Skip to content

How to Build an Email List: 9 Winning Tactics

Despite the numerous ways to communicate in sales and marketing today, emails remain a mainstay in B2B.

Did you know that 77% of B2B buyers prefer to be contacted via email? This means you can directly target them with the right marketing message and prevent those lengthy sales cycles from dragging on.

There’s also a solid financial rationale underpinning this strategy. For every $1 you invest in email marketing, you can achieve an ROI of $36. That’s a return you can’t afford to overlook.

However, your email marketing campaign is only as good as your contact database. It’s essential to have an email subscriber list of highly relevant decision-makers in the first place. That way, you won’t waste effort directing your brand message to the wrong ears.

Today’s guide covers nine tips that will help you build an email list the right way:

1. Implement embedded signup forms

Embedded signup forms make it easy for your website visitors to share their emails with you. But their effectiveness depends on how you implement them.

Your first decision is about placement. You need to strike the right balance between visibility and user experience to avoid coming across as too intrusive. This is why you’ll typically find most sign-up forms in the website footer, sidebar, or after content.

These locations are non-intrusive and appear consistently across different website pages, ensuring better visibility. See OpenCart, for example:

OpenCart example


That aside, the length of the opt-in form matters too. While having more information about your prospects is great, it’s equally important not to overwhelm your visitors initially. B2B buyers are especially busy professionals who might not have the luxury of spending several minutes filling out forms.

So, it’s no surprise that ImageScape increased its signup conversion rate by over 120% simply by reducing the signup fields from 11 to 3.

ImageScape example


Therefore, stick to collecting basic details like name and email address. You can always use progressive profiling to gather more information over time.

You should also ensure that your form includes a clear and prominent call-to-action, inviting visitors to “Subscribe now” or “Sign up.” This helps guide the visitor toward taking the desired action.

2. Harness the power of contests/giveaways

“I don’t like freebies,” said no one ever!

That’s why contests or giveaways will always draw people’s attention. You can add email submission as an entry requirement and capture prospect emails. This is a powerful strategy to build an email list. 

Besides, business decision-makers appreciate a bit of fun, too. B2B decision-makers are human, after all. So gamification through contests and giveaways is an excellent way to make the signup process engaging and rewarding for them.

You can also encourage participants to share the giveaway contest with their networks. This extends your reach and attracts a wider audience without breaking the bank. 

In fact, this was the primary strategy that helped AppSumo grow its email signups from less than 50,000 to over 147,973 within the first ten months.

AppSumo example

However, the quality of the emails you’ll get from giveaways hinges on the reward you offer. If you offer a prize that appeals to a general audience, you’ll most likely attract many unqualified leads. 

Take AppSumo, for example. They once ran a contest with a Macbook as the winning prize, which helped them gain over 48,000 subscribers. But that didn’t quite translate to much profit - only $11,000 in gross profit. 

Later, they introduced another campaign, offering the winner a one-on-one interview with their Founder, Noah Kagan. While this brought in fewer signups (3,846), it eventually generated a gross profit of over $26,000. 

So, the key is to always opt for audience-specific rewards to build your lead list of only potential future buyers. For instance, you might consider offering contest winners free annual access to your product. Just ensure it’s something they genuinely desire. 

We’ll talk more about possible incentives you can give later.

3. Incorporate other gamification elements

You can incorporate other gamification elements to your site to build an email list. Interactive quizzes are a simple yet effective option. Just make sure the quizzes focus on industry-specific topics that align with your target audience’s interests. 

For instance, Kaye Putnam is a B2B brand strategist, so having a quiz on brand archetypes makes perfect sense. 

Kaye Putnam example


After the quiz, ask the visitors to submit their emails so you can send them the results. 

This approach has a double benefit. On the one hand, you collect email addresses from prospects. On the other hand, you gain insights into their behaviours, interests, and needs through their quiz responses.

Your game can also be as straightforward as a Scavenger Hunt like ShortStack or Spin The Wheel: Email list example

You can present your game as a pop-up or create a dedicated landing page for it. 

If you opt for a dedicated landing page, make it visible enough to attract more participants. So, share it across your social media platforms, like LinkedIn, and optimise it to rank on search engines. 

Speaking of ranking, you can also buy into the AI trend for this. AI can help you create landing page content with the right keywords. Enhancing SEO with AI is a must if you want to optimise your SEO efforts. 

However, remember that while an engaging game is essential, again, it’s the reward you offer that will likely motivate your visitors to take action. 

4. Provide valuable content upgrades

The idea is pretty straightforward. After visitors read the content they’re interested in, they’ll find other content providing additional, in-depth insights related to what they just read.

But this time, the upgrade is behind a gate, usually accessed after they submit their emails. Since the audience is interested in the topic, signing up for the upgrade becomes a no-brainer.

Brian Dean from Backlinko tested this approach in a post discussing Google’s top 200 ranking factors. After the post, he offered a checklist of the top 10 surefire factors - but it was behind a gate. 

This upgrade was highly relevant to the readers and added more value to the content they had just consumed. Consequently, the page’s conversion rate jumped from 0.54% to 4.82%.

 Email list example


To use content upgrades, start by identifying existing content on your website that’s getting significant traffic or engagement. For each high-performing piece, develop a content upgrade that complements and enhances the topic.

Offer these upgrades in exchange for email addresses. Some content upgrades to consider for B2B audiences include:

  • In-depth guides.
  • Practical templates.
  • Exclusive webinars or podcast episodes.
  • Data-driven reports.

These upgrades not only make for excellent lead magnets but also serve as valuable linkable assets. They’re common components of a B2B SaaS link-building strategy.

5. Encourage sign-ups with incentives

We talked about content upgrades as potential incentives to build an email list. But there are other incentives you might want to offer, not just for direct sign-ups but also in your contests and quizzes aimed at email list building.

Let’s take Diceus as an example. Their primary audience comprises businesses in need of custom software development. Naturally, these businesses would appreciate a free IT strategy consultation. 

You guessed right – you need to provide your email to access it!

Email list example


That said, other potential incentives you can offer include:

  • Early access to software features.
  • Exclusive access to premium tools. 
  • Early access to premium services.

The sky’s the limit when it comes to other email list-building incentive ideas. For as long as you offer something valuable to your B2B audience, you should expect excellent results.

6. Leverage industry conferences

When you’re trying to grow your email list, attending industry conferences can be a game-changer. Conferences provide great chances to connect with speakers, exhibitors, and fellow attendees. 

You can network with prospects who are open to sharing their email. Instead of exchanging physical business cards, you can easily share digital ones at these events. 

Create an e-business card with a two-way contact-sharing feature and include phone numbers, website URLs, and email IDs. This streamlines the contact-sharing process.

7. Run referral programs

B2B buyers value referrals, especially when they come from trusted peers. So, take advantage of your existing contacts to expand your reach through a referral program.

Determine the incentives based on what we’ve discussed. If your budget allows, consider a double-sided reward system where the referrer and the referred party get incentives.

Then, design a dedicated referral landing page where participants can easily enter details of those they’d like to refer, including email addresses. 

Take a cue from Graphicolor:

Email list example


Furthermore, ensure that your landing page outlines eligibility rules and requirements. See how MindBody does it:

Email list example


Once everything is set, start sending referral requests to your loyal clients. However, remember to keep the process easy for them; too many steps can discourage participation.

Create unique referral codes to keep track of your referrals. When a person scans your client’s QR code and enters their details, that person will be automatically counted as a referral by that specific client. 

8. Utilise live chat or chatbots

Live chat or chatbots are crucial for building an email list. Why?

Because they offer immediate, personalised interaction with website visitors. Through automated or real-time conversations, businesses can guide users toward newsletter sign-ups or special offers, converting them into valuable subscribers.

You can integrate this feature into your website with tools like Chatra, ManyChat, and ChatBot.

Timing is crucial when you ask for email addresses via chat. If you request them too early in the conversation, visitors might hesitate or decline. It’s important to build rapport and deliver value before making the request.

For example, after discussing a visitor’s challenges and offering initial insights, your chatbot or live chat handlers can respond like this:

Email list example

You can also use trigger-based prompts that appear at specific moments during the conversation. For instance, when visitors use a particular keyword or ask certain questions. 

So, if a visitor expresses interest in a topic like “How to improve ROI in B2B marketing”, your chatbot can say:

Email list example

Triggers don’t have to be limited to conversations; they can also be activated when visitors land on a particular webpage. Your chatbot or live chat button can pop up, offering visitors an incentive or additional help related to the page in exchange for their email.

Let’s take Chatra as an example. In a post about customer loyalty, a bot pops up, telling readers how it can provide further help in fostering customer loyalty.

Email list example


During the conversion, the bot finds a way to collect the visitor’s email:

Email list example

Top tip:

When talking to your website visitors, don’t be pushy. Use simple language and get straight to the point. 

9. Take advantage of exit-intent pop-ups

Sometimes, your website visitors don’t go to the pages where you embedded sign-up forms. To prevent them from leaving your site without signing up, use exit-intent pop-ups.

As the name implies, these pop-ups appear when a visitor is about to leave your website. You can use them strategically to provide notification signups:

Email list example


When your website visitors view you as a valuable source of information, it’s only natural for them to want to stay connected. This is your chance to collect their contact details and establish direct communication.

Exit-intent software solutions like Optinmonster, HubSpot, and Claspo can help you create exit-intent pop-ups. In your pop-up, offer to send website visitors notifications about newly released whitepapers, other upcoming exclusive content, offers or upcoming exclusive content/events. Make sure your pop-ups have engaging headlines and concise copy.

With this strategy, you can build a solid email list with engaged and receptive contacts, enhancing the effectiveness of your email marketing efforts.

Email list building: key takeaways

Building an effective email list is highly rewarding if done the right way.

You learned nine tips for this. The highlights were: 

  1. Create embedded email signup forms,
  2. Run contests and giveaways.
  3. Use gamification elements.
  4. Offer great content upgrades. 
  5. Offer other incentives such as free consultations.
  6. Attend industry conferences.
  7. Run referral programs.
  8. Leverage chatbots and live chats. 
  9. Use exit-intent pop-ups on your site.

Follow these tips, and you won’t just build an email list. You’ll create one with highly relevant leads that can ensure the success of your email marketing strategy.

Follow Cognism on LinkedIn

Read similar stories


The Ultimate Guide to eBook Marketing: Revised Strategies for 2024
The Ultimate Guide to eBook Marketing: Revised Strategies for 2024
eBooks are an important part of many B2B marketers’ strategies. But we’re thinking about them all wrong. Click to read Cognism’s updated eBook philosophy.
Lead Generation for IT & Technology Companies [12 Strategies]
Lead Generation for IT & Technology Companies [12 Strategies]
Lead generation for IT, technology and software companies requires strategies to guarantee fast growth. Learn how to generate leads for your SaaS company.
How to Build an Email List: 9 Winning Tactics
How to Build an Email List: 9 Winning Tactics
To grow a business, you need contact data. You need email addresses. You need a list. Click to see Cognism's crash course in email list building!

Experience the Diamond difference.

See how our phone verified contact data can increase your connect rate by 7x. Book a demo today.

Skyrocket your sales

Cognism gives you access to a global database and a wealth of data points with numbers that result in a live conversation.

Find customers ready to buy

Cognism intent data helps you identify accounts actively searching for your product or service – and target key decision makers when they’re ready to buy.