How To Build a High-Converting Email Marketing List

You email marketing list is the foundation of your program. If it is fundamentally flawed, then how effective can your email marketing really be? If you have delivery problems, how will you fix it when you never acquired permission to begin with? How will you engage your subscribers when you don’t know anything about them other than the fact that they were in the list your boss gave to you?

The earlier you fix your list and collection practices, the easier it will be to maintain a successful strategy in the future. As Minute Maid has said in their recent advertisements, “Put good in, get good out.”

Let’s look at some common tactics used for growing your list and how they can be done better to ensure you are building a high-converting email marketing list.


Incentives can be a great way to quickly increase the size of your list. Unfortunately, many people sign up for them simply to win, not to get information from the sponsor. This can result in the collection of many invalid email address, an increase in unsubscribes, and increased spam complaints.

Be open about the purpose of the contest and how you will use the collected information.  Consider using a separate checkbox so entrants can explicitly opt-in to receiving marketing email from you.


Referrals can be as direct as asking your subscribers to recommend your newsletter to their friends and family or including the ability to post your emails to social media sites.

Giving your subscribers the ability to share a message is easy. Many email service providers have built-in tools to do this. The hard part is creating content that is valuable enough for your subscribers to want to share it.

Like that “Free Shipping” offer you sent today, and last week, and the week before. It isn’t going to get shared. What will is the short video for your amazing new product or service or some fun new tips for making someone’s life easier.

The shared versions of your messages (in my opinion, all of them) should include a link to your sign up page. Personalize the experience even further by thanking these unique subscribers and tagging their source in your database. Next time, you’ll know who to send to for Facebook exposure.

Initial Engagement

This may be the most important message your ever send to your new subscribers. If you don’t craft it carefully, it may be your last.

Every new subscriber should instantly receive an email from you to confirm their email address and thank them. Set expectations by including an overview of your relationship, how frequently you send, and a link to your privacy policy.

Go a step further and ask them to complete preferences or customize their frequency to create loyal and enthusiastic subscribers.

More Ideas for Growing your Email List

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Check out our white paper for 6 secrets to improve email deliverability. You’ll learn how making the inbox can mean big dollars for your business. Includes a case study of adaptive deliverability that boosted customer response by 19%.

Case Study: Email Deliverability

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  • Tim, I love your approach here. Rather than just listing list building tips, I like your thoughts on improving generally used tactics.

    We often encourage marketers to use Share with Your Network in their campaigns along with the Social Subscribe feature that a few email service providers have. With us, it’s simply a snippet that you put in your email with the share functionality. Then, only people who view the SHARED email see the link encouraging them to subscribe. With it not being standard in the email’s copy, current subscribers don’t see it and get confused. Just wanted to add this as a further step for marketers to take when allowing subscribers to share their emails.

    If you want to talk more email on Twitter, shoot me a tweet – @amygarland.

    Amy Garland
    Marketing Manager, Blue Sky Factory

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