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15 Ways to Build a Quality Email List

Updated Apr 10, 2023

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Email marketing might seem outdated and dull compared to social media marketing methods like Twitter and TikTok. Still, email marketing offers significant value to businesses and consumers, because nearly everyone has an email address and uses email daily. 

One of the most important aspects of email marketing is your email subscriber list. Your email list can be the difference between the right people seeing your message and your message going completely unheard. 

We’ll explore email lists and why they’re crucial, and outline 15 ways to build a quality list that will boost your marketing campaign’s effectiveness. 

What is an email list?

An email list – also called a “mailing list” or “subscribers list” – is a collection of email addresses a business has gathered from visitors and customers. These individuals have opted in to receive communications from the business, including updates, announcements and discounts. 

Email list-building is the process of getting more people to subscribe to your emails. An effective way to entice people to join your list is having a call to action (CTA) on your website’s homepage. 

TipBottom line

You can also use social media to grow your email list through techniques like starting Twitter chats, joining LinkedIn groups and posting Instagram stories.

Editor’s note: Looking for the right email marketing service for your business? Fill out the questionnaire below to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

15 ways to build a quality email list

Because email lists are a critical marketing element, it’s essential to devote significant time and effort to ensure your list is working for your business. Keep three major priorities in mind when building your email list.

  1. Quality: Quality is your biggest priority. You must ensure your list consists of real people who actively check their emails.
  2. Relevance: The people on your list should be interested in your business or your industry – or both.
  3. Volume: Once you are satisfied with the quality and relevance of your list, focus on increasing the number of people on it.

With these priorities in mind, you can begin the process of building your email list. Here are 15 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.

CTAs offer an opportunity for organic website visitors to sign up for your emails. Including CTAs on every landing page throughout your website (e.g., “Sign up for our mailing list to receive special offers”) increases the likelihood of consumers signing up as they navigate your site.

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

While email is a major communication method, many consumers find businesses through social media, so including an email sign-up form on social media posts is a surefire method to add interested consumers to your list.

TipBottom line

To build your business’s social media presence, explore available platforms, set goals, and engage your audience with conversations and comments.

3. Devote some social media posts to email sign-ups.

In addition to including email list sign-up links in your regular posts, consider creating social media posts, such as Facebook ads, specifically to tell customers about your email list and the content they’ll receive if they sign up.

In some instances, you might be able to partner with other websites by contributing guest posts to a blog or website. This opens up your business to a new audience and lets you access new email addresses and prospects. 

Include a sign-up CTA in your guest posts, or invite others to write guest posts 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.

Incorporate email list-building into your everyday tasks. For example, when a new customer calls for a quote, or when you’re providing information about your business, see if they want to join your email list. Be sure to ask explicitly if they consent to receiving emails from you.

TipBottom line

To improve your email open rate, consider segmenting your email list to provide content relevant to customers based on their behavior.

5. Use exit-intent pop-ups.

An exit-intent pop-up appears when a visitor is about to leave a website. You can customize these pop-ups, such as by inviting visitors to sign up for emails so they 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 the process of providing their contact info must be fast and easy.

6. Offer discount codes or freebies.

If you find that your content isn’t enticing enough people to sign up for your emails, consider providing an incentive. Offer a discount code, free download or free item to encourage people to sign up. A popular incentive is actionable information, such as a checklist or webinar related to your industry.

Email-only specials are an excellent email participation driver. Whether you’re using a buy-one-get-one sale, limited items or another specialized offer, driving specials through email rewards participants will also incorporate enthusiasm into the email list.

Did You Know?Did you know

Using discount codes and digital coupons is a highly effective way to generate interest in your products and services.

7. Create a challenge or giveaway.

Challenges and giveaways work a lot like incentives. You can create a challenge, like running a 5K, donating food or hosting a giveaway where customers provide their emails to participate.

8. Provide gated content.

Provide your customers and prospects with premium content in exchange for their email addresses. This is known as putting up a paywall or creating “gated content” exclusively curated for those on your email list.

TipBottom line

Offer valuable content like catalogs, guides, whitepapers, webinars, online courses and annual reports in your gated content for subscribers.

9. Offer free loyalty programs.

Ask your customers to give you their email addresses to earn perks, rewards or discounts by joining a free customer loyalty program. Make sure your enrollment process is straightforward, and be transparent about your offerings – the more specific, the better.

10. Share with or piggyback off of partner businesses.

Try sharing your email lists with another business in your industry. You likely share a similar target audience, so you both can benefit. Propose a swap or offer another business an ad in your next email campaign in exchange for their email list. [Read related article: 5 Reasons Your Business Should Have Strategic Partnerships]

11. Enable shares and opt-ins in emails.

Encourage your audience to share your opt-in link on social media and other forms of digital communication. You can also add your opt-in link to the bottom of your email signature and encourage your employees to do the same.

12. Challenge employees to gather email addresses.

Recruit your employees to get emails from friends, family members and other potential customers interested in your product or service. Hold a friendly competition to see which employee can gain the most subscribers.

13. Offer email sign-ups at checkout.

When customers get to your checkout page after shopping, give them the option to subscribe to your email list. Keep in mind that, under the General Data Protection Regulation, you cannot check the box for your customers; they must opt in themselves.

14. Try direct mail.

These days, most people prefer electronic forms of communication over traditional mail, but there are still ways to use technology in direct mail marketing. If your business is still using the postal service for direct mail marketing, consider providing customers with a QR code that will send them directly to your opt-in page or allow them to switch to electronic communications, providing their email address in the process. [Related content: The Best Direct Mailing Services]

15. Join your local chamber of commerce.

Your local chamber of commerce has access to an extensive network of business owners and a list of community events where you can find people potentially interested in your content. Once you join, you can send people on the chamber’s mailing list an email with an opt-in link and information about your offerings. 

Why are email lists important?

A quality email list can be extremely valuable to your business, since email marketing has one of the highest returns on investment among marketing methods. 

Email marketing is a powerful communication tool that is:

  • Personal
  • Targeted
  • Purposeful
  • Exclusive to you and your business
  • Private and direct
  • Highly customizable

Without an email list, your business could miss out on thousands of potential customers. Since most consumers have an email address, building a quality email list should be your top priority when beginning a marketing campaign.

Did You Know?Did you know

Email marketing templates can help you quickly format and target messages to your audience and can include images, content, CTAs, and links.

Email lists by the numbers

There are some telling statistics that show successful email marketing is a powerful tool for your business’s success and growth. 

  • Email marketing boosts your ROI. With email marketing, you’re bound to see a return on investment. The average ROI is $36 for every dollar you spend. This is a very high return compared to other digital marketing efforts and paid ads.
  • Most marketers use email marketing. With billions of emails sent daily, companies worldwide are taking notice of email marketing’s benefits. Studies show that nearly 9 in 10 marketers use email in their sales campaigns, and more than 80% of small businesses rely on email marketing to communicate with their target audience.
  • The market is growing. While many businesses have taken to newer forms of marketing, such as live videos and social media campaigns, they haven’t forgotten the original content that offers a significant ROI. In 2020, the global email marketing revenue was $7.5 billion, and it’s projected to grow to $17.9 billion by 2027.
  • Many people are part of an email list. About 42% of Americans are on an email list to receive discounts and updates from a company they trust.

Should you buy an email list?

Because building an email list the old-fashioned way can take time, many businesses have considered purchasing pre-made email lists or an email database that promises hundreds or thousands of email addresses instantly. 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 Tanzanite Jewelry Designs. “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 legitimate ones 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 result in your actual customers never seeing your emails.

“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.”

Bottom LineBottom line

Buying an email list could damage your reputation and is not a reliable method of finding email addresses.

The best email marketing software

Once you’ve built your email list, there’s still plenty to do to get your marketing campaign up and running, and each campaign will need significant maintenance. 

The best email marketing software and services can make your campaigns easier to manage and more professional. Most services include email list management to verify that your hard-earned email list is working well for you. 

Here are some of our best picks for email marketing software that can improve your email marketing campaigns:

  • Benchmark: Benchmark is an easy-to-use email marketing service that 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. Read our in-depth review of Benchmark to learn more. 
  • Mailchimp: Mailchimp is excellent 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: 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 updated on how your campaigns are doing. Read our Constant Contact review to learn more.
  • Sendinblue: Sendinblue differs from other email marketing providers in that you pay only 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 various factors, including age, gender, location and interests. Read our review of Sendinblue to learn more.

Sean Peek contributed to the writing and research in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Kiely Kuligowski
Staff Writer at
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.
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