Building a quality, responsive email list is one of the most crucial steps for effective email marketing. So, VerticalResponse is here with some ideas to help you create an effective and engaged email list. We’ll run you through the best ways to get started, recommend some tips and tactics, and show you how to avoid a few pitfalls.

Got a mailing list for snail mail?

If you’ve already compiled a list of mailing addresses, you’ve got a bit of a head start. Send postcards to people on your list, inviting them to sign up for your email list on your website or blog. Just make sure to give them a reason to sign up, whether it’s monthly updates or exclusive online discounts. You should provide them something of value in exchange for their email address.


If your business involves physical products that are shipped, you can even include an insert in each package with instructions on how to subscribe to your email list.

Collect email addresses offline

If you’ve got a brick-and-mortar store, set up a fishbowl to collect business cards for special offers available by signing up for your email list. You can also have a simple clipboard or sign-up book to collect email addresses. (If you’ve got an iPad, you can use that for people to enter their email addresses directly.) Once a week, enter any new email addresses you’ve collected in your content management system or ESP. Voila!


Events are a great place to get email addresses as well, whether you’re collecting business cards or having people fill out a form to join your list, or simply displaying a sign-up book during an event you host yourself.

S&S Brand sells barbecue sauces and spice rubs. The owners collect email addresses at the frequent appearances they make at cooking demonstrations, fundraisers, food and drink festivals, artisan markets, and private parties. “Every time we have an event, we’ll put out a pad of paper and ask people to leave their email addresses,” says co-owner Sarah Bruchard. “We’ll usually get a handful or so from that.” Those email addresses add up over time.

On your website

The easiest way for your readers to join your email list is through a sign up form or opt-in form, like our widget. You can even have multiple forms on different sections of your site, if you want to track where people are signing up. We recommend putting a link or sign-up box on multiple pages within your site. (It can be tempting to ask readers to fill out many details about themselves, but it’s best at first to simply collect their name and email address).

In addition to your opt-in page, consider using a pop-up window when people leave your site. It can ask them to sign up for your offers or newsletter, which many of your readers are likely to do on their way out if your information is compelling.


Don’t Buy a List

Building an email list can seem difficult and time-consuming, but it’s well worth the effort to collect email addresses from people who love your brand and are willing to sign up for information from you in their inbox. They’re choosing to engage with your company, so you’re building a relationship and gaining trust. Purchasing a list can feel invasive to those you email, and therefore often leads to a very high number of complaints, bounced addresses and unsubscribes. Plus, any reputable ESP will not allow you to mail to a purchased, rented or scraped list. It can hurt their reputation and yours. This is one area where it’s worth it to do things the right way, even if it’s slower.

Survey your friends

You can’t just add people to your email list willy nilly, but there’s nothing to stop you from sending personal emails to your friends and colleagues, letting them know about your list and sending a link to an opt-in form.

Bruchard also uses word of mouth. “I’ll be somewhere talking to someone, and they’ll ask to hear about our next popup [store] or our sauces, so I’ll take down their email address and put it on my email list,” she says.

But Bruchard doesn’t just use the list to sell products. Readers can easily feel bombarded if too many sales pitches are sent their way. That’s why Bruchard sometimes sends emails that are “just about fun things like barbecue and events that are coming up, so it’s not just about our product and trying to sell our product all the time,” she says. She’ll include information like recipes and cooking tips, and keep her readers informed about any popup, or temporary restaurants.

Leverage online sales

You don’t want to add every customer who has made an online purchase to your email list without their permission. However, you can direct them to a page with your sign-up form after they’ve bought something.

“Every time somebody buys something on my website, it asks them at the end, ‘Would you like to sign up for a newsletter or receive emails from us?’ You can either click yes or no. Most people who buy, sign up for the list, and we capture a lot of emails that way,” says Bruchard.


A percentage of people who have had a great experience buying from you will want to hear from you via email about special offers, how-tos and tips, or other news. You can even include a link to your sign-up page on each of the invoices sent out.

Use social media

Add an opt-in/sign-up form to your Facebook page, or include a link to your hosted opt-in form and write a Facebook status to your fans every now and again, asking them to join your email list. Promoting your status will also ensure that the post is seen by more people. Add information about subscribing directly onto the page as well, with a link to your opt-in form. Use discounts or other offers as an incentive. Follow up with new subscribers by sending them a coupon by email, or send them to a page with an offer or coupon code.

Feel free to message your friends from your personal Facebook account as well to notify them of the email list. Creating Facebook ads around an offer or incentive, or simply your newsletter is also an excellent way to grow your email list. Link people back to your opt-in form/sign up landing from that ad. Here’s a step-by-step process.

Tweet out a link to your opt-in form as well, and post it on LinkedIn. If you have a blog, include a link or embed your opt-in form at the top, side and/or bottom of each page. And, last but not least, create a compelling image with a call to cation (to sign up for your email list) and an incentive, and post the image on Pinterest and Instagram.

Update your email signature

Include a link to your opt-in page in your email signature, so people emailing with questions can learn about your list.

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