Marketing Channels, Marketing Planning & Reporting

How to Build a Mailing List for Your Small Business

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Email newsletters are a great way to reach out to potential customers and keep in touch existing ones. It’s also a very affordable way to spread the word about your company. But how do you build a mailing list for your small business? How do you grow the number of email subscribers to see results?

I’ve written before about the benefits of using newsletters to grow your small business and how to get started. And here are a few thoughts on how you can grow and improve your mailing list.

Optimise your sign-up forms

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The most important tool when you want to grow or build a mailing list is your sign-up form. They are easy to create, especially if you’re using email tools like MailChimp or Campaign Monitor.

You often have the choice between generating a branded sign-up page, a button to add to your website and many more. Just make sure to use the ones that are most likely to encourage potential customers to join your mailing list. And that they comply with the latest data protection regulations.

Read more about what GDPR means for your small business marketing.

1. Your website

Add your sign-up form to your website and don’t even think about hiding it away somewhere in the footer. For your web visitors to see and use it, it needs to be in a prominent position, best somewhere at the top.

Additionally, consider having it either on every page or at least on the most popular of your web pages, e.g. your contact page and your product pages.

2. Your blog & social media

To build a mailing list for your small business, you can also add the sign-up form to your digital marketing activities. For example, if you have a blog, add the link to your blog posts. On social media, you can even create sign-up tabs (Facebook) and pins (Pinterest) to encourage new subscribers.

And don’t forget to post the link regularly to advertise your newsletter to interested readers. Another way to grow your list is to add the link to your email signature.

3. Keep it short and simple

When it comes to your sign-up form there are two things to keep in mind: Always make the process as easy as possible for the customer and never forget a call-to-action.

It’s very important to keep the form short and simple. So only ask for the information you really need. And don’t forget to tell them why they should join your mailing list in the first place. Also, let people know how often they are going to receive your emails and what the content will be to reduce unsubscribers.

Make it shareable

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Social media and content marketing, in general, is all about sharing. Something you should use to build a mailing list for your small business.

For this to work, you have to make sure that your newsletter is worth sharing in the first place. You can achieve that by making sure that your content is relevant to the reader as well as entertaining and interesting.

Unsure of what to include? Check out my Alternative Guide to Email Marketing for my top tips!

1. Forward to a friend

Make it easy for existing readers to forward your newsletter to their friends, family and colleagues who might also be interested in your content or the latest offer. Most systems offer a ‘Forward To A Friend’ link that you can implement add to your content.

And don’t forget to add a ‘subscribe’ link as well in case the new arrivals like what they see and want to sign up for your emails, too.

2. Social sharing

Another option is to use social sharing buttons to build a mailing list. These enable people to share the newsletter with their friends on the likes of Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Again, just adding a link isn’t enough. Actively encourage people to share your newsletter by adding a call-to-action and tell them what the benefits of subscribing are.

3. Social media posts

You can also share the newsletter itself on social media channels. This grows your general readership and, if prompted properly, can lead to new sign-ups.

And don’t hesitate to share it several times, especially if you have a limited offer or if you want to announce your next newsletter. Take some time to think about what platforms your ideal customer is likely to be hanging out on and focus your energies there.

Reach out at events

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When you attend networking events, trade shows or conferences, never forget about your newsletter. Every time you make a new contact ask yourself if this person would benefit from receiving your emails – and act accordingly.

1. As exhibitor

If you are exhibiting, you can easily collect email addresses for your newsletter at your stand. Have a printed sign-up list ready or your tablets fired up with your online sign-up form to grow and build a mailing list.

To encourage people, you could offer a little prize draw for everyone who signs up during the event. Or you can promise them a free trial or a discount for your services.

Keep in mind that this could potentially give your mailing list a temporary boost, only to then trail off a couple of weeks later. This is where the quality, engaging content comes in – make it worth their while to keep coming back for more!

2. Visitors

As a visitor, you’ll collect business cards from everyone you met and talked to. Rather than adding them to your mailing list without asking (don’t forget about GDPR), I’d highly recommend asking for their permission first.

Send them your latest newsletter as an example – together with a link to sign-up. Let them know how frequent you’re sending it out, that you’ll protect their data and they can unsubscribe anytime. Then give them the choice to either confirm their subscription or unsubscribe.

3. Online Networking

These days we’re all doing a lot more networking over video calls. If you’re the host of the meeting, you could include an “opt in” button for your mailing list when attendees sign up to the event.

If you’re an attendee, make sure to add anyone you chat to on a platform like LinkedIn. That way, they’ll go on to see your posts, and if you continue your conversation outside of the video call, you can again ask for their permission to send an example newsletter with a sign-up link their way.

Quality over quantity

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As with many marketing activities, you should always be mindful of quality over quantity. Especially when you build a mailing list for your small business. That’s why you should always add an opt-in for subscribers to make sure they really want to receive your emails.

It also makes sure the quality of your mailing list is high, even if the number of email subscribers can’t compete with larger company’s lists. And it’s always better to have a few engaged readers than a lot of people on your email list who don’t even bother to open or read it.

Last thing to note? Persevere! It can be so tempting, if your initial response rate is low, just to abandon the ideal entirely. But, like most things, practice and consistency go a long way. Keep giving people the opportunity to sign up and keep sending out quality content. Before you know it, your mailing list will be an invaluable part of your strategy!


If you are interested in reading more about this topic, have a look at these:
Email Marketing for Small Businesses – Why You Should Use it & How to Get Started
Actionable Marketing Copy: How to Convert More Leads for Your Small Business
Small Business Email Marketing: The Alternative Guide
7 Ways to Keep in Touch with Your Existing Customers

Denise Strohsahl brand and marketing consultant for small businesses

Hello, I’m Denise from sandstonecastles, a brand & marketing consultancy based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

I help small business owners like yourself to find the right marketing that’s in line with your brand and values.