As a small business owner, you know that despite how many subscribers you have on your email list, the search for new ones never stops.

Gaining subscribers — let alone maintaining your current list — can seem like an uphill battle at times, especially when the average email marketing list decreases by approximately 22.5 percent every year.

So what’s the best way to ensure your list continues growing instead of dwindling down? By taking action now that will help replenish your email community and build your audience.

Here are our five top ways to grow your list:

1. Use targeted sign up forms on your blog or website

Adding an embedded sign up form to your website or blog is a great first step to growing your email list. But if you already have one featured, it may be time to consider other ways you can optimize your list growth.

Pop up forms, for example, can be a simple yet effective way to bring more attention to your email list. But it’s important to establish a few ground rules before getting started.

For one, you want to make sure the content in your form describes the value your audience will get when they subscribe. So if you already have an awesome email strategy, be sure to communicate that in your form.

This includes setting clear expectations about your email list in your form. Share details around how often you’ll be sending them emails, the type of content they should expect and the overall benefits of being on your list.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want to interrupt or annoy your website visitors with too many pop ups. Not all forms have to pop up in the middle of a screen and darken the background content. You can use a “sticky” form that unobtrusively remains on the bottom of the page as a user scrolls, or a slide in form on the side of the screen.

You can also set the timing of your pop up forms, so they can display after a user has been on the page for a certain time. Or, set it so the form displays only when a user takes a specific action (like attempting to exit the page) or reaches the bottom of the page.

Here’s an example from our friends at CrazyEgg, who feature a slide-in form that displayed when I scrolled down to the bottom of the post:


2. Reach out to your social followers

As a business owner, you probably already know a consistent social media presence can help you engage with customers, promote special offers and build brand awareness. But did you know that you can use channels like Facebook and Twitter to grow your email marketing list, too?

By encouraging your social followers to sign up for your email list, you’re able to tap into an audience of people who are already interested in your business and what you have to say.

While you can certainly post about the benefits of your email content along with a link to your sign up form, you can also share past emails you’ve sent by linking to your email archive.

If you want to get more creative, consider launching a social contest or giveaway that requires an email address in order to enter.

Or, explore the native opportunities within your social channels to see if there are any ways to add links back to your site or sign up form. Facebook’s call-to-action feature, for example, allows you to include a link directly in your business page cover photo.

3. Feature a new incentive on your sign up form

When it comes to growing your email marketing list, it’s crucial that you demonstrate the value of your business. After all, most people won’t hand over their email address unless there’s good reason.

That’s why we recommend offering free digital incentives like ebooks, white papers, webinars, or video series as a reward for subscribing to your email list. But if you already offer an incentive, it may be time to consider either updating the content to be more relevant, or swapping it for a new one.

There are tons of digital incentives you could use to gain subscribers, but it’s important to choose ones that fit your business and draw the right audience. Figuring out what types of content get the best response from your subscribers involves some experimenting and varies across industries, but here are some ideas to help you brainstorm:

  • Restaurant owner or food bloggers could share exclusive recipes or a discount that goes towards a customer’s next visit.
  • Graphic designers can send their subscribers unique desktop backgrounds or printable stationary each week.
  • If you’re a coach or teacher, you could offer subscribers a free 1:1 consultation or introductory lesson.

By providing exclusive, high-value bonuses like the ones listed above, you’re giving people a reason to subscribe to your list. It also creates an opportunity to demonstrate thought leadership in your industry and establish yourself as a trustworthy and valuable source.

4. Encourage your subscribers to share with a friend

Enabling your existing customers to tell their networks about you can be a powerful way to grow your email list. In fact, one study found that 78 percent of consumers said “word-of-mouth” was a top influencer in their purchasing decisions.

Since people are more likely to trust a business of if it’s recommended to them by someone they know, it’s important to make your emails easy to share and subscribe to.

Every time you send an email to subscribers, include social sharing buttons to encourage them to promote your content or ask subscribers to share the email with their friends in a P.S. section. You should also include a “Subscribe” call-to-action at the bottom of your message so someone can easily opt into your list when your email is forwarded to them.

Adding these to every email provides access untapped networks of friends and colleagues who may be interested in learning more about your business.

Here’s a great example from AWeber’s Product Marketing Manger (and host of our Podcast!) Tom Tate, who publishes the e-newsletter, Weekly Coffee:


Notice how there is both an option to subscribe to the email list, as well as one to share it with others. Plus, it’s done in a way that isn’t too promotional.

5. Collect email addresses when you’re on-the-go

You never know when you’re going to meet someone interested in signing up for your business’s email list.

That’s why it’s important to be ready when you attend conferences, trade shows, and networking events. By leveraging in-person conversations, you can naturally ask people you meet to sign up to your list. Whether you take their name and email address the old school way with a pen and paper, or download a sign up form app (like our Atom app), it’s an easy way to build relationships with people you meet in person.

Kick-start your email list growth today

Building a list takes time, but there are steps you can take right now to gain subscribers and increase the reach of your audience. I encourage you to choose one tip above, and dedicate time this week to implement it.

Have other ideas for growing your email list? Share in the comments below!

For more ideas on how to grow your email list, download our free case study, How One Blogger Grew Her Email List to 50K and Counting!