We have clients with email lists of all sizes. Some customer email lists are small with only 700 subscribers, while another customer has more than 8,000 subscribers. Size is not always the best measure of success. Sometimes the clients with the smaller lists have the more successful email program.

Small email lists are great

Small email lists are great. It’s easy to get open and click-through rates above industry average (as long as you have content your customers are interested in), which shows subscribers are engaged. Don’t rush to grow your list. Build a solid relationship with that small group of subscribers. It will be much easier to decipher what works and what doesn’t work when dealing with a smaller list.

Make sure you are adding valuable contacts. These are people with whom you actually interact such as customers, prospects and referral partners. Don’t add every person you randomly meet at a networking event, the gas station or in the check-out line at the grocery store. Don’t kid yourself. These people aren’t interested in what you do. Not only will they unsubscribe as soon as they get your first email, but they may also mark your content as spam. This prevents you from sending more emails to them, but it also sends a signal to your email provider. Get too many spam complaints and they are likely to prohibit you from sending content to a particular list from their server.

It’s much easier to make emails feel personal, as if they were just being sent to one person, when your list is smaller. Study open and click-through rates so you can continue to serve more and more relevant content to your readers. Consider running a survey to get feedback or a cross promotion.

Big lists aren’t bad

If you already have an email list of over 5,000 subscribers, it’s time to evaluate how  to manage the email list to get better results. Stop treating everyone as a if they have the same level of interest. When you send email newsletters that are not specific to your customer’s needs, they’ll opt out of your emails. Don’t let your large email list overwhelm you, break it down into smaller lists so you can easily manage all of your subscribers.

Create sub-lists based on interest, status, location or industry, whatever is relevant for your customer base. For example, if you have customers who have worked with you, but are no longer living in town, move them to an “Out of Town” email list. Send them the same great content you send to your other customers, but eliminate references to local promotions and events. If you have a large pool of existing customers, create special offers or updates just for them. Remember to let them know they are getting this offer because they are a preferred customer.

One benefit of a large list is the ability to conduct simultaneous A/B testing. What that means, in non-marketing speak, is you can divide your list in half randomly and send slightly different emails to each list. Test the time of day, the headline offer or layout. Which one gets more responses? Now you can make changes.

However, if your list is too small it may be hard to learn much since most campaigns will only generate a 15-25 percent open rate. If the master list is too small, less than 1,000 subscribers, you just won’t be able to get enough people to see your email to use the results for planning.

Know the numbers

Whether your email list is small, large or somewhere in the middle you need to make sure you are managing your subscribers, learning from your analytics and adjusting content to keep your audience engaged.

Not using an email marketing system like Constant Contact to manage your subscribers? I highly suggest making the switch. You need a system that will allow you to be flexible with your lists and also give you easy access to analytics and performance numbers. Here are some key terms you should know and how to use the information:

  • Open rate – The number of people in your email subscriber list that open your email. This is the first sign that someone is interested in what you are sending them. It is very rare that everyone will open your email, in most industries the average open rate is between 15-25 percent. If you notice you have low open rates, try using different headlines or adjust the time of day you are sending out your email.
  • Click-through rate – The number of people who not only open your email, but also click any links you provided in the email’s content. These are the people who have shown they are interested in something very specific. Pay attention to the links people are clicking on. If the same topics continue to generate high click-through rates over and over again, create separate email lists to target specific customer interests.
  • Bounce rate – The number of people who did not receive your email because it was returned by a recipient mail server. This allows you to see who gave you a fake email, unsubscribed or has a full inbox. Use your bounce rate to help you clean out email addresses that might not exist anymore. If you see some addresses that might have unsubscribed, but still use your services, give them a call and remind them about benefits of receiving your monthly emails.

Ready to start growing your email list?  Check out our new guide book.