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Email List Management Best Practices for Marketing

Big list syndrome is real. It’s an affliction that has plagued many a marketer since email marketing in bulk first became a thing.

When focusing so heavily on having one giant email list, the relevance of the content that list receives can be problematic. This was illuminated during a recent conversation we had about email list management with an online retailer with a specific product focus.

The retailer has a large email list (more than 1 million subscribers) that is fairly well maintained, containing only website signups and past or current buyers. They send one campaign per week to the entire list. While their bounces and complaints are low, their open rate is also very low, hovering around 1% to 2%.

Clearly, there’s an issue with engagement. The users receiving the email don’t care about the content, even though they opted in to receive it and have done business with the company before.

Before we even delved into the content itself, I asked a question about their email list management: “So, regardless of whether they have bought something from you or not, all of the users are getting the same email content every week?”

“Yep, we send out the same campaign to everyone,” the company responded. “We use the ‘spray-and-pray’ approach to selling.”

That answer highlighted a glaring problem that they, and lots of other email senders, run into every day. One-size-fits-all content doesn’t work anymore, especially if you’re continually trying to sell products to people that just bought something off you. Curation is king, and spray-and-pray tactics are effectively dead.

We suggested the following email list management best practices, and they are applicable to any sender in a similar situation:

Separate out the list into three segments as best as they could identify: past buyers, current owners, and prospects. We didn’t want them to go into crazy segmentation to start, because it can be overwhelming.

Identify relevant content and topics for each segment on a potentially weekly basis. I said “potentially” because I didn’t want them to commit to weekly emails if they didn’t have anything to say. In those cases, hearing less from a brand is better than too much, especially as they try to recondition their audience that emails from their brand are worth the read.

Determine what the buying cycle is for a current user and use that as a gauge for sales-related content. Within that content, they would need to identify what matters to those looking to buy again.

Create a re-engagement campaign series for past customers and prospects while finding an un-engagement cutoff point in which to stop emailing non-openers.

The hope is that, by following these email list management best practices, each segment will respond to being communicated with differently over time. Sending sales push emails to existing customers week after week created a dead user experience, because the recipients had already accomplished the company’s goal: buying a product.

Instead, sending product tips, features, and content suggestions to different segments of their audience is going to be the direction in which they hopefully go, turning a big cold email list into smaller, warmer segments.


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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.