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How Valuable is an Email List?

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According to Australian business coach Casey Gollan, businesses would be wise to remember that email lists are not a thing of the past; in fact, email lists are more necessary than ever.

In a day and age where businesses put a bulk of their marketing efforts into social media campaigns because of the buzz surrounding it, other types of marketing can easily be overlooked. Combine this with increasing regulations and laws governing email marketing designed to combat spam, and it’s easy to see why 97 percent of marketers are using social media while the number of people who maintain email lists doesn’t even compare.

But forgetting about email could be a mistake, at least from Gollan’s viewpoint, who makes a valid point on his blog that contrasts the two marketing techniques:

“Social media is great, don’t get me wrong. Social media gives you daily access to people who are interested in what you have to offer. It can be a true dialogue, where business and customer connect. But here’s the thing. You don’t own your social media followers. What I mean is this: You can spend years gaining new Facebook fans or Twitter followers. Then poof! One day the algorithms change and all your hard work is down the drain.  Because you own your (email) list, it’s often far more worthwhile to focus on growing your list than growing your social media presence.”

Other marketing professionals have made claims that support the need to continually grow a solid email list. Eric Didier from MarketingProfs wrote that, “Email averages a return on investment (ROI) of $40 for every $1 spent, far outstripping banner ads ($2) and keyword ads ($17).”

While a solid ROI is often reason enough for most people to jump aboard a bandwagon, Gollan gives some other reasons why businesses should not abandon their email list:

 1.     People have email even if they are not on social media.

For business to business, working through email is still essential because many organizations still block access to social media sites from being accessed at work. But for business to consumer sales, surveys show that people often take breaks from their social network sites due to drama or lack of time.

 2.     Email is more personal.

When emails are collected the right way, using ethical means and double-opt-in (where the person signs up to receive emails and then verifies that they did sign up), businesses know that the individual wants to hear from them. Also, not everyone receives “special” emails. Only those who signed up to receive these messages are notified of sales, events or promotions. Marketing done via social media is shared with the entire world.

3.     Email can keep things professional

Businesses have come to accept social media, however there are still those who do not allow it in their workplace. Connecting and communicating via email is still considered a more business friendly atmosphere.

These are all valid points in favor of maintaining a solid email list, but these factors all depend on what you are marketing and to whom. Certain products and demographics in the business-to-consumer space will certainly do well with social media marketing while business-to-business does generally fare better when email is the focal point.

Drawbacks to Email Marketing

As stated earlier, email marketing can have significant drawbacks. For one, you have to build a list. Some companies do opt to purchase or rent email lists, but this is usually met with little success. Even lists that are advertised as 100 percent opt-in lists are not usually well-targeted toward your customers. These lists, as well as those that come from harvested email addresses, will create more problems than success stories.

To begin with, people on a purchased or rented list are not expecting to hear from you. In fact, many will likely be irritated that you contacted them without their permission. Second, many of the email addresses that are sold in lists are no longer managed. They have been sold to so many different marketers that people often abandon them as a result of being inundated with what they believe to be spam.

That brings us to another potential pitfall; you might be sending spam. When you send out an email blast to people who never opted to receive messages from you, you are spamming them. Worse still, if you email them too often or if you don’t craft your emails carefully, technical controls put in place to stop illegitimate emails could label you as a spammer.

If too many complaints are received about your organization, you could find your domain listed on a DNS block list or even subject to fines. Worse still is the damage that can be done to your reputation if your business is labeled as a spammer.

However, going through the trouble to create a double-opt in email list and writing content-rich emails that provide value to your readers is worth the effort, as higher quality content helps businesses build their reputation. Research from Casey Gollan also shows that single opt-in subscribers are less likely to convert, and more likely to unsubscribe than those who are required to take the extra step to verify that they in fact want to receive emails.

The Best of All Worlds

While email marketing does have its strong points, it doesn’t have to stand on its own. In fact, merging your email marketing with other channels makes perfect sense.

Using social media, you can steer visitors toward your subscription page. Conversely, your emails should contain links to your social media accounts so that people who are more inclined to connect with you this way can do so as well.

Creative email marketing can also help with SEO marketing. Newsletters and other marketing materials that are sent via email should be housed on a page on your website. Each marketing email should also provide a link to its web content as well for people who cannot view images or have other restrictions on their email.

Of course, your email list could also be used to announce your content marketing efforts. Did your company recently release a new white paper? Does a new blog post solve an important problem? Maybe you have a new video hosted on a video sharing site that your customers just have to see. Any of these things should be presented to your subscribers in your newsletter or other announcement that you send out.

Is email marketing superior to any other form of online marketing? It depends on the end goal and the audience. Whichever industry you’re in, and whatever demographic you’re trying to reach, email marketing can help you achieve your goals. Is it the be all, end all? No, but it should be a part of what you are doing.


As with any marketing campaign, it is best to constantly test your email marketing to see what works best for your organization. Combine your email list with your social media marketing and other Internet marketing campaigns to see which combination yields the best results for what you are trying to accomplish. For more on email marketing, see my article “Email Marketing: Should I Embed Images in My Email Template?

Want more information on content marketing? Head over to our comprehensive guide on content marketing here: The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.

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Jayson DeMers

Jayson DeMers is the Founder & CEO of AudienceBloom. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.

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