The Email Savant Series: 8 Tips for Optimizing ROI Through Email List Management
Written by Mark Vogel
Successful email marketing starts with the list. Here are eight tips to help maximize your return-on-investment for your email marketing strategy through best-practice list management:
#1: Don’t Use Third Party Lists
We’ve all heard this for years, but I still see savvy marketers being lured by the promise of a pot of gold at the end of the List Rental Rainbow. Here are just a few reasons to avoid third-party lists:
- Prohibited by your email service provider: check their terms and conditions, and you’ll probably find wording like this: “You may not use email lists that you purchased, rented, leased, or in any way bought from a third party.” If you violate their terms, your account could be shut down without warning, and your email service provider might even bring legal action against you.
- Damaged reputation: it doesn’t take long for negative comments to go viral online. If someone Google’s your company name, the last thing you want them to see are multiple posts such as “This Company is a spammer! Avoid them!”
- Monetary damages: the CAN-SPAM Act allows for fines of up to $16,000.00 per violation – with no maximum cap. States can bring claims for up to $2 million, and your Internet Service Provider can sue to a maximum of $1 million. Even if you win a case brought against your company, the legal costs to prove that you didn’t intentionally mean to spam would be staggering. And if you think CAN-SPAM is tough, the laws in Canada, European Union, Australia and other countries are far tougher. See my tip #8 below for details.
#2: Ask for Opt-Ins
Too many sites bury their sign-up forms on the “Contact Us” page. Be overt! Place the form on every page, preferably “above the fold.” Don’t ask for too much info up front – just the basics. Promise that their data is secure and that you never share or rent your lists, and that they can easily unsubscribe at any time. “Pop-up sign-up forms” can work well in certain cases but be certain your webmaster understands Google’s rules regarding “intrusive interstitials.”
#3: Use a Leading ESP
A reputable ESP – or Email Service Provider – is a must. There are hundreds of options, including Listrak (my ESP of choice), MailChimp, Constant Contact, AWeber, GetResponse, Vertical Response, Emma, Campaigner, InfusionSoft, and many more. An experienced email marketing consultant can help recommend the best fit for your company.
#4: Keep It Clean
Since I’ll assume you’re already using a leading ESP, then your email marketing platform will automatically remove bounced and unsubscribed addresses. Monitor your inbox for the “reply-to” email you’re using since some recipients won’t click the “unsubscribe” button but will simply reply “Remove me.” On a regular basis, purge your list of addresses that have taken no action in many sends – maybe after one year or 12 sends, whichever comes first. Before deleting them from the list, try a “Still Want to Hear From Us?” message, with an offer to stay subscribed.
#5: Build Details on Recipients
Too often, an email database of current buyers isn’t updated with purchase details. Today’s technology provides a plethora of information on buying habits of e-commerce customers. What if your company sells offline, such as high-value industrial products through a sales team?
One of my industrial clients sold high-value pumping systems, and many years would go by between purchases. Rather than disappearing from the radar until the time came to replace a pump, they automated an email messaging campaign on maintenance and performance improvement. If Pump A required new lubrication and filters every six months, they automated a series of reminder messages that began exactly five months after delivery for a specific company – and every six months thereafter. The message contained data on their exact model of pump. They included an automatic “cc” to their service team, who would follow-up with phone calls to see if the customer would like to pay them to perform the maintenance – which led to a new revenue stream of hourly fees for service calls.
#6: Preference Centers
An email preference center allows your recipients to change their own subscription details. More than two-thirds of email recipients will unsubscribe because the sender is delivering too many emails. It’s possible that many of them would have remained as a subscriber if they could adjust the volume to a lower number. In addition to email frequency, a preference center allows recipients to select specific products or topics that are of interest.
#7: Offline Acquisition
New opt-ins don’t only need to occur online. Here are some ideas on physically collecting new subscribers:
- Trade shows: if you collect business cards from folks you meet, don’t just throw them in a drawer. Input the data into a spreadsheet and send to your email marketing team. You could even have a sign-up app open on your tablet or smartphone and ask a person you’re speaking with if they wouldn’t mind signing up by completing the info on your device. Don’t have an app like that? Carry a clipboard!
- Host an event: whether it’s an onsite presentation or an online webinar, ensure that every registrant provides an email address.
- If your organization has brick-and-mortar locations, ensure that all team members at point-of-purchase are asking for emails – whether they type it into the system, or hand them a clipboard and pen. Put a fishbowl next to the register for business cards and include a stack of blank cards to fill out and drop in for those without business cards.
- Ask for referrals and take advantage of your email marketing platform’s “Send To A Friend” feature.
- If you have a database of street addresses that are being served with direct mail, include an overt “call-out” in your next mailing to sign up for your e-newsletter, and include a perk for doing so, such as a coupon or free e-book.
- If you have telephone-based customer service teams, make sure they are asking for email addresses, and that the data they capture goes into the email marketing platform.
#8: GDPR, CASL, CAN-SPAM and other acronyms
If you’re following the general guidelines outlined under CAN-SPAM in the US – no list rentals, easy unsubscribe process, honoring unsubscribes, include a street address in your emails, etc. – then you should be generally safe from penalties. Other countries, however, have far more stringent guidelines regarding email list management.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a regulation in the European Union that addresses data protection and privacy for all individuals within the EU. It deals with the export of personal data outside the EU. The GDPR aims to give control back to citizens and residents over their personal data. So, you’re saying “I’m in the US! That doesn’t involve me!” Not so fast. On May 25, 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation takes effect and impacts companies that retain data, including an email, from any person in the EU. If someone from the EU signs up for your e-newsletter, or makes an online purchase, or attends an international trade show at which you’re participating, then you must follow the GDPR regulations.
Under the terms of GDPR, not only will you need to ensure that personal data is gathered legally and under strict conditions, but you must protect it from misuse and exploitation, as well as to respect the rights of data owners – or face penalties for not doing so. The GDPR states that “smaller offenses could result in fines of up to €10 million.” Larger lists may require that a person is assigned as a “Data Protection Officer” (DPO.)
Other countries also have particularly stringent anti-spam laws. The Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) and the Australian Anti-Spam Law of 2003 are examples. Fines from the Canadian authorities can go as high as $10 million for businesses per violation.
By following list management best-practices, you’ll see a higher ROI for your email marketing efforts and help ensure your organization is protected from actions by governing authorities.
Mark Vogel is president of Vogel Marketing Solutions LLC and serves as a lead email consultant for Nxtbook Media. He has more than 35 years of experience in the marketing world and has been actively engaged in email campaigns for more than 20 years. His email marketing clients include Fortune 500 companies, e-commerce retailers, non-profits, local businesses, and more. He can be reached at Mark@VogelMarketing.net.