If your website is quite new and you’re struggling to attract new visitors and generate new leads for your product or services, investing some time and money in building your e-mail list is a must.

The process may seem too time-consuming if you’re a beginner and it’s the first time you’re going through these steps, but if you want to do these things the right way, you should skip the superficial techniques and really do your best to understand your audience and offer them something valuable in exchange of their e-mail address.

Surely, if you’re the owner of an e-commerce website, you can use a discount or a time-sensitive offer, but what if you don’t sell physical goods? How can you make people subscribe to your newsletter if your website is a presentation page for a lawyer, or if you own a SaaS company offering digital products?

The answer is lead magnets. A lead magnet is a book, a tool, a cheat sheet or any other digital product or written material offered to your prospects in exchange of their e-mail address.

Assuming you already know who your buyer personas or ideal clients are, here are the 10 basic steps you need to follow for growing your e-mail list:

  1. Set up a Mail Chimp account.
  2. Create a list for the first segment, which corresponds to Buyer Persona #1.
  3. Choose the topic and create the cover and structure for your lead magnet.
  4. Create a landing page for your lead magnet and add an opt-in form.
  5. Create an optimized “Thank you” page.
  6. Create the e-mail confirmation process.
  7. Create your lead magnet.
  8. Drive paid traffic to your landing page.
  9. Drive organic traffic to your landing page.
  10. Repeat the process for Buyer Persona #2, #3 and so on.

Now let’s detail each of these steps and see how much time and effort you need to invest, and when you can expect to start seeing results.


Steps 1-2: Set up your Mail Chimp account and create a list


Create an account or log into your Mail Chimp account and go to Dashboard. You’ll see a list of actions you can take right away: Create and send a campaign, Create a list, Start building your audience and so on. Choose “Create a list” or click on “View lists” if you already have a couple of lists created. You will be redirected to a screen with all your active lists. There, click on “Create list”.

sample list mail chimp


In the screen that appears, fill in the list name, the e-mail address you want to use for sending the messages to subscribers (should be easy to recognize for them), your company’s information and choose the desired frequency for notifications. Then click on Save and you’ll be redirected to the next page, where you will create your first sign up form.

list setup mail chimp


You’re ready to start personalizing your first list. But before doing so and creating your e-mail flow, you have to prepare the lead magnet. Keep the Mail Chimp page open, as you’ll have to return to it later, and continue to step 3.


Step 3: Create the cover and structure of your lead magnet


As said, a lead magnet can be a free e-book you’re offering your visitors in exchange of their e-mail address. This lead magnet will be added on your website on a separate landing page, but in order to do so, you will need a cover and a structure for the book.

So this is what you’ll do at step 3: choose a title for your book, create the table of contents, and create a cover. Make sure the book’s description emphasizes the benefits and what the user will learn by downloading and reading your book. People buy benefits, not features, so it’s not enough to simply list the table of contents, show them how that information will help them solve their problems.

For example, if you plan to offer as a lead magnet a book titled E-mail marketing 101: How to get more subscribers with marketing messages, you should tell your readers how e-mail marketing can help them get more subscribers with minimum investment, and you should show them the actual steps they need to take for building their list. Also, it’s recommended to include a case study and show your readers how others managed to grow their subscriber list using your technique.

Your lead magnet should be useful, practical, relevant and adapted to your readers’ level of knowledge. If your buyer persona for this list is a beginner, create content for beginners, and explain everything that needs to be explained. Your purpose is to convince people, not to confuse or frustrate them with terms that are too technical.

NOTE: At this point you don’t have to write the actual book. Just have a structure and cover ready, and a convincing description to add to your landing page. You’ll write the book after you get the first subscribers.


Step 4: Create the landing page


If your cover and table of contents are ready, it’s time to create the actual landing page. A landing page is a page where your visitors land and are convinced to take a predefined action – buy a product, subscribe to a list, click a specific button or link, or perform a social media-related activity, such as share or retweet for example.

Since the goal of the landing page is to convince your user to do one action, the design should be minimal, and the page should have no sidebars or other distracting elements. The visitor’s attention should be directed to the copy and to the button, which should stand out.

To create a landing page, you can use plugins or page builders, or you can rely on solutions like LeadPages or Unbounce, which allow you to choose from predefined templates and personalize your landing page, then integrate it within your website.

For this tutorial, I’m using a plugin called Bloom, and the Divi page builder for WordPress. The page builder allows me to structure and design the page as preferred, while the opt-in plugin allows me to add a form for collecting e-mails from subscribers.

Here’s how the opt-in form builder looks like: first you have to select the e-mail provider – MailChimp in our case, then choose the list – select the list you created earlier in this tutorial, then you can design the opt-in.

opt in form personalization


Choose a preferred layout from the available ones. You’ll be able to customize the fonts and colors later.

optin templates


When you’re done, your landing page should look similar to this one from Wishpond. Please note that the page has a short description, a button with a clear CTA (call-to-action), which stands out, and the form only asks for minimum information from the user.

wishpond optin example


After your visitor fills in the form, he will receive an automatic e-mail from MailChimp, which will ask the subscriber to confirm his e-mail address. Then, the subscriber will be redirected to a “Thank you” page, which will contain the download link for the lead magnet.

The e-mail flow will be discussed at Step 6, but right now let’s see why we need a “Thank you” page.

NOTE: You shouldn’t promote the landing page yet, and shouldn’t include it in your website’s menu until you finish writing the actual book. You will start driving traffic to this page in Steps 8 and 9, so be patient and take each step at a time.


Step 5: Create an optimized “Thank you” page


The purpose of this page is to let you know how many of those who subscribed to your newsletter actually downloaded the book. The page can be tracked in the Goal section of Analytics.

The content of this page should also be minimal, and include just a Thank you message, with the link for downloading the lead magnet, and social media buttons if you prefer. Here’s a sample Thank you page from HubSpot.

sample thankyou hubspot


Step 6: Create the e-mail confirmation process


Return to MailChimp and choose “Opt in e-mail” from the forms dropdown menu. After you select it, you will see the second screen, where you’ll be able to personalize the content.

opt in form


If you plan to use this on a website that’s not in English, click on the third tab – “Translate” – personalize the content. Once you’re done with the first e-mail, you have to go through the same steps for the Opt-in confirmation message (this one is recommended for avoiding spam subscribers), the Confirmation “thank you” page (recommended for tracking goals completion in Google Analytics), and Unsubscribe messages – Unsubscribe form and success page.

remaining forms

These are the basic e-mails you need to create in Mail Chimp for an opt-in form, for each lead magnet you plan to use on your website.

Surely you can use a single list for all your subscribers, but then you’ll have a hard time segmenting the list based on interests, so it’s better to keep things separated from the beginning.

Now your landing page is ready and the e-mail flow is ready, which means that subscribers will receive the automated e-mails when they fill in the form and hit the “Confirm subscription” button in their confirmation e-mail.

But you don’t have the lead magnet yet, right? So it’s time to start writing the book or working on that product you will be using as a hook for collecting addresses.


Steps 7-9: Create the lead magnet and start driving traffic to the landing page


There’s not much to say about creating the lead magnet. Just make sure the book adds value and addresses your subscribers’ questions, concerns and needs. Keep the design clean, and add hyperlinks and bookmarks if you opt for a .pdf book, to make it easier for readers to navigate through the content.

Once you’re done writing, you have everything in place for starting the promotion. Make sure the landing page is now visible on your website and easy to reach – it can be a Resources page for example, or a Free e-book page in your menu.

If you don’t have a list of subscribers already, you may find it difficult to drive organic traffic to your landing page, so it may be recommended to start with paid ads. You can opt for AdWords and Facebook ads as a starting point.

Make sure to target the right audience – an audience that is too broad may lead to a low conversion rate. So instead of targeting everyone in your area just to make sure your reach a higher number of potential customers, focus on a lower number of users who are interested in specific topics and are more likely to convert.

For example, if your book is about SEO, it’s useless to target everyone in your area. Instead, narrow down the audience to those people who like pages that are SEO-related, and are interested in topics like optimization, driving traffic, online promotion and so on.

For organic traffic, I encourage you to distribute the link in communities and groups that may be interested in the topic of your book. Do not simply post your link to a group if you haven’t interacted with that community at all, as you’ll be perceived as a spammer and your link will be deleted. Instead, search for 5-10 groups and communities on LinkedIn, Reddit, Facebook, or go for more niched communities like growthhackers.com or inbound.org.

Read through the topics posted there, answer questions, start discussions and interact with those people for at least 2-3 weeks before starting to promote your book. You can include the link to your website in your signature, but avoid being too promotional – the key is to actually build relationships there and to start building your brand.

Question and answer websites like Quora are also excellent for promoting your book, and PR websites like HARO (helpareporter.com) are great for establishing yourself as an authority in your nice, and spreading the word about your newest book as well.


Tip: Don’t rely only on lead magnets for growing your list


As you can see, there’s a lot of work here, but this is a tested and proven process, and once you’re done with the first lead magnet, you can focus on your second buyer persona. Now, please note that this isn’t the only solution for gathering subscribers.

You can also rely on Newsletter subscription forms, which should be placed strategically on your blog, and on tools like the Hello Bar or Welcome Mat from SumoMe (both pictured below) for collecting e-mail addresses. Also, content upgrades placed inside your blog articles can do wonders for growing your list.


If you want to take your promotion to the next level, the next step would be to start identifying link building opportunities for your landing page, but this is another topic that will be discussed in a future article.