An email list can be one of your greatest assets. But how you treat it over time determines how much it will contribute to your success.
Yesterday I read a very interesting case study of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra who cut their contact database by more than 95%. (You can read the case study here.)
When Mark Newman, VP for Marketing and Communications joined the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra in 2008, they had an email database with tens of thousands of contacts.
But the contacts had been emailed for a long time without a strategy, one email for the entire database that was sent in an unscheduled manner. The performance was so poor that improvements in the copy of the email, subject lines or call to actions would not have made much of an improvement since the recipients have gotten used to ignoring the irrelevant messages for a while.
The team took a drastic step. They emailed every recipient asking them if they wanted to continue to receive further email communication. Everyone who did not respond was cut from the email list. Which is scary because 95% of the contacts were cut! But considering that they were not engaged enough to respond shows they are not interested enough to read further communication.
The remaining 5% were highly interested and engaged contacts that were ready to be nurtured with some great email marketing! Since then, sales have doubled and the list itself has grown again by 500%!
What email marketing tactics exactly can kill your list?
Let's look into 5 tactics that over time will wear down your email list:
1) You are not segmenting your email list
What does your newsletter sign-up list look like? Does everyone sign up without specifying any interest? And if you are looking at your email list now, do you have any way of telling what a specific contact is interested in?
Even if you already have an email newsletter, it is necessary to go back and add sign-up options for your subscribers. For example, Knoll.com, a manufacturer modern & classic home and office furniture, has an email preference center that is easily accessible on the website's footer. Here, the visitor can sign up for email communication, unsubscribe or change the interest of the emails he or she is receiving.
Develop an email marketing strategy - what are the interests that you could break out? Think about your buyer personas, your products and services to get inspiration for potential interest categories. Make sure they are solid as changing them again will require significant effort. Then reach out to your email database to re-engage.
2) You are sending email blasts to your entire database
The word email blast alone makes me cringe.
If you are sending one email to your entire database, you are wasting your time. But even worse than that, you waste your recipients time. It does not matter if you are marketing a septic tank company, music or high-end furniture, you have different people with diverse interests you are sending emails to. Someone who wants to hear from you about your upcoming symphony nights will most likely not be interested in "Elmo makes Music!"
So stop right now and go back to step #1 and segment your email list now. The longer you send weekly homogeneous email blasts to everyone in your universe, the higher the chances you bore your recipients to tears and the worse your email marketing will perform.
Look at your open rate and your click through rate. Depending on the industry you are in 15-30% of your emails should be opened (Mailchimp) and your click-through rate should be around 1.7% (Epsilon).
3) Your emails are not actionable
You are sending emails in order to grow your business, to nurture your leads and drive traffic to your website. In order to do so, your emails should do more than merely update your contacts about news - they should allow, entice and convince your leads to act!
You can only reach this goal if you are clear what the purpose of your email is. Every email you send should have one defined goal. One. And the email subject, copy, images and call to actions need to support that one goal.
Examples of actionable goals are "Shop Our Labor Day Sale" or "Sign Up For This Webinar". Includes a clear and visible call to action that clicks right through to the sales section or the webinar registration landing pages.