How To Quickly Grow Your Email List in 3 Simple Steps

Mahmud Ahmed, CEO, New York

26 July 2019

Solve a problem, deliver the solution, and hold your readers’ hands along the way.

Growing your email list…

Photo by Krsto Jevtic on Unsplash

When I first started my business, years ago, I looked around for different marketing tactics. No matter where I looked or what I searched for, I saw the importance of growing my email list.

Whether it was because it’d allow me to “grow my tribe” or, better yet, have thousands of people I could reach out to whenever I wanted (for free), the concept was everywhere. After looking into it more, I decided it was exactly what I needed, so I started my journey to grow my email list.

After reading a few blog articles about how I should do this, I started to realize how easy this was. The only thing I needed to do was write three articles, turn them into an ebook, and I’d have people subscribing.

This is exactly what I did, and even though I mentioned 997 times that it was free, while driving a lot of traffic to my squeeze page from multiple sources (i.e. Facebook Ads, blogging, etc.), I only got four subscribers in the first six months. I had to face a reality nobody liked to talk about:

Growing an Email List Is a Lot Harder Than It Used to Be

In the “early days” of digital marketing — as in 2010(ish) — there wasn’t much competition, and people were more willing to give their email address away.

This is important to remember because, like most advice out there, most of the “gurus” stemmed from that era. Even though they don’t mean any harm with their advice, what worked for them won’t work for us. Nowadays, every consumer is “aware” of what happens after they provide their email, so they’re very protective of it.

After doing this a bit longer, I thought about giving up on email marketing altogether, as I thought it was dead and there was no use chasing it. But I figured it wouldn’t hurt to look into it a little more, mainly to see if there was anything else I could try. And even though I learned a lot while doing this extra research, the thing that really caught my attention was:

The Invisible Problem Everybody Has With Email Marketing (Yet Few Know)

I came across this when reading a blog article, which caught my attention right away. He could relate to my issues, having learned that email marketing is a lot harder now, but after going through this, he mentioned that his big “aha” moment happened when he stopped focusing on tactics and started figuring out why they work.

At first, he’d focused on the aspects that we think are important, like:

  • What software we should use
  • If we should do blogs or video
  • How we’re going to drive traffic to our landing page

And everything else that comes our way. Don’t get me wrong, those are important eventually, but before reaching that point, you need to understand why they work (i.e. the strategy). Otherwise, they’re essentially worthless.

Even though I’d thought I knew everything about email marketing, after I finished that article, I became aware of the invisible issues he claimed were ruining all email marketing campaigns. His advice included unconventional topics, like:

  • Focusing on what problem my target market had, instead of what “lead magnet” I should offer
  • Understanding how to “pre-frame” my offer, so they were essentially begging to give me an email address by the time they reached that point
  • Uncovering the best ways to drive traffic to my squeeze page, instead of being focused on what platforms I should use — or how I could get more SEO

It wasn’t sexy to learn at first, but after listening to his advice, things turned around right away. It took a bit of work up front, but I finally got my next 1K subscribers within the next three months (which got exponentially easier after that).

That’s exactly what I want to show you how to do with the rest of this article, starting with:

Step #1 — Create a Vehicle That Solves a Problem

Okay, remember when I mentioned how people’s biggest issue with email marketing is that they focus on tactics, not the strategy that makes them work?

This happens different ways, but the most common is the actual “vehicle” (i.e. free item/lead magnet) you use in exchange for people joining your list.

As I mentioned earlier, a lot of people make this way too simple, saying you only need to write three blog posts, then turn them into an ebook. I guess this could work, but here’s the thing: nobody is going to opt in for something they don’t want. Sounds obvious, I know, but you have no idea how many entrepreneurs aren’t aware of this. Instead, all they do is write an ebook, say how it’s free, then expect people to sign up.

Anyway, that’s what not to do, but here’s the good news. Even though it’s important to give away something your audience wants, it’s not hard — with the right information.

I’ve heard of a few formulas people use to do this. Most work, but after trying dozens over the years, my favorite is to start with the simple formula of: [Problem]? If so, grab my [free item] and [get results].”

This works for many reasons, but in the simplest terms, everybody will gladly give their email address away for something that helps them. On top of this, since people buy results, not items, if you can give them something that produces an outcome, it’s a bulletproof strategy for success.

That’s all you need, but an example also helps, so let’s run through one.

Let’s assume you’re a website designer/developer, and your main “USP” is that you understand conversion-oriented layouts, which helps people improve conversions. This leaves you with a big market, but if we niche down at all, it’d be an audience of people who are struggling to get any leads/sales with their website. You’d plug this into the formula and create something that shows how to solve their problem.

From my experience, this works best when you do a case study, as people love seeing results. The formula would look something like:

Struggling to get leads with your website? If so, grab my free case study — and learn about the three simple tweaks we used to grow a company’s revenue 300% in the first 90 days

As you can see, this grabs your audience’s attention right away. Everybody will opt for an item that helps solve a problem.

So even though you’ll have to execute the next steps as well, because there are no “silver bullets,” if you did this one simple tweak, I guarantee you’ll get more subscribers.

The last thing I wanted to cover was the “vehicle” you use for your case study. This seems to be something everybody gets caught up on, where they worry if they should use video, podcasts, articles, etc.

And here’s the thing: it really doesn’t matter.

As long as your messaging is good, and you show how they can solve a problem, the vehicle doesn’t matter much. Do whatever is easiest for you.

Okay, that’s it for real now, so let’s move on to:

Step #2 — Create a Landing Page (That Actually Converts)

More and more people are catching on to this, so maybe you’re aware of this by now. When I first started in online business, I had no idea it was even an issue, so I like to mention it.

I used to get email opt-ins with “traditional” methods like:

  • Pop-ups
  • Exit screens
  • Opt-in forms on pages of my website

I got a few subscribers this way, but I soon learned these methods were also losing me a lot of opportunities. When you have too many options flashing at the same time, people’s attention is spread out, and your conversions are hurt.

In this case, an option isn’t just giving away one item; it’s multiple actions your readers could take. Whether it’s being distracted by the navigation bar up top:

Or having the option to read another article:

Whatever it may be, if they have too many options, they won’t know what to do. And that’s why it’s so important to have a landing page.

If you’re not familiar with a landing page, it’s just a one-page website like this:

These work because they remove all other options (including navigation bar, pop-ups, etc.) and force the readers to focus on one thing, the opt-in.

To give a quick example of how well this works, one of the greatest improvements I’ve seen was a client who had tried to create his own landing page on a separate page of his website. He changed to a true landing page, and after doing this, his conversions skyrocketed from 8%

to 28%

essentially overnight.

It’s a simple tweak that’ll improve your results, and even though many people are aware of landing pages, most don’t know about the “distraction” principle.

That’s it for this step, which now takes us to:

Step #3 — Have a System That Shows Exactly How Your Free Item Will Help

A common problem I’ve seen most entrepreneurs make is not showing their potential clients/customers exactly how they could help them. This usually happens because the founder/owner has spent so much time on their subject (including service, software, etc.) that they forget everybody else doesn’t understand it like they do.

This happens throughout every aspect of a business, including the sale of an actual service/product. As for this, even though it’s free, it’s still extremely important to show your readers exactly how your free item will help them. If you don’t, they’ll have no idea why they need it and won’t opt in.

But even though this sounds simple, the execution is harder than you’d think. There are a few reasons for this, but the main struggle people have is not understanding where to explain this. They don’t know if they should explain everything with long-form copy on the landing page or if they should write it on a Facebook ad, then have a short landing page, etc. There’s a lot of options.

From my experience, there are three methods that get the best results.

First, I like to break this into paid options and free options.

There seems to be a split on preference between these. Some like to take the “quick and easy” approach, where they use paid ads to expedite the process. Others don’t want to spend a dime, so they try to do this with free options, such as content marketing.

Even though there’s no “right” method, it does differ depending on what you use.

Let’s start with the paid options, which include two of our three methods:

Method #1 — Long-form ad copy (likely via Facebook Ad)

If you want to use paid advertising, you need to go the extra mile and make sure you’re explaining everything people need to know with this ad.

This is the same reason you’re starting to see so many long-form sales letters (ad copy, but it’s a sales letter) on Facebook. People have realized that if they don’t do this, people won’t click, as they see multiple ads every day and need a good reason to click now.

If you take this approach, I’d highly advise hiring a copywriter. Sales letters get a little advanced, but as a general rule of thumb, if you use this outline:

  • Acknowledge problem
  • Offer solution
  • Call to action

That’s all you need to get some conversions.

Going back to our website designer/developer example, you could take a lot of angles, but I’d put something along the lines of:

  • For the first three years of business, ABC company didn’t get one lead from their website.
  • During this time, they did multiple “revisions” — where they hired new website developers.
  • Although their website still looked great, they still weren’t getting results, with no idea why — until somebody told them about the concept of “conversion-layout.”
  • In other words, even though design is important, the layout is required.
  • Something most people can’t see, as the naked eye isn’t aware of this; nobody mentions it
  • But after becoming aware of what their problem was, they made a few simple changes — got their first lead three days later.
  • After that, they’ve used their website to grow business 300%.
  • If you’re interested, you can see their exact steps in the case study below.

You’d have to expand this to make sure it made sense, but if you followed this outline and wrote a decent letter, this would be all you’d need to get clicks. From there, you’d want to send them to a short and sweet landing page:

At this point, they’re already ready to move forward, and any extra copy would just talk them out of the sale.

Here’s an example of how these (long-form ad copy) look:

But this is probably the least effective method (of these three), as people tend to steal these ads (easy to copy and paste, ends up diluting your message).

So if you’re going to use paid advertising, I’d consider:

Method #2 — Video ads (via explainer video)

We’ve covered the fundamentals in the first method, but for starters, if you’re not familiar with explainer videos, they’re short videos that explain everything to your potential clients.

The same principles apply to both sales letters and explainer videos, but in today’s busy world, people are less likely to read an entire sales letter than to watch a video. That alone will grab your potential clients’ attention and get more conversions.

Again, I’d advise hiring a copywriter (in this case, to write your script), but as long as you followed the:

  • Acknowledge problem
  • Offer solution
  • Call to action

format, you’d get conversions with this as well.

Just like method #1, you’ll want a short landing page because, by the time they reach this point, they’re already “sold” and ready to move forward.

Here’s a quick insight on what video ads look like:

With this out of the way, let’s move on to the third and final method:

Method #3 — Content marketing (free)

Since you’re here now, I know you’re familiar with what content marketing is, but one thing I did want to mention was how to use it.

This seems to be a huge confusion for most, as they think they can just write a great blog and have people flocking in. But great writing doesn’t matter with content marketing because it all has to do with what you write about.

As with everything, this will differ between every industry, but for the most part, what you want to do with content marketing is to answer your audience’s “side questions,” then funnel them back to the main opt-in, which addresses their main concern.

Going back to our website developer example, I always go to Quora, search under a relevant topic,

then start looking at all the questions after that.

From there, I’d just pick questions that aren’t the same as my main opt-in (i.e. how to improve conversions) which would include things like:

After that, I just write blog articles that answer this question.

This works great because I know it’s something my market will read, as everybody is interested in something that answers their question. It’s a great way to start the relationship. After that, I generally leave a call to action at the end, which asks if they’d like to learn about my main opt-in.

In our example, this would be something along the lines of:

P.S. Want to learn how you can improve your conversions? If so, check this out

Once they clicked on that link, they’d be taken to my landing page.

From there, it’s important to explain the case study first because, at this point, they’re not sure what they’re getting. Since they’re already familiar with you, it’s easier to get conversions, but you still need to show what they’re getting.

For the most part, people like to take the short copy approach, which looks like this:

That works, but personally, whenever I’m looking to grow an email list, I like to have a landing page that just includes an explainer video:

And that’s it.

This works best because it’s clean, but since videos tend to convert better, this will get more opt-ins for you, and in turn, the most bang for your buck (or in this case, hard work).

That’s about it for this method, so remember, you want to always:

  • Acknowledge problem.
  • Show how you could help (solution).
  • Have a call to action that shows how to get your free opt-in.

If you do this, I guarantee you’ll see an increase in email subscribers.


Although people have many troubles when it comes to growing their email list, it usually boils down to:

  • Not having the right lead magnet (nobody will opt for something that doesn’t solve their main problem)
  • Not having a landing page (and in turn, providing too many options)
  • Not showing their visitors how the lead magnet will help them (because nobody opts in for something they don’t understand)…

But once you fix these three issues, I can absolutely assure you — everything gets easier.

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