How To Build A List For Your Business

How big is your list?  This blog is part of an ongoing series of blogs featuring the TARGET Marketing Framework.  You can get our TARGET Marketing Playbook for FREE here.  Now let’s talk about how to build a list for your business!

What do I mean?  I simply mean, how big is your list of customers and prospects that could buy from you?  And do you own that information?  Do you have their phone numbers, mailing addresses, and emails?

Oh…and do you have permission to contact them when you want?

If you don’t have a list…you don’t have a business.

The A in TARGET means it’s time to Attract your perfect customers and prospects to your owned list.  This will not only allow you to provide them with valuable content but will also let you provide them with great offers when the time is right.

But what is “owned” media?

As business owners, marketers, entrepreneurs, and salespeople, we have gotten very comfortable with “rented” media.  Rented media is when someone else owns the audience, or the audience’s attention.  They decide who and what is exposed to it.  And they charge to give access to that attention.

The radio station owns the audience.  The TV station owns the audience.  The newspaper owns the audience.  We simply rent some time.  And to be fair, they should own the audience.  They have spent the time to create that relationship with the audience.  They have created valuable content for them.

It’s not your audience. You are paying to have access.

And for those of you saying, “I don’t use traditional media; I have my audience on social media.”  Bad news.  You don’t own that audience either.  Facebook owns it.  YouTube owns it.  TikTok owns it.  The reason I know that is, if that platform goes away, or changes its algorithm, or just gets mad at you, it can all go away…just like that.  You don’t own those contacts, the platform does.

A couple of years ago, Facebook and Instagram just went down for about 6 hours.  No explanation.  Just…down.  And many of my entrepreneur friends lost their minds.  Their entire business went down with it.  They had no way to contact their clients.

It was a great reminder.  While I am a big fan of social media (and we will talk about that in just a minute), we need to continue to work to grow our own audience, so that when (and I did not say “if”) one of these platforms goes away, we still have access to the audience we have created.

You need to create “owned” media. 

So how do you do it?  Here are 3 ways to grow your list.

Start with the low-hanging fruit.

First, if you have an existing business, reach out to those clients you are already working with.  Explain to them that you are starting a newsletter (to provide them with value, content, etc.).  In it, you will send them special deals for being a part of this “VIP” group.  In addition, I like to let them know how often I will be sending the email (and promise not to spam them).  We have all been on the list that sends 12 emails a day.  That’s no fun…and it diminishes your trust with the audience.  You want to provide real value for your perfect customers and prospects!

Now that you have established your list, it’s time to actively grow it.

Second, use your social channels to ask.  If you have created a following on social media, this is a great place to invite people to follow you for “VIP” access.  Explain the same thing that you did to your customer list.  What are you going to send them?  How often will you send it?  Why would they want to sign up?  While not everyone will sign up from this invitation, some probably will jump on board!

Third, it’s time to create a lead magnet.  A lead magnet is some piece of content that will provide that prospect or customer with something that has a lot of value to them.  This is why it’s so important to spend time on the (T) section identifying that perfect customer.  By knowing them, you can create something that really addresses their needs.

This lead magnet might be a PDF, a video, an audio, or a video series.  But it’s something that helps your perfect customer go to where they want to go.  And let’s face it, it needs to have real value.  If someone is going to give you their email, they want to make sure it’s worth it.  So, I am a big believer in trying to over-deliver here.

This is a perfect place to start your relationship on the right foot.

Now that you have the lead magnet created, don’t be shy about sharing it!  This needs to be prominently placed on your website, social media, and maybe even on your business card.  Make sure you are giving every prospect and customer the opportunity to give you their contact information!

Remember…if you are proud of the content you are sharing on this email…then they need to be a part of it!

Bonus Idea for Starting the List

Another idea for kick-starting the list is by creating a contest.  In this example, you might give away something really cool (that your perfect customer would love) in order to gather names for the list.  This can be a great way to get your list started.

My wife and I renovated an old building in Coshocton, Ohio.  She did a ton of work on the building, and it is now a successful Airbnb.  We have people from all over the country coming to our community to visit…and they stay with us.  It’s really cool.  (You can learn more at

The problem, as I see it, is that we don’t “own” the audience.  Airbnb owns it.  And to be clear, we think they do a great job.  But what happens if Airbnb goes away?  Our business goes with it.

So, we decided we wanted to be more intentional in creating an avenue that we could communicate with our intended “Targets.”  The problem was, we had none of their contact information.

So, we started with a contest.

We posted a contest giving away a two-night stay in our community.  In addition, we offered a $50 gift certificate at two local restaurants.  We created a landing page to capture the information and posted to social media.  In addition, we also asked the local Convention & Visitor’s Bureau to include the contest in their email (an audience of people who visit our area that they had created).

The result was great!  We got several hundred people who signed up for the contest and became the beginning of our own “owned” media.  We have since created a lead magnet for the area and continue to build the list.

Want to dig deeper into this?  You should check out our TARGET Marketing Playbook here for free.  We break down what makes up a great marketing plan and how you can implement it.  Get your copy here for free.

Written by: Kirby Hasseman

Kirby Hasseman is the CEO of Hasseman Marketing & Communications. Kirby hosts a weekly Web show called Delivering Marketing Joy where he interviews business leaders from around the country. Kirby has published four books. His most recent is “Fan of Happy.” His book, called "Delivering Marketing Joy" is about doing “promo right” and is perfect for people in the industry and customers. He also wrote “Think Big For Small Business” and “Give Your Way to Success. All are available on Amazon.