Cold Email · · 8 min read

Effective Strategies for Creating Email Lists for Marketing Campaigns

Discover how to create and use effective strategies to develop email lists for marketing purposes in order to reach your target audience and drive sales

email lists for marketing

Building an email list is a desirable task for any business, brand, or marketer. It’s no small undertaking, but the return could be massive. The methods to develop, nurture, and build an email list vary slightly in style from business to business, but there are some truths that are standard practice across industries. In this article, we’ll share:

  • What Is An Email List And How Is It Used For Marketing?
  • Why Should You Bother Building An Email List?
  • How To Build An Email List For Marketing
  • Should You Buy An Email List?

What Is An Email List And How Is It Used For Marketing?

In order for any email marketing campaign to be successful, you have to have an email list. Without one, your emails have nowhere to go. The list is a collection of email addresses from people who have expressed an interest in hearing from you. These people will have subscribed to your newsletter, signed up to your mailing list, followed your blog, or even by interacting with you in person.

Building your email list over time gives you more opportunities to connect with more potential leads, meaning that there are more chances that you’ll achieve the ultimate goal of converting them into lifelong loyal customers.

Once you have an email list, it means that you can connect with your target audience on an individual, one-to-one basis. This direct communication, with people who have already expressed an interest in you, can be incredibly powerful in the right hands. Email lists, typically, require minimal costs to develop once the initial infrastructure is in place. They do, however, have the ability to deliver a significant return on investment over time.

A healthy email list is critical to your success as a marketer, but it's more than just size. The email addresses' relevance and level of engagement are equally important. An email list full of inactive or irrelevant contacts is useless.

Why Should You Bother Building An Email List?

Email lists are easy to overlook. They’re not particularly exciting concepts when you first consider building them. Compared with direct advertising routes like PPC, social media, and other forms of direct marketing, email just doesn’t have that same appeal. There are, however, considerable benefits to building an email list. Don’t write off email lists before you realize just how useful they can be.

  • Email gets personal: Emails are directed (when the right mail merge options are used) to one person in particular. Or at least it seems like they are. Advertisements are more of a catch-all style, without any personalization at all. That makes emails naturally more engaging.

  • Email is cheaper: Email costs very little when used for outreach or marketing campaigns. It’s usually just the cost of the service, any software you’re using, plus your time. When compared to the ongoing cost of paid advertising, there’s a huge difference.

  • Your list is your own: Every name on the list is there because they wanted to be. They’ve chosen to be on the list. The same cannot be said for other forms of marketing.

  • Target with segmentation: Targeted ads are suffering from more and more restrictions on what/who you can target. Email doesn’t have that issue. Instead, you’re able to segment your list based on audience interest, past behaviors, preferences, demographics, literally any way that you’d like to.

  • Relationships can be built with email: When you send an email, there’s a chance that someone might reply. That reply can turn into a conversation, and before you know it, a relationship is being developed.

How To Build An Email List For Marketing

The great news is that there are many different ways available to marketers looking to build and expand their email lists. The majority of the following methods relate, in some way, to your website. This will be your primary source of new signups to your email list. There are, however, other ways you can find new subscribers.

The list below should be used as a set of best practices. Follow them and you’ll find your email list quickly expanding with more and more prospective, engaged customers.

Use Strong CTAs

When it comes to building an email list, the importance of a strong call-to-action (CTA) cannot be overstated. The CTA, crucially, aims to convince visitors to take the next step that you’d like to them take. In this case, the next step is the collection of their email addresses.

Many marketers like to create a sense of urgency and give visitors a reason to sign up by creating a compelling CTA. A weak, ineffective, or worse yet, missing CTA can have a detrimental effect on your brand. Visitors aren’t sure what to do next and often will leave your site, and the opportunity to convert them into new subscribers is lost.

Great places for CTAs are on your landing pages, your product/service pages, footers, and at the end of blog content. Make sure that you keep the CTA clean, clear, and simple to complete.

Keep Your List Organized

We’re a long way past keeping lists in filo faxes, we’re even past keeping email lists in spreadsheets. Instead, you should be keeping your list organized in an email outreach tool, CRM, or within another piece of software.

When you use email marketing software such as Instantly, you’re able to upload contacts straight into the software. That means you can quickly manage your list, create segments, edit contacts, and build new audiences for specific campaigns. You could do this manually using something like Excel or Google Sheets, but you’re adding unnecessary steps to the process that limits efficiency.


Personalization isn’t always easy to implement before someone signs up for your email list. After all, they’re all but anonymous as they browse your website before signing up or making a purchase from you. There are, however, subtle ways that you can include personalization.

Consider all of your various service or product pages. Including an opt-in form that is tailored to the content on that page is going to be far more effective than simply copying and pasting the same form across your site.

An example would be: “If [product/service name] is catching your eye, we have no doubt you’ll love hearing about what we have in our pipeline. Sign up to hear more about [linked information to product/service page] and more.”

Use Your Social Media

Chances are that you have already created a number of social media accounts. You will have, therefore, likely found that the audiences and groups that spend time on each platform are different. They want to consume different content, in different ways and are interested in different things. They’re also very different demographics. That means, when trying to convince them to sign up for your mailing list, you’ll need to employ different tactics for each.

Maintain Your List

As your list grows, so will your need to maintain it. You want your list to be completely full of recipients that are interested in what you have to say and genuinely want to receive your emails. These are the people that are likely to convert to paying customers.

When building a list, there’s definitely a tendency for marketers to focus on getting as many subscribers as possible. Yes, more subscribers mean more opportunities, but only if those subscribed are engaged recipients.

Many people change their email addresses regularly, especially if they’ve signed up using a work account, which means that emails are no longer valid or simply aren’t being opened. Track your open rate and your bounce rate. Email addresses that are bouncing (your emails are undelivered) should be culled from the list. The same goes for subscribers who don’t open many of your emails in a row. It’s especially important to maintain your list regularly if you’re looking to develop your cold email marketing strategy.

Use Opt-In Forms

Opt-in forms are present on almost all websites, especially on eCommerce websites, but they are often completely overlooked and hidden deep within a footer. Your opt-in form is a great place for prospects to sign up for your mailing list. Make sure that it matches your branding, is written in your brand voice, and is prominent. That doesn’t necessarily mean putting it front and center on your website, but it does mean your customers shouldn’t have to hunt for it.

Tentatively Use Pop-ups

Pop-ups are often seen as the scourge of the internet. There was a time in the early days of the internet when they could barely be avoided. Thankfully, the human race saw sense, and marketers realized just how frustrating and annoying pop-ups were. There is, however, still a time and a place for the occasional pop-up.

Pop-up forms can be triggered by certain events, such as when someone attempts to leave your site after a certain time period, or even after a certain point is hit on a page. Keep pop-ups concise, clear, and with a short CTA. You should also include a clear way for someone to close the pop-up. It will take some testing, but once you hit the right formula, you will quickly see subscriber numbers increase.

Gamification is a fun way to build your email list by including game-like elements. Often this is achieved using a feature such as a Wheel of Fortune. The wheel includes a series of discounts or offers, and, in exchange for their email address, users can spin the wheel. The idea is to include a fun element, so the data exchange doesn’t feel quite so perfunctory. Plus, the discounts achieved by customers can also act as a great incentive for a quick sale.

Leverage Incentives

Similar to the gamification of an opt-in form, offering an incentive in exchange for a user’s email address is a great way to build your email list. It could be as simple as offering free shipping, and it could be a special discount or access to a sale. Whatever it is, make sure that it’s of genuine value to the user. You will get lots of people signing up simply to receive the offer. If they then become disengaged, you’ll need to be sure to remove them from your list when you maintain it.

Create Lead Magnets

Lead magnets are a particular form of incentive that, rather than offering discounts or sales, offers the user some form of value. Remember that when visitors first reach your site, they are unlikely to make a purchase. It might take them upwards of 5 touch points and visits before they consider a purchase. Offering a lead magnet, such as a downloadable guide, an eBook, or a podcast, in exchange for their email means the customer receives something of genuine value and use, and you receive their email address.

Don’t Forget About Offline

Depending on the type of business that you run, chances are that you’ll meet prospective customers or people interested in your business in person. It might not be a core part of your outreach strategy, but they all count. Seeing as they’re not online, you’ll need to manually take their email address. That could be via a business card or verbally. However you receive it, make sure that you add it to your email management system.

Should You Buy An Email List?

It might seem like a quick and easy way to grow an email list, but purchasing email addresses to add to your list isn’t just risky. It’s ultimately an ineffective strategy that doesn’t serve to benefit your business.

For a start, there’s absolutely no guarantee that the email addresses on the list will have any relevance to your product or services. Those individuals have shown no real interest in your business. In fact, they may have never even heard of you. So their engagement levels will be incredibly low. Combined with a far lower deliverability rate, lower open rates, potentially multiple bounce accounts, and the risk of triggering spam filters (especially when users mark your mail as spam), it’s just not worth it.

If you add in the fact that it’s technically against the law, and breaks GDPR regulations, there really is no reason to buy email lists. Instead, put your efforts into developing an engaged, organic list.

Key Takeaways

Building an email list of your own is a time-consuming process that requires a lot of strategy and effort, but it is certainly an effort that pays off in the end. A widespread audience of engaged, active, interacting customers who genuinely want to hear from you, that’s a marketer's dream.

  • Ensure your website is designed and laid out in a way that makes it easy for users to subscribe to your list.
  • Maintain lists to keep deliverability metrics positive.
  • Don’t be tempted to purchase email lists.

If you’re looking for an email tool that maximizes deliverability, efficiency, and keeps your list organized and well-managed, look no further than Instantly. You can even get started for free!

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