email marketingYour company contact list – one of your most valuable business assets. Those coveted names and email addresses you’ve collected are your direct line to new business prospects. Are you making the most of your list? Here are some email marketing best practices.

Quality Over quantity

When it comes to your email marketing list, who you send to is more important than what you send. It doesn’t matter if your list is 1,000 or 100,000 –  your email marketing is only as good as the quality of your recipient list.

The reality is that we live in a world where people change jobs, get married and change names, where companies go out of business, merge and relocate, and where interests and needs change. That means that lists have natural decay.

On average, marketing lists have a tendency to expire at a rate of 25% a year.

So if you aren’t working at cleaning your list and pursuing new prospects to join your lists, chances are the effectiveness of your email marketing will only decline.

We have found that marketers grow their lists in two ways: the bad way and the good.

Growing Your Email List The Bad Way

While we can’t say you won’t build your list if you buy third-party email lists, we can say that to do so comes with a number of risks. Or put another way, we wouldn’t do it.

Warning – You Can Alienate Recipients

It does not make people happy to get emails with irrelevant ads or marketing messages from companies with whom they have never interacted. This is the exact opposite experience they get with inbound marketing, where they seek you out. Being interrupted creates annoyance and few, if any quality leads.

Warning – You Could Get Blacklisted Or Marked For Spam

You don’t ever want to negatively affect your deliverability rate. Using a third party list can damage your deliverability rate.

Warning – Bought Recipients Aren’t As Engaged As Opt-In Recipients

Not only are click-through rates dramatically worse with third party lists than opt-in lists, but even when they convert, the quality of leads are also much worse.

Warning – It Undermines Your Inbound Marketing Strategy

Buying and using a third party list can undercut your company’s reputation as a helpful inbound marketer.  As an inbound marketer, you want to attract leads through useful, valuable content rather than harassing prospective customers with ads or direct mail they never asked for.

What Is Inbound Marketing?

It’s almost the opposite of outbound marketing, which likes to interrupt consumers in the hopes they will suddenly see the light and want to buy that product.

Inbound marketing is about getting found by those who are looking for a solution that you offer, converting that person into a lead or sale, and then analyzing their behavior so you can learn how to attract more people who might be looking for your solution.

To learn more about how inbound marketing really works and can help you, watch our Inbound Marketing Video Briefing.

Growing Your Email List The Good Way

If you provide value and relevance to your prospects, they will eventually convert into quality leads.  The best way we know how to attract them is through inbound marketing.

If you want to start generating leads through inbound marketing, launch a blog and fill it with good, useful, search-friendly, content.

Don’t Hide Your Subscribe Box

A good blog and website should act like a magnet for potential subscribers.  When they get to your blog, don’t assume they can intuitively find their way around. If you make it hard for them to find your subscribe box, odds are they won’t sign up.

Consider Partnerships

Non-competing companies often share the same market audience.  So figure out which non-competing company wants to reach the same audience as you and ask them to join you in co-hosting a webinar or another marketing event.

Both companies will reach out to their own lists. During the webinar or event, participants will be encouraged to opt-in to hear more from each company.

The end result is that both companies will end up with new and engaged subscribers.

How To Reduce Unsubscribes

Growing your email list can feel like taking two steps forward and one step back. You are going to get unsubscribes. Here are a few tips on how to reduce your unsubscribe rate:

Focus On Targeting

Irrelevance will kill your lists.  According to MarketingSherpa’s Wisdom Report in 2011, 40% of subscribers mark emails as spam because the communication was irrelevant.

In the same report, those who sent to targeted segments of specific audiences get 50% more click-throughs than those who don’t. Give your readers what they want.

Optimize the Unsubscribe Process

The top reasons email users unsubscribe from a business or non-profit email subscription are:

  1. Too many emails (69%)
  2. Content that is no longer relevant (56%) (Chadwick Martin Bailey)

So take that knowledge and use it to your advantage. During the unsubscribe process give them the option to receive fewer emails or emails about specific topics.

They still might want to unsubscribe. But how do you know if they have really lost interest in you or if they just don’t like email marketing? Give them a way to follow you through your social media sites.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /