Your List Source Will Affect Your Email Campaign for Life

If you're looking into starting an email campaign for your company, one of the first things that is going to cross your mind is who you are going to email. While your employees, your mom, and that email address you made for your cat are a great start, you'll probably need some actual customers at some point if you want the email campaign to be effective.

Of course there is a lot to take into consideration when it comes to choosing how you'll build your list. You have to make sure you're being CAN-SPAM Act compliant, you have to make sure you are meeting the reputation requirements of the Email Service Provider (ESP) you choose, and of course the many relevancy best practices of the email industry are not far behind.

The choices you make about your list now will affect your email and potentially your brand and business for the life of the campaign and beyond. It should not be taken lightly. Let's go over your main options for email list resources, in order from worst to best source, and why these may or may not be the best choice for your marketing.

List Renting/Brokers

If you were to search "email list" on your search engine right now you'd be bombarded with list brokers trying to sell you contacts they've harvested for resale. This is the least credible and compliant source of email addresses. While many of these brokers are completely legal, and do technically have opt in permissions from the contacts, it's a fine line.

Often times the names are sold from companies who've asked their lists if they'd like to hear from "preferred partners" or get "other values" by adding a secondary check box to their opt in form. That gives the company the ability to give that email address away and call it an opt-in.

If you were to send a message to these users it is very likely that one, if not all, of the following would happen. 1) It will never reach the sender and end up in their junk/spam instead. 2)The user will be confused by the unsolicited message and mark it as spam, resulting in an email complaint about the ESP you are using. 3) The receiver will delete the message without reading or after a short review. 4) The user will open the message and immediately unsubscribe, increasing turnover of your list.

At this point you've got a list of people who have never heard of you or your product/service, have shown no interest in your company, and are not expecting to receive mail from you. You couldn't set yourself up any better to waste money and irritate potential customers. Pretty much a lose-lose to start an email campaign. We have a firm stance against list renting at eBoost Consulting.

Sponsored Listings

Sponsored listings can be a way to get to a relevant audience without approaching them completely unsolicited. You can essentially use the credibility of the list they are already on to build trust in your brand and potentially build your list while promoting a product, service or event.

Let's say you are in the entertainment industry and there is an email you get each Friday about the upcoming events that weekend. You may notice that the side bar of that email always has different companies or specials listed for places in the area. Chances are those are sponsored listings and you could get your company in that spot for a few hundred dollars.

People are expecting, if not even looking forward to that mailer each week, and they are the perfect audience for you. If you make your offer compelling enough to click through to your site you can try to convert their readers into readers of your own newsletter with a special offer for joining. Obviously you'd like a list of your own, but this is a great place to start if you don't have one.

Customer Data Base

You may automatically think of your current customers, which makes sense. If you've been in business for any length of time you probably have contact info for hundreds, if not thousands of clients. So why not just send to all of them right? Wrong.

First of all, how old is this information? It's possible that the email addresses will be incorrect or invalid, aka a huge waste of money. Also, just because they are your customers doesn't mean they've opted-in to your email list. The best way to utilize this database is to gather all the contacts and email them asking if they'd be interested in receiving emails from you. You can offer them the option to opt-in as a current customer of yours, but if they choose not to, you can't send them emails without permission.

Direct Sign Ups

These are obviously the best possible contacts. They sought you out and requested that you send them information. They may have even specified exactly what information they'd like to receive and when, if you gave them those options. You can either acquire these through an online medium like your website or offline forms like a trade show or in store promotion of some kind.

If you acquire them online you have the option of not confirming their subscription, sending them a welcome message letting them know they've been added, or sending them a message requiring them to confirm they want to be added to your list. The third option listed is referred to as double opt-in and is eBoost Consulting's preferred method.

If you require confirmation you are making sure their email address is valid and exists, that your email message made it to their inbox, not their spam, and that they themselves added their address to your list. This is going to ensure good deliverability, protect your ESP's reputation, and not waste money on CPM costs for messages no one ever sees.

Offline info gathering is a great way to get email addresses if you are commonly at networking events or trade shows interacting with potential clients. This is very common in B2B situations and should be treated in a personalized manner when being emailed. Make sure you send a welcome message immediately, mentioning exactly when and where they came into contact with your company. Of course offer them an option to unsubscribe just in case they weren't quite sure why they were handing over their info at your booth and always give them a preview of what to expect in your next message.

Your list source is going to affect the content of your email, your budget for the initiative, all of your metrics and measurements of success, the future growth of your list, and your overall company image. As you can see there is a right and wrong way to start off a relationship with a potential lifelong customer. By using the foundation of an appropriate list source for your company, and following best practices from there, you have the ability to grow your list, and business, exponentially.

- Amber Scott, Consultant, eBoost Consulting

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