The Definitive Guide To Small Business Email Marketing List Building

There’s truth to the marketing mantra “there’s money in lists”, in fact email marketing tops the bill for online marketing ROI. As a Small Business Hero yourself, you’re probably looking at a long to-do list where email marketing gets pushed down to make way for more pressing tasks.

Here’s our guide for getting up and running by making simple everyday changes – even if your to-do list is an epic page turner!

The essential list for email marketing success

The quality of your list will make or break your email marketing campaigns. The good news is you can delegate some elements of list building to a team member to get started. Changing a few small habits will make list building easier without eating up too much of your time. Here’s the dos and don’ts for creating a superb email marketing list:

Do tap your existing, real world client list

If they’ve worked with you before, you can create a segmented list just for them. This way, you can work on delighting them and bringing them back for return custom. Including a call to action for subscriptions in your email signature is a good way to get them interested in joining up.

Do tap your social media fan bases

Got a great Facebook page? Add an integrated “get updates” tab to the page for starters! Then create an offer they can’t refuse. Hold a promotion on your Facebook page using an app like Rafflecopter (free) or North Social (paid) that captures the email addresses of all who enter. You’ll get a few unsubscribes from serial competition enterers (some would call them prize pigs, but not us, we’re too nice for that). It’s time to take control of your audience instead of relying on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus or Instagram to manage it for you. LinkedIn is a terrific place to find B2B leads but always be cautious when approaching other members with marketing messages – reputation is everything.

For platforms that don’t allow direct access to apps, publish content that will generate plenty of website click through and be sure to have an email capture box on the landing page. If you “gate” content so that they can’t see it without signing up, you will annoy people and lose fans – just make signing up a prominent option.

Do not just add every business card you find

Don’t be a spammer! Not only will it ruin your reputation, you may also find yourself in legal trouble. To add someone to your email marketing list, they must satisfy one of the following criteria. Make sure they:

  • knowingly opt in;
  • have conspicuously published an email address welcoming your marketing message;
  • have been made aware that you’re adding them to your list at the time they gave you the business card; or
  • have an existing business relationship with you.

If in doubt, check out this site before you start adding names!

Encourage subscriptions at trade shows and networking events 

If you’re at a trade show, prominently display an email marketing sign-up sheet. If customers ask you for more information, tell them you’ll shoot them some updates and get back to them with specifics if they add their name to the sheet. When a potential lead hands you a business card at an event, tell them that you’re keen to send them information that would help them with their business. Most of the time, they’ll readily agree. Just make sure your marketing is helpful!

Do not, I repeat, do not just buy email marketing lists

Buying lists of email contacts usually results in you putting yourself at legal risk for very little return on investment. Some lists are carefully curated by industry and may have all the names you need, but those names have been “sold” so many times that your carefully crafted email marketing messages will go straight their spam box. Unsubscribes, low open rates, spam reports – they’re all detrimental to your overall email marketing performance. Authentic is always better.

Do discuss list building with your small business team!

It’s not just the sales team that can be populating your marketing lists; your receptionist, delivery guys, your assistant and your social media manager all have direct contact with potential customers every single day. Encourage them to make email marketing sign ups part of their everyday routine.

Do have an email capture strategy on your website

A “subscribe for updates” link on your site is a good start and is the minimum you need for email marketing list building. Pop up boxes, annoying as they can be, rapidly increase the number of subscriptions to your list. These should be installed carefully to ensure minimum annoyance!

Offering value in return for an email address is the best way to promote sign ups. Tell potential subscribers the value in joining – including what you will be doing for them if they do agree to join you. You can offer incentives too (such as downloadable resources) but that may increase your unsubscribe rates once they have their prize.

Do have double opt in restrictions

A double opt in means that your potential sign up must go to their inbox and confirm their desire to subscribe. This does reduce your sign up rate but the sign ups that you have are likely to be more committed and interested in your brand. It also means that you’ve confirmed their email address is valid and that they check their messages!

Do collect specific information from the get-go

This is the biggest regret of small business marketers! The best list is broken into segments according to the business’ needs. While you may be at the set up stage right now, paving the way to epic email marketing success means thinking a few steps ahead.

The goal is to understand who the customer is and why they need you. If you’re selling both wholesale and retail, you don’t want to send wholesale information to retail customers. If you’re serving customers by territory, you need to know their postcode. Here’s where it gets a little tricky. Their details are digital currency. Asking them to complete a great big survey just to join your email marketing list is not giving them value for their subscription currency.

The more value you offer the more information you can request. A 21 part guide to understanding changes in HR law is more valuable than a downloadable guide to five HR resources they should be reading.

“Subscribe here for updates about sales in your area” is more valuable than “subscribe here for our monthly newsletter” and justifies them handing over their postcode and even their purchase needs.

The other option is to create multiple lists for prospects interested in one element of your business. Let’s say you’re a law firm that targets small businesses for all their legal needs. “Subscribe now for up to date information on Human Resource law” is more valuable for them and gives you more information than “Subscribe now to join our legal industry newsletter”. You know that they work in HR so you can then serve Human Resource information and services to this list. If they also want information on taxation, they’re probably a small business owner, so you can subscribe them to a more general list as well. This will go a long way to keeping subscribers happy and engaged and stopping your emails from going to the dreaded spam box.

Finally, do regularly cull dead weight from your small business email marketing list

It’s called list hygiene and it needs doing every few months. It’s about making sure that your email marketing list is always full of good leads. If you’ve noticed that some of your subscribers have never opened an email from you (most email marketing software will let you access this information) you can try shooting them a personal email asking if they’d like to be removed. Tell them that you’re not in the habit of spamming people who aren’t interested in your information. If they respond, you’ll know why they’re not opening and can make changes. If they don’t respond, they don’t care – cull them from the list. Yes, it seems counter-intuitive to get all this set up and then start undoing good work, but a nice, clean, hygienic list keeps you out of spam boxes and targets the real prospects that will lead to real sales.

If small business email marketing list building seems like a job for the too hard basket, you can get help managing the process. Talk to your favourite Brisbane web designer (that’s us) about integrating email marketing sign ups to your website. We can even help you with “auto responder” campaigns – the set and forget hero of small business email marketing. Managing the company email list is also a good task for a savvy, ambitious administrator keen to grow their skill base. Just remember, there is real money to be made from lists and making a start could be as simple as changing up a few of your daily habits.