“Although I have many social media followers, if I had the choice, I would pick email all day long over a social media follower,” said Silicon Valley legend Guy Kawasaki, the keynote speaker at this year’s Email Experience Council Conference, thereby acknowledging the unbeatable power of email marketing.
Top marketing agencies understand the importance of including robust email campaigns in their clients’ marketing strategies, because sending the right email to the right person at the right time within a customer’s lifecycle is key to attracting, capturing, nurturing, converting, and expanding the relationship.
One of the biggest challenges agencies face in deploying email campaigns for clients is dealing with companies that have no contact lists. Since it’s impossible to run the campaigns without lists, having ones that are clean and accurate is essential.
There are two main ways to create contact lists – the first one, purchasing lists, is a quick solution, but it comes with some pretty critical issues and performance land mines that must be addressed before you can start using them. The preferred option, and industry best practice, involves growing lists organically through a variety of methods.
For a quick start, you can look into buying lists. No two list providers are alike; do your homework on the vendors, and choose one you trust.
Quality vs. Quantity
Buying email lists may seem tempting because you get so many names. The problem is, how many of the names come with valid email addresses? In terms of email marketing, the old cliché holds true: “quality is better than quantity.” It’s far better to send emails to a few contacts who are actually interested in your clients’ products/services/messages than to send to big numbers of random individuals who aren’t.
Where’d They Go?
Invalid contact information is also a huge issue with purchased lists. Gone are the days when people stayed at the same job for decades. And when they move on, their old email addresses are no longer good, but may linger on. Other problems with purchased lists include name changes, new/merged/defunct Internet Service Providers (ISPs), rebranding, typos, and duplications.
Be a Ghostbuster
Good list hygiene practices improve deliverability and help to prevent your clients from getting flagged as spammers. List cleaning is actually fairly inexpensive and well worth the minimal investment.
It’s also important to remember that the pricing for the majority of mass email programs (from specialist email service providers, or marketing automation vendors such as Act-On who integrate email into complementary features) is based on the number of “active contacts” you mail to on behalf of your client – not the number of addresses on their list. Using bad email addresses means wasting money on ghosts. No matter how you look at it, the answer is the same… you’ve gotta clean ‘em up before you use ‘em.
Be a Ghostbuster, the Sequel
Once that list is clean, it’s a good idea to validate it. “Validation” is the process of ascertaining whether or not an email address is live and capable of receiving an email – at the time of validation (things change fast in this world).
Mom was Right, Hygiene is Essential
ISPs like Gmail and Yahoo, along with corporate email protection services and anti-spam groups, set limits for bounced emails, unsubscribe requests and complaints, and they calculate engagement levels to determine who’s sending spam and who isn’t. If you’re not managing bounces and unsubscribes, negative rates can soar and this can result in the suspension of your client’s account.
Farm Out the Dirty Work
Most agencies simply don’t have the time or manpower to perform email address cleanups and validations, yet it’s an essential step. The good news is, other people can do it for you. If you’re using a marketing automation platform, chances are excellent that your platform’s provider also offers list-cleaning and validation services. If that’s not an option, consider using an email verification service such as Webbula or BriteVerify. Be sure to ask about their targeting options as another way to help ensure deliverability and help preserve the sender’s reputation.
Get Your Money’s Worth
Prior to sending, email data hygiene services will clean your lists to ensure you’ll be using only the most accurate data. You’ll want to make sure they’re managing your email list files to identify data that’ll have a negative effect on sending efforts, including:
- Duplicate addresses
- Non-deliverable domains
- Spam traps
- Known threats
- Role addresses
- Monitoring seeds
- Invalid top level domains (TLDs)
- Disposable accounts
- Character field removal
- Managed anti-spam network-protected domains
Top 3 Perks of Using Clean ’n’ Shiny Lists
- Enhanced online reputation
- Enhanced deliverability
- Increased ROI
Growing Lists Organically
By building lists of contacts who voluntarily subscribe, you’ll enhance the performance and success of your customers’ email marketing campaigns and increase qualified leads. Use the following tips when building organic lists for your clients.
Start with What You’ve Got
Clients who say they have no list may actually have more information than they realize – it’s just a matter of collecting and organizing it. Work with them to gather all the contact information they have – current and past customers, prospects, LinkedIn connections, investors, personal email lists – to assemble a cohesive contact list for them. Then start adding to it as you grow it through a variety of other methods.
Sprinkle Websites with Opportunities
Website visitors have different personalities and preferences, so it’s important to realize one size does not fit all. Provide them with a host of options to encourage them to opt in for further communication:
There are reams of articles about the power of content marketing. The gist is this: create and distribute relevant, helpful content to attract your client’s ideal target audience and drive profitable behavior. If it’s good enough, people will want more, so provide them with a link to a subscription form to make it happen.
- Subscribe Button
Use a button that’s provided within your marketing software and place it to the social media buttons for seamless integration with the design.
- Subscribe Links
While visiting websites, some people are more visually oriented and prefer buttons to click, but others are more analytical and are prone to browsing the links, both in the drop-down tabs along the top menu bar and along the bottom of the page. Always include links in both places.
- Feature Boxes
Unlike the more subtle approaches listed above, these boxes are large call-to-action sections integrated into the page design and are easy to find. Of course, you’ll want to include a brief list of the irresistible benefits of subscribing, and provide fields to capture names, titles and email addresses.
This in-your-face technique works sometimes, but use it judiciously. Some people find them annoying, and others employ pop-up blockers. However, sometimes, if you time the pop-up form just right, it may be just the thing to trigger a visitor to sign up. Some sites allow a reader to browse an article, but when it’s time to hit “next page”, they consider it fair to ask for a little information in exchange for additional helpful content. Others have the form pop up after just a few seconds.
Ah, the beauty of forms… what did marketers ever do without them? Use them to make it super simple for invested prospects to subscribe to your list. Harness the power of forms to help you capture information about previously anonymous visitors – crucial to generating qualified leads.
- Add a Subscribe Form to Social Media Pages
It’s a smart move to convert social media fans into email subscribers because the latter has proven to be the most reliable way to reach customers. Use your clients’ various channels to generate contacts by adding a link to a subscription form where prospects and customers can opt in. All visitors have to do is click on the icon (that contains an image and compelling call to action) to sign-up. Since you can’t host a landing page with a sign-up form on Google+ or Twitter, you can create a workaround by adding a shortened link in the “About” and “Bio” sections that connects to a subscription form.
- Add Subscribe Links to Blogs
After people have read a well-written, relevant article, chances are higher they’ll want more, so it’s a no-brainer to add a link to a subscription form at the end of every blog you’re distributing to encourage them to stay tuned in.
- Add a Subscribe Box to Comment Forms
The advent of Enterprise 2.0 brought with it the imperative that website and social media visitors must be given a chance to weigh in. That’s why it’s common practice to provide a comment form for people who want to share their opinions, ask questions and add to the discussion. But to do so, commenters must first enter their name and email address before joining the conversation. Just add a checkbox at the bottom of that comment box to make it easy for people to receive email and new posts.
Create dedicated, campaign-specific landing pages for your clients’ lists where you can direct people who want to be kept up to date with interesting content, product updates and announcements. It’s important to include several elements on the landing pages to make the prospect of signing up more inviting:
- Benefits of Subscribing
As always, make sure you let your future readers know what’s in it for them. (No need to expand any further on this basic marketing principle!)
- Sample Content
You know what content attracts the most readers – feature bits of your most popular blogs and catchy headlines on the landing pages to provide a sneak peek into content and news they can expect to receive in the future.
- Frequency Options
Consider giving subscribers the option of choosing how often they want to receive posts and updates. Do they want them in real-time? Daily? Weekly? People want control, so why not grant it to them? It may make the difference between someone choosing to subscribe or not.
Sure, companies can toot their own horn about how wonderful they are, but we all know that one of the finest ways to connect with prospects is by sharing stories from satisfied buyers. Including words of praise on landing pages from happy customers can tip the scales in favor of someone signing up to receive more information.
It’s Who You Know
Encourage your clients to make a habit of collecting email addresses while they’re networking with potential customers. Trade shows, job fairs, networking events and even personal social events are all potential sources to help grow their lists.
Pay it Forward
Great marketers know that a forwarded email is a form of a testimonial and, as such, it’s golden. That’s why it’s worth taking the extra time to craft each email with interesting text and eye-catching graphics to compel the recipients to spread the news further. To remind people that forwarding the message is an option, just add a “forward” link to the email within your automated marketing platform.
Be a Social Butterfly
We’ve touched on a couple of different ways to include links and forms within social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, but let’s talk about it here in a more general capacity. When people are part of your client’s social network, they’ve demonstrated they trust the company and are willing to receive their messages. But you can’t just “set it and forget it”… you also have to regularly reach out and invite people to share your posts and to opt in to receive emails. And, of course, you’ll continue to add social networking links to your campaigns.
Get Professional Help
Last, but certainly not least, there’s no shame in reaching out for help. Lynn F. Anderson, Agency partner manager for Act-On Software’s Professional Services Department, is a seasoned marketing strategist. She recently shared how her team of agency partners helps clients who have no lists.
“For organic list growth, we can begin by building a target account profile and buyer personas, then plan tactics built off of that information,” she said. “If they have a database, we can do a total-available market analysis to identify how much of their target market is already in their database and if the right people are in that contact list.” Depending on the type of business and the target audience, she explained that adding paid tactics such as pay-per-click or social media advertising can help drive traffic to the company’s website. “Our agency partners help customers ready their websites to receive the traffic with responsive design, gating, and excellent downloadable content.”
Once you’ve grown your client’s list, it’s important to make sure you deliver great content to those inboxes. If you want to learn more about how to make sure that email list stays profitable, check out our eBook The Amazingly Effective Email Guide.