How to build an email list for free.

Every new business owner needs to understand how to build an email list for free, email marketing plan doesn’t work unless you build a list of email addresses that will use to send your email lead magnets and email marketing messages to people who are interested in your products or services.

The main purpose of an email marketing list is to build a relationship with your customers as they pass through your email marketing funnels, to the bottom of your email conversion funnel.

According to Adobe email marketing has the highest return on investment compared to other digital marketing strategies, and it’s the topmost effective way of building an email list as shown in the infographic below:

comparison of most effective digital marketing tactics infographics
comparison of most effective digital marketing tactics

According to research by email marketing yields $44 back for every $1 spent on email marketing tactics, a 4400% return on investment. This is the reason why the majority of businesses build their email list and so should you, they use email marketing plan strategies to acquire, nurture and convert prospects into buying customers through email marketing funnels.

The infographic below shows a pie chart comparing different digital marketing returns on investment for every $1 spent, emails win with 33.7% ROI.

Nurturing your customers using informational content and lead magnets is important to your business, if you don’t have a list of prospects emails list you will need to invest your time in building one using the steps outlined below:

Email has a higher ROI than any other marketing activity infographics
Email has a higher ROI than any other marketing activity infographics

How to build your email list for free.

  1. Develop lead magnets for your opt-in forms.
  2. Create online opt-in forms.
  3. Drive traffic to your online opt-in forms.
  4. Show you lead magnets to your prospects.
  5. Improve the results of your online opt-in forms.

This blog will guide you through building a free email list using the five steps outlines above and build an effective email list that leads to your email conversion funnel and helps you build a relationship with them effectively through email engagements.

Develop lead magnets for your opt-in forms.

The first step involves you researching your target market and identifying the pain points and needs of your target audience, after researching the target market you will need to create an email lead magnet that solves their problems. The lead magnet should be valuable to your audience for you need to exchange the lead magnet with their email addresses.

The importance of using a lead magnet to attract your target audience is that you will have an email audience that is interested in your products and services by offering a lead magnet relevant to your products or services, you will also comply with email marketing laws because you will get the email lists legally.

Your lead magnet should be offered for free to attract your target audience to your opt-in forms, you can use methods such as social media marketing, search engine optimization amongst others to attract your target audience to your opt-in forms.

Create online opt-in forms.

The best way to create an online opt-in form is to use a free email marketing tool such as MailChimpOpens in a new tab. that includes free opt-in forms templates, as a marketing strategy email marketing tools offer free email templates and paid email templates, often the email marketing tool has tested these opt-in forms and is professionally made to convert audiences to subscribers.

You will need to edit your opt-in form to match your company brand, the opt-in form must excite the target audience towards converting from just an audience to a subscriber. For these reasons, you will need to highlight the value they will get once they give you their email address.

Your email opt-in form should explain the benefits the audience will get once they give, you’re their email address, you must also explain what they will get in exchange for their email address to instill confidence in them, its also important to explain what will happen next after they submit their email address to build trust, for an effective call to action, you call to action button should not simply say “submit’ instead describe your call to action e.g., “Send me my free guide”

It’s also important to create an autoresponder to automatically send your new subscribers once they have subscribed to your email list. A welcome message should briefly explain what to expect next and how to use their lead magnets effectively.

Drive traffic to your online opt-in forms.

Below I have highlighted different types of sources you can drive traffic to your opt-in forms.

Email marketing leads magnets.

You can use email marketing lead magnets to attract your audience to your opt-in forms, lead magnets include free eBooks, how-to videos, free guides, case studies, templates, free trials to your products, and other valuable content that is valuable to your target audiences.

You can market your email marketing lead magnets as a standalone product through the use of social media marketing, and other online marketing tactics.

Marketing third-party content.

Third-party marketing tactics include marketing your opt-in forms in other platforms to drive traffic to your opt-in forms. One of the most effective third-party tactics used by pro marketers is through the use of guest posts to blogs and websites relevant to your products or services. You can also contribute to online forums and offer valuable information that will prompt readers of these forums to click your link that will direct them to your opt-in form landing page.

Social media marketing.

Social media marketing is a great way to market your opt-in forms, you can drive traffic from your social media to your opt-in forms by posting useful information on your social media. One of the best ways to market your opt-in forms is by sharing sneak peeks of your lead magnets such as charts, infographics, images, and captions.

You can also hold a contest on your social media and giveaway, for people to join your contest you have to have a valuable lead magnet that will make people give away their email addresses in exchange for contest prizes.

Online advertisements.

You can advertise your opt-in forms by advertising your opt-in forms on various relevant websites, you can offer free guest posts, and contributions in forums with a link to your lead magnet landing page. You can also advertise your lead magnet opt-in forms on your social media networks and work on collaborative posts with other brands with the same goals as yours, the brand must be relevant to your business for a high converting email list building.

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Show you lead magnets to your prospects.

How to build an email list for free opt-in forms displays
opt-in forms displays

After driving traffic to your opt-in form, you have to show your audience the opt-in form there are various methods of displaying your opting forms, you just have to make sure they are not obstructive but effectively convert your visitors to subscribers.

Email marketing performance and analytics will help you analyze the best place to place your opt0in forms, people normally come to your website to read the useful information on your pages, and not to be bombarded with pop-ups, you just have to find the sweet spot over time that is effective and highly converting.

Opt-in form placements.

There are various ways to display your opt-in form on your website, to place the opt-in form in any of the formats, you have to understand there are various types of opt-in forms suitable for each ad placement type. Some email marketing tools will help you suggest the best ad placement for each opt-in form by giving you a preview of your opt-in placement before actually placing it on your platform.

Below I have highlighted some of the best opt-in form placement to help you build your email list for free:

Sidebar: The best feature of sidebars is that they are not obstructive and appear on the left or the right side of your pages. Most email marketing tools will have a template that allows you to place opt-in forms on the sidebars. They are most effective and used widely, that’s why you will find a large number of templates ready-made for you to use.

Pop-Up: Pop forms disadvantage is that they are obstructive, but email marketers have found that using pop-up triggers are effective, such as placing triggers on pages that are activated after certain conditions are met, such as after the user has finished reading your articles, or after the user clicks a certain part of your pages.

The key to using pop-ups is to make sure you have improved the user experience of your website visitors but make sure they are not obstructed when reading your pages.

Inline: Inline pop-ups appear on the body of your website, however, you will need to copy some codes when editing the pages to activate inline pop-ups, if you have a lead magnet related to a specific page, you can place the lead on the landing page inline the article.

The topic of the page must be an informational post related to the lead magnet and just a compliment that visitors will find useful to leave their email address with you in exchange for the lead magnets.

Lightbox/Overlay: A lightbox is an opt-in form that appears as a pop-up on the screen, however, the background is faded while the opt-in form is clear. The lightbox forced your visitors to interact with your lightbox before continuing with your website.

A lightbox is triggered by an activity such as scrolling or clicking a link that activates it, one of the tricks of using a lightbox is to make it appealing and informative.

Fullscreen: there are two types of Fullscreen opt-in forms the first one is called an entry gate and an exit gate, the entry gate is displayed when visitors visit your website and the exit gate is displayed after visitors exit your website. To build your email list for free, Fullscreen opt-in forms are effective but obstructive to your users, to analyze the performance of the opt-in forms you have to check the loss of traffic vs the conversion rate of your email list building.

Floating header or footer: floating header opt-in forms appear at the top of your pages while a footer opt-in form appears at the bottom fop your pages, the benefits of using the footer and header opt-in forms is that they are not obstructive and improve the user experience of using your website.

Slide-in: Slide-in forms are triggers when users are interacting with your web pages, the slide are either from the right or the left side of your web pages. The effective way to display your slide in form is when users are on an important part of your web page. The best way to use a slide-in opt-in form is to display it to ensure you are offering valuable content related to the specific pages the slide-in form is displayed.

Mobile Pop-Ups: mobile pop-ups are used in mobile phones, however, this form of opt-in form advertisement is frowned on by search engines and email marketers are using it less each day, search engines normally penalize websites with mobile pop-ups that are obstructive on mobile phones.

Landing Pages: A landing page is a special page created for your lead magnet and opt-in form, the landing page is loaded with useful content that users read and later are recommended to sign up to the opt-in form, normally the landing page contains information relevant to the opt-in form and is complementary to the lead magnet.

A landing page is more effective and converts highly compared to other forms of opt-in forms displays, if you want to segment your email list I would suggest you use landing pages to segment your email list depending on users’ interests on specific topics.

James Ndungu

James is a one-on-one business consultant who helps CEOs, executives, and solopreneurs build their personal and professional branding.

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