15 Industry Experts Share Their #1 Email List Building Tactic

Raise your hand if list building is on the top of your to-do list. 🙋🏼

Email marketing helps you build relationships, grow your community and drive traffic to your website again and again. It’s a non-negotiable for the modern marketer.

And our industry friends agree: We asked 15 of them to share the number one list building tactic that helped them grow their own email list so you can start seeing success of your own.

1. When it comes to your sign up form, less is more

Erin King, Sr. Email Marketing Manager at Litmus

A painless sign-up process is essential when building a list. When potential subscribers are first opting in to your list, it can be tempting to ask them for a large amount of information (address, job title, company size, etc). But a lengthy sign up form can lead to a higher rate of sign-up abandonment.


Keep your sign up form fields to a minimum — at most, a name and email address. This is the start of your relationship with the subscriber, so no need to overwhelm them with too many questions. As you build trust with them, you can employ tactics like progressive profiling to learn more about them.

2. Make your sign up form work harder for you

Chad White, Research Director at Litmus

I’m a fan of strengthening strengths. Your best subscribers always come from owned acquisition sources — your website, stores, call center, mobile app and other sources close to your shopping and customer service operations — so I recommend improving those.

Make them work harder for you by:

  • Making sign-up opportunities prominent during key interaction points
  • Reducing unnecessary and low-value fields on sign up forms to reduce friction
  • Making the sign up value proposition stronger
  • Setting clear expectations as to what new subscribers will receive and how often
  • Optimizing the sign up form call-to-action


Even small improvements to these subscriber acquisition sources are really valuable, because the subscribers you acquire through these sources are much more valuable than ones you attract elsewhere. So start A/B testing today.

3. Get social

Kristen Dunleavy, Content Marketing Manager at Movable Ink

When you add contextual elements to your emails, you show your audience that you really ‘get’ them. One way to build your list with context is by adding a live social feed to your emails. Give your social followers a heads up and tell them to sign up for your list to check it out.

This helps create buzz around your email list and gives you the chance to showcase user-generated content in your emails.


4. Ask your audience what they want

Amy Schmittauer, Founder of Savvy Sexy Social

Anytime my audience gives me an idea of something they want or need, I try to create the ultimate lead magnet around that so I can grow my list. It’s a win-win for everyone because I’ve specifically offered them something they asked for in return for contact information. Instead of just guessing what your audience wants, ask and create the very best thing you could offer. They will opt-in happily knowing you listened!

5. Add an integration to the mix

Noah Kagan, Chief Sumo at SumoMe

Use Welcome Mat from SumoMe and make custom versions for different pages and different traffic sources.


For more on pop-up forms: 3 Ways You Can Use Pop Up Forms for Good and Not Evil

6. Promote on your podcast

Nick Loper, Chief Side Hustler at Side Hustle Nation

The list building tactic I’ve found most effective is creating content-specific opt-in offers and linking those in the post or mentioning those on the podcast. The simplest way to do it is just to create a PDF version of the post to download and read later. If you have a really long epic article, this can be surprisingly effective.

7. Leverage your expertise

Carl Sednaoui, Director of Marketing at MailCharts

As an entrepreneur, you’re likely to have expertise in whatever your business focuses on. Leverage that expertise to create and distribute valuable educational content. This will help you connect with your community while growing your reputation and email list. 37 Signals, the company behind Basecamp, are also firms believers of promotion through education.


We’ve had tremendous success with this exact approach at MailCharts. This is why we’ve created everything from email courses, to ebooks, to full reports.

8. Don’t underestimate word-of-mouth

Mike Nelson, Email Geek at Really Good Emails

As for the best list building tactic, word of mouth is actually what we go for. Seems strange in a digital world full of pop-ups and form fields (which we have), but we try to be out-of-the-box and give the reader something to talk about. Whether it is our strange humor about a subject or providing an interesting article about a new strategy, we want people to have a connection with our emails so they tell their colleagues where they got the info. We see a lot of people at the same company sign up at once, which is always fun to see because it shows that word got around the team.

9. Identify pain points, solve them with incentives

Rachel Moffatt, Social Media Manager at Express Writers

The best way to grow your email list with quality subscribers is to provide an incentive your target audience would find valuable. Provide a solution to the problems they’re facing! One of the best ways to do this is through content upgrades on individual blog posts. It’s the perfect way to get new visitors to your website to take action after reading a blog post. And it will definitely give your list a major boost!

10. Get ridiculously tailored with your content

Brian Dean, Founder of Backlinko

My number list building tactic (by far) is The Content Upgrade. When I first started building my email list I’d offer every visitor the exact same “bribe”. So whether you were reading a post about link building or keyword research, you were offered the same exact ebook.

Needless to say, that untargeted approach didn’t work very well. In fact, my sitewide conversion rate for email optins was below 0.5 percent.

Then one day I stumbled on a strategy called The Content Upgrade. Instead of offering everyone the same thing, I offered them something ridiculously tailored to what they were reading.

In fact, the offer was a “bonus” from that same post. For example, someone reading about link building tips would get offered an extra five tips by signing up.

And it worked! One of my posts saw a boost in conversions of 785 percent. And many others have had similar increases.

11. Give away something of value

Nick Westergaard, Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital

As a speaker, my number one list building tactic is offering my slides as a free download with your email address. The slides are something attendees often want and email is something easy to give for that. It’s a win-win!

12. Try an email course

Henneke Duistermaat, Founder of Enchanting Marketing

My snackable writing course is my favorite list building technique. Compared to a downloadable report, the advantage of an email course is that it builds a relationship with readers over time.


Instead of sharing a lot of tips in one go and making people feel overwhelmed, subscribers get one tip at a time that’s easy to implement. People seem to love it!

13. Remember the 3 P’s

Andy Crestodina, Co-Founder and Strategic Director at Orbit Media Studios

Email list growth is a conversion optimization challenge. And the conversion rate is determined by the three P’s:

The sign up form is visually prominent. It doesn’t have to be a pop-up, but it should be high on the visual hierarchy of the page.

The benefits of subscribing are explicit. The sign up form tells people the topic and the frequency.

There is some indication that you’re legit. This could be the number of subscribers or a short, sweet testimonial.

Here’s a site that does it badly. No prominence, promise or proof. Why would anyone sign up for this?


Here’s our site, which does it well. Prominence (Red box, which sticks to the navigation so it’s always there, not matter how far down you scroll); promise (What do you get? web marketing tips! How often? Bi-weekly!); and proof (13,000 people subscribe to this newsletter.


The impact on list growth is huge if you do it right. So add the three Ps! If you need a fourth P, consider privacy or give people a present.

14. Warm up your audience with valuable content

Jenna Kutcher, Founder of the Jenna Kutcher Course and Host of The Goal Digger Podcast

Not a lot of entrepreneurs know the impact of having an email list for their business, but email lists are so important no matter what industry you’re in. This is because it connects you to people who are already interested in your products and services. And more importantly, you own that list. The time you are spending on social media to grow your following is basically like renting space and any day, the people who own that space can change the game with algorithms.


So much of my time is spent creating free valuable content for my audience to demonstrate that I care about them and understand their needs. This gives them a no-risk way to get to know me and my style before comfortably purchasing down the road.

15. Invite feedback

Tom Tate, Marketing Product Manager at AWeber

Invite your audience to be advocates. If you are delivering awesome value in your emails, your audience will take notice and engage, but they may not always share your content. Just as you must invite your audience to sign up for your emails, you should also invite your audience to share your emails.


I recommend testing a ‘P.S. message’ that reads, “If you didn’t receive any value from this email, tell me. If you did receive value from this email, tell everyone. Seriously, if you have a friend that would benefit from this message, send it over to them!”

I’ve added a similar message to all of my emails, along with a link to join for non-subscribers and noticed a regular uptick in referral traffic and subscribers.

Put these tactics to action

The best part about all of these pro tips? They’re actionable, affordable and some take less than five minutes to implement.

Start by implementing one (or more!) of these tips to start boosting your list growth today.