Is there a way to ethically hack email list growth?

How to grow your email list, ethically

Below you’ll hear some of the best tips and advice from 8 Mailchimp Pro Partners (including myself) on how you can ethically grow your email list. Growing your email list should always be a priority when it comes to your email marketing, but there are creative ways to do it that are still in compliance with Mailchimp Best Practices.


One hack works above all else. Create high-value and relevant content such as a free course or an ebook to drive signups, rather than simply saying ‘signup to my newsletter’, then add multiple captures like popups on your website to do the heavy lifting for you.

-Doug Dennison, CEO & Co-founder, MailNinja


I always recommend aiming for quality over quantity when it comes to growing your email list. Capture data in as many places as possible, provide an appealing reason for someone to subscribe, and follow through on what you promise by delivering relevant content. Anything other than this can lead to less than desirable results from your email audience.

-Adam Holden-Bache, Dir. of Email Marketing, Enventys Partners


There are countless smart and ethical ways to grow your email list that don’t involve purchasing emails. Purchasing emails and then marketing to them is not only illegal but it’s simply a bad idea. As long as people are agreeing to opt-in, the sky’s the limit in terms of ways to gain subscribers.

Here are some ways you maybe haven’t thought of:

1. Contributing to a guest blog is a fantastic way to get people back to your own website and hopefully sign up (like the contributors on this post).

2. Offering a simple lead magnet/opt-in via Instagram (like a one-page PDF checklist) and asking people to click the link in your bio to sign up and get it.

As long as you’re asking for permission and people know they’re opting-in, you can dream up almost anything to get a new subscriber.

Emily Ryan, Co-founder & Mailchimp Strategist, Westfield Creative


For me, hacking means knowing very well from the inside how things work and to use this knowledge to reach your goals; there’s nothing inherently unethical in this, as long as the goals are correct and respectful. List growth happens through focusing on our target’s identity, needs and expectations, forging a message that resonates with them and putting that message in front of them, in the right place, at the right time; this requires a deep knowledge not only of email marketing but of CRO, UX, advertising and the rules of persuasion. Most importantly, I don’t believe in short term goals such as the mere quantity of new subscribers; I’d better work for quality subscribers, who not only enter the list but keep reading and maintain the engagement for a long period of time.

-Alessandra Farabegoli, Digital Strategist, Co-Founder, Digital Update and Freelancecamp Italia


List growth can definitely be hacked, by hard work. Every point of contact with your business is a marketing opportunity and an opportunity to get permission to send emails to someone. The question people should be asking before they go outside of their business is, “Are we using every single point of contact we have to get email addresses?”. They’re generally not.

Some other ways are:

1. Using google to get people to your website and asking them once they get there to sign up.

2. Using co-registration and working with other businesses to access their database.

3. Advertising on podcasts or being featured on a podcast.

There are endless ethical ways to hack list growth. They generally take more planning and work but will gain you a much higher value customer.

-Glenn Edley, Director & Email Strategist, Spike


If executed correctly and with precision, cold email campaigns can be used very effectively to build permission-based email lists. Cold email reaches out to a qualified list of potential customers or subscribers, tactfully introducing them to the brand in a way that is non-offensive. With the right lures and effective targeting, this method can provide a stream of traffic to your website or offer, which can then be converted into a permission-based email list.

-MaryAnne Pfeiffer, Digital Marketing Strategist, 108 Degrees Digital Marketing


Firstly, make sure you are ethical with your email list… please… if you’re not it’ll hurt both you AND everyone else so don’t send marketing emails to people who you shouldn’t. In terms of ethically hacking, well, if you take the fact that hacking implies some sort of shortcut or ‘easy path’, I’m not sure… Ultimately, you need to have a way of getting people onto an email list, and not just anyone, but people who want to engage with your business and brand – anyone can build an email list quickly – but is it actually worthwhile, or would you rather focus on emailing the RIGHT people? (but if you do want a short-cut, make sure it’s as easy as possible for the right people to sign up – I’ve seen too many bad forms and no automation to believe that just doing the basics is a good start for most!)

-Robin Adams, Founder, Chimp Answers


I’m not sure I would call this a hack… running ads on Facebook and LinkedIn for newsletter subscribers. Your list will grow quickly, but in my opinion, your list won’t be as engaged as organic subscribers.

-Amy Hall, Email Marketing Strategist and Certified Mailchimp Partner, amyhall.biz


Want to connect with a Mailchimp Pro Partner? Check out the Mailchimp Experts Directory here.

The 4 Most FAQs We Get About Email and Mailchimp

Email Marketing FAQs

When we decided to focus our agency on Mailchimp email marketing, we started getting a lot of the same questions. Many of these questions we hear several times a week from prospective and new clients. So we’re giving you the deets today.

I’m going to try to answer these for you in the easiest and shortest way possible.

But these are truly four of the most frequently asked we get OFTEN.

1. What’s the best time to send my email?

The answer: There is no perfect send time, except the time you determine after months of testing YOUR audience. Some experts will say Tues-Thurs at 10am is the best and don’t send on Mondays, but there truly isn’t a perfect time and it’s super important to utilize A/B testing to test different send times to see which time performed better.

And with the pandemic, optimal send times have changed a ton. In the past, Saturdays used to not be so great for sending an email, but now I find that everyone is home and relaxing and this can be a great send time. So it’s important to test this over a period of weeks or months to see what works for your people. What works for an audience of realtors is going to be different than an audience of people who buy, say makeup.

2. Do I need to clean my email list?

The answer: Yes and no. “Cleaning your list” refers to removing or archiving any contacts that are no longer opening your emails or engaged. This is extremely important because it affects the deliverability of your emails. The cleaner your email list, the higher your open rates will be, which improves your sender reputation.

The good news is that Mailchimp helps you do this. Mailchimp automatically “cleans” emails that bounce. I still recommending periodically creating a segment of contacts that “have not opened” one of your last 10 or 20 emails – and then ARCHIVING them. OR creating a re-engagement email campaign to reach out to them and asking if they’re still interested in hearing from you. Anyone that does NOT open that email– archive them (don’t unsubscribe).

3. How do I grow my email list?

The answer: There are many ways, my friend. This is a long conversation, but this should always be one of your top priorities. Growing your email list is vital to having success with your email campaigns. So I always tell clients to focus on this before anything.

Here are some quick ways to start growing your email list:

  • Create a simple one-page PDF to use as a “freebie” or “lead magnet” and offer that people in exchange for signing up. You can offer through a popup on your website or creating a page on your site where people sign up. Create an automated email that sends to them, with the download, after they sign up.
  • Host a short webinar on a topic and ask people to sign up for it.
  • Post weekly on your social media channels about joining your list and the fun stuff they will receive if they subscribe (Ex: This Friday I am sending out the latest edition of my fun weekly email, full of the best email marketing tips…make sure you’re on the list!)
  • Talk about your email list in everything you do. If you’re on a podcast or speak on a webinar, remind me to subscribe to your list.
  • Post multiple opt-ins around your website. Your homepage should have several – a popup, a button at the top, and others weaved in.

There are many other ways, but start with these and it will grow quickly.

4. Do I need to use Tags or Groups or Segments? 

The answer: Yes. Using Mailchimp’s “Tags” or “Groups” and also creating “Segments” are some of the most powerful Mailchimp features you can utilize to personalize your email marketing and create campaigns that are sent to the right people at the right time. And I promise you, they’re not as confusing as you may think.

Tags are used to simply tag your contacts internally. Think of it as a little contact note. Tags could be “local contact” or “contest entry” or “attended Feb webinar” or “Subscription-Active” and the list goes on. A tag is is powerful because you can create campaigns JUST for a specific tag of people and then send them an email campaign. Read more on getting started with Tags here.

A segment is something that you can create in Mailchimp or you can use one of Mailchimp’s pre-built segments. Segments use data already in Mailchimp. For example, “did not open the last email campaign” would be a segment you can create. Or “Purchased an item in last month.” Or “Email contains nike.com” or even “Location is United States.” There are endless possibilities for segments you can create and they’re incredibly useful when sending targeted email campaigns. More on segments here.

Lastly, “Groups.” The important thing to note about “Groups” is that the contact can view these. You can set up a Group to ask your customer/contacts something like “Are you interested in:” “Emails only, webinar info, events, don’t want any emails” Those would be 4 responses within 1 group. Groups are useful for gathering contact’s interests. More here on getting started with Groups.

Example of a Group in Mailchimp

So while TAGS are something you do internally to tag a contact, a Group is something you setup so your contacts can choose. And a segment is what you create based on these tags and groups.


These are some quick answers to some of our most asked questions. Hope they were helpful!

11 Creative Social Media Ideas For B2B Businesses

11 Creative Social Media Ideas For B2B Businesses

What is one creative social media idea that a B2B company can actually pull off (and for which platform?)

To help small businesses with creative social media ideas, we asked business leaders and marketing professionals this question for their best ideas. From digital detoxes to hosting a webinar, there are several ideas that may help your business with its social media.

Here are eleven creative social media ideas that a B2B company can pull off: 

  • Use Your Social In Email
  • Reddit Forums
  • Create an eBook or Ultimate Guide 
  • Make Youtube Videos
  • Employee Social Media Profiles
  • Get All Your Partners Involved
  • Write Articles on LinkedIn
  • Giveaways On Twitter
  • Host a Webinar
  • Highlight Your Behind-The-Scenes Moments
  • Start a Podcast

Use Your Social Posts In Your Next Email 

One of the smartest things you can do as a business is repurpose content from your social media in your email campaigns. You could take one of your Instagram posts and make that into an entire email, using the photo and caption. Or your last 5 tweets could be a fun email — “Look what we’ve been up to on Twitter…” Your social media is full of great posts which equals great content that would work well in emails. No need to always create new email content — pull from your other platforms. 

Emily Ryan, Westfield Creative

Reddit Forums

Find your target market on Reddit and engage in the community! Reddit is untapped territory for B2B, but if done right, can be very effective for inexpensive acquisition. Forums can get very niche and specific, so if you can find one that pertains to your business, you will likely be able to start valuable conversations with potential customers. Just make sure you aren’t trying to sell directly, moderators will kick you right out. Be genuine, ask questions, respond to others, and establish yourself as a trusted member of the community. 

Zack McCarty, Qwick

Create an eBook or Ultimate Guide 

Because they are low cost and are great for generating qualified leads, a great social media tactic would be to create an eBook or Ultimate Guide around a niche topic for B2B and share it on LinkedIn! You could always recycle old blog content into an eBook to create an easier path to executing this social media marketing strategy.

Kayla Centeno, Markitors 

Make Youtube Videos

Our Seattle criminal defense firm Will & Will has an extensive library of YouTube videos we’ve created over the years. While YouTube isn’t the first platform a B2B company thinks of for “social media,” we’ve found that YouTube videos have helped effectively brand our firm. Videos can personalize a firm, and communicate why a client should consider doing business with a company. I’d recommend to any business owner to consider shooting a video about the company, or about a core service offering.

Court Will, Will & Will

Employee Social Media Profiles

B2B companies should be very cognizant of the image employees have on sites like LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook. The reason? Prospective customers buy from people, and many sales activities include checks on social media profiles. For example, a cold email may result in a check of a LinkedIn profile. Or, an introduction to a new Client Services representative may be followed by a check of an Instagram profile. The single most important thing a B2B company can do when it comes to social media is to have a polished uniform presence online. Educate employees about how customers may be looking at their LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media profiles to make decisions about your business.

Ben Walker, Transcription Outsourcing

Get All Your Partners Involved

An easy social media idea that we do to encourage referrals from the people we work with is by simply tagging other trades on social media platforms, like Instagram to grow exposure. Let’s say we finish designing a beautiful, luxury kitchen, we make sure to tag the cabinet company that followed our plans and installed the cabinets into the kitchen, we tag the lighting company that sold the builder the pendants we picked out over the island, and we tag the granite company we worked with to make the design come together. By taking an extra minute to tag all the people that made the design happen and having them share it on their own pages, we get triple the exposure! Tag the companies you work with and encourage them to share your content.

Alisha Taylor, Alisha Taylor Interiors

Write Articles on LinkedIn

LinkedIn has become the place to network now that person-to-person, live networking events have been quashed by COVID. First, be sure your personal profile is up to date with a nice, professional-looking headshot, and all the sections are complete as well as skills using relevant keywords. Next, make sure your company profile page is complete and well-branded like an extension of your website. Make sure all links, including the ones in your contact info section are working properly. Now, you write an article–300 words or more. Hopefully, you’re blogging on your website at least once a week. All you do is copy a blog from your site into LinkedIn’s blogging feature. At the bottom, put, “This article first appeared on…”, then link it to the original article on your site. Share it on your personal feed and company page, Facebook and Twitter. This helps with exposure, building trust and credibility and helps with SEO.

Giselle Aguiar, AZ Social Media Wiz

Giveaways On Twitter

Twitter is an incredibly powerful social media channel. Unfortunately, as usual, building up an audience is a slow and time-consuming process. Twitter Ads are a good option to give yourself a boost. But there is an organic alternative to PPC: You can speed up the process with a giveaway. Identify a product that your audience is interested in. This can be a generic mainstream product such as a MacBook or a product from your own business. Next, identify the value offered and divide it by the average cost of your PPC campaign as a reference. When this value falls below the realistically achievable number of engagements you are in the positives. Make sure to give the campaign an initial boost by tagging some people from your audience. Here you can also fall back to Twitter’s PPC offerings: a small campaign can kick start your organic giveaway and trigger an avalanche.

Peter Thaleikis, Bring Your Own Ideas Ltd.

Host a Webinar

Hosting a small webinar with a guest book author is a great creative social media idea that a B2B company can pull off. For example, invite an author of a sales or marketing book you enjoy to a webinar and invite 10 people from your LinkedIn to join a special Q&A session. From idea to execution, you could run this campaign in a month and deepen relationships with a set of key prospects.

Bruce Harpham, Technology Marketing Consultant

Highlight Your Behind-The-Scenes Moments

If you ever spent any time watching your favorite TV show’s bloopers reel you know – watching behind-the-scenes real moments is a lot of fun. There is something about those moments when actors stop being actors for a second and screw up, laugh, and make fun of each other in touching, purely human moments. Somehow we connect with them more during those times. We can replicate similar emotions and connections when we share behind-the-scenes moments with our customers. As B2B entities companies often get stuck in the professional space, limiting their personal, human connections with their customers. Sharing engaging, entertaining, and real behind-the-scenes moments can facilitate these connections. While that can be done on any platform, the best fit for behind-the-scenes content is Instagram. Using stories, posts, and other interactive tools of that platform can be of great help.

Natalya Bucuy, LiveHelpNow

Start a Podcast

While that idea might sound daunting to some, it doesn\’t have to be. Your podcast episodes could be as short as five minutes every week. Just talk about industry trends, news topics, and what’s happening in your business. It doesn\’t have to be perfect and sites like Anchor allow you to record, edit and publish all in one place. Once your show is live then you have some great content to share on social media. You can share new episodes on your social channels while repurposing episodes into PDF slides, audio snippets, and blog posts that can all be shared too.

Liam Quinn, Reach interactive