I have some bad news: Your email marketing database degrades by about 22.5% every year. Your contacts' email addresses change as they move from one company to another, opt-out of your email communication, or abandon that old AOL address they only use to fill out forms on websites.
As a marketer, it's your job to make sure you're constantly adding fresh contacts to your email marketing campaigns so you can keep your numbers moving up and to the right. (But not by purchasing email lists -- learn why you should never buy an email list in this post.)
If you're not working on building your email list already, or you've run out of ideas to do so, here are 25 simple ways to grow that email list.
Email List Building: How to Grow Your Email Database for Free
1) Create remarkable email content. Your content needs to be amazing if you want people to stay subscribed and forward your emails to their friends, family, and colleagues that aren't already on your email list.
2) Encourage your current email subscribers to share and forward your emails by including social sharing buttons and an "Email to a Friend" button in your marketing emails. That way, you'll gain access to fresh networks, friends, and colleagues who might sign up for your list. At the bottom of your emails, include a "Subscribe" CTA as a simple text-based link so that those receiving the forwarded emails can easily opt-in, too.
3) Promote an online contest, like a free giveaway, and have entrants sign up or submit using their email address. (And don't forget to promote your contest on social!)
4) Create multiple email subscriptions types that you use to send more targeted content to specific segments of your marketing personas. Email recipients are more likely to click through emails that have been targeted at them, so if you create multiple, targeted subscription types, you'll increase the chance that visitors will subscribe to one of them.
5) Reinvigorate a stale email list with an opt-in campaign. Do you have an older list that you think is mostly decayed? Create an engaging opt-in message and send it to your old list encouraging contacts who wish to re-opt-in and promising to remove all contacts who don't respond. Though it might seem counterintuitive to remove folks from your email lists in order to grow them, emailing only engaged contacts could improve your deliverability and increase the odds of your email getting shared with those outside your current contacts database.
6) Add a link to your employees' signatures that leads people to a landing page where they can sign up for your mailing list.
With New Content
7) Create a new lead gen offer -- like a free ebook or whitepaper -- and require visitors to provide their email address in order to download it. (Need ideas? This blog post lists 23 ways to create lead gen content quickly and easily.)
8) Create a free, online tool, or resource and have users sign up with their email address. For example, we've created quite a few free tools, like Marketing Grader, to gather email addresses.
Using Social Media
9) Promote one of your lead-gen offers on Twitter. Create a Twitter campaign to promote an ebook or a free resource to your followers that requires an email address to redeem.
10) Use your Facebook Page to promote an offer that requires an email address submission. Promote offers on your Timeline, and be sure to add social sharing buttons to the landing pages and thank-you pages you send them to so you encourage your leads to share those offers.
11) Add a call-to-action button to the top of your Facebook Business Page, like we did below. Link the CTA button to a landing page that requires an email address for access.
12) Publish links to gated offers on your LinkedIn Company Page or in appropriate and relevant LinkedIn group discussions.
13) Use Pinterest to promote offers that require email sign-up. For example, HubSpot created a Pinterest board where we pin the well-designed covers of our marketing ebooks. From this board, we've been able to generate new leads and grow our email list.
14) Leverage your company's YouTube channel. Add calls-to-action and URLs in your videos to encourage people to subscribe to your list, and include links to relevant landing pages in your videos' text descriptions.
15) Promote offers and email sign-up through your Google+ Page by making use of your Google+ updates and your Google+ "About" section.
On Your Website
16) Link to offers that capture email signups throughout your website. Don't make people dig around your site to stumble across subscription options. Keep your offers up front, and include calls-to-action on just about every page of your website. Key places to consider are your website's homepage, the main page of your blog, your 'About Us' page, and your 'Contact Us' page.
17) When creating content for guest blogging opportunities, include a call-to-action as well as a link for readers to subscribe to your site's blog or email database in your author byline.
With a Partner
18) Run a promotion on a partner website or email newsletter that targets a new but appropriate audience to collect email addresses from a fresh source.
19) Host a co-marketing offer with a partner -- like an ebook or webinar -- and ask them to promote the registration to their audience. After it's released, swap leads.
With Traditional Marketing/Advertising
20) Collect email addresses at offline events like trade shows and import them into your database. Be sure to send these contacts a welcome email that confirms their opt-in to your list. (See #8 in this blog post for tips on sending welcome emails.)
21) Host your own offline, in-person events like meetups, conferences, hackathons, educational panels, etc., and collect registrations online using email addresses.
22) Encourage prospects in a traditional marketing campaign, like direct mail, to opt in to receive email communications instead. Include a shortened URL with UTM parameters to an online signup, and allow readers to opt out of direct mail. You'll even save some trees in the process!
23) Host an online webinar and collect email addresses at registration.
24) Leverage paid search ads to link to a landing page with and email sign-up.
25) Add a QR code to your print marketing collateral that people can scan to opt in to your email database.
These are all examples of things you can start doing today to increase your business' email database. Many of them are not complicated or difficult to implement. The key is to attack email list-building from as many angles as possible. As you grow your email list with fresh, opt-in contacts, you'll be able to nurture them with middle-of-the-funnel offers that allow you to convert early-stage leads into sales-ready leads.
What other creative ways to grow your email list did we miss? Share your ideas in the comments. White-hat tactics only, please! ;-)
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in March 2012 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.