It honestly floors me when I find a brick and mortar business that doesn’t have an email list. I live in a city that has an incredibly large entrepreneurial/small business community, but every day I see fellow creatives lose out because they don’t think setting up an email list is a priority.

Reasons to build an email list are practically endless, but what it really boils down to is this – do you really want to hold yourself back from making more money? And before you roll your eyes and give me the ol’ “I want to, but I don’t have time!” Let me stop you.

Email List Building for Brick and Mortar Businesses

Setting up any email list requires two things:

1. You read this blog post.

2. You give yourself an hour to get it done.

And guess what? That hour you spend will absolutely bring you a return on investment (ROI) like you’ve never seen before.

So if you’re ready to stop feeling like you never have enough time and actually take action on building up a customer base that boosts your profits BIG time, let’s get started.

Why Every Brick and Mortar Should Have an Email List

Let’s face it, we live in an Internet world. Even when you run a physical business, online marketing is essential to seeing it grow. But you can’t expect success by limiting yourself to only posting on Facebook. For one thing, it’s far too easy for Facebook to decide to slap you on the wrist, even when you did nothing wrong.

Take Carla, for example:

When Carla came to me, she had been making a decent 4-figure income each month selling her sundries and soaps on Facebook. But what Carla didn’t know was that it is actually against Facebook Terms of Service to use your personal profile for business. So every time Carla posted on her Facebook business page, she would then share it to her personal profile.

Can you guess what happened next?

If you guessed that Facebook then shut down her business page and suddenly she went from closing in on a monthly five figure income to $0, you guessed right.  Unfortunately, this blog post didn’t exist before that happened, so now Carla was basically out of a job. Naturally, one of the first things we did when working together was build out an email list. Luckily she was not only able to rebound from the Facebook disaster, but her income is now solidly in the five figure range each month, regardless of whether or not she is posting elsewhere. 

You Control Your List

This leads me into my bigger point in that you own and control your email list. It is not something that can ever be taken from you. Building up a customer base on social media is a lot like renovating a kitchen in a home you only rent. Sure, it might be nice in the short term, but you could lose it all at a moment’s notice.

Emails Equal Eyeballs

You’re also held back in how many people are actually seeing that which you are putting out there when you are marketing on social media. Facebook flat out wants you to pay them. That’s an absolute given. You don’t pay, you don’t play. Sure, maybe you’re at a point where your customer base is engaged enough with your business page to keep things seemingly great, but that could literally change overnight. We’ve seen it happen!

Conversely, the only thing holding you back with email marketing is making sure you use a subject line catchy enough to get your customer’s attention. There’s no actual algorithm limiting how many people you can connect with. 

You also don’t have to worry about ever losing out on your customer base like I described in the example above. Should you decide you want to move to a different email provider, you can do so with just the click of a few buttons. You and you alone own the information given to you via your email list. 

Social Media VS Email

Don’t get me wrong, I love social media for selling. I do it on the daily! Even when I’m sharing on platforms that I don’t technically use for business, like my TikTok, I’m still making connections and bringing in clients.

But when it comes to a preference of communication for your clients or customers, chances are good that the majority prefer communication via email. In fact, a study done by CampaignMonitor shows that the preference of communication from retail brands sits at a high 66%, with direct mail coming in next at 26%. Only 23% of respondents preferred social media as their way of communication with businesses.

Beyond that, if your customers are generally mid-thirties or older, email is absolutely the way that they are going to look to connect with you. Generally, those in the “older” generations use social media as a way to connect to family and friends, not to buy. This is especially true for those 50 years of age or older, especially as nearly 50% of them aren’t even on social media.

Connecting with Customers

All that said, you are absolutely going to have a better connection with your customers via email. When you look at click-through rates on social media networks,  like Twitter, you can expect a click through rate of around .04%. That means for every 100 people seeing your tweet, you might get one person who clicks through.

Pretty abysmal, right?

But the average email has a click-through rate of around 3% and often higher:

Screenshot of email campaign showing click through rate of 8.11%

Not to mention, you know that the people on your email list are already interested in what it is you have to sell them and therefore far more likely to want to hear from you. 

Long-Term Success with Email Marketing

With email list marketing, you’re also setting yourself up for long-term success. Let’s say that you own a bakery and every year for Valentine’s Day, you offer a special sweethearts sweet treats box. If this is something you know you’ll be doing every year and need to take pre-orders, why not have the system automated to market to your client base in a way that is timely and efficient?

You can not only market to your list as a whole and let them know when pre-orders are open, but you can re-target those who purchased in the past. Perhaps you want to remind them that they bought from you last year or send them a special discount code as a thank you for being a return customer. Again, a couple simple clicks and you can automate that process with email marketing.

Automation is a big reason why brick and mortar businesses see such an incredibly high ROI when it comes to email marketing. In fact, when done correctly, studies show that you have the opportunity of a 4400% return on investment. As I said, when we first got started, the time you’re putting into reading this blog post, taking a few notes here and there, and then implementing, will 100% leave you far more successful tomorrow than you are today.

Insights and Your Audience

Building an email list will also provide insight into your business that you might not otherwise have. With email marketing, you’ll not only have some great information on the overall demographics of your customer base, but you’ll be able to see what your customers are actually responding to. If a sale falls flat, it may have been the offer itself was something your customers didn’t respond to. Or it could be that the subject line you used caused a significantly lower than normal open rate, so it wasn’t your offer that they didn’t want, it was that no one saw it. Beyond that, you can also use your emails to provide insight TO your customers.

Share Behind the Scenes

We live in a world where (fortunately) people are becoming more and more cognizant of a company’s ethics and values. I think of Penzeys Spices in this case. If you are familiar with them, you know that they stand very firmly with the Black Lives Matter movement, LGBTQA+ rights, and are overall very progressive. Here’s a snapshot of an email they sent in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. –

email screenshot from penzeys outlining their ethics

This allow for customers who are like-minded to want to support a business like this because they know their money is going toward a good cause that then supports other quality causes that they care about.

There’s also the opportunity to share upcoming products, services, launches, etc. that customers will genuinely appreciate learning about. This is especially true when you present it in a way that’s a sort of ” secret behind the scenes” light. 

People love authenticity. They love the idea of connecting with others they might not otherwise know in real life. It’s why reality TV continues to be so successful –  we want to see what’s going on in the lives of those we care about. We’re nosy creatures! And this can absolutely extend to your business practices in a way that stays professional, but on a personal level.

Getting Started With Your Email Marketing

Let me be very clear here in that you don’t need an email marketing agency or a digital marketing strategist like me to get started. Many business owners just don’t realize just how easy it can be to get started with email marketing.

Of course, the further down the road you get, you may very well want to outsource. Segmenting lists, using them for retargeting ads on Facebook, etc. can get complicated. But when you are first getting started, you can not only absolutely do it yourself, but you can do it for free.

Offer Incentives

The very first thing you need to do when getting started with email marketing for your brick and mortar business is to offer some sort of incentive. These days, people are more and more cautious of just giving their email list to adjust anyone. This is why you don’t want to have something on your website that just says “Subscribe!” You need to give them a reason to do so.

So this could be something like:

  • 10% off their first purchase
  • Special offerings that only email list subscribers get
  • Early bird opportunities for limited sales
  • Free shipping
  • Giveaway and contest opportunities
  • Free gift with purchase

Keep it simple

While offering incentives to subscribe is the best way to quickly grow your email list, there are also other opportunities in which you can do so.

In-Store Sales

Let’s say you are offering a discount opportunity to your email list subscribers. There’s no reason you can’t then also offer that same discount opportunity at the point of in-store sale. It really is as simple as getting your employees to ask every customer “can I get your email list so we can send you a coupon for 10% off your next purchase?”

Business Cards

You could also collect business cards. I see this a lot in many of the locally owned restaurants we have around town.  People can drop their business card into a glass jar in exchange for possibly winning a lunch for four. It’s super simple on the customers end  and once a week you can quickly and easily plug those email addresses into your email service provider.

Add email note to receipts

You can also be creative in receipts, bags, or packaging. We see this with almost every retail chain, often in the form of asking customers to take a survey. Others simply have a note that encourages them to join their mailing list:

receipt asking to join email mailing list

You can even take it one step further in encouraging them to check out your website, provided you keep it simple. Again, make sure you are incentivizing them, and keep eyes on your business with minimal effort. 

Deciding on an email service provider (ESP)

Now that you know why you need an email list and ideas on how to get started with the one. Obviously it’s time to decide on an email service provider, otherwise known as an ESP.


Personally, I use and love ConvertKit. It allows so much freedom and flexibility in targeting exactly who you mean to target when you mean to target them.  ConvertKit is really great in streamlining your email list and being able to segment out customer/client groups. The ability to create tags and segments based on interests, customer actions, and past purchases is so important in making sure you send customers emails they actually care about. I also really appreciate how user-friendly ConvertKit is. It’s very focused on each individual customer rather than the list as a whole.

ConvertKit bannerMailerlite

Mailerlite is another great ESP option. If this blog post is the first time where you have really felt like “Yes! Today is the day that I start with my email marketing!” But you’re not yet ready to invest monetarily in an ESP, then Mailerlite is also a great option. It’s fairly straightforward to use and is really great for those just starting out. As I mentioned above, there’s no saying that you can’t get started with one ESP and move to another when the time is right.

Welcoming Your Subscribers

Once you’ve decided on your ESP, you want to build out an email welcome series. Whatever ESP you decide on, the one thing you need to pay attention to is that they offer automation. We are all about that high ROI! 

Naturally, that first email in your automated welcome series is going to be you delivering that incentive. This is the email in which you send out the customer’s “gift”. Use a strong subject line and layout the expectations of what they are going to get by staying on your list.

This first email can be very short and to the point, but is basically welcoming them to this better connection with your business. From there, the length of your welcome series totally depends on you. Personally. I believe a welcome sequence should have a minimum of 3 to 5 emails, but it’s better to have something set up with only one email, then to continue going about your business with nothing.

So if that’s where you have to start, great! Get started.

Setting Up Automation

Once you are in a space where you can start building out more of your automated welcome emails, take a moment to list out that which you might want to be using your email list for.

If you run a bakery and want to give email subscribers first dibs on limited items that go on sale every Monday, automate an email that goes out every Sunday night to remind customers how and where to purchase.

Perhaps you want to use your email list to get a better feel for your customer base. You might then have an email with a CTA call to action that encourages them to participate in a poll or email you back.

For example, let’s say you run a candle shop and need to decide which new scent you want to bring in for the summer season. What better opportunity to connect with your customers than to send them an email and let them help you decide? Go beyond that, and you can then also tag those who vote for the winning scent With just a few clicks, you can send those specific people a personal email letting them know their scent one and is available now for purchase.

Legal Requirements for Email Marketing

I’m sure by now you’re absolutely in love with the idea of email marketing. I’d be wont though to negate the law, as there are some pretty important things to note. First is of course to make sure you have permission. That’s a given, right?

And if you’re based in the US, you need to follow CAN-SPAM, which requires:

  • No using deceptive email addresses, names, domain names, or subject lines to mislead the recipient. Basically be truthful and honest, don’t use click-bait subject lines to get people to open your emails.
  • If the message contains adult content – like the kind that an adult bookstore might sell – then make sure you specify that clearly in the subject line
  • Include a physical street addresses within every email – but that’s a given, right? You are a brick and mortar after all!
  • Provide recipients a clear and straightforward way to unsubscribe from all marketing emails. Fulfill this request within 10 days, though most ESPs do it automatically for you.

This might seem a little overwhelming, but I promise you it’s not. Every ESP I’ve ever used makes it a literal no-brainer to ensure all of the above and then some is followed.

Double Opt-In

One way to ensure you stay compliant with the legalities mentioned above and avoid spam sign-ups is to require a double opt-in. This simply requires the subscribers to take a second step to confirm their consent to receive marketing emails from you. Typically this is in the form of an email sent their way with a link to click. Once that step is complete, they’re added to your list. This requires minimal effort on the part of the customer, but easily prevents spam reports and privacy complaints about your business.

Get started today

Email list building for your brick and mortar business really is the fastest way to grow your revenue. Whether you are looking to expand more locations or go from a one-woman show to CEO, email list building will get you there.

It’s far more effective than social media, and it’s a customer base that you yourself own into perpetuity. No other marketing channel can match the effectiveness that is email marketing.

Why not get the edge on your competition and start your email list today? The sooner you get started, the more successful you’ll be. And there’s little I want more in life than to see you successful. You’ve got this.