What to do with your Email List

If you’re like most small business owners, you collect email addresses from your current and prospective customers.

If you aren’t doing this already, the time to start was yesterday. Don’t believe us? Read this.

Chances are, you could be getting a lot more value from your email list.

Here are a few ways to put those emails to work for your business, tips on what to say in your emails, and best practices for getting more recipients to open your emails and click through to your website.


Why your email list is so valuable

The people on your list have already said yes to hearing from your business. It’s usually easier to sell to an existing or interested customer than to sell to someone who doesn’t know you or your business. That’s not to say that everyone on your list will take you up on an offer, of course, but you stand a better chance of converting email list members as you get better at creating offers and structuring your emails.


Growing your email list

The main thing to remember about growing your email list is that members need to opt in. Not only is it unprofessional to add people to your list without their express permission (for example, by adding everyone in your Contacts list), but it can also cause you to run afoul of rules that prohibit spam emails. Once your emails are flagged as spam, you’ll have a harder time reaching the legitimate members of your list.

As long as you’re following the rules, you can extend the opt-in invitation in as many different ways as you wish. For example, you can…

  • Create a landing page with an opt-in box for new visitors.
  • Add an opt-in form on every page of your business web site.
  • Create an offer (a coupon code, a free piece of information, etc) for new subscribers who complete your opt-in form.
  • Contribute “thought leadership” articles to your local online newspaper, business journal, or TV and radio sites and include a link to your opt-in form.

Check out this article for more creative list-building suggestions you can adapt for your business and audience. For example, you may not have a business that operates joint ventures with other companies, but you might be able to collect email addresses from participants in a workshop you host, a sales party where you demonstrate your products, and community events where you’re a vendor.


Managing your email list

The ultimate DIY is to simply BCC your list recipients from your professional email address, but this is not a great idea.

First, you’ll have no way to track how many recipients get your email, open it, and click on links inside it. Second, unless you make sure to include unsubscribe information in each email, you risk getting your email account flagged as a spam sender by recipients who want to opt out but don’t know how.

To see how successful your emails are, and to give recipients a way to opt out without flagging your emails as spam, HostGator recommends Constant Contact for email marketing services. For businesses with lists of fewer than 500 subscribers, a basic subscription costs $20 per month or less, and there’s a free trial period.


Using your email list

With an email marketing service, you can store your contacts, note the date that they opted in, collect demographic and customer-specific information (like zip code and birthday), and keep a record of which topics they’re interested in so you can segment your list and target your emails accordingly. (More on segmenting in a minute.)

So, what should you send to the folks on your list?

  • Promotions are always popular. If you’re running a sale, offering a limited-time deal, or introducing a new product, email your list.
  • Cool, useful, and entertaining information can help keep warm leads interested in your business, even if you don’t have an offer. Just keep the content relevant to your audience.
  • Surveys and requests for input from current customers can give you ideas to improve your products, pricing, or service.  
  • Remind your list members about upcoming events where your business will have a booth and invite them to come meet you in person.

Constant Contact collected 29 email marketing ideas from small business owners that you can modify for your own marketing campaigns.


How often to contact your list

How often should you email your list? That depends on how often your customers want to hear from you.

Depending on your industry, your email content, and your audience’s preferences, they may want to hear from you every week, a couple of times a month, or every day. If you can’t ask directly, use your email marketing tools to monitor your unsubscribe rates. If frequent emails lead to more unsubscribes, dial it back until your dropout rate levels off or declines.


Refine your email mojo

Sending any email is a good first step, but there are ways to make each email perform better.

Keep the tone of your email conversational, and make sure it’s well-written and properly punctuated.

Use email formats that are optimized for smartphone display.

Segment your list so you send members only the content they’re interested in. They’ll appreciate your respect for their time and be less likely to unsubscribe. For example, when I ran my dancewear business, I segmented my list into customers who were interested in products for adults, products for kids, and both. That way I didn’t bother the customers who wanted women’s products with promotions for kids’ products, and vice versa.

Check your metrics. Track your open rates and click-through rates for each email you send. Over time, you’ll develop a sense of what types of emails get the best responses from your audience and you can focus on those. You can do this in Constant Contact’s dashboard.

A/B test your emails. Once you have the email marketing basics down, you can start conducting careful experiments to see what types of subject lines and content get the best responses from your list members. As with metrics, A/B test results can help you develop stronger email campaigns over time.


Managing your email list is just one step in growing your business. Check out these related articles for more ideas:

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance B2B content marketing writer. Her specialty areas include SMB marketing and growth, data security, IoT, and fraud prevention