List marketing – sending promotional messages to a large list of contacts – has a notoriously low success rate. Research conducted in 2012 by marketing firm Responsys found just over 22 per cent of email marketing messages are opened.
But experts and small businesses say that done properly, list marketing can help increase sales and generate new business.
Laird Marshall from Accountable List Brokers says the biggest mistake people make when using lists as a marketing tool is relying on an out-of-date database, full of contacts that have long moved on. What this means is that when you send your list of contacts a marketing message it won’t reach the person for whom it’s intended.
To address this, Marshall says it’s important to give a staff member responsibility for maintaining the database and then make them accountable if it’s not kept up to date.
“It’s fine to use Excel to collect the information as you can export information from this software into most other database programs. But the key is to update the information on a daily basis or it gets too hard to maintain.”
When it comes to sending our material to your list, Marshall’s advice is to test each medium simultaneously – mail, phone, email or even SMS – to get an indication about which works best.
He says email costs less but doesn’t deliver the best response. Phone usually has the best strike rate but it might cost $5 a call. The choice of medium will go back to the value of the product. Higher value products can bear higher marketing costs.
“It varies from campaign to campaign and what worked two months ago may not work now,” he says.
Marshall says businesses also need to make the content of the communication exciting and give the recipient a reason to want to engage with the sender.
He says it’s also important to give the recipient a reason to act. For instance, the campaign might encourage people to go to a web site to claim an offer or download an e-book.
“You need to research what will turn people on. In our own business we had a promotion where people won an iPod if they called up, which worked really well.”
Marshall’s other advice is to test the campaign with a small group of clients to make sure there are no glitches like broken web site links.
Grace Bowe, founder of wedding day weight loss company Bride Body has built up a database of contacts by collecting emails through an opt in box on her website and through opt in lists at wedding expos. She says these techniques have helped build a database of 'warm' sales leads.
“More than 60 per cent of our customers were on our email list prior to purchasing [from us] which shows just how well email marketing works,” Bowe says.
“I don't see myself as running an email marketing campaign, rather I like to think of myself as sending out valuable free content which establishes my credibility as a weight loss expert. This in turn leads people to trust me to help them achieve their goals and they sign up to my programs,” she says.
Bowe’s top tip for a successful email marketing campaign is to personalise the email by including the recipient’s first name in the subject line and body of the email.
“People are much more likely to open an email that has their name in the subject line. Emails are a wonderful way for customers to get to like you and trust you before they buy from you,” she advises.
Bowe says make it easy for people to join a list by having a prominent opt in box for people to sign up for emails on your web site. She also says typing errors or spelling mistakes in emails will erode your credibility.
Julie Sweet runs a business called Certificatesonline, an online service that allows people to order birth, marriage and family death certificates. She says list marketing does work, although she has never bought lists.
“Email marketing campaigns are viable. But there’s a fine line in contacting people and overloading someone. Two or three years ago I was heavily involved in email marketing and set up several successful campaigns for our business. Now social media is paramount, so we turned our eye to that platform and have somewhat stepped aside from the usual email marketing campaigns of the past.”
Sweet suggests keeping content succinct in the body of the message and following up after the initial email. “It’s a tactic we find works. It’s a friendly reminder to the person we’re emailing and works as a prompt, nothing more. I believe that if someone is interested, they will let you know, you don't need to harass them.”