Essential Steps for Building Your B2B Email List

Article by | January 31, 2019 Content Marketing

If you feel like nearly everyone’s got an email newsletter, you’re not wrong. With over 4.3 billion email accounts in the world, it makes sense that nearly 70% of businesses use email marketing and send regular newsletters or product updates. That’s a lot of competition! You’re competing with every blog, Internet marketer, and celebrity that makes a way into the email accounts of your existing and prospective customers.

And you’re B2B.

You’ve probably heard that B2B email marketing is tougher than consumer marketing. B2B emails report a 4.6% lower open rate than B2C. Therefore, even more than B2C, it takes two things to create a stellar B2B email list: commitment and persistence.

If you have one but not the other, you won’t see the results you need for your company. Implementing as many of the tactics below as possible will create a snowball effect for your list.

When you commit and persist in as many of the tactics below as possible, you will dwindle the 4.6% gap and wonder why your B2B colleagues complain about their industry email open rates.

The Foundation for Newsletter List Building

To generate the kind of results you want from email newsletters, you’ll need the right foundation in place for building your recipient list. Consider these two foundational principles as in your list-building efforts:

  • Avoid purchasing email addresses
  • Incorporate a lead generation strategy

Buying Lists

Buying an email list seems like a quick strategy to build your list but it comes with many challenges.

Don’t even consider buying lists if you’re going global.

Not only do you need to pay attention to GDPR, but sending emails to addresses from purchased lists is illegal overseas. You need to recognize that more regulations will move in that direction.

The way trends go, we will all only expect (and therefore only pay attention to) the emails we have opted-in for and disregard emails from companies and people we don’t recognize.

Be a trendsetter, not a follower, and get ahead — if you’re ahead today, you’ll be more effective tomorrow. There is a long list of reasons why buying a list is less effective than building it, but the takeaways are these:

1. You can’t actually know who is on the list.

Even when you purchase a list from “reputable providers,” many of your emails will fall on deaf ears, go straight to spam boxes, and have lower open rates. If you send too many dead emails, email providers will give you demerits or shut you down completely.

2. Your prospects won’t feel like they know you.

Prospects from purchased lists feel you aren’t paying attention to them individually.

This will only become a bigger problem in the “thank you economy.” And if you think B2B doesn’t need to be as personable as B2C, remember — every company is made up of individual humans.

3. Most reputable automation software options won’t let you use purchased lists.

Email spam graphicSpam is such a big issue for email marketing that companies don’t want to risk one account tainting their record for all of their future business. That’s why most reputable marketing automation companies won’t allow users to send campaigns to purchased lists—there is too much risk involved. The CAN-SPAM Act is serious.

For an email to not be considered spam, it must:

  • Not be sent to an email harvested from other sources (the number one problems with a purchased list)
  • Provide the recipient an option to unsubscribe
  • The company sending it must honor any unsubscribe requests within 10 days
  • Companies must maintain “opt-out” lists to ensure no future mailing to those who have unsubscribed
  • The “from” email address must be accurate and real
  • The subject line must reflect what is in the email and not be deceptive in any way
  • The physical address of the company sending the email must appear in the text of the email
  • The email must contain at least one sentence (important for those sending image-heavy emails)

Building Your List through Lead Generation

If you bought your email marketing list not really paying attention to what’s in it, why would new prospects be expected to pay attention to you? Instead, if you build your list from your own lead generation and partnerships, you will receive dividends through more qualified leads, less time and effort required for nurturing leads into customers, and a higher likelihood of customers becoming raging fans for your company.

Your biggest obstacle in using lead generation to build your list is the potential for obscurity. You need to get people to know who you are.

Those you want to receive your newsletter already receive too many email. Your battle is against obscurity. Fight obscurity for your email list by creating lead magnets — highly desirable pieces of content — and putting those lead magnets in as many locations as possible. Focus where your competition and prospects hang out online.

This is more than just deploying marketing automation. This is the work behind the scenes that makes your automation pay off.

And if you want it to pay off, it will take commitment and persistence.

Four Essentials for Making Your Lead Generation Effective

1. Create as many lead magnets as you can think of

You may think that building a white paper or an eBook is an expensive endeavor, but consider the cost of creating the lead magnet versus the value of a lead. The investment in time and effort to create a good lead magnet can only save you time later by being available. Don’t think you’re creating too many; if it’s good content, it’s good content.

Below are some examples of strong lead magnets. How many of these have you produced already? As you promote them, are you giving your new leads an opportunity to subscribe to your newsletter?

  • Free online tools for other businesses (in a “give-to-get” economy, this works just as well for B2B as B2C)
  • Bonus gated content posted beside your sign-up form, on your thank you page, or in your thank you email
  • Bonus content unique to every blog post. You long to have your website visitors spend more time on your site and visit more pages. By offering related articles to the one your visitor is reading, you increase both while proving yourself to be the provider of answers your prospects are asking.
  • eBooks (downloadable, well-designed PDFs on the subject)
  • White papers (living documents on your website gated by a contact form)
  • Your content published on other websites. Create partnerships with organizations that will publish your content and link back to a landing page on your website.

2. Don’t put lead generation forms everywhere; put lead magnets everywhere

What content do you provide on your lead generation forms? Company news? Product updates? Seek to answer your prospects questions. Adding additional lead magnets on your form or thank you page serves your long term agenda.

Don’t be like the competition. It’s time to do something different.

Remember, your competition has lackluster email open rates and you’re not like the competition. Sure, your prospects are going to want to know your business news and product updates later — but that’s only once they’re interested in you.

The easiest way to get readers interested in you is with your lead magnets. Therefore, you want to put them in as many places as possible. This will only increase your chances of success. Here are some tips for doing so.

  •  Use CTA throughout your social media posts.
  •  Place a CTA/lead magnet at the 1/3 position and at the end of every blog post. You’ll generate a higher return if the lead magnet is created specifically for the post.
  •  Incorporate pop-up forms. They could appear from the side, in the middle, or even on full screen depending on the application.
  •  Ask your partners about placing CTA buttons throughout your posts on their sites.
  •  Create surveys and feedback loops and be sure to offer CTAs on your thank you pages.

CTA Location

3. Shorten lead generation forms

The more information you ask for up front, the less likely someone is to sign up. This is just as true for B2B as B2C. If you’re really interested in growing your list, just ask for the contact’s first name and email address. You can use progressive profiling to get more information later. Get them over the first hurdle and on to your mailing list. We recommend:

  • Newsletter subscription: 1-3 form fields
  • eBook: 3-5 form fields
  • White paper: 3-5 form fields
  • On-demand webinar: 3-5 form fields
  • Product overview slick: 5-7 form fields
  • If you’re not happy with your number of form submissions, try shortening these longer-length forms.

4. Incorporate a current and effective design

Did you know it takes 50 milleseconds (0.05 seconds) for users to form an opinion about your website? After that first second, 38% of users stop engaging if the content and layout are unattractive.

After that, when you create your CTA, follow these tips to get 202% higher click-rate.

Even merely unattractive design costs you sales. If you’ve been sending email newsletters for a while and have had no success, take a look at your forms and layouts to see if you need to re-imagine them.

Content and Formatting

Now that you understand the setup, now that you understand the commitment to lead-magnets, you need to create stellar content that prospects will care about, and then optimize it. This will minimize unsubscribes, effectively nurture different-staged prospects, and illicit word-of-mouth referrals and forwards.

Guess what two things you’re going to need?


Remember: no one wants your newsletter. Therefore, the only way to write a newsletter is to write it like you would write to yourself.

When building your content, focus on making it:

  1. Relevant
  1. Relatable
  1. Shareable

Not only are these some of the main aspects of what makes something go viral, but they are also the main aspects of that which your subscribers will find interesting and be likely to share with their friends and colleagues.

It’s not your duty to inform. It’s your duty to entertain

MorningBrew has built their email newsletter list to 875,000 subscribers following the strategy that business news can be relatable, interesting, and entertaining.

You don’t have to succumb to becoming the B2B BuzzFeed. Here are 13 B2B Newsletters that Really Shine. The point is this: of course you are going to inform your subscribers of topics that concern them. However, if you want that information to stick, or even get the email opened, you need to make it as interesting and engaging as possible.


Ultimately, content is king. However, the sooner you begin formatting your email newsletters correctly, the better.

The sooner you increase your open and click through rates, the more sales you’ll close.

Make your emails as plain-text, non-HTML as possible

Simple, plain-text emails have a 25% higher open rate and overall higher clickthrough rates. Become creative in your in-email formatting to get it to guide your readers through your content, but keep it as personal and simple as possible. Use HTML sparingly. Show off the features of your product with pictures and moving images, but otherwise, let your words do the talking. Make it as close to plain-text as possible.

Remember — it’s not one business communicating with another. When you do that, it comes out like a contract or legal agreement. We don’t expect that in email. Write like you’re talking to another human, and make it look like it, too.

Use Personalized CTA

Design the button or the link to contain the first name token, and more readers will sign up.

Be sure to A/B test your personalization. It is like salt. Just enough brings out the flavor of the food; too much ruins it.

Segment Your List for Distribution

Once you’ve developed a comprehensive list of prospects using lead generation tools, you’ll want to segment it based on each campaign or newsletter. This back-end work is just as important as your email content because it will allow you to send the right content to the right people.

Chances are your entire list of prospects is not in the same stage of the buyer’s journey.

As most email providers give you the ability to see who has and has not opened or clicked through your emails, you’ll be more effective when you send content to your subscribers according to their stage. Buyers in each stage have unique needs and are asking different questions about your solution and your company.

You can also segment according to activity. For example, those who aren’t opening your emails may need a different subject line or a different “from” address to spur action. Consider making these changes for groups based on their levels of interaction with your emails.

For more information on building better subject lines, read our article on word choice or’s article on subject lines.

Key Takeaway

Building an email newsletter list is no easy task. It’s not business as usual. View it as the foundation of your entire marketing and sales funnel and the forefront of your customer relations. Make your list as robust as possible and strive to improve it at a regular interval.


  1. Commit to making your email newsletter list great.
  2. Persist until you get it there.

The results will speak for themselves.

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