How to Build and Maintain a Strong Email Subscriber List

build strong email subscriber list

According to a study by McKinsey and Co., email marketing is 40 times more successful than Facebook and Twitter marketing combined. That is of course if you succeed at developing and expanding a list of email contacts and feed them with quality, engaging content. But what are the best ways to grow your contact list, ensure effective on-going email list management and generate more leads and sales?

The bad and the ugly

As with most things, there are good and bad ways to build an email list, and many options in between. In our view, email scraping or harvesting is on the dodgier end of the scale and TotalSend does not work with email lists generated this way. One way to harvest a contact list is by using bots or crawlers to trawl the web for specific keywords. For example, a seller of weight loss products may use them to find forum discussions containing the keyword ‘diet’. It then collects the publicly available email addresses listed there, enabling the seller to send unsolicited promotional emails. While this may look like an easy way to get your message out to potential customers, it is not a good idea. While technically not against the law in South Africa, it soon will be once compliance with the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI) becomes mandatory. Read more about POPI compliance for your business here. Sending unsolicited emails also increases the risk of being flagged as a spammer by email clients and ISPs, and could damage your brand reputation. Another ill-advised approach to build an email addresses list is co-registration, commonly known as co-reg.

Let’s say the seller of weight-loss products has a sign-up page on their website. When a user signs up, there is usually a tick box automatically ticked on the form, indicating that the user gives consent to receive news and promotional offers from related organisations. Effectively, the weight-loss people will then pass the user’s details on to their associates who will spam the user with their own information.

In certain cases, co-reg can be commercially viable but only when done minimally and without abuse. Generally however, it is another cause of spam complaints and as with email harvesting, the legality of this practice will end when POPI compliance becomes compulsory. Co-registration’s dreadful cousin is third party leads, or more accurately, illegally purchased lists. This happens when one provider sells its database to another, who sells it to another and so on. This is the fastest way to generate spam complaints so avoid purchasing lists like these at all costs, as you have no idea whether they are legitimate, how they were obtained or how long ago they were obtained. South Africa’s current legal framework doesn’t adequately deal with the protection of privacy rights where email lists or databases are sold.However, this method is likely to result in reputational damage and being labelled as a spammer.

Best practice

Asking customers for their consent upfront is hands down the best approach. The Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI) was gazetted in November 2013 and its commencement was announced on 11 April 2014, giving companies until April 2015 to comply with its requirements. POPI will require email marketers to have a person’s consent (opt-in) to receive messages before embarking on marketing campaigns. This is contrary to the current norm, which requires an opt-out rather than an opt-in. The only exception is in respect of existing customers, who must always have the option to opt-out, but are not required to opt-in.

How to build opt-in email lists

When building opt-in email lists, you will see rapid results by adopting a few simple practices.

  1. Incentivise users. A great way to grow an email list is to offer users incentives to sign up. There are many different types of incentives, such as access to premium content, discounts or freebies.
  2. Ask for permission. By opting in, a user gives permission to receive your bulk email messages. The single opt-in is fast and easy and will help the contact list to grow rapidly. However, you will also have many unengaged users on the list. The gold standard for reputable organisations is to follow the double opt-in email marketing route. In other words, once users have completed a signup form, they will receive an email containing a link, which they have to click to confirm they want to receive messages from the specific sender.
  3. Make it obvious.Offer the incentive in simple language that highlights the benefits they will receive and states the call to action clearly. Provide a neat, straightforward signup form. Replicate the offers consistently on different channels – websites, social media and offline - to reach as many users as possible.
  4. Keep it simple. You don’t need to ask for a user’s life history and blood-type when they sign up. Think of it like a courtship and the signup phase is where you ask for a phone number, but in this case, an email address. You will use this information to get to know the user in time, it can’t happen before you’ve had a first date.
  5. Keep the fire stoked. Once you have permission to send information, don’t be a stranger or you’ll risk losing the subscriber. Also ensure that you:
    • Only send emails that offer relevant, high-quality content that will be useful to the customer. Free engaging content will attract subscribers and remember that it doesn’t always need to be a sales pitch.
    • Segment your list to make the content relevant to the recipient. Develop buyer personas and target your content, communication and timing based on these buyer personas.
    • Keep in touch frequently but don’t overdo it. Depending on your model, once a week or once a month is typical but the key here is in keeping communication sustainable and relevant.
    • Make it easy to share with a variety of quick sharing buttons through email and social media. Here are a few tips on integrating social media with your email marketing strategy.
  6. Performance tracking. Don’t rely on guesswork. Monitor user activity to identify what content best resonates with users as well as trends and opportunities. For example, check which users or groups open which messages, which links they clicked on, and who unsubscribes.

Get expert support

The return on investment for email marketing makes investing in it worthwhile. If you provide good content, make it easy to access and treat your users respectfully; your list will grow and your sales opportunities will grow along with it. However, there are many factors to consider and approaching it without professional help tends to be labour intensive and an expensive exercise. Using an email marketing platform like TotalSend will help you generate opt-in forms, manage subscriber lists, perform segmentation and monitor results with a few clicks; leaving you time to focus on generating outstanding content and responding to the increased sales queries. Considering an ESP? Take a look at these tips on choosing the best provider for your business.