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Let’s take it as read that you believe in email marketing. That you want to send a regular email newsletter, implement some automated email nurtures. You still need an email list to send messages to.  You don’t have one. Not even an old list you can clean up.

How are you going to start building your email list from scratch?

The obvious email list-building options focus on your website. Have a subscription form on every page. (Sidebars are good here.)  Offer premium content – something useful to your target market which you offer in exchange for an email. And then there’s popups. You can set them up to appear when people are about to click away. When they scroll down. When they spend more than a certain amount of time on your site. There are plenty of options to investigate and test.

But there’s more to email list-building than your website.

List-building with your email signature

It’s a simple place to start.

How many emails do you send every day? Radicati estimate the average business person sends over 120! Every day! How many opportunities does that give for some gentle promotion?

Now, when you’re sending an email to someone, you have their address already – but you may not have permission to add them to your mailing list. You may not feel comfortable asking for that permission. An email signature can help.

  • You could include a straightforward invitation to subscribe. ‘Stay in touch and up-to-date! Sign up to our monthly email news.’
  • If you’ve got some interesting premium content, promote that in your email signature. For example, the NoBull team could include ‘Is your website effective? Try our 7-point test and find out how to improve it.’

Personally, I prefer the second one. Even if no one signs up and it doesn’t work for email list building, you’ve shared a positioning statement which helps people understand what you do.

But either is better than nothing.

Email list building offline


What about people you meet in general business activity and networking? Who can you add to your mailing list? The Spam Act says you must have ‘implied consent’, but it’s not always clear what that means in practice. Read more about complying with the Spam Act here.

For example, I’m in a business group where we all help and support each other. Some people have added me to their mailing list without asking. Other people have never added me to a mailing list. Other people have asked if they can add me to their mailing list.

My preferred option is to speak to each person individually and get permission. “Look, can I put you on my mailing list? I’m not expecting you to buy anything, but some of what I’m sharing may be useful to you. If you find that none of it’s useful, I really won’t be offended if you unsubscribe, but I’d just like to share with you if you’re interested.

Most people will say yes, simply because you’re being polite and they want to be polite back. Many of them may unsubscribe at a later date, but how is that different from other subscribers? As long as you’re not pushy, you won’t offend anyone – but you will have some extra opportunities to promote your expertise and even sell something.

The same kind of principle applies to one-off contacts. Those people you meet at networking events.

You could just collect a mass of business cards, then hand them over to your PA to add to your mailing list. Or you could take the time to send a personal note. ‘Great to meet you last night. I really enjoyed our chat about how to set your marketing budget. Here’s an article with some research statistics which you might find interesting. And I hope you don’t mind but I’ve also added you to our monthly e-newsletter list. I think you’ll find the articles interesting – and I’d love to hear any comments. Of course if I’m wrong and you don’t like the newsletter, you can just opt out any time.’

Then give the cards to your PA to do the admin part of your email list building!

Remember, size isn’t everything.

It may feel like it sometimes. Especially when you’re starting out and you only have a few contacts on your list.hummingbird with quote: 'it will be the fast beating the slow"

But there’s no point in having lots of emails on your list if none of them are serious prospects. On the other hand, I’ve seen positive results from lists of fewer than 50 names.

And there’s no point in having any list if you don’t use it!

If you don’t mail them, you know you won’t get anything. If you do mail them, you might. And if you include a ‘please forward to anyone who might find this useful‘ comment, you may even get more contacts.

So what are you waiting for? Start your email list building and marketing now.



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