Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published in April, 2016 and has been updated with fresh content.
When it comes to a successful email list strategy, marketers are increasingly recognizing that while quantity is good, quality is even better. More than two-thirds of marketing professionals said that growing and maintaining email lists are critical to the success of their strategy, deeming them top challenges for their marketing programs. But a high-quality list isn’t something that happens overnight.
With that said, avoid the temptation of simply purchasing an email list. Take matters into your own hands and build your list organically, a much more profitable and effective move for the Big Picture of your overall marketing strategy.
Here, we’ve laid out tried-and-true tips for growing a quality email list.
1) The Importance of Hygiene
If your database is littered with invalid email addresses, it can thwart deliverability with bounces and spam hits. Integrating validation services with your data can detect malformed or invalid email addresses, helping you weed out the good from the bad.
These services scrub your list by identifying typos (one of the most common issues), outdated domains, duplicates, and spam traps, thus cutting the dead weight from your list and markedly improving your open rates.
2) Vet Your Giveaways
The data science team at MailChimp performed their own evaluation of studying list performance from more than 1,000 users who have a contest list in addition to an active non-contest list. They found that contest subscribers are about 25% as likely to buy something as non-contest subscribers. But when they do buy, they spend almost as much as the non-contest folks.
By nature, we all get starry-eyed at the possibility of winning something. And let’s face it, people usually care more about their chances of nabbing the newest tech gadget than being subscribed to your email list. But email lists born out of contest giveaways are usually some of the lowest on the totem pole - they can be misaligned with your brand because they were chasing after that golden carrot you dangled in front of them.
That’s not to say, however, that you should never provide some sort of incentive in exchange for an email address. Just make sure that when you’re making your sign-up/giveaway list, you’re checking it twice before transferring it to your subscriber database. Nobody wants to be on the IP naughty list, after all.
3) Prove You’re Worth it
That brings us to our next point: providing value. In this age of spam and scams, people aren’t as quick to hand over their email address as they may have been a few years ago. You need to prove you won’t deceive them.
Make your case on the opt-in form by listing all the reasons they should consider a subscription. Reward your subscribers with special offers and give them access to events and news ahead of the masses.
Content offers like webinars, e-books, templates, and white papers are examples of quality assets that people will download in exchange for their email address. When you put gated assets behind your landing pages, you attract a wider audience.
While you have them on the opt-in line, use the welcome funnel to expand their profile in order to better tailor their experience with your brand. Invite them to choose which products or services they’re interested in and give them the keys in choosing the frequency they wish.
4) Frequency Matters
Speaking of frequency, closing in on the right number is a fine art that few email marketers are able to master. On the one hand, sending out too many emails can take a toll on your list. On the other, not sending enough emails can risk leaving money on the table. So how do you get it just right?
The National Client Email Report from the Direct Marketing Association shows the email frequency over a 2-year period for various company types and sizes.
So back to that question on getting it right: start small (as in, once-a-week small for B2C companies) and work your way up. If you feel like your content is fresh and resonating with your audience, up the ante and fire off two emails a week. Remember that you’re not locked in; if you determine later that twice a week is becoming too cumbersome or not getting the results you had hoped for, reign it back in. Just be sure to ready, aim, and test away.
6) Mobile Friendliness
The mobile experience is all about readability. Users will happily click “delete” rather than fuss and fiddle with their screens just to read an email.
It’s been reported that 80 percent of non-optimized emails will be deleted without being read, and 30 percent of consumers will be unsubscribe if emails aren’t readable. The moral of the story is to design and optimize your emails for the mobile experience.
Bonus: Mobile-friendly emails require less memory, allowing them to download at a faster rate.
7) Tackle the Win-Back
As we’ve come to learn, maintenance is just as important as acquisition in terms of email list quality. To reactivate any lost subscribers, segment your list to identify those who haven’t opened an email in the past year. Send them a “winback” email to let them know you miss them. Alter the usual tone of your subject line and preview text, and get straight to the point confirming they still want to receive communications from you. Consider going the extra mile by sending a drip series to encourage re-engagement.
Looking to improve the health of your email list? Request a complimentary 30-minute database assessment.