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How To Build An Email List From Scratch

You’ve finished your greatest project ever. You’ve had beautiful photos taken. You spent the time to write thought-provoking descriptions of the project. It’s a wonderful building and you can’t wait to share it with everybody. You put it on your website, it’s on the homepage. Looking great.

It’s out there in the world. Exciting! It’s on LinkedIn. It’s on Twitter. It’s on Facebook. It’s on Instagram. And nothing happens.

You’re looking at your Google analytics and a trickle of people are visiting the project. One here, one there. Ten if you’re lucky. Over the course of the month you might only see 30 or 40 people visit that project page. None of them contact you. None of them email you. None of them call you.

You curse the internet forever, it’s “useless for getting clients!”.

It’s true, internet marketing can take a really long time before it does anything. Unless you’re paying for ads, it could take two years to see ROI.

You can make it happen quicker.

In this article I’m going to show you how to convert the equity from years of relationship building into a beast of an email list.

You’ll have it at the ready whenever your business needs big things to happen. This method will take you less than 60 minutes to get up and running and working for your firm.

Why does it take so long to grow an email list, anyway?

Designers are not high volume content creators.

We do a few projects a year. They’re very important to us. We want people to know about them.

They’re the newest marketing asset that we have, but nobody sees them.

I know how it feels. I’m always creating content on my website. New blog posts, new projects, new services. I push them out to social media and nothing happens. It makes me feel like my business sucks and my effort was for nothing.

How can email marketing fix this?

Most architects dabble in email marketing. You might have a newsletter with a few hundred people that you send a friendly update to from time to time.

If you’re in that category, you’ve never seen the value of a hard-hitting email list.

You’ve never seen your website bursting with visitors. Coming alive with a flood of attention.

We build out email marketing for architects we coach for two reasons. You control it and it’s free.

What’s the catch?

It’s very challenging to build an email list as an architect. How long has your website been passively collecting emails for? Four or five years? What has that added up to, 100–200 contacts?

What percentage of visitors enter their email in that “join our newsletter field”? 0.001%?

It’s unsurprising that few people convert this way anymore. In general, there isn’t a clear way to fix that.

You’re never going to have more than 5% email signup.

Marketing tricks lose their power over time as everyone gets used to seeing certain website features. People stop filling those fields out.

Architects websites have very low traffic. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t need a lot of traffic. We don’t need tens of thousands of people visiting our website every month. We aren’t in that kind of business.

We really only need to get a handful of inquiries that are well targeted to really build our business.

That said, low traffic and low conversion makes building an email list the passive way impossible.

We’ve come up with a unique solution.

We’ve tried it at Office D.SHARP, it works. We’re going to try it for our clients next (we always eat our own dogfood). You can try it today as well.

You’ll be able to add 500+ well-targeted subscribers to your mailing list with this method.

Your mailing list already exists. It’s in your email inbox.

If you’ve been working as an architect for the last few years or longer, you have tens of thousands of email conversations in your inbox.

These are people that you’ve spoken to. The clients, the builders, the people who reached out but the timing wasn’t right. People that know you. They trust you, they’ve worked with you. These are the people that will help to drive word of mouth to your website.

Even if they aren’t prospective clients, we can’t discount social media amplification. A bunch of them will share your post on Facebook and boost your reach,

We need amplification to grow. We can’t reach the people we need to reach off our own back unless we have paid media budgets.

1. Collect email addresses

We are going to use a simple plugin that scans your inbox, extracts email addresses and adds them to a Google Sheet. It’s called Email Address Extractor.

After installing, it will up a Google sheet and ask for permission to access, read and edit your Gmail inbox. Give it permission, then put it to work.

It will scan through every single conversation in your Gmail inbox, all the way back to the beginning when you first created your email address.

It will pull out the to’s and the from’s and any other place you would like it to look. We suggest the 'sent' folder.

On the free version of this plugin, there is a limit to how many emails you can collect. It’s about $30.00 to upgrade to the full version, which will let you collect unlimited email addresses.

Once you click start it will begin to scrape your inbox. It can take some time.

Once it’s finished you’ll have a Google sheet with a very long list of email addresses.

The adjacent cell will contain the name of the contact, helping you to identify the person.

2. Verify the emails

You might have collected thousands of emails. That’s great, but a lot of these email addresses won’t be active. People change jobs all the time, leaving a lot of zombie emails in your inbox.

It’s very important that we verify these email addresses. We use a tool called

This app sends a bit of data to each of these email servers and will tell you which addresses failed. Once that’s done, you can download the list of working emails.

This is an important step. If you use email software such as Drip or MailChimp to manage your email list, they don’t like bounces. They might even block your account if they think that you have a low-quality email list full of dead emails.

3. Give the list an eyeball.

I recommend that you take an hour before you upload your emails to actually have a look through them by hand.

Go through and delete any that are irrelevant. Use spreadsheet filters to remove any containing words like hello, info, contact or support.

When you’re happy with the list, delete the names column.

I don’t recommend that you do personalised email salutations. What I mean by personalised email is, “Hello Dave” or “Hello Tom” at the beginning of the email.

You could spend hours going through and modifying the first names of every single person on the list. But, I don’t like personalisation very much. Don’t bother.

It’s unauthentic and it tends to produce glitches and errors, which make you look like a robot. It’s much better to say “Hey there” or get straight into the content of the email without salutation.

4. Get permission.

Import your list into Convertkit, MailChimp or whatever software you use to manage your list.

Boom, you’ve just gained 500+ email subscribers. That was pretty easy, but is this ethical?

“It’s better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission.”

You may feel weird or rude adding contacts to your email list. They didn’t ask to join, you’ve gone ahead and done it.

Here’s how to do the right thing.

We are going to send an intro email making our intentions clear. We are also going to make it easy to unsubscribe.

In fact, we’re going to encourage it.

Here’s an example of the intro email we sent to over a thousand people that we added to our mailing list last week.

Your intro email has to do the following things:

- State the purpose of what we’re going to be emailing them about in the future.

- How we found them and why we added them to our list

- Encourage them to opt-out if they don’t want to receive further emails.

- Build intrigue about future content.

- Link to a piece of content you’d like them to read right away. The taste test.

That’s the formula for a great intro email. Even if they don’t opt-out here, they’ll always be welcome to do so in subsequent emails.

What you’ll find is that very few people actually opt-out of your emails. In fact, you’re more likely to get a bunch of replies saying things like, “sounds great, look forward to hearing more.”

That’s what I got. Over 20 emails like that. Nothing negative.

You can see how many people opened the email here.

Roughly 600 opened the first email, and another 25% opened the automated email that Drip sent after 3 days.

I attribute the high open rate to the subject line. “Can I send you growth ideas?”. I think this honesty makes a difference. If they’re into it, they’re into it.

I’m promising to provide value over the long-term. What will the optics for your email list be? “Can we rub our success in your face every month?”. That won’t work.

Before embarking on email marketing, you should strategise around value.

I got a bunch of website traffic from this email blast. This was despite the positioning of the link to my blog, hiding at the very bottom of the email.

Hundreds of people read my latest blog post and great things happened. Two firms emailed me to schedule meetings. A few shared on Twitter and Linkedin, bringing new visitors. Two current clients got in touch asking me to look at their website and see if there was any room for improvement.

That’s a win, and exactly why we like email marketing. It makes things happen and stirs people into action.

47 people unsubscribed from our email list, which left us with 1,020 new email subscribers. We’ll prune the list from time to time and delete anyone who isn’t opening our emails.

We’ll also scrape our inbox every month and repeat the process. We’ll use the first intro email we sent as a canned template.


Your inbox is full of people who would love to hear from you.

They want to hear about your new projects or hear your thoughts on issues that matter to them.

Email marketing is a burst marketing channel. You send an email with a link to something on your website. You’ll see a predictable burst of traffic for 24–48 hours. It’s perfect for driving attention to important content.

Why do you need to do that? Because it makes adding content worthwhile.

I love this paragraph Nic Granleese wrote for Websites for Architects.

“Architects websites tend to be one hit wonders. They’re beautiful to look at the first time, but you never go back. They are static calling cards and lack any interaction or community following. Successful websites, however, tend to provide value to their audience on a regular basis.”

Nic’s right. Adding projects and sharing ideas brings people back. When people return several times, they begin to trust you.

You shouldn’t be investing time in your website unless people are turning up and looking at it. But, once you build a community of return visitors, you’ll feel encouraged to do it more often.