B34_Why Engagement_ Not List Size_ Is the Key to Growing a Healthy Email List

Why Engagement, Not List Size, Is the Key to Growing a Healthy Email List

Growth is important for your business, but growing your business isn’t just about sales… it’s about growth, too! Growth touches every corner of your business. Your brand awareness, customer base, revenue, products, services are all areas that will grow as you expand your brand’s footprint.

However, sustainable growth doesn’t happen with a “growth at all costs” mindset. If you grow too fast too soon, your brand might not be able to handle it. Instead of focusing on how quickly you grow, it matters more about how you grow. And how the experience you can deliver to your customers improves along the way. 

One of the ways you can genuinely and memorably connect with your customers is by delivering personalized experiences through the channels you own, like email. For example, which starts with a healthy email list.

A healthy email list is the foundation of all great email marketing campaigns. Growing your list is an integral part of expanding your brand’s reach and connection with a larger audience. Your list size does matter, but only to a certain point. If your aim is to grow with intention, your focus shift to customer engagement versus simply list growth. Engagement is the key performance indicator (KPI) that reigns supreme in your campaigns.

Read on to discover why focusing on list size alone is not a healthy growth tactic. How to build an email list that’s focused on engagement. Remember, quality > quantity.

List Size Alone Won’t Help you Grow your Brand

We understand that it feels counter-intuitive to say that a massive email list won’t help you reach your growth goals…

A massive email list is obviously helpful to reach a massive audience, but only if the people on your list are committed, engaged subscribers. If your email list is big but is entirely comprised of individuals who are marking your emails as spam or who are simply not interacting with your content. Then you’re actually negatively impacting your sender’s reputation and email deliverability… but why?

Email deliverability is the ability of your emails to land in your recipients’ inboxes. Email service providers decide whether your email lands in your subscriber’s primary inbox or in the dreaded spam folder, and it all boils down to engagement. If your recipients aren’t opening or clicking on your emails, if they’re just sitting, ignored, at the bottom of someone’s email, or if they’re bouncing, then service providers like Gmail and Outlook are going to flag your emails as junk.

Unfortunately, this phenomenon can lead to a snowball effect. Once service providers begin to flag your emails as spam, your sender reputation takes a hit, and, eventually, nobody will see your emails. At this point, your list size is irrelevant because even the recipients who want to receive your content won’t have the chance to.

Although that section of the blog was pretty “doom and gloom,” the important thing to take home is this: list size is absolutely nothing without customer engagement. The good news is that there are strategies to help you grow your email list the right way, compiling contacts who are engaged, enticed, and excited to receive your content. 

Build your Email List with a High Level of Customer Engagement

When it comes down to it, there are two key steps you can take to grow your email list while simultaneously fostering customer engagement. First, make sure your subscribers opt-in to receive your email communications, and second, segment your email list. Let’s go through these two steps in detail. 

1. Confirm Email Subscriptions with an Opt-In Process 

Having your email subscribers opt-in to receive your messages is essential to the success of your email campaigns. Why? Because it allows your subscribers to confirm that they intentionally chose to receive your messages. Without that confirmation, it’s difficult to be certain that someone subscribed (and consented to receive your emails) on purpose. 

Here are a few things to do (and to avoid) to confirm subscriptions.

Don’t use purchased lists

A purchased list is a collection of email addresses that your brand can buy from a vendor. It sounds fishy because it is fishy! None of these individuals have given you their consent to receive marketing communications, and using these lists violates many email service providers (ESP) Terms of Service. They’re a surefire way to get your recipients to mark your emails as spam.

Do use a double opt-in

A double opt-in is a process in which new subscribers have to confirm their email addresses after signing up. This ensures that new subscribers actually want to receive your content and that their email addresses are free of spelling errors. Subscribers who double opted-in are typically more engaged with your emails and result in higher quality leads for your brand (think sustained engagement and growth).

Yes, a single opt-in signup process will most likely yield a larger quantity of subscribers (since they don’t have to confirm their interest). But those subscribers may not be as engaged and you risk collecting a higher volume of invalid or ineffective email addresses.

Don’t send promotional emails to customers (unless they’ve chosen to hear from you)

Many marketers make the mistake of assuming that just because someone has made a purchase from their brand, they’ve opted-in to receive marketing emails.

This is not the case and doing this actually violates the CAN-SPAM Act. Technically, you do not have permission to send your customers promotional emails or newsletters unless they’ve explicitly signed up for them.

The one caveat here is that you can provide your customers the option to choose for themselves. On your checkout page, try including a section where customers can opt-in on their own to receive marketing emails. However, default to leaving this box or section unchecked to eliminate the possibility of customers accidentally subscribing to your newsletter without their knowledge.

2. Segment your Email Lists Based on Customer Engagement 

The more your email list grows, the more diverse it’s going to become. That diversity is wonderful because it gives you the opportunity to flex those creative muscles and create a more personalized content program.

One effective way to segment your email campaigns is by—you guessed it—customer engagement. Here are a few ways you can define engagement based on how your subscribers (customers included) have interacted with you.

Subscribers who recently opened an email

The most common way to define engagement is by the most recent email open date. Someone who has opened one of your emails in the last 30 days is probably interested in your content. Including information on what sales you’re running, and if you’re offering any discount codes or any VIP perks. Individuals who have not opened one of your emails in the past 90 days could potentially benefit from a win-back email instead.

Subscribers who recently clicked on an email

You can also define engagement by click-through rate as it’s actually a stronger sign of interest than simply opening an email. Your subscribers may be prone to open emails more often than they click through them. So you can broaden your timeframe for determining whether they’re engaged—around 120 days.

Subscribers who recently viewed a product on your website

A subscriber’s or customer’s activity on your website is another way you can categorize engagement. While this might not be the sole factor you use to determine engagement, it’s a great condition to zero in on those subscribers who might find your emails most relevant. If they’re perusing your site, your brand is likely top-of-mind.

To narrow your segment even further, you might try only including people who have visited your site a certain number of times. For example, your segment with the highest customer engagement might contain subscribers who have opened an email in the past 90 days or who have visited your site X times over the past month.

Subscribers who recently purchased a product (and subscribed to your newsletter)

This customer engagement segment is similar to those who have recently visited your site; it can help you reach subscribers who are thinking about your brand. Adding this action as an “or” condition broadens the reach of your emails because nothing says “I’m super interested in your brand” quite like a customer making a purchase! 

Keep in mind that regardless of the segmentation strategy you’re using, any and all customers must have subscribed to your email list before you can send them any promotional emails.

Customer engagement and list size are not mutually exclusive

Growth is important to any successful email marketing program, especially growing the size of your email list. But this doesn’t mean blasting everyone on your list with the same email and the same content, time and time again. 

The quality and engagement of your email list are by far more important than sheer numbers, from both a deliverability perspective and a subscriber experience perspective.

It’s possible—and imperative—to grow your list size while also ensuring your subscribers are engaged with your content. Once you find that balance and see for yourself how the two can coexist in harmony, you’ll be well on your way to growing a stellar email marketing program.

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