5 Qualities of a Great Email List


Frequently people ask me how to help them with their open rates. While there are some obvious areas to address (such as the From and Subject lines of the email), there is another area that most organizations need to address, but would prefer not to: their list.

Your success in email marketing can be articulated as such: 40% is based on your list, 40% is based on your content, and 20% is based on your creative (design, etc.). If you really want to get better open rates (and even more importantly improve your conversion rates), you’ll want to spend some time growing a high-quality email list.

There are 5 specific things you should consider while building your list:

1. Fresh contacts

Statistics suggest that most lists will see about 30% of their email addresses evaporate. People will opt-out, the address is no longer valid, etc. Make sure you have a good source of contacts to replace those that disappear.

2. Organically grown

Buying lists are technically illegal. Renting lists is a bit of grey area, and don’t tend to produce great results. If you want a really great email marketing list, then grow it organically: get people to opt-in to your message because they care about what you have to offer. Use SEM, social media marketing, etc. to point people to your web site where they can opt-in.

3. Targeted audience for targeted messages

Before you send an email to your list, ask yourself “who on the list should NOT receive this email?” In virtually all cases, you should be able to think of at least a few contacts that should not receive it. So don’t.

4. Only ask for the information you absolutely need

Segmentation is one of the most overlooked aspects of email marketing. You create segments by creating audience groups based on similar data (e.g., geographic information). But be judicious in what you ask for. If you don’t need the information for segmenting purposes, don’t ask for it.

5. Constant nurturing, pruning

Your email list is a lot like a garden. Give it the proper attention and nutrition, and it will reward you. Ignore it, and it will soon be overgrown with weeds and will no longer be useful. The attention and nutrition is the content you feed it. Send out good information, and your list will reward you. Also, do a re-engagement campaign every six months or so to get rid of the “weeds” or contacts that may have gone stale (or never should have signed up for your list in the first place).