How to Build your Email List - Principles and Tools




Welcome to the second instalment in the series. Here's the first Instalment, if you have missed it.

Here, we will look at the tools and tactics that will help you build an email optin list. These tools and tactic are only suggested as a way to implement 4 overarching principles.

These principles will help you come up with more tactics that may not be presented here; especially ones that are more specific for your type of business.

Here they are:

  • Reciprocity
  • Scarcity
  • Consensus
  • Liking

These principles come from the work of Dr Robert Cialdini's and backed by research.

If you want to get a good understanding of it, pick up the book: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini.



Reciprocity is one of the most effective principles to apply when persuading your customer to join your list.

Not many people would want to join your list for nothing.  In the same way that a brick and mortar store owner would offer you free samples on entry, you should offer a customer something you can send them via email.

A large number of websites and stores give their customers an incentive to join their newsletter.

In retail, the obvious and one of the most effective things you can offer is a coupon code. You see it when you walk around your local shopping mall on windows, "25% off all Products", "up to 70% off today", etc....  

It works. And it works online too.

Here are other offers you may consider:

  • a mini ebook. sent on beauty tips if you’re a beauty product store
  • a chance to win a prize
  • a chance to meet in person
  • a 5 part course, like this one, delivered via email on how to be the best pet owner!

The idea is to offer something first, before asking for an opt-in.

Coupon codes are known to help with:

  • Increasing the average spend of a customer
  • Drive customers to take action
  • Prevent  customers from choosing competitors

Later in this series, you’ll find out how Gather helps become smart about discount codes, so that they are effective in terms in driving sales but they don’t eat into your bottom line.

Scarcity gold.jpg


Scarcity refers to the desire to want a limited resource.

Gold is a great example. It’s a scarce material, so it’s expensive.

Consider offering scarce opportunities.  Many online stores and websites create scarce opportunities through contests and competitions.

There is 1st 2nd and 3nd place in a competition, and that's it.  The top prize is scarce.

Later you’ll see how you can create mini competitions, with Gather, through Gather's simple customer referral programs.



Consensus, basically alludes to the fact the we trust our friends and people similar to us and we usually follow what they do. We tend to buy similar things to what they buy.

Another word used to mean a similar thing is Social Proof.  We use social norms as a quick way to make a decision.


We do business with people we like, and we tend to like people who share similar attributes  and goals to us.

The likability factor is probably the reason why brands invest in creative advertising, ways to capture the consumer's imagination.  It is also why brands talk about what they stand for, and their goals. They want to  connect with you.

So how can you apply these principles?

With those 4 principles, let's now look at some example tools that can help you apply them, in your efforts to build and grow your email list.

1. Email Signatures

Principles: Consensus, Reciprocity & Liking

Tools: Email

Include a link for prospects to subscribe to your list in your email signature.

Ask all your employees, and partners, to do the same thing. Include a one line explainer as to what they would get out of the newsletter.

Once you and your employees set this up, you can forget about it and it will help drive subscribers.

If you have a significant number of subscribers already, include a persuading piece of text in your signature that demonstrates this.

E.g. 'Join more then 10,000 subscribers who are enjoying VIP offers!'.

Many people read email signatures.

2. Opt-in Forms

Principles: Reciprocity, Consensus, Scarcity

Tools: Gather

Opt-in forms is what most business owners would use as an interface for visitors to subscribe to your list.

Place your opt in form in the right place on your website to maximise exposure. More on that later.

Having said that, opt-in forms are often ignored, and there isn’t often much real estate on them to communicate with a prospect the benefits of joining as a subscriber.

Opt-in forms that are presented as overlay popups are more effective, but can be a little obstructive, and a customer might not be ready yet. They are more effective than an opt-in forms that simply sit somewhere on you page.

Gather goes the extra mile on this, and gives you a way to present overlay popups to customers at certain points in time, and only when they perform certain behaviours. This helps maximise the chances that they would opt in. 

As you get more familiar with Gather, you’ll learn how Gather's Targeting Rules feature facilitates this.

For example, with Gather, you can target only customers who are on a certain page, looking at a certain product with an email opt-in popup that offers them a discount code for that particular item.

This level of targeting boosts your chances.

3. Social Media

Principles: Reciprocity & Scarcity

Tools: Facebook, Instagram & Twitter

There are many ways you can utilise social media in building your list. Let’s have a look at some:

  •  Competitions and giveaways. Your followers can enter a competition for the chance to win giveaway products and experiences when they join your list.
  • Offering a coupon code campaign on, say Instagram. And to receive the coupon code, send your followers to a page where they can opt-in in order to receive their code.

4. Lead  Gen Advertising

Principles: Reciprocity, Scarcity

Tools: Facebook & Linkedin

Social media platforms such as Facebook and Linkedin offer a Lead Generation type of advertising. This is where your prospect customer receives an optin card in their feed. This is obviously a paid option for building your list.

To increase its effectiveness, consider including a time limited offer.

5. In person Opt-ins

Principles: Reciprocity, Liking

Tools: Business events & trade shows

Whilst this may not be the most scalable option, it could be the most effective.

There is no shortage of business events and trade shows for a business owner like yourself. People often trust and like each other more in a real life interaction, in comparison to online experiences.

If you have something to offer a prospect customer or partner (e.g. a free sample or ebook), there is a super easy way for them to opt in to your list.

I got this tip from Nathan Latka, a very well known and charismatic entrepreneur. Here it is:

A tool like JoinbyText  or TextiFul allows prospect to sms a message to a number you give them.

They then are prompt to enter their email address. Often those tools also integrate with Email Marketing platforms like Mailchimp.

All you have to do is provide that sms number. Perhaps include it in your business card.

This works extra well if you're speaking at an event, where you can instruct attendees to subscribe.  By communicating the number with your attendees, you're well on your way adding many subscribers all at once.

6. Referrals

Principles: Consensus, Liking

Tools: Gather

Referral campaigns are a great and effective way to literally bring in more customers and subscriber through your existing customer base.

When a prospect customer receives a recommended invite to your list, from their close friends who they like, they will usually respond positively. That’s why conversion rates on referrals are significant, compared to advertising.

If I learn that my close friend finds a product or service beneficial, I am likely to choose that product or service when the time comes.

You’ll learn later, how Gather makes it easy to run referral campaigns, and some of the ways you can entice customers to refer their friends.

Remember, referral programs won't build your list is fast as overlay popups will. But the main difference here is that you will be gaining leads who have never seen your website before. These are leads that you would otherwise obtain through, for example, paying for advertising.

7. Monitoring Tools

The principles we spoke about increase our chances of converting customers. They put us on the right path. Having a grasp on these principles is a million miles better that trying random ideas and seeing what sticks.

But they still do not absolutely guarantee desired results.

That is why you would need to put your science hat on, and develop a habit to monitor and test results. Putting tests and measurements in place allows us to continually improve and get closer to our target.

To test effectively, without it taking over our time, we need the right tools (the measuring instruments).

Want to know the best location to place to place a signup box, install a heatmap tool like Inspectlet or CrazyEgg to tell you where the hotspots are, and if your customers are looking at your current optin box.

Want to know, how effective your referral program is and how to improve it? Gather gives you the important metrics on how your campaigns are performing so that you can continually improve them.

Gather also gives ecommerce merchants a good idea as how their opt-in campaigns are doing, by monitoring the orders' monetary value made by customers who signed up through the newsletter.


Ok we’ve come to the end of this instalment, and yes there’s homework to do! We’ll keep it nice and easy. Using the information I have shared with you above:

Make a list of ways you can utilise the principles we spoke  about: Reciprocity, Scarcity, Consensus and Liking. E.g. What can you offer in the way of Reciprocity?

Your business is unique, and what works for one business won't necessarily work for others. That is why I have armed you here with some principles, first. This is so that you can then apply them to you unique business environment.

If you haven't started with Gather yet:

Here’s your link to get started with Gather.

If you get stuck or need help, please let us know. As we eluded to above, we care about your success. Email us on hello@gathercustomers.com.

If you have already signed up to Gather, you will receive the next instalment in your inbox.

Until the next instalment, have a great week.

Founder, Gather.