Building a powerful email mailing list

Building an email mailing list is easy. Building a powerful list is more difficult, but it’s what ultimately separates the successful email marketer from the spammer.

A powerful email marketing list is one that generates real value for your business on an ongoing basis, either directly through sales or by generating referrals, increasing customer retention or raising brand awareness in your chosen niche. It's a sustainable, long-term asset that becomes more valuable to you over time, not less.

That's the complete opposite to a purchased, rented or otherwise poorly acquired email list, where the value is quickly lost as recipients stop listening to you, and start treating you as a spammer (which, by definition, means you are one). With that kind of list you quickly get to a point of each email causing your business more harm than good.

So, how can you avoid this fate?

The key to a powerful email mailing list is never forgetting that behind every email address is a living, breathing person, just like you. This is about building relationships with your subscribers, not just managing data. Classic permission marketing.

It stands to reason, then, that to build a powerful email list which will provide meaningful marketing results for your business, you need to act as you would if you were building a personal relationship with each person who signs up. That means following a few key principles:

Start things simply: make it easy for people to express their initial interest and sign up to your list. Start by creating a subscription form that asks for the minimum information you need (email address, possibly name and company if you must) and then promote that signup form wherever you can.

Give in order to receive: a relationship is a two-way thing. You need to give people a clear reason to start a relationship with you, showing why their time and trust will be rewarded. Perhaps it's the fascinating insights they'll receive in your newsletter, or maybe it's a discount voucher. Either way, give people an incentive to start the conversation.

Be clear about the terms of the relationship: when you ask someone to join your mailing list, be clear about why, and what they can expect. If you want to send a monthly newsletter, tell them about why they'll find it interesting. If joining means that a sales person will call them, make that clear. Don't hide things away in the small print and expect to get away with it – that's not how you'd like to be treated, is it?

Be true to your word: once someone has signed up, deliver on your promises. If you said you'd send a regular email newsletter, make sure you do, and don't be tempted to send out other irrelevant emails – before you take the relationship further, be sure to ask for permission first.

Don't betray their trust: this is the most important principle of all. Your relationship with each subscriber isn't transferrable to someone else; it can't be sold or passed on. It's between you (your brand) and that person. If you sell, rent or give away your list, you've violated that relationship and all trust that was given to you. Don't expect to get it back.

Don’t get too needy: once you're in a relationship, stay cool. It can be tempting to lavish your new-found friend with attention, but this can be a bit too much for some people to bear, so keep the amount of contact appropriate. Some people will decide that this isn't the right relationship for them, and unsubscribe. It's a fact of life - accept it and move on. It's nothing to panic about until lots (more than 1%) do this; then it's an indication that you need to take a close look at your behavior.

Stay interesting: to build the relationship, you need to keep things interesting. Don't be tempted to just keep sending out the exact same information. It might be important to you, but is it important to your friends (subscribers)? Before you hit send, put yourself in their place.

Ask for feedback: relationships need two-way communication, so make sure it's easy for people to send you feedback. Couple this with your email marketing analytics to help you learn what you can do to build stronger relationships with your subscribers.

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