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7 Ways to Build a Quality Email List

Kiely Kuligowski
Kiely Kuligowski

An email list is the foundation of an email marketing campaign. Here's how you can build a quality list of subscribers for your email campaigns.

Email marketing might seem outdated and dull compared to shiny new methods of communication like Twitter and TikTok, but it continues to have significant value to both businesses and consumers, owing to the simple fact that nearly everyone has an email address and uses email almost every day. 

One of the most important aspects of email marketing is your email list, which can be the difference between your message being heard by the right people and not being heard at all. This article will explain what an email list is, why it's important, and the seven things you can do to build a quality email list of your own. 

What is an email list?

An email list is a collection of email addresses that a business has gathered from visitors and customers who want to receive communications such as updates and discounts from that business. An email list can also be referred to as a "mailing list" or "subscribers list."

Email list building is the process of getting more people to subscribe to your emails. An easy way to do this is having a call to action (CTA) on your website's homepage to get visitors to sign up, or including a link to sign up on social media posts.


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Why email lists are important

A quality email list can be extremely valuable to your business, since email marketing has one of the highest ROIs among marketing methods. Email is 40 times more effective for acquiring new customers than social media and also has a significantly higher click-through rate than social media posts. These characteristics of email make it a powerful communication tool:

  • Personal
  • Targeted
  • Purposeful
  • Exclusive to you and your business
  • Used often by consumers
  • Private and direct to customers
  • Highly customizable
  • Checked often

Without an email list, your business could be missing out on thousands of potential new customers. Since most consumers have an email address, building a quality email list should be your No. 1 priority when starting a new marketing campaign.

7 ways to build a quality email list

Because email lists are a critical part of your marketing, it's important that you devote plenty of time and effort to make sure your list is working for your business. You should have three major priorities in mind when building your email list:

  1. Quality: This is your biggest priority. You want to make sure your list consists of real people who actively check their emails.

  2. Relevance: The people on your list should have an interest in your business or your industry – or both.

  3. Volume: Once you are satisfied with the quality and relevance of your list, you can start focusing on the quantity of people on the list.

With these priorities in mind, you can begin the process of building your email list. Here are seven of the best ways to build up your list with quality email addresses from your target audience: the people who genuinely want to receive your content.

1. Add CTA buttons to your website's landing pages.

The use of calls to action is an opportunity for organic website visitors to sign up for your emails. Including them on every landing page throughout your website increases the likelihood of a subscriber signing up as they navigate your site.

2. Include a link to sign up for emails on social media posts and accounts.

While email is a major communication method, many consumers find businesses through social media, so including a signup form for your emails there is a surefire method to add interested consumers to your list.

3. Make social media posts devoted to signing up for emails.

In addition to including links to sign up for emails in your regular posts, you can create social media posts, like Facebook ads, dedicated to telling your customers about your email list and what kinds of content they can expect to receive if they sign up.

In some instances, you might be able to partner with other websites by contributing guest posts to their blog or website content. This opens your business to a new audience and allows you to access new emails and prospects. Include a signup call to action in those guest posts. Or, conversely, you can invite others to write a guest post for your blog or website. These contributors will bring some of their audience to your site and improve your outreach.

4. Make email capture part of your intake process.

You can work email list building into your everyday tasks at work, like when a new customer calls for a quote or when you're providing information about your business. Be sure to ask explicitly if they are consenting to receive emails from you.

5. Use exit-intent pop-ups.

An exit-intent pop-up is a pop-up that appears when a visitor is about to leave a website. You can customize these pop-ups to say whatever you want, including an invitation to sign up for emails so the customer can receive more information about your business. 

Opt ins are one of the most reliable ways to build quality email lists; however, visitors need clear incentives to sign up, and providing their contact info needs to be fast and easy.

6. Offer discount codes or freebies.

If you're finding that your content alone isn't enough to entice people to sign up for your emails, consider providing an incentive. You can offer discount codes, free downloads, a free item or digital coupons to encourage people to sign up. A currently popular incentive is actionable information, like a checklist or webinar related to your industry.

Email-only specials are a great driver for email participation. Whether this is something like a simple buy-one-get-one sale, limited items or any other specialized offer, driving the specials through email rewards participants and drives enthusiasm into the email list.

7. Create a challenge or giveaway.

This method works similarly to an incentive. You can create a challenge, like running a 5K or donating food, or host a giveaway where customers must provide their emails to participate.

Should you buy an email list?

Because building an email list the old-fashioned way can take time, many businesses have considered purchasing premade email lists or an email database that promises hundreds or thousands of email addresses instantly, for little money from you. However, you rarely get what you pay for with these purchased list schemes, and they're often more trouble than they're worth.

"Buying email lists can not only hurt your brand's reputation, but your domain's reputation as well," said Jeff Moriarty, marketing manager at Moriarty's Gem Art. "It might get you a few quick sales, but it is not worth the harm it can cause by giving your business and domain a bad name. Focus on the long game."

When you buy an email list, many "subscribers" could have old, fake or invalid email addresses, and the ones who do have real people behind them probably don't have an active interest in your business or industry.

Furthermore, you run the risk of being flagged as a spammer, which could have the consequences of your emails not being seen by your legitimate customers.

"When you purchase an email list, even if it's from a reputable source, you could be putting your email and ad accounts at risk," said Danielle Miller, social media marketer at Miller Media Management. "If too many people flag the email as spam (because they've never heard of you), all your future emails to them and others could end up in the spam folder."

Best email software

Once you've built your email list, there's still plenty to do to get your marketing campaign up and running, and then lots of maintenance for each campaign. Email marketing management software or an email service provider can make creating and managing your campaigns easier and more professional, and most services come with email list management so you can rest assured that your hard-earned email list is working well for you. [Read related article: How to Segment Your Email List Like a Pro]

 Here are some of's best picks for email marketing software:

  • Benchmark is a budget-friendly email marketing service that is easy to use and offers plenty of features at a low cost. It has a free plan for up to 250 emails per month, making it a great option for small businesses that don't send a high volume of emails.

  • Mailchimp is a good choice for businesses looking for a free option that doesn't skimp on features. Its Forever Free plan lets you send up to 12,000 monthly emails to 2,000 contacts, and it includes all the features you need to create and manage a great campaign.

  • Constant Contact has a user-friendly interface and multiple price points to fit any budget. It makes it easy to create professional-looking campaigns and provides detailed analytics to keep you up to date on how your campaigns are doing.

  • Sendinblue differs from other email marketing providers in that you only pay for what you use, making it a great option for businesses of all sizes that have irregular email send volumes. It lets you segment your contacts based on a variety of factors, including age, gender, location and interests.
Image Credit: Zephyr18 / Getty Images
Kiely Kuligowski
Kiely Kuligowski Staff
Kiely Kuligowski is a and Business News Daily writer and has written more than 200 B2B-related articles on topics designed to help small businesses market and grow their companies. Kiely spent hundreds of hours researching, analyzing and writing about the best marketing services for small businesses, including email marketing and text message marketing software. Additionally, Kiely writes on topics that help small business owners and entrepreneurs boost their social media engagement on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.