Many marketers I work with have challenges with obtaining and maintaining a high quality subscriber list file. High quality in most cases means subscribers that open your email, read it and take the actions you are asking them to take such as visiting your website, buying a product or downloading a report. When I ask marketers about their approach to subscriber quality, many use some of the basic tactics such as using an 'opt-in' process, sending to a few subscriber segments for better targeting and signing up for feedback loops to suppress complainers. While it is good to use some of the basic tactics, there are many more opportunities to improve subscriber quality that many marketers aren't taking advantage of right now.
When evaluating how marketers obtain and maintain a high quality subscriber list file, there are generally three phases: Subscriber Acquisition, Subscriber Data Management and Subscriber Hygiene. Each phase presents an opportunity to improve the quality of your subscribers.
Subscriber Acquisition: The method and process of acquiring subscribers
- Use a consistent sign up process across all acquisition points of capture. A consistent process helps you capture consistent data which can be used to improve segmentation and targeting.
- Use organic list growth methods such as signing up at your website, social networks and point of sale.
- Use an 'opt-in' or 'confirmed opt-in' permission method.
- Offer a preference center and allow subscribers to choose different relevancy and frequency options.
- Send a welcome message and provide an incentive such as a discount or VIP access to encourage new subscribers to take action immediately.
- Identify and prevent bad addresses from entering your subscriber list file by using a service from companies such as LeadSpend, Bright Verify or FreshAddress.
For more details on acquiring high quality subscribers, download our eBook ’50 Ways to Grow Your Email List’.
Subscriber Data Management: You acquired a subscriber, now what?
- Use segmentation to your advantage and send more targeted, relevant messages. The preference center, purchase history, web analytics and other demographics are great ways to improve segmentation.
- Track engagement metrics for each segment such as read rate, clicks, conversions and delete without opening.
- Track and monitor the performance of all email address sources to help with troubleshooting. If you have a source that is introducing a large number of unknown users or unengaged subscribers in to your list file, you may want to consider another source.
- Monitor subscribers that reply to your messages. Subscribers that reply to your messages are real people and want to communicate with you. Encourage this behavior.
- Monitor out of office messages. Monitoring an out of office message let's you know that the subscriber is a real person and not a spam trap.
Subscriber Hygiene: Keeping your subscriber list file clean
- Identify bad addresses already in your subscriber list file by using a service from companies such as LeadSpend, Bright Verify or FreshAddress. Over time, subscribers that deactivate or abandon their account may become unknown users and spam traps.
- Send a win-back campaign and remove inactive and unengaged subscribers.
- Ensure your bounce process is working properly. Remove unknown users after one bounce.
- Allow subscribers the ability to change their email address and encourage this behavior in your email footer.
- Sign up for all available feedback loops and suppress complainers.
- Have a global suppression list, especially if you send from multiple brands and/or divisions.
- Perform regular database checks for role accounts (e.g. sales@, service@), disposable email addresses (e.g. email@example.com) and malformed domains (e.g. @yhaoo.com, @gmaiol.com).
Subscriber quality is at the heart of any good email program. You can implement all of the best email marketing practices around; but if you are sending to a subscriber list file full of unknown users, spam traps and inactive, uninterested or unengaged subscribers then you greatly decrease the chance of your message reaching the recipient and converting them in to a customer.