Marketing caution signRecently, I’ve been writing a lot about emails and the importance of making sure that yours are optimised for smartphones (if you’ve missed them… have a quick read of Do you optimise your emails for smartphones? and Three reasons why you need to optimise your emails). After all, it’s been proven that customer acquisition via email is far more effective than social media channels, and second only to organic online searches.

Great as Facebook and Twitter are for engaging with customers, they can’t drive sales in the same way as an email. Plus it’s a risky strategy to market your business purely on platforms where you don’t have overall control of your content. To quote Simms Jenkins, author of The New Inbox: Why Email Marketing is the Digital Marketing Hub in a Social & Mobile World: “If you have just one bullet left in your gun to sell something, then email should always be that bullet.” 🙂

But buying a list is not the Holy Grail!

That said, integral to successful email marketing is the question of who you are sending your emails to. And it’s all about quality. Many, many business owners I’ve met or work with have all said the same thing at one stage or another “I need to buy an email list” as if a purchased list of addresses will magically supply you with 500 or 1,000 new customers. An email list may give you the quantity you desire but, unfortunately, quality cannot be guaranteed – my advice is always to steer well clear.

No matter what spiel you may be given, it’s highly likely that a high proportion of those addresses will be incorrect or no longer in use. Not only that, whilst you will have addresses that are active, recipients of your emails will not necessarily be receptive to your offer. You may end up just simply annoying people. Think for a moment about the unsolicited emails you receive in your own inbox, I bet I’m not the only one sorely tempted (and sometimes following through) to write a rude email back demanding to have your address removed from a company in which you have no interest and have not volunteered your details in the past. It’s called Spam for a reason!

How to build an email list that delivers…

Building your own email database organically is the only way to guarantee your email marketing will be effective. It’s all about people giving you permission to contact them on an ongoing basis, it’s all about people who have expressed an interest in your product or service – people who want to do business with you! Of course, you should also give them the option to say ‘no thanks’ to future emails. Yes, growing your contacts list organically can be a slow process – depending on how smart you are about finding ways to encourage potential customers to willingly give you their email address – but it will generate more positive results.

And why does email work so well despite all those other channels out there?

Because with so many smartphones in use, more and more people have constant access to their emails. No longer does anyone have to wait to get home and log on to their computers, they can check emails while they’re having lunch, on a train or straight after a meeting – which means your marketing messages can’t be missed, as long as they are strong and compelling and render well on a mobile device.

If you’re impatient and still think a bought list is a good idea, then think about it in a slightly different way. Consider buying a list for a direct mail campaign instead – it’s a better channel for prospecting and you can combine it with an invitation to interested recipients to submit their email details, at which point you can then start to nurture the relationship.

So, use Facebook to allow your followers to experience your brand and get to know you, use Twitter to broadcast latest news and updates about products or services, but use email to sell, sell, sell!