Getting your first email list subscribers

Getting your first email list subscribers is like this toddler looking at huge stairs by Jukan Tateisi on Unsplash
Ugh, it seems like a long way to go when you're just starting. We get it! Photo by Jukan Tateisi on Unsplash.

(Second in a series. The first in the series is about starting an email newsletter for tourism marketing, and the third in the series is about starting both a blog and an email list at the same time.)


Are you wondering about getting your first email list subscribers for your new marketing newsletter?

We all start out with one subscriber to our new email newsletter (Hi, Mom!)

Always remember that a small group of subscribers who genuinely want to be on your list, and who engage with your content, is WAY better than a giant list of random people who are not really interested in your destination, attraction, hotel, or tourism partner business.

Let’s talk about how to build that early list of subscribers, once you’ve decided on subscriber segments and set up your email service provider’s signup box the way you want it (more on that in the first part of this series – link to it is above.)

Remember, never add anyone to your list who did not clearly request to be added. Period.

1) Make It Easy to Sign Up (duh)

Get that signup box onto every page of your website. Put a CTA (Call to Action) to subscribe at the bottom of every blog post.

Stating the obvious – people do not always land only on your website homepage when they come in via search, social media, or a link from somewhere. They arrive on a variety of different pages or blog posts. Have that newsletter signup option right there for them.

From Meilee Anderson with Visit Rainier in Washington state, and Brighter Side Marketing:

“I always had a signup form on the homepage but recently refreshed our site. The new version of our site has sprinkled throughout it a call to action to join the newsletter. In the last 30 days of having the refreshed site we have a 100 new subscribers.”

Popup subscription boxes are annoying, but they do work . At least set up your site to wait for 30 – 60 seconds before that box appears asking people to subscribe.

Don’t forget to add your own staff emails to the list, so everyone sees what goes out.

A strong website and blog that are packed with helpful information – we love itineraries, for example – builds trust and confidence in those who land on them.

When your website and blog content are great, people are more likely to believe that your newsletter will also be great, and they’re more likely to subscribe to get it.

2) Make Sure You Have a Compelling
Email Signup Landing Page

This is a website page that has one purpose for anyone who lands on it – to tell people what is in your emails, how often they go out, and to encourage them to sign up.

Any other widgets, social media feeds, clutter, and distractions need to be removed.

Do add testimonials about your newsletter when you get them, and screenshots of positive comments about it from social media.

Below is one that we added to our signup page. It started out as a tweet from our long-time Canadian supporter Doug Anweiler, then we made it into an Instagram Reel and then repurposed that Reel into a YouTube Short video (click to play)


You’ll share that signup page URL across your social media, and do it regularly . . . maybe even pin your most recent post about it to the top of each account.

Share the URL in blog posts, in list-building social media ad campaigns (more on that in a minute) and in every staff email signature.

We share ours at the bottom of every email we send and every blog post we publish (it’s at the bottom of this one!) in case someone stumbles across the blog post, or our newsletter’s browser version, or our email is forwarded to them.

3) Consider a Lead Magnet for Getting Your First Email List Subscribers

You don’t want to put up obstacles that discourage people from giving you their email address, so a straightforward “Want to hear about our news, events, and deals first? Sign up here” setup for your form is the simplest way to go.

Tourism organizations generally do not have a gated – give up your email to get it – Visitors Guide. You want to get that thing into people’s hands without any friction.

For those who are ordering a paper copy, absolutely do include an newsletter option box in the Guide order form, for people to check to agree to get your emails.

Do not pre-check that box. That goes against GDPR and California’s Consumer Privacy Act.

Again, you want people who WANT to be on your list, so don’t get cute or desperate.

If regular email signups are not happening as fast as you’d like, consider what sort of truly valuable thing you could offer in exchange for an email address.

We’re not talking about contests.

If you’re not careful with those, you’ll get a “sugar rush” of signups from people who don’t really care about hearing from you. They only want to participate in a contest.

lead magnet is what it sounds like: a “magnetic” offer on its own dedicated landing page that attracts leads (in this case, email subscribers who could become visitors, guests, or customers) to your destination, attraction, hotel, or tourism partner business.

A good lead magnet, like good content, builds trust and confidence in what you offer.

Our expertise is digital marketing, so that’s reflected in our three free downloads lead magnet.

How magnetic is your email newsletter lead magnet? Ferric shavings attracted to a magnet, via Marco Verch on Flickr Creative Commons.
How magnetic is your email newsletter lead magnet? Ferric shavings attracted to a magnet, via Marco Verch on Flickr Creative Commons.

What sort of downloadable guide or deal could you offer that would be truly valuable – enough that people would be more than willing to let you into their busy email inboxes?

4) Run Social Media Ads to Get Email Signups

Social media followers are nice.

Social media followers turned into your own email list subscribers are even better.

Social media accounts and the associated followers don’t belong to you, but your email list DOES.

Start with your Facebook Page. Set it up to encourage email signups that don’t cost anything:

  • Include your most recent newsletter signup promo post in Featured items atop your Page.
  • Edit your Action Button under the header photo to say “Sign Up” and link it to your website signup landing page URL.
  • Regularly post about your lead magnet on your Page.
  • Occasionally change your Page header photo to a graphic that highlights the benefits of your newsletter.

Then, we recommend periodically running a Facebook ad campaign to encourage signups to your newsletter.

Our Leslie McLellan has had a lot of success with this in her destination marketing. She doesn’t spend a lot of money to do it, and she very carefully targets who will see the ad, including certain geographic areas that she knows are feeder markets for the destination, and people who already follow the destination Page.

You’ll select Leads as an ad objective, then either create a form that people can fill out right there on Facebook, or send them to your email signup landing page. Check with your email service provider about connecting your provider and your Page, usually under something called “Integrations.”

Go here to learn about setting up a lead ad on Facebook.

5) Get Signups at In-Person Events

Don’t forget to ask for signups at your live, in-person events, too, and at your Visitors Center.

You can do this with a basic pad of paper on a clipboard, or by linking a printed QR code on a wall or a sign to your mobile-friendly email signup landing page.

Always think of how to tie in email signups to your special promotions.

From Andrea Robyns with Visit Grand Rapids, Michigan:

“We did a 10 weeks of beer city giveaway to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Grand Rapids being Beer City USA. We gave away a Beer Package each week. Promoted it outside of the area and they had to come into the destination to use the prizes. We worked with partners to offer hotel and beer-related activities. We had tons of signups and always gave the option to subscribe to the newsletter.”

What did we miss?

If you are already sending out a newsletter, what’s your tip for getting your first email list subscribers? Let us know in the comments.


Not already getting these blog posts via email? Click here for the Tourism Currents newsletter sign-up page. We also offer three free downloads with advice and tips.

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