4 Basic Steps to Build a Foundational Email Marketing ListEmail marketing is highly sophisticated today, so if it’s been some time since you caught up with contemporary practices and resources, it’s time to do that. Here are the four basic steps you need to build the foundation for your email marketing list:

Step 1: Select a service. You simply cannot rely on your own email system for marketing purposes anymore. There are just too many laws on the books you could be breaking, and best practices you would also likely be violating. Fortunately, there are very good email services for small businesses at no or low cost, including MailChimp (free for up to 2,000 email addresses and 12,000 emails per month), Constant Contact, iContact, Aweber and more. Research what’s out there and choose the best one for your practice.

Step 2: Set up your lists. Your email service provider will furnish you with a form you can use on your website to gather email addresses for people who want to sign up for your e-newsletter or other offers. Now is the time for you to segment your lists by each offer as well as create separate lists for existing clients and referral sources. Keeping these segregated allows you to better target each audience with your messaging. You can always opt to send to multiple lists whenever you want.

Step 3: Set up autoresponders. Everyone who responds to your e-newsletter or other offers should get an automatic response back from you thanking them for their interest. You can then set up additional autoresponders to alert them to new offers or a breaking news article in your newsletter, send special holiday greetings, etc.

Step 4: Make it easy to sign up. Place your sign-up form on all your website and blog pages in a prominent place where it is easy to locate. Don’t ask for too much information — a name and an email address are standard these days.

Your email list service will keep you compliant with current email marketing laws and practices by automatically allowing people to unsubscribe and deleting their email addresses from your lists if they opt out.