6 Easy Steps to Build Your Small Business Email List (+ Why you should do it NOW!)

by | Marketing

In today’s small business economy, little matters more than building a level of trust and respect with your potential customers. As we’ve written about before, this trust can be built in a variety of ways.

With so many methods of communication, however, it can certainly be hard to know how best to communicate your message.

Enter the email list.

“But wait, isn’t email dead?”, you ask? Not according to this appropriately named website.

As a matter of fact, email may be a more alive than ever as the very best way to communicate with your customers.

Why You Need an Email List NOW


Historically speaking, email converts prospects MUCH faster than traditional advertising and social media.

Email numbers are harder to grow, to be sure. But once you have them (and if you can keep them), your email list COULD become a number one source of revenue depending on the type of business you’re in.

Email is based on what A-List Marketer Seth Godin calls, Permission Marketing. In his 1999 book of the same title, he says, “Permission Marketing is just like dating. It turns strangers into friends and friends into lifetime customers. Many of the rules of dating apply, and so do many of the benefits.”

Just like the term implies, this works because the folks you are marketing to have already given you permission to do so! And not only that, but if they have gone so far as to join your email list, it is highly likely that they are actually excited about and anticipating your communication!

And, contrary to conventional wisdom, you don’t need a HUGE email list to make this work!

Even 100 loyal, repeat customers who really get some value out of your business can be enough to make a living. Perhaps even less than that depending on what you do.

So why do you need an email list NOW? Simple: you’re losing money if you don’t have one, and last time I checked, businesses were in business to make money!

But email lists just don’t grow overnight. They take a lot of work to grow and maintain. But done right, the investment will be more than worth it.

With that in mind, here are six easy, practical steps you can take to build your email list.

Step #1. Identify a Need


The first step in any good methodology is to survey the landscape. As the bright Zig Ziglar used to say, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit every time.” But this step brings along with it a very practical application. You need to search, scour, and survey your current customer base (and potential customer base) to identify THE biggest problem they face as it relates to your business. Get super focused here. If you are a landscaper, maybe your customers want a 3-step system for helping their plants grow better. Maybe you are in HVAC and your customers need to know how they can save “x” dollars per year on their power bill. Find a MAJOR need in your customers lives that you can address in exchange for their email address.

Step #2. Fill the Need (Quickly!)


Once you know the problem, you can easily give the solution. But here’s the catch: The solution needs to be a quick, easy fix, and it must only solve ONE problem. Super quick, focused win for the prospect. And all it costs is their email address! In marketing terms, this is called a “Lead Magnet.” It is a small piece of collateral (such as a Checklist, Fact Sheet, eBook, etc.) that gives the solution to the problem you’ve identified in exchange for a potential customer’s email address. It should be a quick one–something that takes you no longer than a weekend or so to create, and that the prospect can act on quickly and see the desired result(s). The exceptions to this are email courses and long eBooks, which are a bit more advanced. The key here is making it easy both for you and the customer, which is next in view.

Step #3. Make Things Easy


If things go well, there will be a TON of people signing up over time. What you DON’T want to do is to have each of these “exchanges” being manual interactions. In other words, you don’t want them filling out a contact form, you manually emailing them the Lead Magnet, then manually adding them to your list. This is cumbersome and frankly, ludicrous. There are free options like MailChimp which I HIGHLY recommend that can accomplish this automatically for you! In one fell swoop, your customer signs up, receives what they asked for, AND gets added to your future email communications. Pretty cool, huh? Now you have some serious power–but as Uncle Ben says, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Step #4. Nurture, Nurture, Nurture


Much of that responsibility is grounded in how you communicate with this new platform. In a process called “Lead Nurturing,” you will take steps to educate your customer about things that are relevant to your business, and that also matter to them. Though outside the scope of this article, this is another area where tools like MailChimp shine. The thing to remember is that so much is available for free these days that it is now an expectation from many of your customers that they receive things for free (just like the lead magnet and even blog posts) before they buy. The same is true on your email list. And, arguably, your BEST stuff should be reserved for them. They are just waiting to hear from you. And if you can (within reason) stay at the top of their email inbox, you can also stay top of their mind.

Step #5. Sell, Sell, Sell!


Now we’re getting to the good stuff! Only after you have begun to a build a relationship with your prospect you should begin to sell them. But, don’t be afraid to sell them! They are plenty aware that you are in business–and if everything has fallen into place correctly, they will realize you are uniquely qualified to solve their problems! Remember–you’re not selling just for the heck of it. They have a want or a need, and you have the solution for them. So once you’ve built up that trust and extended an olive branch, go for the sale! After all, this email list is really just a small part of the big picture “Sales Funnel” (something we will discuss in great detail in the future). While yes, you are looking to build trust and respect with your prospect, you ultimately want to make money from them! This process ensures a good balance between sales vs. nurture.

Step #6. Show Appreciation


Finally, be sure to express your gratitude for being on your email list. Every so often, reward your customers with a discount, or something free that really goes the extra mile. Invest your time into this relationship, and eventually, you will find your prospects investing their dollars into it as well! This is the perfect combination because it’s easy to quantify. You’re likely already used to trading time for dollars–though it’s a long process, that’s exactly what’s happening here! You should show EXTRA appreciation after you’ve just finished a hard sales campaign. Thank your list for sticking with you and understanding that this is how you make your living, and offer them something nice (for free)!

[bctt tweet=”Find a MAJOR need in your customers lives that you can address in exchange for their email address.” username=”northmacsvc”]



Building an email list does not have to be intimidating, but it is CRUCIAL to long-term business success online.

If this process still sounds overwhelming to you, never fear! We help customers out with this sort of thing all the time. In fact, our “Game Changer” managed website solution adds this type of service to your managed website AND includes two blog posts per month!

And, hey, if you’re not ready to buy yet but would like to learn more, why not join MY email list! You’ll get a free PDF Checklist that shows you how to build a dynamite small business blog.

Question: How has an email list changed the way you do business?



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