3 powerful ways to build an email list without a website

Landing pages Email Marketing
12 min read

How to build an email list without a website

  1. Kickstart your list with a killer landing page
  2. Attract subscribers with a giveaway
  3. Leverage other peoples' audiences as a podcast guest

Tell me if this sounds familiar.

You have the perfect idea for a new product or service.

Scrambling for a notepad, you jot down some thoughts. The pain points you're solving. A profile of your ideal customer. A few ideas for names.

Maybe you even buy a custom domain, because this idea is the one. The idea that'll let you turn your creative skills into a sustainable money-making gig.

And then… Nothing happens.

Haste gives way to overwhelm, as you realize how much work you have ahead of you. Building a website, growing an email list, finding visitors… It's easy to start feeling like your to-do list is so long, you'll never reach the end.

But here's the truth:

You don't need a tremendous amount of traffic to start on your big dream.

You don't even need a website.

These days, it's easy to overcome procrastination and build a thriving email list with just a free landing page, an email service provider (like us!), and a few simple list-building strategies:

  1. Start small and kickstart your list before launching (or even building a website)
  2. Leverage other peoples' audiences to turbocharge your list growth
  3. Attract visitors and entice them to subscribe with an irresistible offer

So stop letting procrastination get the best of you. Here are three simple strategies you can use today, with step by step instructions to help you build an email list without a website.

Strategy #1: Kickstart your list with a killer landing page (even before you launch)

When I launched my first online business selling curated gift boxes from local makers, I spent HOURS making the design pixel-perfect.

The problem?

All that time building the site was time I could have been growing my list. And, you know, making sales.

Sure, you'll eventually need a website to help spread the word about your business and scale your audience. But right now, you can start gathering emails and collecting feedback from potential buyers with just a simple “coming soon” page, like this beautiful landing page from Bonnie of B is for Bonnie Studio:

Coming Soon example from B is for Bonnie Studio
An example of a coming soon landing page. Image via B is for Bonnie Studio

Launching your business with a simple landing page is a great way to kickstart your audience growth. A well-crafted coming soon page helps build anticipation and excitement, encouraging visitors to sign up for your mailing list so you can keep them up-to-date. Once they subscribe, you can email them to collect valuable feedback, helping validate your idea, and allowing subscribers to shape the final product.

Creating a coming soon page also helps you overcome procrastination and launch sooner. You can start growing your list and communicating with your audience without learning to code, wrangling clunky content management systems, or spending hours on copywriting. Less work means you can launch sooner.

In fact, coming soon pages work so well, they're even used by large companies. Back in 2013, shaving brand Harry's used a coming soon page to power their pre-launch referral campaign. Within one week before their ecommerce site went live, they gathered emails from nearly 100,000 people eager to learn more about their brand:

Coming soon landing paeg example from Harrys
Harry's used a coming soon page to collect 100,000 emails in one week. Image via Tim Ferriss

While 100,000 emails in a week might be a stretch for most of us, you can use some of the same tactics to kickstart your email list without a website.

How to create a coming soon page without a website:

Choose a landing page builder

Of course, we suggest our free landing page builder, but there's a wide range of free landing page tools you can choose from. No matter which tool you choose, it's easy to create a simple landing page to collect email addresses without needing to write any code.

When choosing a landing page builder, make sure the tool you select provides a range of templates for different use cases. Look for tools that support custom domains—a custom domain name lends a professional feel to your landing pages, and makes it easy to scale into a full website down the track.

Choose an email marketing tool

Most free landing page tools provide direct integrations with different email service providers, although you might have to export your list and import it manually into your email tool.

The easiest option? Build your landing page directly within ConvertKit. Our custom landing pages let you add subscribers to automated email sequences, segment your audience based on where they signed up, and much more. Here's how easy it is to get started:

Share your landing page

Not you've built your landing page, it's time to get out there and share it with the world. Emailing friends, family, colleagues, and anyone else who might be interested can help kickstart your list growth. Queue up some social media posts and ask people to share your page with their audience if they find it valuable. Finally, try experimenting with Facebook ads to grow your list even faster.

Strategy #2: Attract thousands of subscribers with a giveaway

No matter whether you sell software or soft serve, people love getting free stuff. Hosting a giveaway is one of the fastest ways to build trust without a website and grow your list quickly.

Really quickly.

Take marketing consultant Josh Earl. Back in 2014, Josh gave away a single copy of the text editor called Sublime Text.

Now Sublime Text wasn't super-expensive to begin with, so you might imagine a free copy of a text editor wouldn't be all that popular. But for Josh's highly targeted audience of software developers, it was a hot ticket.

The giveaway landing page Josh used to skyrocket his email list. Image via Smart Passive Income

With a single giveaway, Josh grew his list from around 5,000 email subscribers to over 200,000 in just 11 days.

Luckily, while Josh's level of success was so astounding, it's easy to grow your own list with similar results.

How to run a giveaway without a website:

Choose something to give away

Choose a giveaway item your audience would really love to win but isn't something that's of interest to everyone. Giving away a free iPad might bring in lots of subscribers, but most of them won't be interested in your products or services.

Your giveaway doesn't have to be your own products, either. Giving away other peoples' products often means they'll help cross-promote your giveaway to their own lists or share it on social media. You may even be able to get the item donated to your cause since it's also a marketing opportunity for them.

Set up a landing page for your giveaway

Landing pages are a great way to host your giveaway—you can share prize details and let people sign up for your email list on the same page. Make sure you include details on the prizes you're giving away, when the giveaway will be drawn, and how to enter. Also, be sure to tag giveaway subscribers so you can keep them separated from your main list (and so you can choose a winner!)

Here's a great example of a giveaway landing page from Kati Kleber of FreshRN:

Example of a landing page giveaway from Fresh RN
An example of a giveaway landing page. Image via FreshRN

Promote your giveaway to attract subscribers

The more creative you can be with getting the message out, the more effective your giveaway is going to be. Start by emailing your own audience—although this won't add new subscribers, it'll encourage them to share with others. If you're partnering with another company for your prize, ask them to share it with their audiences as well. Once people sign up, create an email sequence asking them to share the contest on social media.

Last but not least, it's time to pick a winner. Here's how to do it in ConvertKit: first, create a segment with two conditions:

  • People who signed up on your giveaway landing page
  • People who signed up during the giveaway period (or everyone, if you're keeping the contest open to existing subscribers)
How to draw the winner of a giveaway in ConvertKit
How to draw the winner of a giveaway in ConvertKit.

Export the list as a CSV—select all subscribers using the checkboxes, click the Bulk Actions dropdown, then click “Export.” Next, copy the list of emails from the CSV file, and paste it into a list randomizer like the one here. Click “Randomize” – the top result is your winner. Contact the winner and let them know they've won!

Strategy #3: Leverage other peoples' audiences as a podcast guest

Whether you're a blogger, online creator, entrepreneur, or artist, growing your list is all about creating a connection with your audience and building trust.

But how can you build trust without a website or an existing audience?

It's simple: tap into someone else's audience.

Leveraging someone else's audience is a great way to build relationships without being super salesy, share your message with a whole new crowd, and grow your list much more quickly than starting from scratch.

And the quickest way to get started? Becoming a guest on other peoples' podcasts.

Becoming a podcast guest is an unbeatable way to grow your list without a website. Podcasts are growing in popularity—in 2018, the number of podcast listeners in the U.S. reached 75 million, with predictions that this number will more than double to 164 million listeners by 2024.

Graph of the number of podcast listeners growing since 2013
Podcasting will only become more popular over time. Image via Statista

Podcasting will only become more popular over time. Image via Statista

Now you might ask, why podcasting instead of guest blogging? Well, podcasting builds a personal connection with your audience—listeners are not only reading your words but hearing your voice challenge and inspire them.

Podcasting lets you use your precious time more efficiently. Writing a guest post might take upwards of 5-10 hours, but you might only spend a half-hour preparing and another half-hour recording each podcast interview.

Finally, podcasts are great for building your reputation online. Googling your name will bring up dozens of pages with your name, your message, and glowing testimonials and reviews of your work.

Not bad for a few hours' work.

How to become a podcast guest without a website:

Getting booked as a podcast guest sounds hard, but once you have a couple of appearances under your belt, it's easy to find more.

Find some relevant podcasts to pitch

For this, podcast directories are your secret weapon. Crack open your favorite podcast tool, and search for topics relevant to your online business. Apple Podcasts also provides a huge directory of podcasts organized by category. Let's say you run a blog about minimalism—searching for “minimalism” brings up a number of potential podcasts:

Screenshot of podcast search
Search your favorite podcast tool to find relevant podcasts where you could be a guest.

Search your favorite podcast tool to find relevant podcasts where you could be a guest.

Put together the perfect pitch.

Head over to the show’s website and check whether they're accepting pitches. Some sites have a contact form you can fill out, while others simply provide the email address to reach out to the host. As you compose your email, keep in mind the show host, the topic at hand, and how you can add to the conversation.

Here's a little fill-in-the-blank to give you a headstart:

Example of podcas guest pitch
An example podcast guest pitch.

Be an awesome guest.

Once you've secured an interview, be an awesome guest. Start with the right podcasting gear, and don't let fear get in the way. Spend a little time listening to back episodes of the show and researching your host and their audience so you can deliver maximum value.

Podcast hosts also rely on you helping out with promotion, so make sure you link to each podcast episode you're on in your email newsletter or queue up a few social media posts.

Now here's how podcasting helps you grow your list. During the show, mention a special offer for listeners of the show. This could be a free lead magnet, a discount on your products or services, or an early bird offer for a product you're launching soon.

Create a dedicated landing page targeting each podcast's audience, like this example of a free offer landing page from Chris Tuff, author of The Millennial Whisperer:

Example of a podcast freedbie landing page from Chris Tuff
An example of a podcast guest landing page. Image via Chris Tuff

See how Chris mentions the name of the podcast on his landing page? By borrowing some familiarity from the podcast where you're guesting, you'll give yourself a much better chance of converting listeners into subscribers. Yes, it does mean creating a new landing page for each podcast you're on, but landing page builders like ConvertKit make it easy to duplicate pages and change a few elements (like the title) to match each podcast.

Drive listeners to your landing page

Be sure to mention the address of your landing page during the podcast interview, so listeners know where to find you—most podcast hosts will also include a link in the show notes.

Stop procrastinating and start growing your list without a website

You don't need a huge amount of traffic to get started. Even if you don't have an audience—even if you haven't launched yet—you can still build an email list without a website.

Don't let that feeling of overwhelm get you down. Grab that notepad of ideas, sign up for our free landing page builder, pick one of the three strategies I gave you above, and start growing your email list today.

I promise you won't regret it.

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Kieran Tie

Kieran Tie is the editor of Tradecraft. When he’s not working on creative content projects for clients, he enjoys making mischief with his two young daughters in his Denver home. You’ll find Kieran with a flat white in hand on Twitter @kieran_tie.

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