Build an email list from scratch

september 26, 2022
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september 26, 2022 [email protected]

Are you having a hard time generating leads for your business?  Do you have an email list, but it’s not growing as fast as you’d like?  Are you tempted to cut corners and take a shortcut and consider buying an email list instead? 

Well, stop right there. You might see buying email lists now like an amazing idea, but it’s actually not.  We get it, building your email list requires so much time and of course, you want to grow your business fast. 

Here’s the truth: cutting corners with a purchased email list might give you that quick win and boost you crave for your business, but it’s actually going to cost you more in the long run. That’s why, we want you to avoid this common mistake a lot of business owners and marketers make. 

In this article, we are going to talk about how to buy email lists and why is it a bad idea to buy an email list for marketing. Plus, we’ll provide you a list of organic and effective ways to grow your email list that converts – quick. 

How to Build an Email List? 

Before we jump into discussing everything about buying an email list and why is it a bad idea, let’s first review how most businesses generate subscribers to their email lists. 
There are basically three ways: Build, Rent, and Buy. 

1. Build an opt-in form email list. 

This is the most effective way to generate high-quality email list. Opt-in means a potential customer or client willingly gives their emails to you. They are aware that they will be added to your list and receive valuable content and future marketing of your offers. This gives business owners and marketers like you a chance to nurture the relationship you have with your prospects in an authentic way. 

Instead of blindly sending emails to prospects who might not have any interest in your offer, you only spend time for people who have shown interest, know about your brand, and want to receive more and hear from you. Organic sign-ups growth might take longer than you would hope it would.

2. Rent an email list. 

Email list rental is basically paying a third party or email list provider, an agreed price in order to use their email list for a specific email campaign for a particular time period only. Renting an email list does not mean owning it. So by using a segment of an email list of a third party, you will never be in possession of the email addresses or names of the prospects. But, the company who actually owns the list will send out your emails on your behalf instead. 

3. Purchasing an email list.  

If things get slow with the business and leads aren’t coming the way marketers like you, thought it would be, you resort to this method and purchase email lists thinking you’re investing for the long-term. 

Email list for sale are available from various lead generation agencies in the digital world. Buying an email list means you enter into an agreement with a list provider who generates email addresses, basic information of the prospect such as names, age, gender, location, and other useful information you may require.  This way of acquiring buyers email list is a murky path best avoided. 

Why you shouldn’t buy an email list?

Here is the question that pops up every time we’re in conversation about this topic: “what’s the harm in buying one, though?” 

There may be some that justify buying an email list as an investment and a great way to boost leads and sales, it’s disadvantages and cons outweigh the benefits received upfront. It may seem the easiest, cheapest, and fastest way to expand your reach, but it can surely destroy your authentic relationship with your prospects and taint your brand reputation in the long-term. 

There are several reasons why you should not buy an email list, the following are listed below: 

1. High-quality email lists will never be up for sale

Who in their right mind would sell high-quality email lists to other businesses that potentially their competitors? No one, right? No business owner or digital marketer would sell an email list that converts. It’s their digital gold that they would never ever like to just give out.  If it’s up for sale, that indicates that the email addresses have previously been rejected as inactive or unsuitable for outreach marketing.

Even while purchased email addresses may have been once valuable, it’s likely that they’ve been spammed incessantly by this point; otherwise, the business that sold them would still be in possession of them. 

2. It’s against the law

Buying an email list is illegal, especially in most countries around the world. There are legislations and regulations that protect users’ privacy. It is against the law sending email to anyone who has not actively, willingly, and deliberately opted in. 

There is General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR in Europe and the CAN-SPAM Act in the USA. 

GDPR prohibits the purchase of email lists with stringent guidelines. To receive messages from a corporation, the subscriber must explicitly authorize. The maximum fine for breaking this law is €20 million, which is equal to 4% of the global annual income.

CAN-SPAM Act establishes the rule that all senders must follow: once a user has unsubscribed, a sender is not permitted to sell the user’s email. For every email that is violated, a penalty of up to $42,530 may be assessed.

3. Damage your brand reputation 

How would you feel when you receive emails from companies you’ve never heard of? You feel afraid and quite disgusted, right? These people are real people on the other end of those inboxes.  So, not only a bad communication or interaction can damage your relationship with a potential customer but bad word spreads swiftly online. Your brand is in peril if one of your contacts starts making online posts about you sending unsolicited mass emails. They will no longer have faith in your business as a result of your intrusion into their inbox, and won’t be thinking of you in the future.

4. Low Quality Email List 

You cannot trust the quality of the purchased email list. You have no idea what kind of quality you are getting. You do not know how these email addresses were collected, from when and where? Email list decay over time which means that it can be outdated and no longer available for use. 

Even though it would sound fantastic to receive 5,000 or 10,000 email addresses overnight, it won’t be very useful if the list is an outdated one filled with junk information made up of people who never intended to be on the list in the first place.

In this situation, it is only natural for email open and click-through rates to be somewhat low, casting doubt on the success of your email advertising.

5. Destroy your Email Deliverability 

Users who have never authorized you to send them emails won’t anticipate receiving your communications in their inbox. They might not welcome any strangers because this is their own zone. Your email will consequently be labelled as spam more often than not, which can eventually harm your sender reputation.

While you should make every effort to prevent your emails from ending up in the Spam folder and prevent your deliverability rate from declining, using purchased lists will only enhance the likelihood of this unfavorable outcome.

Build Your Email List Organically 

Now that you know why it’s a bad idea, it’s time to forget buying email lists, ever!  The best way to prevent you from experiencing these disadvantages, is to build your email list from scratch and organically. The following are actionable steps you can do it: 

Step 1: Employ Targeted Pop-up CTAs:

Utilize targeted pop-ups strategically across your website to capture the attention of visitors and encourage them to sign up for your newsletter.

Step 2: Create a Lead Magnet 

In a nutshell, lead magnet is a free piece of content that you give away in exchange for that person’s contact information. They opt in in their own will. Thus this approach is safe and legal. Once you have their email address and you send them the lead magnet you can continue to nurture this relationship and communicate with them. And if you have a product or service that you want to sell them, you can choose to do that. 

Step 3 : Craft Personalized CTAs for Blog and Landing Pages

Tailor call-to-action (CTA) messages on your blog and landing pages to resonate with your specific audience, addressing their unique needs and interests.

Step 4 : Infuse Personality into CTAs

Add a touch of personality and engagement to your CTAs. Use humor and sarcasm sparingly to make the sign-up process more memorable for your visitors.

Step 5 :Embrace Scroll Boxes

Implement scroll boxes strategically to offer an unobtrusive yet effective way for visitors to sign up without disrupting their browsing experience.

Step 6 : Articulate Clear Value Propositions

Clearly communicate the benefits of subscribing in your CTAs. Emphasize the value that subscribers will receive, such as exclusive content, special offers, and valuable insights.

Step 7 : Leverage Incentives for Opt-Ins

Provide incentives to entice signups. Offer downloadable resources, access to premium content, or exclusive discounts to increase the perceived value of joining your newsletter.

Step 8 :Implement a Referral Program

Encourage your current subscribers to refer friends and colleagues through a referral program, creating a self-sustaining cycle of list growth.

Step 9 : Opt-In Prompt at Checkout

Seize the opportunity at checkout to invite customers to sign up for your newsletter. Use persuasive language to highlight the ongoing benefits they’ll receive.

Step 10 :Gamify the Sign-Up Process

Transform the act of subscribing into an engaging experience. Incorporate interactive elements like quizzes, contests, or challenges into your forms to make the opt-in process more enjoyable.

Step 11 : Promote Your Email Newsletter Across Channels

Extend the reach of your email list by actively promoting it on your social media accounts and in your email signature. Leverage existing touchpoints to encourage more potential subscribers.

By systematically employing these marketing tactics, you’ll organically build your email list with engaged and interested subscribers, ultimately leading to a more robust and valuable customer base.

Grow Your Email List the Right Way

Gaining the permission of the contacts on our email list is a challenging and time-consuming process, but it ensures the quality of our contacts and the best outcomes for our email campaigns.  Keep in mind that quality counts more than quantity when it comes to email addresses from your lists. Your contact lists should be created with devoted subscribers who are engaged in your brand, your products, and services in mind. 

Approach your email marketing with the same honesty and tenacity you would your business. Long term, you’ll be in a lot better position.


Why is building an email list important for my business?

Building an email list is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, it allows you to establish a direct and personalized connection with your audience. Email marketing is a powerful tool for nurturing relationships, promoting products or services, and delivering valuable content. An email list provides a reliable channel for communication, enabling you to reach your audience directly without relying on algorithms or external platforms. Additionally, having a well-maintained email list is an asset that you own, offering stability and control over your marketing efforts.

How can I start building an email list from scratch?

Starting an email list from scratch involves a strategic approach:

Create an Opt-In Incentive: Offer something of value, such as a downloadable guide, ebook, or exclusive content, to incentivize visitors to subscribe to your email list.

Optimize Your Website: Place prominent and visually appealing sign-up forms on your website. Use pop-ups, banners, or embedded forms strategically to capture visitors’ attention.

Utilize Social Media: Leverage your social media platforms to promote your opt-in incentive and encourage followers to subscribe to your email list.

Run Contests and Giveaways: Organize contests or giveaways that require participants to subscribe to your email list. This can attract new subscribers and generate excitement around your brand.

Guest Blogging and Partnerships: Write guest posts for relevant blogs or collaborate with other businesses to expand your reach and attract new subscribers.

Optimize Landing Pages: Create dedicated landing pages for your opt-in incentives with clear and compelling calls-to-action, making it easy for visitors to subscribe.

Ensure GDPR Compliance: If applicable, ensure that your email collection practices comply with data protection regulations, such as GDPR. Clearly communicate how you will use subscribers’ information and provide options for them to manage their preferences.

How can I maintain and engage my email list once it’s established?

After building your email list, maintaining engagement is key to its success:

Segment Your List: Divide your subscribers into segments based on their interests, behaviors, or demographics. This allows you to send targeted and relevant content, improving engagement.

Regularly Send Valuable Content: Provide your subscribers with valuable and relevant content. This could include newsletters, exclusive offers, educational materials, and updates about your products or services.

Personalize Your Emails: Use personalization techniques to address subscribers by name and tailor content based on their preferences. Personalized emails are more likely to capture attention and foster a connection.

Encourage Interaction: Include interactive elements in your emails, such as surveys, polls, or calls-to-action that prompt subscribers to respond or click through to your website.

Monitor and Analyze Metrics: Track key metrics like open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates. Analyzing these metrics provides insights into the effectiveness of your email campaigns, helping you refine your strategies for better engagement.

Provide Opt-Out Options: Respect your subscribers’ preferences by providing easy-to-find options for opting out or managing their subscription preferences. This helps maintain a healthy and engaged email list by ensuring that subscribers genuinely want to receive your content.

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