8 ways to build a bigger mailing list - and make the most of it
In this guest post, Style Factory Director Chris Singleton gives some tips on how to create a bigger, better email database - and use it wisely.
Growing an email database and communicating effectively with it are two of the most important things that a business can do. “The money is in the list” saying may be a truism, but that’s for a reason: it’s true! Every email address you capture is a lead that can be converted to a sale, and as such has a monetary value - this will depend on the industry you’re operating in, but a simple sum can let you work out just how much each email address on your mailing list is worth to you. In most cases, it’s a lot.
So in this post, I’m going to give you some tips on how to build a bigger, better mailing list, and communicate with it more effectively.
1. Get any existing databases in order
Before even thinking about what email marketing product you’re going to use, or what sort of e-newsletters you’re going to send, start off by consolidating all your existing lists of email addresses (which may well be spread across a multitude of different spreadsheets or even Word documents) into one clean, well-organised spreadsheet.
Add any necessary columns that you might need for segmentation purposes (customer type, age, interest etc.). This will be important for sending targeted communications to the appropriate groups of people on your list.
2. Pick an e-marketing solution
There are tons of products which let you send e-newsletters: the best-known are arguably Mailchimp, Aweber and Getresponse (other well-known ones include Campaign Monitor, Mad Mimi and Constant Contact). It’s important to ensure that you look at all the features of each of these products carefully to ensure that whichever one you plump is the right fit for your business.
The key things to look for when evaluating these products, in my book, are:
- the quality of the autoresponder functionality (we’ll come to autoresponders later)
- the quality of the e-newsletter templates
- how much it costs per month to host your mailing list
You may find Style Factory’s reviews of these products handy here:
When you’ve decided upon your email marketing solution, you can upload your nice clean list to it.
3. Create a content plan and e-newsletter schedule
Next, it’s time to create an ‘e-communications schedule’ which outlines what e-newsletters you are going to send out, to whom, and when. You can use this throughout the year to ensure that (1) you get all the necessary content for your mailouts together in time and (2) you broadcast the right newsletters, at the right time, to the right people. (As far as the ‘right people’ bit goes, that’s where the segmentation stuff I talked about earlier will come in really handy).
4. Make sure you use autoresponders
Autoresponders are e-newsletters that are sent automatically to your subscribers at intervals that you define – i.e., you could design a series of autoresponders so that 5 minutes after somebody signs up to your mailing list, they receive a welcome message from your business; one week after that, they receive discount codes for a particular item in your store; three weeks after that they receive an encouragement to follow you on Facebook – and so on.
Used properly, autoresponders can save you bags of time - so ensure you set them up!
5. Ensure you have prominent sign-up forms on your website
All the major email marketing tools allow you to embed sign-up forms for your mailing list on your website (you can also use ‘pop-over’ and ‘lightbox’ forms too). A mailing list sign-up form is one of the most important features of any website, and without one you simply won’t grow your email database - so make you don’t miss any opportunity to showcase it. Tip: use pop-up forms on blog posts: they may sound annoying, but you’ll triple the size of your database.
6. Measure the success of your campaigns
Most email marketing apps come with extraordinarily detailed analytics tools. Use them! Review your stats regularly to see what sort of subject headers, content and propositions are working best for your campaigns. And speaking of all that sort of thing…
7. Split test
Split testing - also known as A/B testing - entails trying out different versions of an e-newsletter on a small sample of your data before sending it to the rest of the database. Say for example, you had a database with 7000 people on it. You might, for example, create three versions of the same e-newsletter, each with different subject headers, and send it to 1000 people on your database – after a day or so, you can identify which subject header led to the best open rate, and then use that header for your remaining 6000 records. The good news is that tools like Aweber, Getresponse and Mailchimp all provide split testing features that let you do this automatically. These can drastically improve your open rates and engagement levels, so make the most of them.
8. Follow best practice
Finally, falling foul of data protection laws can land you in a lot of hot and expensive water. Make sure that you are fully up to speed with the relevant regulations; and don’t break them! In general this means ensuring that you only ever send e-newsletters to people who have explicitly opted in to your website, and providing your subscribers with an easy, obvious way to get off your list.
If you would like further information, you can visit our CIM Digital Marketing Qualification information page, download a copy of our CIM Qualifications brochure or contact a qualifications adviser today.