How to Build an Opt-In Email List


Make sure that your emails are opt-in only and that email frequency settings are easily adjustable.

One of the most important things you can do to build your list is to ask for email addresses at every point of customer contact:

  • On your website
  • On customer support calls
  • On brochures, surveys, and feedback forms
  • At tradeshows and events

Get permission

Permission mailing means having people either sign up on your website for your newsletter or provide an email address when they purchase something from your company. By doing this, you can collect email addresses without buying a list that may have been created and/or sold illegally. 

While building an email list is crucial for online marketing, be aware of a big potential pitfall, the possibility of being penalized for not creating your list in the proper manner. Due to recent laws designed to protect consumers from unwanted emails, an email list is legal only if it is “opt-in.”When the person receiving the email has consented to receive mass emails from you, that’s known as opting in. Here are some tips on building that opt-in email list quickly, effectively, and the right way:

1. Make it easy to opt in

The main page of your website should have a sign-up form with a box where visitors can enter an email address and agree to receive emails from you. If you have an e-commerce site where a customer will be paying and checking out, include a checkbox during the checkout process that lets customers sign up to receive emails from you. If you plan to use a third-party email service provider to handle your email list, make sure they provide code or HTML that you can insert in your website’s code to create the opt-in box automatically.

2. Privacy is key

Make it clear to your users that their privacy will be respected and that you will not sell or otherwise misuse their contact information. Email privacy is at the heart of most email regulations. Inspire confidence in your email subscribers by letting them know that you will not share their information with anyone, and you will only send them emails as described. If you can, provide email frequency information, so they know how often they should expect to hear from you. Indicate whether you will send a monthly newsletter, weekly specials, or daily updates. Some companies offer their subscribers a choice in how often they hear from them and with what type of communication.

3. Plan a giveaway

Contests are a great way to generate interest and get people to sign up for an email list. Announce that you are giving away a prize to email subscribers in the coming weeks. Advertise it through every channel available to you. This will help bring in new subscribers and give you additional exposure.

4. Offer free content as a teaser

Free content is a contest alternative that doesn’t have a time limit. Create a free report or ebook that anyone can download for free if they subscribe to your email list. This is a very successful model, and requires little upkeep. Customers will receive a link to download the report once they confirm their subscription. Again, most email service providers can do this automatically for you.

Photo credit: douglasleemiller / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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