5 Best Practices for Email List Building

email list building best practices

I have a confession. I have a love/hate relationship with email marketing.

I love planning out a series and aligning the messaging for the target audience. I love seeing the copy come to life in the layout. I love finding a concise CTA (call to action) for button copy. Most of all I love the ease of pressing send and knowing the carefully crafted message is in an inbox ready for our email subscribers to open within minutes.

I hate excessive rounds of trial-and-error testing to fix a minor detail that shows up in one ESP (email service provider) but not another. And, of course, I hate the heartbreak of unsubscribes. I mean really, how hard is it to delete a message that you’re not interested in? (Only kidding.)

Love it or hate it, email marketing is a mainstay — and for good reason. Not only is it a cost-effective tactic for communicating with potential customers, but according to a 2017 study by DMA, 99% of consumers check their personal email every day — making this a prime channel to get messages out to your audience quickly. But before you dive into planning your next campaign, there is a foundational element that will affect the success of each and every email that you send: your email list.

Your email list is a key building block to any communication with your email subscribers. But it’s not just about acquiring any contact information. It’s about having the right contact information. Here are some best practices for email list building that will set your email marketing initiatives up for success.

Don’t buy lists

As tempting as it might be to make a one-time list purchase that will double your mailing list size, we are here to tell you it is not worth it.

These lists come with the hefty price tag of potentially roasting your sender reputation from too many spam complaints. Contacts that are acquired via purchased lists are not inherently engaged audiences because they did not expressly opt-in to your communication and are likely unaware of your company.

Sends to purchased lists are at high risk of being marked as spam once they hit inboxes, and reports of spam can decrease your sender reputation score, putting your account at risk of being deactivated or black-listed by your ESP.

Don’t bait and switch

“CLICK HERE!” “LEARN MORE!” “SIGN UP NOW!”  We’ve all seen these CTAs and might have even used them a time or two, but their vagueness is no longer a best practice when you consider the importance of transparency to today’s web users.

When you’re working on building up your database, you’ll have to come up with creative ways for asking users to relinquish personal contact information. It might seem like a good idea to use vague value language and promotional offer to draw a click and then persuade folks into sharing their data, but in reality, this can lead to a disengaged email subscriber list.

Content that’s difficult to interpret causes uncertainty for users. They can’t be sure where they’ll be navigated to or what they’ll receive in exchange for their personal information. At this point, if they do decide to move forward, they might feel slighted they receive what they expected.

We need to get comfortable with being transparent about what the lead can expect once they share their data. This can range from transitioning a “Read more” CTA to “Read the blog now.” This small shift offers more insight to the user about where they’re going when they click on the button and even helps make them a more informed and qualified lead if they convert later on.

Transparency could look like shifting campaign offer language from “Fill out the form below to learn more about X and receive a free copy of X” to “Fill out the form below and to connect with our team specialist, and you’ll receive a free copy of X.” This change might scare some prospects away, but the ones who do fill out the form know what to expect and can be considered marketing qualified leads.

Transparency also looks like an automated follow-up email to ask new subscribers to double opt-in to marketing and promotional messages so that it’s clear that they will receive future communications from your company.

Do segment your lists

email list buildingOne of the best ways to communicate with your prospects is to personalize your messaging to speak directly to their roles, responsibilities, and pain points. This means you need to know exactly who your prospects are and what they do. High-converting, personalized targeted messages start with a well-segmented list.

Here are some best practices to consider segmenting your lists so marketing messages can better resonate with audiences:

Apply tags

Many ESPs allow you to tag data lists to help with future segmentation and common groupings. Here are just a few ideas for list segmentation. Consider how your messages could be tailored to each grouping.

  • Industry or channel (such as “healthcare,” “dealer,” or “consultant”)
  • Industry event
  • Regional
  • Product interest

Look at demographics

Review your lists to determine if your email subscribers have demographic commonalities. If so, this could be a good opportunity to create unique segments. Some examples of demographic information that could draw a new list segments include:

  • Job title
  • Generation
  • Geographic location

Consider customer status

Segmenting your list by customer status can open the door for more personalized messaging and relevant offers based on their status. It can also broaden your opportunities for more lead-generation marketing programs like reactivations, cross-selling, loyalty programs, first time buyer discounts and more. Examples of customer status groupings include:

  • Prospects
  • Previous customers
  • Current customers
  • Repeat customers 

Do optimize on-site opportunities

One of the best ways to build an owned, high-quality email list is to optimize the opportunities you have with an already engaged audience: your web visitors.

New web visitors are already aware of and interested in your brand/offerings, meaning you don’t have to convince them of your value. Once they arrive on your site, you have unique opportunities to capture new visitor data.

Create sign-up forms and landing pages that are focused on list growth through incentives but don’t overlook opportunities where your new visitor traffic frequents. For example, new visitors are often researching your company and products and are likely to review your blog content. So it’s a good idea to include an opt-in form at the end of each blog post with a call to action to subscribe for content.

Another idea could be to integrate pop-up forms on your site — perhaps on the homepage or integrated onto a campaign landing page if you have paid advertising running. According to Mailchimp, their users see an average increase of 50.8% in their list growth rate after adding a pop-up to their website.

Check out these ideas from Omnikick for more effective, high-converting pop-ups strategies.

Do regular list maintenance and cleaning

As with any integral piece of equipment, routine maintenance is required to keep things running smoothly. Incorporating regular list hygiene will not only boost your email engagement by removing unengaged or inactive addresses from your database but it will also improve the overall list quality.

It’s possible your list might shrink when you have a renewed effort on cleansing, but remember that a smaller list of engaged potential customers is more likely to have a better conversion rate than a large list of disengaged contacts.

Continual email list building efforts are necessary for the health of your sender reputation and your marketing performance. The good news is that a quality list growth is achievable by consistently following the above best practices. Happy sending!

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