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How to Build and Grow an Email list

Tue 11th Aug 2020
By Todd
email, email marketing

Of all the social media metrics, likes and followers seems to be the number the modern business seems to shout about the most.

There’s no doubt that these are interesting, but there’s another audience you really need to get serious about growing – your email list.


How to Build and Grow an Email list

Email beats social media – 3 BIG reasons why you need to get serious about email marketing

We’ve been serious about email for the entire time we’ve had a business. In fact – we were keen on email marketing before we even had a business.

There are three big reasons you should take email seriously.

1. Email open rates beat social media reach

The average email open rate can range from a lower 15% right up to 30 or even 40% for an engaged list.

Sounds crap? No. When you compare email open and click rates with organic social media reach it’s far better! The average Facebook reach for a page is around 3% according to most industry experts. Email beats that hands down.

2. Email is yours, your timeline is Zuckerberg’s

Keeping up with social media is a full-time job. The changes are constant. The timelines on LinkedIn and Facebook are bloated and overused and it’s getting tougher to get seen.

It’s also changing constantly so you really need to keep up to stay visible.

Not only that, but we’re constantly hearing about Facebook accounts and Instagram followings disappearing due to hacks and problems with Facebook.

In contrast, you ‘own’ the email data you have. You have more control over changes to social media if you communicate on email as well. You can email your list whenever you like and of course you can do cool re-marketing on Facebook with that list, too.

3. Social media is cool, but email is engrained.

Social media is certainly the newer kid on the block but if you really want your audience to hear from you then email is best.

Really? Yes… for the big things, anyway.

Email is engrained in our world and we open them daily and check them constantly. Many people would admit to checking email more than social.

(This is especially important if you’re B2B!)

If you want to get chit chat and simple daily updates to people then social media – especially your story – is a great way to go, but bigger updates are best on email or email and social combined for bonus points.


What’s an email list?

Ok, let’s get to the crux of this topic. What’s an email list?

Your ‘list’ is a database of emails that you’ve collected from clients/customers/leads and interested people who want to hear from you.

People subscribe to your list. They ‘opt-in’ to hear from you. You have their consent to get in touch.

Once someone is on your list you can email them and everyone else on your list with email ‘blasts’ or ‘campaigns’. Whatever you do though… don’t send them a bloody newsletter!

Why? Because they’re dull and boring!

But I digress…

Your email list is your database of customers or fans’ emails. To email them all you’ll need a proper email system so that it’s all compliant and so that it’s easier to create great looking emails that you can also track and analyse.

Oh… and don’t worry that you only have a small list. Start emailing. If I join your list today and don’t hear from you for a year because you’re ‘building your list’ I’ll forget about you!


What email platforms can you grow an email list with?

We often get asked this as some seem to think it’s OK to email out on mass to your list from your Outlook or Gmail.

No, that’s not GDPR compliant and it’s also not going to be easy to do or give you the option to style it and make it branded and more compelling to look at.

Email software like Mailchimp gives you all the design and style features you’ll need and also the all-important ‘unsubscribe’ options so that your subscribers are in control of their emails from you. You need to respect their wishes if they don’t want you to stay in touch.

Most email software is very similar and if you’re just sending out the odd email then Mailchimp is probably the best option but it’s worth taking a look at the main players:

The key to all of these is that you create a nice and simple template with your brand and logo on but not over the top with too many buttons or ‘whistles and bells’ added. That’s what we chose to do, anyway. Of course you can go to town with graphics and text columns and lots of visuals but we find those emails distracting. And we will mercilessly take the piss out of you if you only email at Christmas with something horrific like an animated Christmas tree e-card.


How do you grow an email list?

Growing your list is going to be something you’ll want to add to your business bible from now on.

There are LOADS of tried and test ways to grow an email list and where are just some of our favourite and simple ways to do it.

Subscribe boxes – add a ‘subscribe to our email list’ box on your website. Here’s how to do it with Mailchimp.

Where’s what ours looks like:

  • Freebies – offering free content like PDFs, guides, eBook or course can drive people to sign-up and share their email to gain access. Here’s one we’ve created.
  • Website footer – add your email list to your website foot to drive email subscribers from your website visits.

Growing your email list from your website

  • Competitions – running competitions on social media can help to drive signups to your list. People love a completion. Facebook Ads might be the best way to do this.
  • Facebook group – we grow most of our list from our Facebook group. We ask for member emails when they join, and the majority give them. We shoot them an email with a link to our free eBook and they add themselves to the list.

Growing an email list from a Facebook Group

  • Social media handles – all email marketing software gives you a ‘subscribe link’ so that you can share it easily. Why not add this to your social media bio?

Add email sign up to social media


  • Exhibitions – exhibitions are a great way to grow and email list. The classic business cards in a fishbowl isn’t a GDPR compliant way to grow your list though, so many have an iPad or phone app on hand so that visitors to your stand can add themselves securely.
  • Networking events (and online) – these are another tried and tested way to grow your list. Although a slow burn (unless you network A LOT), networking will add real life connection to your email list. We simply ask on our follow-up emails after meeting if they’d like to go onto our email list or send the free eBook link for them to add themselves.


What about GDPR?

Right. Let’s talk about this because it’s related to email marketing. GDPR (The General Data Protection REGULATION) came into play on May 25th 2018. It’s there to protect our data being abused and many business owners thought this just meant email.

It doesn’t only affect email, but it does include email.

This is a huge topic and not one we’ll cover in detail here because it’s depends how you use your emails and what kind of business you are.

There are also six ways to approach it.

It’s highly recommended to get a GDPR expert to audit your business and advise you.

Simply put, though:

Emails should only be added to your email list with consent from the email owner. Don’t go adding emails to your list without consent. The best way to make sure you’re covered is to ask your customers and leads to add themselves via your subscribe link. That way you have a digital trail and record of it; something GDPR is there to ensure you collect.

In May 2018 we really irritated GDPR experts with our take on email marketing with a blog that went viral – GDPR You’re Doing it Wrong pokes fun at the over egged ‘double opt-in’ message. We just passionately felt that small businesses were shooting themselves in the foot and deleting all their data when some may not have needed to. And our mission is to help small businesses succeed.

It’s clearly a big topic, so it’s best to get an expert to look into it.


Start growing your list (and emailing) now

Please start building your list. Email marketing is a tried, tested and profitable marketing channel and one we’d not be without.

Growing your list takes time hit it’s a big investment into your future marketing and business.

Send good content, make sure you’re compliant, keep telling people about your great emails and please – don’t say the N word or send a bloody Newsletter!

Need help with your email marketing?

We can offer strategic advice, training on email software, or full regular email management. Drop us a message to find out more.

Tags associated with this article

email email marketing

2 comments on this article

  • Peter Kidd at 9:18am on August 12th 2020

    Todd, it’s like you’re in my head. On my ToDo list this week is to review and update my mailing list. As always, your blogs are timely and helpful. Keep them coming.

    1. Jo Ciriani at 10:22am on August 12th 2020

      Peter – don’t forget we offer outsourced email services so if you don’t have the time or energy to do it yourself just let us know!

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