Email marketing is one of the most effective and affordable ways of converting interested potential clients into confirmed customers, but it can also be very time consuming in terms of maintaining your lists and making sure you're avoiding spam filters and keeping bounce rates low.
In fact, most email marketers suggest that the average of 'list death' is 25% per year. This means that every 12 months, your entire email list will depreciate in value by around a quarter. People move jobs, change their email address or service provider or just simply unsubscribe from your emails. There isn't really anything you can do to counter this, it's a given fact that your list WILL lose value.
You can, however, regularly cleanse and segment your lists to make sure you're engaging with relevant, interested contacts and lessen the effects of 'list death'. Cleansing your lists greatly reduces the chance of someone unsubscribing, or worse, marking you as spam. It will improve your open rates and click-through rates (providing you're sending out interesting, relevant content) and will increase your "sender reputation".
To those who aren't email marketing specialists though, the process of cleansing, segmenting and testing your lists can seem quite daunting. There's lots of terms that can be confusing, methods of doing things that don't make sense, so here's a quick guide for non-email marketers on giving your email lists a potentially much needed makeover.
Test, test and test again
The first step on your road to a squeaky-clean email list is to test. It sounds boring, because it is. But it'll really help you get a basic understanding of how good your data really is. Here's how I've done it before:
- Rank all the possible responses you could get to an email out of 10. For example a hard bounce scores 1, an unsubscribe scores 2. Go all the way through to a score of 10 for a click-through to your website.
- Send 3 test emails over the course of a few weeks (or however your email schedule works) and monitor their results.
- Tot up the scores for each contact and remove all contacts that score less than a certain amount.
Email service providers use email metrics to give you a sender reputation. Because there is no financial penalty if someone doesn't open an email, most senders just email out to them anyway, regardless. However, this will affect your score.
Emails that don't get through are called bounces, and there are two types:
- A hard bounce is when the email didn't get through due to the email address being inactive or wrong. These should be removed straight away.
- Soft bounces are when the email didn't deliver because of a less serious problem (e.g. the recipient has a full inbox). These should be kept in a separate list and monitored. If they continue to bounce, then get rid.
As well as removing bad or inactive email addresses and unsubscribes (this is the law, by the way), you need to remove email addresses that have never opened an email from you. You'll find this will improve your sender reputation.
Also make sure to remove alias email addresses. These are addresses like 'email@example.com' or 'firstname.lastname@example.org'. These often bounce because they're separate email addresses that are connected to an account such as 'email@example.com', but that person hasn't opted in to receive your emails. So the alias email address rejects the email.
Once you've removed all such emails, you're left with contacts who actually open your emails. It's a good start.
Weed out the wrong 'uns
The next step is to determine what you consider to be classed as low activity. If you send out 2 emails per week and someone has only opened one email in six months, then they're not really actively engaged with you are they?
Pull all of the low-activity contacts into a separate list and limit how much you email them. Only email them when you've got something that you know they'll find interesting, such as an important new development or an offer. This way, the only people that you're sending lots of emails to are the ones who are already engaged, and opening your emails.
I know this sounds strange. Your natural instinct is to send more to the people that are less engaged. But trust me, the best way to get them engaged is to send them only the best content. They will begin to trust you and will see your email in their inbox as something they should take a look at, rather than deleting.
To get the right message to the right person at the right time, you first need to get the right data to the right database at the right time. John Caldwell
Segment the hell out of it
Segmentation is great tactic for email marketers or anyone involved in the digital marketing process to make sure their contacts are receiving highly targeted and relevant content.
It's pretty much the opposite of throwing enough of something at a wall and hoping some of it will stick. The more that you know about each customer, the more chance you have of making them convert. It's common sense.
To start segmenting your cleansed lists, you need to identify what metrics are important to you as a business. Are you a local business? Then targeting your contacts based on location will be quite important to you. If you're a business that sells musical instruments you'll want to look at customer behaviour-targeting, aimed at musicians or people wanting to learn music.
If you are in B2B, you could segment by metrics including industry sector, size, location, use of your products, buying patterns and brand loyalty. To segment consumer markets, there are any number of grouping combinations, such as:
- Location (towns, cities, countries, regions)
- Personal characteristics such as age, gender, income, occupation
- Their behaviours such as product usage and brand loyalty
Once you've segmented contacts into lists tailored towards your specific audience, you can start implementing email in line with your email marketing strategy.
Remember to continue maintaining your list regularly. It'll greatly improve your sender reputation, as well as your ROI.