How to Legally and Ethically Grow Your Email List

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No matter where you are on your business journey, you need to get the word OUT (legally). 

Email marketing is a fabulous way to deliver killer content and brand messaging straight to your audience. But first, you need to secure an email list in a way that is both legal and ethical. 

When you build an email list from scratch, you own that list. This is a huge benefit, especially as in 2020, there were roughly 4.03 billion active email users worldwide. That number is expected to increase to 4.6 billion users by 2025. The bottom line? Email communication is set to grow, just like you.

Your email list can serve as a go-to lead generation database, but above all, it allows you to build a more intimate connection with your subscribers. By adding a personal touch to your communications strategy, you can create, nurture and sustain a beautiful community. As a result, building an email list is an excellent way to increase conversions, foster brand loyalty and add new layers of meaning to what you do.

Brew some matcha and keep reading to learn the ins and outs of how to (legally and ethically) grow your email list. 

Ready to get those legal ducks in a row? You’re one smart cookie, because you’re in the right place. The Legal Godfairy loves granting wishes and helping go-getters like you thrive. Browse our contract templates or get in touch with your questions today. 

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Grow Your Email List: 3 Approaches

As with most things in life, expanding your email list comes with options. You’ll soon learn, however, that some methods are better than others.   

Let’s explore 3 different approaches to growing your email list.

1. Buying an Email List 

You can buy a chai latte, you can buy a social media following, and you can buy an email list from a third party. Only one of those will taste like sweet victory. 

(It’s the latte)

While the idea of purchasing a ready-made list containing thousands of email addresses may seem appealing, it’s just not worth it. That’s because buying an email list for marketing purposes puts you at risk, sis. While doing so might be legal in the United States, you’ll need to follow FTC compliance guidelines carefully.

If you do purchase a list, you’ll likely want to make use of an email service provider (ESP). 

ESPs offer email marketing services that allow users to send out particularly large quantities of emails at a time. It’s worth noting that ESPs typically have their own — and much stricter — policies regarding bought or rented lists. In fact, major ESPs like Mailchimp don’t allow users to upload bought or rented email lists at all.

2. Renting an Email List 

Those who opt to rent an email list can have content sent on their behalf. 

Sending your magical know-how or offers to a rented list typically means recipients consciously opted in to receive emails from the named list owner, but not from you. List rentals often cover a one-time use, unless otherwise negotiated, but this option isn’t much better than buying a list when it comes to legal risks and underwhelming returns.        

3. Organic Growth

Remember that chai latte from a minute ago? Take a sip. Savor it. That’s what growing your very own email list from scratch feels like. Sweet victory, sis.

What makes organic growth better? We’ll tell you.

Your reputation matters, no matter what form it’s in. Email clients like Google and Microsoft keep tabs on metrics like how often emails that originate from your domain end up in folks’ spam folders. Metrics like these contribute to your “sender reputation,” or how trustworthy email providers think you are. 

When you rely on bought or rented email lists, you run a much higher risk of a large number of your emails being sent to spam folders by recipients who never signed up to receive them. In time, this can prompt email providers to identify you as a spammer and send your emails straight to the spam dungeon from the outset, never to be seen by anyone. Not ideal.

Grow Your Email List Organically

Organic growth is by far the most effective, sustainable, and legally sound way to build a robust email list you can be proud of. With organic growth, you can ensure the email addresses on your list belong to your target audience and that recipients are actively seeking the vibes you’re sending their way.

Better yet, when you grow your own list you gain the ability to collect direct consent from users to receive emails from you. This approach enables you to protect your reputation, respect your audience and build your empire on ethical (and legal) high ground. It’s the ultimate power move.

Build Your Email List Online

There are plenty of excellent ways to collect user emails online with proper consent. Check it out: 

  • Collect leads on your website through a sign-up form
  • Create lead magnets like free resources in exchange for an email sign-up
  • Offer gated content only available to those who sign up for user accounts
  • Incorporate email pop-ups on your landing pages
  • Collect consent to receive emails during your sign up or checkout process
  • Tap into your existing database, including friends, family and colleagues 
  • Offer a text-to-join option where users can opt-in to receive emails and resources
  • Host a giveaway that requires an email address to enter
  • Offer coupons/discounts to leads who provide their email addresses
  • Create an opt-in landing page you can add to social accounts and ad campaigns
  • Craft separate email lists and cater content to various audience segments 
Keep your website compliant

Keep Your Website Compliant

It’s important to understand that even when you build your own email list from scratch, there are strict rules and guidelines in place concerning commercial email communications and online data privacy. 

The FTC provides a compliance guide for the CAN-SPAM Act, which outlines requirements for commercial messages, including the following:

  • Senders may not use false, deceptive or misleading subject lines
  • Senders must make it clear that subscribers are opting in to receive emails in the future
  • You must identify the message as an ad
  • The message must include your physical postal address
  • Messages must include an option for subscribers to opt-out of receiving emails at any time
  • Messages must include a clear explanation of how subscribers can opt out or unsubscribe
  • Senders must honor opt-out requests within 10 business days 

Most ESPs include an opt-out feature, but it’s on you to ensure that your email messages and ESPs comply with all relevant rules and regulations.   

Data Privacy Laws

The European Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) harmonizes data privacy regulations across all member states of Europe, while the California Online Privacy Protection Act (CalOPPA) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) outlines requirements for commercial websites and online services to post a privacy policy and includes guidelines for disclosures of how online visits are tracked and gives consumers more control over the personal information that businesses collect about them, respectively. 

A data privacy policy that clearly outlines how you will use a web visitor’s personal data is crucial for your website. A privacy policy should include information like what data you collect, how you collect it and what you intend to use it for. 

Now, even if you find that data privacy laws don’t seem to apply to your situation, many analytics tools and email tools like ESPs have strict regulations and may still require you to have a privacy policy. It’s always, ALWAYS better to be safe than sorry.

Let’s face it — there’s a lot to running any business, but don’t sweat it. Tools like our Website Essentials Kit will give you peace of mind with the right legal language to keep your site and email-building efforts legally compliant.      

Grow Your Business With Legal Acumen

Growing your email list organically can be an incredibly rewarding experience. With content going straight to your audience, you can share resources, build your community and hype your next project way in advance. We love to see it.

Scaling your business? It’s time to get savvy, sis. Level up your leadership and legal skills with The Legal Legacy Lounge™ for on-demand legal training, education, resources and templates. Join our waitlist today before it fills up!

*Disclaimer: This blog post has been prepared solely for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to provide, nor should it be relied on for, legal advice. Should you require advice regarding a specific matter, appropriate legal or other professional advice should be obtained.

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