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12 practical tactics to grow an email audience

Who better to learn about email audience list growth than from an expert email marketer?


Person holding a pot with a growing mint plant in it

Email list growth doesn't have to be difficult (with the right advice)


If you've been a marketer, or done any online marketing-advice research, the name Neil Patel will likely have come up somewhere. Neil is a New York Times bestseller and a digital marketing entrepreneur who has an absolute boatload of knowledge in the digital space.

One of our favourite resources is his 12 tactics to grow an email list, so today we'll dive into those and build on these principles with 12 practical tactics to grow an email audience that you can start using today.


Growing an email list is very much like watching a tree grow.

When planting a seed, you want to give it the right amount of water, good lighting conditions, great quality soil and a nurturing environment.

This gives you the right conditions to grow strong roots and the right conditions to bloom. Email list building is very much the same.

You plant the seed by creating a newsletter or email of value. 🌱 Like watering a plant, you add the right people to your list. 💧 You create interest, action and attention by illuminating a problem that your emails help solve. That's the light your list needs to grow. 💡

Lastly, growth happens through nurturing. This is where you adapt your sign-up process and incentives to show potential readers that you have their best interests at heart. 💙

Let's get stuck in and find out more about these tactics to help you grow, build, nurture and retain that email list of yours. 🌲

Tactic 1: Strategic Website Opt-In Placement

"Test to figure out if the best placement is above the fold, in your site's sidebar, below your single posts, at the site footer, using a content bonus/upgrade, on your About page, etc."

Where you place your sign-up forms is likely going to depend on the layout of your website. The good news: It doesn't have to stay where you first built it!

What works is also going to differ based on your business, offer, and incentive. Trying different placements is the start of defining what works best.

Try this:

  • Begin with various opt-in form options.

  • Over time, see which gives you the most sign-ups.

  • Optimise those and follow a similar process across your site.

If this means using the same incentive or placement across different site pages then use that. Don't just settle for the default site-opt-in.

Tactic 2: Split Test Your Forms

"Make one small change (such as one less form field in your opt-in, or a different button colour), and give it a test period to see if it boosts performance."

Think about your audience. Do you really need their surname? Does your call-to-action say "Sign Up" or something with more value like "Get The Goods"?

Eliminate effort and collect only the subscriber details you need. You'll very likely get more sign-ups.

How to test this? Simple: Go through the process your subscribers would take to sign up. If this feels easy and hassle-free, you're on the right track.

A drawing illustrating how A/B split testing works for email marketing

Tactic 3: Use Lead Boxes In Your Content

"Gently lead users to opt in, rather than pushing it down their throats. Have a LeadBox pop up after a certain period of time, or use iterate to find the best place to put it on your site."

Coming from a sales background, I can confidently say this: People hate being sold to.

Naturally, we all have resistance to being told what to do. So, to increase the efficacy of your sign-up forms, it's generally best.

To get this right:

  • Time your pop-ups to show only once if someone's on your site.

  • Add sign-up forms in your blog content to add additional value to readers

  • Make sure such forms are relevant and not intrusive.

Tactic 4: Add Content Bonuses/Upgrades

"Ask readers to download the same content they're reading or (preferably) an upgraded version. It's more effective because it's more specific than your generic email opt-in offer."

If you don't make your opt-in reasoning relevant, you're going to miss out.

If you speak about a specific topic in an article or within your site content, create an in-depth guide or resource on this topic.

If the content resonates with your readers, you'll have a contextual opportunity to ask them to sign up and get more value in exchange for their details.

I do, however, need to add a caution: If you merely give them the same content they're reading and don't add additional value, you'll lose their trust and likely have them opt out pretty quickly.

Tactic 5: Ask Subscribers to Forward to a Friend

"People take the advice of their peers or friends because they already trust their opinion."

Social proof is a powerful thing. What's even more powerful is social proof from someone you know.

Leveraging this for email growth can be a powerful tool. Like at the end of an email where you're asked to send this on to a friend, you can do the same.

If your content resonates with your audience, they'll be far more likely to send it along to someone they know. If you don't ask, you won't be reminding them of this opportunity.

Example of the Forward to a Friend function inside of www.touchbasepro.com platform

Tactic 6: Tell Readers They Can Unsubscribe At Any Time

"The truth is most people are not willing to unsubscribe when you give them the opportunity to do so. If they decide to stay on your list, they'll expect your emails and give them more attention."

This can be important in building trust. And unsubscribes don't have to be bad! You want subscribers in your list that actually want to be there, don't you?

The benefit is that most email senders don't do this, so you'll show potential readers that you put their interests first, not merely your own.

Tactic 7: Separate Guest Visitor Landing Pages

"When you write a guest post on another site, make sure you include an 'about' link, or something similar, that sends the readers to a targeted landing page."

If you're fortunate enough to put yourself in front of someone else's audience, you must ensure that you leave an impression on them.

Yes, your content may do this, but merely sending them to your standard newsletter sign-up form may not be enough.

Do this:

  • Create a sign-up page related to the content topic you share.

  • Tell visitors to this page what value they'll get from your emails.

  • Hook them with immediate value and continue to build on that in your emails.

Tactic 8: Pre-Sell Upcoming Content

"Pre-selling is basically educating people on a particular product, even before pitching or asking them to buy. Educate them for free; don't worry about whether they'll buy when you launch the product."

This is hype-building 101.

Instead of selling (see tactic 3 above), create hype by educating potential subscribers about your offer and the value it adds to their lives.

If you're teaching, you have a better chance of retaining interest and illuminating a pain point that your offer solves. Sales is exactly that; solving problems, not pitching.

Tactic 9: Reward First-Time Commenters

"Send first-time blog commenters to a special thank you opt-in page with a free gift."

Ever heard the term 'surprise and delight'? This is it, in a nutshell.

It plays on the Principle of Reciprocity where someone is more likely to return a good deed done for them. In this case, signing up for your email list.

If you reward actions that are generally not rewarded, you'll foster a great perception with potential clients too, and it's one of the best ways to lead with value.

Tactic 10: Influence With Social Proof

"Use testimonials, "as seen on", case studies, social media comment tickers, etc. This shows that you are socially credible to your readers."

People trust the opinions and experiences of others. If you've given a great experience or helped solve a problem for someone, showcase this!

Wherever possible, make known all positive feedback you've received. It goes a heck of a long way in creating trust.

Pro tip: Using something like Senja's testimonial software helps make this a ton easier.

Visual example of a customer testimonial video on Help Scout

Tactic 11: Use a Greeting Bar

"Use something like HelloBar. It's free! Use it on the top of your site, make it a pop-up, make it a slider at the bottom of your site, or have it drop down and take over the whole page."

Tech like HelloBar shows your opt-in form as a bar while readers scroll your website.

This gives you a ton more opportunities to remind visitors to sign up and gives you a chance to test more sign-up options on your website.

I do offer a caution: If you have too many bars and pop-ups, your site experience might become, well...annoying. Use well but sparingly.

Tactic 12: Invite Social Followers To Opt-In With A Contest

"A social media contest exposes your site and message to many people that you can easily bring back to your site. Contests can be run successfully from Facebook, Linkedln, or your own blog. Offer multiple prizes, rather than one big prize, for a higher conversion rate."

Humans love being given an opportunity to win something. Why not capitalise on this by running a competition?

Not only is this a brilliant database growth tactic, but you'll also entice engagement with your audience while showcasing what you do while they're captivated.

As a word of caution, you must carefully analyse who is joining your contests. Is this a straggler looking to win, or will it be a potential future customer? Who you target becomes pretty critical.

Using these 12 practical tactics to grow an email audience

There's a lot to digest here!


I want to encourage you to start with what is relevant to your situation, begin with one at a time and keep adapting to what your audience is doing.


What's your preferred email audience growth strategy?


In case you missed it, click here to grab a copy of our detailed Database Growth Playbook for Email Marketing to help you grow your database further and support your efforts 👇

Preview of the Ultimate Database Growth Playbook for Email Marketing by Email Expert Africa

Want more tips like these? Get our expert email guide today! Click here to find out more


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