Running a successful email marketing program surprisingly mirrors actions someone should take when making new friends. In these five simple email list building strategies, you can ensure that your program has a healthy human component to help you gain (and keep) those new subscribers!

1. Welcome newcomers

Imagine showing up to a party and nobody turns to acknowledge/welcome you. At best, I’ll be wondering if I’m just at the wrong party and at worst, I’ll be worrying that I did something to make myself unwelcome.

That’s not how we want our new email subscribers to feel after they opt-in to receive your promotional emails or email newsletters! Don’t make them scramble to pick up in the middle of an ongoing conversation—shoot them a message acknowledging that they’re new here and tell them what to expect.

An easy welcome message formula:

  • Remind them who you are and that they opted in to receive messages from you
  • Let them know how often you’ll be in touch (read more on proper expectation setting)
  • Hit them with a CTA that will be meaningful for your business (shop around, see what’s new, sign up for your next event, etc.)

My favorite welcome email CTA is to invite your new subscriber to share more about themselves:

Subject Line: Hey, you’re new here…

2. Take an interest in them

Depending on your business, you may have subscribers coming to you for different reasons. Case in point, check out this Zillow example below. When I subscribed to their email list, they immediately followed up with a strong welcome email (they’re happy to have me? *smile*) that invited me to tell them why I subscribed.

Who am I? What do I want out of this new relationship? Well, I’m glad you asked:

Subject Line: Welcome to our home


Not only does this email ensure that I’m getting the right content and am having a great experience, it’s a way to ensure that I’m engaging with the messages. Nothing is worse for your email deliverability than to send a ton of messages that nobody engages with—that sends signals to inbox providers that your messages are duds and nobody wants them. Bad news. And speaking of unengaged recipients…

3. Follow up when they go M.I.A.

When you have a friend you haven’t heard from in a while, you check in on them, right?  Same goes for your recipients. Continually sending messages to recipients who aren’t engaging tanks your deliverability, so it’s best to address it head on.

Send those low-engagers a re-engagement email asking them what’s up and give them options to take action such as re-subscribe, share feedback on why they may be disappointed/not interested in continuing to receive your messages, unsubscribe, etc.

Subject Line: Are you ok?

This example from The Hustle does just that. The message lists why I’m receiving the email (I subscribed), what may be going on if I haven’t been receiving them (email provider issues), and reminds me when/how often to expect the daily newsletter. Then it lists out actions I can take to try and troubleshoot a potential issue. Empower the recipient and ask them to make a call.

4. Say you’re sorry!

You’re going to mess up—it’s inevitable! So what do you do when things head south? Own it.

Depending on the severity of your email mistake, it may require an unplanned message expressing an apology for your mistake. And if you feel like it was really off-putting for recipients, it may require a small token of apology. See the example below from Primary Goods. Cute dog gif, a heartfelt apology, and a discount code is a quick way to win back those who may have given up on a purchase. Bravo!

Subject Line: Hey Kate, that’s our bad…

5. Remember their birthday

Finally, and this may be a no-brainer, but an easy way to make sure your new friends/subscribers feel special is to take note of and remember a seemingly fleeting detail about them—such as their birthday!

Subject Line: Make a Wish, Kate

If you can make it applicable to your business with a specific message or gift, that’s even better! For example, Ibotta (a cash back app brands use to connect with consumers) encourages me to splurge a little and treat myself on my big day.

They also list out ways that I could do that on their app: booking a getaway, getting a massage, or having a few b-day drinks. Sounds like a plan to me.

Bonus Tip: Make new friends, but keep the old

Attaining new subscribers is a great goal, but losing your existing subscribers is going to make substantial growth much more difficult. Make sure that you’re keeping an eye on your unsubscribe rates. Though it’s a great thing to get unengaged recipients off of your list, make sure it doesn’t reach a point where it acts as a red flag that you’re consistently not delivering the content subscribers want.


A well-rounded email program treats their subscribers like the humans we are. We like to feel welcome, appreciated for being individuals, that our absence is noticed, that we receive an apology when warranted, and occasionally, we like to feel special and celebrated.

Whether you’re making new friends or hoping to gain and keep a loyal base of subscribers, take the approach listed above when building your email list, and the relationships you start should be built to last! For more tips on how to grow your email friends, check out SendGrid’s How to Grow Your Email List best practice guide.

When Kate isn't trying to teach herself the ukelele, make it through the mountain of books on her nightstand, or figure out if they are actually being serious about suggested serving sizes on ice cream, she is the Creative Content Manager.