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I don’t want everyone who hits my website to sign up to my newsletter.

Yup. You heard me. I don’t want a huge list stuffed with randoms. *cue shocked reaction gifs*

The traditional form of list building – i.e. get everyone to sign up to your list so you can sell sell sell to them is dying.  I know I’m sick of being flooded with marketing messages day in and out. Take for example, Gmail, introducing their “promotions” tab a few years back. This created a cleaner inbox for their users and yet another “hurdle” for email marketers to jump to push their advertising in people’s faces.

If you’ve been to any blog or website lately, you may have noticed the huge influx of popups begging you to sign up to their newsletter or download their opt in (which then signs you up to the regular newsletter). Sometimes before you’ve had a chance to do anything else!

No respect for people’s inboxes

I’m a big believer in treating people’s inbox as a private and sacred space into which you’ve been invited. Pushing to get people’s emails onto your list and then pushing marketing messages into their inboxes shows, I think, a lack of respect for that person and their space.

It’s no wonder people have that “hotmail” address that they use to sign up to stuff. They expect marketers to treat their inbox like a dumping ground. All these hurdles that companies put in place are ultimately to give their users a good experience using their products. Customers are saying “hey, this kind of marketing is annoying.”

So, maybe, don’t be that annoying person? Let’s start with “cold” sign ups. Having people on your mailing list is fab, but ideally we’d like it to be people with whom we have a connection. The more connected the subscribers, the more personal and intimate the message.

The old funnel

Expecting cold leads to warm to you via mass communication email seems less and less likely.

Website > cultivate a relationship via newsletter > convert

But with more “hurdles” for email lists to jump, and with people’s inboxes being flooded and more emails being screened out, cultivating a relationship via newsletter seems harder and harder. You might never get to build a relationship with people via this medium any more.

Warm lists are the way forward

What do I mean by a “warm” list?

Engaging with people in other forums and getting those people with whom you already have a relationship of some kind, to sign up to your email list. This can be as simple as you being active in Facebook groups and someone seeing you there and signing up.

I read email newsletters from people with whom I’m connected or with whom I want to connect. I’m always curating my email subscriptions so that I get the best value from the best people. I’m ditching the “shiny object syndrome” by not signing up to every opt in that seems like a “good” idea – especially not from bigger businesses.

Warm, small, tailored, curated lists are, in my humble opinion, the way we are headed with email marketing.

The MailChimp crackdown

MailChimp caused a bit of a stir in some of the communities I’m in due to the recent changes to their Acceptable Use policy. My lay-person-not-at-all-legal perception of the changes is to crack down on spam and industries that tend to be overly spammy.

Any free platform used to disseminate information to large groups of people is always going to have spammers and scammers trying to abuse the system. Whether that’s Facebook,  Twitter, or MailChimp. Each system has to adapt, often ad-hoc to spammers and their tactics.

The writing’s on the wall for “growing email lists”.

Focus on cultivating relationships, not numbers

I think we can reclaim email lists as beautiful, respectful relationship building spaces by building warm lists and making a concerted effort to engage with the newsletters from people we want to engage with.


email marketing is so passe: building warm lists