How to Capture Emails: Best Practices and Must-Have Tools

Email capture is the process of collecting a person’s email address. Here’s how to do it right, along with plenty of tips and real examples.

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These days, growing your business is practically synonymous with growing your email list. Email continues to reign supreme as the top marketing channel by a long shot.

Email gives businesses an opportunity to deliver far more personalized messaging and connect with customers directly, without worrying about fickle algorithms. And that makes it particularly effective at inspiring qualified leads to take action, with 48% of B2B marketers saying it’s the most effective channel for driving conversions.

But to grow your list of subscribers (or honestly, get any subscribers at all), you first need a way to collect people’s email addresses. That’s where email capture joins the chat.

This guide covers what you need to know about effective email capture, including what it means, the best tools to use, tips to do it well, and some examples to inspire you.

Article Summary

This article discusses the importance of email capture in growing your business and email list. Email capture refers to the process of collecting a person's email address to add them to your email list, and can be done through various methods such as online forms, pop-ups, or social media links. The article provides tips for effective email capture, such as keeping forms simple, highlighting the value subscribers will receive, and experimenting to find what works best for your business. The article also recommends using a dedicated form builder like Paperform for optimal functionality and customization. By implementing effective email capture strategies and tools, businesses can steadily grow their email list and improve their email marketing efforts.

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What exactly is email capture?

Let’s start by getting on the same page about what we mean when we say “email capture” (because honestly, it sounds a little aggressive).

Email capture is the process of collecting a person’s email address. That’s it. People complete a signup form with some basic information like their name and email address in order to subscribe or opt into your email list.

These email signup forms are typically digital and can be used or embedded in a number of different places, including:

  • A specific “subscribe” page on your website
  • A checkout page (where people can check a box to opt into marketing emails)
  • A dedicated landing page
  • A popup on your website

Links to signup forms can also be shared to social media to nudge followers to become email subscribers. The more places you promote your email list (and include the signup form), the better chance you have of growing your subscriber base.

The email capture process is important for getting the information you need to be able to send marketing emails, but also for complying with various email marketing laws.

Important: Email regulations differ by country. But in most cases, you need permission to email someone. When they complete an email capture form, they’re providing express permission for you to show up in their inbox.

What are the best email capture tools?

To capture people’s emails, you need them to complete a form. In most cases, that’s an online form (unless you have people fill out a paper signup sheet at a trade. show, farmer’s market, or other in-person event).

So when you think about email capture tools, what you’re really thinking about online form builders. This is a type of tool you use to construct the form that people complete to provide their name, email address, or any other information you need in order to add them to your list of subscribers.

Most popular email marketing services (Mailchimp, ConvertKit, ActiveCampaign, Klaviyo, etc.) have built-in form builders. But for the best functionality, powerful features, and a top-notch level of customization, we recommend using a dedicated form builder like Paperform.

With Paperform, it’s easy to build beautiful, intuitive forms for any use case—including email signups. There are also plenty of templates you can copy and use if you don’t want to start from scratch.

Plus, Paperform integrates with all of the popular email marketing solutions so you can quickly hook your forms up directly to your email list. Easy peasy.

Acing your email capture strategy: 5 must-know tips

So capturing emails is as simple as creating a form and asking people for their email addresses, right? Sure, that’s the gist—but there are a few more important best practices to keep in mind if you want to do it well.

1. Keep it simple

It’s tempting to want to collect a ton of information from people upfront (particularly if you plan to segment your list as part of your email marketing strategy). You want their first and last name. You want to know how they heard about you. You want them to check the boxes for the types of messages they want to receive.

It might seem like an efficient way to collect as much information as possible. But an online form that’s too long and complex turns people off—and can prevent them from completing it at all.

For that reason, opt for a super simple form when collecting email addresses. Ask for a first name and an email address (at the most). That’s it. The newsletter Workspaces keeps things even more streamlined by only asking for an email address (and nothin’ else) in their capture form.

The text "explore the workspaces of creative individuals, sent directly to your inbox every saturday and sunday" with a sign up form beneath
(Source: Workspaces)

Put simply, the shorter and easier your form is, the more likely people are to actually fill it out.

While you’re at it, ensure your signup button is obvious and intuitive too. Avoid getting too cute or fancy and instead go for a bold button and language that’s unmistakeable and self-explanatory.

2. Put your capture form front and center

Want more people to sign up for your mailing list? Don’t make potential subscribers put in all the legwork to figure out where and how to give their information.

If you’ve set your sights on email list building, your signup form should be prominent and easy to find. For example, include a dedicated “subscribe” option in your website navigation so people can quickly navigate to your subscribe page. Or use a sticky bar at the top of your website that people can click to subscribe.

Entrepreneur, Jay Clouse, does this well. Not only does he have buttons for both “newsletter” and “subscribe” in his top menu navigation, but the entire top portion of his homepage has an embedded form where people can immediately sign up. There’s no missing all of those opportunities to subscribe to his list.

screenshot of a portfolio webpage with the text "I help people become professional creators and an image of a smiling man on the right of page.
(Source: Jay Clouse)

3. Try a popup form

A popup form is another way to make sure people can’t miss the chance to sign up for your email list. However, bombarding people with pesky popup forms too early or too often can inspire frustration rather than conversions.

Instead, try timing the popup for a specific span of time or even a particular behavior—like after they’ve almost made it to the bottom of a blog post or even when they show exit intent.

Waiting until they’ve had a chance to engage with your site for a little bit before introducing a popup allows them to feel more connected to your brand—which makes them all the more likely to actually complete the popup form when it shows up.

pop-up form with black background and purple cta button with the text "get free shipping"
(Source: Tidbyt)

4. Highlight value

Let’s face it—something like, “Hey, drop your email address here and we’ll immediately send you a bunch of email marketing campaigns!” isn’t all that appealing to people. In fact, it’s probably enough to make them want to lace up their running shoes and head for the hills.

Particularly when we’re all drowning in emails already, people are hesitant to hand over their contact information. Inevitably, they’ll wonder what’s in it for them. What will they get in return?

The answer to that question is compelling information you should include directly with your email capture form. Tell people exactly what they’ll get when they sign up—like access to discounts or an exclusive resource.

Studio McGee employs this trick on their own email capture form, where they tell people they can expect design inspiration, exclusive content, shopping guides, and plenty more.

Half the page is various homewares, the other half is a sign-up form with the text "Good things come to those who subscribe"
(Source: Studio McGee)

People want to feel like they’re handing over their treasured email addresses in exchange for something valuable—so make sure to explicitly tell them what that “something valuable” is.

5. Be willing to experiment

Remember that email marketing is a type of marketing strategy, which means it’s not something you’ll always get right on the first attempt. It can require quite a bit of trial and error to figure out what drives the most signups to your list.

Commit to the process and test out a few different things. Try a popup and then keep an eye on your analytics to see how many people sign up. Is it less than what you expected? Adjust the timing or the messaging (or both).

Your business and your audience are unique—and your approach to email list building will be too. Ultimately, the best way to support list growth is to learn by doing and take note of what works best for you.

Email capture: The foundation of growing your email list

Email marketing is one of the most popular marketing channels used by small businesses—and plenty of stats prove that it’s definitely one of the most effective at converting subscribers into paying customers.

But to grow your email list (and by extension, your business), you first need a way to collect email addresses—and ideally, it should be quick and painless for everybody involved.

Having the right email capture tool and strategies will help you steadily build your list of subscribers (without endless tech hassles and headaches). After all, when it comes to email marketing, actually collecting people’s email addresses should be the easiest part.

Capture emails with ease

Create beautiful custom forms for your business.

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