Biz Ladies: How to Proactively Grow Your Email List


Today’s Biz Ladies post comes to us from Cristina Roman, the founder and editor of One Woman Shop, a community where female solopreneurs and freelancers can find resources and more. She works with solo business owners to help them increase their productivity, build their brands and establish awesome online presences through digital marketing. Today she’s sharing how she grew the One Woman Shop email list through direct outreach. Thank you so much Cristina for sharing your insight and list of resources with us today! —Stephanie

Read the full post after the jump…

If you’re like most solo or small business owners, you’re constantly on the lookout for ways to grow your community of supporters, clients, customers and collaborators.

At One Woman Shop, a resource hub and community for female solopreneurs and freelancers, we have a secret weapon that we use to proactively grow our community: email. No, not email marketing, just email.

Since adding smart, resourceful solo business owners to our community is one of our top priorities, we decided to take matters into our own hands. Sure, we spend time pinning, tweeting and Facebooking and yes, we set up a pop-up plugin on the site and started offering an opt-in freebie, but one of our biggest initiatives recently has been direct outreach through email.

It’s simple, really. Anytime we see a female solo business owner online, we send them an email telling them about our community and asking them if they would like to join our email list.

Here’s how you can do the same in your business:

Make a list

You know all of those awesome people you connect with on Twitter and follow on Pinterest and see in the comment area of your favorite blogs? Make a spreadsheet with the columns Name, Business, Email Address, Contacted (Y/N), Date, and Status and begin inputting information into the first two columns as you come across new individuals who you’d like to connect with.

Take it a step further by drafting a list of keywords that your target community members would use to describe themselves and their interests, being sure to make note of possible synonyms. Search for these keywords on LinkedIn, Google and FollowerWonk, a handy tool for searching Twitter bios. For example, we search for both “solopreneur” and “solo entrepreneur,” while you might be interested in targeting individuals in a certain region or with an interest in a specific industry, like creating products to sell on Etsy.

Do your research

No sense wasting time emailing people who aren’t going going to be awesome clients, customers, or collaborators, right? Do a little online stalking to be sure that the person in question is really a fit for your community and business. We look for young women who look to be running a solo business and seem to have small-to-medium sized followings (for example, we don’t generally reach out to women with 10,000 followers, because we’re not sure how much value we’ll be able to add for them!). This is the perfect time to fill in the Email Address column on your spreadsheet if they seem like a good potential addition to your community.

Send out emails

Time to send out emails to your targets (in a non-hunter way, of course). Keep it short and sweet: how you found them, who you are and what you do, why you think you two should be connecting, and a straight-forward request to add them to your email list.

Our emails generally include the following:

  • A quick explanation of how we found them [“I just stumbled across your site through Pinterest and love what you’re doing!”]
  • A brief explanation of who we are and what we do [“I wanted to take a minute to reach out from One Woman Shop, a resource hub and community for female solopreneurs.”]
  • A sentence on why we’d love to connect [“I thought you might be interested in joining the community since you’re a solo business owner.”]
  • A direct request to add them to our email list [“Would it be okay to add you to our email list? It’s the best way to stay in touch with what we’ve got going on in the community and we only send out emails when we actually have something to say!”]
  • Links to a few things that showcase your expertise and offerings [“In the meantime, you can explore the site and check out some of our recent features like 28 Tips for Growing Your Community, Email Marketing Tips from Creative Entrepreneurs,  One Woman Experiments: What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, Tools We Love, and Prior to the Hire.”]
  • A note that asks them to forward this email to anyone else who might be interested [“P.S. If you know of any other One Woman Shops, I would love for you to forward this email to them! They can also sign up directly through the site :)”]

Follow up

We strongly believe in the power of following up and love using Boomerang to remind us when it’s time to shoot out a quick reminder email. Wait about a week then give a gentle nudge – we find that it’s totally worth taking the time to follow up, as people often miss your first email, it goes to spam, or they’re just totally overwhelmed by their inbox.

About 30% of the women we emailed said that they would love to be added to our email list and several others told us that they weren’t interested in joining our list because of email overload, but they would check out the site. Additionally, our outreach resulted in collaborations such as profiles and interviews on several blogs, finding a few women to curate our Weekly Finds link roundup, and more than a few virtual friendships!

So, if you send just a few emails per day and some of those people convert to paying clients or awesome collaborators, it’s worth the time you invested, right? Best of luck with your community-building efforts!

  1. Melyssa says:

    I’ve never considered emailing people to be on my email list, but why the hell not?! These are great, practical tips and I think I’ll give ’em a go. Thank you! :)

  2. Laura- Thanks! Your site looks great. You just might get an email from us :)
    Melyssa- It’s been great for One Woman Shop! We’ve met awesome people and built our community- pretty effective :)

  3. Hi, everyone! I’m a marketing consultant at a large digital-marketing software/services company, and I specialize in email marketing and best practices. Cristina has shared some great tips for growing a networking list, but I want to make sure that you, as small business owners, are aware of some regulations when it comes to email marketing:

    First, it’s certainly okay to email people you’ve met or have come in contact with, or who you respect online, in order to build your network and make that one-to-one connection. I want to call your attention to a key line Cristina recommends you include in your initial email: “[‘Would it be okay to add you to our email list? It’s the best way to stay in touch with what we’ve got going on in the community and we only send out emails when we actually have something to say!’]”

    In terms of email marketing, be sure that you respect that preference. If they reply with “yes, please add me to your list,” then do! But if they don’t reply or ask NOT to be added to the list, do not add them. Honor that preference. If you don’t, you risk violating CAN-SPAM regulations, and you can find yourself blocked or blacklisted, preventing you from sending emails to people who DO want to hear from you.

    As long as you respect permissions, and only send marketing emails to people who have explicitly opted into your email program, then you’ll have nothing to worry about. Good luck!

  4. Amanda- that is a GREAT reminder; thanks for bringing it up! I’d hate for anyone to get in trouble. I’ve had several women thank me for not just adding them to our list because apparently it’s happened to them before. Thanks again!

  5. verity says:

    These are such wonderful tips! I absolutely *know* I should be starting an email newsletter and list but feel so unsure how to begin. This is such great advice – I follow tonnes of awesome people on social media and just having a list of them and what they do is definitely worth the time. I’m going to do it now in fact :)


Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.