How to Grow a Successful Email List
In business, numbers are a key focus. We analyze various metrics all with an eye on our bottom line. When it comes to email marketing, however, numbers don't tell the whole story. An email list with 10,000 subscribers may appear to represent the pot of gold at the end of the marketing rainbow. However, the quality of your list is as important as the quantity of subscribers.
While it seems counterintuitive, growth at all costs shouldn't be the goal of your list building strategy. Success isn't in the numbers alone, but in how you attract and sustain a high-quality list. For example, a list of 1,000 contacts with an open rate of 20 percent is a healthier list than 2,000 contacts with an open rate of 10 percent. However, both may benefit from some list grooming and should be monitored over time to see if there are any significant trends.
Higher open rates give you a better reputation with internet service providers, which can impact your deliverability in the future. Your reputation and engagement level deeply impact the effectiveness of your list. For instance, you want a list of interested subscribers who open and connect with your content rather than a large list that doesn't perform.
Building a quality list begins with the expectations you set at the outset. It's essential that you use a permission-based list management process. This sets an expectation of quality and compliance to best practices. In addition, you want to deliver on your promise for the list. What can subscribers expect? Clearly outline the type of content and frequency of emails up front. Be consistent with the timing and voice of your emails. Delivering on your promise will establish credibility and trust. If you have multiple lists or topics, ensure that subscribers understand the choices and what they'll receive. One way to do this is to show examples of emails by referencing an email archive.
You can build a high quality, permission-based email list that betters your reputation and delivers results by following these simple steps:
- Test for success: Use different sign-up forms to track each contact source and test different list building approaches to see what works best for you. Over time, review the level of engagement your email campaigns receive. You may see which contact sources generally have the most engaged contacts. Determine how to leverage that information to gain even better results. You may also want to take extra measures to ensure contacts enter a proper and valid email address when signing up to help determine who is active. Use a double opt-in form or a service like FreshAddress.com to validate addresses that may have had typos at the time of sign up.
- Give them an exit strategy: Be transparent about how subscribers can get on and off your list by setting expectations up front. Don't use subtlety to trick people into opting into your list; make it clear and compelling. People getting more or different emails than they expected is a typical reason they unsubscribe or worse, mark your emails as spam. Make it easy for subscribers to adjust their email preferences or let you know what they'd like changed or improved to make their intercations with your brand more valuable. Ideally this occurs before they unsubscribe from your mailings.
- Ask for permission: Never purchase or harvest your contact list without getting each contact's explicit permission to receive your emails. Purchasing or harvesting a list will never yield the same quality as a permission-based list you build yourself.
Related story: Finding the Sweet Spot of Email Frequency