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E-mail secrets and lies: Keeping your list in good shape

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Although pundits warn that e-mail marketing lists are stagnant, results of a new study from ExactTarget indicate the contrary. Today, list growth for most industries is healthy, with monthly average net increases of 3.2%, or more than 38% annually. Still, it’s up to the marketer to make sure those numbers stay consistent. Morgan Stewart, director of strategic services at ExactTarget and author of the study, provides one little-known secret and exposes one often-told lie about keeping your list in good shape.

E-mail list secret: Your best e-mail addresses are the ones you already have. It seems like a simple idea, but it’s one that few marketers seem to heed, Stewart said. “If I have $1 to spend, taking care of my current customer is going to be just as important as acquiring new ones,” he said. “The secret is really how do I maintain my current list, which is going to generate better results for me?”

This is a key question because most lists see a 2% attrition rate each month. Stewart suggested creating contextual campaigns that address each customer’s needs. That means doing the obvious: asking customers what they need to do their jobs more effectively. Think about providing outside content that doesn’t necessarily relate directly to your business model, such as industry news, research and competitive information.

“If you spend enough time taking care of your list,” Stewart said, “generally people will sway their attention your way.”

E-mail list lie: A name is a name. Most people think that it doesn’t matter where or when you get an e-mail address for your list, but the opposite is true. If you acquire an e-mail address through outside means such as co-registration, that name is going to have only 50% of the value of a name that you’ve gleaned from your site would have, Stewart said. Conversion is even more dismal on those names, giving marketers only 10% of the value of someone who has signed up on their site.

You can boost your list’s number of homegrown e-mail addresses by thinking outside the box when it comes to acquisition. Stewart suggested asking your receptionists and customer service people to ask callers if they’d like to receive updates and product information via e-mail. Another option is to merge search engine marketing with e-mail marketing, he said.

“We worked with a company that was doing paid search to get their message out about different universities,” he said. “Once people would come to a landing page they would do a name capture and e-mails would start going out immediately.”

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