Tips for Building an Email Marketing List

by Jenn Markey on November 8, 2010
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Email marketing can be a very effective tool to connect with customers, members, and contacts quickly, easily, and affordably. But if you’re not already doing email marketing and/or have had a less than ideal experience in the past, it can seem like a daunting task. If you’re thinking about making the leap into email marketing, here are some tools, tips, and best practices to get started:

  1. Ask permission – Just because you have a contact’s email address, doesn’t mean you can start sending him/her your newsletter or other promotional materials. Ask permission first by phone or by a personal one-to-one email invite. This will ensure your email marketing campaigns remain complaint free and CAN-SPAM compliant.
  2. Use incentives – Whether the names are new or old, give contacts a reason to receive email communications from you. This could be a discount offer, contest entry, white paper, or other incentive.
  3. Use list builder forms on your website – Place forms across your site and use a tool like Campaigner that can automatically import contact form information into an email marketing list.
  4. Seize every opportunity to reference how and why contacts should sign up – Identify and leverage all of your existing communication interfaces including invoices, business cards, brochures, email signature lines, and point of sale opportunities.
  5. Offer an assortment of communications options – Different people like different amounts of email in both detail and frequency. By offering a variety of options that contacts can self-select from, you will optimize the number of list signups.
  6. Set clear expectations – Be very clear about what types of emails contacts can expect to receive from you when, and abide by this.
  7. Start slow and build your contact information database over time – Ask new signups enough information to get started – often a name and email address will suffice – and then follow up with an “update your subscription preferences” communication. Asking too much information up front will slow down registrations and cause registration abandons.
  8. Keep your contact base clean – Make the investment to update contact preferences (especially if you’ve requested these), add new contacts, and unsubscribe others. A regular “update your subscription preferences” communication is considered best practice, puts the onus on contacts to keep your list clean, and keeps your list up to date.
  9. Build your own quality list - A final word: Be wary of anyone willing to sell you a list. Consider how many email addresses have you had over the past few years, and how out of date many of those addresses must be now. Purchased lists will be full of such errors. It’s best practice to build your own quality list vs. using one of questionable quality and heritage.
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