List Building 101: How to get your First 100 Email Subscribers

email list building first 100 subscribers leannewong
August 19, 2018 Leanne Wong 52 Comments

I think you’ll agree with me when I say:

It’s really hard to convert ice cold visitors into email subscribers.

And getting that first 100 email subscribers could be a daunting milestone you’re aiming for.

We’ve heard it,

“…the money is in the list.”

“…start building your email list early.”

“…my biggest regret is not investing enough in building my list.”

Email list building is one of the highest return on investment activities you can do for your blog and business, because it’s the best way to build a relationship with your customers.

Ultimately, your email subscribers will help you drive engagement to your content, increase your sales conversions and grow your business.

salesforce-emailmarketing
Source: Salesforce

But the problem is, how do you get visitors to stick around long enough and leave their email address behind?

Your visitors are like strangers you meet at a random party.

They’ve arrived at your website for the very first time and just made eye contact. You need to get their number if you ever want a second date.

In other words, you need to turn visitors into interested prospects in the first visit.

Building an email list from scratch is no easy feat.

You need content, a reliable email service provider, forms to collect emails, an email indoctrination welcome series and that’s just tip of the iceberg.

But I’ve got your back, buddy.

If you’re struggling to build your email list, this post will show you a step-by-step process to get your first 100 email subscribers.

Email List Building: The biggest asset for your blog and business

You might be thinking, email list building is dead.

With social media marketing to reach wide audiences, who even uses emails nowadays right?

Wrong!

Email marketing is the most direct and intimate way to connect with your audience. And it outperforms other marketing channels in conversions rates.

Based on the study, email is still the most effective form of communication compared to social media giants (Facebook, Twitter).

email-statistics
Source: OptinMonster

The potential of your email list is insanely powerful.

First, as you build your list you can continuously monetize it by pitching products/services.

If you have an e-commerce store, email marketing can seriously boost your sales and conversions.

Second, even if you don’t have products to sell, emails are the only way to get people back to your website on a regular basis. For example, if you have a blog, every time you publish a new post, you can notify your list and get recurring traffic to your site.

Third, it’s highly personalised. You can connect with your audience in a creative and personalised way that tweets or Facebook posts simply can’t.

Lastly, the most important of all – you own your list.

You don’t own your Facebook page or your Instagram followers or your twitter following.

Look at the fall of Myspace for example. All the effort and time building your Myspace following fades to nothing as new social media platforms emerge and people flock over to other networks.

If Facebook or Instagram chooses to close your account, your following goes with it.

If Pinterest or Twitter changes their policy, you can’t influence that even if you’ve got 1M followers and a fantastic track record.

But you own your email list. The emails you’ve collected from readers are part of your tribe and they’ve given you a sacred space in their inbox to reach out to them.

If you’re able to attract subscribers to your list and nurture them, your email subscribers can become your most loyal followers and customers.

The #1 mistake new bloggers make with list building

The most common mistake I see new bloggers make when building their list is not giving people a reason to subscribe.

Such as creating a generic newsletter signup form on your site and hoping for people to sign up.

newsletter-signup
Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t totally off the mark. But look at that pop-up and tell me if it excites you.

Telling people they’ll get mail every month about travel stories may not be enough to get them to opt-in.

To get people to leave their contact details behind, you need to give something in exchange. You need to give readers an incentive.

You need to offer an incentive (content asset to download) in exchange for their email address.

The most effective list building strategy for me has been offering incentives within posts.Β This is one of my most downloaded assets and I get about 10-15 emails per day from this post alone.

optin-post
I like to insert my incentive offer above the post because it’s the first thing readers see.

There are other prime areas you can insert your incentive offer:

  • middle of post
  • below post
  • navigation menu
  • homepage header
  • floating topbar
  • exit pop-up

How to build an email list from scratch

When you’re starting from scratch, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

Starting from zero can be very daunting. It feels as though you’ve got a long climb ahead of you.

Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. All you need is a process.

You can follow the 5-step process I’ve outlined below, which should give you a much easier time building your first email list.

email list building-leannewong

Not too complex, huh?

We’ll go through each step in detail and by the end, you’ll be on your way to growing that first 100 email subscribers.

Step 1: Choose an email marketing platform

The first thing you want to do is choose an email marketing platform.

This is a necessity. If you’re taking list building seriously to grow your business, pick a good email marketing platform to automate email delivery and manage your contacts.

Here are some of the best email service providers for professional bloggers and small businesses:

ConvertKit

converkit-example

I’m a big fan of ConvertKit and have achieved great results with it.

It’s a robust email marketing platform and allows for easy content upgrades and signup forms. It comes with built-in autoresponders allowing you to send drip emails.

The best features about ConverKit are its email sequences and ability to segment contacts with tags. This is great for email automation as you can nurture your contacts based on their behaviour and actions.

Pricing for ConverKit starts at $29/month with a 30-day refund policy.

Although ConverKit’s pricing can get quite high, it’s totally worth it if list nurturing is what you’re looking for.

ActiveCampaign

active-campaign

ActiveCampaign is quite similar to ConvertKit in its automation capabilities.

Its all-in-one email automation, sales, and CRM system stands out from the crowd.

It’s modern user interface and email editor makes it a popular choice for online marketers.

ActiveCampaign’s prices start from $9/month and gets more expensive as your subscriber list gets bigger.

MailChimp

mailchimp

Free and easy to use, MailChimp is one of the most popular email marketing platforms. Their user interface is intuitive and integrates seamlessly with WordPress, Shopify and many other CMS platforms.

I used MailChimp when I first started blogging and eventually made the switched to Converkit as my blog grew.

If you’re new to blogging and would like to get your hands wet with creating your first email, then give MailChimp a try.

It’s free for up to 2,000 subscribers and its paid plan starts at $10/month.

Conclusion

  • For professional bloggers, ConvertKit is perfect to build your email list and monetize your blog with drip emails.
  • For startups and small businesses, ActiveCampaign is great to segment contacts based on their stage in the sales funnel.
  • If you’re completely new to email list building, MailChimp is the best platform to get started.

For the most part, they have similar features and can accomplish the core functions of email marketing.

It really depends on your preference and what your blog / business needs are.

Step 2: Create your opt-in landing page

Now that you’ve chosen your email marketing platform, it’s time to start creating your opt-in landing page.

Your opt-in landing page can be a blog post or product page that contains your opt-in form.

A strong landing page can turn web visitors into enthusiastic subscribers.

Simply creating a “sign up for my weekly tips and tricks” newsletter form won’t be enough.

Make sure to take your time to design the layout and content of your opt-in landing page.

lead generation page

In terms of design and layout, think about the colours scheme. Different colours can evoke emotions in your readers and affect their decision making.

According to this study, the colours blue, green and purple resonate more with women. Whereas men prefer blue, green and black.

When writing your landing page content, make sure to convey your value proposition clearly.

Next, you want to create an opt-in form.

Every email service provider will have forms for you to choose from – pop up, inline, etc.

Generally, the simpler your opt-in form, the better. Make it easy for your readers to opt-in by asking for less information.

All you need is a name and email address. For example, my 15 Advanced SEO Tactics pop-up form ask for just 2 things:

convertkit form

Step 3: Describe value in your CTA

Personalize your Call-To-Action button and describe your main benefit in the CTA.

The key to providing value is to be useful.

If your landing page is an article about “Losing weight with a vegan diet”, then your CTA can be “Click here to download free vegan recipes ebook”.

If your offer directly relates to their needs, then your subscribers will feel that your content is valuable and helpful. This incentivizes them to leave their email address behind in exchange for your content asset.

content asset
For example, my landing page for SEO Blueprint: From 0 to 10K Organic Visits, I created the CTA with the promised benefit “Download my SEO Blueprint and start generating more organic traffic to your website today”.

This communicates the value of the content asset and incentivizes readers to download.

Step 4: Create a compelling content asset or offer

Before people give you their email address, you need to give them a reason to do so.

You’ll have to offer a super enticing offer – an offer they can’t refuse.

And what’s an offer you can’t refuse? FREE.

Offer them a freebie. This can be:

  • ebook
  • worksheets
  • checklist
  • infographic
  • promise to product discounts exclusive for subscribers
  • webinars

You can also repurpose existing content on your blog, such as turning blog posts into a resource guide.

Step 5: Drive traffic to your opt-in landing page

Finally, you’ve created a beautiful landing page, signed up for a powerful email service provider and all set to collect emails.

Now, you just need to drive lots of traffic to your opt-in landing page.

The first thing to do is SEO optimize your page, of course. I’ve written a step-by-step guide here 7 Elements of a Perfectly Optimized Page.

But that alone is not enough to build a large subscriber list. You need to promote it and share it across your social media platforms.

  • Promote your opt-in page on relevant Facebook groups
  • Create new pins and link it to your opt-in page, then re-pin them on Pinterest group boards
  • Tweet about your opt-in page, and influencers who may be interested in your content

Get as many eyeballs on the opt-in landing page as possible.

Final tip is to add internal links to your opt-in landing page.

Analyze your current web traffic and find the most popular blog posts on your site. Add the link to your new opt-in landing from these posts.

This helps boost internal link juice across your website and gets more visibility on your opt-in.

Thats it folks, hope this list building guide has been useful for you. If you liked this article or have any questions at all, please leave your comments below! I’d love to hear how the strategies have worked for you.

Cheers.

52 People reacted on this

    1. So happy for you, Sam! Absolutely, list building is soooo important and I’m glad you’re seeing results, buddy!

    1. Awesome, Jenny! Keep me updated on your progress. Also feel free to drop me a message if you’ve got any questions about building an email list πŸ™‚ Happy to help!

  1. I’m still brainstorming on how to make signups more compelling to entice visitors. Do you have any ideas on how to get feedback for why people signup to your lists? I think knowing this info would help be better my opt in boxes.

    1. Hi Deborah, thats a very good question! Enticing visitors to sign up to your list is two-fold: (i) knowing what they want and (ii) giving them a resource they need and hopefully one that exceeds their expectations above and beyond. So for instance, my visitors might be interested in learning about finding profitable keywords for their niche, and the resource they want/need could be a swipe file of 100 profitable keyword ideas.

      If visitors feel like what you are offering will help them, they will be compelled to make that exchange (leave their email address) in exchange for your resource. This is also called a content upgrade.

      So my advice is to be the absolute best helper you can be for your visitors, by creating useful and comprehensive content, then create a valuable resource to offer as a content upgrade. Make sure the content upgrade offer directly aligns with their needs. Hope this helps, my dear!

  2. These are great practical tips for building a successful business and list. I’m currently with MailChimp, but starting to consider exploring other options as well. Thanks for your thoughts on Convert Kit. It’s the one platform I’m considering but the price is high. Still trying to find a way to justify it vs the free MailChimp. Thanks for the additional food for thought!!

    1. Hi Rosemary! Glad to hear you’ve started with MailChimp to build your email list. It’s a pretty solid platform indeed.

      What I loved most about ConverKit is that it took the headache out of list building (forms, plugins, integration with wordpress, creating sequences, etc). Thus freeing up more time to focus on building my business. With CK, it’s super easy to create forms + content upgrade setup (less than 1 min) and integrate seamlessly with WordPress to collect emails and nurture your list with custom tagging. MailChimp required several more plugins and customizations to achieve the same result, which stalled my list growth.

      That said, I totally feel you. The pricing plans can get very expensive as your subscriber list grows.

      However, while I was with MailChimp, I found these articles to be very helpful to build my list:
      https://www.andpossiblydinosaurs.com/how-to-create-fake-leadpages-popups-for-mailchimp/
      https://www.andpossiblydinosaurs.com/how-to-send-content-upgrades-with-mailchimp/

      Hope these will help you out in your list building journey, my friend! Cheers.

    1. Hi Cassandra! Super happy that you’re finding these list building tips useful. Let me know if you have any questions along the way, buddy!

  3. Hi Leanne, I’m new to your blog and I’ve got to admit that I’m hooked to your content.

    I’ve read a lot about the content upgrade being an effective method to build an email list. The question I have is what content upgrade is the easiest to create?

    I’ve no experience creating a checklist, let alone an ebook. But everywhere I go, anyone is giving away free ebook and checklist at least. Is there any easy way to create these content upgrades?

    In your case, what are your favorite content upgrade? How much time did you spend to create your content upgrade?

    1. Hi YuYu! I’m really happy that you’re enjoying my blog so far, and am here to help. IMO, the best content upgrade is one that provides massive value and targets a specific topic of interest and group of people. It’s easier to convince people who have warmed up to you already through your content then offer an incentive to entice them to download. Rather than a one-size-fits-all upgrade that doesn’t help anyone.

      The end goal is always results. You want a content upgrade that brings you the highest ROI and convert visitors into subscribers.

      a) The easiest type of content upgrade is one that complements an existing blog post, or content you’ve created. So you don’t have to start from scratch to come up with ideas. Such as re-purposing an existing article you’ve published into an actionable checklist, or infographic.

      b) My favourite type of content upgrade are actually long form content (ebooks, 20-page blueprints, swipe files). Reason is that their value is immediately clear and tends to convert the best. I usually spend 1 week to create one content asset.

      Just keep swimming…One thing that has helped me manage creating multiple content assets is to break down the process to achieve it. Break down the steps into small, achievable chunks. Have a timeline and commit to it, and you’ll be seeing the fruits of your labour in no time. πŸ™‚

      You can do it, my friend! Cheers.

      1. Thanks for the insightful reply, Leanne.

        I’ve to drill “re-purposing content” to my mind. I should probably try with the simplest of all before jumping to an ebook though I do see so much value in creating that.

        You have great content assets, great work with those. That’s probably what makes me stick around.

        Looking forward to more tips from you. Cheers πŸ™‚

  4. Leanne, you provide such incredibly valuable information here on your blog. This guide to building an email list is no exception! Thank you so much for all of these helpful tips and actionable steps to take right now to experience growth.

    1. Thats awesome, Lara. Let me know if you have any questions along the way, would love to hear how these list building strategies have worked for you. πŸ™‚

  5. With social media algorithms being as crazy as they are, I’d never trust depending entirely on social media for promotion. I love how you breakdown building an opt-in. The first time I did it, it was so new that it would have been great to have a guide like this.

    1. That’s great to hear, Erica! So happy to hear these tips were useful for you – building an email list involves several steps and creating the right opt-in makes or breaks your entire strategy. Cheers!

  6. Great tips! I’m at 77 subscribers, so I’m definitely always reading about ways to really develop a community around my blog. I love your SEO tips also. So actionable. Thanks for sharing.

    1. That’s a great start, Lauren. Happy to hear that these SEO and list building strategies have been helpful for you! Feel free to drop me a message if you have any questions about growing your blog πŸ™‚

  7. Wonderful tips! I’m thinking I need to revamp some of my opt-in forms, I recently just started adding them in posts rather than just the sidebar and I’ve already made a bit of progress!

  8. I just started an email list on a whim. These are great tips and I definitely need to work on giving people a reason to subscribe. I’ll have to work on creating a freebie.

  9. Great info Leanne and so detailed too! I’m now at the point where I’m trying to really figure out my list building strategy and this is helpful. Thanks!! xx

  10. These are great tips! Concentrating on my email list is one thing I regret not doing. When my new site is up and running, that is going to be one of my top priorities!

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