Growing an engaged email list is one of the most important parts of creating a successful email marketing strategy.

And for a lot of businesses and organizations, it’s also one of the most challenging.

You know you have something valuable to offer current and potential customers, but how do you get people to actually enter their email address to sign up?

Luckily, there are a number of tools you can use to grow your email subscriber list.

In this post, we’ll take a look at real examples from small businesses and organizations that have achieved success with email marketing and cracked the “list growth” code in the process.

1. Use a paper sign-up sheet (and let people know what they’re going to receive)

Using a paper sign-up sheet is one of the simplest ways to grow your email list. And it’s also one of the most effective. This is especially true if you have a retail store or a brick-and-mortar location where you interact with customers face-to-face.

The trick is to make the benefit of your email list clear. What’s in it for your email subscribers? Will they receive special offers? Will they be the first to know about your new inventory?

Add a sentence or two at the top of your email opt-in form to make it clear what they’ll get for giving you their email address.

Download an editable sign-up form from Constant Contact here.

Constant Contact signup sheet example - one out of eight different designs
Just one of eight different sign-up sheet designs to choose from

2. Add a sign-up button to your email

Not everyone who sees your email will be on your email list.

If you share your emails on social media, for example, many of your fans and followers won’t be on your email list. People may also be forwarding your emails to their friends.

“I realized that if I put content in the newsletter that is really popular, people would share it. That’s been invaluable,” Brandon says. “They share it on Facebook or pass it along to their friends, and then their friends ask to subscribe. Every time I send out a newsletter, I’ll get new subscribers back.”

Brandon Stewart, a real estate agent in Dallas, Texas, on what he learned when he began using Constant Contact in 2009.

3. Put a sign-up form on your website and add a $30 Nift gift card incentive — FREE

Your website will be the first contact many people have with your business. Don’t miss the opportunity to stay connected with new visitors.

“We’re always giving people the option to join our email list when they come into the spa, but we just recently added the option for people to sign up when they visit our website,” explains Christine Copertino, spa director for Allegria Spa. “The response has been great. We’re seeing a ton of people signing up, and we know that these are really engaged people who will be excited to receive our emails.”

Allegria Spa, on how adding an email address sign-up form to their website offered a whole new way to connect with new customers.

If you have a WordPress site, use our Constant Contact Forms plugin to add a branded sign-up form to your site in minutes. We also have web sign-up forms that can be embedded directly on your website.

Select the Inline or Pop-up sign-up form type to add email list sign-up forms to your website. Don’t have a website? Use a Lead Generation Landing Page instead

Bonus: Get more email signups for free with Nift

Grow your email list with Nift

Thanks to our partnership with Nift, you can power your sign-up form by offering a $30 Nift gift card as a thank you to anyone who signs up for your newsletter. This is an incredible, no-cost way to boost the number of people who give you their email address. Nift gift cards can be used nationwide toward purchases of wine, food delivery, clothing and more.  It takes less than five minutes to add $30 Nift gift cards to your sign-up forms and set up automated welcome emails. And if you’re using Constant Contact for your email marketing, sending Nift gift cards is always FREE.

4. Collect email addresses when people sign up for an event

If you host events where people register or purchase tickets in advance, you’ll likely already be collecting important contact information. This is the perfect time to ask people to join your email list.

“It’s great to have emails that are connected to events, which are connected to a survey, and then to look at the results. It eliminates the unknown and gives me more clarity and transparency in my approach…which also makes things a lot more exciting and motivating to keep doing it!”

Carrie Bonnet, marketing director at Rains Lucia Stern, PC explains how collecting email addresses from event registrants gives you the chance to communicate with attendees after your event. For her, this includes sending a follow-up survey to event attendees.

Here’s a look at how Carrie adds a newsletter sign-up box to her event registration form:

RLS Event

5. Collect email addresses at industry tradeshows

Industry events, tradeshows, and conferences are the perfect place to grow your email list.

For a business like Mother Earth Pillows, these events give them the chance to connect with new customers and other partnering businesses.

“We have sign-up lists at conferences, we have one at our store, and we have a sign-up list on our website. Then we have the people who call in or are our wholesale partners,” explains founder, Karen Kowal. 

If you have a tablet, make it easy for event attendees to sign up for your list using the ListBuilder app. ListBuilder connects with your Constant Contact account and automatically uploads new contacts to the list of your choosing.

Build Your Email List -- ListBuilder

6. Look to your existing database

Don’t overlook your existing database of contacts. Colleagues, friends, and family members can help kickstart your list growth.

When Arlet Koseian started extendYoga she only had a few contacts on her email list.

“We started with just friends and family members on our list,” Arlet explains. “That was really great because, in the beginning especially, getting feedback from friends and family is huge. I would send out a preview email to five people and see what they thought.”

Once you get friends and family excited, ask if they will spread the word about your email list for you.

7. Offer a downloadable whitepaper (lead magnet)

Start new customer relationships off on the right foot by offering them a lead magnet such as a whitepaper or another educational resource in exchange for their email address.

For a business like Tallega Software, which helps clients keep their information secure, providing a piece of free education as their lead magnet is the perfect way to attract new clients to their business.

Once they sign up, new leads receive a series of automated emails with helpful information about Tallega Software’s solutions.

8. Ask at events

Any time you’re meeting with customers face-to-face, you have the opportunity to grow your email list.

For an organization like Gallery Above Penn Square, which hosts a full schedule of weekly events, asking people to sign up is an easy way to continue the relationship after the event is over.

“When people come in, we always ask if they’d be interested in receiving emails about future events,” explains gallery and event coordinator Anca Bala. “It’s a really easy way to get people to sign up so we can stay in touch with them after an event is over.”

Learn More: How to Promote Your Organization Like an Expert (Even if You’re Just Getting Started)

9. Use a postcard

If you want to give people the option to sign up by hand but don’t have a convenient place for a paper sign-up sheet, consider using other print methods to get customers to join your list.

Boston-area restaurant In a Pickle puts postcards on tables in their dining room and invites customers to “join the club.”

“We have postcards in the restaurant that you can sign up with that say ‘Join our email club!’ and talk about how we offer a lot of vouchers, coupons, free drinks, free parties, and contests through our email,” explains owner Tim Burke.

10. Add a sign-up option to your membership forms

If you have a membership business or organization, you’re probably already asking people for contact information when they sign up.

You can encourage them to opt-in to your mailing list online by adding an additional field to your online sign-up forms, or face-to-face when people sign up at your location.

This helped River Rock Climbing Gym grow their email list to more than 9,000 people in less than two years.

 “One of the first things we did was to start collecting email addresses through social media,” explains operations manager, Jared Rigby. “But we also started collecting email addresses whenever someone would come in to the gym.  Our last email we sent to just under 9,000 people.”

11. Add a lead generation landing page to your social media profiles

Social media offers a powerful platform to build an audience for your business. But it’s also important to move relationships off social media and encourage fans and followers to join your mailing list.

This will give you a better way to reach your audience on your own terms — without having to worry about network changes or declines in reach.

To add one to your social media profile(s) simply create a lead generation landing page and then add a signup button to your Facebook Business Page or LinkedIn Organization Page, or add a link to your Instagram or Twitter Bio.

Learn More: 9 Expert Ways to Grow Your Email List with Facebook

12. Collect through guest wifi

Do you have guest wifi available to patrons at your store?

An app like Gazella Wifi lets you grow your email list without having to lift a finger. Once the app is set up, guests will enter their email address to access your free wifi.

Once those guests connect, Gazella’s integration adds contacts directly into your Constant Contact account.

Try out the Gazella app here.

13. Run a Facebook Ad

Facebook offers a number of advertising options you can use to reach a new social media audience.

Using Facebook Ads, Liberty Jane Clothing added more than 2,000 contacts to their email list in a single month.

“This year we decided to give Facebook Ads a try. But instead of driving people directly to our Page, we used the ad to drive people to our email sign-up form,” explains owner Jason Miles. “We added 2,395 contacts in January alone. For us it was worth the investment.”

Learn More: How to use Facebook Lead Ads to Grow Email Subscribers

14. Offer exclusive access

The best way to get people interested in your email marketing is to offer something that they can’t find anywhere else.

Connecticut-based Cedar Creek Productions created a “You’ll Hear it Here First” campaign to kickstart email list growth. Using social media, they promoted their email list as the go-to resource to find out about upcoming news and announcements.

The studio promised their social media fans that anyone who signed up for the email list would hear the latest news about interviews, screenings, and more before it was posted to social media. This netted the studio more than 2,000 new email subscribers.

Grow your email list via Facebook

Ready to grow your email list?

Think about all the different places customers interact with your business. Could any of these strategies work for you?

Pick at least one of these email growth strategies and see how it works. You can also discover tips for getting quality contacts on your email list. You’ll be amazed at what a big impact it could have for your email marketing and business success!