Build An Email List

Last month, we reached an exciting milestone 5 months early: 42,183 awesome folks like you are active subscribers who receive CoSchedule blog content.

Thanks, by the way!

The goal was to reach 40,000+ subscribers by December 31, 2015. Now it’s a lot more.

Since you likely have the same goals to build a big email list of active subscribers who continually read your content, attend your events, and are more likely to convert into paying customers, we thought you’d enjoy using the email list building tactics that have worked for us. Enjoy!

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Market Why Your Readers Should Become Subscribers

1. Never underestimate a powerful call to action.

Bill Jayme, a direct response copywriting genius who is super famous for writing sales letters, used the word free and tons of variations throughout his copy. It’s super effective.

As a marketer, you’re well aware of selling the benefits of your product to entice prospects to buy. The same rules apply for your marketing: Sell your visitors on why they should subscribe to receive your content.

Ultimately, using words like free, becomebetter, and now in our calls to action helped us gather the majority of the subscribers. Carefully pick the words you use with your limited copy to inspire deep emotion that makes your readers feel like they will miss out if they don’t subscribe.

For example, Noah Kagan and his crew at SumoMe did this super well with their latest training course:

how to build an email list with Buzzsumo's calls to action

This call to action appeals to the emotion of missing out on something awesome while making it urgent to subscribe.

This call to action inspired more than 9,000 social media shares and 5,000+ participants in the group. It reads:

Don’t Lose 15 Lessons and $2,500

Sign up to make sure you get the 15 free lessons and $2,500+ in bonuses! The course closes Monday…

This is awesome because:

  1. Who likes missing out on lessons limited to only the first few who sign up?
  2. hate losing money. I don’t even know what value I’m getting, but $2,500 is a lot of money.
  3. This stuff is free. I like things I don’t have to pay for.
  4. I only have until Monday to do this, so I better act now before I miss out and be a loser. :(

One thing I would add to this already-super-power call to action is to focus more on how your readers will become better at what they do just by subscribing to your content. That’s getting nit-picky.

2. Social proof goes a long way.

“Join Over 40,000 Blog Subscribers –>” says a lot about your content in few words.

Picture your readers asking themselves: “If 40,000 other people trust these guys to provide awesome content, why shouldn’t I?”

how to build an email list with social proof

The CoSchedule blog uses social proof to help turn visitors into subscribers. An even more powerful way to do this would be to include more expert users and case studies to tell stories about how CoSchedule content has helped them improve their own marketing.

Ed Hallen found 5 ways of showing social proof that influence credibility:

  1. Expert: When an authority in your industry says awesome stuff about you. It works because people look up to them and value their opinion as a thought leader. It’s the halo effect applied as a psychological marketing trigger.
  2. Celebrity: Ed mentions the extended self as the reason this works. People search for group membership to mark their position in society, and feeling attached to a celebrity sort of creates this attachment to a product or brand.
  3. User: Your readers tend to put themselves in the shoes of others. Testimonials, even about your content to help trigger subscribers, can inspire action. Imagine a case study of how your content helped a user do something wonderful! That story would be super powerful.
  4. Wisdom of the crowds: If tons of people already trust you for awesome content, why shouldn’t more? Ed hints that this tactic of showing the masses who subscribe to your content appeals to the fear of missing out. What are your visitors missing who aren’t subscribers?
  5. Wisdom of your friends: This is actual word of mouth, likes on social media, and similar referrals. In one study, referrals were 18% less likely to churn—making this super powerful.

Give Your Readers Something Sweet For Becoming Subscribers

3. Build tools and give them away for free.

Click To Tweet is a popular tool that more than 15,000 WordPress blogs use to increase the number of social shares for their blog posts. Those who use it love it to add functional visual breaks into their content while increasing their shares and traffic. Win-win-win.

We knew content itself was an awesome way to help people out, but man, that tool was pretty awesome. So, naturally, we took our own medicine and repeated our success.

Next came the headline analyzer, aiming to take our research of more than 1 million headlines and making it into an actionable tool bloggers and content marketers could use to get more traffic and attention for every piece of content they publish.

Today, the headline analyzer is the #1 search result in Google for the term, is our #1 source for new traffic and pageviews, and contributes more new subscribers to our content than any other source.

how to build an email list with free tools

Free tools like the headline analyzer have been very influential in building our email list.

We wrote a blog post to complement the analyzer and offer a free tear sheet of the words you can use to get a better score. Oh, and we made it difficult to pass up on the download:

build an email list by appealing to the fear of missing out

Not only is this a super helpful and relevant piece of content, the call to action appeals to the fear of missing out.

Put it into action:

  1. What super helpful tools could you create? Get a list going and prioritize the ones that are the best opportunity for 10x growth.
  2. Brainstorm how you could build those tools. If you can’t build something in-house, how much are subscribers worth in your budget for marketing? Think of outsourcing development. A tool that took us about two weeks to build provides more subscribers than any of our other content. It could be the same for you.

4. Publish landing pages dedicated to providing free content.

Our most popular landing page is dedicated to providing an editorial calendar template. It’s a huge search term for us, and it’s awesome because it’s a gateway to introducing CoSchedule as the marketing calendar that takes a template to the next level.

how to build an email list with landing pages

Our most popular landing page offers free editorial calendar templates and guides visitors on how to use them to plan super effectively.

Unlike some landing pages, we treat these much like any blog post on our site:

  • They’re super actionable with content that goes deep into solving a problem.
  • They are long-form.
  • They target a keyword our audience is actively searching for.
  • Most explain exactly how to use the templates once visitors download them.

5. Give away relevant, contextual content.

We experimented with providing free content to complement every blog post. When we found that people really like templates, guides, worksheets, and checklists that summarize the actionable advice from our super long blog posts, we decided to include downloads in every post we publish.

Sure, some posts are more popular than others, but every post usually gives us at least 100 new subscribers in its first week. And because we really hone in our posts to target the keywords our audience searches for, the free content continually gives a few new subscribers every week. Those few add up to a lot over time when you publish two posts a week.

how to build an email list with contextual downloads

Contextual downloads bring in subscribers right away and provide a trickle of constant subscribers. The more you publish, the more subscribers you get.

Folks like Brian Dean at Backlinko and Neil Patel at Quicksprout do this, too. Brian is super smart, and even includes bonus content in his downloads that you can’t get in his posts:

how to build an email list with bonus content

Brian Dean summarizes the content from his super long, detailed posts into scannable, actionable guides to grow his subscriber list.

People like to get more for less. Which brings us to our next point.

6. Take advice from your Internet service provider on bundles.

“Save a ton of money when you get a landline, Internet, and your cable with us!”

Well, I’m not sure how many people really need a landline anymore these days, but the idea is awesome when you apply it to your content.

Instead of providing one free piece of awesome content in exchange for an email address, why not 2? We asked ourselves that question and put it to the test. If you guys and gals like 2, why not 10? 10+? Heck 15? 18? 21?

The more content we gave away for a single email address, the higher the conversions. The bigger the bundle of giveaways, the more people subscribed. It was an incredible finding that makes total sense, in hindsight.

We use welcome gifts to provide free content to new folks reading CoSchedule blog posts. When we gave away just one checklist, our average conversion was 3.38%. Not bad, right?

how to build an email list with welcome gifts

Giving away one piece of free content as a welcome gift converts decently.

But when we switched to provide content bundles of 15 and scheduled the welcome gift to show up once every 5 days, conversions jumped to more than 6%.

build an email list with content bundle popups

Giving away multiple pieces of content as welcome gifts converts super well.

Now we’re showing the popup more often—and to more people—and it’s converting even higher than our former welcome gift. So, we’re getting lots more subscribers by bundling free blog giveaways.

how to build an email list with content bundles

The higher the number in the content bundle, the higher the conversions.

7. Host webinars and maximize your recordings.

We recently hosted a webinar featuring Taylor Pipes from Evernote:

That webinar drew in 566 subscribers to attend the live webinar. Which was pretty awesome. Then we tried hosting a webinar ourselves without a special guest:

111 subscribers signed up for that initially. That’s a lot of work for 111 subscribers.

So, we learned a few things about webinars that can help you build an email list:

  1. Include a special guest of some notoriety. Remember that thing about experts, celebrities, and social proof? Yeah, it definitely applies here.
  2. Start promoting earlier rather than later. The more successful of the two webinars had a bit more promotion time. It also helped that we had two companies promoting the webinar: CoSchedule and Evernote. So we were able to tap into a larger audience.
  3. And if you just tried watching the video replays of the webinars, you’ll note that we ask for email addresses after the introductions. That helps us get even more subscribers from the same content. If it was valuable enough to ask for an email address the first time around, your webinar is just as valuable in video format.

8. Explore email-automated courses and training.

We did four email courses back in 2013 to help our then-4-role-big audience. Those were pretty successful considering the size of our audience at the time:

how to build an email list with email courses

Considering we really didn’t have too much of an audience back then, 3,508 subscribers is pretty good.

Email courses are a great way to share exclusive content you don’t share freely on your blog to entice signups. And we’re not the only ones it works for:

build an email list with courses

Noah and his team at SumoMe and OkDork have built lists of hundreds of thousands of subscribers. If he says it’s a good way to do it, I trust his expertise.

Here’s a trick from Noah Kagan, too: Find a need, even if it’s already been covered a billion times, and create a really awesome tool or template and complement it with helpful advice on how to use it to overcome those challenges. That’s a perfect setup for a course.

In the Traffic1M course (growing your traffic to 1 million visits), Noah and Co. made a very nice Google Spreadsheet to help marketers plan goals and tactics to achieve those goals. It was finally a tool to put into action everything marketers know they should do, but may not know how to do it.

The course then runs through how to use the tool as the foundation to grow your traffic. And it’s brilliant.

9. Experiment with your giveaways.

how to build an email list with templates

Templates are by far our most-downloaded type of lead magnet. We do PDF templates a lot, I’d love to try Google Spreadsheet versions and measure the results.

Some content types are just more effective than others. For our audience, we discovered:

  • Templates are popular. It makes sense since you guys and gals trust us for actionable content, so giving you a tool to put your knowledge into reality is awesome.
  • Tear sheets, worksheets, checklists, and guides are also great. This follows the same theory as templates: You just learned something awesome, and these typically provide the big ideas and possibly a few bonus points to help you put what you learned into practice.
  • Infographics are alright depending on the topic. When we write about design, graphics, and the like, infographics are super popular.
  • E-books have been OK. E-books take a lot of work, yet some of our templates have gotten more downloads.

Your audience may prefer bonus content in the form of videos, spreadsheets, white papers, or something we haven’t even explored yet.

The point is this: In your first few months, publish lots of different types of lead magnets and measure your results. Repeat your success and minimize how much you publish of content that doesn’t perform as well.

10. Publish guest posts on other awesome blogs.

One of our most popular downloads is a social media plan template. We published that template on a landing page, launching it specifically to complement a blog post we wrote for the Convince and Convert blog called: 33 Ways Your Social Media Plan Will Make You More Successful.

As we wrote the post, we researched the most popular content published on the Convince and Convert blog. 15 minutes of digging around showed us that Convince and Convert readers love long list posts, and any post with the words social media in the headline seemed to perform really well.

So we used that knowledge to our advantage, and the very first way to rock a better social media plan was by using a free template from CoSchedule.

how to build an email list with guest blogging

This is a Convince and Convert guest post that highlights 33 ways to use a social media plan. The very first way directs the audience to download CoSchedule content.

That helped us get 516 subscribers from a single post. Imagine the possibilities when you include guest blogging as a regular part of your content strategy.

Do it yourself:

  1. Use tools like the ones from SumoMe to research the blogs you’ll write guest posts for, or just take a look at the social shares analytics on nearly any blog. Not only will that help you write an awesome pitch (because you can show that you researched the blog and are basing your ideas on what should be super successful for their audience), it will really help you write better content.
  2. Include a free download specifically related to your guest post to help turn someone else’s audience into your own.

11. Who said this all needs to be digital?

While giving away free content and tools is great because of the instant gratification of receiving something, we also mix in sending physical care packages to our audience.

We give away shirts, stickers, and other cool stuff (even branded water once!) to the vocal folks out there who are just awesome ambassadors for CoSchedule.

This move is more so a community builder for us rather than an email subscriber generator. But. It’s a neat way to connect with our fans and keep them happy, which helps us retain our subscribers and advocates.

Plus, it’s a feel-good project for everyone!

Try These Additional Proven Email List Building Techniques That Work For Noah Kagan

I haven’t tried these techniques yet, but they’re too good not to share them with you. These are a couple things I’d like to do more of to reach our next subscriber growth goal:

12. Ask for subscribers.

Sounds easy, right? It is.

how to build an email list with social media

Noah Kagan used social media to convert his followers into subscribers.

Noah started with Twitter and slowly made his way through his other social networks, simply asking his followers to become subscribers. You can do that, too.

13. Ask your subscribers to forward info to their friends.

I recently signed up for Noah’s traffic course to help us optimize the CoSchedule blog for more visitors. When I signed up, there was this brilliant idea:

how to build an email list by asking active subscribers to share your content

Noah Kagan asks his active subscribers to share his content for more bonus free stuff. It literally doubles his reach with nothing to lose.

Why not ask your subscribers to share the love with their friends, coworkers, and colleagues? There’s probably never a better time for active subscribers than ones who just signed up, so if you see an opportunity like this with your content, I bet it would work.

With more than 5,487 people in that Slack group now, Noah’s reach literally doubled because he asked every single person there to inform their friends about the course. Imagine the possibilities of the “wisdom of your friends” social proof impacting the number of people reached through this tactic. It’s brilliant.

What Email List Building Tools Actually Work?

Now that you know what kinds of messaging and techniques work, it’s time to put it into practice. Here are the tools, tech, and placement we used to build an email list of 42,183 active subscribers.

14. Sticky navigation.

When you visit our blog and scroll down a page (look up right now!) you’ll note that the subscribe bar floats at the top of the website. It’s a sticky navigation:

how to build an email list with sticky navigation

Sticky navigation is more about being able to hop into any blog post category, but it’s a great place to include a subscribe form.

That sticky navigation brought in a whopping 4,610 subscribers. It works.

This header depends mainly on your WordPress theme with a form directly from your email service provider. We use CampaignMonitor at CoSchedule.

Alternatively, you could try the same approach with tools like Hello Bar, GetSiteControl, Attention Grabber Plugin, or similar ones complemented with a signup form from your email service provider or something like LeadBoxes from LeadPages.

15. Sticky sidebars.

Our highest converting Web pages are our landing pages. These have a sticky sidebar that follows visitors down the page with a relevant download that complements the content they’re reading:

how to build an email list with sticky sidebars

Sticky sidebars are nonintrusive and provide helpful, relevant content in exchange for subscribing.

These pages are part of our website theme built right into Todaylaunch, a content management system built by our sister company, Todaymade. It’s part of the skin of the website, so we just include the download information right in the CMS to show the sidebar.

Two landing pages with sticky sidebars are our second- and third-highest converting pieces of content, pulling in a combined 13,145 subscribers.

You can do this, too, with Todaylaunch or by adding something like Hello Bar to your content like Buzzfarmers does:

how to build an email list like Buzzfarmers

Buzzfarmers uses a sticky popup from Hello Bar to offer relevant bonus content in exchange for email addresses.

16. Inline downloads.

If you’ve read a CoSchedule blog post anytime within the past few months, you’ve seen an example of an inline download form:

how to build an email list with inline downloads

CoSchedule uses a custom form to trade relevant content—usually summaries of the best ideas and takeaways from the post—for email addresses.

Collectively, these deliver several thousand subscribers every month.

We use a custom-made plugin for our blog, but there are similar tools to help you do this yourself. LeadBoxes from LeadPages is a good alternative for inline downloads:

how to build an email list like Neil Patel

Neil Patel uses LeadBoxes from LeadPages to gather subscribes from inline downloads.

17. Video embeds.

Wistia’s Turnstile is awesome for turning video viewers into subscribers:

how to build an email list with Wistia

You can set the time on your video when your form will appear, giving you enough time to hook your viewers before asking for their email address.

18. Welcome gifts.

We’ve used OptinMonster and LeadPages to help us welcome new visitors to the CoSchedule blog by giving them a free download or content bundle in exchange for becoming a subscriber. Both were effective lead generators.

CoSchedule trades its best content for email subscribers

OptinMonster works well for providing welcome gifts to your new visitors in exchange for their email addresses.

4,685 folks who visited our blog signed up for welcome gifts.

19. Exit intent.

What if you could show your visitors one last call to action before they left your site? That’s what exit intent is all about.

how to build an email list with exit intent

Exit intent popups appear when visitors move their cursor to the address bar in their browser, indicating they are leaving your site.

It’s a great way to provide one last piece of value to your visitors to convert them into subscribers.

We’ve used LeadBoxes from LeadPages for exit intent—combined with content bundles. This was effective, but not as much as welcome gifts.

20. Website footer.

The footer of your website is often not the same as your blog. It’s a good opportunity to remind folks visiting your business’ website to engage with your content to nurture the sale by educating them on the value you have to offer.

build an email list with a subscribe form in your website footer

Your website footer may not contribute many subscribers, but it is a solid reminder that you have a story to tell to nurture them into customers.

Expect this to contribute a little more than 1% to your overall growth. Still, it works and is super easy to do: Just embed a signup form from your email service provider right into the footer.

21. Measurement.

These email list building techniques and tools work for us, but how will you know if they work for you?

You’ve seen tons of screenshots from different tools that help us measure our success:

  1. KISSmetrics is fantastic for helping you understand what is converting. It provides us the data we need to understand the best content types and topics for our audience to convert readers into subscribers.
  2. CampaignMonitor is the best version of truth for our actual number of subscribers and how many are active. We review our open and clickthrough rates to understand what lead magnets perform better than others.
  3. Google Analytics is a handy way of understanding which pages are getting traffic so we can compare that to our subscriber conversions.

The point is this: When you get started, know what you want your goal to be, and make small tweaks on your calls to action and blog giveaways while reviewing your conversion rates. You may be surprised what a few minor changes can do to help you build your email list.

How Will You Build Your Email List?

Bonus! 22: Check out this video featuring Matt Ragland from SumoMe, a company that’s mastered email list building, to learn even more:

Start building your email list today with this handy template. Good luck!

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How do you build your email list?