Increasing Email Open Rate

If you have heard me talk to a group of business owners in the last few years, odds are you have heard me talk about email. Social media gets a lot more attention, but I still think it’s hard to beat a good email campaign matched with a  permission-based list.

For some companies, the challenge is figuring out what to write, but for the vast majority, what really holds them back is the lack of email addresses for their clients. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many shortcuts when it comes to building your list.

The first thing you need to do is start collecting email addresses TODAY.  Even if you think you may not be ready to start your email campaign for a few months or even a year, don’t let another day go by.  Every time the phone rings, every interaction with clients and prospects ask for their email.   Add a sign up box to your website and collect, collect, collect.

But these things take time. So many small business owners look for ways to speed up the process. There are some things you can do, but like anything in marketing it is a trade off of time and money. The faster you want to build your list, the more it will cost. Here are several strategies you can try:

  1. Dialing for Dollars – Hire a telemarketing firm, an intern or simply assign the task to one of your staff members. Have them call all your former clients and ask to update their records. This is a great way to reconnect and possibly make a new sale along the way. 
  2. Direct Mail to Connect – Send a postcard with a link to an email sign-up form. Unless you are making a special offer, this is an expensive option with little chance of real success. If you are already planning a direct mail campaign, it might make sense to add the email promotion, but I would never recommend it just to gather emails.
  3. Promote Your List on Social Media – If you have an active social media community, this will work. If you only have 50 – 100 fans on your Facebook page, don’t expect 500 sign ups for your email.
  4. Consider an appending service, but if you do, be sure you know what you are buying.

Appending services will take your mailing list and try to match it with a valid email address. Fees for an appending service may range from a minimum of $500, but it may be as high as several thousand dollars. So is it worth it? This is not a good way to build a list of prospects. You will spend a lot of money and most of the people will opt out or report you for sending them spam.

But if you have a large customer list and no email addresses, this may help you fill in the gaps. It is worth considering if you have a service business with good customer records or a fundraising organization with a large donor list. If you have never requested email addresses but have the rest of their contact information, a reputable appending company can help.

Before you go out and hire an appending company, here are a few criteria to separate the good from the bad. A good company will:

  • Do a small sample at no charge so you can see the quality of the list.
  • Guarantee the list for a period of time, at least 30 days. People do change their email address, so no list will be good forever. However, if they test the list, it should be relatively clean the first time you use it.
  • Make the first contact offering people the opportunity to opt out if they don’t want to receive your email. While this will reduce the number of spam complains, this is not the same as opting in.
  • Use permission-based lists and a do not mail strategy.  That way if someone opts out of other emails in their system, they won’t be added to your list. The list of actual names you receive will be smaller, but the people will be less likely to opt out of your email or file a spam complaint.
  • Give you codes like: soft-bounce, opened, no response, individual match and household match with your list so you can evaluate the level of quality and select which names you want to email to.

Final note:  Use the list selectively. Do not blast to all the names at once, or the opt outs and spam complaints may cause your email provider to bar you from using their service in the future. Instead, start small. Mix some of the names in with your existing list. I would suggest the new names should not be more than 10% of your total list.  This will prevent red flags from your email provider. It will also allow you to easily track the responses to determine if the list purchase was really worthwhile.

Ready to start your email program? Start by collecting email addresses, then do a few test emails to get the hang of it before you start buying names. Get a free trial of Constant Contact.