The most important trick to building your email list is to integrate it with your company culture. Become comfortable asking for addresses; make it part of your everyday client conversations. Practice your pitch, explain the benefits of being on your email list, and be OK with the idea that some people may not want to receive your emails. You’re not trying to bother people — you just want to communicate with willing participants.
- Export from your email.
Start building your list from your own inbox. Have all employees who interact with customers export a list of their email contacts and sort the list into emails of clients, prospects, and family or friends. Combine the lists, discard any duplicates, and delete any people you don’t want to contact.
- Export from your billing system.
If you use Quickbooks or a database-driven billing system, you’re in luck. Most billing software allows you to export a list of client data, including emails. This is often the quickest way to get an email list of current and past clients.
- Provide online sign-up.
Include a form on your website allowing visitors to subscribe to your list. Gather only the essential information in the form — the more information you ask for, the less likely people are to subscribe. Keep it simple: name and email (or possibly just email) works well.
- Ask on contact forms and event sign-ups.
If you allow people to sign up for events online or contact you via an email form on your website, add a checkbox inviting them to subscribe to your email list. You’ll be surprised how many people check that box.
- Use a pop-up.
One of the best ways to convert website visitors to list subscribers is with a pop-up ad. But don’t just hit them with the ad as soon as they jump on your site: That’s too soon. Wait for them to stay on for a little while, or wait until they scroll down the page to a certain spot.
- Get physical.
Put a sign-up sheet next to your cash register, or ask for an email in your visitor log book. If you run a restaurant, for instance, put an invitation for emails in the receipt book.
- Ask when onboarding.
Make gathering emails part of your customer onboarding process: name, phone, address, and — you guessed it — email.
- Ask at trade shows and networking events.
Ask trade show booth visitors to join your list. Do a drawing for a prize or a survey and ask if you can email the results. But don’t just gather business cards and spam people — actually email the contest or survey results and politely ask the recipients to join your email list. Consider keeping their emails on file, but don’t be a spammer. It’s not cool.
Things to Consider for Your List
- Keep it organized. As I mentioned before, sort the list into clients, prospects, and family or friends. As you ask website visitors to sign up for your list, you may ask them what they’re interested in learning about as well — you can use the information to tailor a message for them.
- Send a welcome email. It’s a common courtesy to send an email asking people if they want to opt out of your list before you start your campaign. Tell them exactly what they’ll get in the newsletter, how often you’ll send it, and how they’ll benefit from your message. You want to talk to the people who want to hear your message; you don’t want to annoy your friends.
- Automate whenever possible. Your website and your email software should talk. With the right tools, your site can update your email marketing subscriber list automatically. And, if configured correctly, your email marketing software can be arranged to auto-generate newsletters, building from blog posts or other post-driven content as it’s added to your site. These are huge time-savers: They eliminate the need for extra steps, so your email marketing is that much more likely to actually happen.
These are just a few ideas for building your email list — you’ll discover more as you start using these tricks. Get creative, use the tools you have at your disposal, and remember the cardinal rule of list building: You’ll never know if you don’t ask!
Monica Pitts is the chief creative director of MayeCreate Design.