This guide is written to help you build your email list from a conceptual angle. There are tons of tactics and strategies to try for yourself. For more information check out our ebook 57 tips for growing your email list.

A good launching point for any email list starts with determining what it is you want to send. This will help with the where and the how for collecting subscribers. Are you going to be sending a weekly clothes promo? A list of top-rated travel destinations? Tips for knitting the best afghan for your dachschund’s bed?

This matters because you should be targeting your potential subscriber based on what you’re going to send for content. You want to make sure they are part of the right group for you to send to. For instance, dog lovers would be great to target with the aforementioned afghan.

In general, growing your list naturally is a pretty big challenge. The best way to start your list is as follows…

  1. Content: Decide on your content and how you will send it. Picking the type of email sets up the rest of your growth strategy.
  2. Find And Capture: Utilize your existing following by capturing their emails more effectively.
  3. Target And Personalize: Recognize that personalization is key to getting the right subscribers engaged with your content.


As an example we’re going to use a fake e-commerce store which sells dog toys. Let’s call it Dog Store Online, because we’re big on originality around here.

email marketing starting your email listDog Store Online has a strong following on their social channels and sales are going great. Their brand had a big hit with a toy so amazing we can’t even describe it. This completely awesome and mind-blowing toy sold thousand times overs, but since then they haven’t been able to follow up on that success, customers have started to dwindle away. Dog Store Online is now wishing they did more to keep their customers around. So what could they have done? (Spoiler alert: Email.)

Lets make a couple of assumptions:

  1. They have a large following on Facebook.
  2. Their website still sees a lot of traffic from referrals and search engines.

What type of email would support their goal to excite, engage, and maintain customers?


are a great way for ecommerce websites to engage with customers. Why? Because everyone looooves a good offer!

So Dog Store Online makes a decision: To make way for a new product launch, they plan out a campaign to clear out old inventory at discounted prices. The goal being to capture users who this type of offer would cater to and market to them. So how do they do that? Well, since you’re asking …

2. Find and Capture

If you were Dog Store Online, where should you start with capturing emails of potential subscribers??

After customers bought this super-duper-cool-dog-toy-that-we-can’t-describe, they received an email with the purchase receipt and that’s it. Relationship over. So how can they find them now?

A great way to capture users begins on Dog Store Online’s website, especially with first time visitors. They can get a rad popup going, maybe even include an offer on it for subscribing. Play around with it, varying the copy or even the size of it. They can even get some A/B testing going (more on that later) and track conversion metrics (also more on that later).

Including a signup form in the footer and sidebar of their site (or really, wherever applicable) is highly advised. They can put a “Sale” bar next to the top nav in a bright color to indicate something awesome is going on — the options are pretty endless: the trick is to capture a standard set of data like name, email, and phone number (you can capture more, but you could run the risk of halting the conversion).

You can also use a two-step sign up process that breaks for form into steps. Capture what’s necessary on the first form, then drive to a second form to complete the optional data that you can use later to future target that users.

We’re not here to discuss the finer points of a multi-channel campaign, but it WOULD be a good idea for Dog Store Online to support their emails efforts by doing this. Making targeted ads, posting to relevant social groups, and asking folks to share with other dog lovers are great ways to boost your visibility and rope in more subscribers. A good ESP (like us!) will sync leads like this automatically using an API (more on that later, duh).

3. Target and Personalize

Now the fun begins: Crafting a doggy-central email to showcase the deal that’s coming out and using the names captured by all these efforts. Since Dog Store Online wanted to start a new list from scratch, they want the first interactions to be highly valuable.

Now is where a post-signup strategy is super important. A welcome series is a great way to introduce the brand to the new subscribers over a series of emails. (We can get you all learned up about that here.)

As part of the welcome series, ask subscribers to complete their profile preferences which reveals more information about them (usually called a preference center). This data will be huge for segmenting purposes in the future. For example: Ask for the dog’s birthday, and every year give them 25% off for their beloved pooch’s birthday.

Another trick for this example is to match up a subscriber with their purchase data. Then look to see what kind of loyalty they have (Aquantances, Bff’s, “It’s complicated”, 40-years-and-counting, etc…). For subscribers with high loyalty, asking them to share the brand with their friends is a pretty great idea (known as refer-a-friend).

Your list will grow like wild-fire. If you want help, we can pitch-in.