Expanding Your Opt-In List How to Grow Your Contacts Smartly, Strategically, and Successfully

We recently posed a question regarding email segmentation in a peer group run by long-time direct marketer Brian Kurtz. The responses were so insightful that we decided to compile, summarize, and share them in this post. Note: much of what we talk about here relates to sending mass emails. Spiral Marketing is not in the business of providing legal guidance or advice. For a full understanding of the CAN-SPAM Act and what you need to do to be fully compliant, consult an attorney. Without further ado, here are the top ten tactics related to expanding an opt-in list using a sizable cold list based on the advice received.  

1. Protect Your Primary Email Marketing Service

Expanding Your Opt-In List - Protect Your Primary Email Marketing Service Every email marketing service has a threshold for bounced emails and spam reports. If you exceed those limits, your account is in danger of being blacklisted . That could have serious consequences for your brand, and it could even include being deindexed by Google. Instead, start emailing your cold list from a secondary email marketing service. If your delivery rate is lower here or you have high opt-out rates, or even if you’re marked as spam, it won’t hurt the reputation of your primary email marketing service. “You could use something like MailPoet with your own SMTP or https://sendy.co/ with Amazon SES as the SMTP for your cold list. SMTP2GO is a great and patient company for moves like this too,” says Gabe Arnold, founder at Business Marketing Engine. Once contacts have expressed interest, and they’re moved to your warm opt-in list, then you can begin sending emails from your primary address. You might get some spam complaints and unsubscribe requests, but it shouldn’t be at high enough rates to raise red flags with your primary email service.  

2. Warm Up Your Cold List

Expanding Your Opt-In List - Warm Up Your Cold List When contacting people from a colder list, devise a plan to introduce yourself and your brand. The goal is to establish name recognition and develop an initial relationship. One suggestion was to create a series of warm-up emails of around ten or so then start emailing your list once a week, then ramp up to three times a week for about a month. Quality content is key to making this strategy successful. “Make sure you’re sending really high-value, actionable content so the people you contact are thinking, Wow. I don’t know where this came from, but it’s super helpful to me!” says Gabe Arnold.  

3. Use Incremental Inclusion. Don’t Go All in at Once.

Use Incremental Inclusion. Don’t Go All in at Once. Successful migration from a cold list to a warm list is largely about going slowly. Sending blanket communications to the entire cold list is a surefire way to lose leads who might have converted to loyal customers had you handled them differently. Process your list into segments of two hundred and fifty to five hundred at a time, and set a contact goal of two thousand to three thousand a month.  

4. Be Fully Compliant with CAN-SPAM

Expanding Your Opt-In List - Be Fully Compliant with CAN-SPAM Enacted into law in 2003, the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act must be a tenant of your campaigns. If you are concerned about your compliance with CAN-SPAM, or have questions, consult an attorney. Without question, however, it is well-known that you must include an “unsubscribe” option. “Make sure your opt-out is prominent in the messages,” says Arnold. “If they don’t want the content, you want them to self–opt out—not mark you as spam.” Don’t be afraid to make the unsubscribe button visible and obvious to avoid unnecessary spam complaints. You don’t want any red flags on your account, and those who are genuinely interested in your content will still stay on. Those who aren’t won’t be so frustrated that they report you as spam.  

5. Set the Criteria for Who Gets Moved to Your Warm List

Set the Criteria for Who Gets Moved to Your Warm List Go into expanding your opt-in list with a plan. Determine beforehand what criteria will qualify a recipient to be moved from your cold list to your warm list. This will vary based on your industry and needs. In general, people who get moved to your warm list should be those who didn’t unsubscribe or mark you as spam, and who demonstrated some level of interest in your content, such as opening at least two of your messages. Having this set criteria beforehand saves you the time and hassle of agonizing over each individual contact and whether that person merits being moved. However, it is also worth looking for outliers that may be a signal for extreme interest. For example, if someone opens or clicks on your newsletter 25 times then it might be worth giving them a call.  

6. Offer a Lead Magnet, Survey, or Q&A Session

Offer a Lead Magnet, Survey, or Q&A Session Recall that we are sharing insight received from a peer group run by direct marketer Brian Kurtz. We noticed that several people shared the same idea for advice: offer value to entice more opt-ins and further segmentation. Warm up a cold contact with engaging and helpful content that resonates. Consider using an e-book or a white paper as your lead magnet, or some kind of useful report. Once directed to a specific landing page from a particular email, the contact can opt in to your newsletter in exchange for access to your valuable, free lead magnet. “To remove as many barriers as possible, use Infusion or another reasonable CRM to prefill their information into the opt-in box,” says Mark Ingles at Directly Responsible. “Of course, if you know anything else about the folks, segment them, and use that in your messaging and offer.” Christopher Patao, of Survey To Segment, suggested a survey to entice and engage contacts, or an email-based question-and-answer session where you provide guidance and information. This can be time consuming, but it provides immediate and direct value, and it could establish you as an industry thought leader in the minds of those contacts.  

7. Gauge Continued Interest with One Simple Email

Gauge Continued Interest with One Simple Email Email lists evolve constantly. Just because someone initially signed up, or expressed interest in your company, doesn’t mean they will be equally interested (or even remember you) a month or a year later. Cold lists can grow even colder if too much time passes without reassessing. If people don’t buy or sign up within ninety days, they often go in a “dead lead” folder, and they are seldom revisited. Dean Jackson, of the I Love Marketing podcast , discusses how marketers often give up on leads too quickly in an insightful episode. But, with one email, you can determine if a lead is still viable or if you should move on. Here’s what to do. Simply go to your old leads and reach out by asking, “Are you still interested in ?” If the person responds positively, it’s a smooth, courteous, unobtrusive way to bring someone back from cold to warm. (Special thanks to Ryan Viguerie with www.teacher-creature.com for pointing in the direction of that helpful podcast episode.)  

8. Prioritize Quality

Expanding Your Opt-In List - Prioritize Quality Marketers can get swept up in trying to build massive, comprehensive contact lists, but it’s important to keep sight of the end goal. Ultimately, you’re looking for a conversion from contact to customer. If none of your contacts converts, the number of contacts is meaningless. “List-building needs to be your number one priority,” says Brian Kurtz, “it’s quality over quantity.” A huge database of names could increase your likelihood of conversion, but a smaller one, with incredibly targeted, quality leads, could end up having the bigger return on investment (ROI).  

9. Utilize Multiple Channels to Target Your Audience

Expanding Your Opt-In List - Utilize Multiple Channels to Target Your Audience If you’ve engaged with your cold list, and you’ve received nothing in return (e.g., no responses, low open rates), consider reaching out to that same audience through a different platform. Facebook, for example, can be a useful resource to mirror. “You can take everyone who didn’t opt in to the newsletter and run a Facebook ad with the same offer to the same landing page,” says Mark Ingles. “It’d just be using a different media to reach the same people.”  

10. CAUTION. Never Underestimate the Relationship

CAUTION. Never Underestimate the Relationship Russell Lundstrom, of myMarketingDNA , shared his candid story of attempting to convert a deep list of roughly three million names into a warm list. “We built a whole new business around the list. We put up a nice website. We started an email server with a dedicated IP. We had logos, content, you name it. We spent about six months trying everything under the sun to get these people to join our charade,” said Lundstrom. “The problem was we had no relationship with them. They didn’t know us from Adam. Even though we tried to give them as much value as we could think of—free books, guides, all sorts of stuff—one key ingredient was missing…the relationship.” Even with 113 columns of data on each individual, thousands of dollars invested in the project, and countless hours, they could never capitalize on the opportunity because it lacked a relationship. “How can you best activate a list? Give them everything you got. I mean all of it. Free. No offers. Nothing,” said Lundstrom. “Try to establish some sort of relationship with them. See if you can rekindle why they are on your list in the first place, and see what happens.” Building a quality opt-in list can be invaluable for your business, but it’s not always easy. However, with patience, the proper precautions, a respect for spam and unsubscribe limits, and a bit of ingenuity, you can successfully expand your opt-in list. Questions about list-building or other digital marketing topics? Reach out today! We’re always happy to chat!