Some basic guidelines if you are putting together a mailing list:

  • is the recipient a recent customer?
  • did you tell them they would be added to your mailing list during the transaction? 
  • have they indicated that they want to receive your newsletters or emails? 
  • have you communicated with them in the last year? 

Basically you only add people to your mailing list if you are 100% certain that they want it. If in doubt, contact them and ask them:

  • be clear about how many times, or under what circumstances, you will contact them – and do not exceed these self-imposed restrictions
  • make the ‘opt-out’ or ‘unsubscribe’ options clearly visible
  • have a clear privacy policy
  • be careful about other companies you affiliate with and their marketing practices

Other Strategies To Grow Your Mailing List:

  • Make sure the sign up button is clearly visible on your website.
  • Add an invitation to sign up to all appropriate marketing collateral (posters, online ads, even business cards or stationery – whatever is appropriate for your business). 
  • Offer an incentive.
  • Add a opt-in check box to your online shopping cart.
  • Add invitations to Facebook, Twitter or send out an invitation to your friends and followers (not too often!). 
  • Place a sign up sheet out at your next event or at your place of business. 

Remember, it is much better to have a small list of interested, engaged people than a large list of uninterested (and probably annoyed) people on your mailing list. 

Additional Resources:

Permission Marketing

Seth Godin coined the phrase ‘permission marketing’ in his book (it was actually the book’s title). He describes the concept in a 2008 blog post, which you can read at his blog. (Permission Marketing, Seth Godin’s Blog)

Email Mailing Lists for Beginners

I’m Just Getting Started Building My Email List, Emma Communicate in Style blog


A Compliance Guide for Business, Federal Trade Commission website