5 Dependable Approaches to a Robust Email List


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One of the first things a new business starts working on from a marketing perspective is their email subscriber list. In this age of immersive social media platforms that completely capture users’ time and attention, you’d think email marketing is dead and gone. But you only have to open your own email inbox to know that email marketing is alive, kicking and roaring to go.

One of the big reasons why email marketing has managed to hold its own in the face of stiff competition from social media, search marketing, display retargeting, mobile ads, native ads and more is the fact that an email database is entirely your own. You don’t need to pay any third party like Google or Facebook to reach out to your audience. You can do it at a moment’s notice. You can do it as many times as you like (though I would strongly recommend against spamming your subscribers). Best of all, research by McKinsey proves that email marketing offers conversion rates that are three times higher than marketers’ favorite – social media marketing.

If I have managed to convince to you double down on your email marketing efforts, you’d also want to know how to build a robust and ripe for conversion email database. Read on to find out.

Transactional Emails

Every purchase made by users on your website is accompanied by an order confirmation email sent straight to your user’s inbox. You get hold of your user’s email ID via your checkout process. However, by sharing their email ID with you for completing and online purchase, the user does not authorize you to send them marketing emails at a later date. You still need their explicit opt-in before you start spamming – uh, mailing – them.

A smart way to get more email IDs on your database while still respecting your customer’s privacy is including a simple opt-in section inside your transaction email. This way, you stay on the right side of the CAN-SPAM Act while also growing your audience. Avis Car Rentals included an opt-in banner inside their transactional emails and found their conversation rates hovered at over 1.2%. Not bad for an untapped source, eh?

Customer Referrals

This is not news to us. Users believe the word of other users way more than they believe what a marketer has to say about their own brand. However, in spite of this sound knowledge, how many of us actually design and implement referral programs for real?

Just as you would ask users to refer new customers, you can also leverage this option for growing your email database. Pet foods major Petco combines referrals and email database growth in an extremely smart way. It begins innocuously enough with a simple banner asking for a referral on their home page.


But once a customer clicks on it, he finds out that he can earn $10 for every referred friend who buys from Petco.


Then Petco goes ahead and asks for a list of as many email IDs as possible so the user can earn ever higher discounts when he shops at Petco himself. Great way to tap into your user’s bargain-hunting nature and win a bunch of new email IDs for your database at the same time!


We all love a little treat every now and then. Tempt your users with a treat for taking actions that you want them to, thus increasing the chances of them coming to shop with you next.

This is where your great quality content becomes your best friend and helps grow your email subscriber base. Allow users to download a free tool, a simple app or resource, a whitepaper, research report, or even a blog post in PDF format in exchange for their email IDs.

HubSpot does this brilliantly by offering not just the mundane old ebook or whitepaper. They mix it up by offering interesting little goodies like free PowerPoint templates or a collection of royalty-free images in exchange for an email ID.


One critical thing to keep in mind when exchanging content for an email ID is to verify the email ID shared with you. The simplest way to do this is by asking users for their email IDs and mailing them the resource or download straight to their inbox. This will weed out all those users who get the information they want and in return share a fake email ID to avoid being spammed by brands every day.

Lightbox Captures

Rugged outdoors brand Best Made does a simple lightbox to capture emails as soon as you a first time visitor lands on their site.

best made

Instead of simply saying, “Sign up for our free newsletter!” Best Made makes a great case for why you need to subscribe to their newsletters. They steer clear from bribing users with coupon codes and discounts in exchange for an email ID. Instead they emphasize that their newsletter is short and sweet with compelling stories and useful information. Who would not want short, sweet, compelling stories in their inbox every now and then?

Why should you use lightbox captures? Because they work! WPBeginner saw a 600% increase in email subscriptions thanks to their email capture lightbox.

Cross Promotion with Other Brands

Who said you need to always pay to advertise to an audience that is not your own? Brand partnerships are a genius survival hack mastered by cash-strapped but big-on-ideas startups and new businesses. What it basically involves is first, identifying a business that offers products and service to the same target audience as yours, but operates in a completely different product category. This ensures that you are speaking to the right audience, without being a threat to your brand partner’s prospects.

One way of getting a completely fresh email database from a brand partner is via a direct swap. However, most users don’t appreciate their information being traded like playing cards between brands. The more professional way to do it is by featuring your brand inside your partner brand’s regular newsletter. Let your partner’s users have the option of signing up for your newsletter directly through the partner’s email. Alternately you can request for an opt-in to your email database once the user click on your content in the newsletter and lands up on your site.

Your Turn

How many of these five sure-fire tricks have you tried? What methods besides these have won you free email IDs from your target audience? Tell us, we’d love to hear from you!

Lori Wagoner
Lori Wagoner is a marketing researcher and strategist who works with small businesses and organizations to help them gain online visibility. Feel free to strike up a conversation on Twitter @loridwagoner.


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