What Is an Email List and How Can You Build it From Scratch

ByAquibur Rahman


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A person’s email address can be worth $50 to companies. Having an email list, means you have a potential lead database that you can harness for conversion and a ready crowd to promote your upcoming content and latest product updates. This beats social media followers and advertisements in both cost and responsiveness

However, creating your own email lists with people’s permission is difficult. So, if you don’t have an email list yet, then this article is perfect for you. It'll help teach you email list-building strategies.

Table of contents

What is an email list?

An email list is a collection of email addresses that organizations or individuals have gathered from prospects and potential customers with their permission. They are people who would like to get announcements, updates, bargains, and other attributes about your organization mailed to their email inbox.

Why should you have an email list?

There are several reasons why having a contact list will always be beneficial to your organization. Here they are:

  • You can use emails to help you with your narrative, brand awareness, and show off your product or services.

  • With an email list, you can send your subscribers emails to nurture your leads and convert them into paying clients.

  • You will always have the subscriber’s information when you build your email list. Unlike in social media, where it can shut down or your account can get deleted anytime, in which case you lose all your potential prospects.

  • You can ensure that every one of your subscribers will receive the emails, unlike other forms of digital marketing where the platform decides who to show your content.

How to build an email list in 3 steps

Here, we have broken it down into actionable steps that you can take to start building an email list right now:

Email List.jpg

Step 1: Create incentives or content that people would want

For the first step, for people to join your email list, you need to provide something enticing they would not want to miss. Such content or incentives, known as lead magnets, can be accessed by people once they sign up with their email ids.

We have listed down some ideas for lead magnets to get you started:

  • Free content or lead magnet

Offer content that people in your niche will be interested in. It should be something that provides them value. The type of content depends on your industry and target audience’s needs and interests. For example, you can send a free ebook to gain more email addresses

The free content works like a lead magnet that entices people to join your email list to receive free and valuable content. Here are some of the most popular lead magnets that you can create and send out.

Lead magnet What is it? Examples
Email Newsletters News report with information about the activities of an organization. Email marketing tips, latest updates, etc. from Mailmodo
Guides What or How-to articles that help people figure out a process or pain-point. Guide to improve hashtag strategy
Whitepapers An in-depth report on a topic’s problem while providing a solution. Google Cloud's AI Adoption Framework by Google.
E-books Digital book publication with text and images to read on electronic devices. How to create a winning subject line?
Courses Short education programs Email Marketing Free course
Checklists List of things to do to achieve something 200 things to declutter checklist
Reports Document with organized and detailed information about a topic for specific audiences. Lead management report
Toolkits Set of guidelines or suggestions to do something Toolkit for online business growth
Webinars Live or recorded online seminar How to grow your Amazon business
Cheatsheets Like a checklist, but it also contains hacks to help people. Hacks to write a viral blog post
  • Early access or insider benefits with exclusive content

You can offer people early access to quality content available to the general public only weeks later. Exclusive content makes people feel special and like they are a part of something special. You can provide them with something that'll help provide value, like improving their skills and processes, increasing growth, etc.

For example, Inktober gives people who sign up for their newsletter access to their challenge details one week before the general release. As a result, their audience wants to sign up because they get early access to the challenge.

  • Special offers and exclusive discounts

Discount code or coupons are great incentives that usually get people to sign up. If you are an e-commerce or B2C brand, these incentives will attract customers to your product or content.

  • Offer incentives and free trials

Many product and service companies offer complimentary trials for a limited time or limited features to their audiences. The free account or product requires people to sign up with an email ID to access a small part of the product or service.

For example, Mailmodo offers a 21-day free trial to try out their product.

Step 2: Create an email signup form linked with the incentive

Now that you have something to offer, you need a sign-up form to collect the email addresses of people. A sign-up or popup forms are used to collect email addresses from people who want the incentive you are offering.

There are many ways to incorporate a signup page into your website. Here are a few:

  • Create a unique landing page

The landing page is where your audience lands when they click on your incentive. It has a signup bar to capture email addresses from people before providing them the freebie.

  • Add it to your blog or newsletter page

Include a signup area on your blog as the people who read the blogs are already interested in your email content.

  • Include it in the checkout process

If you sell online, then you can make people sign up before they checkout by providing them with a coupon if they sign up.

  • Contact form

On the contact or about page on your website, you can set up a contact form for people to sign up through it if they want to contact you.

Contact form to build email list

Source: Leighellexson

  • Pop up

Greet people who visit your website with a pop-up. The pop-up can inform the people about incentives like seasonal sales, holiday offers, etc.

Pop-up example by Inktober

Source: Inktober

Step 3: Distribute the form and market your incentives

To build a great email list, make sure you are marketing the freebies to new potential customers. Now that you have set up the process and the backend systems, it's time to drive traffic toward your signup forms. You can tell your audience about the incentive to create exposure for your brand and increase your email list subscribers.

You can use the following ways to distribute the incentives:

Social media

You can use social media channels to tell people what valuable incentive you are offering them for free. Make sure to direct them to your signup bar when you advertise on social media. You can use the following media, create social media accounts to inform the audience about your email list:

  • Facebook

Facebook ads, posts, stories, shares in relevant groups, etc.

  • YouTube

Promotional videos, video descriptions, etc.

  • Instagram

Instagram stories, bio, posts, IGTV, Reels, etc.

  • Advertisements

You can create ads on Google or social media about your free product or service. The ads will direct people to your landing page, where they'll signup to receive the freebie.

  • Events or conferences (virtual or in-person)

If your organization is going to organize meetups, set up stalls, or present at trade shows, then you can inform people of the free resource or benefits you are providing when they sign up online. You can also collect their contact information during the event. And later on, you can add it to your email list.

  • Email signature

In the signature of all your personal and professional emails, provide a link to your opt-in form. Then, the people who receive your emails can sign up if they are interested.

  • Email co-marketing

Email co-marketing is when two brands collaborate to develop an email marketing campaign. They are not creating something new. They are only marketing what they already have. For example, affiliate marketing, where brands collaborate with popular influencers to access and engage with new customers.

Etiquettes of email list building

It's always a good idea to stay formal with your audience. Etiquettes are important when building email contacts. Waltzing in people's inboxes without manners is a recipe for "report as spam". To boost your email marketing efforts, here are some things to keep in mind:

Get permission to collect information

Sign-up sheets are helpful because they get permission from people to collect their email addresses. Consent is necessary because you have to value their privacy. And also, according to laws like GDPR, CAN-SPAM, HIPAA, etc., people have to permit companies to manage their data.

Keep your promise and deliver the incentive on time

Once they have joined your mailing list and verified, ensure that you fulfill your end of the deal in due time. Send them the reward or incentive that you promised and for which they signed up.

Validation of emails through opt-ins

Send people an email to verify and opt into your email list. Use a combination of single and double opt-ins to make sure that people want to be a part of your email list.

To know how to use opt-in in your marketing strategy you can read these guides:

How to Use Opt-In in Your Email Marketing Strategy

What Is Double Opt-In and Why You Should Use It

What's next now that you have an email list

Manage your email list

Once you have a list, you need to maintain it and send consistent emails. You need to remove the incorrect email addresses and segment them based on their interests. Check out our article on how to maintain a clean email list.

Send consistent emails

Keep up a consistent schedule to send targeted emails to your existing subscribers to stay relevant in their minds.


Building an email list is a gradual process. It doesn't happen overnight and nor do you have a genie to build it in a whiff. It takes constant work. And a part of that work is providing valuable and relevant content to attract people. While creating content, also keep in mind the etiquette we have discussed in this article. Those are important as people should know what data you are collecting.

Once you have an email list, you have to maintain it and send out emails. So, signing up to an email marketing platform/ provider like Mailmodo makes the whole email marketing process much more manageable.

Mailmodo provides tools to manage email lists, create email campaign, and track and analyze email metrics. It helps you create and manage your email marketing campaigns all in one place. You can also send AMP emails for a better user experience. So sign up with us and start building your list.

What should you do next?

Thanks for reading till the end. Here are 3 ways we can help you grow your business:


Get smarter with our email resources

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Talk to an email expert

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