Grow This Way: Email List Building Dos and Don’ts


Heat Level: Med

Bottom Line: Following email marketing best-practices when growing your subscriber list protects your brand’s online reputation.

Do This: Grow your email marketing list the right way by getting subscribers through a variety of other marketing efforts. Keep subscribers by providing useful content.

person writing email on computer screenYou might be SPAMming without realizing it - which puts your permission to send email at risk.So you’re using email marketing (you’re not? You should! Head here to read why, then come back). One of the biggest concerns surrounding email marketing is how to go about growing your list. 

Here’s the thing: there are a lot of different ways to grow your list. Some are great! Others can land your agency in serious hot water. Your email marketing should be an integral piece of your overall marketing efforts - and that means following best practices when growing your subscriber base is essential.

So how do you grow the right way?

First and Foremost: Don’t Buy Lists

This is a big one, and unfortunately one a lot of people still do. Buying lists or getting emails from places other than your direct subscribers is shady for a lot of reasons. 

First, if people didn’t decide to sign up for your emails, what makes you think that they want to hear from you? They’ll be more likely to unsubscribe and/or to mark your emails as spam, which will hurt your online reputation. A spike in spam complaints and unsubscribes can also damage your domain’s credibility and make it much harder for your campaigns to be delivered to anyone...including your actual subscribers.

Second, a lot of platforms explicitly don’t allow this. Mailchimp specifically bans having “third-party lists” that you bought or obtained through other indirect means in your account. In other words, if you use a bought list, you could get kicked off of the platforms you’re dependant on.

Even if you find a “really reputable source” because you just have to grow faster, it’s a huge risk that isn’t worth getting your domain blacklisted.

Do Use Your Other Marketing Efforts to Grow Your List

Email marketing is a crucial part of your overall marketing effort. This means that while your emails should promote your brand, you can also use your other marketing to grow your email list. 

Having an open house? Then use an electronic sign-in to gather emails. Do you have your own website? Be sure to include a subscribe form to get collect new addresses. Running ads on Facebook or Google? Be sure to include an email opt-in form on your ad’s landing page.

Don’t Skirt Opt-Ins and Other Regulations

Even if you collect your emails through legitimate methods like an open house sign-in, you need to get proper opt-in from new subscribers. And if you’re adding sign-up forms online to your site or landing pages, you need to make it explicitly clear what people are signing up for.

Proper opt-in means that your subscribers are completely clear about what they’re signing up for and what they can expect to get from you. This protects your brand from lots of unsubscribers and spam reports. So while your impulse may be to start emailing the minute you get a new address, send them an opt-in first to make sure that they are 100% on-board. Yes, you may get less subscribers right away this way. But it ensures that the subscribers you have are legitimate.

In the United States, you’re also required to provide an easy unsubscribe method in every email. Sending campaigns without this or sending anything with false or misleading information will violate the CAN-SPAM Act...which actually makes it illegal. You can check out Mailchimp’s best practice guidelines to staying on the right side of CAN-SPAM here.

Do Make Your Emails Useful Enough to Keep Subscribers

All of this brings us to the most important point: if you want to gain and keep subscribers, focus on sending quality content. Seriously. Use your marketing efforts to gain subscribers, of course, but make sure that your campaigns make people glad they signed up. 

Playing the long-game when it comes to email is essential. You can’t grow your list overnight. You need to build a strong reputation and provide valuable information to give people a reason to sign up and stay on your list.

Bottom Line

A good email marketing strategy takes time. You need to grow your list the right way if you want your email efforts to stand the test of time. Trying to skirt the best-practices can land you in hot water legally and damage your client trust. So use your other marketing efforts to build your list, then make people glad they signed up with high-quality content.

Jess Clair self-portrait on Mount Washington
Jess Clair is the Marketing and Sales Project Manager at Joyce, Inc. in Pittsburgh, PA.
Working with ListingManager allows Jess to explore an alternate reality where she could one day own a house instead of renting. When she’s not focused on her daily to-do lists, Jess enjoys HBO binges, gourmet lattes, and playing with her dog.

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