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At the core of any successful email marketing program lies a healthy database of subscribers. Therefore, marketers should make growing that database a central priority.
However, list growth continues to be difficult for marketers. An Ascend2 survey reported that 34% of respondents found “increasing email list size” was a difficult objective to achieve. This was third behind maintaining an engaged list (45%) and reducing spam complaints (37%). The study also revealed that more marketers felt email list growth was more difficult than proving ROI.
These results are not surprising. Instead of letting analysis of comprehensive datasets lead the way, we often see “anecdotal evidence” and corporate agendas guiding email-list growth strategy. In an effort to demystify list growth, here are three things we’ve found that email marketers with large and thriving email databases have in common.
Yes, tracking only some list sources is better than not tracking any list sources. However, unless all sources are tracked, there is no consistent basis for comparison. Organic list-growth sources—such as onsite registration, email capture through inbound call centers or (for retailers) at the point-of-sale—should serve as the benchmark for all other subscriber acquisition efforts.
Alternative sources for growth include sweepstakes, acquisition through social networks, or co-registration. Tactical-level tracking only produces aggregate categories, under which more granular sources (e.g., source site for co-registration) are tracked. Therefore, tracking all list sources is your best bet for improving subscriber acquisition.
The sole purpose of tracking is to measure the ongoing performance of individual sources. These should be reviewed quarterly, if not monthly. There are many aspects associated with this: ROI, engagement, re-engagement, tenure, fatigue, and more. The more you know more about your subscribers, the more you know which engagement strategies to apply. And depending on the level of inactivity for some, you may decide the best decision is to let them drop off your list as a proactive step to ensure you don’t end up hitting spam traps.
Financial experts warn against putting all of your assets in one or two investments. The same advice holds true when investing in your email marketing database. Put simply, the more list-growth tactics leveraged in a program, the more subscribers the program is likely to collect.
Some examples of growth tactics include website subscription links, website email subscriber pop-ups, free E-books, online webinars, social media, and giving subscribers the ability to share.
As a whole, these three aspects go hand-in-hand. Marketers cannot commit themselves to only one or two of these principles and expect strong results. To accelerate healthy list growth, marketers need to adopt them all together. Of course, you must take one step at a time––tracking followed by evaluation, and finally a systematic approach to adding new tactics into your strategy.
Developing a sustainable list growth strategy is not a short-term initiative. However, we have found that some basic principles consistently hold across the board.
First, organic sources are the only safe bet. Start by optimizing your onsite registration process to see which messages resonate. Beyond that, list growth is an ongoing practice of trial and error. Benchmark the quantity and quality of names against onsite registration.
Second, there are no shortcuts. Do not believe anyone—no matter how emphatically the“expert” or salesperson claims their list-growth tactic is the best way to generate quick revenue—especially if they say they can make noticeable changes in days.
We’ve already mentioned monitoring email performance in Step 2 above, but we cannot emphasize this enough. Take the guesswork out of your list-growth attempts by answering what is working and what isn’t.
If you want even more information on acquisition, check out our white paper, The 6 Pillars of Effective Email Acquisition.