You’ve heard you need an email list to grow your business. But if you haven’t got one, what is the best and quickest way to get started?

In this guide, I’ll share with you the best and easiest way to build an email list from scratch.

The first step is to choose the best email software for your business.

Step 1: Choose the right email marketing software

I was speaking to a client recently who, before working with us, was emailing all their customers and leads manually through outlook / gmail!

Can you imagine how difficult and time consuming this must have been?

Instead, use professional email marketing software to do the job for you.

Most good email marketing software can take care of all the “techy” stuff for you. That way, you can focus on writing good quality emails, rather than worrying about how to effectively send it out.

Free vs Paid email marketing software providers

Now that you know you need to use email software to reach out to those on your email list, what email marketing software do you choose?

This largely depends on your budget, the size of your list and the features you will need.

Unfortunately, there are thousands of email marketing software companies out there. Picking a good one can be a confusing and a time-consuming task.

Top tip: Most email marketing software companies ultimately do the job of allowing you to email and segment your list. I’m not too fussed over what company or software you choose, as long as it does the job. Don’t let choice paralysis stop you from moving forward and building your email list.

Since most of my clients are SME’s, I’m going to give you two of my favourite email marketing software providers for small to medium sized business: Mailchimp (Free) and ConvertKit (Paid)

Is Mailchimp best for your business?

Mailchimp is free to get started and us one of the most popular options for small businesses.

However, Mailchimp does have some limitations. The way they organise and segment your list isn’t as powerful as other email service providers.

At times, because of the Mailchimp limitations, you may have people signed up to different lists on your Mailchimp account, causing you to email them the same email more than once (which isn’t a very good user experience). Normally, this only happens as your email list grows. But the bigger your list, the harder it is to organise using Mailchimp.

However, due to the low cost to get started (it’s free!), it’s often the first choice for many small businesses getting started.

Is ConvertKit best for your business?

Although I started out by using Mailchimp (many years ago) for my own business, I moved over and upgraded to ConvertKit earlier this year, and I’ve seen a big difference in results.

Not only do we now have better open and click-through rates, but our email list and automation is better than it has ever been.

If you’re unfamiliar with ConvertKit, they are kinda like Infusionsoft (which are one of the leaders in email marketing software), but the main difference being ConvertKit is about a hundred times easier to use! We love ConvertKit at Skyline Social and they come highly recommend.

The price, although not free, is still very cost effective. They only charge $30/month to get started.

My recommendation is if $30/month is too much right now, start with Mailchimp for free, and then upgrade to ConvertKit, or something more advanced, in the future. Otherwise, pay the $30/month and get started with ConvertKit, as it will give you a much stronger foundation to build your email list from.

Top tip: Whatever email software you use, don’t focus on creating big fancy emails. Fancy emails, with lots of images and graphics might look good, but they also look very salesy, promotional and can turn people off. Instead, send your emails out from a person and make them look like the simple emails you normally send out every day. Keeping it simple works.

Step 2: Import your contacts into your email list (quick win)

Whether you’re a new or old business, chances are, there are people you’ve already emailed and spoken to in the business world.

Why not add those into your email list?

This is a great way to quickly build your email list from scratch.

However – be careful how you do this! You don’t want to appear spammy or annoying. It’s best to always be transparent. This is what I would do:

1. Export your contacts from your email provider (e.g. gmail, outlook, etc)

2. Filter through the contacts and remove anyone who you don’t remember who they are, you don’t think they will remember you and anyone else you don’t think you can provide value to. Why? It’s important you don’t add EVERYONE from your contacts – otherwise you will get low open rates and it will affect future emails you send to people. It’s best to only import those who will be interested in what you do.

3. Import your new, refined contact list, into the email marketing software provider of your choice (Mailchimp, ConvertKit or any other company you decide to go with)

4. Send out an email to those on your email list with something along these lines:

Hi [NAME],

How are you doing?

We’ve spoken in the past and I wanted to let you know I’ll be emailing you every so often [or every week/month/etc] with my latest and best content to help you [whatever it is you and your business can help them with].

My latest article [or video, podcast, etc] can be found here: [link to your content – it’s important to include this so they can see you are providing value to people you email]

If at any time you’re not interested in any of my content, you can stop receiving these emails at any time, by clicking on the “unsubscribe” button below. [it’s important to let people know that if they are not interest they can leave your email list at any time – no hard feelings]

Thanks

[Your Name]

By sending out this email you will be able to remove any who are not interested in you, your business, your services, etc and start building up a stronger relationship with those that are interested in what your business does.

Step 3: Grow your email list with new potential customers

Now, you’ll be at a point where you have an email list! Hooray!

The next step, is to grow your email list, with more potential customers (aka leads!).

How can you grow your email list?

I thought you’d never ask. 🙂 Through lead generation.

At Skyline Social, we count a “lead” as a potential client who gives you their contact info (such as their name and email), so you can follow up with them.

But your potential customers won’t give you their email address for nothing!

You need to give them something of value in return.

To think about: what kind of content would your potential customers be interested in? Next, create that content (it could be a video, a blog post, a guide, a checklist, a webinar, an event, etc). Then, give them the chance to consume that content for free, in return for them giving you their name and email address.

Usually, you do this in the form of a landing page. See our Twitter webinar as an example of how we do this (and generate over 100 leads each month from this free lead generation offer alone).

After you have a lead generation free offer, you need to get that offer in front of people.

You can do this through social media (organic or paid advertising), SEO, Adwords, your website, etc.

See also: The ultimate small business guide to creating a social media strategy that works

Step 4: Follow up with your leads on your email list

The final step to ensure you get sales, not just leads, from your email list is to follow up with those in your email list.

You may now be wondering:

What should I email those on my email list?
How many emails should I send to my email list?
How long should my emails be?

Don’t worry, I’ll do my best to answer all those questions for you below.

What should you email people on your email list?

Good quality content that will be interesting to those in your target audience.

The biggest mistake I see people make is selling to those on their email list all the time.

Yes, there is a time and a place to use email to sell. But not at the beginning.

Selling at the beginning is like going on a date and asking someone to marry you on the first date. You need to build a relationship first. It’s the same with emailing your leads. Build a relationship first, email them valuable content and then sell to them later on down the line.

See also: why now is the right time to start creating content for your business

How many emails should you send to people on your email list?

It’s difficult to say an exact number, but I can definitely give you some guidelines to help you.

When someone becomes a lead for the first time, it’s a good idea to email them every week, for 3 or 4 weeks, with your best content so they remember who you are.

Top tip: Another good idea is to send people a welcome email. The first email you send people on your list usually gets the most opens and clicks. So it’s important you send a good welcome email explaining who you are, what they can expect and how you will be providing value to them.

After that, it’s a good idea to stay in touch with those on your email list at least once a month. Any longer than that and they might forget who you are and therefore unsubscribe. Again, email them your best content each month.

When you’re running events, webinars, promotions, etc you can email your subscribers more frequently – but it’s important you only send out promotional emails if you’ve already sent them emails providing lots of value and good quality content first.

A rule of thumb is: send out one promotional email for every 3 or 4 emails with good quality non-promotional content.

How long should your emails be?

This one is definitely up for debate. Some marketers say longer emails are better, others say shorter. I personally prefer shorter, to-the-point emails, that focus on ONE thing.

In my experience, if your emails are too long or you’re talking about lots of different things, it can get confusing. Too much choice usually leads to no action.

See also: how keeping your marketing simple increases sales in your business

The earlier you start the better

You’ve probably heard the saying “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

Building, growing and nurturing an email list for your business takes time, which is why the earlier you start, the better it will be for you and your business.

So start today and follow the steps in this guide to build your email list from scratch.

If you get stuck or have any more questions about email marketing, feel free to reach out to me, and I’ll be more than happy to help.