The benefits of email marketing have been proven time and time again. Here are a couple notable statistics. About half of B2B companies spend at least 10% of their marketing budgets on email, and email marketing’s ROI has been found to be 127%. In other words, for every $1 you put into email marketing, you can expect to get $1.27 in return.

But before you can reap the full benefits of email marketing, you need a list of contacts to actually email, and not any old list will do. It should be robust and full of individuals within your target audiences. 

So, how do you attain and build this list? 

Let me start with an impassioned plea.

Stop purchasing email lists. Commit to stopping now.

It can be tempting. With a metaphorical swipe of your credit card, you magically have 10,000 shiny new contacts. Your firm might purchase email lists because it’s routine or due to uncertainty of how to get contacts otherwise. But there’s a better way.

While a handful of people might end up being interested, here are some simple, yet compelling reasons why purchased contacts aren’t worth the time or investment.

  • Purchased email lists aren’t targeted contacts. They might be of a particular demographic or located in your desired geographic region. But in all likelihood, these contacts don’t know who you are, what you do, or what you stand for. They haven’t expressed interest in your products or services. They may not need them — now or ever. No one appreciates unwarranted emails.
  • You could get flagged as spam. If these individuals don’t know you and didn’t raise their hands to receive your emails, they may flag them as spam. If this happens often enough, you can get blacklisted and your emails will be banished into oblivion. An over dramatization, perhaps, but you get the idea.
  • Many email marketing software (the good ones anyway) require that imported contacts have opted in to receive your emails. 

Here are some better avenues to grow your list organically.

In current emails. Leverage your existing contacts. Encourage them to share and forward your emails to their networks by having social sharing and email buttons. Include a subscribe button as well to seal the deal when your email reaches those new individuals.

Calls-to-action on your website. If your firm has embraced content marketing, you likely have some great pieces under your belt. If you’re offering valuable and educational content (like whitepapers, guides, and eBooks), put this content behind a registration form on your website. In exchange for your content, require readers to provide their email address.  

Online events. Online events such as webinars or Google+ Hangouts are another way to garner email addresses when individuals sign up to attend.

Offline events. Collect email addresses when you’re at offline events like tradeshows, conferences, and networking events. If you’ve had in-person conversations with these individuals, this gives you a unique opportunity to send them personalized emails afterwards and continue to foster these relationships.

Partnerships. Strategic partnerships are a great way to expand your reach. Find firms that have similar target audiences and offer complementary products or services. Then, look for mutually beneficial partnership opportunities. Could you host a joint event? Would swapping content be valuable for your respective audiences? Can you share research findings?

Social media. Social media is today’s word-of-mouth. It’s a relatively simple, yet incredibly powerful tool to spread your message. Share new pieces of content, events, and offers with your social networks. You never know whose hand your content could get into that sets it off and makes it viral.

Keep your registration simple.

With all these tools in your arsenal, the final hump is to actually get readers to fill out your forms and provide you with their email addresses. Here’s the tough question: How much information should you require?

Your registration form should be simple enough so that signing up is quick and doesn’t become a chore. Conversely, you want enough information to be able to cultivate these prospects well. Here’s potential information you can request:

  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Company name
  • Website
  • Job function
  • Industry
  • Location

Pick the top 3 criteria that are most important for your firm and those that are critical to nurturing leads well.

The leads that come in will be at various stages of the sales cycle. Once you’ve captured their information, you have an opportunity to provide true value through relevant and educational content. This will help to push them through the sales cycle and when they are ready to purchase, you’ve set yourself up well. You’ll be top-of-mind. Prospects now understand who you are, what you’re capable of, and what it might be like to work with you. And if they become a client, they’ll be the best kind: an educated one.

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