How to grow your email list

By Tim Priebe on February 24, 2015

By Tim Priebe on February 24, 2015

For many organizations, an email newsletter makes a lot of sense. It means people have invited you into their inbox. And as long as you provide value, they’ll usually let you market to them as well.

So how do you build and grow your email list?

Offering an ebook or white paper in exchange for an email address is a good option. While it’s certainly not a new idea in the online world, many organizations can still benefit from it.


A downloadable resource typically doesn’t come with a lot of out of pocket expenses, especially compared to other email list-building activities like running contests. After the initial set-up of your ebook or white paper creation system, you can rinse and repeat multiple times.

If you end up deciding to create those resources on an ongoing basis, there’s also a snowball effect. Your first ebook continues to gather email addresses while you launch your second, your third, and so on.

Results to expect

What kind of return can you expect? Here are two ebooks we have been utilizing. My research shows that our results are fairly modest so far, so we’re working on improving them.

Take charge of your LinkedIn profile in 25 steps

Results: 126 downloads
Time online: 6 months
Rate: 21/month
Delivery method(s): App Sumo, Landing Page
Promotion method(s): Social media posts, Messaging on LinkedIn

Why Salespeople Fail

Results: 159 downloads
Time online: 10 months
Rate: 15.9/month
Delivery method(s): Landing Page
Promotion method(s): Social media posts, in person mentions

(Salespeople ebook provided by corporate, so other offices have it as well.)

Again, the snowball effect means these results compound over time, as long as you’re committed to regularly creating ebooks or white papers. Even one resource every other month can have great results.

Writing the ebooks

So how can you actually find a topic and write your content?

First, a little self promotion. My book, Blog a Week, has 52 ideas for blog articles. Most will work just as well for ebooks. You can even grab a free sample of the book at the Blog a Week website.

Second, if you’ve been blogging for a while, check your Google Analytics to see what your most popular articles are. Take a few articles around the same topic, and combine them into an ebook. You might add some original content as well, but you don’t have to.

Third, if you do any public speaking in your area of expertise, record it, then transcribe it. You’ll need to do some editing, but you’ll be 80% of the way there.

Finally, feel free to write brand new content!

Creating the ebooks

Once you have the content written, you need to create the ebook file. It should be a PDF that looks reasonably attractive.

There are a few options:

  • Use a word processor like Word, Apple’s Pages, or Google Docs.
  • Use presentation software like PowerPoint or Keynote.
  • Use a graphic designer or professional design tools like InDesign.
Ebook Templates

If you choose to go with a word processor or presentation software, there are a lot of templates available. Here are a few I found. Most are free, but some have a small investment. And since I have an awesome graphic designer available to me (Hi, Holly!), I don’t have personal experience with any of these.

Delivering the ebooks

Now that you have a great looking PDF with great content, you need to set it up so people can download it by signing up for your email list.

Before I share the options, let me warn you that our recommended platform for email newsletters is MailChimp. Although some suggestions below will work with other platforms, I made sure they all work with MailChimp.

1. Just MailChimp

You can only set up one ebook or white paper at a time this way, but it is free.

Once your MailChimp account is set up, set up your sign up form that lives on MailChimp’s servers, and customize it so it looks like an ebook download page. Then include the delivery as part of your Welcome email.

The biggest downside here is that you can’t make use of that snowball effect, and that MailChimp will only host your file if it’s 10MB or smaller.

2. SumoMe EmailList

This is a tool for creating a popup on any or all pages on your website. It can handle more than one ebook, and is available for free. The free version does display a small tab on your website, but you can pay a monthly fee to remove that and get some additional features.

Watch this short video to see how it works and what it looks like.

3. Leadpages

I’ve never used it, but Leadpages has a great reputation, albeit with a monthly price tag. On the plus side, tons of research goes into the page templates they offer, so you have a better chance of getting more downloads.

You can see examples of their landing pages online.

4. WordPress + Gravity Forms + MailChimp

We like this method because of the control over front end and back end. Of course, it does take some technical expertise for the initial set up.

We already install Gravity Forms on all our websites, which lets us make customizable forms. Tying that into MailChimp lets us make ebook download pages, among other things.

Gravity Forms is a paid WordPress plugin, but well worth the money.

You can see the basic process we used in this video, though it wasn’t made by us.

Sound hard?

This can be quite a bit of work, especially initially! If you don’t want to invest the time or effort, but are willing to invest money, we may be able to help.

If that sounds like you, request a quote from us, and we can have a conversation to see if we’d be a good fit or not.

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  1. Avatar Chad Rogez on February 26, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    I too like MailChimp. Recently I have acquired a new client who has been heavily using constant contact. So I have begun poking around within it and see a lot of similarities. But it is somewhat foreign. OK this is my question…. Do you have much experience with Constant Contact as well as MailChimp. What are it’s limitations? What are the drawbacks with constant contact?

    • Tim Priebe Tim Priebe on March 4, 2015 at 4:13 pm

      Personally, I have very little direct experience with Constant Contact. However, what I’ve heard from multiple clients is that they find MailChimp much easier to use. They seem to get what I call “feature overload” when using Constant Contact.