Grow your own organic email list

9 minute read

Organically growing a fully opted-in (permission) subscriber database takes a little time and effort. It’s not complicated and there are some neat short cuts, but sorry, buying in third party data really isn’t one of them. There are lots of points of contact where you can look to grow new subscribers – your point of sale is one. However here are two common and sure-fire ways to rapidly grow your subscriber database.

Grow an email database

1. Use an online subscription form

Data capture forms are probably the most common online method of collecting new subscribers. If you’re a user you’ll find the features you need to create data collection forms in the ‘collect’ section (of course).

Data collection form

The first step is to connect your ‘to be created’ form with a data list. This action assigns a ‘primary’ list to your form and ensures that any data collected through submission of the form will automatically populate this list.

Next, design the layout of your form. By default the form will collect a single field for the subscriber’s email address –it’s the only mandatory field you need to add a new subscriber to your database.

Of course you can capture other information too, like name, company etc., but think twice before adding more profile fields. It’s widely observed that the more complicated a subscription form is the less likely it is to be completed. Even if you include additional fields as optional (non-mandatory) just their presence on the form adds visual complexity and has the potential to distract and introduce hesitation.

Also, people are suspicious so be careful with certain types of profile information. Data like birthday (especially birth date, hence identifying age) might be extremely valuable to you. Birthday information is widely used to target individually timed special offers in the hospitality and other sectors, but giving this information is likely to be treated with suspicion. Location, especially specific details, telephone and gender may also be useful, but again are likely to arouse suspicion.

Three considerations.

Firstly, even though it might be extremely valuable, consider putting off collecting such data at your first encounter. There’s plenty of time to go back and further develop your subscriber profile as your relationship develops. If you’re in a hurry, consider using your welcome email to start this data journey. Otherwise build additional data collection into your ongoing communication strategy. The more your subscribers grow to trust you the more personal information they will be willing to divulge.

Secondly, and this is true for any data collection, make it very clear why you are asking for this information and why this will be of benefit to your subscriber. If you can, also reinforce your intentions regarding security – a link on your form to your privacy policy is unlikely to be clicked but it can act as a reassurance that you treat data with respect and care. That’s all that’s generally needed.

Thirdly, there’s a wealth of valuable information that you can gather without directly asking for it, simply by observing your subscribers’ behaviour.  You’ll see this referred to as indirect, inferred or behavioural profiling. For example, location can be identified from a subscriber’s IP address. It’s approximate but it may be accurate enough for general geo-location targeting of local outlets, events or delivery areas. Device type is another valuable inference. Knowing the device preference (desktop or mobile) and mobile device type can be useful for specifically targeting messages to a mobile audience. Device type and operating system can be obtained directly from a post-campaign analysis.  It’s a big area but behavioural targeting extends beyond merely observing campaign interaction.

Tools like’s Audience Insights enables you to follow a subscriber’s journey ‘after the click’ as they are redirected onto the website domains that you own. Here you can observe browsing habits over a prolonged period of time and determine areas of interest and potential upsell. All of this information can be added into your subscriber profile and can be used (sensitively) to more precisely target your next campaign. I say sensitively because since this information has not been voluntarily given, if not done with care it can appear intrusive and unwelcome.

Back to creating the form. There are lots of other options for adding text instructions, comments, tick boxes (hence linking your form to multiple list options), submission instructions (your form’s call to action) and for theming, so your form matches your brand styling, for example that of your website. Again, general guidance is to keep it simple. If it’s not needed, or not needed now, leave it out.

The final step is to add confirmation and thank you pages. These will be displayed on submission and provide positive feedback to your subscriber that all is well. They also control the double opt-in process by which subscribers can verify their intentions and details. Double opt-in is not a legal requirement but it’s widely used and a generally accepted best practice process for collecting quality data. When complete, simply save and publish your form to your website. Placement will depend on your web design strategy but you’ll generally want to make your subscription process easy to find.

Once active any completed subscriptions will automatically be added into your designated email list (or lists) and any captured fields organised to populate your subscriber profile fields. You can view your form completion statistics at any time and use this to make refinements in layout or placement.

2. Use text-to-subscribe

Although online forms can be completed by mobile users, text-to-subscribe is a particularly useful technique for collecting mobile subscribers. With one simple text message they can subscribe to both your SMS and email mailing lists and receive immediate automated responses.

SMS1 (2)Text-to-subscribe uses submission of a text message keyword, and if required their email address, to a designated shortcode number (our own short code is 61211).  The process of set up is similar to an online subscription form.

First create the list or lists that you want your subscription process to be associated with. Next, create a ‘rule’ which assigns a designated sub-keyword to the process, for example ‘club’, ‘exclusive’ or ‘try’ (your main keyword will be your company keyword). As always, keep any keywords as short and simple as possible. To enable submission of an email address you’ll also need to assign an email collection list.

As with online subscription you’ll probably want to send a confirmation that the subscription request has been successful.  A direct SMS reply message is a common solution, instantly returning a mobile SMS confirmation that all is well. Where an email address has been captured it’s also good practice to send an email confirmation. This can be set up using a simple marketing automation rule and works in the same way as a welcome email when a subscriber is newly added to a list.

You can find step-by-step guides to setting up online subscription forms and text-to-subscribe services for your account in our Knowledgebase guides:

Creating an online data collection form
Setting up a text to subscribe service