November 3, 2023

How to build an email list

With Firstbase since:

Developing effective communication channels is imperative for building a successful business, and email is one of the most powerful channels. Research shows that 99% of email users check their inbox at least once a day, with some checking as much as 20 times per day.

Email is typically the first thing people check when they log on, making it the perfect place to grab the attention of a prospective buyer. There’s no one way to develop a strong email list. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the qualities that good ones usually have, and explore several strategies for getting quality, relevant prospects into your marketing pipeline. 

What makes a strong email list?

Of course, the best email lists typically have lots of names: it follows that having a large quantity of contacts in your marketing rolodex will lead to more sales. 

At the same time, the number of subscribers isn't everything. It’s no use having an email list with thousands of addresses if most of them are bot accounts or inactive addresses, because these are unlikely to ever generate sales.

In fact, having inactive leads can actually hurt your performance over time as email clients may limit visibility if they notice that nobody is interested in your messages. With that in mind, it's critical to focus on subscribers who care about your brand and what you have to say.

If you’ve already explored strategies for building your email list, you may have come across pre-packaged email lists for sale, on offer by disreputable websites. It’s best to stay away from this tactic, for the reasons already mentioned: these leads will be cold, and likely not relevant to your business. Buying an email list defeats the purpose, particularly if you sell a niche or unique product. We recommend focusing on these four strategies instead.

1. Pop-up windows

Pop-ups are the simplest way to prompt a potential customer to enter their email address. Though typically a low-conversion method, it holds true to the principles of a strong email list: people who visit your business’ website are likely to be interested in your company, making them relevant and quality leads.

It’s important to include some kind of call to action in a pop-up, so that it isn’t dismissed outright by a visitor. You can include a discount or other gift that gives them a reason to sign up. It's also a good idea to give them an idea of the content they'll receive after subscribing.

Keep in mind that pop-ups can be intrusive depending on how they fit into your user experience. Exit-intent popups, for example, only trigger when the user is about to leave your site. This kind of trigger minimizes the chance of distracting the lead or pulling them away from the rest of your site.

2. Opt-in at checkout

If you’re an online retailer, you can ask for basic contact information during the check-out process. Again, this ensures that your email list is composed of quality leads that can lead to future sales in the future.

Customers will be primed to provide their email address since they'll expect order confirmations, delivery notifications, and other follow-up messages. Don't miss this opportunity to build a stronger relationship and increase their interest in your brand.

At the same time, you should make it clear that opting in isn't necessary to make an order. Users who don't want to sign up for an email list should still be able to complete their purchases with as little friction as possible.

3. Newsletters and blogs

Hosting content on your website, or sending out regular email newsletters, can help generate traffic and keep potential customers informed. 

If you use this method, it’s important to ensure the content is strong and engaging. You'll need to find a topic where you can offer truly unique expertise that provides value to your audience.

Email users are often mindful of clutter in their inbox, and you’ll want to avoid bombarding members of your email marketing list with weak content. What’s worse, being flagged as spam will greatly damage your email deliverability.

If you offer exceptional content on your website, readers will naturally be curious about what's available to your email subscribers. Remember that it takes time to develop a reputation and get more people interested in your brand and content.

4. Social media

In this age, it’s imperative for businesses to maintain a strong social media presence. Social media makes it possible for businesses to craft their image and tone in new ways, and it can be a useful tool for boosting brand awareness.

Even if you only operate out of a physical storefront, social media will still help you get in front of local users. It also provides a great opportunity to cross-promote your email content. Don't underestimate the power of social media when building an email list.

These channels can be used to promote your company’s blog or newsletter, either by linking back to your site or by offering a “Sign Up” button in a post or directly on your profile. Consider replying to posts from other brands in your niche to pull some of their audiences to your page.

You can also use search tools to find out about others who have posted about your business or product before. It is probably worth reaching out to them directly to ask if they’d like to be added to your email list.

Final thoughts

Nobody is going to give away their email address just for the sake of it. Consumers are used to having a full inbox and are reluctant to add new newsletters. As you can see, these strategies all built on the concept of offering an incentive to sign up. 

Incentives, of course, come in many forms. It’s up to you to decide which route to take: offering a rewards program, creating great blog/newsletter content, engaging social media followers, or something else altogether. 

Once you’ve begun to build out your email list, be sure to keep it clean. It’s a good idea to remove inactive accounts, or accounts who you’ve noticed haven’t clicked on your emails in a long period of time. This will improve your email performance and maximize your potential to generate sales moving forward. 

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