Every ESP will give you tools to create an opt-in form for your site. Generally speaking, the less information you ask for (at this initial stage, at least), the better. The more information you ask for, the less likely your prospect is to complete the process. You’ll obviously need to ask for an email address, and I also highly recommended that you ask for a first name so you can personalize your emails. However, asking for any information beyond these two fields can decrease conversion rates significantly without adding much valuable data.

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If you haven’t yet started building an email list (but know you need to), this article is for you. You may have heard that a strong email list is one of the most valuable assets you can have, but when you’re starting from scratch, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. This is partly because many business owners have a hard time envisioning the long-term payoff for the hard work they need to do now.

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Do you have an older list that you suspect has mostly decayed? Create an engaging opt-in message and send it to your old list encouraging contacts who wish to re-opt-in -- promising to remove all contacts who don't respond. Though it might seem counterintuitive to remove folks from your email lists in order to grow them, emailing only engaged contacts could improve your deliverability and increase the odds of your email getting shared with those outside your current contacts database.

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Offer a reward for customers who buy something from you and show that they checked in at your business on Foursquare using their mobile device. When they do this, they’re telling everyone in their network that they’ve done business with you. Each month, reward the person who gave you the greatest exposure by offering a discount, and asking for their email address.

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Before people hand over their email address, you’re going to have to offer them something enticing in exchange. This could be a free eBook, access to a Webinar, or the promise of discounts or deals exclusively for your subscribers. You could even repurpose some of your existing blog content and turn it into a guide or resource list. Whatever you decide to offer, just make sure it’s something people will recognize as holding true value!

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Customer reviews are the "social proof" that encourages people to join in on something. It's one thing for you to tell people to sign up for a campaign, but it's another thing for your happiest customers to say it too. Publish your best reviews from communities like Yelp right to your website. This adds genuine value to your landing pages when people are on the fence about submitting their contact information. 

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Your blog provides a great way to build a personal relationship with customers and prospects — and to gather their email addresses. Consistently end blogs with a call to action that encourages readers to sign up for your email messages. Require blog visitors to provide an email list in order to leave comments, and set it up so that they have to actively opt out if they don’t want their email address included on your mailing list.

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Your blog provides a great way to build a personal relationship with customers and prospects — and to gather their email addresses. Consistently end blogs with a call to action that encourages readers to sign up for your email messages. Require blog visitors to provide an email list in order to leave comments, and set it up so that they have to actively opt out if they don’t want their email address included on your mailing list.

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Sponsor a video contest in which customers create a one-minute video about why they like your business, products or services. Ask them to send the videos to you and post them to your Facebook page. Invite visitors to vote on which video should win a cash or merchandise prize. Include an email opt-in on your Facebook page. Be sure to follow Facebook’s rules regarding contests.

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Include social sharing buttons and an "Email to a Friend" button in your marketing emails. That way, you'll gain access to their friends, colleagues, and networks and expand your contact list. At the bottom of your emails, include a "Subscribe" CTA as a simple text-based link so that the people receiving the forwarded emails can easily opt-in, too.

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Sponsor a video contest in which customers create a one-minute video about why they like your business, products or services. Ask them to send the videos to you and post them to your Facebook page. Invite visitors to vote on which video should win a cash or merchandise prize. Include an email opt-in on your Facebook page. Be sure to follow Facebook’s rules regarding contests.
The effort you put into building your email list is one of the best investments you can make online. Having access to the inboxes of targeted prospects means you can continue to build and nurture relationships over time, and become a trusted source of valuable industry knowledge. Then, when it’s time for your prospects to buy, you’ll be the first one who comes to mind.

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Offline events like trade shows are highly anticipated growth opportunities for professionals in your industry. Demo your latest product at an appropriate conference and collect signups in-person. Once you're back at the office, import these signups into your contact database. Be sure to send these contacts a welcome email that confirms their opt-in to your list. (See #8 in this blog post for tips on sending welcome emails.)

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When you meet people face to face for any reason, ask for their business card. Offer yours. Set a glass bowl on the counter in your store or the reception desk in your office, and ask visitors to drop their cards in it. Offer some incentive to do so — a free product or service, gift card, etc. Use your own business cards to further drum up emails; add an offer on the back of your card that encourages people to sign up to receive your emails.

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Visitors to your website might overlook the call to sign up that you have at the top of every page, but it’s harder to ignore a lightbox or pop-up. Scroll boxes pop up on visitors’ screens after they’ve scrolled down a certain length of the page. The box encourages them to sign up for your email list. They can be effective for encouraging a user who’s already shown interest in your content (by staying on the page long enough to scroll) to sign up for your email list.

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When you meet people face to face for any reason, ask for their business card. Offer yours. Set a glass bowl on the counter in your store or the reception desk in your office, and ask visitors to drop their cards in it. Offer some incentive to do so — a free product or service, gift card, etc. Use your own business cards to further drum up emails; add an offer on the back of your card that encourages people to sign up to receive your emails.

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Sponsor a video contest in which customers create a one-minute video about why they like your business, products or services. Ask them to send the videos to you and post them to your Facebook page. Invite visitors to vote on which video should win a cash or merchandise prize. Include an email opt-in on your Facebook page. Be sure to follow Facebook’s rules regarding contests.

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