Many small business owners focus on growing their email lists, which is great, but you have to remember that while a large list is fantastic, these contacts aren’t worth anything if they’re not opening your emails and engaging with your content. Like your lawn, a growing email list needs care and maintenance along the way to ensure that healthy growth continues. Giving a little TLC to your list reinforces that you’re continuing to send relevant information to each of your subscribers.
Here are some simple, effective ways to manage, and nurture, your growing email list:
1. Create smaller, targeted lists
When you have a larger list and send everything to everyone, you’re basically “spraying and praying” that people open your messages. Creating smaller, targeted lists and letting your subscribers choose which list they want to be on allows them to tell you what they want to hear. And it means you can send more relevant emails to those who want to receive them. Here are a few examples of how businesses or organizations can segment their lists:
- Nonprofits can have separate lists targeting members, donors, volunteers, and board of directors.
- A clothing retailer can offer mailings targeting those interested in men’s, women’s, or children’s apparel.
- Restaurants that offer live music on the weekend can segment their lists by those interested in only dinner specials and those interested in the musical acts.
- A travel agent can offer an email on tropical vacations, ski packages, or vacations with children.
Other options include segmenting your list by anniversary or birthday month, or by how often subscribers want to hear from you (for example: weekly, monthly, or quarterly).
2. Eliminate the bounces
Every time you send an email message, there are going to be a few that bounce back because the email address is no longer valid, has a typo in it, the recipient’s inbox is full, or the person has an out-of-office responder activated. Take a look at your bounce report to see why your messages are being returned. For the vacationers, you can ignore the report. But for hard bounces such as a non-existent addresses, you should:
- Verify that the address is correct. If it is and you think the report is a false positive, you can always follow-up with the subscriber individually to see if he or she is actually receiving your emails.
- For those addresses that are truly non-existent, move them to your Do Not Mail list. Doing so will eliminate the subscribers from future mailings, help lower your bounce rate, and improve your open rate.
3. Subscribers who don’t engage? Consider trimming them.
There are two schools of thought on trimming your list. Some say if a subscriber hasn’t opened your email in over a year, delete them from your list and watch as your open rates rise.
The other side of the argument is that if people don’t ask to be taken off your list, you leave them where they are, as you never know when someone is going to re-engage and potentially become a customer or donor. This is where a re-engagement campaign strategy comes in (see the next section). It can offer a way to encourage those quiet subscribers to become active again. The decision to trim or not to trim is yours.
4. Try a re-engagement campaign
Maybe you just need to prod those chronic non-openers who are seemingly ignoring your targeted email messages through a reengagement campaign. The basic gist is to send a couple of emails to your least engaged segment of subscribers that prompts them to take some action to show you they’re still interested in hearing from you. If they don’t respond, you can remove them. Depending on your industry and content, how you go about this can vary greatly.
One very effective method is to just be upfront and honest about the whole thing. Send three messages, one per week, to the segment you choose. Most marketers would select those who haven’t opened or clicked the last few campaigns, but there are situations where it would be a good idea to select those contacts you’ve been emailing to the longest.
The first two messages can explain that you’re doing a little “spring cleaning” in an attempt to be a better marketer, and that you want to make sure you’re sending emails only to those people who really want to receive them. Finally, you would send a third and final “confirmed opt-in” campaign to the list. You could send this last message to the same people you sent the last two emails to, and only deliver it to those who did not click to confirm in the previous emails. This would be the final chance for those people to stay on the list.
By using these simple steps you’ll soon find yourself with a list of engaged, responsive customers. But remember—this isn’t a one-time process—so be sure to continually work on the upkeep of your growing list!
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Ellen Williams, Constant Contact Regional Development Director, New York and Southern Connecticut
Ellen has over 20 years of technology and marketing experience and has presented to over 4,000 small businesses, nonprofits, and associations. Her advice on best practices help organizations understand how to build great customer relationships that inevitable grow their businesses.