Email marketing, when executed well, is one of the best performing types of digital marketing available to your business. Just in the last year or two, the estimated return on investment from email marketing has increased from $38 to $44 per dollar spent.
But what does “executed well” actually mean? It’s not as complicated as you might think. Like any other successful marketing strategy, it simply requires a little planning and forethought.
I’ll be publishing one post a week for the next four weeks, in order to give each step of the process the time and attention it deserves. We’ll cover these topics:
Let’s get started!
Growing a Healthy Email List
Don’t be a spammer.
Okay, I know that’s simplistic, but that’s really what it comes down to: Only add people to your list if they have agreed to it. Whether that’s through a form on your website or Facebook or by keeping a sign-up sheet next to the register in your store, always have permission. And if you can send them an opt-in confirmation, even better.
The #1 takeaway here is you shouldn’t automatically subscribe customers to your email list. Just because they bought something from you doesn’t mean they want to get email from you. You can certainly ask them when they check out if they want to be added, but you shouldn’t just assume. There’s no quicker way to annoy customers and get yourself labeled as spam.
That being said, it’s perfectly acceptable (even recommended) to keep a list or database of customer information, including email addresses. Especially in today’s marketing climate when personalization makes all the difference, the more you know about your customers, the better.
An occasional email to the customer list if you have a special sale or event going on, or an announcement to make, is one thing, but don’t add them to a weekly newsletter. I personally would recommend a sending frequency of no more than once per quarter to your main customer list—unless they’ve specifically opted in. And, of course, if they unsubscribe from even that, absolutely don’t add them back the next time they come into the store and make a purchase.
Your email marketing software keeps records of unsubscribed contacts, and it won’t let you inadvertently add them back, but that safeguard is only effective if you don’t later delete the unsubscribed contacts. Once that contact record is gone, it’s gone—along with all the data associated with it. (For the record, you should generally not delete contacts.)
Why is good list maintenance important?
To give you an example: I inherited an email list when I started working at Canopy, which I used for about 6 months. By that time, I had been emailing consistently once a week for long enough to have accumulated some useful data.
I took a look at the list metrics to see who was opening and engaging and who wasn’t. Based on that information, I removed people who didn’t seem to be interested because there was no reason to continue sending emails that weren’t getting opened. Because let’s be honest—if someone hasn’t opened a single email in 6 months, it doesn’t much matter whether or not they unsubscribe. They don’t want to be on your list.
I know, I don’t get it either.
So my list size got quite a bit smaller, but my list quality improved—and in marketing, quality beats quantity every time. Open and click-through rates went up, and I had a much better basis for measuring what types of content performed best for my audience.
The next step was growing the list with the right people, and my method for this has been two-fold:
For instance, there’s a sign-up link in my email signature, on every page of our website, in the sidebar of the blog, and built into our Facebook links. Most email marketing providers offer that functionality to make growing your list as easy for you as possible.
That about covers it for how to grow your email list—or how to optimize the one you already have! Smaller, but highly targeted lists will see much higher engagement than a huge catch-all list that everyone gets thrown onto.
When you advertise an email list, make sure you’re representing it truthfully. Specify whether it’s a weekly/monthly newsletter, a place to advertise sales, or a way to promote periodic offers and specials. Always include an unsubscribe option, and always respect your customer’s preference if they choose to unsubscribe.
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Catherine has a degree in English literature and a passion for all things marketing. As Digital Specialist, her focus is on web design, search engine optimization, social media, online presence management, and project coordination.