How to Grow Your Email List in 2023 and Beyond

January 30, 2023

When it comes to attracting and nurturing an audience, it’s easy to forget there was a time before social media dominated the landscape. In fact, social media is relatively young compared to other forms of marketing and list building. Facebook launched in 2004, but Instagram didn’t come on scene until 2010 and TikTok has only been around since 2016. Email is an old-timer, in contrast, having been invented way back in 1971. Mass public adoption of email happened in the mid-1990s once ISPs (Internet Service Providers) started bundling webmail in their offerings.

Email is far from dead as a marketing tool, despite what you might have heard. The ROI on email marketing is 38:1 and just over 50% of consumers report buying from marketing emails at least once a month. If you imagine social media as a boisterous party guest whose voice is booming all around the room, then email is the guest in the corner having a fascinating conversation with an engaged group of people.

Here’s the great news: If creating content to keep a robust social media presence going doesn’t appeal to you, email is a fantastic tool for list building and keeping your highly qualified audience engaged and converting on more of your offers. 

What is an Email List? 

When you create email lists you add in names, email addresses, and other pertinent information for each qualified contact. These contacts can include a mix of customers, prospects, and partners. The list consists of anyone who has indicated interest in hearing from you and has provided permission to reach out to them over email with information, offers, and other relevant content.

Why Build an Email List? 

There’s one critical reason to work on building your email list: You own the list. When you’re setting business goals for future proofing, having qualified leads to reach out to regularly through email nurturing should definitely make the cut.

Attracting an audience via social channels can work well, but if you only engage with them on those channels you’re building on rented land. Your “landlord” is the social channel and they can change the rules of tenancy any time they want to (read: algorithm affecting your reach). Even worse, a channel can simply disappear, just like Google Hangouts did, leaving you to start building your audience again from scratch. 

Besides keeping you in control of what happens to your email nurturing list, communicating via email can feel more personal to the recipient. Social media is a one-to-many relationship where everyone sees the same content. Email allows you the freedom to personalize. This could look like adding a recipient’s name to a subject line or segmenting your list to send different messages to different people, depending on their interests. For example, if you are promoting a new online course you can write a brief version of the email for customers who already know and love you, but add more social proof and examples of your capabilities to the version going out to prospects.

Better Business Conversations

Learn the importance of building an email list in this Business Building Conversation with Laura Schoenfeld, health and nutrition business coach and registered dietitian.

How Many Email Subscribers Do You Need?

Like so many things in life, when it comes to email subscribers quality is more important than quantity. A big list of email subscribers might make you feel good, but if it contains a lot of unqualified contacts (or worse, people who didn’t opt-in to being on the list – more on that later) you are going to experience low open rates, more bounces, and bunch of people flagging your content as spam. 

If you’re putting effort into creating and sending emails, you should be aiming for high deliverability and the greatest number of people opening and reading your emails. Not everyone will convert to a sale, but you’re still making a brand deposit with any individual who sees your message, which can help drive conversions and referrals in the future.

Here are a couple of things to consider to improve your email deliverability and open rates:  

  • Keep it clean. Low open rates can damage your reputation with ISPs and further degrade your deliverability. Scrubbing your list to remove inactive subscribers every 6-12 months is a good hygiene plan. Before you remove any inactive contacts from your list, consider sending a re-engagement email reminding subscribers of the value you regularly provide and explicitly asking them if they’d like to keep receiving them. It’s also a good idea to ensure people can easily find the button to unsubscribe from your email list. Although you hate to see anyone go, allowing truly disinterested people to opt out will result in a cleaner list and overall higher open rates.
  • Stay official. Don’t send email from an address that isn’t linked to your official business domain. For example, sending commercial or bulk email from your personal Gmail address to a user with a Gmail email address will automatically get your emails marked as spam.
  • Be welcoming. If someone opts in to your email list, don’t leave them hanging. Send a welcome email thanking them and setting the stage for the types of information they can expect to see from you in their inbox regularly. You can also drive more engagement by inviting them to write back and tell you the types of content they are hoping to receive from you.
  • Mind the gap. Sending content to your email subscribers too often can get annoying (and increase your unsubscribe rate). Waiting too long between emails isn’t recommended either as people are apt to forget about you or ignore infrequent messages. You’ll need to experiment to find the right cadence for your audience and your practice.

An Important Note on Permission

When you’re looking at how to grow your email list, it may be tempting to purchase a list from a third party. This is a bad idea. Your email list needs to be permission-based, which means the people on it have expressly opted into receiving emails from you. There are laws in place to protect the general public from receiving spam emails with the rules and regulations varying from country to country. If your business is found to breach these restrictions you can be found liable for significant financial penalties. You can get a high-level view of international anti-spam laws over here.

You Can Use Social Media to Help with List Building 

Just because you choose not to exclusively communicate with your audience on social media, doesn’t mean you can’t use it as a channel for email list building. Let’s explore a few options around how to build an email list through the lens of a holistic nutritionist using social channels as a tool to drive more opt-ins.

  • This practitioner sends out a monthly Root Cause newsletter to her email list where she talks about lifestyle/diet and shares unexpected-but-delicious recipes. She can take a tidbit from that newsletter each month and share on her owned social channels to provide helpful advice right in a user’s social feed. She always includes a link readers can visit to sign up and get the newsletter delivered straight to their inbox.
  • This practitioner has also created a lead magnet focused on delicious and easy ways to fight inflammation through diet and lifestyle. It’s called a “lead magnet” because it promises to deliver high-value information to readers and the only “cost” to access it is providing a valid name and email address. By adding opt-in language to the gated form, this practitioner can perform qualified list building. She can choose to promote her lead magnet organically on her own channels or she can invest in a paid ad campaign to get in front of a wider audience of qualified prospects.
  • This practitioner could also opt to host an Instagram Live or Twitter Chat, bringing in a physiological expert to talk about the dangers of chronic inflammation and how diet can help. Promoting her lead magnet throughout this event can help to drive more folks to opt-in to her email list.
  • When she posts the recording of her live chat over on YouTube, she can add a link to the email opt-in to the description under the video. She can also use her Instagram account’s link in bio function to include a link to her newsletter sign-up form.

Using Social Media Alternatives to Grow Subscribers

While Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and others are viable channels for helping you build an email list, there are many social media alternatives you can explore instead. Check out the following email list building strategies that don’t depend on social media for success. 

Build Your List from Your Website 

Qualified traffic is coming to your website all the time. Don’t let them bounce without attempting to do some list building while they’re in the right mindset and on your turf. 

Offer a Freebie for Signing Up

We discussed the concept of a lead magnet in the above section detailing how to get more email subscribers using social media as a promotional channel. No matter what form they take, lead magnets typically live on your website behind a gated form. Make sure to sprinkle clear call to action buttons or messages throughout your site (e.g. “Sign Up Now,” or “Get the Newsletter”) to drive visitors to the page and encourage sign-ups. 

One thing to be cautious of when creating a lead magnet is that the information in it must be compelling and valuable to your audience. Years of being pummeled by spam emails have made the general public very skeptical when it comes to giving up their personal information. If someone takes the step to fill out your form and then the promised content falls flat or is overly self-promotional, it’s going to feel like a bait-and-switch that seriously erodes your brand credibility. Our friends at That Clean Life list some great strategies, tips, and ideas for lead magnet creation.

Add a Sign-Up Form to Your Website and Blog

Why not dedicate an entire page on your website to signing up for your email list? Don’t be afraid to have a little fun and let your brand personality shine through. Content marketing expert, Ann Handley, does an excellent job of this on the sign-up page for her email newsletter, aptly named “Total ANNARCHY.” 

Ann Handley's newsletter Opt-In example

You’ll note that Ann also has a prominent NEWSLETTER button in the top navigation bar of her website. Blocking it out in a different color and with an outline makes it hard for visitors to miss. You can also add an anchored call to action on your blog landing page, if you have one, and put a link to your email signup in your footer. 

You shouldn’t expect an avalanche of sign-ups, but single, high-quality opt-ins add up to a thriving list over time. One way to increase the probability that a visitor will convert on your form and give up their name and email is to use more engaging copy. Instead of the same-old “Sign up to receive my newsletter” make sure you focus on what’s in it for them. Adding social proof helps too (e.g., Join 5,000 subscribers who receive weekly tips for living a more mindful life in their inbox).

Use Exit-Intent Pop-Ups

If your marketing platform has functionality built in to enable an exit-intent pop-up it can be another way to drive up your email subscriptions. This is just what it sounds like – a message that pops up on the screen of a visitor when they move their mouse off the page, which would indicate they are planning to leave. Ideally, you can customize the pop-up so only new website visitors see it, which allows for a more carefully customized message. Again, don’t forget to focus the message on what’s in it for the visitor if they subscribe. 

Build Your Email List From…Your Email!

You’re sending emails all the time, so why not use the real estate for list building? Add a bold footer to your email to encourage the people who are communicating with you one-on-one to subscribe to your regular communications. In Practice Better, you can add rich text and links in your email signature, along with your logo. 

When sending out something like an email newsletter, encourage referral subscriptions by adding language that encourages readers to forward the newsletter to other folks that might be interested in the content with a subscribe link. 

Build Your List in Person

When it comes to email list building strategies don’t underestimate the power of face-to-face interactions.

  • In 1:1 meetings with clients (live or virtual) don’t be shy to mention that you send out regular emails with useful information and ask if they’d like to subscribe.
  • In a physical office location, you can be a little more hands off by including the option to subscribe to your email list in the check-in or check-out/payment process. 
  • Gain more email subscribers when you attend live or virtual events. Have your business cards ready featuring your subscribe link for in-person interactions. If you’re presenting virtually, you can give a plug to your email sign-up (don’t forget to tell them why they should care) and also ask whoever’s running the show to drop a link in the chat while you’re presenting. 

Partner With Other Businesses

Seeking out partners to work with is a low-friction way to tap new audiences as potential email subscribers. Reach out to complementary practitioners, experts, or influencers and see if they want to work with you to build up each other’s lists. 

Social media alternatives include guest blogging for each other to share new thought leadership. Don’t forget to drop a link to your opt-in in your bio accompanying the post. You could also look at co-presenting virtual sessions to prospects where you each have a chance to plug links to your respective lead magnets, newsletters, or other content you’re using to drive email subscriptions. If you’ve only just plugged your programs or 1:1 sessions at events, offering something lower-commitment like a newsletter sign-up might gain more interest from those who aren’t ready to work with you now, but might be in the future.  

List Building Outside the Social Media Box

Social media is a tool you can use to build an audience, but it’s not the only way to get it done. Before social media ruled the world, email was king and it still reigns supreme when it comes to attracting an audience that’s highly relevant and actually wants to hear from you. In fact, it’s the only marketing medium where a customer explicitly invites you into their personal space to communicate with them. 

Practice Better is the complete practice management platform for nutritionists, dietitians, and wellness professionals. Streamline your practice and begin your 14-day free trial today.

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