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Introduction to Email List Building

Learn how to build an email list and start running your email marketing campaigns in no time.


Email marketing is effective and profitable, with an average ROI of 3,800% — that’s a return of $38 for each $1 spent. This applies to any type of business, industry, product, or service.

Email campaigns are useful at every stage of the customer lifecycle: building brand awareness, extending brand knowledge, building interest in an offer, generating action and conversions, fostering relationships, and turning existing clients into loyal brand advocates.

You can start with simple campaigns: creating and sending emails to your existing customers. But armed with a little knowledge, you’ll soon be testing, analyzing results, segmenting email lists, and optimizing campaigns to improve their effectiveness.

The single most important element of your program is email list building. For consistent success, you’ll need to attract new leads and turn them into subscribers.

Why? You may have the most amazing product or service (such as a perpetual motion machine!) but until you capture the attention of your market and develop relationships, you’ll achieve only mediocre results.

To generate better results and a thriving business, you’ll need an audience you can contact frequently through newsletters, autoresponders, transactional messages, and social media channels.

This guide teaches you all about building a profitable email list. At the end, you’ll have a solid knowledge of the methods, tactics, and factors involved in getting new email list subscribers and get better results for your business.

You’ll get answers to these questions:

  • What is email list building?
  • What’s the difference between permission-based email marketing and spam?
  • How do you add your subscribers into GetResponse?
  • How do you build an email list using online methods?
  • How do you build an email list using offline techniques?

What is email list building?

Email list building is the core of email marketing. It’s the process of accumulating a database of contacts — prospects, clients, fans, and influencers — who have agreed to receive your emails. When you convince prospects and customers to give you their email address, you open the door to ongoing communication, which can improve relationships, sales, and brand loyalty.

With GetResponse you can create or import an email address database of any size. It can store additional information about each contact, such as their name, so you can identify individual customers. You may also decide to collect phone numbers and physical addresses.

Over time, your database accumulates useful data, such as past purchasing behavior, survey answers, and history of email opens and clicks.

Permission-based email marketing vs. spam

Email marketing is sometimes mistaken for the practice of sending out unsolicited bulk email, commonly known as spam. Permission-based email marketing means communicating with audiences that have expressed willingness to receive promotional newsletters and updates from brands they wish to follow and stay in touch with.

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 best 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 in social media channels. Nevertheless, permission is required and cannot be implied only.

You may also be interested in: Guide to Email List Management

How to build an email list

Building an email list is an important task regardless of the size and type of business you’re in. Whether you’re launching your first product or have been on the market for some time, it’s equally important to keep in touch with your audience, and the most effective way to do this is through emails.

You can build an email list both online and offline. Depending on your type of business, product or service, some methods I’m going to list below may or may not apply. But the concept remains the same.

To get started, imagine all the times and places where prospects may come across your brand. Those are your best opportunities to convince them to become not just random visitors, but loyal and engaged email subscribers.

Online list building methods

Web forms

There are many places to build an email list online, including your website and sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and discussion boards. The most popular method is to create a signup form (web form) and place it on your own website.

It’s where most of your audience will interact with your brand, so it’s the first place you should start with.

There are different types of signup forms. These include:

  • inline a.k.a. embedded form
  • popup or lightbox
  • exit popup
  • fixed bar
  • scroll form

The last three types are more advanced, so we’ll focus only on the first two. But the idea behind all of them is the same: to provide an input field where the subscriber can enter an email address and, optionally, other data.

How to create a signup form

GetResponse includes an advanced signup form builder for creating all of the above types of forms for your website, social media profile, or blog. Even if you have no coding experience, you’ll be able to create one of your own, in a matter of minutes.

Just log in to your GetResponse account, choose Forms » Create Form.

If you’re new to list building, you’ll most likely want to use one of our ready-made signup form templates or create one from scratch, by going straight to the List Builder Wizard.

Just click around and choose whichever templates looks best for you. And if you want to learn how to take full control and adjust it to your needs, then go ahead and read this quick tutorial.

You’ll quickly discover how easy it is to create a form like the one you can see on the next page.

An example of a signup form template you can find in GetResponse
An example of a signup form template you can find in GetResponse

What to include in a signup form

A typical signup form consists of 2-3 fields, where the new subscriber enters their email address and other information, such as name or hometown.

The number of fields is up to you. But numerous studies have shown that the more fields people have to fill in, the less likely they are to complete the form.

So double-check whether all the fields are necessary for you to run your email campaigns. Perhaps you could ask for the information in a survey after they’ve signed up.

The form should include a headline stating the benefits of joining the email list, and a strong call to action (CTA) on the action button. To improve your chances of capturing new contacts, offer a signup bonus, a.k.a. a lead magnet, such as a free ebook, report, or a discount.

You may also include a checkbox to confirm their willingness to join the list, information about the terms and conditions, and reassurance of data protection – just like in the example below.

Anatomy of a signup form
Anatomy of a signup form

How to add a web form to your website

Once you’ve created your signup form inside GetResponse and adjusted the settings (such as linking it to a list and redirecting to a thank-you page), you can choose how to publish it.

There are three options:

1. Install it manually – You’ll receive a JavaScript code to place on your website. Just copy the code and add it to the appropriate place on your site.

2. Send it to your web designer – Enter an email address, and we’ll forward the appropriate JavaScript code.

3. GetResponse will host the web form – Your web form will be hosted on the GetResponse domain.

If you’ve created your website using WordPress, then you can use the GetResponse WordPress plugin to quickly add the form to your site.

If your website isn’t WordPress-based, look through the GetResponse integrations page to find one that fits your needs. If your service isn’t supported yet, copy the source code of your signup form and place it in the 〈body〉 of your website, wherever you want it to appear. It may take a few tries, so be sure to preview the results before it goes live.

How to add a web form to your Facebook page

After designing your web form, you can now place it on your Facebook page. Thanks to this, you’ll be able to turn your fans into loyal email subscribers.

To get started, just log in to Facebook and go to the GetResponse web forms application page. You’ll then be taken through a few steps such as authorizing the app, syncing it with your GetResponse account, and adding the form to your tabs.

Since Facebook is frequently changing its layout, we’ve provided the full guidelines on how to install your form on Facebook in the form of a guide. Click the link below to find all the latest information and images to guide you through this process:

How add to add a signup form to my Facebook page »

GetResponse signup form on Facebook
GetResponse signup form on Facebook

How to add a signup form to other social media channels

Unfortunately, other social media channels, such as Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn, don’t support email list building apps. But if you have a web form on your website or a landing page, you can provide their URL in your bio or on your cover photo. Just give them a good incentive in a form of a lead magnet and they’ll surely want to go to your site.

Landing pages

Landing pages are like regular web pages, but usually contain much more focused information about one specific offer. Most often they have only one goal in mind and it’s to get the visitor to fill out the online form.

Thanks to the way they are designed, landing pages are a powerful tactic many marketers are starting to include in their mix. GetResponse comes with a powerful landing page creator, so you too can use them in your marketing campaigns.

To learn more about them, just follow this quick tutorial below on how to create a landing page. Then build one of your own, or simply use a prebuilt template.

How we at GetResponse use webinars to build an email list and attract visitors to our site
How we at GetResponse use webinars to build an email list and attract visitors to our site


Webinars are another great way to build an email list online. You can run online meetings, presentations, 1-on-1s, or workshops, and turn attendees into email contacts at the same time.

Why is this method so effective?

First, by reaching out to your audience and answering their questions, you remove doubts and obstacles that prevent them from subscribing or doing business with you. It’s always easier to ask questions in person than to do your own research.

Second, you establish your expertise. You and your brand become more visible for people who may be experiencing the same problems.

Don’t wait up and start running online webinars before your competitors do.

How we at GetResponse use webinars to build an email list and attract visitors to our site
How we at GetResponse use webinars to build an email list and attract visitors to our site

Other online list building methods

With GetResponse you can also build your list online using such tools as surveys and social media sharing buttons. But there are of course other, sometimes more advanced, methods you should explore. We’ve listed them below.

Discussion boards

Discussion boards, forums, and social media groups on sites such as LinkedIn can be great sources of new prospects. Identify boards where members discuss topics your company deals with and has expertise in.

When you find your target audience, focus on the topics they’re interested in and the questions they ask. Since your company provides a product or a service that helps them, you can get their attention by providing answers and clearing doubts. If you’re an expert in your field, you can distinguish yourself as knowledgeable and trustworthy.

Others will seek your advice and check your public profile and bio. Include a URL to your website, so if someone likes your posts and views your profile, they can click to your site, landing page, or personal blog. Make sure you have a signup form ready to collect new contacts.


Webinars and email marketing campaigns can be effective. But sometimes the challenge isn’t in your offer but in your limited reach. Co-promotion and partnerships can extend the reach of your promotional campaigns and attract new audiences.

Partnerships can include sponsored articles, guest blogging, joint webinars, and offline events such as forums and conferences. By combining the audiences, both parties can expect more visibility and a growing client base.

Consider partnering with companies or authors whose target audience is similar to yours. If you work out a deal, you should have no problem expanding your business.

When organizing such projects, direct your new audience to a website or landing page with a signup form designed to convert them into newsletter subscribers. Then keep them updated and informed with well-planned email marketing campaigns.

Paid advertising

If you have the resources, consider investing in paid solutions to extend your reach, get new contacts, and improve search engine rankings.

Popular methods include promoted posts on social media channels, search engine marketing, and video ads.

Contextual advertising is gaining in popularity. It’s an effective way to present ads and build brand awareness among visitors to other websites. Its biggest advantage is that your ad is matched with the content of the website, which increases the likelihood of generating good quality responses.

The ad is visible only on websites or search engine results that are related to the content. And you have full control over the duration and costs.

Case study: Find out how InfoShare Academy, a provider of programming courses for IT beginners, gained 1200 new contacts using Facebook Lead Ads and a carefully crafted ebook.

Offline list building methods

Offline activities can also generate online traffic and sales. So evaluate them and the places where your audience sees your brand. Use these touch points to boost your online efforts and generate higher conversions. We’ll briefly cover some best practices and places where you can generate new leads.

Printed material and promotional items

Your printed materials (e.g. business cards, packaging, receipts, catalogues) and promotional items (e.g. pens, USB drives, mascots) can be another great source of traffic for your website.

Place the URL of your site on these products. If people like your freebies, they can visit your website to learn about your business. Include a signup form to convert visitors to subscribers.

Offline meetings

As with webinars and consultations, you can organize offline events for local customers. This could be trade shows, one-on-one client meetings, book signings for your new publication, open discussions about upcoming projects, or a conference discussing the topics relevant to your industry.

These work especially well if you promote them in several marketing channels and partner with other brands with similar target audiences. This can improve your credibility and earn the trust of potential customers.

When organizing such events, think of ways to attract new leads. Distribute free promotional items and printed materials. Or collect business cards in a fishbowl contest. State clearly that their email address will be added to a newsletter list or perhaps a good ol’ paper mailing list.

Snail mail and customer service

If you have customer mailing addresses, you can send printed materials such as catalogues and offer a special discount for joining your email list. Just ask them to fill out the form and mail it back or visit your website to sign up.

Don’t forget your customer service team, the front line of your company. They interact with your audience every day. Train them to ask every caller to join the email list. Make it a policy to add an email footer with a link to a signup form, so every correspondence is an opportunity to attract new subscribers and grow your email marketing list.

How to add your email list to GetResponse

It’s easy to transfer your email list from an existing service or database to GetResponse. Just prepare a file (such as an Excel spreadsheet) and import it into the appropriate list. To see this process, read this tutorial.

This isn’t necessary for those who subscribe using signup forms created with GetResponse Form Builder, Landing Page Creator, or the GetResponse Webinars. They will be added to your account automatically.

If you’re moving from a different provider, you can also check the GetResponse University to learn how to migrate your lists.


Building an email list is by far the most important and fundamental part of any email marketing program. Email marketing works well with other promotional techniques and generates strong returns. If you want to extend your reach and expand your business, consider email marketing campaigns.

Email marketing helps build brand awareness, extend brand knowledge, build interest in your offers, generate actions and conversions, foster relationships, and turn existing customers into loyal brand advocates. So it’s worth the time and effort.

There are many methods of building a mailing list to stay in touch with your audiences. We’ve covered the most popular and effective online and offline ones to help you jump-start your marketing program.

To explore these topics and find other ways to expand your business with online marketing, please visit our Learning Center and the GetResponse blog.

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