Email Marketing > Merchant Voice

How to get your first 1,000 email subscribers

I addressed last month how to start an email list. In this post, I’ll explain how to get your first 1,000 subscribers.

As part of starting a list, you (hopefully) identified your target audience and what sort of content would interest them. Now comes the work of growing the number of subscribers.

Friends and family

First, focus on your friends, acquaintances, and even relatives. One of the biggest fans on FringeSport’s email list is my grandfather. He reads all emails, and talks about them with my mom, his friends, and me. He’s not going to buy products, but he is a huge promoter of the company.

Ask your friends and family, over the phone, to join your list. Say something like “I send out awesome emails about [products]. Are you interested in me sending them to you?”

Don’t mention a list. But once they agree, add those email addresses manually to your list. You could probably get 20 to 100 email subscribers, and they could be hardcore fans.

Develop a lead magnet

Next, create a “lead magnet” to entice new subscribers. This could be most anything that your ideal subscriber would want. For example, at FringeSport we enter new subscribers into a contest to win a free barbell. We give away one free barbell per month.

Many companies create informational lead magnets, such ebooks or whitepapers. For FringeSport, this might be “The ten ways to build your garage gym on a budget.” I recently signed up for an email newsletter with a lead magnet that promised to teach me how to use Instagram for marketing.

The ‘easy’ wins

Then, focus on the automated, easy wins. At minimum, look into an “exit intent” popup on your website. These are popup windows that appear only when the software detects that the visitor is about to close out of your site. Using exit-intent popups combined with our lead magnet, we’ve been adding 2-5 percent of our daily website visitors to our email list.

Another similar concept is a splash page, which visitors see when they first come to your site. We have not used this because we fear it will drive conversions down. But many blogs and information-based businesses use them — such as Practical Ecommerce.

For the exit intent popup and the introductory splash page, I am a fan of’s products.

Finally, automatically add customers to your email newsletter. We do this via Shopify. At checkout, have a button that says something like “I’d like to receive awesome garage gym information in my email.” The button is checked — customers have to uncheck it if they don’t want our newsletter.

These easy wins — popups, splash pages, and new customers — should add many subscribers to your list every month.

Alternative strategies

Beyond the easy wins, go back to your ideal subscriber profile and determine where those folks hang out — both online and offline.

Then develop a presence and reputation in those areas, and tastefully deploy your lead magnet. For example, I am a member of a few forums for people who care about garage gyms and fitness.

I am very careful to add tons of value to those communities. But occasionally I ask at the bottom of a very helpful post for people to sign up to my amazing newsletter for a chance to win a barbell.

Another good technique is to write a detailed, value-add article, and then mention to readers that you talk about things like this on your email newsletter.

Do your ideal subscribers hang out offline? Then go there. Figure out how to help them. For example, I will often send a professional photographer to an event — think a CrossFit competition — to take photos of potential customers. An assistant then gets the prospects’ names and email addresses so we can send them their photo. That’s list building!

If you don’t have money for a professional photographer, take the photos yourself. Just use an SLR camera as it adds credibility. There are many free or near free online photography courses, if necessary.

In sum, all of these ideas — friends and family, popups, slash pages, new customers, alternative strategies — should get at least 1,000 subscribers in no time, and at a low cost.

Peter Keller
Peter Keller
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