4 Tips To Boost Your Email List Quality

Keith Perhac
Founder @ SegMetrics

When it comes to your email list, size is not necessarily a good indication of performance.

If you have just 500 active and engaged subscribers, you’re likely to do better than a list of 10,000 who are not engaged or who are not the best fit for your business. So when it comes to email lists, quality is always a better emphasis than quantity.

The point is that you want your email marketing efforts to drive action, yet if you don’t have a quality list, those efforts could fall flat. No one wants to waste the time and money involved with putting a decent campaign together for a poor list.

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#1. To Buy, Or Not To Buy?

If your list is still relatively small, it can be a huge temptation to go out and buy an email list to boost your numbers, but is this a good idea? Does buying a list ever net people enough engagement to warrant the action?

It seems the answer to that question is “not very often.” Overall, buying lists doesn’t tend to work out well or promote quality on your own list. Here’s why:

The Prospect Doesn’t Know You

What do you usually do when some random, unknown email turns up in your inbox? Are you likely to open it? Or simply flick it to spam? Even if you do open it, the chances are you’ll delete it anyway because you don’t recognize the sender and perhaps it appears to be marketing.

On average, email promotions are three to five times more effective when being sent out to current customers rather than prospects. The reason for this is simple — your current customers know who you are and why you’re emailing them. They possibly even remember opting in to your list, whereas your average person residing on a bought list doesn’t have a clue who you are and is pretty sure they’ve never opted in.

For most people, this is not a good way to generate good will. People get annoyed by receiving marketing emails they don’t believe they’ve requested. You know what happens next? They report you as spam…

You Can Compromise Your Good Standing

Reputable email service providers don’t allow you to use purchased lists anyway. They want to ensure they and their users remain compliant with CANSPAM laws and that people on your lists have actually opted in to be there.

Here’s what Infusionsoft has to say on the matter:

“All lists used in conjunction with the services provided by Infusionsoft are required to be 100% solicited (opt-in) lists. This means that the individuals on the list have explicitly agreed to receive information from your business entity. The practice of bartering, purchasing or renting lists of names and sending e-mails to those people is strictly prohibited.”

Infusionsoft and other reputable providers often require that you are able to provide proof that customers have opted in, but even if you’ve somehow managed to sneak a purchased list through, there is further reason it is not a good idea…

Remember the angry customers who are reporting emails as spam? If you get too many of those reports, your email account loses its good standing and you could find yourself removed altogether. Infusionsoft’s current guidelines state that there should be no more than one complaint for every thousand subscribers who receive your email.

“Should I go through a ‘less reputable’ email provider?” you ask. Well, then you run into deliverability issues that simply make it not worth the effort. Most of those less reputable services will have emails blocked or redirected to spam by your customer’s email provider.

[Tweet “Don’t do it. Don’t even think about buying an email list!”]

#2. Create Well-Targeted Opt-Ins

So we know the preferred method of getting people onto your list is to have them opt in, but how will this lead to a quality list?

Internetland is full of freebie seekers who have no real interest in a business or product, but simply go around gathering up free stuff. Obviously these people do not make for a quality list, so it’s about finding ways to better target the people who are genuinely interested.

There’s never going to be an absolutely perfect method, purely because anyone can still opt in if they want to. However,  if you create a decent lead magnet (or graduate to more than one if you want to create some effective segments), then it’s a great place to start.

Know Your Target Audience

Did you know that taking the time to craft and use detailed marketing personas for your target audience can make your website two to five times more effective? Hubspot provides some great pointers in their infographic, but the short of it is: know your customers very well so you are able to create content targeted to suit their needs.


Offer A Relevant Incentive

There is a Copyblogger post which is a few years old now but still remains relevant when it comes to deciding what to offer as an incentive for subscribers. Their suggestion is that you a) know the customer and understand what kind of incentive will spin their wheels and b) focus on keeping that customer subscribed through your incentive.

In order to avoid people subscribing purely for your giveaway then immediately unsubscribing, Copyblogger suggests offering your giveaway over a series of emails where you showcase your expertise and deliver value over time. This is a great way to help the new prospect get to know you better and perhaps build up to purchasing.

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Your Messaging

Every piece of copy and all content created for your website should be explicitly geared toward that ideal customer persona you have identified. You want people to clearly be able to self-select as appropriate sign-ups for your list.

This could even include some message about who your product or service is NOT for. For example: “Looking to get rich quick? This program is NOT for you. We teach the sustainable way to build wealth over time.”

What About Giveaways?

We briefly touched on “freebie seekers” who only sign up with you to get the incentive you are giving away — does this make contests and giveaways ineffective for quality lists?

It’s kind of one of those “time will tell” things. We know contests can work well to boost large numbers onto lists, but the question is whether or not the list will be “quality.”

Authority Hacker recently wrote about how they grew their list by 1626 subscribers by running a giveaway. While we don’t really get an indication of the quality of those subscribers at the end of the giveaway, they do mention growth in traffic to their website as a lasting result.

There are a couple of things they mention though which will help giveaways to result in better subscribers: 1) they chose something very relevant to their target audience to give away and 2) they promoted through sites that their target audience hangs out on.

You don’t want to take the blanket approach to promoting your giveaway or give away something that appeals more to the masses than specifically to your target audience. This way you will hopefully avoid getting too many subscribers who are not a good fit, but even if you do, you can weed them out in the next two steps…


Source: Authority Hacker

#3. Run Some Creative Campaigns

This point is fairly self-explanatory. It would be difficult to measure whether or not you are developing a “quality” list if you’re not making an honest effort to regularly communicate and send out creative, relevant emails.

Essentially you need to be proving your value to the prospect and again, ensuring that all copy is written to appeal to your ideal customer. This also means that you’re not just pushing “sell, sell, sell” and are providing helpful, engaging content.

From there you need to measure and test campaigns, including:

  • Open rates
  • Click through rates
  • Conversion rates
  • Bounce rates
  • Email sharing/forwarding rates
  • Overall ROI

Another point to note is that your communication must be regular in order to really do a fair test. If you’re not in the habit of emailing at least a couple of times per month, your list could forget who you are and simply ignore your intermittent emails.

If your open and click-through rates are always poor, it could be that you’re not doing so well with email subject lines and content and need to change them up. Otherwise, if you’ve got great content and are getting good engagement, you then start to look at those who never engage and what you can do about cleaning your list up.

#4. Clean Your List Up

You want to keep your email list healthy and engaged, so there’s no sense in hanging on to those who just don’t seem to be interested. You don’t want to be too hasty in getting rid of potential customers however, so here are a few tips:

Create Segments

We’ve noted previously how segmenting your list can get you better email marketing results. Create clear segments based on how the customer came to sign up with you and consider creating content to appeal to each segment. This could move previously disengaged prospects over to the active side, especially if you set up good automation workflows.

Try A Re-Engagement Campaign

The aim of a re-engagement campaign is to get the inactive prospect to just open one of your emails. That way you know you’ve hit some kind of interest and can send them more similar content.

You should have created a segment of these inactive customers so that you’re able to target them separately.

Hubspot Academy has a good set of instructions to follow for setting up a re-engagement campaign, with one of the keys being that you should be sending a compelling offer which entices engagement.

Clean Up

If you’ve tried everything else and still aren’t getting opens from certain people, then cut them from your list. There is no sense in agonizing over someone who probably was never a good fit in the first place. Many email service providers are now recommending you ditch subscribers after 6 months of inactivity.

Maintaining Quality…

So, if you want to boost the quality of your email list, an absolute key lies in how you get people onto your list in the first place.

Your subscribers should have opted in, preferably via a campaign or lead magnet which is very targeted to their interests or needs. You don’t want to go too broad or you will end up with too many who are just not a good fit.

From there it’s about maintenance. You need to keep in regular contact and provide them with valuable reasons to stay engaged with your emails. Know your audience, cater to them and cut those who are not interested.

Keith Perhac

Founder @ SegMetrics

Keith is the Founder of SegMetrics, and has spent the last decade working on optimizing marketing funnels and nurture campaigns.

SegMetrics was born out of a frustration with how impossibly hard it is to pull trustworthy, complete and actionable data out of his client's marketing tools.

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