How to Grow a Strong Email List

When you created your first email marketing campaign, who did you send it to? Did you dump the email address of every person you’ve ever exchanged emails with into the contact list and hit send? OK, so that may not be illegal, but I’m going to tsk-tsk you for it anyway because it’s just not ideal.


Here’s the deal: People report emails as spam all the time and whether you think your emails warrant that or not (I hope not!), that doesn’t mean it’s not actually deserved. If people didn’t explicitly sign up for your marketing emails or don’t remember doing so, there’s a good chance they’ll unsubscribe from your list and they may even report it as abuse. As you’re probably aware, it’s illegal to send spam and can land you with tens of thousands of dollars in fines. Even if no one takes legal action, those spam reports can still hurt the legitimacy of your emails, landing your future emails in more people’s spam folders, even when those people actually wanted your emails.

The lesson here? Do your best to make sure your contacts want to receive your emails. If it’s been awhile between them confirming that they want your emails and you actually sending an email, it’s smart to send an intro asking them to confirm that they want to remain on your list.

So you get that I’m telling you not to just do an email address dump into your email marketing platform’s contact database. (And definitely don’t buy emails either! That is illegal.) Now you need to grow the list you do have in a legal and ethical way. Well, you’re in luck, because there are several options and you don’t have to pick just one! In fact, you can use them all.

  1. Embed an opt-in form on your website. This can be a pop-up form that greets visitors when they get to certain pages on your site or have been on it for a certain amount of time, or it can be a static signup embedded into your website. The form should have a sign-up box for their email address (name is a bonus that can be helpful down the road) and clearly state what they can expect to opt in to.
  2. Include an opt-in box in your contracts. I got this idea from a savvy business owner I know and implemented it myself, and it functions exactly as I’d hoped. Instead of being hesitant to add clients to my contact list, I can do so with confidence because they check a box agreeing to it while they’re signing the rest of the contract. Two birds, one stone!
  3. Offer a sign-up sheet at events. One client of mine has excellent growth on her contact lists and a reason is that, at events she hosts, she puts out a sign-up sheet that lets people add their contact info. The sheet and people working the event note that people will be adding their email to be contacted regarding future events and promotions.
  4. Host giveaways that require an email address for entry. Platforms like ShortStack are great for providing you with online contest and giveaway templates that you can customize. You’ll probably want to require an email address for entry so that you can contact the winner, but make that work for you twofold. Along with the check box where the entrant agrees to the terms (or they can’t enter), you can include another box that has them agree for their email address to be added to your email marketing database. This is not a box that they should be required to check, but it makes it very easy for them to opt-in while they’re already excited about what you have to offer.
  5. Add an opt-in tab on your Facebook page. People tend to look at your content that pops up in their newsfeed more than they go and peruse your actual page, but it can only help to add an email opt-in tab on your Facebook page, because you never know! Email platforms like MailChimp and Constant Contact are great at integrating with Facebook to make these efforts doable and fairly simple.
  6. Link to the opt-in form in your email signature. Again, because, why not? Think of that free space in your email — that is probably seen by at least a dozen people a day — as a free marketing space that can work for you!
  7. Collect business cards at events. Now this one is a little trickier than the others because it operates on implied permission whereas the others use explicit permission to be added to your list and, while allowed, it can be a gray area. If you collect business cards in a fishbowl for a giveaway when you present or speak at an event, you should definitely be up front about your intentions with the cards/emails. The tricky part comes when and if someone does lodge a complaint against you for your emails and you can’t back up their permission in writing. So proceed with caution and consider getting a lawyer’s take on this.

All of these ideas are ones we have successfully implemented for ourselves at Magpie Media or our clients. To learn more about how we can help you build a strong email marketing contact list, contact us today at

Like what you read? Give Jacquelyn Gutc a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.