Which Software Do You Need to Build and Grow an Email List?

List Building, Software & Tech

It’s all about the list – the email list. If you’ve been hanging around online business owners very long, you’ve probably heard them talk incessantly about their lists. The list size. How often they email their list. Where they host their list, and how long they’ve been building their list. 

If you’re like most people, all this talk about building an email list raises some questions:

  • How do you make an email list?
  • What is an email service provider and why do you need one?
  • What is the best email service provider?

Let me break it all down for you.

Email Marketing Automation with an Email Service Provider

What is an Email Service Provider (ESP)?

Email Service Provider Definition:  A company which provides ways for businesses to collect and store email addresses for the purposes of selling. Businesses are required in many countries to use an ESP as a way to conform to SPAM laws. 

In short, if you do business online, you need email marketing automation software to build a list of clients willing to receive email from you.

What’s the Best Email Service Provider for Your Business?

There are a lot of email automation tools out there. Anyone you ask is sure to have their favorite. The reality is, only you can decide on the best email automation service for your business because they are all set up just a little bit differently with varying features, layouts and specialties.

The reason there are so many email services is because:

  • People’s brains think differently
  • Different types of businesses require different features.

I, for example, am a visual person. I often draw out my launch plans, my email automations and even my opt-in sequences. So it makes sense that I am drawn to an email automation service that is visual rather than linear.

Other email services lack visual formatting. Those ESPs might be the perfect fit for someone else.

When choosing an email service, the key is to remember that what works for the six-figure guru who has a team of 12 people is going to be different than the best choice for a local furniture store teaching DIY painting online. 

Email Service Provider Comparison:
ActiveCampaign, Aweber and MailerLite

Some email automation services specialize in helping business owners who launch products, courses or memberships online. Three of my favorites are ActiveCampaign, Aweber and MailerLite.

All three include the most important features of an email marketing service, including:

  • Storing email addresses
  • Creating & sending emails
  • Email templates
  • Automations
  • List segmentation
  • Tagging

Find out more about ActiveCampaign, Aweber & Mailerlite here, where I did an email service provider comparison.

Why I Recommend ActiveCampaign 

Of the email marketing tools I favor, ActiveCampaign is the one I recommend most often and work with on behalf of my clients. It is easy and inexpensive enough for someone just starting out with email list building. As your business grows, however, you can add on features like email automations, advanced sequencing, and even CRM management.

ActiveCampaign also has amazing customer support.

What About Free Email Services?

When first starting out with an online business, it’s very tempting to want to keep costs down. Free email automation services like MailChimp can be very appealing when you’re just beginning to build your list. 

The problem with free email services is that they don’t have the features you will need as your business grows. Quite often they also don’t have the support you need in  when you’re trying to learn how the service works.

Changing your email marketing service provider and moving your list once your business is growing is not an easy process. Not only will you lose some subscribers, you’ll also have to set up new automations, sequences and tagging. It’s a big job and it’s not something you want to have to do when your business is ramping up and taking off. 

If you choose an email service that grows with your business, you will pay a small amount to start, and more as your business grows. Choosing the right service for email at the beginning is a much better idea than planning to switch services down the line.

Creating an Opt in Freebie

Even with a great email service provider, the process of getting people on your email list can be a little tricky. Gone are the days when people signed up for an e-newsletter because they loved checking their inbox.

Once akin to meeting the postman to see if he’d brought you anything, checking email has become one of the tasks people dread. They know there are hundreds of unopened emails lurking there. In an attempt to stop inbox overwhelm, people are wary of giving their email addresses out to anyone.

All hope is not lost. People will still give up their email addresses willingly if they feel like they are getting something valuable in return. Enter the freebie.

Why You Need a Freebie or Lead Magnet

Freebies, also called lead magnets or opt in offers, are pieces of content that you create and give away to people in exchange for their email address. This process makes a person an email subscriber.  In most cases, your freebie is a new subscriber’s first introduction to you and your business.

In order for your opt in offer to attract new subscribers, it needs to be incredibly valuable. Offer something people can’t get somewhere else or something that solves one of their most pressing problems.

The key to creating successful lead magnets is to create something that solves a pain or problem quickly for your ideal client, doesn’t take you a long time to create and leaves them loving you and wanting more of what you have to offer.

Freebies that are long, complicated, or will take a long time to provide a positive result don’t work as well as those that will give a quick win.

Types of Opt ins 

Popular ideas for freebies (can be digital freebies or printable freebies):

If I wanted to attract people who wanted to build an email list, here are some lead magnet ideas I might use.

  • Checklists – PDF printable freebies that people can use to stay on track – like my “Launch Checklist
  • Roadmap – a PDF document with a process outlined for your leads, like my “Tech Roadmap to Grow your Mailing List
  • Swipe Copy – Example copy people can use for writing emails, landing pages and more
  • Quiz – There are awesome quiz platforms out there you can set up to that allow people to test out their skill level or the type of persona they are… For me, it might be “What kind of launch is right for you?”

You can find more information about freebies here. 

How to Create a Printable PDF Freebie

Good news! If you’re not a graphic designer or have no idea how you’d ever create a beautiful lead magnet that people are dying to receive, Canva can help. The free service is all you need to create your own printable freebie.

You can learn more about using Canva here. 

Where to Host your Freebie 

Now that you’ve got the lead magnet created, it needs to be available so that people who opt in can download it. That’s called hosting, and it’s basically where the opt in file “lives.”

If you have a WordPress site, you can host lead magnet  right on your site as a media file. Need help? Check out this blog post: How to Upload Your Freebie to Your WordPress Site. 

If you are using video for your freebie, you’ll want to host it on YouTube or Vimeo and then embed that video onto a page of your site. How to Embed a YouTube Video on Your WordPress Site

Creating a Landing Page for your Opt in Freebie

Why do you need a landing page or a signup form?

Once you’ve got something valuable to offer potential email subscribers,  you need to decide how people are going to sign up to receive it. The key here is to remember that you want to receive an email address in exchange for giving away your free offer. 

In order to get that email address, you’re going to need to create either a landing page or a stand alone opt in form to collect email addresses. 

What’s the Difference between a Landing page, Squeeze page, Optin page?

Landing pages, squeeze pages, opt in forms, newsletter sign up forms… There are many different terms, and many different ways to get people to give you their email addresses in exchange for your freebie. 

Long ago, when email was new and exciting, it was simply enough to put an opt in box on your website that said “Sign Up for My Newsletter!” People loved getting email and the idea that a newsletter full of useful tips could be delivered right to their inbox was fascinating. Simply asking for a name and email address via a form was enough.

Today we all have more email than we can ever read, and you have to entice people to give you their email address not only by offering a great freebie, but also by selling them on the benefits your freebie will give them. Even though it’s free, they need to know how that piece of email they are signing up for is going to change their life. Enter the landing page.

Landing pages (also often called squeeze pages), are longer and more involved than just a form. They explain the transformation a potential subscriber will receive from your freebie. Once they are convinced they want your freebie, they click a button on the landing page which takes them to an opt in form to collect their email address. If this all sounds a bit confusing, you’ll definitely want to check out this blog post: Build Your List for Launch: Landing Pages & Opt in Forms. 

Do I need Landing Page Software or Can I Create a Landing Page on WordPress?

We all know that first impressions matter, and landing pages are no exception. Often people don’t think they need to spend much time on a landing page because people will be so excited to get their hands on the freebie, that they’ll opt in no matter what the landing page looks like or says. 

This couldn’t be more wrong.

Because if a landing page doesn’t convert, you’ll never know if your offer is good or not. 

Every single day I am asked to review landing pages that have been thrown together without a smart strategy behind them. Graphics are sized improperly. Text is too small or hard to read. The layout is difficult to navigate. 

Creating landing pages is definitely an art form. Not only does it matter how they look, it matters what they say. If there’s no transformation, if the copy is too long, if the layout is bad, people will click away without even reading the page. Can you blame them? If you don’t care enough when setting up the landing page, then why should someone trust you with their email address? How good can your freebie be if your landing page stinks? 

For all of these reasons, it is imperative for you to use landing page software or services when you are first starting out.

Why I Recommend LeadPages

There are many choices out there, for landing page designers, platforms and services, but I love Leadpages. They’ve been in the business of landing pages longer than anyone else, have hundreds of beautiful templates for just about any purpose you could imagine and their 

How to Create a Simple Landing Page with LeadPages

Using a landing page designer like Leadpages makes it very fast and easy to create landing pages.

Four Steps to Creating a Landing Page on Leadpages:

1. Create a Leadpages account (the standard level is fine to start):
2. Choose a template
3. Put in general page-based information (branding etc).
4. Start designing

High-Converting Landing Pages

The best landing pages are the ones that convert well. “Convert” means people click the buttons, watch the videos, and ultimately sign up for the freebie – or buy what the page is selling. 

Want to find out what makes a high converting opt in page? Leadpages can describe it best right here. 

Setting Up Your Welcome Email Sequence

Why You Need a Welcome Email

Once you’ve added someone to your list, you want to be sure they stick around. If you deliver the freebie and then don’t follow up with them until you’re ready to sell something, they’re likely to unsubscribe pretty quickly. People want value in everything, you can deliver it pretty easily in a welcome email sequence that is delivered after someone opts in to your free offer. 

The most effective email welcome sequences deliver tips and encouragement for using the freebie that a new subscriber just received. Checking in to make sure they’ve received the email without issue, and giving them ways to implement what you’re offering is a sure-fire way to turn a new subscriber into a raving fan.

Writing Your Welcome Email

Writing a welcome sequence shouldn’t be daunting. Simply take your freebie and break it down into steps for them. Give them a little more detail about each step in separate emails delivered a few days apart. 

When, for example, someone opts in to my Tech Roadmap For Growing Your List, for two weeks they will receive email designed to go further into each step the roadmap discusses. I explain in the emails how to implement the step or why each step is important. This not only helps them in their process, but it also starts to develop a relationship between us.

Setting Up Your Email Automation

Setting up the Welcome Sequence in your email service provider isn’t hard. You simply set up an automation to deliver each email in the sequence several days apart.

Typically, the first email in a Welcome Sequence goes out the day after someone opts in for the freebie. It asks if they received it, and then provides a link if they didn’t. It also encourages them to pop over and take a look at it right away so they can ask questions or make comments about it in a reply to your email.

The rest of the emails are spaced out 3-5 days after that. You want to give enough time for them to implement each step without them feeling like you’re hounding them to get it done. 

When It’s All Set Up: Promote your Freebie and Grow Your List

Where to Promote Your Free Offer

Once you have your landing page set up so you can get people to opt in for your freebie, what do you do with the landing page link?

How do you get people to see the landing page and sign up for your amazing free offer?

There are many ways and places to post your landing page url so that people can find it:

  • A popup on your site: you’ve likely seen pop up boxes that either partially or completely cover a web page and ask you to enter your email address to receive something. As much as everyone says they hate them, pop up forms work. 
  • Your email signature line: You likely send out hundreds of emails a week. Make sure you are optimizing those emails but adding a link to your freebie right under your name, like this:
    Freebie in signature line
  • On social media: Not only should you post your freebie landing page link on your own social media channels, but occasionally you’ll have the opportunity to post on other people’s pages and groups as well. While you don’t want to spam other people’s groups, quite often groups and pages allow you to promote your stuff. And, if you are helpful to people in the group, they will often seek out and find your social media profiles to check out more about you. Make sure they can find your freebie if they do.
  • On your own website: Definitely be sure to have links to your landing page on your website. 

opt in options on home page

  • On your business card: Want your business card to be more useful? Put a memorable link to your freebie on it. If you don’t want to have to change business cards every time you change freebies, you can use redirects, such as LaunchTechMadeEasy.com/free and swap out the freebie found there as your business changes and grows. 

Which Software Do You Need to Build and Grow an Email List?

Growing a list of potential clients who love you and want to hear from you isn’t a complicated process, but there are things you need to have in place. An email automation service like ActiveCampaign, a landing page creator such as Leadpages, and a great lead magnet.

If you’re ready to start growing your list, you definitely need my Ultimate Roadmap for Growing Your List. You can find it here.

Build an Email List



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