Summer 2010
10 Tips for Building a Revenue-Generating Mailing List for Email Marketing By Wendy Lowe

While the philosophers debate whether a tree falling in a forest makes a sound when no one is around to hear it, small retail business owners are more concerned about the realities of email marketing programs. If no one’s reading the email campaign, no matter how great it is, it’s not going to make any “noise” for your brand or your sales. For gift shop owners, email marketing can be the best tool available to increase sales. Building your email list is easy, but it takes a little dedication.

The start of a great list is one that is filled with customers and prospects who have said “yes” to receiving information from your shop and who will be moved to action if the time and/or offer is right. But the list needs to grow if you want your retail business to grow. Asking for an email address at the end of your phone call is a great start and there are several other ways to gather new additions to your list. Follow these 10 tips and you’ll soon find you have an email list that helps win business—and is the envy of your competition.

Ask for email addresses at the point of sale. If customers purchase from you once, and you do a good job, there’s a high likelihood they’ll purchase from you again. Tell them they will be notified about discounts on selected items, exclusive email-only specials and first notice of sales by signing up for your mailing list, either online or in person.

Offer free information. You have a high level of expertise in your retail business or you wouldn’t have started it. What you may not realize, though, is that by sharing a little bit of that knowledge for free you can entice customers and prospects to give you their email information. For example, offer information on what new gifts are becoming very popular, in case readers are planning a gift and need new ideas. And all anyone needs to do to get that information is give you an email address to send it to. Simple!

Conduct a poll or survey. Place a poll about something relevant to your business on your Web site, or use cards and a box in a store location. Offer a free gift or discount as a Thank You for participating, which will be sent to the respondent’s email address.

Hold a contest. Similar to the survey, you can offer a prize (or series of prizes) to anyone who signs up for your mailing list. You can put up a fishbowl to collect business cards for a drawing for a free gift or accessory.

Use social media to encourage sign-ups. If you already have Twitter followers or a Facebook fan page, ask your followers and fans to sign up for your email alerts. Explain that the emails will include information and offers not available anywhere else.

Hand every customer a postcard. Customers may be squeezing in shopping trips between other activities, and don’t have time to sign up for an email program on the spot. But they may if you hand them a pre-paid postcard that they can fill out and mail later. If you also offer them the option of signing up online instead you’ll greatly increase your chances of capturing their email addresses.

Capture friends of friends. Every email you send has the potential for a ripple effect – if you encourage the people who are already on your list to pass your emails along to their friends. You can ask people to do it out of the goodness of their hearts, or you can give them an incentive with the offer of a gift or other reward if the friend signs up and mentions them. It definitely helps to offer great content that’s worth passing along.

Add a “contact us” link on your Web site. Every business should have a basic Web site, but also include a contact link where you can capture email addresses.

Incent your staff. If you have employees, give them reasons to collect email addresses on your behalf. Offer a small reward for each name collected, to be given out after the first email is received to make sure they don’t ask to be taken off the list right away. Or offer a larger cash reward or other prize for the person who provides the most verifiable email addresses at the end of each month.

Get out and mingle. If there are events in town, such as “Your Town Days” or a chili cook-off or a classic cars weekend, sign up to exhibit and be a part of them. Network at events where customers and prospects might be, get their business cards and ask if it’s ok to email information to them.

Those are just a few ideas to get you started. There are plenty of others out there as well. The key is to do something.

Get your list-building mechanism going and you’ll soon find you have lots of people to whom you can send your incredibly creative emails. You still may not know whether that tree in the forest makes a noise; but at least you’ll have plenty of customers and prospects listening.

Wendy Lowe

Wendy Lowe is director of product marketing forCampaigner, the email marketing solution that enables organizations to have highly personalized one-to-one email dialogues with their customers, measure how they respond, and analyze those responses to interact in a more intelligent, automated way - resulting in more profitable relationships. Campaigner is provided by Protus, provider of the highest quality Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) communication tools for small-to-medium businesses (SMB) and enterprise organizations, including my1voice, the cost-effective, feature-rich virtual phone service, and award-winning MyFax, the fastest growing Internet fax service. Wendy can be reached at

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