How to build your email list for free (or close to it)

8 min read

Creating an email list is one of the very best strategies there is for any internet marketer or business looking to drive more sales. Email gives you a direct line to your audience that isn’t reliant on their opening an app.

What’s more, is that the personal nature of email as a form of communication, means that most people on your list should be engaged readers who are eager to hear more from you.

The best news? Building an email list doesn’t need to break the bank. In fact, it can be done completely for free!

In this post, you’ll learn five strategies for building an emaillist that don’t cost a dime but are still extremely effective.

Get a Free Autoresponder

Your autoresponder is the lifeline of your email marketing campaign and realistically it won’t be possible to build a list without one.

The autoresponder has several roles. Firstly, it will allow you to build opt-in forms that your website visitors can use to add their emails to your list.

You can choose from numerous different designs and create something that will stand out and attract attention. At the same time, an autoresponder also has the job of allowing you to manage your emails. That means you can handle people who are asking to unsubscribe, and it means that you can provide a ‘double opt-in’ meaning that people will need to confirm that they really do want to sign up when they first add their name and email.

This helps to reduce spam, and it also keeps your mailing list filled only with people who are likely to actually check their emails.

Autoresponders allow you to send automated messages in response to numerous actions (such as buying a product), and they allow you to track actions such as opens and clicks. This way, you can see who has clicked on the most emails inside your emails, in order to identify warm leads that you can market to.

Finally, your autoresponder is also what you will use to actually send your emails. You’ll also be able to schedule emails, or to send follow ups when they don’t get opened.

None of this would be practical using a spreadsheet and Gmail!

If you’re aiming to build a mailing list for free, then you won’t be able to use one of the big name autoresponders. Options like GetResponse and MailChimp are expensive to begin with and the price only gets higher the more subscribers you get.

Sendy
Sendy

 

If you’re looking to remove those high monthly fees and expect your list to grow exponentially, you might be better off with a self-hosted solution like Sendy that uses Amazon SES to send emails on the cheap.

So if you want to build your mailing list for free, this should be your very first step.

Be Mindful of Hygiene

List hygiene means ensuring that your mailing list is as free as possible from bogus email addresses. That means you need to remove spam emails from your list, and it means
that you need to remove typos. You also need to get rid of members that don’t really want to be there, and who never answer any of your emails!

Why is this important? Because if you don’t take care of your list hygiene, then your emails will either continue to bounce, or to sit unopened in lots of inboxes. When this keeps happening, Gmail, Yahoo, and the other big email providers can take notice and may even blacklist your address. Once that happens, all of your emails will go automatically into spam!

What does this have to do with funding your mailing list? Simple: the average business is thought to spend between $9-$1,000 on email marketing. That will typically account for 16% of marketing budget. Where does this money go? One common expense is list cleaning tools like Kickbox, Clearout and Neverbounce.

These are list cleaning tools that can automatically check for emails that bounce or that don’t work at all. They can save your list and keep things running smoothly, but they aren’t
free!

That’s why it’s better to think carefully about how you go about building your list in the first place. You need to ensure that you are looking after your list hygiene as you go such that this never becomes a serious issue in the first place.

Mailwarm
Mailwarm

 

But if your brand (and domain) are brand new, and you want to reach out immediately – try a service like Mailwarm that raises your sender reputation by positively interacting with your emails, every day.

Some steps to take:

  • Use the aforementioned double opt-in
  • Don’t try to trick people into joining your mailing list
  • Don’t offer lead magnets that are so enticing that they attract people who otherwise would have no interest in your content
  • Add a spam filter to your form
  • Get people to enter their email address twice
  • Warm up your IP reputation with an inbox activity service

Collect Emails in Person

As we’ve already seen, the average business spends as little $9 per month on email marketing. This is a testament to just how little overhead is generally involved with email marketing – which is one of its big appeals.

One of the ways in which you might spend money on this campaign however is in order to attract visitors to your mailing list in the first place. This might involve using paid advertising, which will appear on search engines and on Facebook in order to attract relevant parties to the content you’re producing.

The problem? PPC costs money!

An interesting solution that small businesses can use then, is to collect emails in person! This is something many people don’t think of, but it can actually be highly effective.We’re not talking about canvasing here either, but simply collecting emails when customers make a purchase for example, or asking if they’d like to hear from you when you
have new products in store. It’s an easy way to amass a big list!

Ask People to Share Your Emails

Another free strategy for getting word out about a great email list, is to simply ask the people already subscribed if they would send the message out to other people. Too many people forget that email is a social tool! We think of this as a kind of pedestal from which we can promote whatever our latest product or service is.

The truth though, is that you can also ask questions and actually hear back from your audience! Not only that, but you can even ask people to forward on your messages if they enjoyed them!

Just write something down the bottom of the email saying that if the reader enjoyed what they read, then you would really appreciate it if they would consider forwarding the message on to a friend!

You can even go so far as to include an opt-in form (or a link to your opt-in form) within the email itself! This way, if someone does receive the message forwarded from a friend, they will be able to sign up for more like it if they should enjoy it.

The other important aspect of this strategy of course, is that your content now needs to be sharable, and it needs to offer enough value that someone reading it for the first time would decide they want more like it and sign up!

That means you need to create emails that have something to offer readers: that are entertaining, informative, useful, or that help them to save money.

Have an Amazing Brand

Finally, the last step to creating a successful list on a budget of $0, is to make sure you have a great brand.

This is something that might not be obvious to everyone right away. But the fact of the matter is that your brand is going to be a crucial tool when it comes to encouraging people to sign up. In fact, it is going to be the most crucial tool.

The aim of a good brand is to make people feel something when they see it: to evoke a certain idea or emotion. To achieve this, you need to specifically target a very particular audience with your design and your ethos.

So for instance, if you have a fitness brand, then your brand shouldn’t use a generic name like “FitnessPros.” It shouldn’t all be white and blue!

Instead, your brand should be aimed at CrossFitters, or bodybuilders, or strength athletes, or vegans, or people who love running. And the logo and the web design should make that person remember why they love that thing. They should feel like they’re coming home!

And then you need to provide great quality content through your blog that they can’t wait to read, and you need to offer excellent products and services.

Why does this matter? What does it have to do with building a list?

Ultimately, no matter how good the sales script, and no matter how enticing the free incentive… very few of us will sign up to the list unless it’s a brand we’re already very interested in! If you subscribe to any newsletters, they’re probably run by websites that you read on a regular basis already, or companies that you have bought from.

If you don’t have anything interesting to say or anything to set you apart, then you won’t give people a reason to be excited to sign up!

And being awesome? That’s FREE.