How to build your business’ first email address list

8 min read
Dean Levitt

Email marketing has the highest impact of all marketing channels. The average return for every AU$1 spent on it is about AU$60. That's far higher than any other channel by orders of magnitude. According to Ellis Jones, Australia and New Zealand have the most engaged email recipients in the world, achieving higher open and click-through rates than any other region. But in order to send promotional emails, you need a targeted email address list.

My brother and I started Mad Mimi Email Marketing (now known as GoDaddy Email Marketing) way back in 2008. Over the last decade, I've seen the fallout of bad sending practices and the damage that spam has wrought. I've also seen the incredible benefits that lovely emails can bring to the sender and the recipient. Here’s my advice on email address lists.

Build your first email list in 3 steps

You can’t send marketing emails without a list of addresses to send them to. Here’s how to build your first list.

  1. Start with your existing contacts.

  2. Get active on social media.

  3. Be proactive with visitors.

Before we discuss the how-tos of list-building, let's make sure you don't break the law! Email is an amazing opportunity for your business ... if you play by some rules.

Don't be a spammer

Email Address List Woman Saying No
People hate unsolicited emails. Plus it’s also illegal.
Photo: Isaiah Rustad on Unsplash

Sending emails used to be the Wild West, and that is why the Spam Act was created. Those who violate it risk fines of as much as AU$2,100,000.

The Spam Act says that if you're sending commercial email — i.e. emails that promote your business — you need to follow three rules:

Don't send unsolicited emails

Only send newsletters and other marketing materials to people who expect it and have "opted-in" or requested it in some way — such as by ticking a box themselves. Pre-ticked boxes on forms or checkout screens are a no-no.

Identify yourself

Include your business details like your business name and address, so people know where the email is coming from. Having an email address that matches your domain name can be useful in this regard — recipients see your business name in their inboxes.

Take no for an answer

Every email you send must allow recipients to unsubscribe by providing a link that makes this easy. This is why it’s important to add as much value as possible to your email content — people will want to keep reading.

The Spam Act also suggests a couple of things to avoid:

  • You may not use email lists you buy for marketing (unless you're a registered charity or the government).
  • You cannot harvest emails from the web to build up your list.

Basically, no icky bad-faith behavior. Just be a kind neighbor, and you'll be within the law. Easy!

3 steps to building your first email list

Growing an audience takes time and building your email list is no exception.

It's not difficult, but there isn't an email list version of the tooth fairy.

Your list will start small, and that's ok! Just 10 email addresses are enough to start seeing benefits. If it's any consolation, the smaller your list, the higher the engagement rates (i.e. when the user opens it or clicks on something in the email), so enjoy the early days!

Now that you’re ready, let’s lay out some practical ways to build your first email list.

1. Start with your existing contacts

You know how they say that charity starts at home? Well, so do email lists. To create the base of your email list, you’ll need to leverage your existing contacts first.

Email Address List Notebook
The place to start your email address list is with those who already like you.
Photo: Aaron on Unsplash
  • Take some time and look through your email contact list or even your Rolodex (do they still exist?).
  • Write down all the people you know who might get value from receiving your newsletter.
  • Then ask them, preferably via a personal email, if they'd be ok with being added to your newsletter list.

You can win them over by telling them what kind of content they can expect and how often you'll be sending the emails.

2. Get active on social media

Next, turn to your social media contacts. Did you know that GoDaddy Email Marketing offers a sign-up form that you can share on Facebook and Twitter? Share it directly with friends and followers online, both personal and those of your business, and ask them to join your list.

Next, place that sign-up link in your social media bios. Moving forward, periodically repost on all your social media channels the invitation link and ask people to sign up!

However, don't just share the link and demand sign-ups. Try describing why people should join your list. Will they get special offers like 10 percent off a product? Free shipping or a free initial consult? Maybe you will send out super-insightful information. If so, let people know! Incentivise sign-ups. It works wonders to make people want to be part of the club!

3. Be proactive with visitors

If there’s any advice for building an email list, it’s don't be shy! Ask every visitor to your business to subscribe to your newsletter. If you have an actual storefront, have a piece of paper handy to collect their email address at the checkout. If you have a restaurant, include a small sign-up form on your checks.

You can get creative with how you ask for emails, but you just need to ask!

On your website, you should use practical design to encourage sign-ups too. GoDaddy Email Marketing helps with this too.

  • Make sure that every page on your site has a clear call-to-action that invites visitors to subscribe to emails. This may sit on the top banner of your site, in a side margin or pop up as soon as visitors enter.
  • If you have an eCommerce site, include a checkbox that allows them to opt-in to your newsletter during the checkout process.

Sure, this is a slower growth strategy, but over time it'll pay off substantially.

Remember, the most valuable customers are repeat customers.

Email marketing is the best way to stay in touch with people who already know and love your business. Customers love hearing from businesses they like. They want to stay in the loop with announcements, business updates and especially sales. If you simply ask everyone to subscribe, you'll be pleasantly surprised at how many do.

After the sign-up

Email Address List Cookies
Getting someone to sign up for email newsletters and offers is just the beginning.
Photo: Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Email marketing isn't only about growing an email list. It's also about maintaining a good relationship after they sign up. If you're not delivering quality emails, people will unsubscribe, and your list will shrink instead of growing.

Related: Email newsletter ideas for 5 industries

So in order to keep building your email address list, you need to consider what to do after people sign up! Here are some tips to be an email marketing superhero.

Determine email frequency

Unless your readers expect daily emails, don’t bombard their inboxes. Send emails at a reasonable frequency based on your recipients' expectations. Once a month is a reasonable minimum. Two to four times per month will keep you at the forefront of your reader's minds.

How often do you like to receive emails from your favorite brands? Weekly? Biweekly? Consider how much time you can dedicate to email marketing and try to stick to a schedule that you share with your audience. If you promise an email every Wednesday — stick to your word! There is nothing more disappointing than unreliable service (and marketing!).

Add value to their day

Send useful, exciting and valuable content. Think about whether the recipient will gain value from the email. Your newsletters can be short and sweet, but it should not be about you; it's about your customers! It’s often better to send emails less frequently if it means your quality or content will suffer from greater frequency.

Building an email address list

Building a quality email list of engaged readers takes time. Take it slow and steady and before you know it, every newsletter you send will drive new customer interactions and sales. Soon, you'll be adding to the Australian statistics that show email marketing to be the best marketing channel for businesses!

Never share (or sell) your list to others. Add a small note to your sign-up form to this effect.

Always, always treat email addresses carefully and respectfully. Cherish your subscribers and the relationship you created. Be sure to include thank you’s and grateful messaging once in a while in your emails! A little bit of gratitude goes a long way toward long-term email marketing success.