The success of our promotional emails is largely determined by the open and click-through rate of our letters, and the success of our email campaigns relies on the positive impact our emails have on our customers’ purchasing decisions. But it all starts with the person you’re sending email to; in other words – your mailing list.
Why is an organic email list so important for your marketing, and what can happen if you use a purchased list of recipients for your promotional emails instead? Tanel Rand, Smaily’s marketing manager, and Viivika Lumberg will discuss this topic. In the recent years of her long marketing career, Viivika has focused mainly on email marketing, being a strategic partner for Smaily as well. In addition to the main topic, she will share her favorite tips, also giving recommendations to both new and already active businesses.
Why is email marketing a good practice to improve your customer base?
Email marketing is the most affordable form of marketing. With it, you don’t have to pay extra for each new contact you want to reach, just like you do with Google or Facebook, so you own your contact list. In addition, you can send your message to selected contacts exactly when you want it or when a customer expects it. For example, in the case of 15,000 contacts, the cost of this service from Smaily is only 100 euros per month, plus VAT.
How is it possible to develop your relationship with existing customers via e-mail?
One of the great advantages of email marketing is that it is actually a two-way communication. For example, if I advertise on Google, the customer will not be able to communicate with the brand very well. However, when I send out a newsletter, the customer is a direct recipient who can reply at the touch of a button if they wish. In general, customers don’t just want to be marketing targets, they want their opinions to be heard – that’s what email marketing offers.
You compared the newsletter option to Google, but what is the advantage of email marketing over social media marketing?
Marketing channels actually have very different goals. Broadly speaking, Google, Facebook, and other social media marketing perspectives are primarily designed to gain new customers. Wall posts are used more to initiate communication than to sell. However, we communicate with existing customers and interested parties through email marketing. What is very different about email marketing is that it targets a person’s personal space. If we scroll down Facebook, whether we notice the ad or not – it doesn’t bother us, since there is a lot of advertising noise on the wall anyway. Via e-mail marketing, the message reaches our mailbox, landing next to bills, documents, family communication, etc.; therefore it is a very personal place where the advertisement stands out better.
What is the difference between a purchased and an organic email list?
If you buy an email list, the biggest bonus is the immediate availability of addressees, for which you pay little money – at least on first thought. Unfortunately, you’ll never know the quality of the list you bought, or the actual content of it i.e. whose contacts are on there, are they active contacts, are they someone’s personal email addresses, or addresses of general, shared mailboxes (such as firstname.lastname@example.org). The difference between a personal and shared address is that sending an email to the latter option usually doesn’t work. So much junk mail is already being sent to this type of mailbox and secretaries, team members, and other address managers sort it so much that we can essentially say: this ad is not going anywhere. True, independently collecting a contact list takes time and a high-quality list is a result of a long process, which requires additional marketing – Facebook, Google, content marketing, and more. However, the result is a contact list full of recipients who are genuinely interested in the content you offer.
How do privacy and data protection laws come into play?
If you have an opt-in to the mailing list, you will always have the right to send emails to the recipient at least until they unsubscribe. GDPR is not as strict for B2B, and you can send relevant emails to business emails without a consent form. The problem is, purchased lists cannot guarantee you relevant contacts in the list. This means that if, for example, a beauty salon receives an offer in its mailbox for brand new agricultural products, this e-mail is not relevant to them or to you. However, if you offer protective face masks to private clinics in your promotional letter, it may be a relevant service to offer.
It is important to note that if you send a letter to the address in the form “email@example.com”, it is in fact no longer a business contact according to GDPR, but a personal e-mail address.
However, it is really important to note that not a single email marketing platform allows their customers to use purchased lists. It is written in their license agreement and that is actively monitored. If you get caught using a purchased list you can say goodbye to your account without any notice.
Many experienced marketers know that organically sourced contact lists are a much more sensible choice than purchased lists. So what are the benefits of an organic list?
Firstly, you know the quality of the list yourself. When it comes to the “behind the scenes” of email marketing, then the bounce rate of sent emails is crucial. If you buy a list, you don’t know if the addresses in it are working or if they’re abandoned. In the latter case, the messages will bounce back, or in other words – they will not be delivered. Having a too high bounce rate will cause your domain to end up on the blacklist. If you have an organic list, you’re unlikely to have this problem – especially with the double opt-in process, where a person who wants to join the mailing list will be asked to confirm their request a second time in the confirmation email.
Another important point is that members of the organic list have already shown interest in your goods and/or services. This is important because it is quite unlikely that you will get sales from advertising e-mails that have been sent to a so-called cold list. With a list that you’ve previously put together, you’re also more likely to sell because you already have relevant contacts in it.
Compared to B2C, what is the importance of organic listing for B2B companies? Or what is the difference in its performance?
I would say that there is no difference in terms of importance – both companies would need to compile and create their own list. No recipients collected – no sales achieved. It should be noted, however, that B2B mail servers may have significantly higher security requirements. If you bombard any address with B2B e-mail marketing, for example, send the email to 10 employees in the same company, the e-mail server of that company will block the address very quickly. In the future, even your most regular business letter may not be delivered to the given company.
So what about spam in email marketing that’s not organic?
As mentioned earlier, purchased lists contain abandoned email addresses. These are addresses that are no longer used – for example, its domain no longer exists, the person has left the business, etc. Various spam filters use these addresses to see what emails are coming into such abandoned mailboxes, and then add the senders of those unsolicited messages to the spam list. In other words, if we send a message to a purchased list and there is a spamtrap, it will automatically add you to the list of spammers. Spam filters (such as Spamhaus) work with Zone, web hosting platforms, and other service providers in order to provide them with information about spam mail. The service provider will then contact the company that sent the spam, to ask them to stop sending emails. Generally, the first time you are forgiven, but written confirmation is required that you will never again send spam to the addressee who sent the complaint.
Do you have any real-life examples of the problems that can occur when a B2B company uses a purchased list of recipients?
I know a company who had received a warning regarding their spam and they had also given their confirmation to not send out emails to the list again, but forgot it and sent a new email to the complainant after a few months. When the domain re-entered the spam filter, the owner of the spam filter reported another incident to Zone. After that, the customer had to move out of the domain within 10 days, which meant closing the mailing list, mailbox, website, and everything else. In other words, the company’s normal business activities came to a standstill. The fact that the company that sold the list allegedly had permission to sell these addresses did not help either.
In another example, one company had obtained a mailing list from an unknown source. It included so many broken emails that the bounce rate was 20%, meaning at least one in five emails failed. As a result, the domain was very quickly blacklisted, meaning that it was no longer possible to send an email from the domain.
Smaily, MailChimp, and other newsletter software services do not allow emails to be sent if the bounce rate is more than 5%. The account will be closed from day one, and all the information needed for your business is gone.
But even with organically collected lists, a significant number of abandoned emails could end up being abandoned? For example, people who have signed up for the newsletter a long time ago but have changed their email or addressees who can no longer access their inbox. In this case, what can be done to reduce the bounce rate?
It is actually really usual for people to change jobs and therefore their email addresses are closed down. That is the reason why a certain amount of bounces are considered normal. It is highly unlikely that you would see 20% of emails abandoned at the same time in an organically collected list.
Email marketing platforms also stop sending emails to bouncing email addresses automatically, so there is actually no need to worry about that if you are doing honest business.
Can you give some examples of how an organic contact list can produce different results for a certain type of email than a purchased list?
First of all, when you send emails to an organic list, it is an indisputable fact that you will always see a better open and click rate, compared to purchased lists. This is because an organic list is made up of people who want to hear from you. If you send the same letter to the purchased list, it is likely that your message will not be opened, in other words, the open rate of the message will be significantly lower.
Obviously, using an organic mailing list is a better option. As an entrepreneur, how do I prepare and what steps do I need to take to put together a list of recipients myself?
In general, recipients are collected through their website, for example through sharing new content. If I’m writing a new useful and relevant article that engages the reader, they may want to be reminded of new blog posts in the future. In that case, we should allow him or her to join our mailing list, or share his or her own email address. Another option is to use a lead magnet. This means that you are exchanging an email address for some useful information, such as creating an overview “10 Tips on How to Get Started With Email Marketing”, and to receive this material, the person must provide their email address to which the material will be sent.
You always have to do additional marketing, because the relevant information you provide may not be so easy for a person to access. Also take advantage of paid marketing opportunities, such as advertising on Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and other related channels. Be otherwise active on social media and share your materials not only on the website but also on your social media pages. And why not put a banner in your local newsletter! Diving deep into the advertising activity, don’t forget to back up your marketing data. Consider connecting your Google, LinkedIn, or Facebook Ads to BigQuery or another data warehouse you use. Keep in mind that even Facebook servers lose data sometimes, and you would probably like to keep all your acquired leads and gathered data.
Do you also have some cool favorite tips to share that could be used in an email for customers?
Emailing works when you send a relevant message, at the relevant time, to the relevant person (i.e., the person who actually wants to receive it). First of all, you shouldn’t send the exact same message to all your contacts, especially if you know that the recipients on your contact list have different interests. For example, if you work for a car repair company that repairs Scania, Mercedes, and Volvo trucks, don’t get one offer for all of them, but personalize your email according to the group. For example, “Dear BMW owner! Repairing your truck is 5% cheaper for you today!”, and in the same way a personalized letter to the owner of Mercedes and Volvo. And to emphasize again – the target group must be clear! These truck owners will most likely not want nail technician services from a beauty salon. Also, avoid sending out emails that only contain ads! None of us expect this in our inboxes. For example, when a telecommunications company sends an offer to its business customers, it could examine the customer’s information base for what that company might need. For example, some companies renew their employees’ work phones quite frequently, and if the seller can see that the phones have been in use for 2 years, it can send them an offer for new phones.
Finally, what would you say to encourage a company that is just starting out?
Start collecting the list from day one! Even if you don’t have much information to share at first. The first step is to set up an automatic feed for new customers. In other words, when a customer joins your mailing list, they will receive a few automatic emails within a month. This will strengthen the customer relationship and they will remember you well whilst receiving further emails. This could be the first thing that is set in your marketing plan, so you can start sending out newsletters on an ongoing basis.
The customer actually wants to know more about you, and if you’ve made something better for them, such as improving your products or user experience, share that information with them. It is the email that gives you a great opportunity to do so. Of course, receiving letters 3 times a week is a lot from one source alone and becomes annoying quickly, but sending a letter once every 2-3 months is a very good time frame within which to convey the necessary information to the reader.
What’s another plus when starting out with email marketing is that because organic email marketing is a two-way type of communication, it can actually be used to gather immediate feedback on your services. This way, you can find out your strengths (what are customers happy about) and the areas that need to be developed (what clients recommend to do differently). Your first customers are most willing to give your feedback, and that’s a big plus. This way you have the opportunity to listen to your customers through email marketing, which is a great thing!
The benefits of an organic mailing list are pretty clear – you’re familiar with the quality of the list, and the recipients of the organic list are already interested in the products and services you offer. So an organic list is the only truly relevant list for your marketing. These advantages are the biggest arguments why you should definitely create and compile an e-mail list yourself. In essence, you secure an appropriate readership for your letters, develop customer communication, and in addition, you are already doing some (pre-) sales work. So the hassle of building a customer list by yourself hides more key business steps than it may seem at first glance!