5 effective ways to grow your email lists


Many businesses make use of email lists – an email list is a digital database that primarily contains a list of individuals’ email addresses. Some email lists may only include an email address, but other email lists may be part of a greater customer database containing other useful information such as an individual’s name, address, contact number and age, for example.

These email lists are usually automatically populated when a user submits their information and requests inclusion in the database. For example, a product page on a business’s online store may contain a link such as “sign up to our mailing list today to receive info on our latest product releases” – a customer would click the link, enter their email and it would then be added into the business’ email list.    

Why are email lists important?

An email list is a potent marketing tool; it enables businesses to reach a wider audience, prompt user engagement and generate exposure. In most cases, a business will use an email list in conjunction with an automated email campaign. They will create a series of email publications and distribute these emails to every address in the list. This is a relatively straightforward process and the potential return on investment can be immense.

Why do email lists sometimes fail?

Email lists and email marketing campaigns are not always successful. In most cases, this is simply because a business does not know how to create an effective and enticing email campaign – their email content may be irrelevant, uninteresting or considered spam. Another contributing factor is that many businesses simply don’t know how to grow their email list and generate a large database to distribute their emails to. The following tips are 5 simple ways in which a business can grow their email list and attract more custom:

1. Create an opt-in competition

There is a simple fact when considering email lists – users are more likely to sign up if they can potentially receive something in turn. We love the thought of winning big and possibly gaining something for free. A business can use this fact to grow their email lists. Consider creating a semi-regular competition that can only be entered if a user provides their email address or signs up to your mailing list. The prize doesn’t have to be of huge monetary value, but it should be real and worthwhile – users will not sign up if the prize is poor.

You can promote the competition through your website, social media platforms and physical marketing. Creating an opt-in competition is a win-win situation for a business – firstly you are creating additional promotional marketing for your business which is positive for exposure, SEO and custom. Secondly, you should also benefit from an influx of new additions to your email list.

Some people may argue that the cost of creating the competition and funding the prize outweighs the return you receive from any new emails. This might hold true – consider running a trial competition and analysing the results – did you generate a sufficient number of new emails? Did these emails lead to any new custom? To minimise the cost of your competitions, you could consider requesting a prize donation – reach out to a complementary business and ask them to provide the competition prize. You can offer publicity for their business in return.

Why use an opt-in competition?

– Provides real incentive for users to take action
– Creates additional marketing content
– Can grow your mailing list significantly for a small cost

2. Add upgraded content to your posts and pages

This is another extremely simple method of prompting users to take action and giving them a reason to join your mailing list. As mentioned above, everyone wants something for free – a business can again use this to their advantage to grow their email list. Consider using a technique known as “gated-content” – that is additional valuable content that is placed behind a barrier – i.e. a customer must perform a specific action (provide their email address) to open the barrier and access the content.

Let’s look at a working example – you own a gardening centre and have created a blog article or guide entitled “Top 10 tips to improve your landscape garden”. Customers can access this guide freely and will benefit greatly from its contents. To improve this article, you could add a link at the bottom stating “Sign up to our mailing list and gain exclusive access to our complete gardening guide”. If a customer clicks the link and enters their email address, they can then download the full guide. As you can see both the customer and your business benefit all for minimal expense.

Why use upgrade/gated content?

– Provides a customer with additional useful content
– Improves the quality of your website/blog content
– Generates additional emails for little to no cost

3. Create joint email campaigns with complementary businesses

A business will often suffer from a lack of exposure and an inability to reach a wider audience. This holds true especially for smaller businesses that simply lack the resources to market their products. To combat this, and to generate more emails, why not consider creating joint email campaigns with other businesses?

Contact other businesses within your industry and put forward the idea – in essence, you would create an email campaign that promotes both your business and theirs, and the other business would do the same. In this way, both businesses benefit from an increased exposure and essentially double the number of customers to email. This, in turn, increases the potential amount of new emails you could include on your mailing list.

If you create a joint advertising campaign, it is important to choose the right complementary business. Do not reach out to a competitor or a business with a negative reputation as this could adversely affect your own business. Only choose complementary businesses or companies that fill a different niche in your industry. For example, if you supply electrical equipment, you could approach a business that specialises in electrical installations. Ensure your partnering business will not diminish your own business or products in any way.

Why use a joint email campaign?

– Easy to implement as the other business will do most of the work
– Extremely cost effective method
– Can help another business improve their marketing in the process

4. Create interesting and useful emails

This is possibly the greatest area where businesses fall short and fail to grow their email lists. In the online world, content remains king – this statement holds true for every aspect of marketing – social media posts, website content, digital adverts and email campaigns to name a few.  If your content is uninteresting, unappealing and bland, why should a customer take their time to read it and invest themselves in your business and products?

Long gone are the days when quantity was more important – it is not acceptable to simply create a huge amount of web content and distribute it to a huge audience – your content must be quality and offer something of worth to the customer. When creating an email campaign try to provide something a customer can benefit from – some advice, a voucher or product guides for example.

Don’t simply use your email campaigns as a platform to market your products – this should happen naturally but not inhibit the quality of your content. Tell a story, use a metaphor, speak about current events or popular subjects, include images and multimedia content – do anything to make your email content stand out and strike a chord with your subscribers.

If you can create interesting emails, customers are more likely to continue subscribing to your mailing list and sharing your content with other people.

Why is content important?

– To attract user’s attention
– To prompt customer retention
– To improve the quality of your marketing

5. Add a variety of “sign-up” links in your digital marketing

This is possibly the most basic way of growing your mailing list, but it is surprising how many businesses don’t do this simple thing. If your mailing list is not promoted anywhere on your digital media or website, then how can you expect users to sign up to it? This is a fundamental process – for users to sign up to your mailing list, they have to have a way to do so!

To improve the availability and visibility of your email sign-up links, you should promote them in 4 or 5 different areas of your digital marketing. The link doesn’t have to be oversized or in your face – but ensure it is clearly visible and easy to read.

We suggest placing links in the following areas:

– The header of your website template
– The footer of your website template
– At the bottom of each website article or blog post
– At the bottom of your email signature
– In your marketing emails (obviously!)
– In your social media pages and posts

The above is quite an extensive list – we are not advocating placing an email sign-up link on every section mentioned – use your common sense and try to vary the link placement. Don’t flood your digital marketing with sign-up links – try to find a suitable balance whilst still ensuring it is visible enough. By placing a sensible amount of sign-up links, you are giving your customers an increased chance of taking note of your mailing list and offering them the chance to take action.

Why should you include sign-up links?

– This is the most basic and cost-effective method of growing your email links
– This can be implemented when initially creating your content and marketing
– Will always be present and available 24/7

An email list requires a long-term commitment and attention

Although these pointers will undoubtedly help a business grow their email list, it is important to remember that something such as this takes time. A business cannot expect to create an email list instantly and populate it with thousands of addresses. Building an email list should be viewed as a work in progress, and a process that continually evolves as your business expands. If you devote time to implement the five pointers listed above, there is no reason why you cannot build a successful email list that can grow exponentially.

The worst thing you can do is take the time to improve your email list and campaigns and then simply leave them for months without any attention or care. Review your email list and campaigns regularly – analyse their performance and use tools to find out which areas of your digital marketing are soliciting the highest number of email sign-ups. Software such as MailChimp, GetResponse and ConvertKit are all useful tools that enable email automation. Furthermore, they enable a business to analyse their email campaigns and improve their potential reach.

We hope you have found these tips useful – grow your email list today and start appealing to a wider audience!