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Growing Your List (Part 1)

by Randall Craig on February 12, 2016

Filed in: Blog, CRM, Make It Happen Tipsheet

Tagged as: , , , ,

Almost every organization has a list – or several.  The list is used for service and event updates, for marketing, sales, and then billing.  It is used to recruit, it is used for retention.  And because it is so central, it is also the subject of a critical marketing question:  “how can we grow our list?”

Unfortunately, this is the wrong question.  If the list itself is the evidence of your relationship to a particular person or organization, the question really should be “how do we grow our relationships?”  Answers to this wider question revolve around connecting with relevant content and services that precisely address their challenges, service levels that exceed their expectations, and technology that can help facilitate the relationship, particularly self-serve web access, marketing automation, and CRM.

While the above items help with the depth of relationships, the question still lingers: how might we widen the number of people that are touched? Note that this is still different from the how can we grow our list question.  The reason for this nuance is simple: the “list” is fast becoming a dated concept. Consider an email’s enemies:

  • Spam filters
  • User’s cynical attitude against email marketing
  • The growing share of “walled garden” in-system email alternatives (Facebook messenger, LinkedIn messages, Twitter direct messages, etc)
  • The growth of non-email-based communications channels, including blogs, discussion forums, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  • Younger users’ general disdain for email (vs email alternatives such as Snapchat, WhatsApp, etc)
  • CASL, CAN-SPAM, and other anti-spam laws

We are now recommending that growing your “list” is not just a question of the number of email addresses that are collected, but rather the collection of names, along with their preferred communications channels, along with their areas of specific interest, along with their preferred communications frequency.

This week’s action plan:  Before you embark on a list-growing exercise, inventory all of the channels that you use, and benchmark your performance relative to others.  How are you doing on Twitter comparatively?  On Facebook? On YouTube?  On your blog?  And so on. Based on this, consider whether there is competitive merit growing these channels as well – or instead.

Part two of this series shares 11 specific ways to increase the number of names on your list.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

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Randall has been advising on Digital Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of eight books, including Digital Transformation for Associations, the Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business, and Social Media for Business. He speaks and advises on Digital Transformation, Digital Trust, and Social Media. More at

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