With Apple Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) on its way in, many marketing professionals are worried about losing the open rate as a favorite metric. After all, we’ve relied on the open metric for years to judge the appeal of our brands, and the relevance of our email communication. However, over-reliance on opens has made us more and more reactive, both to our own email data and to the ever-shifting terrain of email marketing at large. To adapt to new privacy options, like MPP, companies are going to have to focus on the fundamentals. For email marketing, the first of these is data acquisition.
Data Collection for Effective Email Marketing
Collecting data is often the first step of an email marketing strategy, and the way you go about it will have a profound impact on deliverability and email marketing success. Even though there has been a big focus on open rates in the reaction to Apple’s launch of Mail Privacy Protection, it will be very important to back up a step even from there, because the health of your database provides the basis for deliverability in the first place.
There are generally two kinds of data collection strategies: organic data collection, and purchasing cold lists. Let’s explore the relative value of these methods.
Organic Data Acquisition for Email
Collecting data organically simply means that you are building your marketing lists with email addresses of people who have expressed interest in your offerings. For example, prospects may fill out a form, attend a webinar, or submit a question.
Collecting data organically is more difficult, but far better than buying a list. People who have signed up willingly are much more likely to engage with your emails, and therefore help you build a great sending reputation.
Purchased Data for Email Marketing
“Cold” lists are lists that have been built by others, either through untargeted email collection strategies, or to some degree, potentially (and hopefully) built by collecting email addresses from areas that can be considered targeted for the offerings you hope to market.
Cold lists can and do often include invalid email addresses, spam traps, habitual complainers and other harmful email addresses.
Ensure List Health by Setting the Right Expectations
Once you’ve got the right kind of data collection in place, it’s important to think about the next step: setting the right expectations with your email audience. Nothing will encourage unsubscribes (and even spam complaints) faster than surprises like too many emails too often, or sending content outside of what the user signed up to receive. Set clear expectations by communicating your intentions up front, implementing the double-opt in, and sending a welcome series.
Communicate Your Intentions
When people opt in for marketing messaging from your team, it is important to be very clear about what they’re getting into. If you intend to send your contacts emails about bicycles, say so. If you intend to send those emails four times a month, say so. If you intend to end every month with a newsletter, say so as well. If the members of your list know what to expect, they are less likely to be irritated or displeased with what they see arriving in their inboxes.
Implement Double Opt-In
Finally, the best method to ensure that your contacts are where they want to be is by implementing a double opt-in system. The easiest way to do this is with a simple confirmation email following sign-up, which requests a click to confirm. This helps to ensure the people signing up for your marketing email are signing up on purpose, and the email addresses they provide are genuine and free of typos. It also helps get rid of data from bots, because without the confirmation, the spam submissions won’t end up in your database.
While double opt-ins have always been the gold standard, we believe with the data privacy changes underway today, double opt-in is a must-have for data health and good sender reputation.
Send a Welcome Series
Another key to setting the right expectations and keeping a healthy, happy list is to start with a welcome series or a single welcome email. This email can be triggered when the contact clicks the confirmation in your double opt-in message. The key is to provide value and encourage brand affinity right away. When contacts receive just the kind of content they were expecting, they are more likely to open and engage. And, these engagement metrics will be the future of email marketing as open rates fade in importance.
Allow for Easy Changes
As your list grows, keep your contacts happy by giving them the opportunity to express their changing interests. Perhaps when they opted in, you informed them that they would receive information on bicycles, skis, and snowboards. A few months later, a number of your contacts are receiving emails about all three, but engagement metrics show the majority of your list only really cares about bicycle content. Allow them to act on that decision. Categorize your marketing to better fit separate topics, and build a subscription center that puts the power in the hands of the users to choose their own adventure. Data consistently shows that contacts who are given the choice of what they want to see in their inbox are less likely to opt out of your marketing email as a whole if they can choose to receive only the emails they want.
Successful Email Marketing Starts with Healthy Data Acquisition
Your decisions about data acquisition for email marketing will determine what sort of list you begin with, how you build it, and how you maintain a positive sender reputation. In the face of increased privacy protections for email (like Apple’s MPP), these data decisions greatly affect your ability to make it to the inbox, and ultimately your success in converting contacts into customers. Implement best practices from the beginning, because healthy data acquisition practices may require a few extra steps up front, but it’s worth it for email marketing success.
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