List building is part of every email program, churning along in the background while we go about the business of creating, targeting and sending messages. Recently however some changes to the email landscape have placed a premium on list building. It is time to step up the urgency and look for more resourceful and aggressive ways to continue to grow our email lists. Here is why:
You lose a very small percentage of your list to unsubscribes with every message. 0.1% seems like a small enough number to ignore, unless you mail a lot. Then you have to multiply it by each message you send to see how many people you are really losing. If your list is 100,000 people and you lose 0.1% each time you mail your weekly newsletter, that’s 5,000 subscribers gone over the course of the year.
2. Spam Filters
Return Path published a report recently with data on Inbox Placement, and found that about 1 in 5 messages never make it to the inbox. Some are bounces, but many more are blocked by local spam filters at the corporate or individual level. Because these messages make it past the ISP or email administrator, they technically show up as “delivered” in most analytics. Once your subscribers banish your messages to the junk folder it is difficult to win back their attention. I think of these as “soft unsubscribes.”
3. Inbox Management Applications
A whole cottage industry of inbox management applications has arisen over the past year, including AOL Alto, unroll.me, TheSwizzle, Inky, Glider and others. Single-minded of purpose, they are programmed to remove unwanted and commercial email from the inbox and place it into special folders for reading later (if at all). Consumers are responding well to them, as the lure of regaining control of their inboxes is great. I anticipate that Inbox Placement rates will continue to decline as these applications take off, meaning that fewer of your “delivered” messages have a chance of being read.
4. Facebook Promoted Posts
Facebook has changed its algorithm recently, resulting in a smaller percentage of fans seeing a brand’s posts in their news feeds. Brands are now encouraged to use Promoted Posts to reach their “earned audience” of Facebook fans. Paying to reach an audience that has already given you permission to reach them through the service is not unprecedented of course. We pay an email service provider for a comparable service. The difference is accountability. With email you know exactly who you are reaching with each message, who is not engaged and what action each subscriber took. With Facebook, the analytics are not at the individual level but at the message level. You know how many people saw a post or clicked on a link, but have no idea who they are. Expect Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks to move to a pay-per-contact model of some sort in the future. As they do, the value of your email list begins to rise in comparison.
5. CRM Retargeting
CRM Retargeting is an application that allows you to target your email subscribers with advertisements outside of the inbox. The most prominent example of this is Facebook’s Custom Audience Ads, which is particularly useful if you have unengaged subscribers, unsubscribes or “soft unsubscribes” who you either not able or not allowed to reach in the inbox. Upload this list to Facebook and contact them that way. The program has proved so popular that – like pay-per-contact above – it is one I expect other sites to replicate.
Email still has by far the highest ROI of any marketing channel. According to the Direct Marketing Association, email generates about $40 in sales for every $1 spent, over three times the ROI of social and twice that of search. Putting money into growing our permission-based email lists will pay off more quickly than paying to find new fans on Facebook or buying targeted keywords. Email budgets typically include expenses for sending mail, but they ought to also include a healthy line item for permission-based list building initiatives.