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Five Tips for Building an Email Marketing List for Your Small Business

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Five Tips for Building an Email Marketing List for Your Small Business

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: October 20, 2011 Updated: August 6, 2015

Do you have a rock-solid email marketing list of engaged prospects and customers that you can consistently communicate with?

Building an email or direct mail marketing list is a persistent challenge for many business owners. In the first place it requires generating traffic to your website; it also requires a compelling hook, a good reason for someone to subscribe to your list. You also want to make it easy for people to subscribe to your list via your opt-in form. And last, but by no means least, you need to have a plan to convert your prospects into paying customers and generate repeat revenue from your list.

So where do you start? Here are some tips to help you build a compelling permission-based marketing list as well as some tactics to avoid.

Offer a Reason or Incentive to Sign Up

To encourage folks to subscribe to your list, offer an incentive such as an e-newsletter subscription or email updates that keep prospects notified of special offers or events.

Another option is to offer an on-the-spot incentive. This could be educational in nature, such as a PDF of a white paper or eBook. Both formats are very popular with technology-based businesses that want to inform consumers about their product value. Don’t expect people to just stumble into this type of content; promote it whenever you can – in your e-signature “Download our latest eBook”, on your Facebook page, even blog about it by giving a sneak peek, but require folks to “Subscribe Here” if they want to read the full content.

Other offers could be promotional in nature, for example: “Subscribe to our newsletter and enter to win XYZ.” Keep in mind, though, that these can sometimes backfire and attract the wrong kind of freebie-hunting subscriber.

When in doubt, be very clear about what you have to offer. For example, if you’re trying to drive interest in your newsletter, post a link to previous versions so that subscribers can see what they will get and make their own decisions about what they are signing up for.

Display Your Opt-In Form Wherever You Interact with Your Customer

Your opt-in form should be easy to complete and easily accessible. Link to it prominently on your website, on your social media sites, from your blog, and your email signature – basically every time you interact with a customer or prospect online.

For example, if someone buys something from your site, link to your opt-in form from the order confirmation page and email. Alternatively, if a prospect downloads any information from your site, such as a white paper, give him or her the option of signing up for your newsletter from the thank-you page. And don’t forget to add a “Forward to a Friend” feature to your e-newsletters.

Use Your Blog and Social Media Networks to Drive Opt-Ins

Your social media fans and blog readers are your captive audience and should be your number one targets to add to your marketing list. There are many ways of doing this and all of them complement your social media activities.

  • Use your blog – Most blogging software lets you easily add links to other areas of your site. Use them to encourage newsletter sign-ups in particular.
  • Post links to your sign-up page on your Facebook page – And don’t forget to Tweet and Facebook every now and again about your newsletter, your offers, and how folks can sign up to receive them.
  • Promote your newsletter or incentives –As above, whenever you publish a new newsletter, provide your social media followers with a sneak peek of the content, and always include a link to your sign-up page.

Be Aware of Data Privacy and CAN-SPAM Laws

Once you start communicating with your marketing list, be sure to familiarize yourself with online marketing laws that cover the CAN-SPAM Act and your unsubscribe responsibilities. You’ll also need to develop an online privacy policy to show your compliance with these consumer data protection laws. Read more in SBA’s Overview of Privacy Laws

Things to Avoid

Lastly, what list-building tactics should you avoid as a small business owner? Generally you’ll find that the following are not worth spending your marketing dollars on:

  • Google ads – It’s very hard for small business owners to make pay-per-click advertising work as a list-building mechanism. Larger brands and thicker wallets tend to dominate this space.
  • Purchased lists – These include magazine subscriber lists, association member lists, and so on. When you communicate with a purchased list you are doing so on an unsolicited basis and your email will fall on deaf ears or be flagged as SPAM.
  • Banner ads – Okay for brand awareness if you are a big brand, but no good for small business lead generation or list building.

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About the Author:

Caron Beesley


Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley


Really nice summary of do's and dont's. One of the most helpful things we find here is accurate information and those things that would appear simple (if not evident) for specialist, but which really help everybody else. Thanks a lot.
Thanks for these tips. I recently started getting my practice online and find your suggestions more than useful! The information out there is overwhelming, but this was easy enough for even me to get. Hypnosis Albuquerque
My idea of building an efficient list of subscriptions is a contest with some decent prices. You can get lost of leads at a reasonable price. As always - be fair and DON'T SPAM! That's the key to success.
Thanks for this very useful article. It would be of immense benefit to us. Anaekwe Everistus Nnamdi This post was edited to remove a link. Please review our Community Best Practices for more information about how best to participate in our online discussions. Thank you.
I need to by way of thanking you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every tiny amount of it We have you bookmarked to look at new issues you post. Small Business Loans
Thanks Caron, the tips are very very help. And Rosetta this is not a good way of posting links. Beachbody Coaching
Hello. I always check out this site before I buy anything related to websites or making money online - http://5iphonreview.blogspot.com. My personal favorite is their review on 5iphon because it showed an easy way to build an email list and make money off of it.
This is indeed a very good post. I am trying to build an email list for my product. So far so good and your points is of good help surely. Thanks for sharing. Didar This post was edited to remove a link. Please review our Community Best Practices for more information about how best to participate in our online discussions. Thank you.    


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