Small Business: Keep email list updated

Keeping a tidy, focused email list can help

Keeping a tidy, focused email list can help a business deliver its marketing message to its core audience. (Credit: iStock)

Jamie Herzlich

Newsday columnist Jamie Herzlich Jamie Herzlich

Herzlich writes the Small Business column in Newsday.

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A well-maintained email list can be a valuable asset for a company. But too often, small businesses focus their efforts on collecting email addresses, but fail to regularly purge and update their lists.

As a result, your company's ability to deliver its email marketing message to its core audience could be compromised -- and you could ultimately damage your sender reputation.

"Email list attrition on average runs about 30 percent a year," explains Jeanne Jennings, a Washington, D.C.-based email marketing consultant. This means you'll lose about 30 percent of the people on your email list annually for various reasons including job changes.

It's your responsibility to maintain a clean list.

A high bounce rate could lower your email sender score and reputation with email service providers, impacting your ability to get your message delivered. So can too many unopened emails, explains Dave Marinaccio, email marketing manager at Active Web Group, an online marketing and development firm in Hauppauge.

Don't become spam

"Email service providers will mark your emails as spam if your sender score is low enough," he says. Look at reports from your email marketing provider to see who's opening your emails and who's not.

Active Web does this for its own email lists annually. It looks at open rates and specifically for those customers who haven't opened their emails in a year. The company then sends a "re-engagement" email with some type of offer. If customers still fail to engage, they're removed from the list.

Never remove a recipient without attempting a reactivation campaign reminding them of the benefit of having an email relationship with you, says Jennings. Send an email with bullet points focusing on what's in it for them, she suggests. It doesn't have to offer a discount, but could be a reminder of the value you provide -- for example, that you synopsize industry news for them weekly so they don't have to.

"A reactivation campaign is usually multiple efforts," says Jennings, noting you should separate the "inactives" from your active email list. If a recipient remains inactive, you may decide to remove them completely, but your effort makes that decision easier, she says.

While it's important to note which customers aren't engaging or clicking on your emails, it's also important to monitor your undeliverable or bounced emails.

Sir Speedy does this routinely, says Evan Bloom, co-owner of the printing and marketing services firm with locations in Westbury, Hauppauge and Melville.

If he monitors addresses that aren't being delivered, he can then go to his customer service staff and alert them that they may have the wrong address.

It's important to update clients' email addresses regularly, says Bloom. When speaking to a client or prospect, ask them if their address has changed.

"We make sure we're constantly asking to reinforce that we have all the proper contact info," says Bloom.

Stay relevant

If they're willing to maintain the relationship, be sure to send relevant information so they'll want to engage more with your emails.

Create smaller, targeted lists (perhaps one split by gender) so you're sending recipients emails that resonate with them, suggests Ellen Williams, regional development director for Constant Contact, an online marketing service provider. See if they're engaging by looking at the click-through rate, which shows if they clicked on any of the links in an email.

Constant Contact allows you to see who's clicking on a particular link and create a sublist of those people, so you can target them with specific topics.

"You need to give it the time it really needs and look at the statistics," notes Williams.

FAST FACT

4% The average email open rate in the fourth quarter of 2012, up from 24.8 percent in the same quarter a year earlier.

SOURCE: Epsilon / Email Institute