What Is an Emailing List and How Do I Build One?

Melanie Balke
May 15, 2023

You can’t do email marketing without a list.

From landing pages to lead generation and everything in between, your email marketing depends on your contacts. You need recipients, and — ideally — they should be loyal email subscribers.

If you’re looking for an overview of an email list or want some tips to grow yours, this is the blog post for you!

Keep scrolling to learn more!

What Is a Mailing List?

A manuscript of passengers aboard a trans-Atlantic voyage. Overlaid text reads, "The Basics: What Are Emailing Lists?"

Many things in marketing have strange names, but a mailing list isn’t one of them. This is exactly what it sounds like! It’s a collection of email addresses and any other relevant information.

Every email marketing strategy starts with a mailing list, so it’s not something you can really ignore. Even cold marketing requires some list-building.

The most basic contact list only includes a customer’s email address. However, a sign-up form can collect as much or as little data as you require. Many brands ask for both the address and name of a customer. Others — particularly those in the B2B sphere — request that leads provide their email addresses, name, and professional title.

You can even collect email addresses at in-person events. Conventions, fairs, and local gatherings are common marketing hangouts.

The Benefits of Email Marketing

A pile of floppy disks. "The Perks: Email lists help you focus your email campaigns."

The email list is the beginning of your digital marketing strategy.

It’s a way to turn every impression into a longstanding connection. Think of how many people view your brand on social media channels every day. How many people are visiting your website? Those visitors are your target audience and potential customers; you do not want to lose their attention.

Email campaigns fill that gap — the gorge between an impression and a purchase — with high-quality content. Even better, the marketing channel is a lucrative source of income for every industry. Email marketing works just as well for a brick-and-mortar store as an ecommerce website. It’s for pop-up businesses, online businesses, and even B2B ventures!

Of the many marketing channels, email remains one of the most effective ways to turn successful ad campaigns into perennial success. After all, email marketing has an average ROI of 4,400%!

Get Your Email Marketing Efforts Started

An old form. Overlaid text reads, "Opt-In Forms: Know What Info You Need."

Who doesn’t want a slice of success?

If you’re about to dip your toe into email marketing, now is the time to cultivate your list. Don’t wait until you’re planning your campaigns! Turn your website visitors into brand ambassadors by adding an opt-in form to your site.

There are many free tools to create and implement opt-in forms. Moreover, most email service providers offer built-in form-building tech. In fact, your ecommerce site may have its own platform for generating email lists.

But don’t run off just yet! There’s still a lot of material to cover!

Let’s start with the basics: What information do you need, and what do you want?

Know the Essentials for Your Sign-Up Form

A computer's motherboard. "The Opt-In Form: Know what information you need and avoid asking for too much."

Obviously, the bare minimum for a contact list is a user’s email address.

But you don’t have to stop there! Most email opt-in forms include 2–3 fields, usually the contact details and the user’s first name. These are the ABCs of lead generation, and you don’t need fancy third-party tools to handle the data.

But that only covers two fields. What’s the third one?

It depends on what you’re selling. Some of the most common candidates for the third slot include the following:

  • Business information
  • Employment information (i.e., position, salutation, or status)
  • Gender
  • Personal preferences (i.e., clothing style, title, or shopping categories)

Keep Those Sign-Up Forms Short

A fishing net. "Keep It Short: Don't make your potential customers answer 20 questions!"

Don’t ask too many questions, though!

Study after study has shown that longer forms reduce conversion rates. Every additional question reduces a sign-up form’s effectiveness by about 11%, hence the 2–3 field standard.

That’s not to say you can’t ask questions. You just need to know when to ask!

A common workaround to short sign-up forms is progressive profiling, which uses CRM tools to track website visitors. New subscribers are given a unique status, which tells the site to show them different questions on the standard pop-up. This allows brands to build an email list without drowning new customers in questions. Moreover, it gives users greater control over their information.

Don’t Forget to Offer an Incentive

Overlapping leaves. "Offer Value: Give customers something worth their email addresses."

Once you’ve nailed the form, you must conquer the pitch.

Give website visitors a reason to join your email list!

Most brands offer free shipping or exclusive discounts to new subscribers, but those aren’t your only options. You can also offer your subscribers downloadable lead magnets, early access to new items, and other types of exclusive content. Some brands even give first-time subscribers access to unique YouTube videos!

Regardless of what you’re offering, ensure your offer is loud and clear! Don’t bury your lead under flowery prose or lesser offers. You may even want to work your pitch into your call-to-action button (e.g., “Download Your Free eBook!”).

Keeping Your Audience Engaged

A construction site. "Organize: Keep Your List Engaged."

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to capture leads. You must also keep those users engaged!

You’ve fought hard for those email addresses, and the last thing you want is to lose access to those inboxes. So, harness the power of your email marketing tool. Find ways of encouraging users to engage with your content.

Stay on Top of Your Email List

First and foremost, you’ll need marketing tools to maintain your list.

Eventually, someone will unsubscribe. It’s a sad but inevitable fact! And — as much as you hate to do it — you must purge that address from your system. Failing to do so will land you in hot legal waters, and no amount of customer data is worth a federal investigation!

Those same systems should also be assigned to list maintenance. Common maintenance tasks include:

  • Automating emails and referral programs
  • Filtering spam traps
  • Removing lapsed email addresses
  • Sending win-back and re-engagement campaigns

Use Segmentation to Amplify Your Impact

A good email marketing tool will also include the ability to segment your audience. This automated process sorts customers by certain criteria, giving you more accuracy when sending targeted campaigns.

Generally, segments are broken down into large groups. Ecommerce platforms may sort consumers based on age, gender, or geographic location. Alternatively, they may use lead magnets to create unique “buckets” of consumers, placing those who engaged with the downloadable in a “more marketable” category.

Users within a segment can then be targeted based on their profiles. For example, an ecommerce website selling clothes may run a men’s clothing promotion. A segmented campaign will automatically pull email addresses flagged as male and send them a unique discount code.

The end result is an email marketing campaign that is more appealing to your target audience! After all, you’re more likely to close a sale when your prospect is already interested in something. So, give them exactly what they want!

Many segmented email campaigns feel like exclusive content, but they’re digital marketing’s most cost-effective way to capitalize on leads.

Tips to Build an Email List That Really Converts

A person drafting a building plan. "Tips & Tricks for Your Email List."

All things considered, email marketing — and, by extension, a good email list — is a powerful tool. But not all lists are created equal.

If you want to really wow the crowd, you need a solid marketing strategy and some amazing ideas. You want to generate leads and keep that email list engaged.

There are multiple strategies with the same payoff, but they all tend to rely on the same set of tips and tricks. And luckily for you, I’m feeling generous enough to give a few of those points away for free!

Don’t Buy Lists

A jail. "Grow Organically: Never buy your email list!"

Let’s start with the most important tip: Never purchase your email list. Aside from being dishonest, this tactic has the potential to destroy your brand’s reputation.

Many purchased email lists are packed with malicious spam traps. These accounts come in many forms, some of which look perfectly legitimate! Many major monitoring firms use abandoned email addresses to catch list-scraping software off-guard. Should your brand fall prey to such information, you’ll be the one paying for it!

Moreover, the new subscribers you gain from these lists are rarely interested in your product. At best, they’ll ignore your messaging. However, should you somehow reach their inbox, they’re far more likely to flag your email campaigns as spam!

As you may have guessed, that’s… like… super bad.

All that spam will add up, and you’ll eventually be placed on a blacklist. In other words, you won’t be able to send any emails!

Consider Ways to Encourage People to Share Your Content

So, if you can’t buy a list, you’re left with one option.

You must grow your audience organically, and that’s a tall order!

Fortunately, there are plenty of tools to help you. Some examples of convenient options to build brand awareness include the following:

  • Most email marketing software lets brands promote lists on first purchase receipts
  • Simple pop-up forms and CTAs
  • Social media plugins to make emails sharable
  • Tools to manage one (or more!) dedicated landing page
  • Various WordPress plugins

In addition to some of the more advanced options, you can also capture email addresses by promoting your content on your social media accounts! This gives you easy access to a pre-made audience of interested consumers. It’s also an effective and cost-effective option for everyone, including the smallest small business.

Use Those Pop-Ups

Finally, you’ll want to study your competition’s use of pop-up forms and CTAs.

Most websites feature multiple ways to direct visitors to subscription forms. For example, static CTAs are often placed in strategic spots (i.e., headers, footers, and sidebars).  Particularly lucrative blog posts may include a dedicated landing page and pop-up forms to net more new subscribers. And, of course, every call to action features a prominent value proposition.

In many cases, a website will have a delayed pop-up form. This tactic gives website visitors time to get invested, making them more inclined to become email subscribers.

Don’t Market Alone!

Overlapping leaves. "Get the Pros: Let Us Do the Work for You."

Ultimately, you need to convince potential customers that you’re worth their personal information. You must have a good pitch, regardless of your method! Every opt-in form and landing page is a building block toward success.

And that’s stressful!

Don’t worry, though!

Hire a team of pros from The Email Marketers! We’ll help you build an email list and manage it afterward. We’ll make your pop-up form shine and ensure you get more new subscribers for your money.

Interested? Give me a call! We’ll have a free strategy session and discuss your options. In the meantime, don’t forget to check out the rest of my blog for more tips and tricks.