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25 ways to build your contact list: your ultimate playbook

Whether you’re new to email marketing or have been doing it for years, the most important part of your job should be growing a high-quality and engaged contact list.

To help you achieve this holy grail, we’ve compiled a list of 25 tried-and-tested tactics for the success of your future campaigns. We’ve also added real-life examples of brands using these tactics and additional materials where you can learn about them in more detail.

Why do I even need a list?

You’ve probably heard that it’s 5 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. To achieve this, you can engage with returning customers, win back those you’ve lost, and cultivate promising leads into new buyers. To successfully manage these efforts, you’ll need to keep track of your data, and that’s where your contact list comes into play.

Ideally, you would tag and segment your contacts based on the stage of the buyer’s journey they are currently at (and marketing automation can prove invaluable here!) But, for the purpose of this guide, we will focus on the very first step and your very first touchpoint with potential customers – acquisition.

After all, it is still much easier to persuade someone to purchase your product once you’ve built trust and credibility in their eyes. And most of the advice provided here teaches you how to do just that and how to translate that into a quality MQL-soon-to-be-SQL with permission-based marketing. 

Just another quick – yet crucial – disclaimer before we jump in:

Important: permission-based marketing vs. spam

Many people often assume email marketing is all about sending out cold unsolicited emails – spam. While still sometimes practiced, this approach is harmful rather than helpful for all the parties involved in most cases. 

Instead, today we prefer permission-based marketing that only reaches out to audiences who have actively expressed willingness to receive promotional communications. Regulations vary by country, but the principle is the same: you must get expressed permission to communicate via email. In some countries, it’s strictly required by the law; in others, it’s simply a good practice. 

Email marketing providers such as GetResponse have joined together to fight against spam, putting great emphasis on data protection. They have formed organizations to support only companies that have received permission to contact their subscribers.

Typically, subscribers grant permission by entering their email address and indicating (often with a checkbox) that they wish to receive promotional and commercial communication from the brand. Permission can be granted in other ways, such as by phone, in a contest entry form, or through social media channels. Nevertheless, permission is required and cannot be implied only. That’s why, while talking about various ways for you to build your contact list in this guide, we’ll be only talking about permission-based practices.

Strategically place your signup forms across your website

1. Prepare signup incentives

The very first thing you need to do is to come up with something that would persuade people to join your list. Think of signup incentives as little gifts you give to your website visitors in exchange for their contact information.

These, also known as lead magnets or content upgrades, can be anything from a free ebook or a discount code to an exclusive webinar. The idea is to offer something so enticing that your visitors will want to trade their email addresses in exchange for it.

For example, if you’re running a fitness blog, you might offer a free 7-day workout plan for anyone who signs up.

This gives your visitors a reason to join your contact list and provides them with immediate value, which helps build trust and encourages them to stay engaged with your content.

Here’s a great example of a signup incentive that’s relevant and valuable to people visiting the website AnswerThePublic – an email course on how to use Search Insight:

Targeted popup example.

2. Add a newsletter signup form on your website

Now that you have something to exchange for those contact details, you should ensure it is easy to find how people can sign up. 

Here’s the truth – people can only join your contact list if they see your signup forms. So, the first step in growing your email list should be ensuring that your signup forms are visible across your entire website. That means adding them to every relevant page on your site and ensuring they stand out.

Typically, you’ll find signup forms in the website’s header, footer, or sidebar. You can also try other places, but watch out not to bury them with your content, as this will make your signup forms less effective.

Here’s how American Giant placed their newsletter signup form in the website’s footer. Notice how they used a larger font size to make the form stand out more and used text-to-join to simplify the signup process even further:

Footer signup form example from American Giant.

If you run an ecommerce store, it’ll also be worth adding the signup form to your checkout (as a checkbox) and customers’ profile pages. These pages are typically visited by people already engaged with your brand, so turning them into subscribers should be easier.

Once again, here’s an example from American Giant’s checkout page:

Checkout form example from American Giant.

3. Place targetted popups

Don’t forget that you can not only embed your signup forms to a fixed place on your page – instead, you can maximize their efficiency with interactive popups.

Popups are like little billboards that appear on your website, grabbing the visitors’ attention. Although some people dislike them, popups can be really powerful if done correctly!

So, how do you make your popup useful and not annoying? Instead of showing the same popup to everyone and everywhere, make sure to personalize them!

For example, if you have a category on your blog about gardening, pair it with a popup offering a free guide to growing herbs. This way, you’re providing something valuable and relevant to the content your visitors are searching for.

Remember, there are 3 key elements to making your popups successful:

  • timing
  • relevancy
  • value 

If your popup offers something your audience values and does it at the right time, you’re in to win!

Here’s an example of a popup from Exploding Kittens that’s timely, relevant, and valuable. Especially if you’re shopping for games:

Targeted popup example from Exploding Kittens.

And here’s one from Ryan Robinson, presented on a page about starting a blog:

Targeted popup example.

If you’re new to popups, start by adding one that only shows up to people who’ve engaged with your website – for example, they scrolled through 25% of it or stayed on your page for more than 30 seconds.

After that, experiment with other targeting options until you reach a satisfying conversion rate.

4. Add a signup form inside your blog content

Imagine you’re reading a captivating book, and in the middle of it, you find an invitation to meet the author. You’d be intrigued, right? That’s the idea behind adding signup forms within your blog. 

As readers engage with your content, they’re more likely to sign up when they encounter a form right in the middle of their reading experience. 

This form is a promise of more insightful content, updates, or resources related to the topic they are already invested in. It’s a non-intrusive way of saying, “Hey, if you’re enjoying this, there’s more where that came from!”

This method can be very effective as it captures the interest of your readers when they are most engaged.

Here’s an example from Insider where they offer visitors to join their newsletter right at the beginning of the article:

Incontent signup form example.

And here’s one inside the article, by Ryan Robinson:

Inside content signup form example.

5. Add capture forms to your chat conversations

Live chats are indispensable if you want to offer your customers a great experience. But did you know you can also use them to grow your contact list?

Adding signup forms to your live chat conversations can help you turn these meaningful one-to-one interactions into list-building opportunities. All you have to do is add a signup form at the end of a chat or ask your visitors if they want to join your mailing list.

This approach is effective because it’s personal and immediate, capturing the visitor’s interest in the moment. Plus, it feels less like a sales pitch and more like a helpful offer, which can increase signups.

Here’s what this looks like in GetResponse Chats:

Signup form in GetResponse Chats.

You can add a similar approach to all of your chatbots or encourage customer support team to share a link to relevant materials that would encourage people to sign up upon redirect. 

6. Create dedicated landing pages

What’s the email signup rate on your homepage? 0.5%, maybe less? Don’t worry. That’s completely fine. Because the purpose of your homepage isn’t to capture email leads, that’s what landing pages are for.

Landing pages are standalone web pages with a single focus: converting traffic. They often concentrate on dedicated offers like a webinar or a product, and the message is directly related to that offer alone.

They may not be as popular as regular signup forms or popups, yet they have some of the highest conversion rates – ranging around 7% and often going into double digits! 

That’s because landing pages keep your audience focused. They often feature fewer links to click, less information to digest, and a single call-to-action for visitors to engage with. All very simple and to the point. 

If you’re serious about list growth, you’ll want to create dedicated landing pages for all your lead magnets and promotional campaigns.

Here’s a landing page example from one of our own campaigns with Ian Cleary:

Ways to build your contact list - landing page example.

7. Build a dedicated signup page for your newsletter

Speaking of landing pages, you should create one just for your newsletter.

People will be asking you about the best way to join your newsletter a lot. Instead of telling them to visit your website and look for a signup form, you’ll be better off having a dedicated signup page ready to share.

Be sure to make this signup page only about your newsletter and the reasons why people should join it. And don’t forget to use an easy-to-share URL, for example –

Here’s one example from the Digital Marketer newsletter signup page:

Newsletter signup page will help you grow your contact list effectively.

8. Add signup forms to your thank-you pages

Last but not least, don’t forget about thank-you pages!

Thank you pages are like the end of a journey where you can invite visitors to start a new one. These are where people land on after taking a certain action, like making a purchase or downloading a resource. By adding a signup form to these pages, you can invite these visitors to stay connected and join your contact list

For example, after someone registers for your webinar, you could direct them to a thank you page that says, “Thanks for registering! If you can’t wait to learn more about this topic, sign up for our email list and receive more tips and insights.”

This strategy can be effective because it targets visitors who have already shown an interest in your content, making them more likely to sign up.

Here’s a newsletter thank you page example from Digital Marketer. Notice how they used it to promote their referral program and gain new subscribers rather than push the new subscribers toward specific gated content:

Thank you page example from Digital Marketer.

Don’t be shy and promote yourself on social media

If you have a dedicated product you’d like to use for lead generation or if you’re certain your newsletter will be helpful for people regardless of their familiarity with your product – socials are the place to be! 

9. Run paid ad campaigns

Want to build an audience faster? Paid ads will help you get there with rocket speed! 

Paid advertising allows you to promote your newsletter and lead magnets across all the major platforms, like Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, or YouTube. Paid ads come in various formats, too. You can do display ads, video ads, or even search ads.

For example, you could promote your email course to people interested in a particular topic or those who typed one of your keywords into the search engine.

There’s a special kind of ads that work particularly well for marketers and deserve their own spotlight – lead ads. These are designed specifically to help you collect contact information from people interested in your business. When someone clicks on a lead ad, they get a prefilled form with their contact information, making it easy to sign up.

Let’s say you’re a digital marketer who wants to promote your latest ebook. Instead of directing people to a dedicated landing page, your lead ad gets them instant access to your ebook without any extra steps, such as redirects or boring form submissions.

Curious about what these ads look like? Here’s one example:

Lead ad example.

Paid ads can be very effective because they allow you to reach a large target audience. However, since they tend to get quiet pricey, you’ll want to be careful about your spending. Pay attention to your cost-per-lead as well as the quality of leads you acquire through paid ads.

10. Engage your audience on social media

Now, leaving Google behind for a moment, let’s focus on social networks.

Social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are great places to build connections and engage with your target audience. By creating engaging posts that encourage responses, you can build a relationship with your followers and invite them to join your contact list

For example, you might post about a recent campaign you organized for a client, sharing some of the high-level results. In the post, you can invite people to leave a message or visit your landing page to learn more about the case study and how they can replicate the results.

This approach helps you build an engaged audience you can reach outside their social media accounts.

Looking for a real-life application? Here’s one from Mike Alton, where he promotes their Partnership Unpacked newsletter:

LinkedIn post promoting newsletter subscription.

11. Use your cover images on social media profiles

Your social media cover image is like another billboard for your brand. It’s one of the first things people see when they visit your profiles. 

Some companies use it to share their personal brand statement or company slogan. But you can use this space to promote your newsletter or one of your lead magnets

For example, you could design a cover image that says, “We analyzed the email campaigns from the top 100 ecommerce brands. Learn their strategies & tricks. Grab this exclusive report!” and include a link to your signup form. 

This turns your social media profiles into gateways to your contact list that work for you 24/7.

Here’s an example from Justin Welsh, where he promotes his paid course:

LinkedIn cover image promoting a paid course.

12. Promote your lead magnet in your social media bios

The idea is similar to your cover images. If you want to make the most out of your social media profile, be sure to include a link to your signup page or landing page in your bio

This way, whenever someone looks up your profile, they’ll get a chance to join your contacts list and stay updated with your latest content.

Here’s how Katelyn Bourgoin uses this tactic to convert people visiting her LinkedIn profile:

LinkedIn bio promoting the creator's newsletter.

And here’s how she invites people to check out her profile in the first place:

LinkedIn post motivating readers to click to the bio to sign up to the newsletter.

Use your email to promote your contact list

13. Add a link to your email signature

Your email signature is like your digital business card. It’s a perfect space for you to share all the important information about yourself, your business, or recently published content.

Adding a signup link to your email signature also lets you invite everyone you email to join your contact list. 

This tactic is subtle but very effective, especially if you’re in touch with many people. Plus, it lets you connect with people who have already expressed some interest in what you have to say.

Here’s how folks at G2 use this tactic to promote their resources:

Email signature promoting resources.

14. Include a signup link inside your newsletters

This idea may sound counterintuitive, but hear me out. 

If you have a popular newsletter, people will likely forward it to their friends or share it on social media. So, you’re reaching this wider audience, but even if they liked your content, they might never see you again. How can we change that? By adding a signup link to your newsletter!

This tactic might not be very common, but it can be very effective. After all, people trust other people’s opinions and recommendations the most. Plus, we’re often surrounded by folks with similar interests and expectations, so these recommendations have really good odds of hitting them just right.

Here’s how Tim Ferris uses this tactic to grow his contact list:

Tim Ferris linking to his newsletter signup page inside his email.

Get creative with various formats

15. Mention your lead magnet on YouTube

Got a popular YouTube channel? Then why not use it to cross-promote your email list?

For example, you could include a call to action at the end of your video, asking viewers to sign up for your newsletter or download one of your ebooks for more content or insights. You could also include a link to your signup form in the video description. 

This way, you’re reaching your YouTube audience, who may not be aware of your newsletter, and inviting them to join your contact list.

Here’s an example of a YouTube video description from Tommy Walker from the Content Studio, where he promotes their courses:

YouTube video description promoting their email list.

16. Promote your newsletter on podcasts

Podcasts are like radio shows in the digital age. They’re a great way to reach an engaged audience interested in your content. And if you’re regularly doing podcasts, you should consider using them for collecting email addresses.

Whether it’s your own podcast or you’re joining one as a guest, there’s usually a moment when you’re allowed to share information about where people can follow you online. This is the perfect opportunity to invite the audience to subscribe to your newsletter or download your lead magnet by visiting a dedicated landing page.

For example, you could say something like, “If you’re enjoying this podcast and want more insights, sign up for our newsletter at [your website].” You could also include a link to your newsletter in the show notes. 

Tim Ferris, entrepreneur and best-selling author, does this in his podcast, where he tells people about his 5-Bullet Friday newsletter at the end of every episode. In his short pitch, he clearly explains the benefits of joining his list, tells what content he shares, and reassures the audience that canceling the subscription is as easy as signing up.

And here’s another example from our very own marketing podcast – Operation: Automation. Here, the podcast itself is used as an incentive, not just a medium for promoting one: 

Operation Automation podcast page example.
Operation Automation podcast page example.

17. Direct audience to your list during an online course

Just like with podcasts or videos, you can use online courses to grow your contact list. Similarly to the previous approaches, you can either use the course itself to encourage people to sign up and engage, or you can mention a certain resource or a newsletter during one of the lectures. 

For example, you’ve recorded a course on DIY home renovation and hosted it on Udemy or a similar platform. Why not mention a guide on the 10 Best DIY Ikea Hacks you wrote some time ago in one of the lessons? It will likely be a highly relevant topic for your students and they will gladly sign up for some additional materials like this one. 

Here’s one of the courses we offer at GetResponse University

Course page example. Here – Strategic Email Marketing course from GetResponse.

18. Run a contest

Running a contest is like throwing a party where the entry ticket is signing up for your emails. It’s a fun and interactive way to grow your contact list.

You can offer a prize that’s relevant to your audience and announce that one of the ways to participate or increase your chances of winning is to join your newsletter

For example, if you’re a fashion blogger, you might run a contest to win a personal style consultation. Or if you represent a music band, you can give people a chance to meet the band online. 

While contests can be a fun and exciting way to build your email list, they also sometimes can be challenging. To win the prize, people may submit the wrong email address or one they don’t actively monitor. This means you’ll need to pay special attention to your email list hygiene after the contest ends to keep your email deliverability intact.

Here’s a contest page from Sabaton, where they gave their audience a chance to win a Zoom call with their bass player:

Sabaton contest page that helped them build their contact list.

19. Create an interactive quiz

One thing that performs better than contests, especially in email marketing, are quizzes. 

Quizzes are like interactive games that engage your audience and pique their curiosity. Creating a quiz related to your field or industry provides value and entertainment to your audience while also growing your contact list. Just don’t forget to ask participants to share their email addresses to see their results at the end of the quiz.

For example, if you’re a personal trainer, you might create a quiz titled “What’s Your Ideal Workout Routine?” After answering the questions, participants enter their email to receive their personalized workout plan. This way, you’re offering valuable personalized content in exchange for their contact information, making it a win-win situation.

Here’s an example of a quiz created by Digital Marketer that helps them build their list:

Quiz example from the Digital Marketer.

And here’s the last step in the quiz:

Quiz example from the Digital Marketer.

20. Organize a webinar

Webinars are great for multiple reasons. They’re an effective way to build your personal brand, provide value to your audience, and establish authority in your field. They’re also great for building your email list.

When you organize a webinar, ask attendees to sign up with their email address to receive the link to join. This way, you’re growing your contact list with people who are genuinely interested in what you have to say. 

For example, if you’re a digital marketing expert, you might run a webinar on “How to Optimize Your Social Media Strategy.” Those who sign up will likely be interested in more content from you, making them valuable additions to your contact list.

Here’s an example from our own GetResponse Marketing Team:

Webinar landing page example.

21. Build a membership-based online community

Another fun way to encourage people to share their contact details with you and add extra meaning to building your mailing list would be starting an online community that requires a membership to participate. 

You can choose if you want to host it on your own website, one of the social platforms like Facebook or Reddit, or Slack and similar services. In any case, building a community around your brand and/or service can become an invaluable competitive advantage and, more importantly, an undisputable user retention lever. 

A community like that would give members the possibility to exchange their problems and advice, grow and learn from each other, network, and more – you decide the premise. But giving out your email address for all of this and a genuine sense of belonging doesn’t seem like a too-high price to pay, does it? 

Here’s an example from Demand Curve – a Slack community for marketers that leverages an invaluable embedded signup form to proceed with subscription: 

Slack membership registration page from Demand Curve.

Put your other marketing campaigns to good use! 

22. Run a referral marketing campaign

How many times have you tried a brand because someone recommended it to you? I’m sure more than once. The same thing can happen to your newsletter if you leverage referral marketing programs.

Here’s how it works: 

  1. You develop a referral marketing program and select the perks your subscribers will get for successfully referring new people to your list. 
  2. Then, you can start promoting your referral program and letting your subscribers know how close they are to reaching their next milestone.

That’s it, in a nutshell. Naturally, you’ll want to make sure you choose perks that your audience finds valuable and communicate the program in a compelling way – the more buzz about the program you create, the better.

For inspiration, check out this example from Aleyda Solis:

Referral marketing campaign promoting newsletter subscription.

23. Run a co-marketing campaign

Co-marketing is like hosting a party with a friend. You both invite your own guests and by the end of the party, you’ve both met new people. 

In a co-marketing campaign, you partner up with another business that has a similar audience but isn’t a direct competitor. You both promote a shared offer, like a webinar or an ebook, and ask people to provide their email addresses to access them. This way, you’re both exposing your businesses to each other’s audiences, effectively doubling your reach. 

For example, if you’re a marketing consultant, you might partner with a lawyer to create a comprehensive guide to running marketing campaigns that are in line with new regulations.

This strategy can significantly expand your contact list with relevant leads and often won’t require any extra budget on your side.

At GetResponse, we’ve done many co-marketing campaigns. Here’s one example where we’ve partnered up with ZeroBounce to deliver a webinar on email deliverability and list cleaning best practices:

Comarketing campaign example.

Build omnipresence beyond the digital world

24. Promote your lead magnets during presentations

Most people use presentations at conferences, local meetups, or webinars to show off their expertise and build their brand. The problem? If it’s a busy event, people who saw your presentation will probably forget about you as soon as they leave the room. And that’s even if they enjoyed your talk.

To increase your chances of them remembering you, you can ask them to stay in touch by downloading one of your lead magnets related to the talk you gave. This way, they’re getting value on the topic that they found interesting. And you’re growing your email list and chances of converting them at a later stage.

The easiest way to collect signups at presentations is to add your signup link or a QR code to the last slide of your presentation. The latter is much faster but may not work if your presentation will only be shared in audio format.

Here’s a standard thank you slide that we add to all our webinar presentations at GetResponse:

Example of a webinar thank you slide promoting other resources.

25. Promote your newsletter offline

How about extending your digital reach into the physical world? That’s right! You can successfully build your email list offline, too!

You can include your newsletter signup link, QR code, or text-to-join number on printed materials like fliers, brochures, or business cards. If you have a physical store, you can also promote your newsletter at the point of sale (POS).

For example, you could have a signup sheet at the checkout counter or print the signup link on receipts and paper bags. This way, you’re reaching customers who are already interested in your products or services, making them likely to be interested in your newsletter.

There you have it!

Now that you’ve learned all the best ways of growing your contact list, it’s time for you to launch your next lead generation campaign.

If you’re looking for a tool to help you grow your email list, check out GetResponse.

Our comprehensive email marketing software enables solopreneurs, consultants, and SMB marketers to grow, nurture, and convert their audiences easily. 

It offers an array of list-building solutions, including forms & popups, landing pages, webinars, websites, conversion funnels, live chats, and more!

You can try it completely free today, and you’ll get access to our premium features for 30 days. No credit card required.

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