Beware of Stale Email Addresses

May 6, 2008 by  
Filed under Email Marketing

old outdated mailboxIn my last article How to Design an Effective Email Follow Up Campaign, I stressed the importance of implementing a system to stay in contact with your past customers.

One thing I did not mention was the need to make sure the list you are planning on marketing to is fresh. Outdated, stale lists pose a big threat to your business and can contribute to your site being blacklisted by some of the major internet service providers (ISPs); not to mention being shut down by your own email service provider!

Neither of these are good things, and each can turn what would have otherwise been a decent email marketing campaign into a complete disaster for your business.

If you are one of those ecommerce store owners who has been working for years on the internet and over that time has gathered a nice customer base (along with email addresses), yet have failed to follow up with them on a frequent basis, then beware.

People change email addresses all the time and with spam being so prevalent on the internet today, getting a valid email address can at times be tough. Remember this; every person you send your email to has their finger on the “spam” button. If they feel your email is an unwarranted solicitation, you’ll be cast into the spam folder and reported to the nearest “spam cop” faster than you can blink an eye.

Furthermore, if you send out an email campaign, and the vast majority of the emails sent are returned (bounced), then you could be raising a red flag for your email service provider as well. Too many bounced messages in relation to the amount of emails sent can cause an email service provider to feel your list is outdated, dirty, or purchased. Before you are reported as “spam” and get their email service potentially blacklisted, they will shut you down.

So How Do You Avoid a Spam Report

  • Start by working with a clean list. One that is fresh, not out-dated. Remove any addresses on that list older than 12 months old (that you have not been in contact with since that time.)
  • Make sure each of the email addresses on that list asked to be placed on that list.
  • Make your first follow-up contact within a short period of time after the initial transaction takes place while your name is still fresh in the customer’s head and the stage for future follow-ups is set.
  • When in doubt, don’t send to an address you feel might not remember your company or the last transaction.
  • Use your company name or website in the “From” line of all your emails.
  • Remind them why they are receiving the email from you (i.e. they either purchased from you in the past, or asked to receive the information)
  • Give them a clear and easy way to remove themselves from your list, and once removed, never email them again. No matter what. Professional yet affordable systems like Constant Contact have this feature built in to protect you.

Although it may be tempting to tap into an older list of past customers, if you have not been in contact with them frequently use caution. Following some simple guidelines, and respecting their privacy will ensure your email campaigns are effective, and your company remains in good standing.

How to Design an Effective Email Follow Up Campaign

Building a sustainable online business often involves solid customer retention strategies combined with new customer acquisition strategies. You build a sustainable base and add new customers on top of that to grow the bottom line.

Whether your business lends itself toward repeat orders (customers coming back to buy more from you) or seems to be more of a “one time” purchase, keeping yourself in front of past customers is an important step toward growing your business.

Here is one phrase I’ve heard from store owners time and time again. “My customers only buy one time from me so there is no reason I need to follow up with them.”

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

If your business lends itself toward repeat orders from past customers, the answer is pretty easy to see. If you’re not keeping in contact with your past customers, you are missing out on additional sales. It’s that simple.

If your business sells products that tend to be more of a “one time only” purchase the answer is not as clear but it is there. If you are not keeping in contact with your past customers, you are missing out on potential referrals (which can translate into sales) of others they may encounter which have a need for a similar product.

Having said that, there should be no excuse for not staying in contact with your past customer base as part of a strategy for growing your online business.

Choose a Qualified System

There are plenty of email systems out there that help you develop super campaigns. I prefer and recommend Constant Contact myself. Great system, easy to use, nice reporting capabilities, import / export features, and more.

Using its import / export features, I have integrated Constant Contact with a number of shopping cart systems and have used it very effectively to keep in contact with past customers and potential prospects.

Planning the Campaign

When planning your campaign, here are some things to consider:

  • Frequency. How often will you contact your list? I’ve seen weekly follow-ups work wonderful in some markets, daily contacts in others, and monthly, bi-monthly etc.. in others. You’ll have to determine what works for your market. Oftentimes this can be determined by the type of follow-up you are planning.
  • Which day(s) of the week will you be sending your email out? Some days are better than others, and you’ll have to determine which day or days are best for your market.
  • Are you going to do a “blanket” campaign (follow up with all customers at the same time) or send out follow-ups based on customer segmentation factors?

Planning the campaign alone will not ensure its effectiveness. It doesn’t matter who well planned a campaign is if the email layout does not persuade action.

Here is the order of focus you need to think about when developing the email.

  1. Gain interest and get them to open the email.
  2. Confirm Interest and present offer.
  3. Get the action (persuade them to click).

The above elements all must begin with the email subject line of the email.

Crafting an email can be compared to writing an ad for a paid search advertising campaign. You’ve first got to gain interest through an effective headline (the subject line of the email). You must then confirm that interest through a brief description (in the case of an email, this comes with the initial headline of the email that can be found after the email has been opened.) Then, finally, you must get the click.

The key is first to get them to open the email. Then you must quickly convince them that what they thought they would find upon opening (based on the subject line) is exactly what they will get if they “click a link” in the email. Relevancy is key. Very much like one would expect in search engine marketing.

Proper calls to action in the email are of top importance.

Closing Thoughts

If you run a “standard special” then don’t forget to always remind them of that and mention it in each email. It pays to keep that “forever special” in front of your customers.

Don’t forget to ask for the “referral”. You can often time pick up additional customers by simply asking your current customers to forward the email to a friend that may also be interested in your products.

« Previous Page