The Importance of Focused, Quality, Opt In Email Lists

Over the years we have had experience in most areas of email marketing, both from the perspective of doing it ourselves and of supplying companies with email marketing services. In that time we have seen all too frequently the 'spray and pray' approaches that simply do not work and that give email marketing a bad name.

High bounce rates, high unsubscribe rates, high numbers of junk registrations, spam reports from recipients... these are all fairly typical results of blasting emails to huge numbers of people you do not know.

The latest enquiry we received was a classic. Naming no names, we received an enquiry from a business who stated they were a new startup, looking for email marketing consulting.

So far so good, "We're they guys for the job!", we told them. We were then asked to provide license costs for our online email marketing solution, Zoho Campaigns. "Sure", we said, "what's the approximate number of recipients in your database?". 

"Four hundred thousand", they said, sounding very pleased with themselves at having such a huge list. Obviously alarm bells rang and we advised them to refine their lists before starting out and we have not heard from them since!

Although we offer Zoho Campaigns email marketing software and also email marketing services we try to make it clear very early on that we do not sell lists nor do we send emails on behalf of people who buy them. Our partners Zoho will also not allow non-specific email addresses like info@, sales@, marketing@, as it indicates a potentially risky email list.

It all boils down to common sense.

If you do not personally know the people you are emailing, or if you cannot confirm the contacts have had some sort of dealing with your business or your sales people and have requested to be sent information at any time in the past, then why would you assume that buying their contact details is a feasible way to communicate with them? Let's be honest, renting email lists is tempting, especially when starting out. It can be pretty soul destroying getting started, we're the first to agree, looking at your email list and seeing 6 people in there, one of whom is yourself! 

Many companies provide these lists of contacts cheaply, advertising them as being segmented to such an extent that they can tell you the contact's position in the company, their interests and other information. They often claim they are all 'opt in' too.  It sounds great doesn't it? But it's always for a price of course - more information, more money. And how can they be 'opt in' when they have never heard of you?  This is what you must never lose sight of. 

You have to ask: why would anyone - in this day and age of mind boggling volumes of spam - willingly give their email address and contact details to companies to sell on to all and sundry? 

And on this topic it's important to note many list providers may not even 'sell' the list in the true sense of the word, they rent them, in which case you really have no idea who you are actually emailing because you never even see the list of contacts! 

It makes no sense for them to give away their digital products, which are easily passed on or replicated, so you have to take their word for it that the emails are of good quality and are relevant to your business and that they are 'opt in'. Opt in to what? They do not know you, so how can they opt in to your email?

It sounds crazy when you put it like that but plenty of people still do this and then blast emails to thousands of people in the hope that they get some business.

In general your strategy should incorporate a number of correct procedures: 

- Well thought out design, incorporating logical content layout and calls to action - ie. what you want the reader to do. 

- A quality list of opt in emails, this can be defined as a list of contacts you know, or do business with, who have in some way requested information from you, either via opt in functions, on the phone, via email etc. 

- Strategic email sequence, use of autoresponders, drip campaigns - ie. how you plan to follow up on clicks, reads, registrations. 

- Lead capture mechanisms like 'web to CRM' and lead source tracking, plus automated lead assignment so your sales people are assigned leads based on predefined criteria for fast follow up. A customer relationship management (CRM) solution such as Zoho CRM is perfect for this.

- A well trained sales team who are involved in the campaign and who know what follow up email or script to use on new leads that come in. 

- Finally, after the sales life cycle has been followed, it is important to run reports from your CRM software that gives you an accurate idea of ROI on the campaign in terms of: 

- Leads generated 

- Conversion ratios of leads to potential sales 

- Sales revenue resulting from the campaign 

And, with functions such as the advanced analytics for sales activities now available in Zoho CRM and Zoho Reports: 

- Activities to conversion 
- Volume of sales activities to closed sale 

- Activities compared to time to closure 

When email marketing strategy is concerned, we strongly believe 'less is more'. 


We'll leave you with some basic stats, OK they may be tailored somewhat to demonstrate the point, but make the point they do, you can decide for yourself. 

Scenario A: Rented Email List 

You decide to rent a list of 100,000 contacts, design a great looking email, hand it over to the list provider, who blasts out your email. The contacts have been segmented to the groups you want: CEOs, CIOs, MDs etc, you feel pretty happy that you will be targeting the right people.  After a couple of weeks the list provider sends you the stats for your campaign. 

Read Rate: 5% 

That is 5,000 people 'opened' your email. Sounds great huh? But what does this really mean? Did this really do anything to help your brand or business? What does 'open' mean? Who were the people who read it? You do not know because the list provider does not supply the contacts, they just do the email and proved the stats. 

Click Rate 0.2% 

200 people clicked a link in the email. Wow, 200 people seemed interested in your product or service. Great. Mmmm... from 100,000? This is an extremely low click rate, which in turn indicates a lack of interest from the audience in what you had to say. You ask the list provider for the details of who read the campaign so you can follow up. They tell you they do not give these details as the list was rented and they don't give away the actual contact details. You have no way of following up. Even if you do own the purchased list, you do not know the contact. You have to explain why you are emailing and calling, your conversion rate will almost certainly be much lower than if they know who you are to begin with. 

Bounce rate 25% 

A quarter of the emails sent out bounced. This is very high. It means 25,000 emails in the list bounced for whatever reason. You question the list provider as to why, to which you get a response on "hard and soft bounces", '"unable to really know why", "not an exact science"... You are not able to learn why the emails are bouncing. Why? You do not own the list and the email addresses that bounced are not given to you. Maybe the bounce reasons are, but this is irrelevant because you do not know the contacts in the first place. You can hardly call them and say "Hi, you don't know me but I am trying to email you and your email bounced, I wonder if you could let me know your email address?"! 

Unsubscribe rate 5% 

Also very high, meaning 5,000 people opted not to hear from you again. The high bounce rate and high unsubscribe rate also means you are already running the risk of being labeled as a spammer and damaging your own and your emails sender's reputation in the process. 

Scenario B: Small but High Quality Contact List of Contacts Gathered by You/Your Sales Team

You are a new startup business and have a small list of contacts who have opted in to your lists in the past, some by newsletter sign up functions, some by phone, some when talking face to face at meetings. 

You/your sales people have been very good at asking prospects and clients if they want to receive your newsletter as part of their standard process. 

It has paid off and you now have 100 contacts in your emailing list; it is not many, but you know who they are and you know they want to receive your emails. The data is yours too. The contact details are good quality and are stored in your CRM, which synchronises to your email marketing solution for highly segmented, focused emailing. 

Read rate 35% 

35 people 'opened' your email. It does not sound like much, but compare this rate to the above scenario. One third of the recipients on your list have potentially seen your email. This is a good read rate. And, using correct methods, and by using tools such as a CRM solution and integrated email marketing solution, you are able to know exactly who opened your email and you can perform 'chain campaigns' as follow up strategies. 

Click rate 10% 

10 people clicked a link in the email. This rate is also pretty good. You can send follow up emails to clickers, and as they are leads in the CRM sales can convert them to opportunities and close deals and then you can track resulting revenue from the campaign. Out of 10 clickers, say you close 50%, that's 5 sales from a list of 100 contacts.

Bounce rate 0%

Zero emails bounced. This represents a very high quality email list, where all of the email addresses are valid. 

Unsubscribe rate 1% 

One contact decided they do not want to hear from you and unsubscribed. It happens. You know who they are, and you can wait a discreet time and then do a follow up call and discuss options or find out why they unsubscribed. Maybe they just aren't interested any more. Maybe they don't like the design of your mails. Maybe they forgot who you are.  Whatever the reason, you can use it as business intelligence to improve the process. Your automated email marketing solution will separate unsubscribers and make sure they are not emailed again, thus not damaging your email reputation. 

And so on and so on. 

We know the above scenarios are fairly simplistic, but they're not that unrealistic!  In short, you are damaging your OWN reputation when you use email lists, as well as reducing your chances of getting real visibility into your campaign and also damaging the sender reputation of the email service you use, be it a third party, or your own. 

Given the overall costs involved with buying/renting lists as well, you are further reducing your return on investment.

Three words: don't do it.

Professional Email Marketing Services UK

Mangoho offer a fantastic email marketing software solution for small businesses, Zoho Campaigns, which even comes with a free version, which is forever free, and allows up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month.

We also offer email marketing consulting, set up and support services and can set up your email marketing platform, train you and let you do the rest, or we can send your campaigns for you each month, including crafting and testing the email, sending and reporting.

Contact Us

Contact us for more information and ideas on how Zoho can be implemented in your business.