Anyone who says email marketing is dead is either confused or lying. Not only is this communication channel still breathing, but also insists it “remains the most effective channel marketers have for initiating a conversation and reaching out to their prospects and customers.”

Once you have a valid email address for a current or prospective customer, you’re ready to communicate with them. But how did you go about obtaining that email address?

This post provides a few ethical and effective strategies for increasing your email marketing contact list.

1. Make it easy to sign up

This suggestion may sound basic, but many companies make it difficult for even a willing contact to sign up for their emails. Remedy this by making the sign-up form clearly visible on your website. And don’t stop there. Add a subscription link to your Facebook page as well, so you can attract some of your more social media-driven contacts.

To help seal the deal, make the form as concise as possible. It’s tempting to use the opportunity to ask all kinds of questions you’re curious about, but this approach is like going on a first date with someone and then grilling them with overly personal questions. Chances are, you’ll never get a second date. Limit the form to 2-3 fields, make it clear that it will only take a minute to complete, and don’t ask for any private information that isn’t necessary.

2. Launch a referral campaign

People trust their friends and family 5 times more than they trust a brand. Rather than trying to convince new leads of your greatness, try using a referral campaign that empowers their trusted contacts to do the selling for you.

A proper referral campaign has an incentive on both ends.

For example, you could provide a sizable discount to existing customers for anyone new they get to sign up for your emails.

Make sure to warmly welcome the new subscriber with a similar discount that will get them excited to use your product or services.

3. Offer a more basic incentive

Even if you don’t want to go through the trouble of creating a referral campaign, you should always have something nice awaiting those who are kind enough to sign up for your emails. After all, it’s estimated there will be about 319 billion emails sent each day by 2021. So anytime someone decides they want to consistently hear from you amidst the clutter, that’s a big deal.

Consider giving your new email recipients a special discount code or buy-one-get-one coupon. You could also provide resources that establish your credibility and value, such as a relevant white paper or e-book. Lastly, you could give them access to exclusive information, such as a members-only newsletter.

How NOT to grow your email list

There are proper ways to go about obtaining email addresses, and there are shady ways. If you purchase an email contact list from of any sort and start sending a barrage of emails to these unsuspecting folks and you can expect:

  • Send failures due to bad addresses
  • Blocks from miffed recipients
  • Unsubscribes from irritated recipients
  • Hate mail from irate recipients
  • Punitive action from email providers

For this reason, only send emails to those who opted in to receive your emails. Everyone wants to expand their email contact list, but you will only see results if you do it properly. Because, as with most things in life, quality will always be better than quantity.

“If you’re ethically growing your email list, then your database will be filled with fans of your organization,” says “In many ways, they’ve already bought into your business, and they want to hear from you because you have, at least at one point, offered them something of value.”

Not only will an ethically sourced email list get better results, but it will keep you on the right side of the law. Legislation such as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) have brought new consequences to those who send emails recklessly. This bold, new era of email marketing requires bold, new approaches.


All of these strategies hinge on respect because when you treat your contacts the way you’d like to be treated, the results will always shine. And it creates a sustainable environment where people will be more keen to sign up for your emails and, if you’re lucky, even refer you to their friends and family.

For a deeper dive into all sorts of email list building strategies, check out SendGrid’s How to Grow Your Email List best practice guide.

Expert advice and insight about all things email including best practices tips, examples, and advice for marketers, developers, and everyone in between.