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Seven ways to build your contact lists

Category: Email Marketing

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The way you add contacts to your lists largely determines the results obtained in your email marketing campaigns.

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The contact lists can be classified according to the interaction taken by the contacts in the subscription process:

Opt-out lists

In this kind of list, the contacts have been added to the list from publicly available data sources like business cards, websites, etc. or by pre-selected options usually in a form like "Yes, I want to receive news in my email". You do not have the express authorization of the user or the consent was obtained without being very conscious of it.

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You should avoid getting contacts in this way for several reasons:

  • the regulations in force specifies to always have the consent of the user to send them commercial communications
  • if a contact does not know why he is receiving your email, he will most likely not read it, unsubscribe from your list, or worse, report your email as spam

Purchased Databases of e-mails

These databases of email addresses are purchased to third parties. They can be acquired with a certain customization level according to various criteria such as industry, geographical location...

It is the least recommended option, as it can affect your sender reputation and thus, your deliverability. For more information, take a look at the article "Why Is Purchasing Email Lists Always a Bad Idea".

Rented email lists

Databases are owned by a third party, they are segmented by criteria that are relevant to you. In this case, the list does not belong to you and you are not able to see the email addresses that compose it. Last but not least, the list owner is responsible for the sending. You can do such campaigns occasionally, but ultimately you should seek to  build and grow your own contact list.


Users subscribe to a newsletter or sign-up on the website of a third party and they are asked if they also want to register on your list.

This method, very popular in the 90’s, can rapidly grow your contact list but it is very difficult to get subscribers really interested and engaged with your brand.

Single opt-in lists

Subscribers give their consent in a form, but no further check is performed.

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Even if they are not as "bad" as opt-out lists, since no further confirmation is requested, anyone can include the email from a friend, family or relative, who has never heard from you before and probably not interested in your communications.

Confirmed opt-in lists

The contact signed up by means of a form, thereby giving his consent at the same time. Additionally, he receives a Thank-you message like "Thanks for subscribing to this list" which includes a link to unsubscribe.

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This option is better than the previous one but cannot prevent the registration of email addresses of third parties that never heard of you.

Double opt-in

Lists in which contacts sign up by means of a form, and receive an email with a link to confirm the subscription to the list.

With this method, those contacts who would not click on the confirmation link are not added to the list. This may seem like a big deal, but do you think a contact is really interested in your product if he is not willing to click on a link? Would he really read your emails?

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This is the reason why double opt-in lists are the best choice to guarantee quality new contacts to your lists. It is the slowest way to get new subscribers but also the most effective.

Whatever method you use to get your contacts, remember that the rules on commercial communications require to always have their consent.

Also be reminded that a responsible email marketing strategy is the key to your long term success!

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