19 Proven Ideas You Can Use to Build Your Email List

In 2015, I wanted to increase awareness about my startup.

I chose email marketing to do it and ended up building an email list of more than 13,000 subscribers.

What we did to build that list was novel at that time. We offered a free course in digital marketing, probably the first in the country and got all these people to sign up in 59 days.

Gone are the days when you ask people to sign up for your newsletter and they queue up. But building a list is still important. 

All that worked in the past, does not work these days. So how do you do that?

Here is how you can build your list and grow your brand.

How To Build An Email List

  1. Offer a free course. This is what we did to grow a 13,000 subscriber list in less than 2 months.
  2. Offer content upgrades on your blog posts. A content upgrade is a PDF related to the topic of your blog post. You don’t need to make it detailed. It can be a simple checklist or a downloadable version of your blog post.
  3. Run a limited-time challenge, like a 30-day weight loss challenge. Promote it in online communities and get people to sign up so that they can receive daily prompts or updates.
  4. Speak at an event. This is a good way to build a personal brand but also can help build an email list. The subscribers you get this way may not be big in number but they’ll be loyal.
  5. Host webinars. This sells products and you can also use it to build an email list. 
  6. Run giveaways. Use can use a tool like Kingsumo or Rafflecopter to do it. My friend James Altucher used them successfully a couple of years back. Josh Earl, used giveaways to grow his email list by almost 200k emails in less than two weeks for a newsletter related to programming. 
  7. Get a mention in someone else’s newsletter. If the newsletter has good engagement and has a sizeable subscriber number you can pick up 50 or even 100 subscribers from one mention.
  8. Make your content so awesome that it generates word of mouth. In real life, people will not ask others to subscribe to a person’s newsletter but they’ll recommend a person and when people check out that person’s website, many of them end up on their email list.
  9. Cross-promote from your social media handles. Authors like Ramit Sethi do it. You can also pin the post with a prompt to subscribe to the top of your Twitter handle of Facebook profile.
  10. Mention everywhere you can it, like in webinars, podcasts, and YouTube videos.
  11. Run online ads wherever your audience hangs out. You’ll have more success with these ads if you promote what is inside the newsletter than if you promote the newsletter itself.
  12. Do newsletter swaps with others who have a similar audience and list as you.
  13. Leverage good old search. If you have a post that ranks well in search, you can easily get 5-10 or 100 high-quality subscribers daily depending on the volume of traffic you get.
  14. Get your subscribers to get their friends as subscribers. We used this strategy successfully while building the subscriber list I mentioned earlier. We gave them a pre-written message that they used to share information about our free course among their friends.
  15. Create an ambassador program like Hustle. Hustle has a newsletter with more than a million subscribers. They offer different rewards depending on how many subscribers one refers to their newsletter.
  16. Run exit-intent popups. These are the small boxes that you see when you try to leave a web page. You can use a tool like OptinMonster to set them up. Enterprise can use a solution like Exit Intelligence.
  17. Write a post for a popular site, and offer a resource inside it which people can get by subscribing to your list. John Gannon, a co-founder of BeMaven wrote a guest post for career advice site The Muse and got 1800 email signups through that single post.
  18. Launch free info products and tools via Product Hunt. Harry Dry launched his case study focused site Marketing Examples on Product Hunt and gained 2000 subscribers in 72 hours.

If you are looking to grow your email list, find inspiration in these ideas and start with what looks doable.