If you want to build an email list, how are you going to collect email addresses?

More importantly, how are you going to collect the right email addresses? People that will be leads and not just contacts?
When you’re building an email list, you need to make sure three things are true:

  1. You have a way to reach people
  2. You have a way to collect their emails
  3. They’re the right people

Building a list is one thing—if you want your list to power an actual business, you can’t rely on worn out tactics like list buying or social media contests.

Here are 15 ways to collect email addresses:

  1. Collect email addresses with Facebook Ads
  2. Offer a captivating lead magnet
  3. Sign up button on your Facebook business page
  4. Use popups to make your forms more prominent
  5. Reach out to people one on one
  6. Share your link on social media with compelling visuals and snippets
  7. Ask for email addresses
  8. Create incredible email content
  9. Ask people to share your emails
  10. Add a link to your signup form in your normal email signature
  11. Host live events and bring your forms
  12. Own content on a platform like YouTube or Pinterest, then link back to your site
  13. Optimize your form design and opt-in copy
  14. Add a subscription bar to your website
  15. Partner with other people in your industry

(If you’re just getting started, 2, 5, 9, and 15 are great. If you’ve been around a bit, look at 1, 8, 13, and 15. Yes, 15 is always good).

1. Collect email addresses with Facebook Ads

Note: Only do this if you already have a way to turn subscribers into buyers (products, sales funnel, etc.). Otherwise you could waste a lot of money.
Why are Facebook Ads such a common email collection tool for small businesses?

  1. They are relatively inexpensive
  2. You can see results fast
  3. You can reliably reach people who are ready to buy from you

The biggest challenge for a lot of small businesses is reaching people. When you can’t spend a ton of money and need to generate sales quickly, there aren’t a whole lot of advertising options out there.
Facebook Ads offer a fast, simple, effective way to target people who might be interested in your product. It’s a really common way to get leads and collect email addresses.
Here’s the play-by-play:

  1. Create a piece of valuable content that solves a problem for your target audience
  2. Use a Facebook Ad to send people to a landing page, where they give you their email
  3. Send new subscribers their content, along with a welcome series that tries to sell them your product/service

For some products, you can send people directly to your store (this is especially common for ecommerce businesses).
Here’s an example of an ecommerce Facebook Ad I saw in my News Feed.

ecommerce Facebook ad exampleThey probably targeted me because they know I like working out

In this example, Ten Thousand sends me straight to the store page for their shorts. Unfortunately for them I’m a loyal buyer of Savage Ultimate’s shorts (seriously, these things feel like air), but I’m sure I look like a good match to  the Facebook algorithm.
Here’s another example from my own News Feed, driving me to download a case study.

lead magnet facebook ad exampleI have pretty varied interests

If I click on this ad, costing them money (sorry), I get taken to a landing page designed to collect email addresses.

lead magnet capture formThis is how they collect email addresses

We could quibble about the form design here, but the point is this:

  1. Facebook Ads are a way to collect email addresses when you need leads on-demand
  2. Facebook Ads are trackable, so you can see what you make based on what you spend
  3. Facebook Ads push people to sign up or buy right away, or enter people into nurture sequences

Note, Part 2: Facebook Ads will get less efficient over time, because you’ll reach your most interested leads with your first few campaigns.

2. Offer a captivating lead magnet

“I need that now, yes please give it to me, wow.”
That’s the response you’re going for when you create a lead magnet.
A lead magnet, also called an opt-in offer or “carrot,” is anything you give your audience in exchange for their email address. It’s one of the most tried-and-true list building tactics out there.
(You’ll notice that several of the other ways to collect email addresses require having a lead magnet).
We put together a huge post on how to create great lead magnets, including examples of all different kinds of lead magnets, like:

  • Checklists
  • Reports
  • Courses
  • Videos
  • Ebooks
  • Spreadsheets
  • Templates

And so on.
Nowadays, everyone has a “CAN’T MISS ULTIMATE GUIDE TO 725843x YOUR RESULTS.” Because lead magnets got so popular, your lead magnet needs to be better than the ones published in 2009.
When you make a lead magnet, here are the things that make it great:

  1. It solves a heavy, emotional problem (not the most important problem, just a heavy and emotional one)
  2. It solves that problem fast (choose a problem with a short-term solution, even if it’s not what people need long-term)
  3. It solves that problem relatably (people need to see themselves in the problem you’re solving)

It’s easier said than done, but those are the foundation (this huge guide goes into more detail).
A lead magnet that gets people to sign up for your email newsletter is one that people think will give them a quick win.
Again, there are tons of examples in that other article. Here’s one from Peter Nguyen of The Essential Man.

Style Cheat SheetIf a dude who wants to look better sees this, how could he say no?

If you want to collect email addresses, you need to solve problems.

3. Sign up button on your Facebook business page

This one’s quick. Add a newsletter signup form to your Facebook page.
Here’s what we have on our page at ActiveCampaign.

example of a Facebook signup formYou can sign up right from Facebook

I’ll be frank—you aren’t going to get a ton of signups from your Facebook page.
But it’s still worth doing. As far as easy ways to collect email addresses go, this is one of the easiest. Because if someone is actively seeking a way to subscribe to you, they should be able to find it easily.

4. Use popups to make your forms more prominent

Do you have a sign up form on your site? How easy is it to find?
The first time I went viral on Reddit, my blog post picked up over 40,000 pageviews in 24 hours. But…I only got 4 email subscribers.
I had an email collection form in the sidebar of my website, and one at the bottom of the post. And because the post was over 4,000 words long, people just didn’t make it to my form.
Then I added a popup. Email signups went way up. Problem solved.
Pop-ups can be annoying, but they work. Here’s some research from Sumo, which shows that even average popups have a 3.1% conversion rate.
Pop-Up Conversion Rates

Pop-ups work. This chart comes from the Sumo research.

If the idea of adding a popup makes you uncomfortable, don’t worry—you can add popups that aren’t scammy or excessively annoying.

We put together a full post on how popups affect your conversion rate. If you don’t want to be annoying, you can try…

  • Triggering popups after 30 seconds, instead of immediately
  • Triggering popups after 50% scroll (so people only see them after reading some)
  • Triggering popups based on exit intent

If you don’t use a popup, you’re missing one of the best ways to collect email addresses.

Expert insight: Andy Crestodina on form prominence

Andy Crestodina
There are a lot of ways to make your signup form prominent. Some:

  • The popup …couldn’t be more prominent. It forces the visitor to deal with it
  • The sticky header or footer …it stays in their field of vision
  • The in-line CTA …injected into the content, it’s in the flow so they can’t miss it
  • Large elements
  • High on the page
  • Contrasting color

There are “Laws of Visual Hierarchy” that determine how visually prominent any element is. Generally, more prominent things are more likely to convert. If they don’t see it, they won’t click it.
The laws of visual hierarchy

You can see this chart (and 27 other web design tips) on Orbit Media’s site

5. Reach out to people one on one

What do you do if you don’t already have an email list or other audience?
A lot of people take to online forums or start focusing on SEO/paid ads right away. Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz and Sparktoro, argues that this is a mistake.
Because you should focus on the people who are easiest to reach.

which audience is easiest to reachPeople you already know are easier to reach (via Rand Fishkin)

It’s easier to reach people who already know you. So when you’re first starting out, don’t be afraid to reach out to people one on one.
You can reach out via email or some kind of messenger. Include a link to your sign up form or landing page. Collect email addresses one at a time—until you reach a critical mass and can move on to bigger tactics.
You don’t want to pester your friends or family, but asking once isn’t much of an imposition—and it’s how a lot of email lists get started.

6. Share your link on social media with compelling visuals and snippets

When I give people advice on how to promote their content, I tell them to pretend that social media doesn’t exist.
Social media obviously does exist. So why do I give this advice?
It’s too easy to get trapped in the idea that blindly promoting content on social media does something. Because it “feels” like you’re doing something worthwhile, it makes it harder to come up with other promotion ideas (that could be more useful).
Social media can send traffic to your website and email newsletter. You can collect email addresses (sort of). And yes, there are some things that go viral through social sharing.
But social media only works if you do it well. And even when it works, the opportunity to capture emails is usually much smaller than other channels (like organic search, online communities, or landing your content in someone else’s newsletter).
Here’s what social media is great a