Email List Quality Trumps Subscriber Quantity

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A recent study analyzes marketers' most effective tactics for a successful email list strategy, as well as their biggest challenges.

Marketers always want more—more data, more leads, more customers. But when it comes to their email list strategies, many marketers actually focus less on quantity and more on quality.

According to the “Email List Strategy Survey Summary Report” conducted by Ascend2 and its partners, 70% of the 245 marketers polled consider enhancing quality to be one of their most important email list strategy objectives; only 38% of respondents say the same for increasing quantity.

“We've seen that creeping up a little bit in previous years,” says Todd Lebo, CMO and partner of Ascend2—a research-based demand generation company, “but this is the first time we saw [quality] trump everything else.”

Lebo attributes marketers' shift in focus to increased reliance on data and more accessible analytics. But just because marketers aim for better list quality, doesn't mean they achieve it. Although 46% of respondents say their email list quality is increasing, 38% say it's not changing at all, and 16% claim that it's actually decreasing.

For those marketers looking to enhance their list quality, Lebo advises them to learn more about their subscribers, such as their demographics and click behavior. Doing so, he notes, allows marketers to better segment their lists and send more targeted content. He also recommends cleaning lists and removing inactive members. “Sometimes less is more,” he says.

Still, marketers shouldn't give up on list growth altogether—and many of them haven't. According to the report, 55% of respondents say their list size is increasing, compared to the 27% and 18% who say their list size is constant or decreasing, respectively.

Rather than being a primary focus, list quantity should be a secondary objective—one that's addressed after marketers remove disengaged subscribers and learn more about their customers, Lebo explains. “You should be striving to grow your list, but not at the expense of the quality of your list,” he says. “It's no longer an either-or situation.”

There are, however, a number of challenges that can prevent marketers from achieving their goals for list quality and quantity. According to the report, lack of effective list strategy (49%), poor email subscriber quality (39%), and inadequate list hygiene practices (35%) are the biggest preventers of marketers' email list strategy success.

Marketers shouldn't be discouraged by those challenges. There are several ways to ensure list strategy success, too. For example, respondents consider email-specific landing pages (53%), content download registrations (46%), and email and social media integrations (41%) the most effective methods for succssfully achieving their goals. Unfortunately, email and social integrations are also the most difficult schemes to execute for 41% of respondents. Other trying tactics include offline, in-store, or call center opt-ins (31%) and website-based registrations (29%).

So, how can marketers determine whether the pain is worth the gain? Lebo advises them to identify the payoff. He also encourages marketers to talk to their ESPs and marketing automation providers to see if any new developments can make executing tricky tactics a little easier. 

Many marketers are already seeking help with their lists. According to the report, 48% of respondents use a combination of in-house and outsourced resources to execute their email list activities; 45% still rely only on in-house tools.

But marketers should be confident in their ability to successfully execute an email list strategy. After all, 64% of respondents consider their strategies somewhat or very successful at achieving their goals and overcoming obstacles. Just remember to always focus on quality.

As Lebo puts it, “If you're growing your list, but it's not a high-quality list, you're not going to see the results that you desire.”


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