email list


One of a small business’s best marketing assets is a healthy email list. While proper management and use of your email file will drive revenue immensely, it is often a challenge to create the email list itself. With inbox clutter on the rise and customers becoming more sensitive toward any unwanted communication, marketers should develop their subscriber lists with relevance and care. 

Fortunately, there are a number of simple and effective ways of creating an email list, including traditional online and offline tactics, as well as emerging strategies, such as paid search, direct mail, events and special offers. The challenges at hand in order to maximize list growth through every customer touch point are: 

  • Using these tactics responsibly
  • Complying with all legal requirements
  • Respecting subscriber preferences
Direct Mail – Make The Most Of This Longstanding Channel

Advertise email sign-up in all catalogs, directory ads and direct-mail order forms. A simple checkbox accompanied by a field for writing in an email address on bills, rebate cards, subscription renewals, etc. is all you have to provide to grow your list considerably.

When using this tactic, make sure to email new subscribers as soon as you possibly can. Chances are that a significant amount of time has passed since they mailed the form, and it’s crucial to keep your brand fresh in their minds and continue the dialog.

Email Sign-Up Boxes – Enable Customers To Sign Up For Email

Placing a clear and conspicuous form on your Website will help facilitate email sign-ups for your Website visitors. This common acquisition practice is not only effective, but also very easy to implement. There are a few important things to consider when employing this tactic:

  • Keep the look and feel of all Website sign-up boxes consistent and clean. This makes them more reputable, easy to find and familiar to your audience.
  • Try to place sign-up boxes either as part of the top banner or just below. Most test results have shown that those located near the top of the Website perform better than those located in the footer area.
  • Couple your sign-up boxes with a clear description of “what’s in it for them.” Let customers know exactly what to expect when signing up, and sell the benefits for being on your email list. This can be as simple as promoting the general advantages of the channel — such as being able to receive information and offers faster and that it’s eco-friendly.
Account Registrations and Online Ecommerce Forms – Incorporate Email Sign-Up Into Your Forms

Site registration is the most common and effective means of acquisition for marketers. Jupiter Research found that 77 percent of marketers deem site registration effective in terms of both list quality and quantity. So make sure to incorporate email sign-up into all account registration and ecommerce forms on your Website. 

To do this effectively, stick to the following best practices:

  • The incentive for registering is clear and relevant to your target audience
  • Benefits of registering for your email program are clearly listed
  • Geographic and demographic information is collected for segmentation
  • The call to action is prominently displayed
Word of Mouth – Another Great Way to Grow Your Email File

For subscribers who may have been on your list for a longer period of time, a small incentive or discount will often get them talking. Marketers should capitalize on word-of-mouth marketing by incorporating email sign-up on viral components, such as features that allow site visitors to forward products, services, wish lists, information online, notifications and more to their friends.

This practice is especially effective with new sign-ups and sweepstakes entries, as these types of subscribers tend to be more eager and excited to spread the word to friends and family. Tap into this enthusiasm, and use timing to your advantage by providing an opportunity for referral immediately after a user has opted in.

It’s a best practice to ask the referrer not only for a friend’s email address, but also for a full name so that the message is personalized. Most important, remember to add the referee’s full name to the email as well. By referencing whom the email content was recommended by, you gain instant credibility and will attain much higher conversion rates.

Customer Requests and Downloads – Provide Email Sign-Up Opportunities for Potential Customers

When your Website visitors request online price quotes, catalogs, pamphlets, company information or research papers, ask for (or require) their email addresses. This list-growth practice is particularly useful for business-to-business marketers, catalogers, financial organizations and other businesses that may not have ecommerce Websites.

Save any new documentation as a PDF for download, and require that individuals enter their names and email addresses in order to access it. The value of the information you are offering is directly proportional to the amount of personal data your customers are willing to provide, so make sure the tradeoff is fair. A highly anticipated white paper or report can garner a high number of new email subscribers who are openly expressing interest in your brand, so don’t leave this opportunity unaddressed.

Point of Sale – Make Email List Acquisition Part of the Checkout Process

For retail stores, asking customers for their email list addresses at the point of sale (POS) is a proven technique that is quickly gaining momentum. In-person and in-store events were ranked second in acquisition quality and quantity, according to a 2007 Jupiter Research study. email list

To put this practice into action, it’s important that your associates:

  • Ask customers for their email addresses
  • Explain the benefits of your email program
  • Let customers know exactly what to expect in terms of email frequency and content
  • Read back the email list addresses to verify correct spelling and reduce the risk of error 

Employee training and in-store signage promoting your program can effectively support this effort.

Send a Welcome Email Offering a Free Gift with Any Purchase

To encourage customers to give store associates their email addresses, consider offering a free product with their next purchase. An email can be sent to confirm the email list address and can include the free offer coupon. This validates the email address and encourages customers to shop again.

Call-Center Representatives (CSRs) – Request Customers’ Email Addresses While on Customer Service Calls

Customers are highly receptive during customer service calls. You have their full attention and should use it to your advantage by requesting email addresses. You may be surprised at how many will comply. 

Lastly, if your CSRs are writing their own emails to follow up with customers, have them put a link to an email sign-up form in their email signatures.


By following responsible best practices to build a permission-based house file, marketers create a win-win situation for both the customer and the brand. Companies gain long-term, profitable relationships with their customers, and customers receive offers for products and services that are meaningful and relevant to them.

By using the email channel responsibly, marketers and consumers can continue to benefit from this cost-efficient and environmentally friendly medium.

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