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How to optimize, manage & monetize your subscriber list

Maximizing the return on your email list isn’t rocket science, but it does require some strategic planning, says Tim Sweeney.

The easy analogy for sending great email content to a poorly maintained database of email subscribers is the proverbial tree falling in the woods. In truth, creating marketing content to package into your emails and then misfiring on who it goes to involves much more wasted effort than simply falling down. To maximize the effect of the creative you are producing for your email communications, there are a number of things that have to go right along the way. For starters, you need to know that the people you are talking to are, in fact, actually those people. Here are some ways to ensure your efforts are not going to waste.

1. Optimize your email list
If you were to hire an email marketing provider to bolster your email distribution, the first thing that company would likely do with your database is clean it up with a data check. This involves correcting typos and misspelled names that were incorrectly entered into your system.

Having poor records in your client base has a trickle-down effect on every part of your business. Don’t despair in finding that you have more incorrect names on your overall database than you thought. People switch jobs and delete old email accounts quite regularly. By ‘pruning’ your database, your open rate percentage will increase because your list will now have more integrity. Some email experts even recommend deleting people from your distribution list who have not opened any email communications in the last year.

Before giving up on them entirely, you might try targeting ‘non-openers’ with a special incentive or offer. You might even choose to be more direct, asking them if they still want to receive communications from your brand. Remember that it’s better to send a campaign to 7,000 subscribers who are fully engaged in your brand than to send it to 10,000 people, of whom half never respond to your communications.

2. Segment your audience
After cleansing your distribution list to ensure that you’ll be emailing people who signed up to hear from you, it’s time to set about utilizing it for all its potential. That means segmenting your list based on subject matter that your subscribers have an interest in. No matter how specific the subject matter, there will be aspects of your email content that some recipients will find useless and others will be thrilled to receive.

The real work in this area is done well in advance, ideally when the consumer first signs up to join your mailing list. Assuming you have the capability to segment your database in emails, the questions you ask new subscribers during the initial sign-up period are crucial to maximizing what you send them in the future.

For certain product-specific communications, you might want to think about segmenting based on age range, stage of life or even geographical location. There are too many stories of companies trying to sell snow shovels to people living in southern Florida or emailing married couples about a new singles cruise to the Bahamas. If you plan to offer multiple campaigns in the future, you might even include a link in your email that directs subscribers to a location on your website where they can update their profile or submit more detailed personal preferences. Some brands even use this platform to ask consumers how often they would like to receive communications.