127 Ways to Grow Your Email List (and the Only 3 That Really Matter)

Email marketing is an insanely effective way for most small businesses to build trust and invite potential customers to purchase products and services.

Unlike a Facebook or Instagram feed where your message is simply one of thousands (if it gets displayed at all), in the email inbox you’ll have a much higher likelihood of getting your message seen and read.

This is called engagement, and your business will fail without it.

That’s why the oft-used adage “the money is in the list” remains as true today as it did when Mr. Zuckerberg first launched his little social media website a dozen years ago. It’s also why so many entrepreneurs are interested in growing their email lists.

While tremendous list growth is certainly possible, it isn’t as easy as it may have once been. Long gone are the days when simply asking website visitors to “subscribe for updates” in your sidebar was an effective list building strategy.

In fact, modern online businesses are using hundreds of different methods to grow their email lists.

Below we list about 130 of these methods, but pay special attention to the first three — we think they’re the only tactics that really matter because they are the principles that undergird all the other tactics.

Now, to be clear, we DON’T want you to rush off to test 127 different approaches to see what works and what doesn’t. You’re building an independent business, and that means you’re already busy enough; you certainly don’t need to add 125 more things to your To-Do list!

Ultimately, email list growth can be boiled down to just three actions. That’s it. Start implementing these three actions (notice we didn’t say “simple” or “easy” actions) and you’re going to achieve the growth you seek.

1. Attract Qualified People to Your Site

You can have the best offer in the world on a beautifully designed website filled with incredibly helpful content, but if you aren’t getting traffic to your site your list just isn’t going to grow.

Website visitors are the key to growth, but it’s important to keep in mind when discussing traffic that more isn’t always better. The quality of your traffic is equally, if not more important, than the quantity.

You don’t want just any random yahoo coming to your website and joining your list. You want to attract the specific type of person who is going to be interested in what you have to say and the solutions your business offers.

List growth efforts might, therefore, require you to make a significant mindset shift away from one focused on numbers/quantity and towards a more human-centered point-of-view. Rather than asking yourself how you’re going to get thousands of people to your website each day, instead ask yourself:

  • Who are my ideal customers?
  • What type of person am I trying to connect with?
  • How can I help them?
  • How am I going to get my content in front of them?

These questions are much more important than strategic thinking focused only on a numbers game.

What we’re talking about then, when we say “attract qualified visitors,” is using a smart content strategy to attract your target audience and ideal customers.

Creating a content strategy is, of course, an entire other topic in its own right, but some of our key recommendations are as follows:

  • Research keywords and popular articles in your niche so that you know what’s popular and what is already resonating with your target audience.
  • Have conversations with potential customers, so that you know their pain points and the problems they are looking to have solved. Huge, unique insights can come from this one.
  • Use these insights to create a customer journey map that identifies the steps your potential audience needs to take to get from where they are to where they want to get.
  • Create content that takes customers along the journey in a manner that builds trust, delivers value, and moves them toward making a purchase.

This process obviously isn’t as easy as placing a glass bowl on a table and asking people to drop business cards into it or just posting an image to Pinterest, but it’s going to be infinitely more effective.

If you want real list growth, you’re going to need to do the hard work of producing outstanding content on a consistent basis over a long period of time and then sharing that content with people who will benefit from it.

For more help on developing your content strategy, check out our massively popular Fizzle course, Start a Blog that Matters. In the course, we walk you through the exact strategies used to start some of the biggest and most celebrated blogs on the web today.

2. Craft a Compelling Offer

A personal email address is a thing of value. If you’re asking someone to provide you with something of value, you’re going to want to provide something of value in return. In the case of an email list opt-in, the value delivery usually comes in the form of a free giveaway of some kind.

This freebie can be called a number of different things (a opt-in offer, an ethical bribe, an opt-in offer, a lead magnet, or a free gift), and it can come in the form of a PDF download, an ebook, an invitation to a webinar, enrollment in an email course, access to a private newsletter, or one of many other forms of content delivery.

(Need some help coming up with a free opt-in incentive? Everything you need to know is in our article What Makes a Good, Un-Sleazy Lead Magnet? 9 Utterly Clear Examples.)

Unfortunately, in the same way that asking people to “subscribe for updates” no longer works, simply offering a freebie isn’t good enough anymore either. In a world where virtually every website offers a gift for joining their email list, your offer needs to stand out from the pack. The bar is set higher than ever before, so your offer has to be something surprising and delightful that resonates with your target audience.

If others in your niche are offering an ebook, maybe you’ll need to offer an email course. If your competition offers an email course, you might want to offer a video course. You may also need to improve your copywriting, produce slicker videos, or create better images in order to compete in your marketplace.

Never forget, however, the most important thing about your giveaway and offer is that it solves a problem for your visitors. While packaging may be important in order to differentiate yourself from the competition, a core value proposition that resonates with your qualified traffic is the most important element of your opt-in offer. What people consider compelling changes over time, especially as technology continues to develop, but the fact that you need a compelling offer will remain true for the foreseeable future.

Deciding exactly what you are going to offer is where all the work you did in order to attract your audience pays off. Your offer should fall naturally out of the content strategy and customer journey map you’ve already created. In fact, some of the best opt-in gifts are content that proved popular in a previous format. A hot blog post can easily be turned into a free guide, for example, and a podcast that went viral can be turned into a video give-away.

Just like developing your content strategy, you’ll need to identify what’s currently resonating with your audience and then provide a refreshing take on it. Put yourself in one of your website visitor’s shoes. What offer would make you want to join an email list when you’ve already been hit with ten similar offers today? Your business needs a Unique Selling Proposition (USP), but so does your offer.

3. Expose People to Your Offer

  1. You’ve developed a targeted content strategy that’s brought qualified visitors to your website.
  2. You’ve crafted a high quality compelling offer that’s going to solve a problem for free in exchange for joining your email list.
  3. Now you need to put that offer in front of your visitors.

As the giant list below suggests, there are many ways to put your offer in front of people. These methods generally fall on a sliding scale, with “totally chill” on one end and “in-your-face annoying internet marketer” on the other. The point is to grab people’s attention, but where your efforts fall on this sliding scale will be up to you.

Whether or not to use something like a pop-up will depend on your level of comfort. There’s no denying that pop-ups work, but you’ll have to decide for yourself if the annoyance level for short-term gain is worth the potentially long-term turn-off.

In-your-face tactics will usually build a list quicker, but whether the people on that list will trust you enough to actually make a purchase is something else entirely. We’ve found that less in-your-face trust-building strategies implemented over the long term usually pays off for small businesses working with limited marketing budgets.

In a previous article, we identified 11 Places to Put Email Opt-in Forms on Your Website to Grow Your List, and getting creative with where to place your offer on your site can certainly be fun from a design and experimentation perspective. Just remember the opt-in form placement needs to exist within the larger context of:

  1. Attracting Qualified Visitors
  2. Crafting a Compelling Offer, and
  3. Exposing visitors to your offer.

Implement these three actions and you’ll be on your way to a healthy and growing email list.

How to Grow your Email List to 10K Subscribers and Beyond

Below is a list of an ungodly number of tactics to grow your email list. But as you already know, your goal is not just to grow a list but to grow a profitable list for you.

If you want guidance to grow your email list from an instructor who’s done it for a decade, look no further than this course: How to Grow your Email List to 10K Subscribers and Beyond.

  • Step-by-step guided course
  • Everything you need to start and grow your email list to 10k subscribers and beyond
  • A helpful community of fellow students for feedback and accountability!
  • Super affordable monthly membership (instead of a huge price tag)

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Let ZenBusiness Simplify the Process


126 more methods to grow your email list

Ok, now let’s get into the big list of tactics. Use this list to get your creative juices flowing. We’ve included everything we could, even the ridiculous ones… so take it all with a grain of salt as I get a little sarcastic on some of them 🙂

  1. Offer really, really great email content that people really want. It needed to be said again.
  2. Figure out the unique selling proposition of your email list. Be sure you know how to say it really clearly so it resonates with visitors.
  3. Create an opt-in offer that your target customers will want badly and offer it as an incentive to subscribe to your email list.
  4. Create a great landing page for your email newsletter that states your USP, teases the opt-in offer, etc.
  5. Offer multiple lead generation offers. Why stop at 1? We have several on our business guides page.
  6. Add a link to a landing page in your email signature.
  7. Engage people on social media and promote your opt-in offer.
  8. Ask subscribers to share your emails in the emails you send.
  9. Use an online contest requiring email signup to enter the contest.
  10. Create multiple email list segments to target specific content at specific people.
  11. If you have an old list you don’t use any more, send an email to them enticing them to signup to your current email list.
  12. Create a free online tool or resource that requires email signups to use.
  13. Create a Twitter lead generation card for your email list.
  14. Use your Facebook page to promote a landing page for your freebie or opt-in offer.
  15. Add a call to action button on the top of your Facebook business page.
  16. Promote your opt-in offer and landing page on your LinkedIn page.
  17. Create Pinterest images to promote your landing page or opt-in offer.
  18. Add calls to action for your opt-in offers in your YouTube videos.
  19. Use Google+ to promote your… wait, nobody uses Google+.
  20. Promote your offers on your website! More on this one in #3 above.
  21. Be a guest blogger for other websites and link to a landing page in your author bio.
  22. Partner with other email list owners to get your offer promoted to their audience.
  23. Host a joint venture project (like a webinar) with another publisher and ask them to promote it to their audience.
  24. Collect email addresses in person, like, at a trade show… just walking around asking people if they want to be on your email list. People love that kind of thing.
  25. Gather people for a meetup and ask people there if they want to signup for your list. Another thing people love.
  26. If you have a direct mail (snail mail) list, send them a postcard and ask them to signup for your email list instead. Great place for a QR code {laughs maniacally}.
  27. Host a webinar. Modern online biz wisdom these days seems to be: when in doubt, just host a webinar.
  28. Offer the webinar recording as an opt-in incentive. This is a nice little value-add.
  29. Pay for search ads to promote your landing page. Content better be good, guys!
  30. Promote your landing page or offer on a relevant LinkedIn group.
  31. QR Codes! Yea, QR Codes, just put them on everything you can. That’s gotta lead to some signups. This is literally an option mentioned here.
  32. Use a text message service to capture email leads through text message.
  33. Add a link to your landing page from the bio sections of your social media profiles.
  34. Integrate email signup into other forms on your website.
  35. Find the top 10-20 pages on your website and add a strong call to action for a relevant opt-in offer.
  36. If you’re in e-commerce, add a link to your landing page and offer on the email receipts you send to customers. Check out how we do this on this why never take another job article.
  37. Train your employees to talk about the benefits of signing up for your email list.
  38. Offer your email list something exclusive, access to something only subscribers can see. Maybe they’ll share it with a friend.
  39. Collect business cards in a fishbowl at in-person events. That sounds fun, right? Then you could sign them up for your email list… but I think that’s illegal, so ask them first.
  40. Put a flyer for your email list in a waiting room or bathroom. No, I’m serious.
  41. If you have brick and mortar store have a place for customers to signup in the store.
  42. Create a birthday club. People signup add their email and birth date, you send them something nice on their birthday. I don’t think this will grow your list very fast.
  43. Have you thought of telemarketing? People love telemarketing calls. Pro tip: call around dinner time, it’s the best time. If you can’t afford a telemarketing service, just dial phone numbers willy nilly.
  44. If it’s still not working add more forms to your website!
  45. Consistently end blog posts with a call to action for your email list.
  46. Do that thing when a visitor tries to leave and you put up a pop-up alert that says “are you sure you want to go? We’ve got a really great ebook you could download!” People love that stuff.
  47. Create a forum or community and promote the email list on every page.
  48. Create some “subscribers only” specials, giving discounts to people on the email list.
  49. Promote the “subscribers only” discount on social media.
  50. Add a link to your opt-in offer landing page in every email you send so if a receiver forwards the message they can signup too.
  51. If you have a brick and mortar store reward people who checkin on Foursquare or Facebook by offering them a discount and asking for their email address.
  52. Spend time on relevant blogs and forums and leave links to your opt-in offer page. This won’t get you banned from the site… maybe.
  53. Make a sandwich board to go outside your shop (or house) that promotes your email list.
  54. Find local events like street fairs and meetups and engage people to signup for your email list.
  55. Run a competition where you ask people to share your landing page on social media. Be sure to make it worth their while.
  56. Make an app that requires a valid email address to login and use the app.
  57. If you ship products to customers, include a card or note enticing customers to signup for the email list.
  58. Join your local Chamber of Commerce and see if you can email their email list about your email list.
  59. Get speaking engagements and mention your email list and opt-in offers in your speech.
  60. Every month offer a giveaway of an item that’s either valuable or fun to someone who’s on your email list. (iPads seem to work great for this.)
  61. Offer the ability for subscribers to choose different lists to subscribe to so they can get more relevant, niche content.
  62. Again, the value of QR codes cannot be overstated. 
  63. Go the extra step to convincing people to signup by adding subscriber testimonials to the opt-in forms.
  64. Are you an expert in something people desperately want to learn more about? Use an email course as a opt-in offer to entice people to subscribe.
  65. Add a popup box or “scroll box” that shows up when a user scrolls down far enough on the page.
  66. Offer “content upgrades”, targeted opt-in offers for specific pieces of content. You can see how we did this on this article.
  67. Create multiple offers on your site for different segments of your audience. This could improve the relevance of the emails you send to your subscribers.
  68. Link to an old newsletter on your social media accounts, showing followers something that’s really going to feel valuable to them.
  69. Mention a popular Tweeter on your newsletter then tweet about it. Maybe that influencer will retweet it to his or her followers.
  70. Create amazing blog content and promote a clear, targeted call to action to join the email list.
  71. Add a sign-up form to your Facebook Page.
  72. Clearly state the benefit of joining your email list, making it clear what’s ‘in it for them’. (Note: there needs to be something ‘in it for them’.)
  73. Make your opt-in box really prominent across your entire website.
  74. Cross-promote with another publisher or business in a similar area of interest and promote each other’s newsletters.
  75. Offer regular exclusive content only to your newsletter. Bonus points if it’s insanely valuable and so good that everyone who reads it immediately shares it personally with several of their friends.
  76. Just straight up ask your social media followers to sign up.
  77. Don’t ask for too many pieces of information on your signup form. More fields to fill might mean less people signing up.
  78. Be really consistent with both the frequency and the quality of your email newsletters. If you’re writing valuable stuff readers can apply to their lives there’s a better chance they might share it with their network.
  79. Offer a multi day email course as your opt-in offer. Email courses are the new ebooks.
  80. Use a plugin like WP-TopBar to show an opt-in message at the top (or bottom) of every page of your site.
  81. Put an extremely prominent opt-in box on your homepage. Bam, right at the top. “Get in here I’m giving this thing away and it’s super useful.” (Bonus points if it actually is super useful.)
  82. If you’ve got a sizable email list use that as social proof next to your opt-in box: “Join # people on our email list”.
  83. Add social sharing buttons to your newsletter. Maybe someone will share something. Can’t go wrong with more #buttons.
  84. If you’re writing really great stuff, only share part of it and require an email address to see the rest of it.
  85. Wrap up a handful of your best content on a related topic and offer it as a free PDF ebook. Sometimes people just want PDFs.
  86. Mention why people should trust you near your opt-in box. What qualifies you or your company as a source of valuable information for subscribers? (Note: if you don’t have a good answer for this, don’t do it.)
  87. If you’re just starting your email list, offer the first # of subscribers (50, 100, 200, etc.) a free bonus gift or discount. Promote this across the site and to your social media followers. (Note: they all might unsubscribe after they get your gift so make sure you show them that the content you write will actually change their lives before they go.)
  88. Try acting more like a human and less like a marketer. People might respond better to your content and calls to action if you’re relatable (instead of a “brand” to #engage with).
  89. Make the sign-up as quick and painless as possible.
  90. Show potential subscribers a sample newsletter or a screenshot to show them the sensational, easy to understand, quick, accessible and profoundly valuable stuff you share in a non-annoying way on a regular basis. Give them a “sneak peek” if you will.
  91. Tell (or show) potential subscribers exactly what they’ll be getting when they sign up for your email list and how often they’ll be getting it.
  92. Mention an anti-spam policy near your opt-in box to assure potential subscribers that you’ll never spam them or share their personal info. (Note: never spam or share personal info.)
  93. Run a survey and require email addresses to get the results.
  94. Create a quiz or a silly personality type test (e.g., “which email growth tactic are you, find out in this quick personality test!”) and require email address to see the results.
  95. Use one of those “slide the whole page down and show you a big message” plugins.
  96. Oh man, have you seen those big popup boxes that give you two buttons one that says “sign me up” and the other says “I’m a moron” or something like that? Those are great. People love those. Apparently they work really well and every time I see one I think to myself, “Hey, this website owner really respects me!”
  97. Create a “timed popup,” a popup box you can set just before the average time a user spends on the page.
  98. You could “pre sell” a product and collect email addresses as you prepare for building the product.
  99. Ask your friends and family to share a link to your landing page on their sites, emails and social media accounts. Thanks Aunt Leslie!
  100. Pin a tweet on your twitter page that promotes your landing page and opt-in offer.
  101. Schedule a social media call to action promoting your opt-in landing page to tweet out every couple weeks.
  102. Try Instagram and do one of those “link in profile” things where the person has to click on your profile and then click the link because Instagram doesn’t allow links in posts. (Note: people really need to want your thing badly to do this, so make sure they want it badly.)
  103. Add an email signup form to your Facebook page and change the menu order on your Facebook page so every visitor can see it.
  104. Post in Facebook groups and make sure people there know you have a free ebook or opt-in offer. (Note: this could annoy people, be careful.)
  105. Shoot, while you’re at it, start your own Facebook group for subscribers only!
  106. Regularly monitor key terms on Twitter and respond to people mentioning your landing page where applicable.
  107. Answer questions on Quora and link to your landing page where applicable.
  108. Find forums and slack groups about your topic and just be a general badass in there helping people out. After a few months of this, when you’ve endeared everyone to you, start mentioning your free ebook or opt-in offer.
  109. If you’re on any forums, update your forum signature to include a link to your landing page opt-in.
  110. Join a relevant community like ProductHunt or GrowthHackers or FoodGawker or CraigsList and submit your opt-in offer or opt-in offer there.
  111. Start a podcast about your topic. It’s a ton of work, but can be a good source of growth if you can stand out amongst the noise. We’ve got both a beginner and advanced course on podcasting in the Fizzle members area.
  112. Get featured as a guest interviewee on a popular podcast. While you’re on the mic be sure to mention your opt-in offer.
  113. Republish your content on places like Medium and Huffington post. This could get you some new readers and subscribers.
  114. Follow our guide to promoting your blog to get more traffic to posts that already perform highly for email conversions. This one’s actually really good.
  115. Offer an affiliate program for your product or book and reach out to people with large audiences to promote your stuff to their audience in exchange for a cut of the profits.
  116. Buy an email list. Apparently this is something you can do.
  117. Create an email challenge like our 30 Day “Just Ship It” Challenge.
  118. Put an opt-in form on your about page like we do.
  119. Create a course on Udemy to reach people who are searching for help there at Udemy.
  120. Create a small, actionable book you can sell affordably on Amazon to reach people there who are searching for help on your topic.
  121. Take your best piece of content and update it with some cutting edge information and edits and offer it as an opt-in offer across your site.
  122. Offer an .mp3 audio file of you explaining deeper something from a blog post or page on your website as an opt-in offer.
  123. Add a link to your site navigation that stands out to visitors and offers your opt-in offer.
  124. Make an opt-in offer in your sidebar follow the viewer no matter where they scroll.
  125. On your popular pages and posts create images that tease your opt-in offer so they’ll click and join your list.
  126. If you use Wistia for video you can use their turnstile feature to capture emails directly in the video.
  127. Make resource pages on your website and prominently feature an opt-in offer. I get into this in-depth in the Fizzle course on designing your website and site strategy.

Holy crap that’s a lot of tactics! Hope this article has been helpful to you. Thanks for reading!

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