How to Use Content to Build Email Lists

Michael Walton


September 25, 2017 (Updated: January 23, 2024)

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Email addresses are precious. Those who share their address with others often do so, if not grudgingly, then knowing full well what they’re getting themselves into. Consumers are spammed with so many texts, emails, and phone calls that they’re now hesitant to give out contact information. Why are we all tired of it? Because we often get nothing out of the bothersome contact. For your brand, the question then becomes: how are you going to make consumers want to give you their email address to build email lists?

If your core strategy for growing your email list centers around collecting information at events and in your store, you’re missing out on a host of other possibilities. You need to offer something worthwhile, something substantial that’s valuable enough to earn the address, not just ask for it.

Fortunately, if you have a successful online business or business component, you probably have a website and social media pages brimming with potential. You have a content strategy that’s worked pretty well so far. Now it’s time to integrate those seemingly disparate strategies into one email-address-collecting device. You can use your carefully crafted content to build email lists and increase lead flow into the treasure trove it can be. You already put so much work into creating content, so you’d might as well get some more out of it, right? Here are some ways to use content to build your email lists.


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Image via Flickr by MrJamesBaker

When someone gives you their email address, you have to know what they want. When they get an email from you, they’re expecting a minimal amount of copy. Something that’s quick to read but delivers necessary information. Your consumer’s time is precious, and your respect for their time can only help you gain their loyalty. Knowing what they want helps you shape content with those expectations in mind.

Newsletters are a great way to condense information into a quick-to-read and engaging format. What you include is up to you, but it should always point back to generating more traffic to your website. That may include summaries of blog and article posts or deals going on in your store. For extra incentive, include something exclusive that only subscribers to the newsletter will receive, such as coupons or a monthly free product or resource.

But how are you going to get the newsletter to them in the first place? After all, the newsletter is more the reward for the consumer giving your their email address rather than the channel through which you get the address. Create a sign-up list and post it in your shop or on your website. Make it clear what they’re getting. Sell the newsletter like you’d sell anything else.

Gated Content

In some cases, you can use an email or a subscription as a price — the toll to cross the bridge. Gated content is material that visitors to your website can’t view until they’ve filled out a form that — you guessed it — requires them to leave an email address (and, usually, other contact information as well).

Should you “gate” everything on your website? Make visitors fill out a form just to get into the home page? While some marketers may restrict almost all their content (like blog posts and articles), most only require the filled-out form to view their premium content. What makes premium content different? As opposed to simpler content like blog posts, premium content often includes more substantial resources, like white papers, e-books, videos, and infographics. It’s the content that you put the most work into, which makes it worth the price of admission.

If you’re going to use gated content, you need to do it right. You need to give visitors something to get excited about. You want them to wonder what’s behind curtain number one and feel comfortable choosing that curtain, even at the price of their email address. This means you’ll want to promote the gated content on social media, in your newsletter, and in email campaigns. You can also guide visitors to premium content through physical links in social media or open-access content. That shows visitors that you’ve only given them a taste of all your content has to offer.

By using gated content, you ensure that the email addresses you gather belong to those who trust your brand and will likely return for more of the high-quality content you produce. They’re also more likely to contribute to your sales, traffic, and marketing efforts by promoting and sharing the gated content. They’ll show the hesitant visitors that it’s worth sharing some contact information to gain access to your content.

To get the most of the gated content, include calls to action. Invite visitors and viewers to share on social media, to go to other pages on your website, and whatever else your strategy demands at the time. Along with building your email list, you’ll be bolstering the rest of your marketing strategy.

Webinars and Podcasts

Podcasts and webinars are excellent ways to generate traffic and build brand loyalty, so why not use them to build your email list as well? This form of content provides a portable resource for consumers. You go with them on their commute, on a run, or maybe your podcast is what they use to relax and unwind at the end of the day.

If you want to become such a significant part of their lives, you need to give the people what they want. Podcasts lend a human, relatable voice and personality to your content. They make consumers feel like they’re part of a conversation, like the content is more involved in their field or their interests.

But how do you use webinars and podcasts to build your email list? If you can manage to build a loyal following to these types of content, followers will want to come back for more. On the same page as the content, include a place to leave an email address and receive notifications when you upload a new webinar or podcast. Don’t deceive your consumers by emailing content to them that they didn’t expect. When they leave their email address for notifications, make it clear that you’ll also be sending a newsletter or other updates.

If you plan on making a substantial amount of podcast or webinar content over time, consider opening a YouTube channel. Not only will you generate more views, but those that subscribe to your channel will get email notifications from YouTube. At the very least, your content is getting into their inbox, and once your foot’s in the door, consumers are more likely to give you their email address and accept more contact.

Social Media

Social media channels are the ultimate means to an end. They’re the rivers that direct traffic to the ocean of content on your website. Cheesy metaphors aside, social media may not actually hold the meat of your content, but it generates exposure, click-throughs, and more ways to build your email list.

Remember the bit of this article on gated content? Social media is where you give people a reason to go to the gate in the first place. Feature posts that offer a glimpse into the premium content, making it clear how the content is a solution to a problem. However, don’t directly link the social media post to the lead form. Instead, connect the link to an engaging landing page that includes a more extensive introduction to the premium content and the link to the lead form.

Social media channels are also great places to advertise the deals included in email newsletters. Before you send out your newsletter, whether it be monthly or weekly, post on your social media pages a preview of the newsletter as well as an invitation to leave an email address to receive it.

Once you’ve uploaded your podcasts and webinars to your website or YouTube channel, post previews and links to that content on your social media pages, once again with an invitation to subscribe to the YouTube channel or leave an email address for more top-notch content.

We could write a series of articles on all the many ways you can use social media to direct traffic and build your email list, but for now, we’ll end with one final idea. If you have the resources, consider offering exclusive deals and giveaways on social media. Maybe it’s a coupon on a product that visitors get just by plugging in their email address. Or maybe you’re giving away a smart tablet or another product, and an email address earns visitors a place in a raffle. There are many ways to get creative.

Once you have the email list, what’s next? That, ultimately, is up to you and whatever your marketing strategy requires. You can email newsletters, invitations to view and share content, or maybe a simple holiday greeting. Just don’t make the consumer regret giving you their email address. Make it worth their while. Exceed their expectations and build the brand loyalty that your business needs. Building your email list could be the catalyst you need to pull your business out of its funk. Or maybe it’s the final push necessary to take you to the next stage in your growth.

Author Image - Michael Walton
Michael Walton

CopyPress writer

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