Email marketers love big mailing lists. Every address represents a potential lead, a possible sale, and a way to make more revenue. Growing your lists is an important part of a healthy email marketing strategy. But there’s a difference between big and healthy. To make sure you are growing your lists in a sustainable way, it’s important to understand the difference in growth strategies, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each.
Beware of Buying Lists
Maybe your business is just starting out. Or maybe you’ve finally decided it’s time to start email marketing – but you don’t have any email addresses in your database. It may be tempting to buy or rent an email list to get started, but this can be a big mistake.
If you send one-off blast campaigns to people who have not opted in, you do have the (theoretical) potential to reach more prospects. However, those recipients aren’t expecting your message, so you also run the risk of getting those messages flagged as spam. And if you continue sending to unengaged, random recipients, you’re asking for an abuse complaint. Plus, purchased lists often have high bounce rates, which could cause trouble for your deliverability. Even worse, purchased lists may contain spam traps, which could get you blacklisted. Watch this on-demand webinar to learn more about avoiding spam traps and blacklists.
If you’re sending email to international audiences outside of the US, you need to be especially careful (and in today’s global economy, that could be any of us). Other countries have stricter laws than the US does. And if you’re marketing to people in the US, are you absolutely sure you don’t have anyone from Canada on your list? Because thanks to Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL), the days of non-opted in, un-permissioned emails are over – at least for Canadian citizens. Read more about CASL requirements to make sure you’re up to speed. Check out this infographic to see if CASL applies to you, and read about CASL requirements to make sure you’re up to speed.
Customers? Yes. Emails? No.
If you’re just getting started with email marketing, you may find yourself with a wealth of names but no email addresses to send to. If that’s the case, you can use a service that will append emails. This means taking known customer data (first name, last name, and physical address) and matching it against a database to find an email address. There are risks to this approach, too. Email append vendors sometimes match an email address with a partial postal address. And no matter what you do, you should always get permission to email your customers before you start messaging them electronically.
The best approach if you find yourself with a large list of customers and zero email addresses is to use those physical addresses to start gathering emails. Here are some ideas:
- Send a postcard with a special offer, and encourage customers to go online to redeem it. Provide an easy way to opt-in to emails on the landing page.
- Add a promotion to an e-newsletter on physical mailings, like bills, account statements, or flyers.
- Host an in-person event or a customer appreciation party and ask for email addresses to enter a drawing. Be sure to include opt-in language on every entry form.
Any email address in your database should also have associated with it whether or not it has been opted in to receive email messages. If it doesn’t, you don’t know if you have permission to send to it, which makes it less valuable to you.
Now that you know what not to do, let’s take a look at best practices, and see how double opt-ins and preference centers can help you build bigger (and healthier) email lists.
Setting up a subscription page or preference center is a great way to start gathering email addresses as well as permissions. As a bonus, you can collect content preferences, so you can find out what your audience is interested in and start sending it to them. That’s a great way to improve engagement, which will also boost deliverability.
It may be tempting to pre-check the boxes in your subscription page, so if your recipient takes no action (or forgets) to check a box, they’ll have (by default) agreed to receive every mailing you have. Just remember, that while pre-checking boxes is legal in the US, the practice is illegal in Canada and many other countries. When you have a pre-checked box, you’ve assumed that the individual has granted consent to you – and that may not be the case.
Opting In … and Doubling Down
Opt-in campaigns are an email marketing and deliverability best practice, and following best practices is the key to success. These types of campaigns require the recipient to give you the highest level of permissions (such as whitelisting), so troubleshooting any issues is much simpler when the lines of communication are open and unhindered by ISPs and other filters.
- Whitelisting: This is when an email recipient indicates that they’re willing to receive email from a sender by adding the From address to their address book. Ask your email subscribers to whitelist you when they opt in, and periodically add reminders to your email content.
- Double opt-in: When someone opts in, the sender delivers a confirmation email that requires yet another opt-in. (“Thank you for subscribing. Please click here to confirm.”) Double opt-ins are harder to get, but they are also proof of greater interest, which usually means a greater likelihood of engagement – as well as closing the sale.
- Confirmed opt-in: This goes one step further, giving the email recipient an explicit, obvious chance to unsubscribe (beyond the usual legally required unsubscribe link often found in an email’s footer). This prospect not only opted in, but did not unsubscribe when offered the chance. They’re the most likely to want to receive your messaging.
Best Practices from Mikogo Software
Because it is based in Germany and conducts business around the world, Mikogo software abides by stringent email privacy and compliance rules – following, for example, a double opt-in process. Act-On’s technology supports Mikogo’s double opt-in process, making it possible to comply with regional standards.
When a subscriber signs up, Act-On’s automated trigger email capability manages instantaneous personalized follow-up. All trial users receive an email calling for a second opt-in after signing up.
The combination of Mikogo’s tailored content and Act-On’s precision delivery works extremely well:
- 45% of the company’s German subscribers opt-in to receive Mikogo’s communication
- 33% of the users from the rest of world opt-in
This has resulted in Mikogo’s automated email deliverability rates to remain anywhere from 99.5% to 100%.
Clearly, following the rules pays off in big ways. A little effort, up front, can save you a lot of time, trouble and hassles in the long haul. It can also lead to healthier lists and happier customers, and that’s something with working for.
Want more best practices to help you make sure your promotional emails get into the inbox more often? Read the Email Marketing Deliverability eBook to learn how to maximize the success of your email campaigns.