7 Ways Solopreneurs and Small Business Owners Can Build an Email List FasterResearch shows, email marketing dominates as the leading form of marketing for small business.

We learned something very promising about small business marketing while researching the 2016 State of Small Business Report: About 54% of businesses are using email marketing (up from 46% in 2015). See Top 10 Marketing Tools Used by Small Business below.

Top 10 Marketing Tools Used by Small Business 2016

via State of Small Business Report 2016

More importantly, email marketing helps build an asset. An email list is worth exponentially more than all social media platforms and followers combined because you own your email list. No one actually owns their Facebook account. Facebook can shut it down at any time (and yes, that does happen.)

Email lists offer another major benefit. With an email list, you can communicate with your customers directly. It costs almost nothing, and is often completely free. Many email service providers offer free accounts that have more than enough features to get you started with email for little or nothing per month. Zip, Zero, zilch. This advantage should fit even the most frugal budget.

Check out companies like MailChimp, MadMimi, and ReachMail if you want a free account. If you want to add more advanced features and take out the obnoxious advertising in free email, you’ll need to go with a paid account. Even this cost of email won’t go much over $30 a month.

I use Active Campaign because of the Marketing Automation feature set. No where else can you access full-featured functionality like that starting as low as $9.00/month. It seems almost too good to be true. I can assure you it’s not. We’ve been using them for well over 6 months. An additional benefit of Active Campaign is the optional CRM.

Despite how effective and affordable email is, there is one critical requirement for email marketing success. You will need subscribers. There are dozens of ways to get more subscribers, but this list of seven methods is specifically designed for solopreneurs and small local businesses.

If you’re a life coach, author, speaker, or run a local brick-and-mortar location, building an email list should be at the top of your priority list. The larger your email list, the easier it is to communicate special offers to prospective and existing buyers, and create cashflow on demand. The key is to build a relationship of trust where you add value and earn the right to be heard.

It’s also set up to help you get subscribers quickly. This is a call to action list that will entice subscribers to sign up, fast.

1) Offer an Incentive to Sign Up.

If you’re not getting many people to sign up for your list, the most likely problem is either not offering an opt-in incentive to join your list, or the incentive you’re offering is not enough to woo people.

We have a client who gives away a coupon to prospective customers. Just before they leave the website, they see this popup.

Email List Building Incentive

Once the use clicks the “Get My Discount Code” button, they’re prompted to enter their email address. The application we use to build this allows us to place a “geo-targeted” city into each and every popup. This level of personalization is a proven way to boost the conversion rate.

2.) Embed Your Opt-in Form

Some research indicates you’ll get up to 2x as many opt-ins. The fewer steps your visitors have to make in order to opt-in, the better. Don’t require they click through to another page. The additional page load time alone may be enough for them to get distracted by an incoming text or phone call.

Here’s a screenshot of the opt-in form that shows-up at the end of every blog post on our site.

Embed Your Optin Form

We use the Easy Optin WordPress Plugin to set that up. I love it because it’s highly customizable, and Mark Dulisse has provided good support for the 3 years or so since we made the investment. We can install this for clients (because we hold a Developer’s License), or they can pick up a copy for themselves. Learn more by clicking here.

3.) Give Website Visitors the Option to Opt-in on Every Page of Your Website

Knowing different people will be attracted to your website for different reasons, it’s important to have list-building options throughout your website. Two ideal places include above the header, and in the footer of your site. HelloBar seems to be a good option for the very top of a website. The footer is a great place to embed an opt-in form. This option has been noted to increase a site’s opt-in rate by 20-30%.

Hello bar for Email List Building

Here’s the link to the demo you see above (it’s working at the time this was written).

To learn more, or find out about pricing, go to www.HelloBar.com.

4.) Install a Welcome Mat or Exit Pop, a.k.a. Slider

Contrary to popular beliefs, pop-ups do not have to be annoying. Using the right platform, the ‘pop-up’ or ‘exit-pop’ can be set to show up with specific parameters:

  • After a number of seconds
  • On exit intent
  • On page close
  • When scrolling
  • Manual (On click/mouse-over)
  • On Interval (i.e., number of days) – someone might select 10 days

We use Wishloop to create these engaging exit-pops and sliders. This platform is GREAT! These guys are continuously making updates to improve the functionality.

wishloop - popups and exit pops

With both popups and sliders, they should be set for website visitors to ‘X’ out of them with ease, or they may mark your site as one never to revisit. Wishloop makes this easy. (It’s also the platform we used to create the incentive seen above with Hixon Heating and Air.)

They even have a free version that allows for up to 1,000 interactions/month at one website address. Click/tap here to open a forever free account at Wishloop.

5.) Place Prompts on Printed Collateral

While the majority of opt-ins will come from those who engage with you online, there’s something to be said for the business owner who goes the extra mile. Winners in business often beat out their competitors by a slight edge. One such edge is to couple online with offline strategies. Here are a few examples of print collateral you can place a call-to-action on and direct prospects to an opt-in page:

  • Business cards
  • Packing slips
  • Receipts
  • Napkins
  • Invoices
  • Door hangers
  • Bumper stickers
  • Fridge magnets

Here’s an example of Southwest Airlines using a Peanut Bag to promote their opt-in.

Southwest Airlines List Building on Peanut Bag

6.) Run a Contest

Do you have a large Facebook following? Even if you don’t a contest is a great way to increase your reach and engage potential buyers at the same time. It’s important to make sure your giveaway is something that has enough appeal to cause people to want to participate. If the prize is something that would get your attention, chances are, it would get someone else’s attention.

You can run a weekly, monthly, or quarterly contest. A local restaurant might have an offer of the week for lunch or dinner. Someone who runs an IT company might giveaway 3 months of remote backup for small business owners.

Dropbox is a well-known brand that used contests and giveaways to extend their reach and increase sales.

200000 New Emails Doing a Giveaway

My Personal Experience with Dropbox

I was a free user of Dropbox for at least a year before deciding to upgrade to their $9.99/month account. I’d already had a good experience, so making the decision to upgrade was easy. Below, you can see I earned 7.5 GB of storage simply by sharing my link with others.

personal dropbox giveaway earnings

Do you need online storage? Here’s my Dropbox share link 😆 : https://db.tt/JKUG546o

Here’s another example of a very well-known brand, Weber, using a contest to grow their email list.


If you’re interested in running a contest, there are multiple apps on the market to facilitate that. We use UpViral. It’s created by Wilco de Kreij, of the Netherlands.

One UpViral user got 114,485 qualified leads in only 30 days using this system. You can learn more here: www.UpViral.com

7.) Optimize Your Landing (Opt-in) Pages

Some small business owners are so busy working in their business, they find it difficult to find time to work on their business. I’ve encountered scores who’ve tried to build a list, but they’re using methods that worked in 2008/09, but not what’s effective today.

When I went through my HubSpot Certification, I discovered the 9 elements of optimized landing pages. It’s proven that landing pages with as many of the 9 elements as possible will convert more website visitors to leads than pages without them. Below is a mindmap showing those 9 elements.

9 Elements of Optimized Landing Pages Mindmap

While it won’t always be possible to include all 9 elements, it’s important to begin using as many of the elements as possible. One of the most important elements is – removal of navigation.

There are multiple apps we use to build opt-in pages for email list building. Clickfunnels, OptimizePress 2.0, and Wishloop. We prefer Clickfunnels and Wishloop because they’re more full-featured apps. Being cloud-based and hosted applications, they tend not to have some of the bugs WordPress (OptimizePress) is known for. Nevertheless, OptimizePress is a great option.

What’s most important is taking action. I love the quote by Seth Godin, “Waiting for perfect is never as smart as making progress.”

Here’s what you need to get started: 

  1. Clarity on who you’re going to serve with your content/free offer. Understand their needs, wants, or desires, and create a lead magnet to meet that need in a way that adds value.
  2. A lead magnet – I’ll provide additional insight shortly on the most effective types of lead magnets.
  3. An Opt-in Page where you can send targeted traffic and collect email addresses.
  4. An Autoresponder account that will house all your email addresses. You will compose and send email from this account. Autoresponders provide the structure to keep users CAN-SPAM compliant.
  5. A follow-up series of emails. Current research suggests the average sale happens between the 5th and 12th touch. Your email sequence should target 5 emails, and can grow as needed.

Let me know in the comments if you found this helpful!