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14 Tips on how to build a successful email list from scratch


Sep 14, 2017
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If you haven’t already started building an email list, you’re missing out. Email open rates average around 25 percent, which means that it’s an easy, convenient way to reach current and potential customers.

Think of email marketing as your doorway to the customer. You send out a targeted missive that encourages the subscriber to take a particular action — one of your choosing — and you get a chance to make a sale.

It’s that easy. However, you can’t reap the benefits of email marketing unless you start building an email list from scratch. Don’t worry. It’s not as difficult as it sounds.

In fact, people have become relatively accustomed to signing up for email lists. They know they can receive awesome perks, from discount codes and coupons to free advice and more. If someone is interested in your online courses, they probably want to hear from you when you have something important to say.

But how do you get started when you don’t have an email list to speak of? Let’s go through the process step by step and help you build a big list of subscribers.

What Is An Email List?

An email list is a list of email addresses that you have collected through content marketing and other promotional efforts. Potential and current customers usually provide their contact information when they buy a product or want to download a freebie from your website.

You can store your email list in a database so you can send targeted emails through an email marketing service, such as MailChimp. Each time you want to send out an email, you write the subject line and body copy, include a CTA, and send it off to the people who matter most: Your customers.

However, you can also segment your email list based on each subscriber’s position in the sales funnel.

For instance, if you’re emailing someone who has already bought one of your courses, you know that you have a potential repeat customer. You wouldn’t send them the same content that you would target to someone who has simply visited your website once and downloaded a free white paper that you prepared as a lead-generation magnet.

As your email list grows, you might want to segment it even further, but for right now, concentrate on building the list. Get people to sign up via your website and other means so you can start marketing to them.

Why Email Marketing? 

As you can see from the graphic above, email marketing is a cycle. It can influence other marketing channels, such as social media and blogging, and it can help boost your conversion rates significantly.

When someone subscribes to your email list, you might send a welcome email or an introduction to your business. Subsequent emails can help build a rapport and allow them to become comfortable with you.

Ultimately, however, you want to drive them to make a purchase. Once you’ve established a relationship, you’ll find converting your subscribers much easier.

Email marketing is relatively easy, inexpensive, and effective. You don’t have to use an email marketing service — though it will help enormously, especially after you’ve built a long email list — and you can structure your emails however you wish.

In other words, you get complete creative freedom.

There are a few mistakes you’ll want to avoid as you learn how to build an email list from scratch, but as long as you follow the tips on this list, you’ll succeed at email marketing.

How To Build An Email List From Scratch

From setting up lead-generation assets to building relationships with your target consumers, we’ll cover every step of the process so you know exactly how to create an email list from scratch. While email shouldn’t serve as your only marketing channel, it’s arguably one of the most important.

Before you start building an email list, however, make sure you know the rules.

For one thing, you need to get permission from the prospect before you start sending emails. It’s called opting in, and it means that the consumer has actively or passively agreed to receive communications from you.

Additionally, you must provide a way for your subscribers to unsubscribe if they no longer want to remain on your email list. Rejection hurts, but it’s better than getting labeled as spam. If someone wants off your list, remove their name and contact information from your database.

Finally, remember that people are extremely busy. They don’t have time to read a 2,000-word email. If you’re going to take email marketing seriously, only send emails when you have something valuable to say, and take up as little of your subscribers’ time as possible.

Now that we have those caveats out of the way, let’s dive into the process of building an email list.

1. Create A Gated Email Campaign Landing Page 

You’ve probably seen lots of gated content in the past. A piece of gated content is a white paper, infographic, e-book, or another piece of content that consumers cannot access until they perform a particular action. In this case, you want them to provide their email addresses so you can add them to your email list.

You’ll create a landing page that tells your prospects exactly what the gated content will provide. Focus on benefits instead of features. What will the prospect get from the material that can improve his or her life in some way?

It must be related to your digital products, such as your online courses. If you create courses about dating and relationships, for instance, you don’t want your gated content to be a white paper on parenting.

As with all landing pages, keep the focus on what you want the user to do. Present a compelling headline, a brief paragraph or two of body copy, and your opt-in form. Users can enter their email addresses to get access to the gated content.

You might have multiple buyer personas or target audience groups. In this case, you can create a landing page for several different types of gated content, each geared toward a specific subset of your audience. Use social media, blogging, and other marketing channels to drive prospects to the relevant landing pages.

2. Create An Opt- In Form And Put On Your Site 

While we’re on the subject of landing pages and opt-in forms, you’ll need an opt-in form that you can put on your website. It doesn’t just belong on your landing pages for gated content — if possible, put it on every page of your website, including individual blog posts.

An opt-in form is simply a form that requests information from website visitors and includes a button they can click after they’ve filled out the required fields.

This opt-in form from The Daily Positive offers an excellent example:

You’ll notice a few things about this opt-in form that can help you create one of your own:

  • Contrast: The opt-in form itself is positioned in a content box that contrasts with the other content on the page. Plus, the “Subscribe” button is rendered in a completely different color, which makes it stand out.
  • Simplicity: The Daily Positive doesn’t ask for the user’s name, phone number, mailing address, favorite food, or driver’s license number. The fewer fields you include in your opt-in form, the more subscribers you’ll get.
  • Counter: See that last line at the bottom? The Daily Positive is using social proof to encourage opt-ins. If 101,000+ readers already subscribe to this newsletter, why wouldn’t you want to see what you’re missing?

You can tailor your opt-in form to suit your specific needs. Just make sure that it doesn’t demand too much time or include too much clutter.

3. Gather Emails In Person 

While email marketing is inarguably an online activity, you can venture offline to gather subscribers. If you’re attending a community event, for instance, pass out business cards that include your website address. Let people know that you have a mailing list that keeps people updated about your online courses.

You don’t want to come off like a pushy salesperson. Work it into the conversation if it fits naturally, but don’t force yourself to tell everyone you meet that you have an email list. Instead, quietly pass out business cards or other literature that include information that the people you meet can look up later.

You can also directly ask people for their email addresses. Maybe you want to send them links to interesting information. During that exchange, ask if it’s okay for you to add their address to your mailing list. At that point, the worst thing they can say is “no.”

4. Grow Your Email List Using Social Media 

Social media offers another excellent way to grow your email list. Your followers are already interested in your brand and online courses, so give them another way to keep in touch with you.

As in all online marketing, less is more. Don’t spam your Twitter feed or Facebook wall with invitations to sign up for your email list. Instead, every few days or so, make a quiet mention of it. You could even celebrate milestones, such as reaching your 5,000th subscriber.

The point here is to connect your marketing channels so you’re visible to as many people as possible. The people who follow you on Facebook might not use Instagram or Twitter, so use as many social platforms as possible to let people know about your newsletter.

Some social media networks, such as Instagram, don’t permit links on posts. In this case, instead of linking to your home page from your Instagram profile, you could link to the landing page we discussed earlier — the one with the gated content. You might drive more traffic that way.

Participate In Live Events 

As mentioned above, don’t discount live events as a way to grow your email list and to meet new people. If you decide to speak at a live event, make sure everyone knows your Twitter handle and other social media usernames. Attendees can find you that way, then sign up for your email list.

These days, people expect to connect with one another on social media. You should choose a primary platform that you’ll mention at live events, whether you’re giving a talk, leading a roundtable discussion, or just attending the event.

Share High-Quality Content That Links To Landing Pages With Opt-Ins 

When you’re planning your social media editorial calendar, don’t forget to share high-quality content. You can do the same thing on your blog. Demonstrate that you have the knowledge, talent, and skills that your prospective customers need to help them solve problems or achieve goals.

Since you teach online courses, this should come easily for you. Repurpose some of your course material and write fresh content that you know will resonate with your audience. Most importantly, link out to the landing page we discussed above. It should include your gated content with the opt-in form so you can convert mere visitors into subscribers.


It’s true: Sometimes you have to spend money to make money. While advertising isn’t an essential marketing tactic for entrepreneurs, it can significantly boost your online visibility as well as your email list subscriber count.

Consider running Facebook retargeting ads. These ads show up specifically for Facebook users who have already visited your website or interacted with your brand in some other trackable way. It uses Pixels that you put in your website’s code so Facebook can track traffic and serve up relevant ads.

Since retargeting ads tend to be far less expensive than other advertisements, you’ll save some cash. Plus, you’ll target people who are already at least somewhat brand-aware. In other words, they know who you are and what you do, so they’ll be more likely to hand over their email addresses.

If you’re advertising for the specific purpose of building your email list, make sure you keep email as the focus of your ad. Mention specific benefits that subscribers get, such as a monthly coupon for your digital products or free articles and insights that non-subscribers never see.

Run Contests 

One of the fastest ways to get attention on social media is to run a contest. You can give away anything you want, but make sure it’s related to your business.

For instance, you could give away one free online course. It’s central to your business, so it makes sense that qualified leads will want to participate.

Let people know that they have to provide their email addresses to take part in the contest. You’ll then choose a winner at random to receive the prize.

You can either run the contest directly on social media or just advertise it on social and run the contest on your website or blog. Either way, make sure you follow the platform’s rules for hosting contests and giveaways.

5. Offer Consumers A Reward For Providing Their Email Address 

Remember how we talked about gated content? The entire concept is predicated on a reward system.

People don’t like to give away anything for free — not even their contact information. And if your website visitors aren’t familiar with your brand or your online courses, they’ll have no incentive to just type in their email addresses and hit “submit.”

The best way to get people to sign up quickly is to offer a reward. It could be gated content, as we discussed earlier, but there are other ways to incentivize sign ups.

For instance, you could offer a discount code to everyone who signs up. Make sure it’s a unique code that subscribers can only use once. You could take a percentage off the total price of a course or take off a specific dollar amount — it’s your choice.

Alternatively, you could offer a free sneak peek of your course, such as the first training module. In addition to helping you build your email list from scratch, it will also whet your subscribers’ appetites for the content in your courses and other digital products.

6. Gamify the  Email-Gathering Process 

If you haven’t tried gamification, you’re missing out. Gamification involves using game mechanics to orchestrate content on the Internet.

For instance, you’ve probably played board games, such as Monopoly and Clue. The point is to solve the puzzle or play your cards right to win the game.

In email marketing, the game mechanics are a little different.

For instance, you could advertise a scavenger hunt involving your email list. Every email you send will contain something — a word, graphic or another element — that subscribers can collect. It turns the entire process into something that feels like a game.

Take it a step further and offer a prize for everyone who “collects” every item during the course of the hunt. You can make it something small, such as a short e-book that includes interesting information or a $5 coupon for your online courses.

7. Make Your Emails Engaging And Effective 

If your emails don’t offer anything of value, it won’t matter if you can figure out how to build an email list from scratch. Eventually, all of those hard-won subscribers will hit the “unsubscribe” button or simply start deleting your emails upon their arrival.

That’s not the outcome you want.

To avoid it, spend time crafting each email so that if offers something of value. Tell a story, paint a rich picture, offer a coupon code, or provide insider information that your subscribers will appreciate.

Additionally, make sure your emails are well-designed, mobile-friendly, and short enough to avoid irritating subscribers.

8. Host A Webinar 

The Internet sometimes feels a little too anonymous. Since you want people to connect with you and your personality so they’ll feel confident taking your online courses, consider hosting a live webinar. You get in front of the camera and deliver a talk, answer viewer’s questions, or repurpose other content for live video.

You can also save the recording and publish it on your website. That way, prospects can watch it later, connect with you visually, and feel more comfortable with your online persona.

Most importantly, include a call to action (CTA) at the end of your webinar that invites all viewers to sign up for your email list. Let them know what benefits they’ll enjoy after opting in.

9. Start A Blog 

Blogging is one of the most powerful ways to reach your target audience. Write lengthy, in-depth posts that give prospects a preview of the content you include in your online courses.

On each blog post, include an opt-in form for your email list. Let potential subscribers know that they can expect to receive high-quality content on a regular basis.

10. Launch A Podcast 

Podcasts have become extremely popular. People can listen to them while they drive to work, sit in bed, or make dinner for the kids. Plus, they’re another way to connect more intimately with your audience. Although a podcast involves audio content instead of video, listeners can still hear your voice.

Use your podcast to let people know about your email newsletter. At the beginning and end of each episode, throw in an invitation to sign up, then put the link to your landing page with the opt-in form at the bottom of each podcast page.

11. Start A Youtube Channel 

You can also connect visually with your audience through YouTube. It’s an extremely user-friendly social channel that depends heavily on high-quality video content. Plus, there’s a section below each video that allows you to insert links, such as to the landing page with your opt-in form.

12. Set An Exit Intent Popup 

People land on and leave websites all the time. An exit-intent popup senses when a visitor intends to leave a page and launches a popup with compelling information.

For the purposes of this article, you can use an exit-intent popup to encourage people to sign up for your email newsletter. Just make sure you provide an intriguing reward if you want those visitors to follow through with your request.

13. Update Your Email Signature 

If you want to build an email list from scratch, why not start with the emails you already send? Update your email signature to include a brief sentence about your email newsletter and a link to the opt-in page. When you converse with prospects about other topics, you can still subtly market your email newsletter.

14. Segment And Refine Your List 

You’ve taken all the right steps. You’re sending emails to your target prospects. Things look good.

Now it’s time to get technical.

If you want people to continue reading your emails, you must target them with messages that resonate with them. Ideally, each message should correspond with the recipient’s position in the sales funnel.

What does that mean?

At the top of the funnel, you’re targeting users who have come into contact with your brand a few times. They’ve signed up for your email newsletter, but they haven’t bought any products or suggested an intention to buy an online course.

These people should receive emails that embed them further into your brand’s culture. Invite them to read your latest blog posts, to follow you on social media, and to learn more about your company. Consider letting them know about any recent announcements, such as the launch of a new course.

In the middle of the funnel, prospects are more brand-aware. They might have visited your sales page and considered buying one of your online courses. Now is the time to send emails that encourage them to peruse your sales page further and to get in touch if they have any questions about your courses.

Then you get to the bottom of the funnel. Your leads have turned into prospects, and they’re ready to become customers. Target them with emails that provide in-depth information about the benefits (not features!) inherent to your digital products.

Segmenting your audience can help you generate more conversions with your email list. Track those conversions over time so you can tweak the messaging in your emails so they appeal more effectively to your target audience.

Use Kajabi To Build Your List 

Believe it or not, you can not only create an email list within Kajabi, but you can also track analytics and set up autoresponders without stepping foot outside the platform.

Set up drip campaigns, segment your subscribers into different groups, and track your email marketing results within Kajabi. You’ll thank yourself when your sales start to increase and you can join the ranks of Kajabi Heroes who have earned excellent money through their online courses.


By now, email marketing has become an essential for every entrepreneur. It provides you with a direct line to your prospects and customers, which means that it’s a powerful way to drive conversions.

Best of all, you can set up your email campaign with Kajabi. There’s no need to connect several different services and software programs to get started.

Using the tips outlined above, you can avoid the potential pitfalls of online marketing. Plus, you’ll have a handy roadmap for building an email list from scratch.

It might take some time, but eventually, the subscriptions will start to roll in. You’ll be more connected than ever to your audience. And your brand visibility will shoot through the roof.

Have you tried email marketing yet? What are your best tips and tricks for building a big email list?

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