How do I build a successful email marketing list?

Building an Email Marketing List

Building an Email Marketing List


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Building a Successful Email Marketing List

Building your email marketing list is the first challenge for email marketers.  The email marketing list is the list of contacts your emails are distributed to with each send.  Email marketing lists need to be built well from the beginning if they are to result in long term success.  As a result, the information collected when a contact is added to an email list needs to be accurate and confirm the intent of the user to sign up to the email list.

Considerations when building an email list

Sending your emails to the people who want to hear about what you have to say significantly improves the chance that your campaign will be successful.  Email marketing success can be defined differently for every company that chooses to use the marketing channel, however, good quality contact data is important for all.

The consequences of building an email marketing list using contact data which has not been acquired in the right way may incur penalties under the new GDPR regulations, set to be enforced in May 2018.  When purchasing data, it is difficult to verify the quality and accuracy of your contacts.  Contacts collected in this way are unlikely to want to receive or engage with your emails and as such this is not recommended and many Email Service Providers (ESPs) will not allow the practice.

When building your email list it can be tempting to place an emphasis on attracting as many contacts as possible.  However, the most effective email marketing lists are those with engaged contacts who open and interact with your campaigns, regardless of their size.  These may result from smaller more focused lists but you can be assured that they will be valuable in the long term.

Building your email list the right way takes time.  However, to build trust with potential subscribers you need to demonstrate your value and expertise to them.  Creating a knowledge base or blog on your website which clearly demonstrates your expertise can encourage potential subscribers of your value.

To attract contacts who are likely to engage with your campaigns, make sure you explain how you intend to use the email address, how they should expect to be contacted and how often.  Preference centres can be used to determine how often a contact wants to be emailed, the type of email that they want to receive and why they have signed up for your list in the first place.

Preference Centre

How good data hygiene practices can improve your email list

Collecting accurate contact data is important when building your email marketing list.  Sending your contacts a confirmation email to verify their email address, otherwise known as a double opt in, proves the validity of their information.  This improves the data quality in your contact list.  Once the data has been collected, customers should be able to access a system, account or preference centre, where they can amend their personal data in the future.

There are a number of checks that can be performed on data entry and collection.  Checking that the data is in the correct format is a quick way to spot any obvious errors.  Standardising the way that data is collected is a good idea.  For example, only give customers one way to enter their date of birth on your form.

The challenge of building your contact list does not stop once you have inputted the contact data.  The email marketing list needs to be maintained over time.

Data hygiene processes should be used to remove contacts from your lists who are not engaged with your email campaigns.  Another use for these processes is to remove inaccurate or invalid data which causes emails to bounce.  Emails which do not get delivered to their intended recipient result from two types of email bounce:

– Hard Bounce:  A hard bounce occurs when the email delivery fails permanently.  Reasons for hard bounces are inaccurate email addresses and non-existent domains.

– Soft Bounce:  A soft bounce results from a temporary issue with the recipient’s email account.  Temporary issues resulting in a soft bounce are: a full inbox, a temporary issue with the recipient’s email server or an email which is too large.

Soft bounces occur as a result of a temporary issue which can be rectified in future sends.  Emails which hard bounce should be removed from the email list immediately to prevent any further delivery issues.

Email contacts who opt out of your email campaigns should be placed into a suppression list.  Suppressing the email contacts ensures that you do not send to these contacts accidentally in the future.  By keeping these contacts in a suppression list, you can check whether you have previously removed a contact from your list when a new contact is added to your system.

To read more about how data hygiene impacts email marketing campaigns, read our blog post about why data hygiene is important here.

How to attract and retain high quality contacts for your email marketing list

Now we have discussed the importance of building an engaged contact list and how data hygiene practices can be used to improve your email marketing efforts, we will discuss how you can build your next email marketing list:

– Offer a lead magnet:  Lead magnets offer the contact an incentive to sign up.  The lead magnet could be in the form of a downloadable resource, exclusive article or free product.

– Avoid Purchased Data Lists:  Purchased data lists are not advised with the new GDPR regulations.  Purchased lists contain contact data which is difficult to verify.  These lists do not indicate that the contact wants to receive communications from your company.

– Create a successful sign up form:  Designing your email sign up form is an important part of the data collection process.  To create a form which converts, collect the minimum amount of data required to fulfill your purposes.  Place the form in a prominent location on your website and encourage website visitors to sign up to your email list at every opportunity.

– Use Customer Data Wisely:  Once you have collected data about a customer, use the data to tailor your campaigns to provide a more personalised and relevant experience.  For example, data on customer gender can be used to segment an email campaign to provide male and female customers with different emails.  Data collected on previous customer behaviours can also be used to tailor their experience in future campaigns.

– Send a Confirmation Email:  When a contact has subscribed to your mailing list, sending them a confirmation email verifies that their details are correct.  This also confirms the intent of the user to sign up to your mailing list.


The success of an email marketing campaign starts with the list building process.  From the moment that customer data is collected and inputted in a company’s data management system, it should be checked and verified.  Data hygiene processes can be used to keep the contact list up to date and free from erroneous data.  Building a list of engaged contacts takes time but ensures success in the long term.

If you have enjoyed reading about building your email list, why not download The Complete Guide to Email Marketing here:

Ultimate Email Guide

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