To sharpen your email marketing strategy, you’ve decided to start an email list — a roster of clients and prospects who will receive your emails or your e-newsletter on a regular basis. But before you start adding people to your virtual mailing lists, you should first get their permission to do so, says Javed Khan, president of EMpression, a marketing services firm in Toronto.

“Getting [clients or prospects] to say ‘yes’ to sending them information,” Khan says, “is the litmus test for building compliant and sustainable lists.”

How you choose to get that permission is up to you. You might, for example, decide to broach the topic during client meetings. Alternatively, you might choose to include a form on your website that asks permission to add clients to your mailing list.

Khan offers some more tips to help you build strong email lists:

> Think beyond assets
When segmenting their clients onto respective email lists, Khan says, many financial advisors mistakenly rely on asset levels as their primary variable. But for mailing lists, he says, “advisors need to do more than come up with A, B or C clients.”

Don’t be afraid to be creative. If, for example, you notice that you have many clients who love to play golf or have tennis club memberships, you might create a segmented list that deals with the planning aspects of those hobbies.

Honing your lists is more than just good marketing, Khan says. It also shows that you are mindful of your clients’ interests and want to deepen your relationships with them.

> Do a survey
If you aren’t sure which topics your clients want to hear about, ask them.

Develop a checklist of 10 or 15 possible mailing-list categories. The topics could be as diverse as foreign travel, education planning and disability tax credits.

When you ask clients’ permission to communicate with them, get them to also check off the categories that would interest them.

Upload a copy of your survey form to your website so your clients can complete it at any time.

> Include online buttons
Another strategy to help you build email lists is to include “sign up” buttons on your website, email correspondence and social media feeds.

These buttons redirect visitors to a subscription form on which they can sign up to join your mailing list.

Khan recommends spending a little extra time to create a customized form that adds your own branding, although a bare-bones approach is also acceptable.

> Mind your manners
Once a prospect has provided you with his or her email address, etiquette suggests you should offer a digital “thank you.”

An easy way to do this is to activate your email platform’s auto-responders. This feature will automatically send a thank-you note to your newest follower. You might also choose to include a link to another document for your new subscriber to read on your website.

This is a simple but effective way to help you stand out from your competition, Khan says, and leave a positive impression.