A guide to Email Marketing: Part 3 – Building Your Email Subscriber List

Email Marketing - Building your subscriber list

Building Your Email Subscriber List

The first thing you need to do is prepare your ESP Account so that you can collect data.  I will be using MailChimp for my examples, however most reputable ESP’s will provide the same functionality, albeit the terminology may differ slightly.  I will also be suggesting providers that offer all of the functionality mentioned in these posts at the end of the series.

Sign-up forms

The first thing you need to do is to create your sign-up form.  MailChimp takes you through the simple steps to enable you to do this, and it offers embedded code so that you can use the form on your website.  It also offers the ability to create pop-up sign-up boxes for your website, and it will create the code that you need to apply the sign-up form to Twitter Cards.  (You should note that Twitter Card integration is only available at present for Twitter users with advertising accounts).

You should also utilise the functionality that allows you to add your own branding to the sign-up form, after all, you want people to know that they have arrived at the right place. At this stage you will also be given the opportunity to add a welcome or thank you message, it is a good idea to add this too.

My main advice when setting up the sign-up form is that you only ask for the information that you are likely to use in the future.  If you ask for too much information, potential subscribers will be put off and leave. Likewise, if they don’t understand why you need the information, they will leave. If there is a particular piece of detail that you need, you should try to explain to the subscribers why you need it, when you do this most people will be happy to provide this information.

If you intend to use segmented lists, you should use the functionality that allows people to choose which list. So, our New Media Breakfast list is segmented into two parts – Glasgow and Edinburgh.  This enables us to send details of the Glasgow breakfast to those who have chosen Glasgow during the sign-up process.  It means that Edinburgh subscribers don’t get emails about events that they are unlikely to attend.

You may want to segment your list by geography, gender, age, industry sector, interests etc.

You should also create a separate page on your website with an embedded sign-up form using the code MailChimp provides.  By all means have the sign-up form displayed in a side bar or footer of the website, but it will be useful when you start to build your lists to be able to direct people to a specific url on your website.

Single or double opt-in

You also need to decide whether you are going to use a single opt-in where people who submit their details are simply added to the list, or a double opt-in whereby they are sent an email to verify their email address. Personally, I prefer the double opt-in; if people take the trouble to verify their email it is a good indication that they are genuinely interested in your content.  You will also find that the Email Service Providers prefer this method.

If you choose to use a double opt-in process, you have the ability to customise the verification email.  Once again, I suggest it is good practice to do this.

Don’t forget Facebook

There are a couple of ways that you can add your form to your Facebook page, this will also help you to find subscribers.

Call to Action

You can use the ‘Call to Action’ button available on all Facebook business pages to add a link to the form on your website.  If you’re not using the button for anything else, you should consider using it for this purpose – there is an option on the Facebook set-up for “Sign Up”.

Facebook Tabs

You should also create a tab on Facebook and embed your form code here.  Using this tab in connection with Facebook advertising will yield better sign-up results than when you direct users away from Facebook to your website.  If you create a tab, make sure you go to ‘Manage Tabs’ and drag the sign up tab to the top available spot, this means your sign-up tab will appear in the menu on your page.  See our Facebook header below.

Other list building considerations…

Remember to add a message and link to your sign up form to your email footers.

Make use of QR Codes to automatically open your sign-up form.  These can be added to brochures, adverts, vehicle liveries, tent cards etc.

YouTube allows you to add annotations to your video content.  So, while your video is playing, a message can appear on the screen to encourage people to sign-up to your mailing list.  You should also bear in mind that you have the ability to edit Facebook Live video content after it has been broadcast, one of the options is to add a call to action button!

You should also make use of the MailChimp app so that you can invite people at exhibitions to enter their details on your form from a smart phone or a tablet device.

Create a lead acquisition budget

All of the list building tips above are free, however you must be prepared to pay to build your list – however, this should not be confused with paying for a list.

The more you familiarise yourself with Email Marketing, the more you will come to realise the enormous value in an email address, therefore you should be prepared to set aside a budget to help you build your list.  This budget will be used to create ‘lead magnets’, promotions, and discounts that are specifically used to attract subscribers.

Lead Magnets

A lead magnet is something specifically designed to entice subscribers, they could be a free eBook download, access to premium content, useful infographics, white papers, discount codes, monthly prize draws etc.

You should explore what kind of information will be appealing to your target audience, then create it in a downloadable format that you can exchange for an email.  Investing in this type of content will pay dividends and ensure that your mailing list is relevant to the product or service that you provide.


Competitions are a great way to acquire email addresses, but make sure you keep the competition and the prize relevant to your product or service.  Yes, you’ll get the habitual competition entry people submitting their names, but we will suggest a way to quickly sift them out in a later post.

Also, running a permanent monthly prize draw for everyone on the mailing list is a good way to improve subscriber retention.  If they have a chance to win something by just being subscribed, they will be more inclined to stay.  Once again, keep the prize relevant to your product or service.

You should also note that prizes don’t need to be big ticket items, people love winning, regardless of the value or the prize.

If you go down the competition route, you should always promote the winner, it’s another opportunity to promote the mailing list.

Facebook Advertising

One of the features available with Facebook Advertising designed to encourage mailing list sign-up.  Given the fantastic targeting options available through Facebook Advertising, it is an extremely good platform to use to attract subscribers.  Remember, direct your advert to the Facebook Tab on your business page, rather than to your website, research indicates better results when you allow subscribers to sign-up without leaving the Facebook platform.

Other considerations

Don’t ever share your list, people have subscribed for your content and you should protect the integrity of your list at all times.  It may also land you in trouble with Data Protection laws.

Finally, don’t purchase mailing lists.  I know some people may not agree with this, however I have never seen a positive outcome from using a purchased mailing list.

Most reputable platforms expressly forbid the use of purchase lists, they do this to protect the integrity of their service.  In most cases they will suspend your account if they suspect you are importing purchased lists.  And, you risk being blacklisted by ISP’s if they suspect you are sending unsolicited emails.

The next post will look at Maintaining Your Email Subscriber List. Please watch out for it, or ‘Follow’ me on LinkedIn by selecting the ‘Follow’ option when you hover over the ‘Connect’ button on my profile.

Meantime, if you have found this post interesting, please use the social share buttons at the top of the page to share it with your online community, there’s a good chance that others in your community will find it interesting too.  Thank you. 

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Author: Gordon White