10 ethical ways to build a mailing list

10 ethical ways to build a mailing list

By Sophia Skinbjerg | sophia.skinbjerg@ungapped.com

Whenever we host breakfast seminars here at Ungapped HQ we always get asked how businesses can ethically build a mailing list. And I think it’s fantastic that businesses big and small are concerned about how they can obtain email addresses without abusing the rights of the subscriber. Unfortunately we can’t sit down with everyone and brainstorm what would be the most effective way for them to build a mailing list because it is different for each company. But what we can give is our 10 top recommendations that are not only effective but also ethical ways to build a mailing list.


1. Add a subscription form to your site

This is probably the most obvious and simple way to build a mailing list because without a subscription form on your website, visitors don’t really have anywhere to give their email address. It’s counterintuitive to everything you’re working towards really.

While most people will have a subscription form somewhere on their website, often it isn’t placed in an area that will enjoy the most conversions. Some common placement errors include the footer, below the page fold, or an inconspicuous page such as the contact page. Don’t get me wrong, it can be a good idea to have subscription forms in these places but they shouldn’t be the only area.

Subscription forms work best when combined with a number of placements including; above the fold, at the top of the side bar or on pages that people visit most often (e.g. your blog, your homepage or a specific product page). Take a look at some good examples below.


10 ethical ways to build a mailing list

Image source: Yodabee. Please note, image cropped for this example.


2. Add a subscription pop-up

Sometimes visitors need a little bit of a prompt to add their email to your mailing list and an effective way to do this is by adding a pop-up to your website or blog.

This does not mean adding a pop-up that shows up every time a visitor navigates to a new page – doing this will only annoy the reader and likely send them away from your page. Instead, add your subscription pop-up to a page where it’s natural to ask for a visitor’s email. For example: after a reader has spent a certain amount of time on a product page or after a reader has scrolled past a certain point on a blog post.

By adding your subscription pop-up in places that is most relevant to the visitor, you’ll build a mailing list with more relevant subscribers.


10 ethical ways to build a mailing list

Image source: ungapped.com


3. Add your current customers to your mailing list

When businesses are strategizing different ways to build a mailing list it’s most valuable resource are often left off the list.

If you’re in the digital industry then you’ll likely have access to your customers emails already. This makes is pretty easy to upload them to your email marketing platform for use right away. However, if you don’t have your customers emails recorded, it could be worth giving them a call and simply asking if they would like to be placed on your mailing list.

If that seems like too big of a task, try to build a mailing list from those customers that return the most value to your business. For example, start segmenting your customers based on how much value they bring back to your company. Those that aren’t part of your greatest income can probably be omitted from your call list and those that do can be called. This is a good exercise that will save you time and future marketing spend.


4. Get new subscribers with a giveaway

People love free stuff. Don’t deny it – you probably love getting free stuff too. So why not incorporate that into your own business strategy? Giveaways work for both brand new visitors to your site or socials as well as current customers (e.g share this email with a friend for your chance to win”). While it might cost a little extra than other strategies you will use to build a mailing list, this way can also be faster than other methods.


5. Offer free downloads

If you’re already running an active blog and bringing new traffic to your site then offering free content downloads should be a priority as you build a mailing list.

Content offers that are free to download work in that before people can view them, they will need to provide their email address. The reason to put them behind a form which requires their email (besides obviously building a mailing list) is to qualify the visitors signing up; only the most interested visitors will bother with filling out a form which means you’ve just scored a very qualified lead for future sales and marketing efforts.

Scroll to the bottom of this post and see our own SMS checklist download.


6. Add a CTA to your company Facebook page

I think this is the most under-utilized element on most company pages which is a bit of a shame since it’s really simple to set up. All you need to do is navigate to your company Facebook page (make sure you’re an admin first), click the ‘signup button’ and select edit. A pop-up will be shown where you can select the type of CTA and the URL you wish to send people to. Simply click save changes when you’re done. Too easy!


10 ethical ways to build a mailing list


7. Incorporate social

The thing about social sharing is that you should make it as easy as possible for visitors and readers from your current mailing list to share. This means including sharing icons in your current mailings, blog posts and even on website pop-ups. Don’t make it harder for people to share your content because if it’s too tedious, they simply won’t. One of my favorite examples comes from Yodabee:


10 ethical ways to build a mailing list


8. Collect email addresses offline

Yes you read that right: collecting email addresses offline is still an effective way to build a mailing list. Trade fairs, industry conferences and exhibitions are all fantastic opportunities to get people to jot down their email on a clipboard to send to them at a later date.

Collecting email addresses offline can also be added to print marketing collateral with a QR code or something similar that people can scan with their device and subscribe immediately. Business cards, brochures or print ads are all perfect uses. Check out some of the examples I found on Pinterest:


10 ethical ways to build a mailing list

10 ethical ways to build a mailing list


9. Host an event

If you’re looking to attract new customers to build your mailing list then a great way to do this is by hosting an event – either offline or online. If you decide to host an offline event then don’t go overboard – nobody is expecting you to through an event equal to the nobel prize. Keep it simple with an after work or a breakfast seminar and make signup (with an email address) mandatory. Even if people can’t make it to your event, you still have their email address to add to your list.

RelatedGet more event signups with these 6 steps [infographic]


10. Leverage your social proof

Most of us get too many emails in our inbox. It’s really only the ones that are important or entertaining to us that warrant a stay in our inbox. And this makes it really hard for businesses to convince a visitor that they should indeed give us their email. A simple way to combat this is to leverage your social proof that your mailing list is worth signing up for. I found this example shared by Kissmetrics:


10 ethical ways to build a mailing list



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