Email Campaigns Flopping? It’s Probably Your List

listAs email marketers, we spend a lot of time worrying about our messages.  Are we sending the right message, at the right time, to the right person? Is everything rendering properly? What’s the most eye-catching subject line? And are these darn things even making it into the inbox?

With so much focus on messaging, it’s easy to forget about the foundation of your email program—the quality of your email list.  If your messages have been failing to produce the results you want, spend some time analyzing your list itself.  You can start with this checklist:

How was your list acquired?

  • Did you buy it? If you bought some or all of your email addresses, you are probably having trouble getting into the inbox right now.  This is no surprise—bought lists are always of dubious quality, and even if the folks on that list have opted in for “third-party communications,” this is nothing like a real opt-in where they are giving your brand permission to contact them.  Take the money you’re putting into buying emails and use it instead to generate quality signups on your website.
  • How long ago did they join your list? Your most recent subscribers will also usually be your most engaged subscribers as well. If you haven’t been adding quality subscribers to your list recently, your open and click-through rates will suffer simply due to the aging of your list. Every time you send, you lose subscribers to opt-outs, changes of address, emails going invalid, etc.  Make sure you’re always devoting the necessary resources to replenish and grow your list.
  • What did you promise them? If you did ask people to opt in to your list, you may still have a problem with expectations.  For example, if your subscribers opted in based on a promise of special deals and promotions, and you haven’t delivered on that promise in a while, then you’re not meeting their expectations.  Make sure you’re sending your subscribers the content that they opted in to receive.

Have you kept your list clean?

  • Are you removing bad email addresses? If an email address is invalid or has bounced 3 times or more in a row, that email should be permanently removed from your list.  In addition, if your list is very old and/or unresponsive, you may want to run it through an email list cleaning service such as Fresh Address or StrikeIron to remove spam traps and other harmful addresses.
  • Have you reengaged inactive subscribers? If a subscriber has not opened one of your messages in more than 6 months, that subscriber is hurting your engagement statistics.  Segment out inactives into one reengagement group, then send them an email asking if they still want to receive your messages, with a big link or button to click for “yes.”  Send this message 2 or 3 times if no response on the first: Keep the ones that click and lose the rest.

Once you assess the quality of your email list using the above checklist, implement strategies around each of these 5 measures of list quality.  Building a quality email list is a long-term investment.  The sooner you commit to making that investment, the sooner you’ll see your campaigns performing well again.


Photo courtesy of Foxtongue via Flickr.

About Jeff Versteeg

Jeff Versteeg is a senior account executive at Fathom (since 2011), specializing in email marketing. He holds a double major from The Ohio State University in chemistry and economics. Using his background in statistical analysis, Jeff brings a data-driven, testing-focused approach to email marketing.Jeff currently serves as senior account executive for Cleveland Clinic, with whom he has over 20 different points of contact. He also counts National Louis University and Post-Up Stand among his clients. In addition, he has overseen Fathom’s own email marketing operations, including the Fathom Newswire, the company’s flagship monthly email newsletter. Jeff is a member of the Northeast Ohio Usability Professionals Association (NEOUPA) and the Conversion Rate Optimization Professionals Association (CROPA). In his spare time, he enjoys basketball, soccer, golf, tennis, and playing the guitar (poorly).

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