A large database of contacts is always going to be good for selling; the more people on your list, the more sales you will achieve. This is why many people attempt to acquire more contacts by buying an email list.
Email lists can contain thousands of names and, on the face of it, it seems as though your business could grow substantially from one. However, growing your mailing list by buying contacts can have significant consequences for your business and digital marketing campaigns.
What are the negatives about buying an email list and the implications for your business?
1. It Violates The Law
Many laws across the world state that a contact must give permission to an organisation, to use their contact details in marketing. This applies to corporate contacts as well as consumer contacts. In the US, the Double Opt-In law further elaborates on this by stating that a contact must confirm their subscription after they have given their first indication.
When you don’t follow these laws there are significant repercussions. In the UK, you can be fined thousands of pounds for sending marketing messages via email without the users permission. In the US, there are similar consequences.
2. It Produces Poorer Results
Email marketing is only effective because it is permissible, in other words, the consumer has given permission to receive the marketing messages. Consumers often sign up to a mailing list in order to receive news about promotions and discounts. The important issue is that when you have a contact’s permission, they are expecting your messages.
When you have bought their details, they won’t be expecting your messages and that this can put you on the back foot. Often, bought email lists have poor open rates (as low as 1%), while the rates of those with organically grown lists can be extremely high and often not lower than 15%.
3. It Can Get Your Mail Server Banned
Another problem with bought email lists is that you can’t guarantee if the contacts are genuine. If you have contacts on the list that don’t exist or their email address has expired, then this could return a hard bounce. A hard bounce will be recorded against your mail server. Too many of these will limit your ability to send messages and your mailing campaigns will be less effective.
At the same time, even if you have genuine contacts on your database, there is a chance they will report your business and emails as a spamming organisation to their mail client server. This will get you a bad reputation and eventually you will be banned from sending messages. This can be expensive to repair and will forever damage your chances of making a sale later on with that customer.
4. It Costs Money For Not A Lot Of Response
Email lists aren’t given for free. They cost dozens or hundreds of dollars to just acquire them. Then when you send the message you are expending more money to do so and the chances are that you will not receive much interaction or response.
Spending money without any return is not good business practice. Especially if you then have to pay money to repair your business’ reputation, or to set up a new mailing client for your business. Furthermore, you have the possibility of having to pay a fine for buying the list.
Buying an email list is a bad idea for your business. Not only can it ruin your business’ reputation and therefore your chance of selling to potential customers, it can also cost you significant amounts of money in fines and repairing your reputation. The only real way to gain new contacts is to organically grow them.
How do you generate new contacts on your list? Have you ever bought a list?
Let us know in the comments below.
Most businesses concentrate their entire email list building activities online. These, for example, can include using ebook downloads, pop-ups or sign up forms. However, you don’t just have to concentrate your efforts on the internet. Most people in the world have an email address, but not everyone actively read blogs or use social media.
You need to consider other ways to sign up potential customers to your email marketing list. Here are some of the ways to subscribe potential customers to your email marketing list without the need to be online.
1. Business Cards
Business cards are still very popular, especially with small business owners. They are a great way to pass on contact details and provide information to the receiver as well as a medium for collecting email addresses for your list. There are two ways you could get people to sign up to your small business email list with their cards.
The first option is to include a URL on the card where they can directly sign up to the email list. This might have a very small uptake as your potential list members will have to manually enter the URL and look at your site. This creates a second barrier for your potential customers, something which facilitates abandonment.
However, if you do use this option, you can find that you can increase your list quickly, as long as you hand out a significant number of cards. Leave your business card with new people you meet and even when you use services like restaurants, health clubs, etc.
The other option is collect business cards and ask those giving you their card is if they are willing for you to add them to your mailing list. Some people will refuse, but often people don’t want to seem negative so will accept. To remember who has said yes or no, place a simple tick or cross in the corner of the card.
2. At Networking Meetings
Another way to grow your list is to attend business networking events. These events are held locally and nationally and can be a great help for you to discover new suppliers and potential clients. They are also good for increasing your small business email marketing list.
There are several chances for you to collect email addresses at these events. The first option is for you to hand out and collect business cards as described above.
The second option is to take a sign-up sheet and ask people to fill it out. These can be good as you can collect further information which can then support your segregation of the email marketing list.
This can have a high uptake, but your new contacts might not be very active. That is why your sign-up sheet should have additional questions so you can ascertain if the contact is worth your attention.
3. Offline Competitions
Hold a competition offline and ask your entrants to include an email contact address. Make sure you are informing your audience you are going to include their mailing address to your database, otherwise you could be breaking CAN SPAM and other regional laws.
4. At Conferences
If you attend several conferences or trade shows a year then you can use those to gain new members for your small business email marketing list. To sign up people at your next conference take several of your business cards with the email sign up page URL printed on it and / or a sign-up sheet.
You might also want to run a competition or raffle, for example: win some free products or online shopping vouchers. These can attract people to your stand or to converse with you. The more you talk to your audience, the more knowledge you gain. You could potentially make a sale immediately as well.
Signing up new contacts to your email marketing list is often done online. However, you can grow your list quicker by using offline events and strategies. The biggest piece of advice, no matter how you go about signing up offline members of your community to your email marketing list is to ensure you have a thick skin. Some people will reject you, but those that don’t are highly interested in your products and will be easy to market to.
- Design some business cards that include your email sign-up form.
- Take some email contacts from your next networking meeting.
- Organise a raffle or competition and ask for the contents’ email addresses when they enter.
When businesses think of generating larger email lists they often think of online landing pages, social media, links at the bottom of a website – anything to do with online activity. Many business owners forget to include their offline activities as part of their strategy for increasing their mailing list.
Offline activities can be rather productive. There is nothing more persuasive than face to face contact and Industry Conferences are a perfect place to pitch the reasons why people should be signing up to your mailing list.
Here are some of the methods which you can use to increase the number of subscribers to your mailing list with their advantages and disadvantages.
Hand Out Business Cards With An Invitation To Join
This is probably one of the simplest methods in which to encourage users to sign up to your mailing list. Having a stylish business card with a link to a landing page can give a physical reminder for contacts to sign up, but it might not be the best method.
- Easy to implement.
- Physical reminder to sign up.
- Relatively low cost (business cards should be a must for your business).
- Business cards can be thrown away, lost or forgotten.
- Lack of personal persuasion can limit uptake.
- The card doesn’t include reasons to sign up to your mailing list.
Taking Names And Addresses On A Form To Add Yourself
This is all about the people who walk around a room at a conference and personally speak to their potential contacts taking details of their email addresses to sign up for their newsletter. This can yield large numbers of names and addresses. One of the important issues of this method is that you need to send an email to those who do subscribe this way to say how nice it was to meet them at the event and thank them for signing up to the newsletter.
- Personal contact with a good sales speech can yield high numbers.
- Low cost method.
- Gives a personal image to the brand.
- Time consuming entering the information yourself.
- Not sending a confirmation / thank you email can mean your subscribers will unsubscribe quickly or report you as spam.
- Incorrect details may be given / entered, creating problems with your mailing campaigns.
Encouraging People To Sign Up On The Day With The Use Of A Mobile Site / App
Many of those who attend conferences or events are likely to carry with them an internet ready phone. You can use this to your advantage by encouraging users to log into your website while at the event and sign up directly through a custom made app or mobile website.
You could make this request while you are giving a speech, at a time when people can discreetly choose whether or not to take you up on that offer. If you are only attending the event and not a speaker, you can still inform people about the easy way to subscribe and perhaps give them some support in doing so.
- High subscriber retention.
- Time efficient.
- You can go home to see the results instantly.
- Development of app / mobile website could be expensive.
- Low uptake.
- Relies on others having the right technology to sign up.
Whichever method you choose, there is also the main problem: how to persuade those you speak to sign up. The answer is the same as you would do online. You need to sell the benefits of being part of your mailing list, what they will receive and how it will add value to their lives / business.
If you can give solid reasons why they should be part of your mailing list, then there is nothing stopping you from generating a longer list.
- Implement one or two of the above methods next time you are at an industry conference / live event.
- Let us know how effective the methods were.
Webinars are an excellent marketing tool, allowing you to demonstrate your expertise while also collecting vast amounts of marketing information. Some of the best information you can generate from hosting your own webinar is a highly targeted email list.
Those attending your webinar are likely to be there because you are providing advice on a certain topic which they are currently experiencing problems with. Therefore, not only are you generating names and business contacts, but you are also finding out the current demand for your products.
There are several steps in generating the highly targeted email list.
1. The Content
To ensure the best results from your webinar, start with the content and title. You want to make sure your webinar is very specific as this can tell you exactly what those attending are looking for.
So if you provide social media services, host a webinar which is entitled “How to Engage Your Followers on Social Media and Gain More Sales” rather than “How Best to Use Social Media”.
With a specific theme to your webinar you can determine what email content you should be sending to the audience.
2. The Sign-up Form
One of the first things you should look at is the sign-up form. You want to have a sign-up form to ensure that you aren’t going to be wasting time by not having anyone attend the webinar, but also to collect vital information on the attendees.
At the very least you should collect the following information:
- The name of the attendee.
- Their Email address.
- Their position in the business.
- The business they are from.
- Where their business is based.
- The nature of their business.
- The size of their business.
- Where they heard about the webinar.
Some of this information is part of your ‘qualifying practices’. You only want to talk to those decision makers who are in your target market. So if you have an attendee who is a marketing assistant from a company, they are unlikely to be the person to speak to about your products.
However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t let them listen to your webinar. They could listen to the webinar and then report back to their manager – who is a decision maker. Anyone who is perhaps not part of your target audience should still be added to a subscription list. This is because, although they might not buy from you, they could share the information on their social media channels which might be viewed by someone who would be.
The best action to take is to look over the attendees and highlight those who are of specific interest to your business.
3. During The Webinar
This is often missed off by webinar hosts who get caught up in the excitement or the process of hosting the webinar. Yet during the podcast your attendees will give you insight on who is ready to engage further with your brand. Watch out for those who are asking more questions and note down their names.
Once you have a list of their names, you can cross reference this with the initial high-priority attendee list from the sign-up form.
4. After The Webinar
Once the webinar has finished you should send a feedback form to your attendees. This should be a non-intrusive form which is fairly simple and quick to complete. Note who sends you responses, this is another point of interaction and these people should be placed on the high-priority email list.
Once you have completed the webinar and received the information you can create highly targeted sales content for your emails and send them to your list. This will give your emails a better chance of conversion and a higher value, leading to improved revenue.
- Host a webinar and collect information on who is attending, who is engaging and what they are they interested in.
- Split the attendee’s emails into two categories: those of special interest and those not of special interest.
- Then follow up the webinar with a highly targeted email campaign.
There are many examples of email opt-ins available on the web. We have previously listed a few websites with great sign up areas for visitors. Today we go back to this topic and find some more excellent email opt-ins for you to take a look at.
Very clear and simple, this email opt-in appears on the first page of the website. It informs the reader exactly what they will receive if they sign up to the email newsletter (car news, reviews and advice). The website also draws attention to the button to process the visitor’s details which is in red and very eye catching.
The sign up also gives some peer pressure by showing how many people have liked their Facebook page and how many follow them on Twitter. When seeing this, others will want to join in where thousands of have before.
Although probably not the best positioned sign up, being at the bottom of a very long page, the bright colours against a white background do allow the sign up form to standout. In a similar vein the use of red in the heading draws the reader’s eye to this section of the website.
The details requested on the sign-up form are also not too obtrusive. Though what is really impressive is the offer they give you when you sign up. New sign ups get three free bids. Although this is probably something which they give all new users, it makes the visitor feel special.
Moving into the job market is our next website. Seek offers those who are registered or not, to have a regular email sent to their inbox about the latest jobs tailored to their requirements. There are several things which are good about this email opt-in. The first is that the content of the email is fully customisable, allowing the visitor to select only the information they are looking for.
Then the user can select the amount of jobs they receive by selecting the type of email they have (i.e. with or without graphics). The opt-in also allows the visitors to say whether they wish to be included for job searching advice and tips in their emails.
This article site has many features with additional options for those who opt-in. This is made easy by the limited information required for the user to sign up with and therefore there is less chance of abandonment on the form.
There is also the option for the visitor to sign up using any one of their social media profiles – providing visitors easy access. Signing up to their email list allows special access to users and allows them to comment on articles which have been posted by their many contributors. This gives members a sense of community.
Business Insider offers those who wish to opt-in to their emails the choice of up to five different emails to receive. Individuals can select each one they wish to get and then enter in the minimal amount of information.
Once the visitor has signed up for the newsletter(s) they can then leave comments on any article. What is more interesting about this site is that they aren’t sending out the newsletters yet. They acknowledge this and explain they are generating a list to email before they commit to the publishing of a newsletter. However, they do announce exactly what the newsletters will contain.
So this a great example for building up your mailing list organically before jumping in with the mailing. This is a good idea if you are just starting out with email marketing and want to ensure you have significant numbers to make the process worthwhile.
There are loads of businesses out there with excellent email opt-in. By optimising your email sign up page you can generate more names on your mailing list and greater revenue for every email you write.
- Have a look at the above examples and see if you can incorporate any of their great ideas within your email marketing strategy.
The question is often asked of when you should remove members off your email marketing list. It is an interesting question.
Email marketing lists are sometimes viewed with pride by the number of addresses you have. This has at times led to business leaders going out and buying email lists. There are many articles out there that will advise against this. A bought list can ruin your marketing opportunity as your mail will get reported as spam, be blocked and essentially your reputation will be hurt.
Although old subscribers are unlikely to report your mail as spam – they are a potential problem. Having too many contacts on your database can slow down the delivery rate of your emails to those who are interested in hearing from you and generally no matter which service you use – more email recipients will often mean more money.
Also a group of people with inactive accounts or who simply delete everything in their email inbox will distort your statistics. This will make it harder for you to determine whether or not your campaigns are working.
So to save costs and be more efficient in your email campaigns you should enforce a strict removal policy. But the question is open as to how long you should wait until you remove someone from your mailing list.
There are many points of view on this but there are probably a few key activities (or lack thereof) which should be good indicators to show when you should do this:
1. They’ve requested it
Sometimes people don’t realise that they can simply click on an unsubscribe button on your email to remove their names from your emailing list or something has gone wrong before and it didn’t work.
Therefore, if someone does send you an email requesting that you remove them from your list – the person in charge of the list should do so immediately.
2. You’ve been in regular contact with them before
Sometimes client – business relationships do not work out. There can be many reasons for this and neither party may be at fault. However, if this does happen it is highly unlikely that your old client is likely to want to hear from you on a regular basis. Therefore the best option would be to remove them from your mailing list. If they do want to keep in contact they can always re-subscribe.
3. They regularly bounce
If you have people on your email list who regularly soft bounce the emails you are sending them it could be an indication they are not looking in their email account anymore. This is not a wonder, 17% of Americans create a new email address every 6 months – therefore if they’re regularly bouncing it might be they have moved on from that address.
4. They hard bounce
Hard bounces are impossible to turn around. If you find that an email address is hard bouncing the emails you are sending, it is best that you cut your losses and delete the contact from your email list.
5. After a year of not opening your email
If you have been sending content regularly to an email address and they are not opening your email for a significant amount of time, then you should consider deleting them from the email list.
Not opening your email is a sign they are no longer interested in what you have to offer. The amount of time which passes before this happens is open for debate depending on your industry and how many emails you send out to your list.
However, the general rule of thumb is about one year.
Your email list is not about how many contacts you have on the list, but the quality of those contacts. By having a list of highly engaged contacts you can ensure the financial efficiency and strong reputation of your brand in your email marketing campaigns.
- Come up with a group of reasons to delete contacts from your email list.
- Go through your list and see if any contacts should be removed.
When do you remove subscribers from your emailing list?
Let us know in the comments below.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
It’s easy to separate the men from the boys, so to speak, in the world of email marketing. Many small business owners mistakenly think they are exempt from certain email marketing policies. However, the rules for email marketing are the same whether you’re a mom-and-pop corner store or a Fortune 500 company.
In order for your email program to be successful, to avoid coming across as a novice and – most importantly – to be compliant with CAN-SPAM regulations, you’ve got to employ email best practices. Unfortunately, small businesses are guilty of violating many of these email standard operating procedures. As they say, ignorance of the law is no excuse.
Are you guilty of any of the common violations listed below? If so, now’s the time to come clean (and clean up your act). Your subscribers will thank you for it.
1. Sending without segmenting
Just because your list isn’t in the six-figure range, that doesn’t mean you can bypass segmenting your audience. After all, you want your subscribers to open your email messages, don’t you?
Approach your email marketing strategy as if you were writing a personal letter to your prospects and customers. Granted, you don’t have to send a different email to every single subscriber on your list, but you do want to segment your list according to interests and other variables.
If you simply send blast-batch emails to your entire list, your subscribers will become disengaged (and eventually unsubscribe). Conversely, if you send them relevant content they will be more likely to open your emails, click through to your site, and convert.
You do need to consider the size of your lists when conducting A/B tests. Again, it’s not the total size that’s important but the percentage of your list that you test. If your list is considerably small, you may need to test to the entire list. Not sure? Check out this split test calculator.
2. Buying email lists
Small businesses are often targeted by companies offering to sell consumer lists. While this may be common practice in direct mail, in email marketing it’s a huge no-no.
Do not be tempted into buying an email list as a way to build your subscriber base. The only way to grow your email list is to do so organically. Think quality, not quantity.
Make it easy for people to sign up for your email list on your website. Use print collateral, social media, point of sale, incentives and other tactics to encourage signup. Include a forward-to-a-friend link in all emails.
Never buy an email list. Period.
This leads us to a third common email marketing blunder….
3. Emailing without permission
Do not assume that you’ve got permission to send a promotional email to someone. The only email addresses on your list should be those of people who have opted in to receive your company’s emails. Better yet, use a double opt-in process for your email signups.
Emailing without permission can result in another type of list – the dreaded blacklist. If your company ends up on a blacklist, your emails can be blocked from ISPs. It’s a death knell for email marketers.
Yes, you can send transactional emails to people who have interacted with your business but may not actually be on your email list. The distinction is transactional vs. promotional email. If you try the proverbial wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing approach of disguising a promotional email as a transactional one, DON’T. Transactional emails should have no more than 20 percent promotional content.
If you don’t want the email police breathing down your neck, make sure you follow best practices. It’s the first step to maintaining – and growing – a healthy email list.