The key element of email marketing is creating a sizeable, quality email list. However, obtaining people emails is not an easy task! It is often time-consuming and clashes with our understandable suspicion of online data gathering and our privacy concerns.

Still, people are much more willing than you would expect, to give out this piece of personal info. And of course they are infinitely more likely to give out their email than to whip out their credit card and buy something from you, even the most inexpensive item.

The reason is obvious – making an online purchase is usually a multi-step process which finally involves submitting a valued piece of information, be that our credit card number, our PayPal email or something similar.

I personally know people who have fallen victims of 'phishing' scams and have had their PayPal account hacked, so you really can't blame anyone for being so reticent to share sensitive info (if you're wondering, PayPal reversed the fraudulent charges made to my friends' accounts, they're great that way).

Sharing one's email, on the other hand, is a single or two-step process (with double opt-in campaigns) and does not have even remotely the same financially compromising potential.

However, I would much rather have a person's contact info, than a one-time purchase from them; the former holds the promise of an ongoing buyer-seller relationship, if the seller (you and I) conduct our business in a decent and ethical manner, that is.

So an email list is valuable and like anything valuable, it is hard to obtain. To add to the difficulty and initial frustrations of list-building, while you are trying to increase that list, you are also losing money by paying a monthly fee to your email marketing service.

For that reason, you really want to start getting as many emails as possible, as soon as possible, so that hopefully you can regain that money and make a profit on top.

I stress that this applies mostly to your initial efforts in email marketing, because once your list starts to grow substantially, the effects of your efforts will be compounded, although not necessarily proportionately.

Because there's one significant caveat to the value of email marketing; as your list grows and becomes more 'profitable', a small proportion (hopefully) of the buyers on it will become unresponsive and stop contributing to its effectiveness.

Some of them will unsubscribe from your list because maybe they are tired of seeing your email messages in their inbox or even because they never meant to follow you in the first place and just wanted your free offer – and that's fine, it's part of the process . Finally, some subscribers will not even bother to unsubscribe but rather will mark your email as spam, potentially causing a problem with your marketing service provider, although that is a rare occurrence.

To make an analogy, think of your list as a decaying radioactive material – it inevitably loses some potency over time and you need to keep replenishing it. However, there are multiple ways to keep your list 'clean' and vibrant and constantly growing.