Boost leads with these 7 tips for managing email lists

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Solid list management is a requirement for good lead generation, said Lori Wizdo, principal analyst at Forrester Research, yet few marketers are putting the two practices together. Today only a third of marketers remove bad emails from their lists, and only 22% have a policy around deleting inactive names, Wizdo said. And yet both of those things can affect delivery and, by association, lead generation. "List management, especially segmentation, can bring better conversion," said Jill Bastian, training and education manager at Vertical Response, a provider of interactive marketing services. "A lot of marketers seem to think having the most people possible see their email will make something stick, but the opposite is really true. If you're sending specific information that your readers are looking for, you stand a better chance of getting them to engage in the email with your company and ultimately make a purchase." Here are seven list management strategies that can improve your lead-generation efforts:
  1. Do a competitive analysis. You can't add to a list—or find well-qualified prospects—unless you know who to reach out to. One of the best tactics is to spend time looking at your competition's websites. "See who your competitors' customers are," said Jeanne S. Jennings, a consultant for Email Marketing Strategy. "A lot of marketers put case studies on their sites. Some have entire lists of customer names. It's basic, but it's easy pickings."
  2. Capture more data. The best way to boost engagement is to send better-targeted information, said Forrester's Wizdo. You can only do that if you gather as much information as possible about every prospect. She suggested merging Google or other Web analytics data with the email database, adding fields that show products users may have researched, for example. Other options include geography, short-term goals, keywords they may have searched or come in on, and comments left on the site. "It's a simple strategy, but lead generation becomes easier when you can send a more-targeted message," she said.
  3. Use mobile wisely. One of the best ways to cultivate leads is meshing mobile and email, said Michael Kelly, co-founder of Clickmail Marketing, a reseller for email marketing software and services. If you have already segmented your list into those who use SMS and those who do not, you can send messages that include specific keywords to text. So for example, you can have people text different keywords to receive emails and white papers about specific, associated topics.
  4. Ask for referrals. Whenever you send an email, you can boost lead generation by asking those already on your list for referrals, said Vertical Response's Bastian. The best candidates are those who have used your product or service for a while. A recent purchaser is also a good candidate to ask for a referral. Bastian said it is equally important to give readers the option to share in various places, which can get more people and more leads looking at the email. "Ideally these people will have the option to be added to your mailing list, for example, by clicking a link in the email that goes to an opt-in form."
  5. Segment by profitability—and look for similarities. While many marketers already have an email marketing segment made up of their best customers, few use that segment to the fullest. Jennings said marketers should look at the segment as a whole and find commonalities within the data. Do those list members have a title, vertical, geography in common? Have some or most looked at specific Web page or opened certain emails? Once you find the link, you can search for and email prospects that share that characteristic.
  6. Append using social data. Another way to increase the segmentability of your database is by using information gathered from third-party social sites and services, Wizdo said. "We look at social signals; everything from the groups they are involved in on LinkedIn to the people they follow on Twitter to the blogs they comment on can help with lead generation," she said. And it's not just prospect data that can help with lead generation, either. Your existing customers can help, too. "Many of these social data appending services can look at the 100 most recent buyers, profile them and find patterns. You might find that everyone who bought a product has attended a particular trade show or belong to a LinkedIn group; you can use that information to search for more people like that."
  7. Use list verification services and platforms. Even if you are diligent about removing inactive and bouncing emails, it's worth taking the extra time to run your database through services such as BriteVerify, FreshAdress and TowerData, Kelly said. "More than three-quarters of deliverability challenges have to do with reputation, so keeping your emails from bouncing, garnering complaints or hitting spam traps is key."
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