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Your company’s email list is one of the most valuable assets that you possess. But to build a truly valuable list, you must compile your own actual “opt-in” email lists; you simply cannot come to rely entirely on “acquired” lists. There are indeed high-quality lists of opt-in addresses available for rent. Most of the better ones are rather costly, because they are very targeted, and have already been cleaned of bad addresses. There are also very cheap, low-quality lists of addresses available for sale, many of which have already been over-used, over-marketed, gone bad or been abandoned to their spam-riddled fate. Both of these types of “acquired” lists do actually have one thing in common, however: neither one of them is really your very best target for email marketing.

Your best targets for direct email are individuals who have already met or contacted your organization. Current prospects, customers, business partners and even personal contacts are a good source of email addresses. These targets have already contacted you and are at least somewhat familiar with your organization. If what you need are introductions to new prospects, you will likely be better off using other forms of marketing other than your own direct email campaign.

One form of email marketing that does work to get introductions to new customers is to sponsor someone else’s email newsletter, or “ezine” as they are sometimes called. Even though the recipient has never heard of you or your organization, this kind of marketing can work via email because the sender and recipient do have an existing relationship, and you are leveraging off of that for the introduction. A good example of this is a travel agency placing an advertisement with an ezine that’s dedicated to adventure travel. This is simply applying classic piggyback marketing techniques to the new medium of email marketing.

Email marketing is best at assisting with the many follow-ups it usually takes to convert a prospect into a customer. The only way such a strategy can work is by building your own email list. Here are a few best practices for email list management that can help you mine the gold that lies within your lists.

  • Take “Remove” requests off your list right away. Not only is sending to someone again after they have requested to be taken off your list “anti-marketing” that turns prospects off of offers they might receive in other ways, but you also expose yourself to potential legal problems in a number of states. Either way, you lose, so it is very important to comply with these requests promptly. It’s best to use a service, like Great Big Noise ( which automatically handles remove requests for you, or else this can quickly become an unmanageable task.

  • Have the correct recipient name and company name. This especially applies for lists compiled from trade shows or networking events where you’ve collected business cards. There is no bigger turn-off in the direct email marketing space than a typo in YOUR NAME, and it reduces the impact of your mailings considerably.

  • Add people to your email list right away so that you do not forget to do so before your next mailing. Getting the content for your next mailing ready to go is enough work up to the last minute, so procrastinating on updating your list is especially unwise.

  • Always remove duplicates, especially in the case where you are sending out to more than one list. Receiving more than one of the same messages to the same email address is a big turn off to recipients. Note that you cannot do anything about individuals who have used different email addresses when signing up for your list.

  • Segment your list in meaningful ways, and then target different message based on this information. For example, you might wish to offer one special incentive for first-time customers, which would be offered only to the “Prospects” list, and another different incentive for the existing “Customers” list.

  • Make sure you do not mis-target messages. For example, don’t say “As a special discount for our loyal customers” in a mailing also sent to people who have not become a customer yet. A disconnect in the language at the very least may seem “odd” to readers, and at worst the right offer sent to the wrong person may actually anger someone. Existing customers who accidentally receive that discount info meant only for new customers may wonder why they were not offered that specific discount as well.

  • Don’t just remove all addresses that have “bounces” (delivery failure notices) the first time a message is returned as undeliverable. Sometimes mailboxes are full or servers are down, and although one mailing may not go thru, the next one might. You may want to wait for 3 or 4 bounces before concluding that an address is no longer good.

  • Once you have determined that an address is bad, remove it immediately from your list. Knowing the actual number of good addresses you have on your list will allow you to accurately calculate the key statistics and effectiveness of your campaigns. Many bad addresses will throw off these calculations.

  • Offer an incentive for prospects to sign up for your email list. A call to action is necessary with some kind of benefit. Use free promotions, valuable information, a discount or something similar. Just give the prospect that little extra reason to sign up for your list.

This may sound like a lot of work to do (and it is!), however it’s worth it. Managing your lists well is absolutely required to realize the value that is contained within. You can save lots of time and money by choosing the right company to handle your email marketing. You’ll see as you nurture and grow your list, your email members will become increasingly loyal to you and your services. Bottom line, don’t miss out on a revolutionary new way to reach new markets, retain customers, and beat the competition. By choosing the right bulk emailing service to handle much of the grunt work automatically, and by applying a little discipline to your list procedures, you can nurture your lists along until you are ready to harvest their hidden bounty.

This Web Marketing article was written by Ron Evans on 2/14/2005