Even after so many years, email remains one of the most valuable tools that digital marketing has to offer. It allows you a direct contact with a qualified and interested audience, for an extremely low cost, and with above average results.
If email marketing is an important tool, your email list becomes one of your business’ most valuable assets. However, it’s a true diamond in the rough that needs to be worked on, taken care of and polished.
Maintenance is always needed
Ignoring your email list maintenance is wrong for two reasons: you won’t be harnessing the full potential it has to offer, which will take its toll on the results of your email marketing strategy; and you’ll also be damaging the quality of the list itself, risking a list full of invalid or unwanted contacts, which in turn will result in failed or reported emails. Both reasons will have the same outcomes: they will harm your results and your reputation with ESPs ("Email Service Providers", such as Gmail, Hotmail/Outlook, etc).
In order to ensure that you take full advantage of email marketing potential, these are some of the basic and essential care tips you should have with your email list:
1. Double Opt-in
Permission is a crucial first step: don’t send any communication to those who haven’t expressly indicated that they want to receive it.
It is mandatory to include a subscription field, where the users clearly understand that they are subscribing to your newsletter or registering in your mailing list. However, this is not enough.
After receiving a new subscription, your system should send a validation email, and only after the subscription has been confirmed should the email address be attached to your mailing list. Hence the term "double opt-in" – this way the user has to confirm, in two steps, their subscription or registration.
This step is important, not only because it truly confirms the user’s intention, but it also ensures that the email address entered is valid.
It is also wise to do a periodic reassessment, especially if no type of communication was sent over an extended period of time. Sending an email asking the user to confirm if they are still interested in receiving news from you is not intrusive, and it ensures that your list is updated and interested.
2. Prevent false registrations
Starting right at the moment of subscription, there are steps you can take in order to prevent false registrations. This includes not only automated registrations by spam bots, but also real people registrations who submit fictitious email addresses.
In the case of automatic registrations, by spam bots for example, the key is to install a CAPTCHA test or an equivalent system. Preventing false registrations by real users is something that will be resolved on its own if you use the double opt-in.
3. Remove invalid addresses
This is basic maintenance but it is often overlooked. If with your last communication you had emails returned because of invalid addresses, why would you repeat them when sending the next newsletter?
Register all the returned emails and remove them from your master list. This way, you’ll improve your delivery rate, which will inevitably have consequences for the open and click rate on your email marketing strategy. The same applies to complaints that can be eventually received – cases where the recipient marked your email as SPAM. In these situations, it makes no sense to continue sending emails to an address that will automatically send them to the "trash".
4. Remove those who ignore you
Refining and optimizing your mailing list may involve sacrifices. In this case, the sacrifice is removing perfectly valid email addresses of members who deliberately signed up. But if contact with these members has never produced any results, does it make sense to keep them on your list?
It makes no sense to continue sending emails to those who, despite receiving them, will not give them any attention. If a subscriber never opened or clicked on your email, it is better to remove them from your list than continue sending them communications that will be systematically ignored.
5. Easy cancellation
Including a way to cancel a subscription is an imposition of the legislation that regulates direct marketing. But if you’re only doing it in order to comply with the law, you’re going about it the wrong way.
Ensuring the possibility to unsubscribe at any time and in any email received, in an easy and immediate way, is the ultimate act of respect towards the user.
You should provide the cancellation via a direct link, which automatically cancels the subscription, without requiring login or any additional confirmations.
If you want to ask for more information or a possible justification for the cancellation – and even the possibility to annul it – that should be done after the cancellation, and not before – and, above all, never as a condition to be able to cancel.
Remember that the more difficult or complex a subscription cancellation is, the greater the probability of the recipient resolving the issue himself, by checking your email as SPAM.
6. Facilitate information update
Just like every email should include a direct link to the subscription cancellation, it should also include a link so that the member is able to update their information. There are only advantages for your database if its members maintain their profiles constantly updated, so facilitating this task is actually a favor you’re doing yourself.
7. Do not mix multiple lists with different emails
If you have several different websites, do not mix or join the respective mailing lists. If someone subscribes to the newsletter of a site about motorcycles, you’re not authorizing the reception of newsletters from a site about cars, however similar these themes may seem to be.
Each communication must be specific to the purpose for which the member signed up, and disrespecting this intention means you’re halfway there to the subscription cancellation or for the user to mark your email as SPAM.
For the same reason, you should also never resort to renting or buying email lists from third-parties.