With email marketing, it is far more desirable to build up your own list of prospects than take a short cut by buying or renting ones from elsewhere.

Doing so means that those on the list have already expressed an interest in your products or services, and are therefore far more valuable.

Here a few tips to help you build up your list...

Put a sign up box in a prominent position on your website 

This means placing it above the fold where it can easily be spotted, and making it clear what the box is.

In this example, Next has perhaps been too subtle; the sign up is above the fold, but easily missed:

Next email sign up form

In this example from Borders, there is no danger of missing the form, while the site has also given you a good reason to subscribe: 

Borders email sign up

Use mulitiple sign up forms

Puttting a sign up form on every page of your website will increase the chances of getting more sign ups. Not every visitor to your site will arrive via the homepage.

Get some details from customers

A lot of email sign ups are pretty basic. Just asking for an email address alone may simplify the process, but it is perhaps worth asking for a few more details so you can use this information to make your emails more relevant, though you should take care not to put off people by asking for too much.

Promote email sign ups in store

If you have a retail store, use this to encourage more customers to sign up for emails. For instance, my local Borders store will ask me if I want to sign up for emails when I make a purchase, offering discount vouchers in return.

Follow up purchases

If someone has just made a purchase from your website, send them a follow up email asking if they want to join your mailing list.

Offer incentives

The previous example from Borders offers 20% off an in-store purchase when you sign up, so provides a good reason for people to make the effort. Offering discounts is a great idea, but you could also offer entry to prize draws, or a free white paper, depending on your website.

Put a 'refer to a friend' link in emails

When sending emails, why not give people the opportunity of forwarding it on to a friend, especially if you have created some compelling content for your emails.

Waterstones' emails, which provide some book recommendations, has provided a nice clear link to send it on to a friend, which is a good way to grow your list:

Waterstones refer to a friend email

Related research: 
Email Marketing Platforms Buyer's Guide 2008

Related articles:
Is there a future for acquisition using email marketing?
How to retain inactive email subscribers 

Graham Charlton

Published 29 August, 2008 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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