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How to build an email list that gets responses

Wondering how to build an email list that stays engaged and tuned in to your messages? Check out these proven tips.

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Searching for tips on how to build an email list is frankly scary.

When I started looking for advice to include in this blog, about a third of what I encountered was terrible advice, from buying email addresses to ripping them from illegal tools. 

Thankfully, I sorted through all that nonsense so you don’t have to. What you’ll get here are legitimate, high-value (and low-effort) ways to steadily bring in subscribers and grow your email list quickly. 

Email list-building tips

You came here for list-building tips, and I won’t make you wait for them. Here is the best advice I came across while researching. 

Pair your favorite marketing method with a landing page 

From any source I looked into, the number-one tip I saw was to use your landing page to bring in email subscribers.

It makes sense. Most people have a website or landing page, and web forms are one of the easiest ways to build an email list (but more on that later).

But what does this look like in practice?

As an example, I’m an e-commerce business owner looking to grow my list. I would like to collect new subscribers from a web form. Here’s how I’d do it.

  1. First, I’d design my web form and embed the code on my landing page.
  2. I would advertise a link for that landing page on social media, through text messages, etc.
  3. My website visitors would then be able to subscribe to my emails directly from the page in seconds. 

Generate gated content 

This falls under the category of offering value in exchange for subscribers’ email addresses.

Come up with what I like to call “extra mile” content (that’s in-depth guides, training videos, ebooks, spreadsheets, and so on). Then, tease that content and what your subscribers can expect to get from it.

Last thing, let your audience know that they can get access to this extra perk by inputting their email address. It’s that simple.

Gather email addresses at in-person events

I know it’s old-fashioned, but it works. 

This is a strategy our own email expert Nathan Ellering has used in the past at events like trade shows.

“Trade shows and conferences are great places to help people discover the value your products provide. It sounds cheesy, I know, but it’s true. When I’ve worked booths at trade show, I’d pitch the product, answer leads’ questions, and then ask, ‘Are you interested in learning more after the conference? I can take your email address and a salesperson will reach out to you next week.'”

Nathan Ellering
Head of content and SEO, SimpleTexting

That’s something standard advertisements or calls to actions don’t offer.

Diversify your inflow sources

I recommended using a landing page earlier, and while that’s still a good idea, don’t put all your eggs in any one basket.

Add calls to action to your:

  • Social media posts and profiles
  • Business paperwork
  • Paid ads
  • Text messages

Use a double opt-in

Besides being a surefire way to stay in compliance, double opt-ins give you an audience that is far less likely to unsubscribe.

At its core, a double opt-in is simply a verification of each person’s subscription. It involves sending an email with a button for readers to click to confirm that they want to receive emails from you.

That’s crucial because subscribers who have to intentionally opt into your list are much more likely to engage with your emails and stick around longer.

Implement a referral program

Word of mouth is a powerful tool, and you don’t have to take my word for it. The numbers tell us that 92% of your customers trust referrals from people they know. 

“Implement a referral program that rewards subscribers for referring friends and family. Word-of-mouth can be a powerful tool for list growth.”

David Cohen
CEO, Love Rose

Offer up a discount or perk to subscribers who refer the people in their lives to your brand. This is not only a list-building tool but also a shortcut to contacts who already have a good impression of your organization.

Know the psychology of building an email list

While we’ve covered some basic tactics for bringing contacts into your email list, it’s also crucial to know the psychological principles that drive people to subscribe.

Give to get

In social psychology, there’s the concept of reciprocity: people often respond to others’ actions with a similar action. 

For instance, if someone gives you a gift, you’ll most likely be compelled to give them a gift (or at least a heartfelt thank-you). 

Similarly, you wouldn’t ask a salesperson to give you their product free and clear without paying them anything, so don’t ask for email addresses without offering something valuable in return.

That could be:

  • An ebook
  • A starter kit for your product
  • Exclusive informational blogs or videos
  • A discount on orders

Basically, make sure it’s of value to your subscribers. Be sure to lead your messaging with this offer to give your customers a good incentive to opt in.

Smaller ask, bigger ask

But of course, you will eventually have to ask your audience for a few things. That’s to be expected. Just make sure that you make a small, easy ask first before you move to a bigger one. This is a classic sales tactic that’s known as the foot-in-the-door technique (sometimes also called “yes loading” or the “yes ladder”).

That might mean asking customers to click an opt-in link first (allowing them to sign up to your list in one click), then asking them for more detailed data once they’ve subscribed (so you can personalize future emails).

You’ll have a lot more success structuring your “asks” this way because you’ll avoid intimidating your subscribers.

The halo effect 

Let’s say you meet someone who’s well-dressed and has a fantastic sense of humor. You might subconsciously think, “I bet this person is successful and has lots of friends. That’s a textbook example of the halo effect.

The halo effect is a cognitive bias where our impression of a person in one area influences our opinion of them in other areas. 

While this might not be a familiar term to non-email marketers, the guiding principle is this: Every impression of your brand on the audience matters, so be sure that what you give them is worth it.

Which is to say, be intentional about what you send your subscribers every time. 

How to build an email list and stay in compliance

Compliance with email marketing industry laws and guidelines is vitally important to the success of your emails, so it helps to go into building your list with a good understanding of what that means. 

Although there’s a lot to know about the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the main points to know are:

  • Be sure you have subscribers’ consent to email them.
  • It’s not required, but a double opt-in can help you ensure that subscribers want to hear from you (more on that shortly).
  • Provide your contacts with an easy, clear way to opt out of your emails. 
  • Clean up your list regularly (that is, remove invalid or unsubscribed contacts).

📖 Read more: Comparing email and SMS marketing

How to start an email list with the right opt-in method

A solid opt-in method is by far the best way to start your list-building efforts off on the right foot. Here are two of the most effective and popular methods out there. 

1. Set up a web form

You’ve likely seen a web form before in your travels across the Internet. They are designed to collect new subscribers’ names and contact information in a compliant, convenient way.

Although the process of creating these forms varies depending on the email service provider you use, the basics go something like this:

  1. Open your provider’s web sign-up form app.
  2. Decide which fields you’d like your form to include (contact first/last names, phone numbers, etc.)
  3. Copy the website code for your form and paste it into your website-building tool.
email capture popup example from teepublic
Your email web form might look something like this (source: TeePublic)

2. Create a keyword and double opt-in process

This one is a texting-and-email double whammy. The first step is to set up an SMS keyword and advertise it to your audience.

When they text the keyword to your number, you’ll include a link where they can subscribe to your email list in your auto-confirmation message.

As soon as they do, set up an automated email asking them to verify that they want to receive emails from you.

This combo will help you fill up both your text and email lists while ensuring that your subscribers will stay engaged and tuned in.

Organize your email contact list

Once you’ve got subscribers pouring in, it’s important to keep those subscribers organized so you can keep future emails relevant to their interests and highly personalized.

This is more than just a nice-to-have, by the way. Email marketers who personalize their emails see 27% higher click rates (unique) and 11% higher open rates.

So, how do you go about getting the data you need, and what do you do with it?

Data Collection 

Data collection is precisely what it sounds like—a way to collect the details you need from your subscribers. 

Through email, that mostly boils down to asking some questions through things like surveys, polls, or quizzes. 

Regardless of the format you choose, though, what kind of data should you collect? Well, it depends on the type of business you run and the kind of emails you intend to send, but here are some common choices among business owners and operators.

  • Location (zip code, city, time zone)
  • What type of business each subscriber owns (by industry or tax classification)
  • Household makeup (whether contacts have children)
  • Product preferences (anything from skin type to sports they participate in or whatever is relevant)
  • Car or homeownership 
  • Business size
  • Household income range
  • Job title
  • Age range
  • Type of devices used
  • Birthdate
  • Programs they attend (yoga, ESL classes, CrossFit, etc.)
  • Sex/gender identity


Once you’ve got the data you need, you’ll want to break your overall subscriber list into groups with something in common, or “segments.”

This is usually done in one of two ways through your email provider. 

  1. You can create smaller lists that include all the subscribers who match certain criteria.
  2. Alternatively, you can add tags to subscribers based on the categories they belong to. 

Once you have a list of contacts, you can go on to create and send marketing emails, newsletters, and other types of messages. Then, integrate your email strategy with the rest of your marketing channels, like SMS, social media, and referral programs.

Lily Norton
Lily Norton

Lily is a content marketing specialist at SimpleTexting. She specializes in making helpful, entertaining video content and writing blogs that help businesses take advantage of all that texting has to offer. When she’s not writing or making TikToks, you can find Lily at roller derby practice or in a yoga studio in the Seattle area.

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