7 Ideas for Growing Your Customer Email List

It can be hard to get customers to share their email address, but these tactics are proven to work.
Email marketing is an affordable and effective way to spread the word about your business, but first you need to grow your contact list. (Photo: underverse/Shutterstock)

You’re ready to start email marketing, or perhaps you’ve already started. Now you need to grow your list. How do you get customers to share their email address? Here are seven ways that work.


“Have early-bird offers and discounts only for customers on your email list.” -Angelique Pivoine (Photo: Angelique Pivoine)

Create great content

Great content is really the lynchpin for successful email marketing. With all the spam floating around in cyberspace, many people are hesitant to share their email addresses. But if your emails are well thought-out and provide real value, your customers are more likely to sign up for your list — and stay subscribed.

Offer exclusive discounts

“You need to give them a real incentive to sign up because nobody wants to receive junk newsletters,” noted Angelique Pivoine, owner of the marketing and PR firm Good Thinking Agency.

“Have early-bird offers and discounts only for customers on your email list,” she suggested. “Whenever you talk to a customer, tell them that subscribers to your newsletter get first dibs when it comes to limited-seating events and discounts.”

Give referral bonuses


Create unique discount codes for referrals that customers can share with family and friends, says Chelsey Moter, digital analyst at seoWorks. (Photo: Chelsey Moter)

You can also build your list through referrals from current subscribers. Do it by hosting a giveaway or offering rewards for referring a friend.

Chelsey Moter, digital analyst at seoWorks, suggested creating unique discount codes for referrals that can be used a certain number of times. “Since the code can be used more than once, there’s a good chance a customer will share the code with friends and family members who will sign up and do the same,” she said.

Host a special event and require RSVPs

Another idea: Throw a special event and ask for RSVPs.

“An event can be online or in person, but do your research and make sure that the event you’re planning is what your customers would be interested in,” said Pivoine. “Limiting your seatings is key to success. People don’t really RSVP to go to an event that anyone can just attend.”

Leverage social media ads

If you have an advertising budget, Facebook ads can be a very economical option. The key is to make sure your ads are narrowly targeted to the right audience.

Liberty Premium Grooming, a company that provides grooming products for beards, targets audiences that mirror his own customers. “We create lookalike audiences of our customer lists who have an interest in the broad niche we are in,” said company founder Curt Storring.

Storring also suggested targeting specific Facebook pages. “If we know they like a Facebook page called ‘I Love My Beard,’ for example, we can safely assume they have a beard, care about it and are therefore in our target market.”

Make the most of every transaction


Businesses can hold a contest at checkout and ask customers to enter their email address, suggests Jessi Carr, digital marketing specialist at Inseev Interactive. (Photo: Jessi Carr)

Many small business owners incorporate an ask for email addresses into their checkout process. POS systems allow you to send receipts by email, so by simply offering to provide an electronic receipt you can often increase the size of your email list.

Using a contest at checkout is another strategy.

“One of the most creative email list building ideas that I’ve seen has come from one of my favorite coffee shops,” said Jessi Carr, digital marketing specialist at Inseev Interactive. The cafe holds a monthly “Guess the Amount of Jellybeans in the Jar” contest with a modern twist.

“Instead of having customers write their guesses on a slip of paper, they’re able to enter them right into the iPad POS system at checkout along with their email address to be notified of their win, of course. This not only gives them the chance to effectively ask each customer for their email address but also provides more of an incentive for consumers to give their email address out.”


“It all comes down to offering immediate value in exchange for the email address and then not abusing the privilege of having that person’s email.” -Curt Storring (Photo: Curt Storring)

Conduct a survey

Customer research surveys can be a great way to get email addresses, said Storring. “What I love about this method is that not only do we collect emails and turn prospects into customers by offering a discount on our products, but we actually get pretty useful feedback about the products we are planning on launching.

“While not scientific, we can get a pretty good idea of what our target customers are actually looking for, rather than assuming they will like.”

Whatever tactics you use to grow your email list, said Storring, “It all comes down to offering immediate value in exchange for the email address and then not abusing the privilege of having that person’s email and their permission to communicate to them through it.”

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