offer it free to people who sign up.
  2. Automatically sign up all customers – when someone checks out on your website, include the email subscription as an opt-out.
  3. Promise future discounts – launch a discount program exclusively for email subscribers.
  4. Introduce a loyalty program – rewards programs that incentivize future purchases should include an email signup process.
  5. Promote your list on social media – use your company’s social media presence to ask people to sign up.
  6. Pay to promote your list – Facebook ads are a good way to pay to promote an email list, especially if you know email subscribers’ value to your company.
  7. Put your signup form front and center – don’t hide the form on some low-level page of your site. Let them signup from any page.
  8. Encourage sharing and forwards – your subscriber’s friends and colleagues might be perfect targets, so give them tools to share and forward your emails.
  9. Free trials/samples – can you offer a free trial of your service or a free sample of your product in exchange for an email signup?
  10. Develop partnerships – are there other companies or websites that you might partner with who can promote your email registration to their members/users?
  11. Create better content – low subscriber numbers might suggest you need to come up with more engaging content that people will be more excited to sign up for.
  12. Make it easier to sign up – limit the amount of information you ask for from email subscribers or use a one-click option like Facebook connect.
  13. Don’t give up – growing a subscriber list doesn’t happen overnight. For many it’s a slow, gradual process that yields real results over time.

Want to learn more about email marketing? Subscribe to our newsletter and get a free copy of my “50 Golden Rules of Email Marketing”

Why is Nobody Subscribing to My Emails?

Email marketing isn’t easy. You can spend a lot of time crafting a perfect plan. You get a great email design, you have great offers to make, you roll it out, and…nobody signs up for your list.

Why not?

If getting subscribers is your problem, here are three common reasons why and what you can do to turn your luck around:

1. You’re not asking them to subscribe.

The simplest, most overlooked solution to this problem is simply do a better job telling them to subscribe. Just adding a “subscribe” button to your website isn’t enough. You have to communicate it to your audience in a number of ways.

Use your other contact channels to invite people to subscribe. These can be in-store engagements, events, social media pages, contact pages on your website, and the checkout process.

Allow people to create an account on your website and opt them in to you email list, or add that as an option to an existing account creation tool.

The more you ask them to subscribe, everything else being equal, the more subscribers you’re likely to get.

2. You’re not giving them a reason to subscribe.

Sometimes just asking is not enough. Because we all get so many emails already, we’re not likely to subscribe to another email list unless we can see real value in it. So what’s your value?

Maybe your value is in the emails themselves, like special offers, discounts, or other benefits that don’t exist unless you subscribe to the emails. If that’s the case, make sure people know it.

Maybe your value is not necessarily the emails themselves, but an incentive you use to get people to sign up. Many companies offer a coupon, a free trial, a downloadable gift, or some other goodie just for subscribing. It’s a great way to offer value up front and get people more interested in signing up.

3. You don’t have an audience willing to subscribe.

Not every company has cultivated an audience willing to subscribe. If you’re reasonably new to the market and you’re still working on building your brand, you may not have success with an email marketing program because people don’t know you or trust you enough to subscribe.

If this is the case, you need to use the other channels at your disposal, like your own website, social media, and online advertising to grow your audience and generate higher awareness for your brand. Once your site gets more traffic, and people begin to trust in your marketing, the email subscribers will come.

5 Ways to Grow Your Email List

So you have an email marketing strategy? You wrote great emails, put together a strong design, crafted the perfect subject lines. What’s left to do?

Get the email addresses of people you’re going to send to!

How do you do that?

Here are 5 proven ways to grow your email list:

  1. Buy lists – this is the most risky and most expensive option
  2. Gated content – create a piece of content that people want and make them sign up to get it
  3. Advertise – use Facebook or Google to run ads to people you want to sign up
  4. Promise offers – people sign up for email lists that promise discounts and exclusive offers
  5. Use emails to promote sharing – create an easy refer a friend, forwarding, or social sharing option for existing subscribers and let them promote your emails for you

What did I miss? Share your email subscriber tips in the comments below.

The First Step in Building Your Email Marketing Program


Thinking about implementing an email marketing program as a part of your larger marketing plan? Do you feel like the process of implementation is a little daunting?

Of course there are a lot of things to think about…

  • Subject line testing
  • Email content
  • Special offers
  • Personalization
  • Frequency and timing
  • ROI

But you always have to start in one place. Because without this one thing figured out, there can be no email marketing program.

It’s your list!

Will you buy a list? I don’t recommend this approach.

Will you build your own list? The answer should be yes.

So the first thing you have to do is start your list. This requires a form for people to fill out and give you their email addresses. It requires providing a reason for them to give you their email address, ie. the promise of discounts or exclusive content. And it requires you to promote your email signup on your site, with social media, or in paid advertisements.

So start at the beginning, even if you don’t know what comes next.