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How to build up your email list

How to build up your email list


Marketing expertise with insights for the mechanical contractor: this article was originally written by Doug MacMillan, president of The Letter M, and published in Mechanical Business magazine; it is posted with permission.

The Letter M is a Guelph-based marketing and branding agency focused on strengthening communities and businesses through high-quality strategy, brand, storytelling, design and communications.


Dropping your messages into customers’ (and potential customers’) inboxes is one of the most targeted, measurable and cost-effective marketing efforts you can make. However, executing an effective email marketing program takes time and commitment, so you’ll want to know you’re reaching out to a growing audience that can help you grow your business.


However, Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) introduced in 2014 makes it easy for people to opt-out of emails they don’t want to receive. What’s more, you can’t just buy a list or hunt down email addresses: subscribers must opt-in by choice. But this doesn’t mean you can’t build a quality list – you just need to be authentic and more strategic in your efforts:


  1. Deliver sharable, valuable content – if your information is useful, people will spread it within their own networks of customers, colleagues, partners and suppliers. What’s shareable? A coupon or special deal. A cool new product. An informative how-to video. Make it easy – beyond counting on people to click the “forward” button, include buttons or graphics so they can easily post to their social channels.


  1. Push it out on your social media channels – an email isn’t enough. All that content can be delivered in bite-sized pieces via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. with a clear call-to-action for people to sign up for emails to receive similar nuggets on a regular basis.


  1. Offer exclusive deals – there’s nothing like an advantage to get people to sign up. Promote occasional special offers or “Random Acts of Awesome” that are only sent to email subscribers. Include fun surprises like “The first 20 people to email us will receive a $10 Tim’s card!”


  1. Provide something free with sign-up – create a useful tool such as a “Checklist to save on water” or a “five-step maintenance plan” … a resource that reinforces your expertise, offers value to subscribers, and is available for free – provided people sign up with their email address.


  1. Re-engage with former subscribers – if you’ve reinvented your email marketing strategy and feel you can offer more value than you previously did, reconnect with former subscribers to advise them that you feel there is a good reason or special incentive for them to sign up again. Only re-invite people once, though – it will backfire if you bug them persistently.


  1. Offer for a discount with sign-ups – it doesn’t need to be a huge savings – even a couple of dollars off a purchase is enough advantage to encourage people to say “sure, I’ll sign up”.


  1. Build marketing partnerships – many other companies in your community have email marketing programs that may reach your potential customers. Research and reach out to these companies to propose a reciprocal arrangement: you’ll provide useful content for their emails, and vice versa. (It goes without saying that your research includes making sure you know who you’re partnering with and have vetted their email communications for quality.)


  1. Have a contest – whether it’s a promotion to find the community’s oldest pump or a simple sign-up for a free service visit, integrate an email sign-up with any promo offer: “Thanks for entering! Have you also signed up for our…”


  1. Collect email addresses in person – you’re likely out and about on a regular basis: at tradeshows or networking events, or on sales or service calls. Always be inviting people to sign up. Create a small handout that talks about what emails include and how frequently people will receive them.


Finally, be patient. For a quality email list full of folks who are likely to convert and buy, it’s slow and steady growth you’re after. A sustained commitment to introducing tactics that’ll grow your email list should lead to solid growth over a year or two.

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