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What to watch for when emailing an old list

Let's say you've been collecting customer email addresses for a couple years but are just getting started with your email marketing. You're thinking about emailing all 5,000 of the people on your list. Wait a sec. A fair number of the email addresses -- whether they've been sitting in storage for months or even a couple of years -- are going to be dead by now, so think about weeding out folks you haven't talked to in 18 months, and don't be surprised if your list shrinks noticeably after your first mailing. (We will automatically move any permanently unreachable addresses to Error status.)

This is a healthy part of the email-marketing process, to weed out people who aren't there -- or aren't at all interested in hearing from you -- and let you focus your efforts on those who are.

Here are a couple of additional tips for reaching out to customers who might not have heard from you in a long time:

Start by cleaning up your list

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Before you import your list of names and addresses into your account, spend a little time cleaning it up. Be on the lookout for generic listserv addresses (info@companyblah.com, sales@companyblah.com, etc.), which aren't worth trying and can often result in spam complaints, as well as any addresses you know shouldn't be there (like customers who canceled their accounts).

When you send, clearly identify yourself

People are quick to delete or opt out of mailings from senders they don't immediately recognize. So use an obvious from name and address, both of which should ideally include your company name. The prominent branding in your template will also help identify you.

Remind your customers that they're your customers

People have short-term memories. Some of your customers may not remember they bought a lamp from you 18 months ago or signed up for your service last spring. So connect the dots for them, either in the greeting ("Dear Bob, As a past customer of Company X...") or at the bottom of the mailing ("You're receiving this newsletter because you're a recent customer of Company X...") or both. If your business name happens to be Company X, then this example worked out really well.

Let 'em know it's voluntary

Make it clear to the members of your email list that they're free to leave it at any time. If people trust that the door really is open should they ever decide to exit, they're often more comfortable sticking around.

Above all, be human

This is not to imply that you're a robot. Or that you fraternize with robot friends on the weekends or like to attend Robot Poker Night every Tuesday around 7 and isn't it Ted's time to host? No, we're just reminding you that you have a relationship with these people, so take full advantage when crafting your mailings. Instead of throwing an indiscriminate pitch at them, give things a more personal, conversational touch. These are your people, and if you treat them as such, we think you'll be pleasantly surprised with your results for this mailing and the many that follow.

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