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How to Build an Email List: The Fast and Slow Methods

How to build an email list with the "Drip-Drip" and "Flood" methods

You want to build an email list as quickly as possible, right?

That’s smart — email marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways to grow an online business.

But does speed really matter?

On the one hand, yes — it’s important to gather an audience that you can help and serve. The faster you build this audience, the sooner your online business will see real traction.

But fast is not the only speed you need to use. Slow counts, too.

A solid email marketing strategy uses both speeds, fast and slow.

The fast tactics you’re about to read about will give your email list an immediate boost.

But the slow tactics? They’ll provide slow burn growth that builds a solid foundation under your online business.

Ready to build an email list at two different speeds? Let’s do this …

Introducing the Drip-Drip and Flood Methods to build an email list

The best email marketing strategy is one that combines a slow growth plan with occasional events that add bursts of new members to your list.

I call these two approaches Drip-Drip and Flood. Let’s go over each one.

The Drip-Drip Method

The Drip-Drip Method consistently adds new people to your email list over time. This constant growth creates an audience for your email marketing strategy and is the first approach to put into place.

We’ll talk more about how to set up your own Drip-Drip Method later in this article.

The Flood Method

The Flood Method gives your email list a burst of new growth when you:

  • Create an “event” like a webinar or a series of live videos which require people to opt-in to participate
  • Run a limited-time giveaway or contest when people sign up to your list
  • Get your information in front of someone else’s existing audience

We’ll go into detail about the Flood method below — but let’s get those subscribers steadily dripping into your email list first.

Raindrops hitting a body of water

How to set up Drip-Drip email list building on your website

The “Drip-Drip” Method won’t bring a dramatic influx of people all at once, but it will steadily build your audience over time.

This method relies heavily on you using your own website real estate to encourage sign ups to your email list.

When asking for an email address, it’s important to offer something valuable in exchange. No one scours the internet looking for a way to fill their inboxes!

What can you give people in exchange for an email address?

Get ideas for opt-in incentives you can create to encourage email sign ups: Stop Begging and Start Giving: Why Perks Work to Build Your Email List

Add useful content to your blog posts, podcast episodes, or videos, and ask for an email in exchange for the information. Read more: How to Profit from Your Email List with Content Upgrades

Feature your email list invites on your website

Unlike social media sites, your website is 100% owned and operated by you.

Take full advantage of the control you have by placing invitations to sign up for your email list in prominent places on your website.

You don’t need to place an invite in all of these spots — choose three or four.

Locations for email opt-ins on your website (choose 3-4)

  1. Top bar with form or button that points to a landing page with your opt-in form
  2. Top of website header area
  3. Top of sidebar (if you use one)
  4. Links within content that point to a landing page with your opt-in form
  5. Forms within your content
  6. Forms after your content
  7. Forms or buttons within your website footer
How to build an email list using your website

You don’t need to buy fancy software to do this — your email marketing provider will give you a way to create a form and place it on your site, usually by copy/pasting a line of code.

Alternatively, your website theme may give you a way to add email list invites to your website design.

If you decide to use software to help place email list invitations on your website, take a look at these options:

  • Icegram: Feature-rich free plan. Paid plan adds themes and analytics.
  • AddThis: Free plan with limited features. Pro plan adds customization.
  • Thrive Leads: Feature-rich paid plans.
  • OptinMonster: Feature-rich paid plans.

Place email list invites in your social media profiles

Use social media platforms to promote what’s available on your own website.

Let’s think about social platforms like highways filled with cars zooming by:

How to build an email list using social media, image 1

Your presence on the social platform is like a billboard:

How to build an email list using social media, image 2

Build an email list with social media when you do this:

On your billboard, invite people on the social platform to stay connected by signing up for something valuable on your website.

How to build an email list using social media, image 3

Look at all the social media platforms you currently use and be sure you’re inviting people to sign up for your email list on all of them.

  • On your Facebook page, add a sign up button to the cover art
  • On Instagram, use a tool like Linktree (free and paid plans) to add clickable buttons to your Instagram bio
  • On Twitter, pin a tweet about your primary opt-in incentive to the top of your account and add a link to it in your Twitter bio
  • On Pinterest, mention your primary opt-in incentive in your bio
  • On LinkedIn, mention your primary opt-in incentive and add a link in your bio

Using both the Drip-Drip and Flood methods is smart. Once you set up both your website and your social media accounts so they provide a constant drip of new sign ups, it’s time to create events that flood your list with new subscribers all at once.

A rainy window

How to build an email list with the Flood method

To grow your email list fast, open the floodgates. How?

It’s simple (but not easy):

Get your information in front of a large existing audience.

We see this approach all the time in the entertainment world:

Actors’ agents book them on popular nighttime shows to have a chat with the host about their latest project. They deliver information and entertainment. In exchange, they gain exposure to the audience that watches the show. They drum up excitement about their work and career while they gather a new group of fans.

Musicians team up to record duets. They collaborate on a catchy song that delivers entertainment. They gain new fans from the others’ audience.

Artists, authors, and business owners are interviewed in the media. They deliver interesting, entertaining information to the journalist. In exchange, they gain exposure to the readers, listeners, or viewers of that media platform.

The internet equivalent: The Flood Method

Getting yourself, your business, or your project in front of a larger audience is a time-tested approach. If you have an online business, how can you use it?

Contact people who already speak to the audience you want to reach. Get to know the site owner. Offer your expertise. Become a known expert to their audience.

Simple, right? But not easy.

That’s why it’s important to first build your Drip-Drip foundation on your own website and on the social media platforms you use.

Floods are one-time (or very occasional) events, so you wouldn’t want them to be the only thing you relied on to grow your audience.

Bring a flood of new subscribers and build an email list when you:

  • Write guest posts on websites with large audiences (I did this for years on Copyblogger)
  • Book podcast interviews on shows that speak to your audience
  • Co-host a webinar presentation for someone else’s audience and send people to a registration form on your webinar platform
  • Be an expert presenter on someone else’s workshop and create a free giveaway worksheet about your topic that people can sign up for
  • Create a giveaway or contest and encourage your colleagues to share it with their networks

Remember, use both of these approaches to build an email list over time.

Combine Drip-Drip and Flood with live events

Can you have the best of both worlds? It’s possible, my friend, with live events!

You can go live on a social media channel or YouTube, or on a service like Zoom.

When you host live events on a regular basis, you can steadily build your audience.

The great thing about live events — I call them live content events — is you don’t have to edit. You set up the event, promote it, prospective customers give you their email address in exchange for your valuable content.

Then you broadcast it and you’re done!

Watch the video above to learn how to plan your event, capture email addresses, and structure your content so your audience gets great value.

Subscribe to my YouTube channel for all my latest videos, hot off the digital press.

Over to you: Use Drip-Drip and Flood to build an email list that builds your online business

The Drip-Drip method won’t bring a dramatic influx of people all at once, but it will steadily build your audience over time. Get this foundation in place first.

Then, use the Flood method every so often — deliver entertaining information to someone else’s audience and enjoy seeing lots of sign ups to your email list all at once.

How to build an online business you love

The Online Business Success Roadmap

Wondering how email marketing fits into your overall online business goals?

Grab my free Online Business Success Roadmap and I’ll show you.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published September 18, 2019 and has been updated with video content. Enjoy!

Pamela Wilson

Pamela Wilson is the Chief Marketing Officer at DCS. She’s the creator of the Offer Accelerator Program. Learn more about Pamela’s content marketing books, and read reviews of the tools used to run this site.
Pamela Wilson coaches people in midlife to build profitable online businesses
I’m Pamela Wilson

In 2010, at the age of 45, I started this site and grew it into a business that offers freedom, flexibility — and consistent revenue.

2 thoughts on “How to Build an Email List: The Fast and Slow Methods”

  1. This was really helpful, especially the drip portion. The flood is a bit intimidating for me right now, most likely because I’m not sure how to get started. I’ll be “dripping” for a while!

    • I get it! “Flood” is kind of a next-level approach, isn’t it? The good news is that you don’t have to have constant floods — they can be occasional but they really help.

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