No matter how important social media use has become in the marketing mix, email is still the most cost effective and responsive form of direct marketing – particularly if you build and manage your list with care.
For some, email list building is simply a numbers game. Get as many people as possible to subscribe and market to them all like numbers. The problems with this approach are many.
First off, people that take this approach and brag about their list of 100,000 records are lucky to get 5% of that number to even open their emails, let alone act. While people that intentionally build and maintain their lists with care may have much smaller lists, but they can achieve 50% open and act rates.
Having bigger numbers, with no connection, actually makes it harder for your chosen email service provider (ESP) to get any of your email delivered because mail services such as Gmail and Yahoo look down upon mail that never gets opened by the recipient.
Below are five practices that will make your email lists one of your most valuable and responsive assets.
Funnel for personalization
People show up at your website and content landing pages for different reasons. When you offer one kind of lead capture you may lose people and you certainly must treat all who subscribe as equals – even though you may have many different target segments.
By employing a routine that allows people to pick the kind of information they are looking for you personalize the information and make it more relevant. In addition, you learn a little about the subscriber based on their choices.
You can use tools that many email service providers offer or purchase a tool like Survey Funnel that plugs into WordPress and walks prospective subscribers down the path to choose a certain type of action.
Make the first 30 count
The first 30 days of subscription is your test period. This is where you wow people or turn them off. Make sure you create a specific campaign during this period that allows you to balance great information sharing with education.
Go easy on the offers during this period. In fact, you may want to use your ESPs tools to suppress anyone in the 30-day window from receiving any solo mailings or additional offers.
Refine your frequency
How often you mail is a tricky one. I believe you earn the right to mail more frequently by proving you are a great source of valuable information or entertainment.
You definitely want to establish a routine of expectation – say a weekly newsletter or roundup, but you want to be careful not to abuse your list with every good offer you can pound away at.
Watch your unsubscribes religiously as any uptick is probably a sign you are over mailing.
One of the questions you might pose early on to subscribers is to ask how often they want to hear from you. This is also a tricky one because they don’t really know how great your info is and they will generally lean towards less email.
I’ve seen some people effectively test an unsubscribe option that allows people to sign up to get your once a month digest kind of info if they feel you’re mailing too much.
By using proper segmentation you should be able to target certain offers to certain individuals. You may also have even more segmentation based on actions such as purchases.
When doing follow up emails lean towards mailing fewer and fewer people based on a series of criteria. For example, if you mail a special offer to your list, mail the follow-up reminder only to those that opened the first email and your response will soar without pestering those that saw the subject line of your first email and didn’t bother to read it.
Simple decisions like this will allow you to talk to your most responsive subscribers without wearing your entire list down.
Perform routine hygiene
No matter how great your information is, your list needs routine work. If a subscriber has been on your list for more than a year, chances are you need to look into whether or not their address should remain on your list.
Don’t get me wrong, I have people on my list that are loyal, active and responsive and have been on my list for eight years, but I also find people that subscribe and never open an email from me. You want those people off your list.
Marketers get caught up in numbers, but unresponsive subscribers will cost you in the long run.
At least twice a year you should perform list hygiene and clean things up. You can use a selection like “anyone that is not a buyer and has not opened an email in the last 6 months” as a select for who to opt-out of your list.
The first time I did this I was a bit nervous. I had been building my list for years and never done any cleaning up. My response rates were dropping and spam complaints were rising.
I ran a select that effectively cut my list in half. While it was hard to push the button on that one I found that after I did my open rate as a percentage soared of course, but more importantly, the number of opens and clickthroughs to content actually went up. More of my email was getting delivered and spam complaints disappeared. (Note: I’ve never mailed anyone that didn’t subscribe but some ISPs make it easier for people to complain than unsubscribe.)
So, there you have it. Practice good list building and care and watch your email list engagement soar.