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August 16, 2016

How to Grow (and Manage!) Your Email List Organically



Your email list is the one medium of digital communication over which you have full reign. Facebook makes seemingly arbitrary decisions about which followers will actually see your posts. On Twitter, your tweets get lost in the shuffle of a constantly updating pipeline of content. With an email list, you get to determine when and what content is delivered to your audience.

That is an opportunity you don’t want to squander.Of course, the power of email directly correlates to the strength of your contact list. Marketers go to great lengths to obtain and build large email databases. There are a variety of methods you could adopt in building your list, but all are not created equal. The key is to identify and optimize the tactics that allow you to own and grow an organic opt-in email list.

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It’s no easy task, as the thriving market for purchased email lists will attest. However, it is well worth the investment of your time and resources. This blog post will outline some strategies and best practices for growing a healthy opt-in email list that generates leads and strengthens relationships with customers.

Two important words of advice before we get started:

  1. Never, ever purchase a list. You want a big list and you want it quickly. We know. However, purchasing lists is not the answer. It will take more time to grow your list organically, but you will ultimately see a much greater ROI from people who voluntarily opt in.
  2. Register with a quality email marketing provider. These integrated services allow you to capture leads, manage multiple lists, create polished email templates, run A/B testing, track performance data, and more. A good email marketing service is essential to growing a healthy organic email list.

That said, let’s dive in!


Make the Most of Your Current List

Wherever your starting point—whether you have 200 contacts, 2,000, or 20,000—your first step is to start making the most of your current list. Believe it or not, your existing contacts are one of your strongest leveraging tools for future growth.

What do people do with content they enjoy or find useful? They forward it to friends, colleagues or their social networks. Your job is to make it as easy as possible for them to share your missives. Include social icons in every email you send, as well as a verbal prompt to share content (“Like what you read? Send it to a friend!”) and a one-click button to forward the email.


Deciding to start actively growing your email list is also a good opportunity to engage in some list hygiene. Consider running a re-engagement campaign that gives contacts the chance to re-opt-in to your messages, with the promise to remove them from your list if they don’t opt in.


While this may seem counterproductive, cleaning your list of unengaged contacts will improve your deliverability and increase the likelihood of your content getting forwarded outside your database by contacts who are truly invested in receiving communications from you. Learn more about designing a re-engagement campaign from HubSpot.


Integrate with Inbound Strategies

You should approach growing your email list the same way you would growing your business—that is, by treating every additional email address as a transaction. These days, an email address is valuable currency. If someone trusts you with theirs, you have a duty to provide them something of value in exchange. The easiest way to provide value? Quality content, and plenty of it.


Organic list growth is an extension of your inbound marketing strategy and should be optimized accordingly. To start, you must create high-value, high-quality content. That is essential. Next, you must optimize this content for lead capture. Social icons are great for encouraging readers to promote your content on social platforms, but when it comes to ROI, a follower doesn’t hold a candle to a contact. The conversion rates on email marketing are nearly six times those of social media.


Why? Here’s just a few reasons:

  • Email opt-ins have commercial intent from the start, from an interested party hoping to learn more about a product or service.
  • 90% of email messages reach their intended recipients, compared to 2% of Facebook messages.
  • 78% of Facebook fans are converted customers. Email lists contain a greater percentage of interested prospects.
  • People devote more attention per email than they do per post while scrolling through a newsfeed.

So, while you should always include social sharing buttons, make sure that email opt-in forms feature prominently across your site—on the homepage, in the upper sidebar of your blog, etc. Make the value proposition for signing up clear (i.e. “Sign up to receive a monthly newsletter!” or “Sign up to receive insider info and special offers!”).


Finally, make sure your opt-in forms are mobile-friendly. Don’t kid yourself—a user who becomes frustrated by a form on their mobile device is not going to bother switching to a laptop. They’ll just abandon the form.


You may also wish to explore the possibility of creating gated content. Gated content is exclusive content that users must provide an email address in order to download, such as an e-book, a whitepaper, or a template. Gated content provides even greater value to users and is a great way of capturing email addresses from interested parties.


Optimize Social Platforms

While email is a better driver of conversions, you shouldn’t abandon social media altogether. Social channels can drive steady streams of traffic to your site that can significantly boost the momentum of organic list growth.


Use your social platforms to promote your content and gated lead generation offers. On the landing pages for these gated offers, include prominent buttons to share the offer on social or email to a friend in order to encourage users to spread the word.


Facebook business pages allow you to include a custom CTA button at the top of the page next to the “Like” button. Use yours to solicit newsletter sign-ups.



Your domain’s reputation—otherwise known as deliverability or your sender score—is a measure of how well received your communications are, based on engagement (opens rate, click-through rate) and reputation (spam complaints, bounce rate, subscription attrition rate). A low sender score will impact your ability to get into inboxes, potentially locking you out as spam.


You can maintain your list’s deliverability by following a few best practices:

  • Make sure that your emails obey the CAN-SPAM Act, which requires commercial messages to give recipients the right to opt-out of your emails at any time.
  • Perform regular list hygiene in order to filter out inactive users, duplicates, typos, etc. that may be sabotaging your credibility by spiking your bounce rate. Include a double opt-in or opt-in confirmation to minimize spam complaints and eliminate bogus subscriptions from bots.
  • Maintain a regular sending schedule to avoid being flagged as spam for over-sending.
  • Test your emails across multiple devices before sending to make sure they’re formatted correctly. A poorly formatted e-mail is more likely to be flagged as spam.

Growing your email list organically takes time—so use the time to do it right. Provide users with valuable content, make it easy for recipients to share your messages through email and social media, feature subscription boxes and opt-in buttons prominently across your website and social platforms and follow best practices to maximize deliverability.

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