As part of creating a stellar newsletter strategy, you need to build a high-quality email list. These days it’s easy to purchase a large email list that appears to be targeted, but this falls into the “too good to be true” category. Paid lists are almost always ineffective, untargeted and full of bunk addresses. Mass distributions to such lists can result in an abundance of SPAM reports and unsubscribes, which could potentially blacklist your domain from the email marketing provider. When it comes to a successful email marketing campaign, the quality of your list, rather than size of it, wins every time.

Keeping that in principle in mind, how do you grow your email list organically, without paying for it? Your email list should consist of current customers or clients, prospects, strategic partners and others whom “opted in” to receive email communications from your company. While your existing network can be downloaded from a CRM or email service like Outlook, the power of email marketing can be fully realized once you attract new contacts who are potentially interested in your products or services.

Read on for a few ways to grow your email list organically.

Place a sign-up link in your email signature

You interface with customers, business contacts and other key audience members via email every day. Within your email signature block, include a link to sign up for the company’s email newsletter. Most email marketing services allow you to create opt-in links for this purpose. Your call-to-action can be something as simple as “Join Our Email List!” Or, you can get more descriptive with an incentive or newsletter feature.

Place prominent email opt-in forms on your website

Place a sign-up form in the website footer and/or sidebar, or create a pop-up that greets visitors when they visit a particular page, encouraging them to sign up for email communications.

Offer incentives for signing up

Incentives such as whitepapers, cheat sheets, templates, discounts and other useful resources can help you attract relevant contacts. Promote the incentive on social media and your website, encouraging people to sign up and download.

In addition to helping you grow your email list, whitepapers, templates and similar incentives showcase your team’s expertise and can be leveraged in other content marketing efforts.

Once these people have signed up and received their incentive, how do you keep them from unsubscribing? Continue to provide valuable, shareable content in your email newsletters and other communications. If you released a whitepaper, there are likely other topics that this audience would find beneficial. Incorporate regular educational content into your email marketing strategy so you can provide your audience with information they will use.

Add an opt-in to receipts for sales transactions

If your company engages in online sales transactions, include a checkbox during the checkout process that allows customers to opt into email communications. If you have a brick and mortar store, place a hand-written opt-in form at the front desk or checkout counter to collect customers’ information.

Collect addresses at trade shows and other events

If your company attends or exhibits at industry trade shows or conferences, take advantage of the opportunity to collect new email addresses. These events are designed to encourage networking, so be sure to have some sort of lead capture technology at your booth. You can also collect business cards at educational seminars or after-hours social events using the “fish bowl” method, which is often tied to a drawing and assumes an “opt in.” You can also create a custom follow-up campaign after the event to keep your company and its services top-of-mind. 

Remember, it is frowned upon (and also illegal) to send emails to people who don’t have a relationship with your company and have not opted in to receive email communication. Make sure the people in your lists have a true connection to your company in some way, whether they are an existing customer or they opted in through other channels.

When you take the time to cultivate a list of the right contacts for your email marketing, your list may be smaller, but you’ll see great results.