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What are some of the most creative, ethical, and dare I say fun ways to build local e-mails lists that you have heard of or done yourself? For example--and although not e-mail lists-- Quora, using mechanical turk to create twitter accounts is pretty cool.

So what interesting ways can you think of or done to build a base of contacts?

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We've used contests in the past. Depending on what industry you're in, you could have a contest for all sorts of things; free merchandise, upgrade to their service level, etc.

Since I work on a Tourism web site, we get properties in our are to participate by offering free lodging, or lift tickets to their mountain, or a guided fishing tour. In return, we collect entrant's details for our mailing list.

Granted, we also provide an opt-out box for decency's sake, but you'd be surprised how many don't. It's an excellent way to build up your list, and draws traffic as a bonus. Nothing brings 'em in like freebies!

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Everyone like sto think they are getting something for nothing so this is a great way of building a list. Competitions or free offers are the way to go, or sign up for some really good content downloadable in a pdf? As jacob says, always make sure you promote the no-spam code of conduct and offer an opt-out. – Digital Essence Mar 5 '11 at 19:36

Contests and free stuff is the obvious answer. I'm developing an efficient electric heating website and one of our bonuses is for customers to have a trip to the manufacturer's factory (expenses paid) in Spain for a few days...

Aside from that, if you have solid content, offering a "bit more" via email will probably entice some users, or holding back on a few golden bits of information that can be received via email.

@Jacob... I'm signed up to endless mailing lists I really don't care about and I just send them straight to my junk/trash can, rather than clicking unsubscribe. Silly habit, just less effort (short term). :D

Also, afaik, a lot of email clients will 'junk' your mail if they detect newsletter content without an opt-out link, so make sure you include one.

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