It’s a paradox many new business owners face: You’re supposed to start building your email list before you launch, but how can you attract leads to something that doesn’t exist, even online yet?
You’re basically saying, “Hey, sign up for my thing. I swear, it’s gonna be a thing!”
What if I told you the shaving brand Harry’s gathered 100,000 email addresses before its product was even ready for sale? I’ll explain how they did it below, but that’s just one case study of many that prove there are several ways to do email marketing without even a website-if you get creative.
So if you’re wondering how to build an email list without a website, below I break down five tactics you can try.
1. Host a Giveaway
If you want rapid list growth, giveaways are a great place to start. They work well for a few reasons:
You’re able to offer something before your product is ready, and people love free stuff.
The deadline-driven nature of giveaways lends a sense of urgency to your campaign.
If you partner with influencers or other businesses, you can skyrocket the virality of a giveaway.
Even if your own product isn’t ready yet, you can leverage partners’ products as prizes.
Still don’t believe this stuff works? Rafflecopter grew its email list from zero to 35,000 using its own giveaway software. Travel blog Who Needs Maps doubled its email list in seven days without spending a dime by partnering with brands to sponsor the giveaway prizes. Foundr landed 13,603 email signups in 10 days by holding a competition.
Finding a Giveaway Prize When You Don’t Have a Product
You’d be surprised how many businesses would be willing to provide their products as prizes for your giveaway. You just have to ask yourself, “What’s in it for them?”
Often, if you can prove to them that your giveaway will have an impressive reach (by sharing your current email list size or social media following, for example), you can get sponsors onboard.
But if you’re reading this post, you probably don’t have a huge reach yet. So another tactic is to offer to share the email addresses you gather from the giveaway with the sponsoring business. If you do this, be sure to include in your giveaway terms and conditions that you will be sharing participants’ information with third parties.
Here’s how Mariah Coz of Femtrepreneur did it. After she launched her giveaway and gathered new email addresses, she kept the giveaway list separate from her main list. Because her target audience was business owners interested in webinars, the first email to her new list of giveaway subscribers had a strong call to action to unsubscribe if they weren’t interested in getting more emails about webinars.
After that, those who stuck with her list received three more emails that were part of the launch sequence promoting her online course on how to use webinars in your business. You can actually download her exact post-giveaway email sequence templates here.
How to Host a Giveaway When You Don’t Have a Website
Even if you don’t have a website, you can host a giveaway entry form using one of these sites:
They’ll host the giveaway on their platform, providing you with a link you can share or embed elsewhere.
The great thing about using giveaways to grow your email list is that people love free stuff. But the bad thing about using giveaways to grow your email list is that… people love free stuff.
That means you’re probably going to attract a lot of people who only subscribed because they wanted to win the prize. That’s fine. All that means is you need to filter out those who aren’t really interested in your business.
2. Create a Simple ‘Coming Soon’ Landing Page
While building a full site for your business takes time, that doesn’t mean you can’t put up a simple landing page now that gathers email addresses before launch.
Remember our friends at Harry’s? The shaving brand launched in March 2013 to a whopping 100,000 email subscribers. Co-founder Jeff Raider breaks down how they did it on the Tim Ferriss blog.
In short, Harry’s created a two-page “microsite” with these elements:
A splash page that said “Harry’s is coming” and asked for an email address so subscribers could be the first to know
A second page that had a referral rewards program. It contained a shareable link, and the more people they got to subscribe, the bigger the prize the entrant earned.
Raider makes no mention of paid advertising for their pre-launch microsite, so it sounds like the pure virality of the referral rewards program made word-of-mouth marketing their best friend for this pre-launch phase.
So how can you do something similar to what Harry’s did?
Step 1: Pick a landing page tool.
Tools like Leadpages and Instapage allow you to quickly put up a simple one-page site to capture email addresses without any technical know-how.
how to build an email list without a website example from Leadpages
Step 2: Pick an email marketing service.
Some options include:
Because it’s free up to 2,000 subscribers, I recommend starting with MailChimp.
Step 3: Integrate your email marketing service with your landing page.
Now, you just need to link your email marketing service to your landing page. To figure out how to do that, search the helpdesk of your chosen landing page tool. Here’s a guide on how to link Leadpages with MailChimp.
Step 3.1 (Optional): Add referral capability.
To really skyrocket your list’s growth, you’ll want to build some virality into your landing page. One way to achieve this is to make a referral program where subscribers are rewarded for referring other subscribers.
Now, Harry’s did this in a way that requires technical knowledge. If you’ve got that, you can take advantage of their pre-launch campaign page code in this post. If you don’t have a developer to help you, there’s an easier way. You can use KickoffLabs AnyForm integration to add a viral boost with referral tracking to Leadpages or Instapage.
Step 4: Share with your friends, family, and business connections.
To give your campaign an initial boost, personally email your friends and family and ask them to share. And if you have connections in your industry, email them too. This was a big part of the success that Harry’s experienced. Don’t be shy. You’ve gotta start somewhere.
The Easiest Way to Set Up a Quick Email Opt-In Landing Page
Now, if the above steps were a bit too much for you to handle right now, there is a much easier, cheaper, and faster way to set up an email opt-in landing page: your email marketing service.
If you chose MailChimp or Aweber, each one actually comes with built-in landing pages. These won’t be as customizable and won’t be able to handle referral programs, but they get the job done if you just need a place to send people to sign up for your email list.
Here’s what it looks like within MailChimp. You just go to Lists > Signup forms:
Use MailChimp to build an email list without a website
Then, select Form Builder, and you’ll be able to customize a signup form that creates a unique URL for you to use:
If word-of-mouth marketing doesn’t do the trick, consider investing in Facebook ads and other social media sites to drive traffic to your landing page.