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3 Ways To Build Your List (From Scratch)

Last week I wrote an article about email marketing and how your business is sitting on money if you're not building relationships with your contact database.

I received a heap of emails asking “But What If I Don’t Have a Contact List?”

Many of your have received my reply over email… but after the tenth one I thought to create this in-depth actionable guide to share with everyone.

Here are my top 3 ways to grow your email list and start building relationships today.

Strategy #1. Networking Events IRL (IRL = in real life)

Yep, my first suggestion is not in the digital world, but IRL.

Beware! Not all networking events are awesome.

I have been to many networking events in my local area and around Melbourne. The events I personally did not enjoy or gain much benefit from were the ones that:

  • are organised at the last minute;
  • have no structure and
  • allow anyone to come along with no or low barriers to entry

These types of events, I have found, are swimming with hunter-like business owners trying to sell their wares to everyone in the room.

You have little chance of connecting with someone because each person is thinking about themselves. Can they sell to you? If yes, they will start to hound you. If no, they will cut the conversation and move on to the next victim.

Now, some of the best networking events I’ve been to:

  • are organised in advance (business owners need to plan ahead!)
  • have a set structure or agenda (no feeling awkward for 2 hours eating canapés)
  • require some sort of payment or donation to enter
  • have a clear long-term purpose other than 'get more business' (e.g. networking events that support a particular charity or organisation in the community)

How To Find Networking Events To Attend

You can find networking groups with a little help from our friend Google. Try searching for:

  • “BNI”
  • “[your location] + networking group”
  • “[your location] + business networking”
  • “meetup business networking”

You can even search on Facebook for some events as well as a website called

Sime Tips:

Pick a couple of events to attend and get talking to people. Be interested in what they have to say, connect with them personally and don't oversell your products or services. What you are selling, is yourself. Trying to flog your products/services will come across as needy and desperate and people will not deem you a trustworthy business person.

Adding To Your Database

Back to list building. Collect the business cards of the people you meet at the networking event.
Then, shoot them all a personal email. Here is a template you can use:


It was really nice to meet you at the [NETWORKING EVENT NAME].


As you know I [WHAT YOU DO] and part of my business is to share knowledge and information. I email tips and advice once per week, if you’d like to receive them I’d be more than happy to send them to you?

Best regards,

PS: If you ever have any questions about [WHAT YOU DO], I’d love to help - reach out any time. ”

Make sure you ask for permission to add them to your mailing list. No one likes to receive unsolicited emails.

If you can commit to attending 1 networking event a week, in 3 months you could have an email list of at least 300!

Yes, this is a manual and time-consuming way to build your database. But you will have higher quality leads on your mailing list as you have already connected with them face to face.

Face-to-face relationship building is a must, especially at the start of your business.

Firstly, we need the peer to peer interaction that we might not otherwise receive as entrepreneurs and small business owners. We are often working on our own day-in, day-out, so connecting with likeminded people will allow us to feel connected and motivated.

Second, we tend to have more trust in people that we meet face to face then over the internet or the phone. If you are authentic and genuine when networking with people, they will see this and have more faith in what you do. Then you need to continue developing that trust and relationship with email marketing by over delivering on value.

Strategy #2. Social Media List Building

Social Media is a great way to build relationships! It is called “Social” for a reason right…

According to Amy Porterfield - co-author of Facebook Marketing All-in-One for Dummies - social media is so saturated that posting on social media alone is not enough to get the exposure your business needs. When you couple social media with an email list, your prospects are seeing you more and is therefore thinking about you more. It is a powerful combination to have both to increase your exposure to your audience.

The aim, is to get prospects that see you on Social Media onto your email list.

Step 1. Create Content That Provides Benefit To Your Readers

Posting cat pictures and photos of your avocado smash breakfast is not going to grow your business. (For you international or non-Melbournian readers, Avocado Smash is pretty much avocado on toast jazzed up so us Melbourne foodie hipsters can feel cool).

Definitely post some personal things that are in line with your brand, but most of your content needs to be aimed at your target market.

What I mean by that, is posting funny, educational, informative, useful content that your ideal client can benefit from.

If you’re a restaurant, tell them where you source your ingredients from. Tell them how healthy/tasty/fresh the food is.

If you sell a product, explain the benefits your ideal customer will receive. Will they become more efficient? Will they look younger? Will they feel better? Will they lose weight?

If you sell a service, educate them on how your service will benefit them. What problem do you solve? What testimonials do you have to back it up? What can you do for them?

Not ALL your posts on social media should be promotional. Flogging your product/service every chance you get is the fastest way to turn someone off your brand.

If someone sees a clear benefit to following you on social media, then they will like or follow your account.

Step 2. Give Something To Get Something

Now that you have been posting some awesome content and people are staring to like your business page and follow you, you need to get those who are truly interested onto your email list.

The best way to do this, is by giving something to get something.

That something you should give is a free (valuable) giveaway in exchange for your leads name and email address.

Free giveaways or discount coupons work really well to get people onto your list. The giveaway needs to be highly valuable, don't give away something of really low quality! It is the first impression someone will have of your business, so again, over deliver.

We want this to be a good reflection of your brand and your business. $2 off something that is selling for $2000 isn't going to cut it. A “guide” they could find on wikipedia is not going to cut it. Find out what your customer WANTS and give it to them! You will have higher success in your signups by offering something your ideal customer finds valuable.

Some ideas include:

  • Educational webinar
  • Ebook
  • Checklist
  • Report
  • Discount Code
  • Buy One, Get One Offer
  • Free Gift
  • Free Consultation

Step 3. Welcome Email Template

Once someone signs up to your giveaway, make sure they receive it as promised and then follow up with a welcome email. You can use this template:

“ Hi [First name]!

Thanks so much for signing up to be part of the [BUSINESS NAME] community.

We’re really excited that you got [GIVEAWAY NAME].
bullet point benefit of giveaway
bullet point benefit of giveaway
bullet point benefit of giveaway

We’ll be sending you some emails from time to time to help you [BENEFIT OF YOUR CONTENT].

Feel free to contact us anytime if you have a question, we love to help.


PS We promise to never spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time, although we’ll be sad to see you go.”

Which Social Media Platform Is Best?

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Periscope, Snapchat… how do you know which one to use?

It doesn't *really* matter. Chose ONE platform you are most comfortable with and stick to it. I personally really love Facebook and have been focusing on attracting leads through that channel. I also do some work on Instagram and Snapchat however this is secondary to IFacebook and since that has not been my focus, it has not been as effective at generating leads.

So the moral of choosing a platform, is focus on ONE and do it really well rather than trying to be on all platforms and doing none of them particularly well.

If you’re a social media newbie and have tried to avoid it all costs - start with Facebook. The majority of people who use Social Media daily have a Facebook account, so it does have a larger reach. Plus, many of your friends are probably on social media, so you can always ask for their support for those first few ‘likes’!

Strategy #3. List Building Supercharged

The third way I’m going to recommend to build your email list is through PAID ADS.
Now this will really supercharge your list building - IF DONE CORRECTLY.

If not, you will waste a lot of money paying for poor quality leads.

Paying for leads has grown thousands of businesses around the world. To reduce wastage and get the most from paid advertising:

  • Your offer needs to be strong
  • Your copyrighting needs to be spot-on and persuasive
  • Your headlines need to be catchy
  • Your images need to elicit a strong response
  • Your targeting needs to be just right

Remember, your first ads are usually not going to be your best ads. In fact, they will probably be your worst ads. Practice makes perfect, right?

You may have to test different variations of your ad before you start to see a high conversion. Test different headings, different images, different layouts…

Don't be afraid to spend money on ads. If you’ve taken the time to develop an ad, don't set your budget for $50 a month. It is not enough exposure. Increase your sample size with a minimum of $300 per month.

Most digital marketers will tell you to spend upwards of $500 on ads to get a good sample size. If you have that in your budget, YES do it. Spend the money and make tweaks as you go.

However if you’re not confident in your ability to create an attractive ad, invest the money with a professional.

Where Do I Advertise?

In the online world, it seems like you can advertise anywhere:

  • Google search ads
  • Adwords ads
  • PPC ads
  • Bing Ads
  • Facebook Ads
  • Twitter Ads
  • Banner Ads
  • Google Display Ads
  • Retargeting ads
  • YouTube Ads
  • Pinterest Ads
  • Instagram Ads
  • Solo Ads
  • Banner Ads…

If you want to learn more about each of those WordStream has an awesome in-depth article which explains the difference with screenshots!

I recommend to start with Facebook Ads and Google AdWords. If your budget allows, I’d recommend getting a professional to help you with your first few ads for list building - it will be well worth it as I've seen so many clients waste time and money trying to "figure it out" and think they're doing okay when in fact the results really suck.

What list-building activities have you tried so far? What are your favourites or least favourite? I’d love to know. Leave me a comment below, I read every single one and try to get back to as many as I can.

About the Author Serena

After 7 years working in corporate marketing, Serena founded Galante Group Marketing to help small businesses get found online and attract the right clients. Growing up in small business, Serena knows every dollar needs to be measured and analysed for ROI - and has developed a system for service based businesses to generate consistent high-quality leads online using Marketing Funnels + Facebook.

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