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Five Key Strategies for Growing a Healthy Email List and Database

By Julie Graham / April 16, 2015

According to BlueHornet’s Consumer Email List Management Report, 95 percent of B2C companies say email list growth is an important measure of success for their marketing programs. However, 74 percent find that their email lists are growing slowly or not at all. So how do you expand your list while maintaining data quality? What are the best ways to acquire new subscribers? And most importantly, what are the best measures of success?

To improve the quality of your list and acquire subscribers who will deliver increased engagement, conversions and customer lifetime value for your business, try putting the following strategies to work:

1. Dedicate Resources to Email List Hygiene

41 percent of email marketers identify list hygiene as one of the most challenging obstacles to email list growth – as consumers enter bad email addresses up to 20 percent of the time. Make list growth a bit easier and improve data quality by identifying your list hygiene pain points, including invalid email addresses, and unengaged and lapsed subscribers – then focus time and resources on the following:

  • Apply real-time email validation to ensure new email addresses are accurate
  • Consider running a re-engagement or win-back campaign to dormant subscribers
  • Regularly clean and maintain your database – at least twice a year – to protect your delivery and sending reputation as well as ensure you are sending to the most engaged and active subscribers on your list

2. Ensure Content Relevancy and Value

In addition to list hygiene, BlueHornet’s Consumer Email List Management Report rated content relevancy and value as some of the most challenging obstacles to email list growth. Marketers know that sending relevant content at the point of acquisition is crucial to building a positive relationship with subscribers, but don’t forget to provide a compelling opt-in experience that helps set subscriber expectations. Right at the point of acquisition, on the landing page:

  • Clarify what subscribers can expect from you, and when
  • Provide examples of what they will receive from your brand
  • Tell them why opting in will be of value to them
  • Keep copy simple and concise
  • Consider incentives for completing profiles and stating preferences

As your relationships with new subscribers evolve, use profile and preference data as well as click and onsite behavior to send increasingly targeted content that will help reduce list attrition and increase engagement.

3. Streamline the Opt-In Experience

First impressions are paramount, and on a web page, you get about seven seconds max – so make sure your brand stands out at opt-in. Keep opt-in forms concise and easy to submit. Forms with too many fields have a much higher abandonment rate. Only ask for the information you absolutely require to start:  name and email. Get more in-depth information later – use your welcome program to encourage subscribers to identify their preferences and complete a profile. Consider form fields, interstitials or pop-ups right on your homepage. They require little to minimal effort and testing, and will quickly tell you what your audience responds to best.

4. Encourage Social Acquisition and Sharing

Almost half of email marketers surveyed for BlueHornet’s Consumer Email List Management Report stated that while social media sharing is one of the most effective channels for acquiring new subscribers, it is also one of the most difficult to launch. An easy and effective way to capture your social subscribers is to include an opt-in link when sharing content. Get your followers excited and intrigued with content that keeps them coming back for more, and ultimately, opting in to your email program. Once they’ve opted in, turn these social subscribers into brand advocates. Encourage them to share your images and posts by providing them incentives when they do share – you will increase loyalty among your followers and further increase the reach of your brand.

5. Diagnose Areas for Improvement

To optimize the growth of your email list, you first need to evaluate the size of your list and measure the growth you either are or are not experiencing. Not sure how to determine your email list growth rate? The formula is “New Subscribers – Opt Outs – Invalids / Previous List Size.” Next ask yourself what objectives or benchmarks you want to meet and exceed; and what tactics are driving or stalling the growth rate of your list. Analyze your acquisition sources and understand when your subscribers begin to disengage so you can implement timely win-back campaigns to keep them active. Once you have identified your current list growth metrics and what KPIs you want to achieve – 25% list growth annually for example — you can create your plan for how to get there.

Implementing the five key strategies detailed above will set your email list on a healthy path of growth.  For immediate impact, capitalize on low hanging fruit, measure results and take action.

All information sourced above from: Email List Growth Survey, N-106, B2C. Ascend2, Fresh Address and BlueHornet, Published Jan 2015

For more information on strategies for email list growth view BlueHornet’s The 5 Keys to List Growth On-Demand Webinar or Consumer Email List Management Report.



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