Building a Killer Email List


Some marketers will have you believe that email is no longer a viable marketing tool and they site the emergence of social media as the reason. While I believe social media is an important marketing channel, I also believe that a well thought out email strategy will provide higher ROI than social media alone.

According to McKinsey & Company, email marketing is nearly 40 times more effective in acquiring customers than Facebook and Twitter combined. And it makes sense. Over 90% of consumers check their email daily and there are over 3.6 billion email accounts today.  But more importantly, every single aspect of an email can be controlled by the marketer. The same can’t be said for Facebook. And with email marketing you own 100% of the data.

The first step in email marketing is developing an email address list. As your list grows you need to think about quality, segmentation, and database management.

Quality over quantity

If you’re just starting with your email marketing efforts, it’s ok to start small. And in some cases it’s ok to prune contacts who haven’t engaged in a while. Sending a webinar invitation to one hundred contacts who have agreed to receive your newsletter is much more effective than sending it to thousands who have no need for your services and will more than likely mark it as spam.

Being labeled as a spammer decreases future deliverability of your emails. A focus on quality over quantity improves deliverability of your emails over time and ensures a targeted list of prospects who are more likely to answer your email’s call to action.


The beauty of today’s marketing tools is that they facilitate one to one automated conversations with your customers.  You have the ability to send marketing messages that appeal to specific customer groups, and thus are more likely to illicit positive responses. The first step to achieving this is through list segmentation. In other words, categorizing your contacts by interest, demographics, and purchase behavior. For instance, a clothing store who segments their list by gender and size can send a targeted “buy one shirt, get one free” offer in order to unload an old box of men’s XXL shirts.

There are many ways you can segment your lists. Some common categories include, sales cycle stage, geography, age, industry, and job function. What’s important is to find category segments that best pertain to your organization and how you do business.

Database management

Managing the integrity of your email list is just as important as developing click-inducing emails. Email marketing databases naturally degrade by over 20% annually due to clients moving companies, abandoning old email addresses, or opting out of your email communications. Keeping track of all of this while managing your customer segments can be a daunting task. As such, I recommend investing in a Customer Relationship Management system to serve as your “single source of truth”.

Building Your List

Once you determine how you’ll managing your email contacts, you should start focusing on growing your email database. 5 ways to build your business email list include:

Point of sale – Ask customers to join an email program at point of sale.  This tactic is gaining more traction in the retail industry and is pretty much standard for online businesses. Before asking customers for their information, spell out the frequency and benefits of your email program (e.g. member only special discounts and events).

Gate – Create, promote and gate compelling content. Gating is a digital tactic in which an educational resource, such as a whitepaper or case study, is only accessible through filling out a form. Added benefits of gating include identification of anonymous web visitors and additional insight on a lead’s hot button issues.

Webinars and Seminars – Hold an educational webinars or seminar.  While technically a subset of the gated content tactic, registration forms inherently don’t feel like an email gate. In addition, a well-produced webinar focused more on customer education rather than product marketing will position you as a consultative thought leader as opposed to a sales person.

 Subscribe buttons – If you have a killer blog, take advantage of it. Simply inserting a button to “subscribe to blog posts over email” is an easy way to gather emails. For your top blog posts, offer to email the post in another format like pdf.

Contest or giveaway – Promote a contest or giveaway either offline or digitally. To ensure that you are getting quality leads, make sure to only offer prizes that are consumer targeted. For example, offering an iPad will solicit leads from a wide range of demographics and interests, whereas a high end car detailing kit will encourage automobile enthusiast.

These are some simple things you can start today to increase your email database. Above all, the key is to attack email list-building from as many angles as possible.