7 Proven Ways to Build an Email List That Converts

Learn the best ways to grow your email lists with prospects who actually convert.

By Jessica Miller-McNatt ・5 min read
Best Practices
Business & Marketing Strategy
Customer Data & Engagement

Building an effective email list in the digital marketing landscape is like discovering a vein of gold in the wild—it can become your most valuable asset. But just like mining for gold, you need the right tools and strategies to tap into that potential. In this post, we'll share with you tried-and-true methods to create an email list that is not just large in numbers but rich in converting prospects to loyal customers.

1. Engage with Interactive Content

Interactive content isn't just engaging; it's a powerful magnet for drawing in subscribers. Consider yourself as the host of a digital party—incorporate games, quizzes, or even giveaways to entertain your visitors. It creates a memorable and shareable experience, which can encourage a sense of community and belonging, prompting visitors to give you their email addresses willingly.

For example, this Spin to Win campaign hosted by Rogue Ales and Spirits. 

#MixedOpportunity Soin to Win Giveaway

After launching a new line of canned cocktails, Rogue needed a catchy way to create brand awareness and engage customers. The #MixedOpportunity Spin to Win Giveaway awarded 44 participants prizes such as keychains, can holders and discount codes. In return, they collected nearly 23,000 email addresses. The real ROI was in the qualification of the leads themselves. The participants showed interest in Rogue’s products by participating in a giveaway to win Rogue merch. Therefore, perfectly primed for follow-up marketing. 

2. Offer Irresistible Value

You are an authority in your industry. Attract qualified leads by offering your expertise in exchange for an email address. Whether it's a well-crafted ebook, guide, or a one-on-one consultation, ensure your offering resonates with your audience's needs. Be that industry expert who promises value and delivers it through newsletters or other digital content.

In this example, Enrich Creative offers three free guides to those looking to build their business. The entry form is simple - only requiring a name and email address - but the data collected can be used to market to those interested in the business marketing field. 

Free Guide Offer + Email Capture

3. Make Your CTAs Clear and Compelling

Your Call-to-Actions (CTAs) are the signposts on the path to conversion. CTAs should be throughout your online presence, be it your website, blog, or the ends of your informative YouTube videos. The key here is balance—be clear and assertive with your CTAs, but maintain the supportive tone of a coach empowering their team to seize victory.

In this example by VRBO, creative CTAs are used to emulate the type of rental the user is looking for. As you can see, the properties with full kitchens come with a CTA that states “Get Cooking.” The ones with pools state, “Keep it chill.”


'Get Cooking' CTA by VRBO

'Keep it chill' CTA by VRBO

You may be thinking, “What do a couple of words on a button have to do with email capture?” but those little words are more powerful than you think. According to Neil Patel, “CTAs correspond with an individual’s reward behavior. We take action based on what we perceive the reward to be.” Which explains VRBO’s strategy perfectly - want a rental with a full kitchen? Click the perceived reward, which is to “get cooking.” 

4. Utilize Attention-Grabbing Pop-ups

Pop-ups can be annoying. However, when executed with finesse, they are undeniably effective. If you need further convincing, look at the data. The average conversion rate for a web form is a mere 2-5%. However, when that form is embedded in a pop-up, the average conversion rate increases to 11.09%! In other words, annoying or not, Pop-ups are an effective way to grab attention and boost lead collection. 

When using pop-ups in your sales funnel, follow best practices. For starters, ensure they're timely, perhaps as a parting thought when someone has consumed your valuable content, and not an unwelcome interruption. Or as a slight nudge when the web activity has gone idle. When building pop-ups, be sure you can control how and when the pop-up is deployed. For example, trigger them after several seconds, after the user has scrolled a certain percentage down the screen, or even upon exit intent. offers a collection of pop-up templates with time and trigger controls that make set-up a breeze.


ShortStack's Download Pop-Up Template

5. Design for Trust

The user experience (UX) you craft is the digital handshake you offer. It must communicate trustworthiness at every level. Include bot protection such as Google’s reCaptcha or Cloudflare. UX is essential when collecting leads via a sweepstakes or giveaway. Deterring bots will ensure the participants aren’t competing against fake entries. 

Forms adorned with security badges are also a great way to promote trust. 

Security Badges

Lastly, ensure the user’s journey is seamless and intuitive. UX will assure your subscribers by communicating that their data is in good hands. 

6. Leverage Excitement at Events or Trade Shows

Whether hosting a webinar, joining an industry trade show, or having a local market booth, use these moments to connect and capture emails. Personal interactions build community within your industry, and a physical signup sheet or digital kiosk can foster a meaningful exchange—the start of a conversation between you and a future advocate for your brand.

A simple yet exciting way to collect leads at a trade show, marketplace or event is by offering a promotion or giveaway. This instant win giveaway template is designed specifically for live events because it has a built-in refresh feature that automatically refreshes the screen after each successful form submission. 

ShortStack's Instant Win Template

7. Offer Exclusive Sneak Peeks and Updates

Who doesn't like to be in the know? You create a VIP environment for your subscribers by offering exclusive previews or updates. They become insiders privy to information that sets them apart, which not only helps capture emails but also nurtures a sense of exclusivity and belonging that can foster loyalty.

To wrap things up,

Building an email list that converts is about more than just collecting digital addresses—it's about fostering relationships and creating a community that values what you provide. Approach this task as an earnest coach, with the patience to nurture and the zeal to drive action. Your list is your team, and each member is integral to the success of your brand. Keep these strategies in your playbook, and watch your email list—and your business—flourish.

About the author

By Jessica Miller-McNatt ・5 min read

Jessica Miller-McNatt has been with ShortStack for over a decade and has served in every role from Marketing Team Lead to Customer Success. Her journey in martech continues to fuel her fascination for what drives growth. Jessica's favorite weekends are spent in the North Georgia mountains, chasing waterfalls and exploring with her family.

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