Rejuvenate Your Email Marketing Through Healthy List-Building

January 17, 2017
Contributor: Chris Pemberton

Focus on list building to deliver multichannel marketing results.

After years of sustained email list growth, a specialty retailer cleaned its list and saw improved multichannel marketing results. The marketers realized that list hygiene, along with building a healthy list and segmenting users, was the key to using their list most effectively.

“No matter how strong the design or execution, an email marketing program will miss the mark unless list building and maintenance receive suffi cient attention,” said Noah Elkin, research director, Gartner for Marketers.

Despite its ubiquity and tenure, email remains an underutilized channel for multichannel marketing. Many marketers fail to execute email marketing fundamentals, leading to poor quality and outdated lists. It’s time to revisit email marketing basics to revitalize email’s role within your multichannel marketing portfolio.

Email list optimization has three core components: build, segment and maintain. Although all three are important, success rests on continuously building a strong, high-performing list. Without a robust email list, you’ll be hard-pressed to develop a meaningful relationship with customers, curtailing your marketing efforts as a whole.

Build your list

List building often comes down to a build-or-buy decision. The preferred route is to build your own list to gain valuable context about your audience and establish a strong foundation for cultivating engagement. Regardless of size or maturity, every brand needs to adopt consistent practices for building a healthy list. Treat list building as an ongoing optimization activity, not a once-and-done, set-it-and-forget activity.  

Leverage digital channels

Use all of your owned channels and social media to encourage email opt-ins. Prominently feature a signup box on your website with a link to your privacy and consent policy. You can “gate” content such as a white paper or benchmark study in trade for an email address. Prospects and customers often recognize this as a fair value exchange. The availability of something they prize more than offsets the agreement to join an ongoing conversation.

Gather addresses in-store

Multichannel marketers with physical locations should gather customer email addresses in-store. The point of sale is a logical collection point for retailers, and interactive signage is an option for other industries.

When an individual registers to receive emails, remember that person is requesting a relationship with your brand. Your job is to nurture that expression of interest — on the customer’s terms. Supply a steady stream of relevant, accessible content at the proper cadence to deepen the relationship with your audience. Tactical considerations to support list-building effectiveness include:

  • Monitor and report on your list-building efforts to stakeholders across your organization
  • Highlight the percentage of users who are opting in and what touchpoints are most effective at driving opt-ins
  • Measure the source of opt-ins against key performance indicators (KPIs), such as repeat engagement, referrals, downloads, purchases and registrations
  • Adjust your opt-in strategy to maximize high-performing channels
Segment your list

After building a list, focus on another hallmark of optimizing an email list — segmentation.

To develop segments, define your goal, collect the data and build the segments. Use as many data sources as you can to determine when, who and how to contact your segments. Dimensionalize them further by developing personas, which add depth and expression to your segments, aiding in program and campaign development. Additionally, make sure you get customers to agree to engagement conditions with regard to the cadence and types of emails. Respect customer preferences and, above all, don’t collect data you don’t need.

Maintain list hygiene

Finally, maintain a clean list through regular care and maintenance. Pruning lists can be painful, but it will benefit the brand. A healthy send should include only engaged and opted-in users. “Emphasize list health to ensure that you’re developing and maintaining a rich dialogue with truly engaged prospects or customers and avoiding unnecessary damage to your brand, such as oversaturation of promotional emails or important transactional emails going to the wrong address,” said Mr. Elkin.

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