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email marketing lists

How to build great lists

Successful email marketing is achieved by sending emails that people will want to read, to people who have asked to receive them. It sounds very simple, but takes quite a bit of planning and housekeeping to achieve the holy grail of email marketing success.

Building up good quality lists of email addresses is something that requires planning, there are lots of different avenues to pursue. These can be very fruitful in building databases of people who want to receive your mailer.

How lists play a critical part in the success of email marketing.

Email marketing works best when used to nurture lists of people who are the right demographic for your product. These people need to have also opted in to receive your communications.

Good quality lists will provide a good source of enquiries for your services over many years. Building these lists needn’t be a mammoth task, it just requires a sound plan, utilising a few different areas. In this handy guide, we’ll outline these main areas and different methods to employ to build good quality opted in email marketing lists.

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The pitfalls to avoid

Good email marketing lists can be a really consistent source of new business. Bad email marketing lists can cause harm to your company domain name and the reputation of your sending server.

So, what constitutes a bad list?

A bad list could be a list made up of people who have not asked to receive your email marketing and aren’t the right demographic for your services. If these people feel that your communication is unsolicited and not relevant to them, they will mark it as ‘spam’. Every time someone does this, it has a negative effect on your sender reputation. Your email marketing sends carry with them a percentage score sender reputation, if this score is high, then your marketing will be allowed through to the inbox, if it is low then it will be filtered as spam.

A poor-quality list could also have a high bounce rate. This could be becuase of lots of old email addresses that don’t exist anymore. Perhaps the recipient had moved jobs and therefore their email address has been closed down. It’s important to regularly audit your lists and remove any old or dead addresses. Most modern email marketing software will remove these for you with list cleansing – these would be classed as hard bounces If your list has lots of dead addresses, this will also decrease your sender score.

Having lots of duplicates can also cause issues with your list, if the same person receives multiple copies of your mailing, it can prompt them into complaining to their email service provider, who in turn can block your company.

The big plus with generating your own lists is that you are completely confident with the quality of the addresses contained within – as you’ve generated them yourself. If you are using purchased or third party lists, then these are often very poor quality and full of dead domains, duplicates and people whose addresses have been collected without their knowledge or consent.

Often these third party lists do more harm than good, so are best avoided. Email marketing is all about quality than quantity, smaller well qualified lists will always yield much better results than large lists padded out with dubious content.

The sources to use to collate new lists:

There are lots of different ways to generate a good quality email marketing list, different approaches will work for different companies. The most comprehensive strategy is to try and cover as many bases as possible, focusing on opting in everyone that you come into contact with.

Your website

Your own website is one of the most effective ways to collect new subscribers for your email marketing, there are a whole host of different methods that you can try:

Social Media

Social media is a great way to reach new prospects, it can really extend the reach of your business, bringing your products and services to the attention of a much wider audience.

The first thing to do is to grow your social media network as wide as possible, actively use the search facilities contained within each network to look for new contacts that fit your demographic. You can then connect with as many of these as possible.

Don’t just stick to the obvious channels such as Facebook and Twitter, you can also use Instagram, Google Plus, Tumblr, Reddit & Flickr. LinkedIn is also great for business, you can grow a wide network very quickly indeed, this is one of the best platforms for building a network of business contacts.

It’s also worth using YouTube, you can easily add video content and grow a network of subscribers. Good email marketing software will also provide social media integration, to post copies of your email amrketing to your social media channels.

Ok, so now you have a good sized network of social media contacts, how do you convert these into email marketing subscribers?

Historic contacts

This one is often overlooked, but really can be one of the most fruitful methods for collecting email addresses of potential subscribers.

It’s worth going back through all of the records that you have of people who have purchased or dealt with you before. They may have left their email address as part of your dealings with them. If these people have purchased from you before, then it’s fine to add them to your email marketing subscribers list, as they are an existing customer or contact of yours.

GDPR says that you are perfectly ok to continue emailing your customers without having to ask them to re-opt in. This is defined as ‘legitimate interests’ by GDPR, this means that these people have a legitimate interest in receiving your communications as they are a customer of yours.

It’s often quite surprising how many email addresses you can collect using this method. Going back through all of the records that you have could add lots of subscribers that could purchase from you again if they are emailed. Using this method offers the easiest route to loyal customers and repeat sales.

Face to Face

In a digital age, it’s easy to forget that we make lots of contacts face to face – and all of these people could potentially be new email marketing subscribers.

If your business attends or exhibits at trade shows, these are ideal for meeting lots of people. It’s great practice to ask for business cards from everyone that you meet, you can then ask them if it’s ok to send them your updates via email. GDPR says that a verbal consent gained in this way is admissible as a form of opt in.

If your company has a stand at a trade show, you could also run a competition; anyone that puts their business card in a bowl that you provide, will then be entered into a prize draw. This is a great way of building new contacts from passing foot flow at a trade show.


You could use telemarketing to contact businesses that fit your demographic, these could be businesses that you have profiled or been in contact with before perhaps. The purpose of the call would be to contact the right person at the company, ask their consent to be added to your list and to confirm their email address.

This approach works well, it also qualifies that you have the right contact info and under GDPR, verbal consent is perfectly fine.

Over a short time period, your telemarketers could contact lots of new potential subscribers, depending in the scale on which you do this, it could be a significant number.


Using some or all of the above methods to collect and opt in the email addresses of your contacts will help to build an excellent quality database. If used correctly, it can be a really good source of business for your company for many years.

Most of these methods are very cost effective to do and don’t take up that much time, these are ideal for small business looking to try email marketing.

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