How I got my first 4000 email subscribers

Regardless of whether you are an entrepreneur trying to push her or his new start-up off the ground, a freelancer who needs more clients or even a solopreneur -you NEED an email list.

I managed to get 4000 email subscribers for my new website Lipstick and Pixels in a little less than 7 months.  Want to know how I did it? Then keep reading.

I started testing different strategies end of January 2017. At first, things went really slow, but then I experimented with different strategies and finally, my list started to grow!

how to grow your email list

The ultimate email list building recipe

In order to get your first few thousand email subscribers, you need five things:

  1. a landing page/website
  2. some kind of incentive
  3. great piece of content
  4. traffic (website visitors)
  5.  a software to capture your email subscribers.

The Website/ Landing Page

Building landing pages and websites has become kind of my hobby throughout the last 5 years. I ‘ve tried so many tools and software that I can’t even remember all of them.

If you want to validate your startup idea you need to create a website or a landing page first. I recommend using either WordPress, SquareSpace or a similar CMS system, especially if you can’t code. If you are not so tech-savvy, then use a tool that has some sort of a WYSIWYG editor as well as templates. LeadPages is quite popular for landing pages, easy-to-use and integrates with a bunch of other services, including the most common email building software.

Pro tip:

Designing high-converting landing pages from scratch is a difficult and painful process, especially if you don’t have the design and marketing background. Personally, I use WordPress on all my pages and build my own landing pages using WordPress and Visual Composer. The good thing about Visual Composer is that you can design something and then save it as a Template.

 

how to grow your email list

Once I am happy with what I’ve built, I ‘d go over each component that I ‘ve used, and save it as a template. This way I can add it to a blank page and just edit the content, without having to design the whole thing from scratch.

The Incentive

Next, you need some kind of incentive to give to people that subscribe to your email list. If you are a startup, you might give them a free trial. If you are running a niche blog or trying to launch a product, then give them something directly related to that product/blog service. You gotta know your target clients and offer them something that will be useful to them and that is connected to what product or services you are selling or will sell in the future.

As the topics I cover on Lipstick and Pixels are mostly connected to branding, WordPress or general tech tips on how to build and grow your online business, I decided to write a blog post on how to find free fonts for your business. I named it 18 Free Calligraphy Fonts for your Blog or Business.  I put together a list of fonts that can be used for free and made a nice graphic that came with it.

In order to get people to opt-in to my email list, I offered them a handy PDF version of the font list.

how to grow your email list

 

All they needed to do is to type in their name and email and the list. Keep in mind that this was a double opt-in form. The PDF file was sent only after the person has confirmed their email address by clicking on a link. I automated the whole process using ConvertKit.

Pro tip:

Don’t spend too much time on creating your opt-in. I would give it 1-2 days tops. Use what you already have. You can repurpose existing content you already have. For example, maybe you’ve created a video about your startup- what it does and what kind of problems it solves. All you need to do is take the key points from the video and can create a PDF checklist or a blueprint for the specific problem you are solving. Easy peasy!

 

The Traffic source

I don’t know about you, but I have discovered the power of Pinterest last year. Yes, you read that right- Pinterest. If you think that Pinterest is just a platform where stay-at-home moms post their favorite recipes, outfits and cute stuff- well this is NOT the case.

Contrary to popular belief, Pinterest is actually a visual search engine. Don’t believe me? Well, don’t take my word for it. Here’s an article on that. There is plenty of entrepreneurs and bloggers out there who recognized this early on and are driving tons of traffic with Pinterest alone.

It could be that your service or product is not visually appealing enough for Pinterest, true. But in most cases, whatever it is that you are building online, I am sure that you could create an image of it- or just create a Pin that is visually appealing. You don’t need to put your product on the pin. Your pin can consist of just an image and text overlay.

Here’s how I designed my Pin:

Call it luck, or call it strategic marketing, but my pin went viral in a matter of days! This is how my traffic breakdown looks like:

 

how to grow your email listPro tip:

When creating and pinning your Pins, make sure to include your target keywords in the Pin title as well as the description of your pin. This way you have a higher chance of your pin showing up on top of the visual search results, as well as on Google. Also, don’t forget to validate your website and register for Rich Pins.

 

The List Building Tool

Don’t neglect this one. The quality of the email marketing software you are using can have a huge impact on the speed with which you are building your list. The perfect email list tool should be cheap (not a must, but good to have), easy to use, offer segmentation possibilities and automatization.

Finding which list building software works for you and your business

So, I started searching for the tool that will help me achieve rapid email list growth. I must admit that I wasn’t aware I need all the features listed above. I came to discover that I needed, for example, an ‘ automation’ feature, only after I didn’t find it in a specific software.

I used to think MailChimp is the best free tool out there and that it will solve all my problems. But honestly, I was wrong. I have to admit that I find MailChimp extremely contra- intuitive. I spent hours trying to complete simple tasks in MailChimp. The design is great, but the user experience is horrible. Also, the logic behind MailChimp- having multiple lists of duplicated subscribers just made me search for a new, better tool.

So, after a brief research, I signed up for Mailerlite. MailerLite has a great interface and is very easy to use. Great job! Also, it is completely free for up to 1000 email subscribers and they offer tons of integration options. What made me search for another tool though is that they are lacking a ‘tagging’ feature ( as checked in Aug.2017). Segmenting your email list is a must, and after a brief 1 -week-trial I was on the hunt for yet another email tool.

 

The tool I used

Finally, I came across ConvertKit. I choose ConvertKit because it’s specifically designed for bloggers and has a great User Experience. I learned how to use ConvertKit in a couple of hours. I have to say that CK is NOT a free tool. It starts at $29 a month for up to 1000 subscribers. Being determined to grow my email list on autopilot, I was happy to pay the price in exchange for advanced tagging possibilities, automated opt-in delivery, and easy-to-integrate opt-in forms.

Pro tip:

How do you prevent your subscribers from unsubscribing after they receive your freebie? Well, you send them a welcome series in which you introduce yourself and your business and ask them to tell you what their current problems are. After that, you tag them and send them personalized emails, based on what they clicked in your first email. Read this in-depth article on how to do that in ConvertKit.

 

Final thoughts on how to grow your email list

So to summarize, in order to quickly built an email list, you need to have some sort of a website, great content that helps your target audience, an incentive for them to subscribe, traffic coming to your page and a great email marketing automation tool.

I was in basically a denial about email marketing, up until January 2017. So, I was like “Okay, let’s me try this email marketing thing”! I didn’t believe that building an email list can happen so fast! But it did, and now I can’t wait to apply those tactics and grow my email list even more.

What tools do you use to build your email list?I would love to hear your thoughts and results.

Share your strategies to building an email list in the comments below!

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links. If you click on some of the links above and purchase something, I might get a small commission at no cost to you. I only recommend products that I love and use myself! Thank you for supporting this blog.