How to Get Your First 100 Email Subscribers

Everyone says, “you need a list,” and they’re right; you do need an email list, but have you found yourself wondering exactly how you build that list? I’ll bet you have because we all ask the same question in the beginning. How do you get your first 100 email subscribers? Step-by-Step tell me, how exactly do I build that list because I’d like to email more than my mom and my grandma every week because while they’re nice, they’re not customers. 

We’ve all been there. List building isn’t something you do in most industries, so no matter where your experience is, this is likely new to you. I came from a marketing background, and it was new to me because I worked with retail clients for most of my career, and they build their lists with coupons or discount codes for new customers. Think about the e-commerce websites you visit, almost every one of them offers a discount to new customers in exchange for their email address. That’s how list building is done in the world I came from. When I started Etched and needed to build a list, I was clueless. I first tried the “sign up for our newsletter” that I’d used at several of my jobs over the years, and you know what…… no one cares about your newsletter. They don’t want to sign up for one. Right?!

I had to figure out this whole opt-in, sales funnel world. In the corporate digital marketing world (SEO/Content Marketing), we use the sales funnel to explain the likelihood of a customer purchasing from a client. We use it to help determine which words we should optimize for in our SEO work. We talk about brand awareness, interest, conversion, due diligence, but nowhere in there do we speak about opt-ins. It’s not part of the sales funnel in an organic search world, and that’s where I taught the sales funnel the most. We don’t use it the same way it’s used in the online learning world where a sales funnel begins with an opt-in and ends with a conversion.

Even though I had nearly 20 years of experience in marketing when I moved to this area, I didn’t know how to build an email list using an opt-in for my customers. I didn’t know what a lead magnet was. Spoiler alert, they’re the same thing. You can use opt-in and lead magnet interchangeably. You are not alone if you’re trying to build an email list and not sure where to start.

Here’s what I wish I had known when I started building my list a few years ago.


How to get your first 100 email subscribers (give it time, this same process will build 1,000, 10,000 or more) 

Get to know your Ideal Customer well. Learn everything you can about them. Find out what their biggest concerns are and see how your business can help them. If you’re not sure who your Ideal Customer is or how to find out what they need, start here.

Once you know your Ideal Customer well and you know what their biggest problems are think about how your business can solve those issues. Your opt-in needs to tie to your product or service for your business to grow. You want to keep everything aligned and make it the next logical step for your customer.

Develop a list of ideas for opt-ins that tie to your customer’s problems and align nicely with your business offerings. Keep your opt-in short and sweet. Make it something that can help them get a quick win. Don’t build something that will take them a month to get through or a week to read. 

Ideal opt-ins are:

  • Checklist
  • Cheatsheet
  • PDF guide
  • Short training video

Opt-ins should help your potential customers get started on their journey. It should help them overcome step #1 and allow them to begin moving forward.

Opt-ins I’ve used successfully for my business include:

  • An eBook PDF on How Google Works for people who want to learn about SEO (I offer an SEO course)
  • A Guide with 101 Blogging Ideas to get you started (I teach about content writing and blogging in my business. I may create a full content marketing course in the future if my students want one)
  • A monthly content planning calendar focusing on theme days for social media, content, and marketing event ideas (I teach marketing in my business builder’s course)
  • A marketing training workshop that teaches about Ideal Customer, Goal Setting, Pricing/Products, Reporting, and Creating a Marketing Plan (I teach marketing in my business builder’s course) This free five-day training program worked amazingly well for growing my list in 2019.

As you see, each opt-in ties to my business, and it’s information that gets the lead started but didn’t overwhelm them. The most involved in the five-day free training workshop and it’s a series of videos within a private Facebook Group. It was a lot of work upfront but can be reused. 

Once you’ve come up with your opt-in ideas, if possible, talk to people who fit your Ideal Customer profile and see what they think of the concept. Is it helpful? Is it the information they already know? Is it too much?

Where do you find your Ideal Customer to ask them? Ask in Facebook Groups, talk to people in your social circle who aren’t close friends or family members (because they’re most likely to say, it’s fantastic even if it’s not because they don’t want to hurt your feelings). Get some feedback, if possible, and take it to heart. Make adjustments now if that’s what the feedback says because believe me, if you create an opt-in no one wants, no one will opt-in.

Once you have your opt-in idea, it’s time to have it created. You’ll want to decide what format you’re going to use and then either design it yourself in a program such as Canva or hire a graphic designer to do it for you. Make sure you have someone else proofread it and check for errors because our eyes play tricks on us when we’ve been looking at the same thing for hours or days, and we don’t see the mistakes.

Congrats! You’ve created an opt-in. Now you can add it to your website and have people just sign right up. Sadly, no. It doesn’t work that easily. You have to spread the word about your opt-in, or you won’t get those email subscribers you want.

Step 1

Add your opt-in to the homepage of your website. You’ll need to connect it to an email autoresponder so that when someone requests the opt-in, the email system sends it to them right away. This part includes a bit of tech work and will differ depending on which system you’re using for your website and email service provider. My best tip here is to Google “Website builder (Wordpress or Squarespace) and email service provider (Mail Chimp, Active Campaign, ConvertKit) integration” to find instructions for the specific systems you’re using. Most times, the email service provider will have training information for the different popular website builders.

Step 2

You’ll likely need to create a landing page for your opt-in, an email list for your subscribers and a signup confirmation/thank you page for your website, and an email with the opt-in or download link for each opt-in you create. You’ll also want to add those new opt-ins to your regular mailing list, so they get your weekly content. 

Step 3

Follow the setup instructions and test the email responder to ensure you receive the opt-in when you request it. See if it’s delivered to your inbox or junk mail (this happens even when it’s something you’ve asked for). If it’s delivered to junk mail or your promotions tab, it’s a good idea to add a note to your sign up thank you page (confirmation page they receive after signing up for your opt-in) letting them know it might end up in promotions or junk mail and to look there if it’s not delivered to their inbox right away.

Step 4

Once you know it’s working and have tested it with several different email addresses; it’s time to start sharing your opt-in with potential customers. The fastest way to grow your list is with targeted Facebook Ads; if you know how to use FB ads and set up targeting that will reach your Ideal Customer. You can also share it in Facebook Groups where it’s allowed, send people to your website where they’ll see it, share it on your Social Media Channels, add it to your Facebook Business Page, add it in the captions on your YouTube videos, create pins for it on Pinterest, etc. Create graphics and share it (the landing page) on the social media channels you’ve chosen to focus on.

Finally, a note about performance: you want to track the performance of your opt-in. Create custom goals for your opt-in in Google Analytics so you can see which channels sent the newest leads to you. You’ll also be able to figure out what your opt-in percentage is. You want a minimum of 20% opt-in with higher being better. I have some that convert as high as 60%, meaning 6/10 people who visit the page sign up for the opt-in. The higher your conversion rate, the better that opt-in is working. If you’re running Facebook Ads, make sure you’ve set up a custom conversion for your opt-in so you can see what you’re paying per opt-in as well.

Having the data is important because it helps you make informed decisions. When you have data, you know for sure if something is or isn’t working, and you know which opt-in works best for your audience. It’s possible your first opt-in won’t work. You may need to adjust and create different ones before you find the perfect fit for your audience. Don’t be afraid to adjust and try something new if what you’re doing doesn’t seem to be working very well. Sometimes what we think our audience needs isn’t what they want, and we have to adjust.

I hope this helps! Good luck getting your first 100 subscribers. If you want more in-depth training on this and other marketing/business building topics, check out my Business Builder’s Blueprint training program. It walks you through how to build a business step-by-step so you can leave your 9 to 5 and start living the life of your dreams.