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3 Basics You Need to Build a Successful Email List

(1st in a beginner’s series on marketing with emails)

Spring is nearly here. This season, unless you already have an overgrown email list, consider sowing the seeds of your very own customer database, which is, after all, the only kind you should use. Growing your own isn’t as hard as you might think. And like a vegetable garden that starts small and develops over time, your email list will reward you with high yields when you tend and care for it properly.

1. Begin with your current customers

If you’ve never really done a true email marketing campaign before, the first step is to create a customer database or list of customer email addresses that you can use to email. If you don’t have your customers email address, use your website, an application form, order form and other appropriate customer touch points, to ask your customers for permission to email updates, specials, and other important bits of information from you. Real Estate Agents do this very well. Though they’re a small shop, they use every opportunity to reach out to their clients.  It’s also very important to ask for permission with email marketing, or you leave yourself open to complaints and fines. A good email list of current customers should increase your customer loyalty, giving you repeat business.

2. Offer a reason to sign up and privacy

What do you have to offer? You need to entice your customer to sign up, and answer their unvoiced question “What’s in it for me if I sign up with you?” This is also a great way to bring in prospects. Let them test drive your company, and see what you offer before they work with or buy from you. There are a lot of choices out there so emphasize what’s unique about your company. Reassure them that their privacy is priority and your company is CAN-SPAM compliant and you will always protect and respect it. Let them know that their email address will only be used by your company to update them on products, offers, and other important relevant information. They want to know they won’t be getting spam because they are giving you their email address. Either have your privacy policy spelled out or have a link to a page that spells it out.

3. Always say Thank You

You should have a Thank You page that comes up after customers submit their email address to you. Either send them an email manually, or an automated email. They’ve just given you something personal, so get your relationship off to a good start. This page should thank them and confirm what they just signed up for.2 Give them a few more details on what they will be receiving from you1 and how to manage their account. This is also a great time to maybe throw in an offer or something to entice them to become more involved in your business (ie. Birthday club, sign up anniversary date).

Real World Example:
If you’re a graphic designer, selling your services, why not ask prospects if they’d like to receive monthly samples of designs and pieces other customers are requesting. Not only does it showcase your work, but gives them more ideas. Also, give them tips on how to do simple designs themselves – chances are they’ll end up giving you their business for more robust projects.

Bottom Line?
Whatever you’re selling, you can use email to enhance your customer base and increase sales, just make your sign up form easy to use (don’t ask them for more information than you need), be clear what they are signing up for and say Thanks. These three basics for starting your email marketing list are the foundation for building a trusted reputation with your customer.  Stick to honesty and integrity and your list and your reputation will flourish.

Upcoming: Look for more articles in this series including What to Consider when Looking for an Email Service Provider (ESP) and 5 Low-Budget Ways to Build Revenue with Email Marketing.


  1. Five Secrets to Email List Growth by Tom Kulzer
  2. First Impressions Count with Email Marketing by Mark Brownlow
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