Netting a strong, organic email database is the holy grail of electronic marketing. E-mails are concise, high-impact, packets of information you can deliver at a low cost. Engaging your user base with a mix of creativity, keywords, and the essential human touch is critical.

It isn’t all rosy, however! With an increasingly mobile user-base, email addresses in your records could be obsolete as people switch their preferred email server, their jobs, or simply opt-out of your list. The ever increasing number of mobile devices combined with shrinking attention spans (less than 3 seconds!) means you lose nearly 23% of your email marketing database each year.

The challenge as an email marketer is to keep your contact list fresh, and keep the subscription metrics moving north (and your boss happy!).

A word of caution at this juncture, do not purchase email lists! Not only could it backfire as they are seldom ‘opt-in’ lists of voluntary subscribers, too often they represent a generic demographic weaned off a survey and sold off as a cheap third-party option. Targeted marketing emails must strive to reach your avatar or people interested in your niche.

In the section below we offer you some of the best, free ways to build your email database.


Your first impression is often the only chance you’ll get. Your email content needs the following:

  • Unique content – There are several templates available online. Learn, get inspired, but never copy them. Your content needs to reflect the marketing of your product or service, and not spam your readers inboxes with generic content.
  • Engagement cues – Like any good pyramid scheme, your email isn’t merely meant for your primary target, but something which users must feel encouraged to forward to their friends, family, colleagues, or even professional contacts. A prominent call-to-action (CTA) to share the content socially, “email a friend”, and subscribe to lists are critical to wider networking.
  • Targeted emails – While users would always share good content, what they love is content curated to their taste. It’s a worthy investment to study demographic choices and deliver targeted content for subscription and offers to your online visitors.
  • Win-back emails – Often ignored, mostly forgotten – having a separate stream for winning back users who might have opted out, unsubscribed, or reduced frequency of emails is critical to letting your users know you care.
  • Promotional offers/ Sweepstakes – It’s a no-brainer really! Online contest, sweepstakes, and free giveaways are great avenues to engage new users. Simply preface with an email sign-up and collect a bucket of leads. And oh! Social media is nearly 44% more likely to promote these contests better.
  • Email Signature – Ever noticed an email signature in a job-search email. While it might seem crammed with LinkedIn profile links, social icons, and links to company pages, it is actually a smart, almost quaint spot to catch your eye just as you’re about to veer away. Your email signature is valuable real-estate to link to sign-up or subscription pages.
  • Rejuvenate old lists – Do you think an old campaign from 2 years ago is useless? Think again. You already have a list of engaged users. All you need is to find the next good occasion (pick your holiday, event, or even create one!) and retarget them. Equally, keep tabs on unresponsive email addresses to cut them off. While it may seem counterintuitive, it would actually help keep your list essentially one with warm leads.
  • Additional tools – besides conventional methods, there are other tools you can leverage to have users sign up with their social profile or email addresses.
  • Gated Content – One of the best ways to engage users is to promise them something free – but with just one gate to pass through. A simple email sign-up form to watch videos, download free whitepapers, or e-Books ensure you get hot leads since users are most likely to gravitate towards content they care about.


Your website is the next most important place to market yourself and grow your email database.

  • Capture emails wherever possible – keep the email subscription, newsletter sign-up, contact forms, and gated content links strewn all over. Need a quote? Send us an email. Download a free list of marketing tips, sign-in with your email. Keep up with our blog updates? Subscribe with your email. Contact us for questions, concerns, suggestions? Enter your email. You get the idea. Ensure that your CTAs are prominent, yet unobtrusive to site navigation.
  • Partner websites can be a great resource to target fresh user base with email newsletters, or backlinks to your gated content and subscription modules. Identify the right psychographic or demographic group, offer to host co-marketing offers, pod-casts, webinars, or simply run a promotional offer for a partner website user-base, for a small percentage of the lead gen profits.
  • Always allow users to opt for sign up with their email to opt for guest blogging. You’ll be surprised how many people love seeing their name on a website in lieu of their email.

Social Media

The new kid on the block, social media is flush with options, and potential to engage and buttress your email database with strong, organic list of contacts.

  • Share all your promotional offers and gated content in your LinkedIn page, Twitter campaign page, Facebook business page, LinkedIn professional groups, and any other business landing pages. Promote your contests and offers in a way that they require email address to redeem.
  • Add social sharing, email subscription, and lead-sharing options on all your landing pages.
  • Add a visible cue to point to your CTA in the Facebook/ Twitter/ Pinterest background. Also, use one of the many universal plugins to share new updates to multiple social platforms.
  • Speaking of Pinterest, it’s a great platform to highlight visual content. A good e-Book cover, a nice still from a video, an attractive promotional offer? Just get it over to your Pinterest board.
  • Optimise your Google unified platform – Like it or not, Google’s unified platform is extremely powerful, thanks to their native search algorithm. Refine your Google+ page by adding email sign-up and subscription offer CTAs. Ditto for your company YouTube channel, where you can add the CTA, links to other videos, and relevant signup modules as annotations to the video. If possible, even get a Google domain which is aligned to your business. After all .com doesn’t stand a chance against or johndoe.webdesign, right?

Traditional Marketing

Compared to electronic media, traditional marketing endeavours may seem redundant. When done right, however, there’s enough value yet in building your email database.

  • Offer sign-up sheets to collect emails at offline events, conferences, meet-ups, tradeshows and similar hosted opportunities.
  • Collect email addresses from online hosted events like hackathons, registering for a seminar, or educational sessions.
  • QR code or NFC codes are a ubiquitous necessity for any print collateral you may have. Import a host of great leads by merely allowing them to scan your marketing material.

Obvious as they might be, these are proven, white-hat techniques which can keep your email database in good health, and offset the drop-off to keep your numbers high.

More power to your inbox!

Need help nurturing or growing your database? Contact the gurus and we’ll have you hitting inboxes in no time.