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How to Build an Email List for Effective Email Marketing

Brian Rahill

January 9, 2024

How to build an email list is one of the great puzzles of marketing. You know you need one because everyone keeps talking about how effective email marketing is. Yet, you know from your own experience how crowded people’s inboxes have become. Under these conditions, convincing people to give you their email address seems like a big task. 

Email is one of the best and most cost-effective ways to market your classes.

Fortunately, building an email list can be easier than it looks. Your learners and prospective learners want to hear about upcoming classes and new programs, so you’re actually doing them a favor by giving them a chance to put themselves on the list. Let’s explore how to build an email list for effective email marketing.

Why Learn How to Build an Email List

Email marketing is still one of the most effective ways to increase enrollment and build your program. Here’s why: 

Email marketing is cost-effective

Email newsletter programs, like Mailchimp or Constant Contact, let you send emails for a small monthly fee. CourseStorm Core plan customers get marketing emails built in. 

Reach your audience directly. 

People opt in to your email list because they’re interested in what you have to offer. You can reach them directly and without worrying whether an algorithm will choose to feature your content.

Offer seamless class registration. 

A link in your email can take recipients directly to your course catalog or registration page. They can take action right away. This creates a seamless process for registrants and helps you keep classes full. 

You own your list. 

Most importantly, your email list belongs to you, not to the platform. If your social media account is compromised or advertising costs suddenly increase, you may lose access to your audience. Not so with email. Your contact list belongs to you, and you can keep your contacts if you switch to another email service provider.

Infographic: How to build an email list

How to Build an Email List: 5 Strategies

Of course, actually building the list is the hard part. You might be starting with just a couple of hundred contacts, or none at all. Here are 5 simple strategies that can help build your email list. 

  1. Ask for an email on every form. Whether they’re using an online form or a paper copy, include an email address field on every form you ask students to fill out. Most students will be happy to share this information so they can get updates about their class. 

  2. Put an opt-in on your website. People interested enough to visit your website may want to hear more from you in the future. Add a banner, pop-up, or embedded form to collect their email addresses so you can stay in touch.

  3. Offer a lead magnet. A lead magnet is a useful resource that you offer in exchange for someone’s email. It should be something closely related to what you teach. For example, we offer a downloadable pack of email templates to simplify course communication.

  4. Publish a blog or newsletter. Sharing useful content in the form of a blog or newsletter can encourage people to sign up for your mailing list. They may be willing to subscribe to make sure they never miss an update.

  5. Ask for emails during conversations. Get in the habit of asking for an email address whenever anyone calls or walks into your organization.

You can automate some of this data collection with CourseStorm. Our online registration system automatically collects an email address from every registrant so you can send emails to people in a specific class, or your entire email list. 

Email List Maintenance: The Care and Keeping of Contacts

Having someone’s email address is a responsibility. Learners and community members have entrusted you with their personal information. If you protect it and use it wisely, you’ll build trust. But, if you abuse the privilege, people will stop opening your emails or even block you as spam. 

Follow a few best practices to keep the contacts you have on your list. 

  1. Get permission to add someone to your list. Asking first makes your emails less likely to be marked as spam.

  2. Write useful and interesting emails. People are more likely to read, and share, quality content.

  3. Craft compelling subject lines. Interesting subject lines help your email stand out in a crowded inbox.

  4. Personalize campaigns with name and class information. Something as simple as adding the recipient’s name to the subject can make an email feel more personal.

  5. Match emails to learner interests. Use tags and groups to organize your email list so you can easily send relevant emails.

  6. Remove inactive subscribers. If people aren’t reading or opening your emails, remove them from the list. This saves you money on email service providers and helps you focus on active list members.

  7. Make it easy to unsubscribe. Include a simple button or link that lets people opt out so they don’t have to block your emails as spam. 

  8. Send special offers only for people on the list. Make contacts feel special by offering early bird registration, sharing discount codes, or sending news out by email before it hits social media.

  9. Invite feedback and two-way communication. Questions, surveys, and other invitations to share feedback can help email feel like a conversation your audience is happy to continue.

What to Do After You Build an Email List

Many organizations use email lists for marketing. That could include nurturing relationships with both potential and former students. Think about what these different audiences might be interested in and create content with them in mind. 

CourseStorm customers at the Core features level and above have access to automated class recommendation emails that notify learners of upcoming classes they might find interesting. You can also set up automatic enrollment warning emails when a class is almost full or in danger of being canceled. 

If you want to explore other ways to communicate with students through email, these 5 email templates will help you engage students and make the most of your email list.

Brian Rahill

Brian is a scientist-turned-education technology executive. He has founded and led technology companies for more than 20 years and uses his analytical mind and experimental approach to spur growth in small and medium businesses and start-ups. He is passionate about using technology to enhance access to lifelong learning.

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