October 11, 2016

How big does your email marketing list need to be?

I get asked about list size from time to time. The obsession with email marketing list size diverts attention away from the real issues:

  • How many people on your list are paying attention
  • How many people on your list are paying you money

If the answer to both of those questions is ‘most of them’, you don’t need a huge list. Taken as a standalone metric, a huge list simply add more expense to your email marketing costs. Large numbers of unengaged contacts can also damage your sender reputation with the internet service providers.

If Google for example can see that you regularly email 30,000 of their Gmail contacts but only 300 of them open your emails, they’ll start to divert your emails towards the ‘promotions’ tab, or the spam folder.

The way to reach your recipient’s inbox is through regular engagement; either opens, clicks or direct replies.

Once a month I review and prune my list. If you haven’t opened any email from me in the last four months and you aren’t a customer, I’ll flag your record for deletion. You’ll get one more email from me before I delete your record, and possibly a phone call if I have your number.

Each time the number of contacts in my database increments by 5000, Infusionsoft send me a bigger bill. I’m only happy for that to happen if I have an additional 5000 active, engaged contacts. Otherwise, why pay for them?

List size in itself is not a sensible goal, in the same way that ‘high click through rate’ is not a sensible goal in AdWords when taken in isolation. The real goal is to grow your list of active, engaged contacts moving through your sales funnel.

Rob Drummond

Rob Drummond runs the Maze Marketing Podcast and Maze Mastery. Rob specialises in content production, ad creation, storytelling and CRM systems. He has two published books, Magnetic Expertise and Simple Story Selling, affordable on Amazon.