List Building or Startups: Finding New Clients With A Limited Budget

With the number of worldwide email accounts now totaling over 4.3 billion, it is no wonder that email marketing is an extremely valuable tool for businesses of all sizes. The 2017 State of Small Business report revealed that 50% of small businesses now use email marketing, and with good reason; a 3800% ROI and $38 for every $1 spent, according to Campaign Monitor. Though it may seem a little daunting at first, putting together a list of potential clients is an incredibly valuable part of any marketing strategy; and the good news for startup companies is that it can be achieved for next to nothing.

What exactly is List Building?

A list is simply a company’s database of potential clients who can be contacted via email. One of the most important things to keep in mind while building your list is that these contacts must have given you permission to reach out to them. This means that email addresses can only be obtained by genuine means such as subscribe boxes on your website or in-person at an event.

Once you have it set up, your list will easily be the best way for you to engage with your target audience, and it is often the most successful in terms of sales. According to McKinsey, email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter, and as a result email marketing technology is now used by 82% of B2B and B2C companies, as says Ascend2. The main aim is to convince your list to buy your product or service without spamming or going in for the hard sell; both of which are likely to see many of your potential buyers opting out of your messages.

Why Should I Use List Building?

  • You can easily keep your audience engaged with your company; something that is of considerable importance when it comes to selling, as a study by Nielsen found that 60% of consumers with internet access prefer to buy products from a familiar brand.
  • You can send out emails with adverts for your product directly to your customer base. What’s more, due to the fact that these people have taken the time and effort to sign up to your email list, it is safe to assume that they already hold an interest in whatever you are selling.
  • Email marketing is one of the most cost effective tools for any marketing strategy; getting people to sign up to your list only needs to be as expensive as offering a small incentive such as a product discount, and once you have a database set up the only running costs will be paying for an email marketing service, should you choose a premium package over a free one (more on this later).
  • It’s personal and direct. Unlike social media which can be volatile to say the least, your list is completely under your control, meaning you are not at the mercy of another company’s policies. It also means that your messages are more likely to actually reach the recipient; 90% of email gets delivered to the intended recipient’s inbox, whereas only 2% of your Facebook fans see your posts in their News Feed, according to Forrester Research.

Free vs Paid Email Marketing Service

Before we get down to the nitty gritty of how to actually set up your email list, a quick word on the differences between using a free (e.g. Microsoft outlook) and premium (paid for) email marketing service. Though it may be very tempting to go for a free service in the beginning to keep your costs as low as possible, this will mean that there will be certain limitations to what you can do.

For example, it’s unlikely you will have access to any analytics, such as how many people opened the mail, and often your ISP or web hosting provider will impose a limit on how many emails you can send each day; for example, a Hotmail account only allows a maximum of 100 letters to be sent per day. Finally, you will be unable to personalize messages to create targeted marketing campaigns.

With all of this in mind, many experts would agree that the benefits of using a premium service, such as Mailchimp or Sendgrid, definitely outweigh the small costs involved, and can ultimately result in better sales numbers for your business.

How to Build a List

The first question that may come to mind before beginning your list is ‘How many email addresses do I need?’. Though many experts tout 1000 as the golden number for successful email campaigns, there are no hard and fast rules; as long as your sign-ups have a genuine interest in your product or service then there’s no reason why a smaller list shouldn’t work.

Ways to Encourage Sign Ups


Offering some kind of free incentive in return for your audience to subscribe to your mailing list is often a very successful strategy. Examples of the types of things your company could offer include discounts (e.g. 20% off), trial memberships, special reports, video/audio seminars, e-books or simply a monthly newsletter.

The kinds of offers that work best differ for each business, so it might be worth trying out a few different ones and then seeing which one garners the best results for your brand and target audience.

Visible Opt-In Forms

Though this one seems pretty obvious, it is worth mentioning as it is vital to gaining as many subscribers as possible. Make sure that the opt-in forms are clearly visible on your website, preferably with one on each page that your visitor can see at all times. Also make sure that you are using embedded forms instead of trying to get people to click through to another page to sign up; this simple trick can double your number of sign ups. Another handy tip when adding the ‘subscribe’ boxes is to stick one in the footer area of your site; research suggests that this alone can increase your opt-in rate by 20% – 30%.


Going for a more old-school approach and collecting emails in person can actually be a great way of developing new leads. People at a trade show or other event are obviously already interested in your niche, so are the perfect audience for your email marketing campaign. It’s also a great first step in building relationships with potential customers, and as was mentioned earlier, building familiarity between your company and customer base is extremely important.

Don’t have any industry events in the pipeline? How about hosting your own? A party can be the perfect icebreaker and you can either collect emails throughout the night.

Run a Contest

Chances are you’ve probably come across one of these on Facebook by now, but they’re popular – particularly among smaller and/or newer businesses – for a reason. Companies can hope to add hundreds, even thousands, of new subscribers by running a well-designed contest. Admittedly, this one does work best for pages with over 1000 followers, but a carefully thought out plan with plenty of promotion over a week or so could see a significant return for even the smallest of companies. Just make sure the prize that you’re offering is actually something that people will go out of their way to try and win.

Printed Items

If you use materials such as business cards, invoices, receipts and packing slips in your company’s day to day life, then why not make them work a bit harder for you and add reminders for your customers to subscribe on them? Though not as effective as digital opt-in prompts, it always helps to offer a gentle reminder of your mailing list.

Chamber of Commerce

After joining your local chamber of commerce, you will have access to the member list, and providing it’s opt-in, you will be able to send out an email introducing your company as well as offering them the chance to sign up to your mailing list.

Once you’ve set up your List

Your hard work has paid off and your email list is starting to take shape, so here are some useful pointers to bear in mind to really make the most of your email marketing.

Don’t Oversell

One of the biggest turn-offs for potential clients is a business that is giving them the hard sell and coming off as desperate in the process. The best emails are those that offer valuable content to your audience, without pushing an agenda too aggressively. A great way to build a good relationship with your audience is to create a more light-hearted tone in your messages; with a little humor and a friendlier approach your company can become more appealing and interesting.

Cross Promote

Once you’ve built your list you can search around for another company with roughly the same number of subscribers, and then join forces to recommend each other to both of your lists. This can be done through competitions and giveaways or a number of other ways; just ensure that whichever brand you choose is of the same quality as yours, and with the same ethical practices.

Resend Unopened Emails

This may seem a bit cheeky, but it’s a great tip for getting more people to actually open your emails. All you need to do is take an email that you’ve recently sent out, and send it again a week or so later, but only to those in your database who didn’t open it the first time. Simply change the subject line and it’s good to go.

The important thing to remember about list building is that it is an ongoing process. Of course, there will be people who have only just heard about your product or service who may need to be ‘wooed’ into signing up, and it’s also inevitable that some people will unsubscribe along the way. The vital thing is to remain engaged with your customer base and to make sure your email marketing campaign is as effective as it can be.

Looking for an Easier Solution?

If you need a more time-efficient way to reach out to consumers, Global Database has the answer with ready-to-go email lists available immediately. We run consistent validation checks as well regularly adding new leads to our platform, ensuring our data never gets old. Let Global Database do your list building for you – email for more information.

For more information on how to create a successful marketing strategy contact Global Database.

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