The Very Basics of Building Your First Email List

The Very Basics of Building Your First Email List

You know that email marketing is an ideal way to get your name out there and grow your audience — and you’re excited to try it out — but you honestly have no clue where to start. Building your email list from the ground up feels intimidating, and what you’d love most is a guide to help you take off running.

Good news — you’ve found yourself in the right place! Here, we’ll cover some of the easiest ways to add subscribers to your email list from the start. Not every approach will work for everyone, but by implementing a few of these suggestions, you’ll be sure to move your subscriber count up higher and higher.

How to build your first email list

1. Plan your content first.

In 2021, you can’t just ask people to subscribe to a newsletter without giving them some indication as to what they’ll get in return. Before you begin inviting people you know (and don’t!) to your email list, it’s best to have a general idea of the topics you plan to cover, as well as how frequently you’ll email them. 

2. Start with the people you already know.

So often, starting from scratch is what keeps people frozen: A blinking cursor on a blank page feels paralyzing. A subscriber count of zero is extremely intimidating. If you’re starting with no audience, don’t stress. Simply ask the people you currently communicate with if they’d be interested in joining your list. Invite your friends, family, coworkers, and previous clients. Just remember, permission is key. Don’t simply add people to your list — doing so isn’t compliant with the CAN-SPAM act, and it’s poor taste, too.

Then, ask them if they’d be so kind to invite one or two people from their own networks to join your list. Even if you only get a small amount of secondary subscribers, you can still pat yourself on the back for getting a new-to-you audience with no effort of your own.

3. Add calls to action on any content you’re producing.

Write a blog? Host a podcast? Great! Are you adding calls to action to every blog post or podcast episode? If not, here’s a simple opportunity to add people to your new email list. If you weren’t doing it before, take the time to go back into all previous posts and add email subscribe fields and an invitation to join you. 

4. Figure out an approach to attracting new subscribers.

Don’t forget to talk about your email list where you’re already showing up, like on social media. Invite people in. Let them know you’ll be sharing exclusive content, and most importantly, reinforce that you’re going to treat their emails with respect and privacy. 

A few other popular ways to get new people on your list include website pop-ups, standard subscribe forms, or freebies or opt-ins that are downloadable and provide value.

You may also want to consider creating an ad budget to spend on Google or social media ads that entice people to join your email list, especially if you’re offering them something in return, such as an opt-in, ebook, or mini-course.

Building your very first email list may feel like a daunting task, but rest assured, with regular attention and quality content, your list is bound to grow and will prove itself as a dynamic marketing tool.

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Erin Ollila

Erin Ollila is a content strategist and writer who believes in the power of words and how a message can inform — and even transform — its intended audience. Reach out to her on Instagram at @ErinOllila, or visit her website erinollila.com.