Attracting subscribers to your small business email list takes a combination of great creative, marketing prowess, technical know-how, and a dash of luck. Still, you can take all of these steps and not get the results you’re hoping for. It may leave you wondering how the big companies do it – how do corporations grow their email lists to tens of thousands of eager subscribers?

Before we offer up some suggestions you can start using right away, there’s one essential point to consider upfront. Lots of small businesses talk about wanting more subscribers, contacts, and customers – but your product or service isn’t for all seven billion of the world’s residents.

Rather than focusing on email capture as a broad numbers game, look at it strategically. You’ve likely heard the adage that 20% of your customer base is responsible for 80% of your revenue, and this is close to the truth for most small businesses. This means that you’re far better off collecting a few email addresses from perfect prospects than hundreds of lukewarm prospects.

Even big corporations don’t target everyone in their email campaigns. They send emails automatically on a schedule, but they’re also very judicious about who those emails go to. The email addresses they collect are high quality, and they use powerful tools to keep them that way.

With that in mind, let’s walk through the steps you can take right now to start growing your email list.

1. Establish your email marketing goals.

An email list for the sake of itself doesn’t help your customers or your business. If you’re going to grow your list, the first question to ask yourself is this: how am I going to bring value to my customers through their inboxes? Define what you want to achieve, and this will help determine the best channels for obtaining email addresses.

2. Start with what you have.

Though your competitors may be pulling in subscribers with their daily blog content, it doesn’t make sense for you to take the same approach if you only have a couple of blog posts. To build your email list quickly, take a look at the processes and resources you already have in place.

Here are a few golden opportunities to add email into the mix:

  • Your website. Add a popup or a non-invasive announcement like a Hello Bar to alert visitors about your list.
  • Third-party sites. Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Instagram profiles are great spots to let people know they can subscribe to get company news, free resources, or exclusive offers.
  • Customer service. Whether you have phone support, in-store service, or AI doing your bidding, add a new step to your customer service process – asking if customers would like to subscribe to your list.
  • Email signatures. If you and your employees do business online, have everyone add a “subscribe for company news” or “join our list” link within their email signature.
  • Your store. If you have a physical location, allow visitors to sign up for your email list in-store. Add subscription information to your business cards, or set up a spot where visitors can drop their business cards in exchange for a gift.

From there, you can start thinking up interesting and engaging emails. But if you need some help crafting the perfect pitch, you can check out a few B2B cold email templates online.

3. Use smart content marketing.

One of the most popular ways to collect email addresses from prospects is to offer a valuable resource on your website or on a landing page in exchange for an email address.

Here are some resources you might offer:

  • Free eBook or field guide
  • Webinar or consultative call
  • Template or customizable resource
  • Case study or whitepaper
  • Quiz results
  • App download

4. Decrease the odds of capturing fake or invalid email addresses.

To keep people from entering invalid email addresses, provide the digital content over email instead of by instant download — this may cut down on the volume of addresses you collect, but it’ll significantly increase the value of these contacts. And like we said above, the quality of your contacts is far more important than the quantity of contacts, so this is a step worth taking if you want qualified leads on your list.

5. Use social media to spread the word about your business.

A simple paid ad campaign with an email opt-in form can broaden the reach of your business. This is a good tactic to use if your main marketing goal is to increase your customer base or stretch into a new market.

If you’d rather not pay for ads, you can still use organic social posts to capture email addresses from your existing audience. You may have plenty of potential customers already following you on social, now it’s just a matter of letting them know they can subscribe to your blog or get exclusive discounts through email.

6. Use direct mail.

If you’re already using EDDM or direct mail to advertise to customers, why not create a series of mailers that encourage people to join your email list?

This is an especially powerful tactic for SMBs who do a lot of business locally. First, connect with new prospects by sending top-funnel offers to mail carrier routes within a 20-mile (or more) radius of your business using the USPS EDDM service. Then, convert those strangers in to email subscribers by providing them an irresistible offer in the mail.

7. Get some positive PR.

Nothing says “expertise” like having your name or business featured on a popular site or media outlet. Not only do guest blogs, special appearances, and interviews boost your own website’s domain authority, but they’re also great opportunities to let new audiences know about your mailing list.

Email marketing is a long-term strategy that can take time to get results, but it’s absolutely worth it. As long as you’re focused on the unique value you bring to your customers, your list will grow — and who knows? It may come to rival the big guys.