With the New Year right around the corner, we're here to help you make one positive resolution you can absolutely keep:
Don't purchase email lists. Grow your own high-quality database of subscribers instead.
Because seriously, with all you can do with email marketing - segmentation, automation, personalization, CRM, and so on - your email list is having a shining moment. What a time to be alive as an email marketer!
We know you would never dream of doing so, but top Google results for 'Grow Your Email List' still offer baited results to acquire hundreds of thousands of addresses at the click of a button. And there are other temptations too, like borrowing lists from partners, or sending communications to any email address you come by - regardless of whether they've sign up to receive them.
And this is exactly what email marketing has gotten a bad rep in the past - the outdated means of spammy mass emailing and buying subscriber lists. Not only do both of those practices reflect poorly on your business, they also just don’t work.
Let’s look at a quick example that is certainly an all-too-common occurrence.
Our friends at an ecommerce food website acquired a small brand, and therefore all of the email subscribers from that brand.
What came with the acquisition was an email list of over 400,000 “opted-in subscribers” – or so they thought.
First let's note that nothing here was done illegally; the subscribers were notified of the acquisition, and both brands were so similar, that the subscribers should have had a seamless transition to receiving similar content from the new brand.
Turns out, the list was actually closer to 320,000 promotional email addresses, and 80,000 customer emails who never opted-in for marketing emails.
And that’s just the beginning of the list shrinkage. After just a few sends, it became clear the list was outdated with email addresses from the past 10 years. Emails bounced or were marked as spam, and as the list cleaned, it reduced to 280,000 emailable contacts.
Despite being a list of consumers predisposed to the same natural food content, 20,000 subscribers would ultimately unsubscribe over the next 6 months. They were either no longer interested in the topic, or didn’t like what the new company had to offer in comparison to the past business they actively subscribed to. The real kicker? 220,000 of the final 260,000 subscribers have still never even opened an email from the new company.
While this acquired list rapidly diminished, our friends had simultaneously been growing their own email list through a variety of organic methods. This quality email list grew over 100% in that same amount of time, had a much lower unsubscribe rate, and averaged a 20-40% open rate.
So even though the company legally acquired a massive list of relevant subscribers, it was quickly reduced to a fraction of usable emails, and the response was so minimal that the time spent on the acquired list would have been much more wisely invested in growing and communicating with the organic email list.
Most notably, when comparing sales between the purchased list and the organic list, the conversion rate was undeniable proof that growing an email list organically by converting high-intent, engaged subscribers is a far more effective tactic. The organic list of opted-in subscribers generated 56.21% of company revenue, while the purchased list accounted for just 1.67% of revenue.
The key takeaway is that the engaged subscribers, who were interested in what the brand had to offer in the first place, were that much more likely to convert into sales after opting-in in through organic channels.
So go forth in 2017 and build the best list you have yet.
Wondering how to best grow your list? Check out our guide on Email List Growth 101.