The Basics
When you first start e-mail marketing, it's normal to have a smaller list. It takes a concerted effort to get in the habit of asking for e-mail addresses. There are people who have been e-mail marketing for years and still aren't taking advantage of all the opportunities they have to grow their list.

Here are a few simple ways you can build your list:

  • Add a "Join My E-mail List" sign-up box on your website . Constant Contact and other e-mail marketing service providers make it easy for you to do this. Your website is usually the first place people look when they want information about your business. Don't miss the chance to start building a relationship with them when they visit your website.
  • Ask your customers for their e-mail addresses and permission. Whether it's over the phone or in person, tell customers about your e-mail communications and ask if you can add them to your list. If you have a physical store, put out a sign-up book in a prominent place. If your business is internet-based and your only customer communication is through e-mail, send a follow-up e-mail after an order and ask if they want to join your list. If you have employees who interact with customers, train them to ask as well.
  • Ask those you meet at networking events and at trade shows. When you meet people at networking events and trade shows, tell them about your free e-newsletter or your e-mail-only specials and ask if they would like to join your list.

Beyond the Basics
Want to take it to the next level? Here are some creative ideas to put into practice:

  • Offer incentives for signing up. It's amazing how a freebie or a chance to win a prize can be just what a person needs to "take the plunge" and sign up for your e-mail list. Your giveaway doesn't have to be costly; it can be as simple as sharing your expertise in the form of a free white paper or guide. Make it clear to those who sign up that they will be added to your list.
  • Run a "Forward to a Friend Contest." In your e-mail newsletter, let your contacts know that if they use the "Forward to a Friend" link to send this month's newsletter to at least one new recipient, they'll be entered into a drawing for a prize. An e-mail marketing service provider lets you see which subscribers forwarded your e-mail to a friend.
  • Partner with a related business or organization. Think of a business or organization that's related to your business, but isn't a competitor. Work together to promote each other's e-mail communications to your customers. Some good partnership examples are a tax accountant and a financial planner, a public relations firm and a website designer, or a theater and a nearby restaurant. Highlight your partner as a guest writer in your newsletter and ask that they do the same for you. At the end of each article, invite readers to join that author's e-mail list.
  • Include a "Join My E-mail List" link in all online content. Do you have articles on your website or on other websites? Do you have your own blog? This is another great opportunity to add people to your list. Include a link that takes readers to your sign-up page. Your copy could read, "Like this article? Get more like it in your inbox. Subscribe today for our monthly e-newsletter."
  • Include a "Join My E-mail List" link at the bottom of your e-mail signature. This is great advertisement and it's free. Add one line that describes the benefits of your newsletter or e-mail promotions like, "Get our monthly newsletter with tips on how to grow your business" or "Receive weekly coupons for exclusive discounts."
  • Promote your e-mail communications in all printed materials (including your business cards ) . It's easy to forget about e-mail when doing a printed piece. Whether it's a brochure or a direct mail postcard, don't forget to add a line asking the receiver to sign up for your free newsletter. Business cards are a great place for a quick promo as well.

By putting some of these tactics into action, you'll see your list increase over the months and years to come. More contacts mean more opportunities to bring in new customers and build lasting relationships.