Email Capture: Tools and Tips to Help You Get More Subscribers

/ 15 min read
Laura Wilson

Social media marketing is a bit like busking at a train station. There are plenty of people around, but they aren't specifically there to hear you.

In contrast, email marketing is like being invited over to someone's house. Your audience has invited you in, and is actually interested in hearing what you have to say.

Even in the golden age of social media, email is still king, offering a conversion rate around 40 times that of Facebook and Twitter combined (per McKinsey & Co.) It's one of the best tools you can use to grow your business.

But there's the little matter of collecting emails in the first place. People don't hand out their email addresses willy nilly. In this guide, we'll show you the best strategies you can use to capture emails and build your email list.

What is email capture?

Email capture is the process of gathering email addresses through your website in order to grow your email list. You can then use this list to communicate with your subscribers (and you have their permission to do so).

If you're an ecommerce business for example, you might update them on sales or promotions, advertise new features or product updates, or send out a newsletter that's a combination of all of these things.

Why is email capture important?

By building an email list you can target people who have signed up specifically to hear about your services. You're also able to reach them straight in their inbox—a venue where they're more likely to engage with you.

With email you're not at the mercy of a social media algorithm that prioritises paid posts; or a Tweet from Beyoncé, or a new YouTube video from some thirteen-year-old playing Fortnite.

You're right there in people's inboxes. Nestled among the SubStack newsletters and emails from grandparents and the occasional shopping bill. It's intimate, personal, and most importantly, it's effective.

In their 2020 Email Report, Litmus surveyed 2,000 leading marketers and made a few findings that express just how important email is for businesses:

  • Email campaigns have an ROI of 3600% (yes, really.)
  • 80% of respondents said they would rather give up social media than email
  • 94% said email is in their top three marketing channels

On top of that, in the US alone, people spend an average of 143 minutes each week day—almost two and a half hours—checking email. So you can be sure if you send out an email, people are going to see it.

You don't need to be a mathematician to recognise they're some impressive numbers. But before you start celebrating and spending all that projected cash, there's another step: building your email list.

The best email capture methods

To build your email list you've got to capture emails. There are a number of ways to do this. Some of the most popular (and effective) methods include:

  • Landing pages
  • Sign-up/Registration pages
  • Surveys & quizzes
  • Giveaways
  • Pop-up and slide-in forms
  • Live chat/chatbots
  • Banners & floating bars (not the alcoholic type)
  • Sidebars & feature boxes
  • Online forms

Landing pages

Landing page template for cookie business(Image Source: Paperform)

Landing pages are the first thing visitors visit on your site, especially when they find you via a search engine. They are set up with a specific goal in mind—whether it's to collect sign ups for a webinar, a new product release, or your brand new podcast.

The goal of any landing page is to turn a visitor into a customer. How do you achieve this? By offering something of value in return for visitor contact information. What that value is depends on your business.

For example, let's say you're a fitness instructor. You might set up a landing page that offers a free ebook guide with some exercise routines to entice visitors to share their data. Then you can use their emails to run marketing campaign in Mailchimp.

There are a few secrets to effective landing pages. Make sure the layout is intuitive, the copy is clear and easy to read, and that you have strong calls to action (CTAs) to draw the user's attention to a specific action (in this case, providing their email.)

Account Creation

Yoga business sign-up template from Paperform(Image Source: Paperform)

If you've ever bought groceries or ordered the latest Blu-Rays on the internet, you've been prompted to make an account for the online store.

Email capture is often baked into the sales process. Customers pop in their details, check the relevant box, and opt in for communications about sales, promotions or product updates. Easy.

This capture strategy isn't just for stores. Prompting people to create an account in order to access your content, products or services, is a fantastic way to grow your email list organically.

It's a win-win. Email capture integrates nicely into the sign up process, and offering accounts allows you to better personalise your offerings. Just be sure to offer an easy to find opt-out button for folks who don't want to receive marketing messages.

Surveys and quizzes

Australia quiz template from Paperform(Image Source: Paperform)

Most email capture strategies come down to offering value. Surveys and quizzes do this in two ways—by offering an avenue for expression, or just a bit of fun.

There are two approaches you can take:

When done well, surveys and quizzes are especially effective tools. Particularly quizzes, as you can create engaging experiences that people genuinely enjoy—just make sure you tailor your content to your audience.

For example, if you're a personal trainer you could host a "What exercise will most benefit you" quiz on your website. It's relevant to your visitors and, when done well, offers an innovative way to collect sign-ups or capture leads.

No matter if you're running a feedback form or a Buzzfeed-style personality quiz, make sure to wait until the end of the quiz to ask for their email. Asking upfront—before you've even started—is a surefire route to survey abandonment.


Giveaway form template from Paperform(Image Source: Paperform)

Free stuff! We all want it. Giving away goodies is an excellent way to capture email subscribers, because how else are people going to receive their prize?

People intuitively understand how giveaways work. They're more than happy to share their details in return for the chance of winning a prize. And can give away almost anything:

  • Exclusive discounts
  • Free products/access to your subscription service
  • Merchandise
  • Cash
  • Gift cards
  • Holidays

Try to match the type of gift you're giving away to the type of subscriber you want to gain. For example, let's say you're trying to collect more sign ups for your new watch subscription business.

Most folks would be thrilled to win an iPad, but is it going to help reach your ideal audience? You'd be better off offering a free watch, or something else related to your business's niche.

Important: It's a good idea to incentivise entrants into sharing the competition details to reach even more potential customers. Offering extra entries to people who share the details of your giveaway on social media is a simple way to do this.

Popups and slide-ins

Popups and slide-ins are boxes that appear on top of your website or slide in from the side to collect visitor email addresses. When used correctly, they're effective—but when used in the wrong manner they can quickly turn visitors off.

Pop-up on ClickUp's website(Image Source: ClickUp)

We all know what it's like to be accosted by annoying popups. Most of the time they tend to offer misleading information on the quantity and 'temperature' of singles in our area, and clicking on them is a shortcut to a computer virus.

For that reason popups get a bad rap. But when used tastefully, they're a great way to get a visitor's attention and boost your email subscription rate. You just need to find a balance between user experience and getting your point across.

Slide-ins are a better option. They're not as intrusive and less likely to have visitors angrily clicking away from your website. Instead of taking over the whole page, a slide in is a small message or CTA that (you guessed it) slides in from the bottom or side of a page.

It's perfect. The slide-in doesn't interfere with the browsing experience, while still being visible to visitors. Plus it offers value through a discount and is a far cry from what people imagine when they think 'popup'.

Using popups that activate when a visitor is about to exit (exit-intent popups) can be a more effective method, as it doesn't interrupt the webpage. Clear opt-in and opt-out buttons can also help, as the viewer feels more in control of their experience.

Live chats and chatbots

Paperform's chat box(Image Source: Paperform)

A lot of companies, Paperform included, use live chatbots so users can get guidance in real-time. It's less pressure than a phone call, faster than email, and has become a vital tool in customer support.

It also offers a chance to capture customers emails. Check out the screenshot above. Customers can choose to leave an email instead of waiting to speak to a support rep, and we also follow up longer queries through email (which some people prefer).

If you're using a chatbot—which fulfils the same function with more beeps and boops—you can set simple dialogue to ask visitors to provide their email address. You can ask a short survey before beginning the conversation, or alternatively, ask visitors to opt-in once you've resolved their inquiry.

Banners and floating bars

Floating banner on blue and white website(Image Source: ActiveCampaign)

As we've seen, one of the key goals for email capture is keeping efforts as unobtrusive as possible. Which is where banners and floating bars, otherwise known as "hello bars" come in.

These are technically a form of popup, except they stay at the top or bottom of your website. They're great because, while they immediately grab a visitors' attention, they don't disrupt the user experience or block any content.

Most often you'll see these widgets on eCommerce websites offering sales info at a glance (e.g. "40% off Women's clothing"), but they're effective for collecting emails too. Just look at the example of ActiveCampaign's website above.

This is particularly interesting because ActiveCampaign integrate the hello bar into the main menu, which naturally draws your eye.

An alternative is to set your floating bar to travel down the page as visitors scroll, so it stays within sight as they navigate your website (without being too distracting). If you do this, make sure you keep any bars small and simple, otherwise they will block your content and defeat the purpose.

Paperform blog with sidebar newsletter sign-up(Image Source: Paperform)

You can get that higher level of detail with sidebars and feature boxes. A sidebar can sit next to your content without disturbing it, so, like a floating bar, your visitor can enter in their email at any point on the page.

This means that if visitors are enjoying your content, at any point during their little browse of your site, they can easily subscribe to stay tuned to your updates. Sidebars are one of the most unobtrusive tools for email capturing.

Feature boxes are also pretty low-key. If you’re writing a blog post, you might find the perfect opening to promote your product during the post.

If that’s the case, you can add a feature box inline so that your reader is linked to your product, or invite readers to subscribe to your email list for more information.

Online forms

Paperform template, sign up fields below image of woman working(Image Source: Paperform)

Online forms are the ultimate email capture tool. From simple contact and email sign-up forms embedded on your website to full-scale landing pages and surveys, they're the golden ticket to growing your email list.

Every prior method on this list actually includes an online form, or a version of one. They're the key to collecting visitor information—you can't capture emails without them, unless you get out your pen and paper and start jotting them down yourself.

With online form builders like Paperform you can build your own online forms in a few minutes. Just choose a template based on your specific needs, then customise it to suit your brand.

You can host your form on its own dedicated webpage, or embed it anywhere on your website—in blog posts, on pages, in a popup, or tucked away neatly in a sidebar. Use WordPress? The process is easier than ever with our dedicated WordPress plugin.

Important: Remember when collecting email addresses that you need permission to send out any marketing and promotions. Include clear opt-in (and opt-out) options and be sure to respect your audience's inbox.

Email capture strategies and best practices

So we've looked at the best methods to capture email subscribers and you're ready to employ some of these strategies. But, no matter what capture methods you use, there are a few principles you should keep in mind.

Offer something worthwhile

Why should your visitor give you their email address? What are you offering that makes it worthwhile for subscribers to invite you into the inner sanctum of their email inboxes?

The marketing lingo for this is what's your 'lead magnet'?—i.e. the content or offer that encourage people (a.k.a. leads) to give you their contact details. You can't just expect people to do so out of the goodness of their hearts.

Maybe you offer an exclusive discounts for your eCommerce site. Or a free copy of an amazing eBook you wrote. Or a free consultation with you personally to discuss their deepest business desires and help them become an overnight millionaire.

Exactly what you offer will differ based on your business. For example, we're a SaaS business, so at Paperform it makes sense for us to offer a 14-day free trial.

If you're struggling to come up with something that feels right for your business, ask yourself: what makes you give a company your contact details?

Don’t be pushy

Email capture prompts are like perfume—even the most tasteful strategy can be overwhelming if you use it too much.

It can be tempting to cover your website with sign up opportunities to try and scoop up the maximum number of emails possible. But remember: user experience needs to be pleasant to keep people on your page in the first place.

You need to find a balance between (a) making it easy for people to opt-in, while (b) not drowning them in popups and sidebars and forms of every shape and size. This also goes for sending out email campaigns.

Don't be one of those companies that floods people's inboxes relentlessly. Yes, you want to offer your services and marketing your products, but if you're annoying it'll just clutter their inbox and lead them to unsubscribe.

It can be a tricky balance, which is best found through a carefully planned marketing strategy. Use feedback and analytics to find a sweet spot.

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Use multiple opt-ins

Having said that, there is a danger in being too gentle. You need your visitors to see your capture tool, which is where the idea of balance comes in.

Say the only way you capture emails is a subtle sidebar on your blog. Well this could be easily overlooked, plus it's only going to be seen by people reading your blog, not on the homepage or any other pages on your site.

It's best to use a couple of different strategies. For example, we use a few different email capture methods across Paperform's website.

  • On our homepage
  • Below each blog post
  • Above the footer on product pages
  • Through our live chat

The key is not to inundate a single page with multiple call to actions (CTAS). This confuses visitors and makes it more likely for them to abandon the page entirely. Integrate a few methods across your website instead.

Worried about how to find a balance? Don't be afraid to ask people—internally or externally—about how they find your user experience.

Use analytics to your advantage

Analytics tools allow you to make informed decisions based on cold, hard numbers.

They can help you figure out things like which questions are causing people to drop-off in a survey, what webpages aren't quite performing up to scratch, or how folks are finding your site in the first place.  

You might find that your landing page converts well, but no one bothers to use your sidebar. Based on this data you could try A/B testing a new sidebar, or double down on your landing page.

Most platforms or WordPress plugins come with analytics. For example, Paperform's built-in survey analytics empowers you to get deeper insights into audience behaviour and optimise forms and landing pages for better performance.

Optimise for all browsers and devices

It’s important to remember that your visitors are going to be coming to your website from different places—whether that's a different smartphone, tablet, browser or even operating system.

Ever tried sending an emoji to someone from an iPhone to an Android phone? Their appearance differs widely.  The same goes for webpages or surveys.

Visit your website from multiple web browsers to ensure your pages look good on all of them. Double check your email capture tools display accurately on mobile too. The last thing you want is something to look great on desktop, but be a mess on mobile.

Luckily, with Paperform, you don't have to worry about this. All Paperform creations are mobile optimised, so you can be sure they'll look great on any device. You can also opt for guided mode, which displays one question at a time, to make filling out forms on a phone even easier.

Target your audience

Every capture form contains a simple CTA. Want to capture email addresses to market your products to potential customers? Tell them that!

Let folks know what kind of emails you’ll be sending and how frequently you’ll be sending them. They're a lot more likely to sign up to a newsletter if they know:

  • What they can expect to receive
  • How often they will receive it
  • That they're not going to be inundated with irrelevant information.

Thankfully you can tailor this to different segments of your audience. For example, say you're a real estate agent. You can include options for people to check whether they are renters, buyers or sellers, then send them content relevant to their needs.

By appropriately targeting your audience, you'll increase your chances that the right visitors will provide their email.

Make your website as attractive as possible

We all know the old saying, "don't judge a book by its cover". We also guarantee that first time website visitors will judge your business based on the appearance of its website before anything else.

While lurid colours and giant fonts might work on billboards and social media posts (gotta stand out from the crowd after all), if that's what your webpage looks like, it'll be a big turn off for potential customers.

It's all about simplicity and an intuitive user experience that ensures your site is easy to navigate. This also has benefits for SEO, which helps potential customers find you through search engines. All the email capture strategies in the world won't help if they're not seen.

Most of the time companies (or their web devs) have website design down pat. The problems start to arise when trying to integrate bloated third-party email capture tools into their pre-existing websites.

These tools often can't match your existing branding, and can look clunky alongside your carefully curated website. With Paperform you can avoid this issue—we offer a dizzying array of customization options and allow you to build email capture forms that seamlessly fit into your site.

Over to you

Email list building isn't something that happens overnight. Capturing emails is like capturing Pokémon—it takes patience, finesse and a good measure of luck and hard work.

But it's worth the effort. As we've seen, email is a vital marketing tool and one of the most efficient ways to turn leads into paying customers. With these strategies, you'll be on the path to turning your capture forms into lead generation machines.

About the author
Laura Wilson
Laura is a former Content Writer at Paperform.

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