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Don't make these 4 mistakes with email lists

It’s a story for the ages. Marketers often speak to their ability to use the almighty email to augment multi-tiered campaigns, engage and re-engage subscribers and boost their well-optimized landing pages.

But what they don’t typically speak about are all the failed attempts it took to get there. When the unmentionables hit the fan, it’s revealed that most marketers don’t have the technology or knowhow they really need. We won’t be your one-stop shop for creating the perfect email campaign, but what we can be is your one-stop shop for making sure your email lists are spick and span for those campaigns.

Today we’ll reveal what mistakes lead to email list data quality problems and what lessons can be learned from them.

Mistake #1: Assuming everything and testing nothing

A lot of email marketers will make the mistake of not segmenting their email database based on characteristics they've gleaned from their customers like interests, demographics or industries. 

Segmenting lists will not only help you craft more personalized and relevant messages to your customers, but also can result in a big payoff when done right. The most common benefits gained from list segmentation are increased open rates, lower opt-out or unsubscribe rates and better deliverability.

Lesson learned: Assuming that all your customers may be interested in the same messaging, even within a niche industry, is a costly assumption. Getting started with email list segmentation can be overwhelming, but these are the three most important points to help you get started.

  1. Define your data points - Segmentation isn't possible without customer data, and the data that's needed will differ for different companies. For example, if you're  a B2B company, job role, industry, location and company size may be important questions to ask your customer.
  2. Create personas for your customers - Identifying your best customers using buyer personas, whether they be families with toddlers, young professionals or sports fanatics, is essential to help you define which segments need which message. Helpful questions to build a robust customer persona are:
    • What demographic information do you know about this customer?
    • Describe their pain points
    • Describe their goals and how you help them achieve it
  3. Choose your segments - When you understand who your best customer is, you can begin crafting emails to target them. Be mindful of the voice and language you have in the emails. For example,  younger demographics will likely respond better to more informal language than an older one.
  4. Test and measure results - Make sure you're measuring how people engage with your emails. Test how using different subject lines, different language and different images make a difference in open rates, click-through rates and further engagement rates. 

Mistake #2: Renting or purchasing any email list

There’s a reason why those email lists are up for sale; their recipients have probably been spammed to oblivion and the value of those addresses are next to nothing. Buying or renting email lists also means that those people haven’t signed up to receive any sort of communication from you and reaching out to them can put you on the naughty list.

What do we mean by that? Well, there are dedicated mechanisms set up to combat email spam. Honeypots and other spam traps are planted email addresses. When these addresses are mailed to, they expose marketers with bad list management practices that will really hurt their sender reputation, which affects the likelihood of emails reaching the inbox.

Lesson learned: Instead of taking the easy route to get a lot of emails fast, use the tried-and-true way of building up your email list database. You’re guaranteed to have higher quality leads and the best part is, those people are actually expecting emails from you, so you won’t get reported for having unsavory email practices.

Here are some ways to grow your email list the right way:

  • Pop-ups

 pop-ups

Pop-ups are a great way to increase your mailing list, especially when combined with a discount or a free piece of content upon signing up. Because they are triggered by user actions like moving the cursor to leave your site or when someone has hit the scroll-depth requirement, pop-ups are ways to encourage users to share their emails.

  • Sticky menu bars

 stick bar menus

The idea behind a “sticky” menu bar is to have the “subscribe” or “register” call-to-action (CTA) follow them throughout their scrolling activity. A word of caution, sticky bar aesthetics are an important feature to take note of. Colors that are too jarring or bars that are too large will lower user experience and can drive them off your site altogether.

  • In-content CTA

 in-content calls to action

Another great way to jumpstart your email collection the right way is to insert a CTA box in the body of your content, or at the end to give readers a new step in their user journey. If someone is reading a white paper, placing the CTA midway or at the end increases the chance that they're a quality subscriber.

Mistake #3: Not regularly checking your list for inactive or out-of-date email addresses

Email list databases can decay over 20 percent each year due to people changing their personal or work emails, abandoning old email addresses they no longer use or opting out of your email communications.

Lesson learned: Time is the mortal enemy of your email database. In order to make sure you’re using only the most updated emails in your campaigns and communication outreach, verify your email list regularly

Mistake #4: Ignoring feedback from your subscribers

We assume that you want to be a good email marketer who follows all of the email best practices. In fact, getting the highest quality leads into your databases depends upon it. It’s very important to listen to email recipients when they mark your emails as spam or junk. Why? User complaints have a huge impact on your sender reputation and if you are receiving a lot of negative feedback, you may need to change the expectations you're setting with users about frequency of your messages or the content they will be receiving. Additionally, make sure to keep the unsubscribe link easy to find so users can opt-out of receiving your messages. 

Lesson learned: Monitor feedback loops. Feedback loops are a means for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to flag email marketers who were abusing their privileges, but now are also available to those who just want to take a proactive approach to managing email list hygiene and gain insights into what may be negatively affecting their email campaigns.

 feedback loops

Keeping your email list database clean is a worthwhile, but challenging initiative. Not only should there be careful monitoring of inactive or outdated subscribers, making sure that you implement best practices like not purchasing email lists, monitoring recipient complaints and segmenting your customer database are all steps to bear in mind to make sure you don’t make costly email list mistakes.

Want to learn more about the main challenges of email deliverability? Download our white paper!

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