List building is a crucial part of any marketing strategy, including both SMS and email marketing. In either case, the process of list building simply refers to making a list of the people that you can contact.

Without a list-building strategy, you will not be able to reach new customers or gather the contact information of your existing customers to notify them about sales or reengage them. The following guide will focus on building your list for SMS marketing and gaining potential subscribers. Most of the strategies apply to email marketing, too. 

Why is list building so important?

There are dozens of reasons why it is essential to build a list, and every expert you ask is likely to give you a slightly different answer about this method of getting new leads and new subscribers. 

The following are just some of the most important reasons to create a list-building strategy or any type of lead generation. 

  • It lets you build a relationship with existing customers, boosting customer retention and encouraging each user to spend more. 
  • It lets you start building a relationship with new customers and new subscribers. 
  • If you are a company that should use retention marketing, list building lets you do so.
  • It generates landing page traffic.
  • It lets you segment for targeted list building once you know what targeted lists are.
  • It gives you multiple ways to contact customers, including the ability to use their preferred method.
  • People start their day by checking their texts and emails so that they will see your calls to action right away. 
  • Even if Google changes its algorithm and your SEO sinks, you still have your list.
  • Texts have a 98% open rate, making SMS marketing one of the best strategies.
  • Text and email lists can give you actionable data, including through Google Analytics. 
  • You can integrate your list with various marketing automation platforms and efforts. 
  • It will drive views of your future posts.  
  • You can easily share information about content upgrades. 

Lists for email marketing vs. text marketing lists

When you start to consider list-building strategies, you may find yourself wondering whether email list building and collecting phone numbers for SMS marketing are different.

Overall, the two are the same. You will want to use similar strategies to gain information for either type of list, and you will likely choose to ask people for both an email address and a phone number at the same time.

The significant differences come down to when you can use each list to attract online shoppers. 

When to use each

As mentioned, the most significant difference between collecting phone numbers and email list building will be when you use them. There is some overlap in use cases for these signups, as either is good for improving cart abandonment, retargeting, offering promotions, and displaying tracking information.

However, email marketing is ideal for situations when you need to include a longer message, while SMS marketing is best if you want a high open rate. Remember that SMS has a 98% open rate, which would be near-impossible for email marketing. But SMS marketing may not be the best option for longer messages, as some devices have size and media limits. Email also has the risk of a spam filter preventing people from seeing the relevant content. 

There are various solutions for both strategies, including various MailChimp alternatives.


The laws regarding email are more explicit than those regarding text marketing. That being said, most experts agree that the privacy laws for email, such as the CAN-SPAM Act, also apply to SMS marketing. As such, it is wise to follow them for text and email signups. 

The most important rule is to get consent or an opt-in before sending email or text marketing as a refresher. You also need to identify your company and offer a simple opt-out or unsubscribe method. For email marketing, this can be done in the email signature along with a call to action. 

How to build a list for text marketing

With all that information in mind, learn how to build a list for text marketing. Remember that you can quickly adapt most of these link-building tips to build an email list from scratch for your email marketing as well. The best idea is to get new subscribers for both lists simultaneously using a combination of these list-building strategies and opt-in forms. 


There are several ways to use events for list building and new subscribers. The traditional method is to simply put out a signup sheet that asks for an email address, phone number, and consent to email and text. Remember that opt-in forms are necessary, too. You could take this further and ask people to fill out a form with information that helps you segment them, such as product preferences or demographics.

For better results, offer an incentive at the event for signing up, such as a free drink or sample size product.

If your event requires an RSVP, have customers provide their phone number or email address during that process. Even better, require it by sending the ticket to their phone after they sign up. 

creating landing page for list building

Social media

You can also quickly build an SMS list via social media. Make a featured post that invites people to share their phone numbers with you and use social proof. As with other strategies, you will get the best results if you offer something in return for their contact information.

For example, send a discount code to customers’ phone numbers after registration. If you want to limit the cost of your freebies, you can also announce a giveaway or contest on social media that requires customers to give you their phone numbers to participate. Don’t forget a solid call to action. 

On your website

It should go without saying that some of your list building will take place on your website. You can do this with landing pages, QR codes, keywords, or contact forms. Contact forms are the most popular option, especially as pop-ups. You can also use an online chat tool on your website to collect contact information. Or add an opt-in form with a call to action at the bottom of each blog post. 

As always, consider offering an incentive like a promotion code, discount, or free ebook for signing up. That maximizes the ability of the pop-ups to convince website visitors to fill out the signup form. 

Dedicated landing page

As mentioned, you can create a dedicated landing page on your website to further encourage your list-building efforts. If you already have landing pages for various ad campaigns, invite people to opt in at the bottom of the page’s content. Remember that a pop-up with a call to action is an excellent method. 

Or create a new ad campaign with display ads that take people to the dedicated landing page to sign up


There are a few great ways to incorporate list-building strategies into your physical store.

You could ask for information at the register. Just remember to take care of the opt-ins if you go this route.

Another popular option is to put a QR code or keyword campaign on signs. With a keyword campaign, you have customers text a keyword to a short code (or your full number) to opt in. You can also create a QR code that they scan that will automatically do this for them.

Don’t forget to consider printing this marketing strategy on receipts or business cards as well.

Ads in other places

If you create a keyword or QR code campaign for list building, don’t just limit it to inside your store. You can also use it for traditional ads where your customers are likely to see. Examples include bus stops and billboards.

Depending on your product, it may even make sense to include the QR code or keyword campaign on the packaging. For example, this would work well for pizza boxes, as they are large. 

Create a referral program for new signups

One of the best list-building strategies is to leverage your existing customers to get new ones. This would be done via referral programs. Referral programs could be as simple as asking customers to recommend you to their friends if they are happy and giving them a link to your signup form with calls to action. 

For better results, offer an incentive with the referral program, such as a discount or coupon for the referred person and the person referring them.

Make a loyalty program

Another excellent list-building method is to create a loyalty program. Most people expect to be asked for their phone number and email address when they sign up for a loyalty program, so this will work well. Just make sure that signing up for the program is worth it to customers.

Even just announcing that loyalty members or VIPs get exclusive discounts and offers or exclusive access to products or valuable content can be good enough to drive results. Get more subscribers by outlining precisely what benefits they will get for showing their brand loyalty. 

Convert your email list to SMS and vice versa

Even if you make it a point to collect phone numbers and email addresses simultaneously, there will likely still be some people who only give you one or the other instead of both. Luckily, as long as you have one method of reaching the customer, you have the means to get the other.

So, create an email campaign that will entice people to sign up for your text marketing. Or create an SMS campaign that encourages subscribers to give you their email addresses. As a bonus, these will be qualified leads of new subscribers.

person typing on laptop

The impact of list building


The biggest pro of list building is that you will build your audience with more subscribers and have a way to reach them. Remember all of the points mentioned above when discussing the importance of list building. Each of those is a benefit, whether you want more email subscribers or text recipients from your opt-in form. 

Another advantage is that signup forms are easy to make, and you have numerous strategies to gain new subscribers or boost customer retention via exclusive access and pop-up boxes. 


The only con to list building is that you have to convince customers to give you their information and always comply with relevant marketing laws. The good news is that there are numerous guides to keep you compliant, such as our SMS marketing guide. You can further reduce the risk of issues with a double opt-in, which involves multiple options to opt in: one in the regular opt-in box and one in the welcome email. And in most cases, convincing customers to give you their contact information is as simple as offering an incentive with perceived value on the signup forms. 


Without list building, you will have no way to reach your interested customers and contact them about offers and new products. Simply put, knowing at least one list-building strategy gives you a powerful tool for any marketing efforts. With the right products, like Podium Starter, you can quickly put your new list to use by easily launching SMS campaigns. 

Isaiah Rendorio
Isaiah Rendorio Product Marketing Manager, Campaigns

Isaiah Rendorio is the Product Marketing Manager for Podium Campaigns—helping local businesses tap into the power of SMS marketing to strengthen customer relationships, increase customer lifetime value, and drive more revenue.

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