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How to Build Your Email List: Taking Your Business to the Next Level

Despite what some “experts” may tell you, email marketing is still alive and well. For most online marketers, the majority of your income will come directly from your list of subscribers. According to McKinsley & Company, Email is almost 40 times better at acquiring new customers than Facebook and Twitter.

Not only that, but it’s economical as well. MarketingSherpa found that companies sending over 100,000 emails per month see a 94% return on investment.They also found that companies sending under 100,000 emails per month see a 139% return.

That’s absolutely amazing, I know, but none of this could be possible without gaining subscribers and building your email list enough to profit from. That is why today I am going to show you a simple method that will allow you to gain more subscribers and inflate your email list like never before!

Creating the Incentive

In order to gain new subscribers to your list, you’ll need to provide a reason for your readers to entrust you with their email address. What are you going to do to convince your prospected consumer to hand over their precious email?

People believe they have to give away the kitchen sink in order to entice their readers to provide their email. This is FALSE.

Your incentive doesn’t need to be something mind blowing. Instead, it has to be something specific and most of all, extremely actionable. Meaning it is something where they can see immediate results.

Everyone perceives value differently. A report that I may be willing to give up my house and first born for, may not even entice someone else enough to give away their email.

This is why it’s SO important to understand your target audience. Who are the people that frequent your site the most and what would they be interested in?

So how do you find out what your audience is interested in? Easy. You just ask. Chances are, you have multiple social media accounts (if you don’t then you should). Once you’ve established a following, ask them.

  • What is the biggest problem that they are facing?
  • Pitch an idea “Hey guys, would you be more interested in receiving a guide on (ABC) or (XYZ)?”
  • What media would they prefer? (i.e. pdf format, video, audio, etc)

Then all you have to do is create it as per their requests and ensure that it is actionable. What do I mean by actionable? The information that you provide must be able to be used immediately. People respond far better to offers that they can use right away as opposed to something that may take them a long time to see any results.

Priming Your Homepage for Opt-ins

Alright, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I’ve been testing a specific op-in method on a few of my sites that seems to work extremely well.

We all know how valuable opt-in forms are right? I don’t think that there’s an internet marketing expert alive that would tell you NOT to use an opt-in form on your home page…except me.

Instead, I’ve been using a two step opt-in process and have begun to capture more emails than ever before.

So what exactly is a two step opt-in?

Well, instead of having a traditional opt-in form that contains an area to submit an email, it looks more like a small banner that contains some persuasive text / images and a call to action for the reader to click on the banner. The majority of the two step opt-in boxes I’ve seen are square shaped, and are located in the same sidebar area as the traditional opt-in form would be.

Now, once the reader clicks onto the box, they are taken to an entirely different page. This page will look similar to a short sales page (or squeeze page) that promotes your free offers and contains an actual form for the reader to provide their email and finally subscribe.

Most people scoff at the idea of using a two step opt-in because it requires the reader to do more. I too am a firm believer that minimizing steps in any process will usually lead to better results…except in this one special case.

Here’s Why the Two Step Opt-In Works

The traditional opt-in forms are severely flawed. Yes, the reader only has one step (fill in the box with the correct email and hit subscribe), but because the traditional opt-in form is located on your homepage, the amount of space that you have to promote your free offer is extremely limited.

How do you convey how awesome your offer is in only a brief sentence or two? Especially when there are so many great things to say about it.

By using the two step opt-in method, the box on the homepage simply asks that you click on it. Ok, that’s easy enough. Most people would be willing to do that out of sheer curiosity.

The page it links to is where you can provide as much text and images as you want in order to promote your offer. Instead of only a sentence or two, you can list bullet points as to why your offer is awesome.

Trust me, this works extremely well.

Prepping Other Pages for Opt-ins

This will require you to do a bit of investigative work. By now, you should have a working knowledge of your website and its analytics.

I want you to find your top 10 most visited pages.

These pages can be anything; About Me, a contact form, certain blog posts, ANYTHING.

Once you’ve found these pages, you’ll want to place a horizontal opt-in form somewhere within the text and provide a short call to action.

Check out the one I have below…


The trick is to make the opt-in form extremely bare bones basic so that it doesn’t detract away from the page that it is on (especially if it’s a blog post). Instead, find a way to work it in with the text.

For instance, if I added it to a blog post about fat loss, and one of the paragraphs was about nutrition, then I could end that paragraph with a simple call to action like “If you want to learn more about how proper nutrition can help you lose weight faster than diet pills, then subscribe to my weekly newsletter to gain up to date information right to your inbox”.

Then add your horizontal opt-in form. BAM! More subscribers overnight.

Here’s Why Adding a Horizontal opt-In Form to Your Text Works

Humans are suffering from information overload every time they visit a website. It’s a condition known as banner blindness.

In the field of human-computer interaction, the idea of banner blindness is relatively new. Researchers are beginning to suspect that web users have become so saturated with “in your face” information that they fail to even register in the mind of the viewer, causing them to completely glance over it entirely.

The term “banner blindness” doesn’t just apply to flashy banner ads. It pertains to any aspect of a page that is meant to attract attention by standing out from the rest of the page.

This means that people may be completely overlooking the opt-in area that is located in the usual positions such as the sidebar and the bottom of the page.

By placing the form somewhere in the text, it makes it virtually impossible for readers to miss.

Again, in order for this to work, it has to not detract from the rest of the page or else it may chase off readers, which is the last thing you want to do. However, if done correctly, it can be one of your most effective tools for gaining new subscribers.


If you aren’t using email marketing as part of your business model, then you’re probably missing out on some big pay days.

If you follow the basic strategy I outlined above, you should be on your way to making more money online, and who couldn’t use a few extra bucks in their pocket? Honestly, what do you have to lose?

If you have your own unique strategies that you personally use to grow your email list, feel free to let me know in the comment section below!


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About Sean Donahoe

Sean is one of the most recognized industry leaders in business and marketing. As a popular speaker, author, consultant he has helped over 50,000 students world wide find success in their businesses and has consulted with Fortune 500 companies and businesses of every size grow and thrive...


  1. I really enjoyed this and it makes good sense. Thanks…;)

  2. Hi Sean, I never collect email addresses…why? Because I get about 250 a day with my two addresses. I never open them, just scan them. I might open one or two a day that attract my attention. So, I think, if other people are like me, then they are not going to open my emails, so I don’t bother. But thanks for the page layout tips above.

  3. Nice post. I’ve seen a ton of a-list marketers using a 2 step process for a while now so it must be increasing optin rates (or they would’ve stopped by now)

    I never thought of simply creating a clickable banner that redirects to a mini sales page – that’s actually quite brilliant and basically what you do when you click on an Adwords ad – but there is also a way to it in WordPress using the OptinLinks plugin.

    It’s not free but boy is it cool. Instead of simply redirecting it pops up a light box with optin form embedded.

    Anyway Sean thanks for confirming that 2-step opt-ins really are the way to go.


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