How can I grow my e-mail list responsibly?

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Answer: I am always amazed at the still-prevailing idea that list size trumps list quality. Don’t get me wrong: Volume is good. Every record in your e-mail address list has an inherent value that can be reduced to a dollar amount. This leads us to the idea that your database should be viewed as capital and should be treated just like any other useful marketing asset. So why, then, do so many marketers mix bad data into their lists?

A bad e-mail address can have a dramatic impact on your ability to market with e-mail. Bad e-mails come in the form of addresses from third parties (list renters, etc.), complainers who have not been removed from your list and dormant addresses—e-mail addresses of people who have not opened your e-mail in more than 90 days. ISPs view all with equal disdain. While it is not illegal to send to these “bad” e-mail addresses, doing so is a sure way to increase complaints and damage your sender reputation. It’s also a good way to waste money.

So how do you build your list and maintain quality data? Consider these tips:

• First, be patient. Remember that organic list growth takes time.

• Next, consider what value you have to offer to your recipients. What information can you provide that will make them subscribe, stay engaged and tell others about you? Relevance is always the key to growing any audience.

• Offer something in return for their e-mail address, such as a white paper download or promotional offer.

• Give your readers the opportunity to forward your message to others with a “Forward to a Friend” link.

• Reward evangelists. They will continue to promote you to their friends and colleagues.

• Promote your e-mail through trusted third parties, such as blogs, partner sites, events and offline.

• Allow users to subscribe to your e-mails from every page on your Web site.

• Provide a profile page that allows users to define the way they’d like to be contacted, including frequency management and type of content. You can also use this opportunity to set expectations for the relationship.

• If you are sending to a partner company’s list, consider placing your content into their template the first time you send to those addresses. This is will ensure familiarity and immediately establish trust with the partner’s list. Then you can introduce yourself and provide a reason to opt in to your communications going forward.

• Don’t confuse list size with list quality. By growing your list responsibly, you will experience higher conversions with lower costs.

Andrew Osterday is solutions director, e-marketing for Premiere Global Services (, a provider of e-mail marketing solutions.

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