Everything you need to know about email marketing lists

Email marketers know the hassles of building and growing an email list.

And it is no easy feat!!

Your email lists dictate whether you’d be achieving your targets this quarter. It is 2019, and in spite of newer platforms like social media, videos, etc., dominating the market, email is still the preferred communication medium for all businesses, new and old alike. This makes email list building crucial and makes its way to one of your top marketing priorities.

But not everything comes easy. Just like how you’d have to toil away at the gym to build your body, so should you ‘werk’ to build your email lists.

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Isn’t there an easy way out? Can’t I just buy the emails?

Yes, you ‘can’ buy email lists. You can also buy people’s votes in India, the largest democracy in the world.

But you shouldn’t.

Because both of them have grave consequences. When you buy votes, you commit electoral fraud and risk up to 5 years of imprisonment. Though you might not end up in jail for purchasing email lists, you would definitely be putting your business at great risk.

What’s the worst that can happen?

First of all — it isn’t going to convert.

When you buy email lists and blast them with promotional emails, the recipients do not know you. Most of them end up in spam, and nobody is going to click on that link, land on your site, and give you business.

This is a shame because emails have better conversion rates compared to any other form of marketing.

According to McKinsey research , email conversions are 40x better than social media ads.

And since email has been touted as one of the most effective online marketing channels in 2019, it is better to grow your lists organically than throwing money at the problem.

It affects your email deliverability rates and sender reputation

When you send emails to unknown people via an email marketing tool , there’s a high chance that they would end up in their spam folder. And when it does, it messes your deliverability rates, and your sender reputation takes a hit.

What’s a deliverability rate and sender reputation?

Deliverability rates fall under two categories — email delivery rate and the overall deliverability. To put it simply, email delivery rate is the percentage of emails that have not bounced back. Deliverability, on the other hand, is the measurement of emails that have successfully landed on the inbox of the list addresses that you have purchased.

Sender reputation is a score that mailbox providers (think Gmail, Yahoo, and the likes) assign to your organization/domain, based on the deliverability rates. You can be sure of your sender reputation taking a nosedive when you send emails to a huge purchased list which may or may not contain valid email addresses.

Think you can still get away with purchased email lists?

You risk being penalized by your ESP

To understand why your ESP might punish you, take a look at the below illustration:

You send bulk emails via IPs that your email service provider (ESP) assigns to your domain. The ESP employs rigorous control methods to curb spam, like verifying your domain and closely monitoring deliverability rates, spammy content, digital signatures, etc.

Your emails then reach the mail server of your subscribers, in this case, the purchased contacts. The mail server employs similar spam control methods. It delivers the email to the contacts’ inboxes if the contact has added your sender address to their whitelist, or if you have a decent sender reputation score.

Sometimes, in spite of all the precautionary measures, your emails land in the spam folder of the contacts list. Other times, the mail server bounces the emails back to your ESP.

There are two types of bounces — the hard bounce and the soft bounce. A soft bounce occurs when there’s an issue with the recipient’s mailbox or their mail server. In this case, your ESP reattempts sending your email. A hard bounce occurs when the recipient mail server identifies the email addresses that are invalid or when the recipient is unknown.

With a purchased email list, you are sure to encounter a lot of hard bounces. Since the ESPs deliverability is also at stake here, they can penalize and blacklist your domain name or IP address. Once you get in the blacklist, all your emails end up being rejected or land in spam, and you can kiss all your email marketing efforts goodbye.

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It violates GDPR

If everything that I said above doesn’t scare you, maybe this one will.

The General Data Protection Regulation(GDPR) is a law that has been passed by the European Union, to protect the privacy and personal data of its citizens, across the 28 European nations. It imposes a hefty fine up to € 20 million, on businesses that violate the regulation. Email falls under the personal data category, and companies, now more than ever, diligently adhere to privacy concerns.

Your purchased lists may have random email addresses spanning the entire geography. If any of your unsolicited emails land on an unwelcome European contacts’ inbox, you’d land your business in the soup.

Purchased email lists don’t look very appealing now, do they?

Now, how do I grow my email lists?

Glad that you asked.

A simple Google search would list so many ways to grow and maintain your contacts list. In fact, there are numerous ways to build your email lists organically. But let’s just stick to the basics for now.

Put out great content: Engage your audience with valuable content. Write blog posts that entertain, educate, and empower them to make the right decision. Offer content upgrades that serve as great lead magnets along with your existing blog posts. Create cliffhanger content, like the ones that promise 20 great ways to grow your subscribers, lists only 10, and requires an email to read the other 10. This only works when your content is awesome and your audience deems it worth to part with their email addresses.

Make it easy for your customers to subscribe to your list: Add opt-in forms across your high performing web pages, so that it is easy for your audience to subscribe to your list, should they find you interesting. Experiment with popups, chat software, and website poll tools that can capture your audience details. Look for web form tracking functionality in your marketing automation software, like Freshmarketer, to collect all leads.

Be relevant with segmentation and personalization: It is not enough to keep adding new subscribers, you also have to keep the existing once engaged. Especially since it is easier than ever to just unsubscribe. Leverage your email communication to send relevant and valuable content with segmentation and personalization. Segment your lists based on common characteristics like demography, page visits, etc., and deliver personalized campaigns. Don’t forget to include social sharing options on whatever communication that you put out.

Freshmarketer’s advanced segmentation options

Deliver value with offers and discounts: Nobody can resist a good bargain. It pays for you to provide compelling offers and deals that people can’t refuse. If you are asking for people to subscribe to your blog, offer them an attractive ebook in return for their email address.

Promote and reward referrals: Referrals are a great way to grow your email lists manifold. Dropbox’s referral program created a viral loop of growth for them, and they ended up growing by 3900% . Provide an incentive for your customers to refer your business with friends and family. This technique, while helping you grow your list, will also improve your customer lifetime value (CLTV) and reduce your customer acquisition costs(CAC).

While it may look like buying email addresses can be an easy and quick way to grow your email lists, it is only going to do more harm than good. Building your email lists from scratch can help you grow organically and steadily without any risks.

After all, slow and steady does win the race 😉

Cover image and illustration: Rajesh

Originally published at https://www.freshworks.com on August 6, 2019.

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