How to Start Building Your First Email List

Like many things, list building seems pretty straight-forward… until you start. You may expect it to be tedious work of copy/pasting and spreadsheets and looking things up online. Yes, it likely involves some of that but I get asked a lot of questions about who and how.

Who can you add to your business email list?

If you sell to consumers, you will need to request express consent to add contacts to your list who have not done business with you.

If you sell to business people, you can benefit from implied consent to build your initial list. There are three key requirements for implied consent:

  1. The contact’s email address has been ‘published conspicuously’ and has no disclaimer that they do not accept commercial electronic messages.
  2. The message you are sending is relevant to their job at the company they work for. (Example: You can email a university professor to sell her textbooks, but not clothes.)
  3. There is an unsubscribe mechanism so the recipient can signal their lack of interest or relevance.

Start now and build

Starting from scratch is rough. It’s hard to get excited about 27 contacts. But you can’t get to 1000 without getting to 27 first. The main thing is to actually start. Manual options include verbal requests and paper-based (i.e. fill out a card, check a box). Automated processes include sign-up forms and checkboxes during online checkout. Automation is the way to go but you can start with a manual process today and improve on it later.

Add your customers and business colleagues

Do a list export from your email account, CRM or POS systems. If you don’t know how to do this, search online for instructions: how to export contacts from XXXXX. Review this list carefully rather than blindly uploading it. Remove personal contacts first, such as your hairdresser and veterinarian.

If you have multiple lists, don’t be concerned about merging them. Bulk email service providers won’t duplicate your contact email addresses. (But if you have a contact with two different email addresses, it can add them both.)

Accumulate your contacts

Ideally, you want to start and grow your list within the application that you’ll use to send emails from. For me, this is ActiveCampaign. I can offer you an extended free trial to give you lots of time to assemble your list. Drop me an email or book a phone call and I’ll set that up right away for you.

“Don’t push people to where you want to be; meet them where they are.” ~ Meghan Keaney Anderson, VP Marketing, HubSpot