Over the past two weeks, we’ve been focusing a lot on email marketing, and for good reason: email marketing is one of the fastest, easiest ways to generate leads and sales.

But in order to get results from your email marketing, you’re going to need a list.  And so, today, I’m going to simplify the topic of “list-building,” and break down the 3 major ways to grow your email list.

Method #1. Bulk Import Contacts

Now, this is a somewhat tricky topic, because you need to be careful to avoid spamming people. But one of the first steps you should take is to organize and import your existing customer list into your email software provider (ESP).

Most ESPs allow you to import a list of contacts. But policies change, so I recommend you double check before signing up with a new ESP.

As you can probably imagine, you can’t just import random contacts into your database and start sending them emails, because you’d be spamming people.  So, if your ESP allows you to import contacts, they will want you to verify that you have permission to email them. At the very least, you need to have some kind of pre-existing relationship with your subscribers, or else you’ll get lots of spam complaints.

In our experience, if you import a list of recent customers, and you proceed carefully, you’ll be OK. Just be careful about the type of contacts you import, as well as nature and frequency of the emails you send. If you get too many spam complaints, you may get kicked off your ESP.

OK, so that’s an overview of importing contacts… Let’s talk about method #2.

Method #2. Add New Contacts (1-By-1)

You can also manually add new email addresses to your database, 1-by-1, as you generate new prospects and customers offline.

For example, if you have an offline retail business, you can collect email addresses at the point of sale.

You should also collect emails from every prospect who calls in to your business. One smart way to do this is to incentivize your receptionist to make sure she collects email addresses from new callers.

I know the owner of an appliance repair business in New York who pays his receptionist $1 for every email address she is able to collect and enter into his email database. And as a result, he’s growing his email list at a nice clip every month just from all the incoming phone calls he receives.

When you’re asking customers and prospects if they want to receive your email newsletter, you should be sure to stress the benefits of your email newsletter, so it’s compelling. For example, if you’re a chiropractor, you could offer free weekly health tips, as well as exclusive patient deals and discounts.

Method #3. Add Sign-Up Forms to Your Website

In addition, you should make it easy for people to add themselves to your email list. And you can do that by adding sign-up forms to your website.

Here are 3 types of sign-up forms that every business should have on their website.

  • ‘Contact Us’ sign-up forms: On your ‘contact us’ page, add a website form that collects information from prospective customers, and enters it into your database.
  • Newsletter sign-up forms: You should also have a newsletter sign-up form, so it’s easy for people to join your email newsletter.
  • Free Report sign-up forms: One of the most effective ways to build your email list is to offer a free report on your website, in exchange for your visitor’s name and email address.

The beauty of having sign-up forms on your website is that you’ll start automatically generating new email subscribers.

To Recap…

Here are 3 methods to build your email list:

Method #1. You can import email addresses, assuming you have a pre-existing relationship and permission to email these contacts.

Method #2. You can manually collect new email addresses from prospects and customers, and add them to your database.

Method #3. You can add sign-up forms to your website, including contact us, newsletter, and free report forms, so people can easily join your email list without you lifting a finger.

No matter what type of business you have, I’m sure that you can use one of these 3 methods to grow your email database. And then, once you’ve built a list, the next step is to run some email promotions!