How to quickly grow your email list

In this day and age of social media marketing, many people think they don’t need to bother with email marketing. I mean who reads emails anyway (says the girl with 51,071 unread emails in her inbox)???

Email list

It is dangerous to build your business solely on social media. It isn’t yours and you have no control over it (other than what you post and how you engage).

The issue with social media

I know several people who have had their accounts hacked and/or taken down by Facebook/Instagram. Accounts that have built up followers over years. Some of those have managed to get them back, but others haven’t. And even those who did get them back have suffered weeks of downtime and weeks of stress.

It might not happen to you (I hope it doesn’t and I hope it doesn’t happen to me either), but it does happen. It even happens to people who take the utmost care – not posting things which Facebook might take offence at and having 2 factor authorisation on their account. And it happens to people who’ve been around a long time. People who have over 10,000 followers on Instagram and big Facebook groups. People who have spent a lot of time building up their social presence. It happens to people who spend £’000s on ads. And the frustrating thing is they can’t talk to a human when it does happen. They get pushed around by computer bots…

The other thing with social media (which we’ve all experienced) is “the algorithm”. You have zero control over who sees those posts you have spent ages writing. And just when you think you’ve sussed this algorithm, they go and change it.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t use social media in your business. I use it in mine. It works. I get clients through it. I’m saying you shouldn’t rely upon it.

Of course you can reduce the risk by using more than one social media platform (Facebook and Instagram being linked so you should use another outside of these) – that way if you have an issue with one you do at least have another.

The benefits of an email list

The other way to reduce it is to build an email list. A list of people (potential clients) who have given you their permission to email them about your business. Permission to be in their inbox as often as you want to be.

No-one can take that away from you. It is your list. And whilst you may have to battle with the spam filter, the deliverability of emails to people on your list is likely to be higher than the percentage of followers who will see a social media post. According to Campaign Monitor, your message is 5 times more likely to be seen through email than Facebook.

This audience is people who have come across you before (otherwise you wouldn’t have their permission to email – this is not about buying a random list of email addresses, which is now illegal anyway). Quite often with social media we’re so fixated on reaching new people we forget that the people who are most likely to buy are those who already know us.

Email marketing is useless for reaching new people – SEO, social media, PR and collaborations are much better for this. Where it shines is in nurturing.

The right strategy is to find these potential clients through other means but persuade them to join your email list as soon as you can. You can then build up your relationship with them through your email list or on social media (or both!).

And the other benefit to having an email list? It is better than social media at conversion. So when you have an offer you’re likely to get more signups through email marketing than social media. It’s a key tool in your marketing arsenal.

So how do you get potential clients to agree to go onto your email list?

Lead magnets

There was a time that we used to all sign up to email lists of businesses we had come across willy-nilly. Those days are gone…

We’re all busy. We get lots of emails. And we don’t have the time to wade through them. They clog up our inbox.

Most people will only sign up to receive emails that they really want to receive or in exchange for something else that they really want (“a fair exchange”).

One way is to persuade them that these emails you’ll be sending will be really worth their time (like their favourite magazine popping through the letterbox). But many are sceptical of such tactics and won’t sign up.

Or you can bribe them into joining your list. This bribe or fair exchange (they get something of value to them and you get permission to send them emails) is sometimes referred to as a Lead Magnet or Email Opt In. It’s very effective.

I’m sure you’ve opted in to many. For a product based business it might be a discount. “Get 10% off your first order” is particularly popular.

I’ve a few. You might already be signed up! You can find them here.

Quizzes are popular at the moment. Find out “which kind of an entrepreneur you are”?

The great thing about a good Lead Magnet is it gives potential clients a reason to sign up to your list now. Because they want what you’re prepared to give them. And although they can unsubscribe when they want, most people will at least read some of your emails and give you a chance. Without a lead magnet they wouldn’t be on there anyway.

Join our email list

Tie into your offer

So what should you offer for your lead magnet?

The best lead magnets attract the kind of people you want to work with. The very best tie into what you want to ultimately sell.

I work with mainly female business owners offering services. Whilst a lead magnet that targets female business owners – say that quiz that asks which kind of an entrepreneur they are – might persuade them to join my email list, it isn’t related to my business or something I sell. And it targets too wide an audience.

You don’t really want people on your list who are never going to buy from you. If they never open your emails it will impact on the delivery of your emails. And as your list grows you’ll have to pay based on the number of people on your list. You don’t want to pay for people who aren’t going to be clients. It’s also why you should be relaxed about people unsubscribing – those people are never going to be your clients.

The best lead magnets are directly related to what you’re selling. Because they attract the people who are interested in what you’re selling (or going to be selling). Sometimes that’s not just possible, but I’d still recommend giving something that is closely related to your business.

What kind of thing can you give as a lead magnet?

The short answer is anything that someone would give their email for. It can be a checklist, guide, e-book (but I’d make it short), video, discount, workshop, webinar, quiz etc…

Ideally it would give the person downloading it a quick win. Something that makes them think “if I get this for free what would I get if I paid to work with this person”. That’s the aim…

Choose a compelling title

But the most important part of the lead magnet isn’t the content. It is the title.

No-one is going to enter their email and click that download button unless it has a compelling title – whatever might be in it.

We choose so many things based upon titles and looks. Books, bottles of wine and whether to provide our email list for a Lead Magnet…

Choose title of lead magnet

Promote it

This is the bit that I always fall down on!

But you do need to promote your lead magnet.

There are lots of ways you can do that:

  • Add it to your website. Whilst I’m not generally a fan of pop ups, these do work for email sign ups. But give new visitors time to look at your website before the pop up is activated (I set them to pop up somewhere around 10 – 15 seconds after entering the website, or on exit if earlier). Also don’t have them popping up on every page in a single viewing. You can set them to just pop up the once on a device then not again for a set period (eg a week)
  • Share it on your social media – all channels. And don’t just promote it the once. Make it a regular thing. Because not everyone will see it first time (and sometimes people aren’t ready that first time). Indeed some people might think “I need to download this” and then get distracted and forget…
  • Add it in groups where you’re allowed to promote such things.

You can also run ads to it. I’d check it is working organically first but if it is a good lead magnet which nicely leads into an offer then it is a great option for a Facebook ad.

What happens next?

What happens after someone has downloaded your lead magnet?

That should be the start of your relationship, not the end.

I think it is good practice to direct them to a “thank you” page. It seems polite and it reminds them it will be coming into their inbox shortly so they need to check (I always recommend sending by email rather than redirecting to the download – that way they are more likely to open that first email from you and demonstrate to their email provider they want to see your emails – making them less likely to end up in spam going forward).

You can also use the opportunity on the thank you page to lure them into something else. It could be joining your Facebook group, following you on Instagram (or other social media platform) or even booking in a call or buying something unique/at a discount. Because some people are ready to do that straight away.

You could run ads to encourage people to sign up for a lead magnet and offer a low price offer on the thank you page which pays for the ad (this is called a trip wire). Pretty clever stuff and it works too…

And after that?

Well they’ve given you permission to email them. So you really should email them on a regular basis if you ultimately want them to buy from you.

You can run a “nurture sequence” which is a set number – usually 3 to 5 – of emails which are sent to everyone who downloads that Lead Magnet. It can introduce you, “give value” and generally get them to know you better. At the end of this sequence you can make them an offer (or even before the end) before they join your “proper” email list.

You don’t have to of course, you can just take their email and add it to your list in case you have a problem with social media in future.

Nurture potential clients with email list

Use an email marketing provider

One final point is to ensure you use an email marketing provider to send the download and any future emails. Don’t manually send them from your inbox.

Mailchimp, Mailerlite and Convert Kit are popular email marketing providers that have free plans. Active Campaign (who I use) doesn’t but it doesn’t cost a lot when you have a small list.

These are systems designed for mass emails. They allow you to comply with GDPR by making it easy for people to unsubscribe. They are also better at getting through spam filters (because they have rules you need to follow so are more “trusted” by spam filters). Sadly they’re not perfect though!


Having an email list is a great way of nurturing potential clients until they’re ready to buy from you (or you have an offer that appeals to them). Even if you don’t email them regularly (which you should if you’re nurturing them) it is a good insurance policy against problems with social media.

The best way to get people to sign up to your list is offer a “Lead Magnet”. Ideally these lead nicely to an offer and show people what it might be like to work with you.

Once you have your Lead Magnet you need to remember to promote it regularly – on your website, social media and in groups where you’re allowed to promote such things.

When someone has downloaded the Lead Magnet it should set off an automated train of events. First they should be directed to your thank you page where you let them know the freebie is on its way, as well as letting them know where else they can find you, or maybe make them an offer to work with you now.

They’re now on your email list. Which was the aim. What you do with those people now? Well that will be the subject of another blog post…