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Build A Better Email Program: List & Subscriber Engagement Matters

One of the common questions that email delivery pros like us get is ‘How do I get more emails into the inbox?’ Most times, the answers are best explained over adult drinks in discotheques but for those of us without white leisure suits and great dance moves, that’s why blogs like this exist.

However, I’m going to step aside from explaining the technical side of our business and save that for another day and another voice like our Director of Deliverability, Stephen Wheeler. Instead, you and I are going to look at a key cog in the wheel that needs to addressed first: how you interact with your lists.

Why list engagement matters

If my friend Clyde knocked on my door tomorrow, I’d open it and gladly let him in. We have a relationship, speak regularly and I get value from my conversations with him. However, if someone I didn’t know or barely knew dropped by uninvited, I’d be more hesitant and cautious to open the door.

That’s how the inbox is — your trusted home for marketers and others to “drop by” and try to get in your house. Having double-opt in subscribers to your list is one step in, sending and having the end user engage with an email via an open and click is another. Think about who’s behind that door and construct your email marketing strategy behind being invited in and not breaking the door down and causing the spam cops to be called.

The more spam complaints you get, the more ISPs will start taking a look at what you’re doing. Sending through a infrastructure with a great sending reputation and that care about who’s actually sending through their servers is hugely important.

How often do you send?

If you knocked on that door once a year, the engagement level is going to be a lot worse than if you were a friendly face regularly stopping by. On the flip side, even Clyde knocking every day would get a bit much unless he was giving me important news and insight into something I wanted to keep up with at any cost. Depending on what the content of your emails are and what the intent is, your sending frequency plays a big role in whether the end user will engage.

On the delivery side, the longer you take between sends, the bigger the chance that email addresses are invalid and have become part of honeypots/spam traps. More frequent sends with a service that is continually list cleansing will help greatly. Whether every four weeks, six weeks or two months depends on your brand. Find your groove with clicks, opens and conversions to find your sending sweet spot.

Where’s your data coming from?

Please say you didn’t grab every Excel file on your drive, load ’em up and hit ‘send’. If so, enjoy your stint in blacklist hell, the road to which is paved with good email intentions.

There seems to be a rush with some marketers to build up their lists overnight instead of doing things the right way: getting subscribers that actually want to get information from their brand. Like any other type of marketing practice, this takes time, patience, best practices and even a little bit o’luck to see the results. Shortcuts = issues.

In other words, don’t buy lists. Don’t rent lists. Don’t data dump every bit of info you’ve ever collected and send an email. Put an email signup on your site. Invite those that have done business with you in the last 18 months to join your lists. Try some email signup referral offers and contests. Whatever you do, get subscribers that want to be engaged with you and follow CAN-SPAM regulations in doing so.

Are you doing anything unusual?

This is best evaluated by a pro, but sometimes you might be sending emails in a manner that doesn’t make any sense (deploying to just one domain in large quantities, etc) that will hurt deliverability. If you’re stumped, ask someone in the know.

Final Takeaways

Both frequency and the origin of the data you’re sending to matter, as does who you’re sending through. If you’re building an efficient and best practices driven email marketing program, start with your lists. If you don’t care about who you’re sending to, what’s the point?


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Whois: Josh Nason

Josh Nason is a Reputation Manager at Oracle Dyn Global Business Unit, a pioneer in managed DNS and a leader in cloud-based infrastructure that connects users with digital content and experiences across a global internet.