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At Chesapeake Bank, we believe it takes a community to build and sustain a successful local business. That’s why we invite local businesses to share their experience and expertise with other business owners by submitting content for our blog. The following post is from River Flow Co. Owner Whitney Lang, who specializes in business coaching, collaboration and website design.

Social media is important, and I believe every small business should have a social media presence. But there’s one marketing avenue that’s greatly overlooked, especially by small brick-and-mortar businesses: email.

I know what you’re thinking. You don’t want to be spammy, or maybe you’ve tried email and people have unsubscribed. You’re not sure how to begin building an email list. I’m going to explain exactly why having an email list (and sending emails) really will help grow your business.

Three reasons every small business needs an email list
  1. You own your list. None of Zuckerberg’s latest rules or algorithm changes can touch your email list. When Facebook unexpectedly shuts down your business page (yes, it happens), you’ll still have a reliable way to connect with your customers.
  2. It’s a straight shot to your subscribers. You don’t have to worry about whether your contacts will ever see your message; it’ll land right in their inbox.
  3. Your list is full of people who want to hear from you! The folks on your list are your customers and prospects and have chosen to give you your email address. They said “yes, I want in.” (Keep in mind, those who declined shouldn’t be on your list.)

Now, let’s talk about how to get started. The most important thing to remember is that your list doesn’t have to be huge to make an impact. Create a plan, start small, and be consistent.

Four easy ways to start building your email list

First, decide how to manage your email list. I recommend using an email marketing provider like MailChimp: it’s easy to use, free for up to 2,000 subscribers and you can add contacts directly to your list so you’re ready to send an email in just a few clicks.

  1. Just ask. Place a sign-up book at the register or simply ask your customers for their email addresses at checkout. If you can, add it to your point-of-sale system. When collecting information from clients on the job, ask for email addresses as well (I’m talking to you, service providers!).
  2. Place an opt-in option on your website. Consider offering a coupon toward future purchases in exchange for email addresses. Get creative!
  3. Run a social media campaign. Direct people to the email opt-in on your website or ask them to submit their email address directly to you.
  4. Call your customer list. Call your customers to check in and update their contact information. While you’re at it, ask for their email address. Updated records and an email address – win-win!

Using email to market and serve your customers isn’t just for online or retail businesses. Service providers can also benefit from email marketing. If you own a landscaping company, send seasonal emails with educational tips, fun facts and ideas to try. It’s a great way to provide value and remind customers of your services. That one email might just be the inspiration they need to hire you again!

I’ll leave you with a few best practices to build and nurture your email list. First, deliver valuable information. This will make your ideal customers want to click on your emails every time you send them. Second, make your emails about more than just sales and discounts. Share interesting, educational stories, be intentional and don’t spam your list. Stay away from buying email lists: it’s simply not good business practice and could hurt your reputation. Finally, be consistent. You can’t try something once and expect amazing results. Building an email list takes patience and consistency, but is sure to pay off in the end.

What are you waiting for? Go get ’em!


Whitney Lang is a coach, virtual assistant, website designer, and business service provider for small businesses around the globe. She believes in simplicity, intention, and authenticity in the workplace. If you’re feeling stuck and uninspired in your business, schedule a free discovery consultation with Whitney to see how she can support you in reaching your goals. Learn more at riverflowco.com or contact Whitney directly at whitney@whitneylang.com.