Most marketers see email as a critical revenue generator, or at least as an effective way to engage their customers over time. As such, some think the bigger their email list is, the better. After all, each email sent represents potential income. While growth is important, it's also crucial to consider the damage a big, unengaged list can do to your brand's email reputation.
Gone are the days of lists that blast out to millions in hopes of getting some traction. That's because, for some time, your email recipient's behavior has been affecting your ability to deliver to the inbox. When emails are moved to a junk folder, deleted upon receipt or left unopened, email service providers (ESPs) take note. Repeatedly sending emails to people who are not engaging with your messages may result in future emails getting blocked. In other words, if you email people who haven't opened your email or made a purchase in years, you could be doing more harm than good.
For more reliable, organic email acquisition, consider:
- Customer touchpoints: Every place, online or offline, where customers come into contact with your brand is an opportunity to ask them to opt-in. Obvious places are within forms and e-commerce messages; not so obvious are persistent call-outs on websites, QR Codes in-store, cash register receipts, requests at point-of-sale, social networks, mobile applications and, of course, your preference center.
- The cutting room floor: Look around your organization for those small databases, Excel spreadsheets, call center logs and event results. That server that sits under someone's desk. Anything that may have included opt-ins. Check to see if the opt-ins are valid, but make sure you look internally.
- Validation tools: Use options like EVOA [Email Verification of Address] when people opt in online to ensure that their email addresses are valid. Engage companies that can help you see what is delivered or not, such as Return Path. Look at your ESP reports, watch your deliverability rates closely and compare your results to industry trends.
- It's how you ask: Look at your forms closely and evaluate the user experience. Bad form layout or asking for too much information can result in bad data, because people might simply rush to get through the process. Ask people to enter their email addresses twice if you can't use real-time verification. Appeal to what your customers need, give them a call to action that resonates and then deliver on that promise.
- Staying relevant: Your email strategies need to be relevant to what your customers want and need based on what they tell you or what you learn. Staying relevant keeps deliverability high.
Whether your goal is direct sales, education or an important milestone or reminder, grow your list with quality, not just quantity. There's no quick and easy way to do it; but a long-term, organic approach that leverages technology and reliable data will deliver the engagement you want.
Jeannette Kocsis is executive vice president of digital engagement at The Agency Inside Harte-Hanks, based in Yardley, Penn. Contact her at (845) 339-0022 or via email at Jeannette.Kocsis@hartehanks.com.