by John Eberhard

I started doing email marketing about 10-11 years ago. Back then, we rented a lot of email lists and were very successful with it. But the heavy proliferation of spam a few years later ruined the rented email list market, and most of the time, rented lists do not work anymore.

But what DOES work is to build up an in-house email list of customers and prospects, and send a variety of emails to them regularly. That clutter of email spam is still there, but if you build a relationship with people, you will break through that clutter and people will open and read your emails.

Building the List

Let’s start with how to build your list.

  1. Contact Form: the first thing you should definitely have on your site is a contact form. It should ask minimally for the person’s name, email, and phone number, and usually include a “comments/questions” field. This is mainly for people who are interested in your product or service, and of course this is one of the most valuable reaches you will get, when someone fills out this form.
  1. Newsletter Subscription: If your company does not offer an email newsletter, you should consider it. It’s a great way to build your list, and a great free offering. Of course you have to then actually create a newsletter and send it out regularly and write interesting and informative material to put in it. If you are just starting with offering an email newsletter, then you should do it monthly or quarterly.
  1. Free Report: You can also create a “free report” (sometimes called a “white paper”) on some topic related to your industry. Then you offer that for free on your web site, but you make people fill out a form and give you their name and email address in order to get it. The idea is that if the report is on some topic that relates directly to the product or service that you sell, then the only people who would ask for it would likely be prospects for your company. I have used this strategy successfully with quite a few companies over the years. Of course you want to pick a topic that will be hot and will attract a lot of people to request the report. See my earlier article on this.

There are other things you could offer, such as software demos if you sell software. But the key is that you are offering several free things on your web site that will entice people to fill out that form and give you their name and email address. That way, you collect the names of people who are your prospects but who are not ready to buy something right now. If you are only offering one of the above, you should consider adding more to the mix.

Email Services

It really makes sense to set up an account with one of the online email services (like Aweber, Mailchimp, or Constant Contact) and have those people who fill out the forms on your web site dumped into an online database. It’s easier to send email to a list if it is stored in one of the online email services, and you can also set up an autoresponder to send them several emails selling your services. Plus it is automated in terms of people signing up and also unsubscribing, so you don’t have to do that manually.

I have used all these services, and Aweber and Mailchimp are the best. Constant Contact is the worst, in terms of the options it gives you.

What to Send

Now you have an email list and are gradually increasing the size of the list. So what do you send to it?

  1. Email Newsletter: As discussed above, this is a good thing to send to your list.
  2. Testimonials: Put together emails containing success stories from happy clients.
  3. General Sales Pieces: You can put together sales emails, one apiece on all your various products or services, and including a link to where they can buy the item or get more info on it on your web site.
  4. Sales or Specials: Whenever you put something on sale or have a special, you should definitely send out emails about it, probably more than once over the course of the special.
  5. Announcements: If you have something to announce, such as a new product or service, send out an email on it.


A big question is how often do you send to the list? How much is too much?

Well I definitely believe in being aggressive and sending to an email list often. You may have to experiment a bit to see what works for you, and watch how many people are unsubscribing. If you are getting a lot of people unsubscribing from the list, you may be pushing the envelope too much.

Generally I think sending email to a list between 2 and 8 times per month is acceptable. I send to my prospect and client list about 4-6 times per month. I talked to one organization recently that is sending out 5 emails per week or 20 per month. That’s a lot. But it is working for them and they don’t get too many people asking to be off the list. So you have to see what works for you.

Good luck with website marketing via your in-house email list.

Thanks to Jane Milan for the suggestion of this topic.